Monday, March 23, 2015

A step by step guide to getting your passport stamped....from Placencia, Belize to Independence/Mango Creek! No car needed.

If you are here longer than 30 days, you will need to get your passport stamped. This feels really daunting the first time you do it. At least, it did to me. :) I wish I could have found a step by step guide, so I decided to write one, complete with pictures!
Step 1:
Look at the date stamped in your passport when you come in the country. Write this date on your calendar so you don't forget!
 
Step 2: Day of, walk to the Hokey Pokey water Taxi by MnM. Walk up to the pier, there is usually a guy sitting at the table, tell him you want a ticket for the 10am ferry to Independence. If no one is sitting there, walk into the office and buy it. Don't lose this ticket as they collect it when you get on. You want to take the 10am because time wise this works out the best-if you take an earlier one you will have hours to wait in between taxis. Fare may be quoted anywhere from $6bz-$5us. You can try asking for locals price :)
Step 3: When the boat taxi pulls up, no one is going to announce it, just walk up as it is probably the one. Ask someone if it is going to Independence if you feel unsure. Just pile in as it is probably going to be crowded. They will hand you a life preserver, just put it on, no one wants to wear it or is happy about it, but it is a new rule.
Here is me on the way last time:
Step 4: When you get to Independence, everyone will pile out and taxis will be waiting. Tell any of the taxi guys that you want to go to the immigration office. They have all done this. Perhaps you can find a taxi friend going to the same place and split fare. (Have about $20bz just in case.) The taxi will wait for you which is best. This is a small immigration office and it shouldn't take too long.
Step 5: Hand immigration officer your passport and have either $50bz or $100bz available to hand him. If you have been here less than 6 months it is the former amount. They will ask where you are staying, just give the city. They will stamp it and you are free to leave!

Step 6: Go with cabbie back to water taxi station, buy a ticket for 11am taxi back to Placencia. You can buy a water or a drink from the stand there.

Step 7: You will be home before 12 so go enjoy your day!
 Passports can be stamped Monday through Fridays (excluding holidays) in Independence/Mango Creek.  (Note: the immigration office in Independence is only open a half-day on Mondays and Fridays.)  6 months is the maximum amount of time that a visitor can extend his or her stay without leaving and re-entering the country -- or paying a higher monthly visa renewal fee. (50 goes up to 100bz).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How does a beach vacation in Belize compare to one in Mexico?

It is overwhelming to pick a vacation spot if you like the beach...if you are staying in the Western Hemisphere, there are the southern US states, all over the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America to pick from. Most people get a week off so flying distance is an issue. Once you narrow it down to say 5 hours or less to get there, there are still a mountain of choices.
**Note. This post may have opinions that are quite arguable based on taste :) I will try to be as unbiased as possible! Pictures are from google and represent what you will actually see.
For those who have it narrowed down to Mexico or Belize, on the Caribbean side (note: the Caribbean islands are all awesome. Let's say you decided you wanted to do a place that was not an island, but on the mainland---why the mainland? Authentic character, easier/cheaper to get to, and the places in this blog are awesome!). Three great places to choose from are Playa del Carmen and Tulum in Mexico, and Placencia, Belize. See my post HERE for a comparison between Placencia and Ambergris Caye, Belize, and Roatan, Honduras (the latter two being islands).
Playa del Carmen and Tulum are in Quintana Roo, MX, on the Caribbean Sea. They are South of Cancun and you need to take a bus or puddle jumper to get there. There is a great bus service called ADO that gets great reviews. They are about 45-90 minutes away from Cancun.
Here is a brief overview and description of each place, compared to each other, from one traveler's (my!) point of view:

Playa del Carmen:
-Biggest, most developed of the three places
-HUGE pedestrian street...5th Ave...with bars, restaurants, and shops as far as the eye can see
-Super fun area on 12th where "clubby" nightlife is centered
-Pretty much all the American-ized choices you could ever want. (Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.)
-more to do than any one person could do on vacation!
-gorgeous beaches with soft white sand



Tulum
-great Mayan ruins in walking distance to town
-unique, beautiful rocky beaches, cliffs in areas
-the most charming, unique stretch of beachfront resorts you could imagine--I can't stress this enough. I could not begin to describe the amazing job the developers did with their beachfront properties. It is so overwhelming to take in one cute eco resort, restaurant, cafe, etc....NO CHAINS! Very nice, welcome feel, you can walk down most stretches of beach, none of the resorts there are the mega resorts you see in most places.
-Great city planning and clear areas where there are more local flair vs. tourism, you can easily get from one place to another with a bike.



Placencia
-small, warm, welcoming village where within a day you will recognize people and beach dogs, you will feel a part of town by the end of your trip
-you can get around town just by walking-no car or bike needed
-you will not feel overwhelmed or like you are missing out on something....there are a handful of comfortable beach bars and places where everyone is, no guesswork or cabbing around to find the fun
-Very authentic, no chains of any kind, no mega resorts in the village, everything is open to all
-You can drink the water!!


