A very common question I get from guests is how their cell phones will work in Belize, and what options they have when they are here, for wifi, calling/texting back home, and staying connected via their data. Here are our latest recommendations!
1.) The most obvious and easy way to stay connected is to simply connect to the wifi available at almost every hotel, restaurant, bar, the airport, and even some shuttles. If it is your first time out of the country, it seems scary to have your phone looking like its roaming, or getting messages that your data is on, and hearing stories about outrageous fees people have paid because the settings on their phone were not right. You just have to make sure that your data is turned off when you arrive.
Make sure that green is switched to gray (off) :)
2.) If you are just using wifi - and don't need a local phone number, or the ability to have local calls come in, you can use several methods for staying in contact with people at home. The most popular way is through Facebook messaging, which is free, and allows you to call, text, and send pictures. You can download this app to your phone.
Facebook Messager app icon
3.) I also recommend the Skype app - this is not just video calling. Skype allows you to call anywhere in the world, you just download the app, and I put about $25 a YEAR on it and never use it up. It is very cheap and you just open the app and call like a regular phone, you just have to be on wifi to use it. It can be annoying if your connection is not strong. This opens you up to be able to call all over the world, not just people on Facebook messenger.
Skype app icon
4.) If you have an iphone, you can call or facetime anyone in the world who has an iphone as well.
Facetime app icon
5.) Most US carriers offer temporary international data plans - this is highly recommended. It is usually pretty cheap and easy, and invaluable with how much we rely on our phones for everything. If it is your first time doing this, stop in your cell carrier's store and have them show you how it works and what settings you will put on your phone.
6.) Some hotels will give you a local cell - check before you arrive if you think you will want to be able to call locally. This can be good piece of mind to have in an emergency.
7.) If you're staying longer than a vacation, you can get a SIM card for your phone from a local company - BTL. You'll need ID/passport, but you can get a local #. You can do this in Placencia, San Pedro, San Ignacio, Corozal, or any bigger village. In Placencia you can go to Office Supply - just hand over your phone and they'll fit the local SIM card to your device. Then you can get data (from either Smart or Digicell SIM cards). Almost everyone is pre-paid, not post paid plans like in the US. Data plans are also available on pre-paid plans. This allows you to stay connected to the internet even when you don't have wifi.
8.) If you are doing a local cell, here's what to know. 'Top-up' is Belize speak for adding credit, or adding value, adding minutes, etc. Then there's the 'double up'. About twice a month you can get 2x the value of your 'top-up'. You can download the app eCredit Belize to top up whenever you need to, or go into most grocery stores in the village and at the counter, just give them your cell number and how much you want to add, and they will do it there.
If you see this on the side of the store, they sell minutes there.
9.) A note about security - I highly recommend you put a code lock on your phone, especially on vacation. I also recommend downloading a "find my android/iphone" app, which is free, and if your phone gets lost or stolen, it will locate it for you.
Find my Android app icon