Benefits all three have, they all feel safe, they all have great beaches (admittedly..........Tulum and Playa's beaches---- at least when I was there--are a bit more stunning in color and landscape than Placencia), all have access to snorkeling, ruins, etc. You can do more first world stuff in Mexico, like theme parks and huge Sea World like places. The aesthetics of Mexico are more advanced and stunning than Belize. They are decades ahead tourism wise. BUT at times I wasn't sure what to do with myself, feeling like a small fish in a big ocean.

I imagine there would be some vacationers who might feel a bit overwhelmed and even overstimulated by the environments in Mexico. It is beautiful, exciting, tons of energy, tons to do...picture a bit of Vegas on the beach. SO many choices. Sometimes this is exactly the right type of trip. Other times, you may want a relaxed, predictable, warm, and easy vacation where you connect with locals and actually talk to and connect to others; you are not one of 1000's of other tourists, and where you only have to choose between a couple events each night, not 100's.
This.....
Vs. This.....
Vs. This.....oh, they are all awesome.
So, on one hand, I can say that scientific studies show that less choices=more satisfaction and higher levels of happiness. But, sometimes I just want all of the choices/energy/craziness that big crowds bring. Overall---most exciting and stimulating award goes to Playa. Most charming goes to Tulum. Most warm/welcoming/relaxing goes to Placencia :) Hope this helps you pick what you are looking for!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tranquilo opening, and other random fun in Placencia, Belize! Oh, and the Sargassum. :(

We have had some GREAT guests recently...this post is a recap of some here we are hanging out with some recent guests at Barefoot....
 Kelly from California....
 Love when boats pull right up to the bar!!
 Just like a Coke commercial.
Thanks to Tranquilo for yet ANOTHER great event....they celebrated their grand opening last weekend! The staff worked their tails off. The place was to capacity, with the "3 things" boat working overtime to get everyone between docks...we all had a great time, and the weather was perfect!!! 






Last weekend was another great weather weekend for hanging out at Fusion Beach...



And Belize Ocean Club(where the cute guys apparently hang out!)...
And now, for a reality check of this week :(. The Sargassum is hitting the Caribbean again, hard. It is, at this moment, as bad as it has ever been. It is devastating for everyone, it turns the beautiful, crystal clear beach, into a murky, smelly mess. We are all holding our breaths (literally and figuratively) and hoping that the current changes overnight. Until then, you CAN still enjoy the above places!!





Monday, March 2, 2015

Ambergris vs. Roatan vs. Placencia...pros/cons, best beaches?


Ambergris vs. Roatan vs. Placencia...pros/cons, best beaches?

A comparison to help you choose the beach vacation that fits you best!

Ambergris....
Benefits...

  • close to the reef
  • many choices for restaurants/hotels
  • cheap to get there on water taxi from Belize Airport
  • gorgeous water
  • shark alley
ambergriscaye.com
View from Ramon's in town
bobjonesbelize.com
What most of the beachfront in town looks like....
JonesesBelize
View from Estelle's


Note...
HERE is a more in depth review of my visit to Roatan...
Roatan...
Benefits...

  • green, hilly, gorgeous
  • Sundowner's--best tiki beach bar ever!
  • good, Americanized choices for hotels and restaurants
  • can stay up in the hills with sweeping views or on the beach
  • English is prevalent even in the Spanish speaking Honduras
  • ability to hit Utila on a trip here as well
tripadvisor.com
West Bay Beach
quoteimg.com
West End Beach
flikr.com
Sundowners...wow!


Placencia...
Benefits...

  • Rustic, authentic feel-also very laid back and relaxing
  • waves at the beaches!
  • tons of beach space, you will always be able to walk to the beach no matter where you are staying
  • diving with whale sharks
  • Can get inland more easily--also biking and walking are very easy here compared to the other two
bobjones
Typical Placencia beach
placencia.com
Another view north of village
Typical sunrise

Bird's Eye Views....

Ambergris...
Cons...
  • VERY busy-like watch your back or you may get hit with a golf cart
  • most developed of the three
  • if you stay far from San Pedro, which is common to do, it is quite hard to get into town from some places
  • if you only stay here, you may miss more the authentic Belizean culture you can find inland
ambergriscaye.travel
Noticeably the most busy and developed of the three!

Roatan...
Cons...
  • you are more of less on the islands for your trip--very difficult to get around the mainland unless you know what you are doing
  • very hard to bike or ride anywhere--narrow streets 
  • two tourist areas are set apart from the rest of the population-and they lack some authenticity
playroatan.com
Noticeably the most hilly and green.....

Placencia....
Cons...
  • more expensive to get to than Ambergris
  • not as developed as the other two--still a lot of development to go
  • sea grass can be a problem
  •  more limitations on luxurious accommodations than the other two
prweb.com


To see my more in depth guest post review click through to Battle of the Best Beaches Ambergris, Placencia and Roatan on tacogirl.com!


All three are fantastic places to visit....based on your level of comfort with rustic/authentic Central American culture, level of Americanized coastline, busy-ness, touristy options, and amount of travel--everyone will have their own personal favorite!

Find out how you can get a tacogirl coupon code for 10% off your local and international Tropic Air flights... go to Flights to Belize http://tacogirl.com/flights-to-belize/ page on tacogirl blog.