Thursday, January 26, 2017

22 things first-time visitors to Belize should know, to prepare yourself for your adventure here!!


We have had requests for a blog post to discuss the differences between rules/laws/expectations in Belize vs. North America, so that you can get the most out of some of the freedoms here, and also not get yourself in trouble by doing something that is natural in the US (drink from the tap for example), but that you are advised not to do, here!

1.) Placencia is the only place you can drink water straight from the tap - there is an underwater spring in Placencia, but the rest of the country uses city or cistern water. In other words - don't drink the water ANYWHERE else - brushing your teeth is fine, and some people in Ambergris Caye, will tell you they drink it. I can tell you from personal experience that I DO NOT drink the water anywhere but Placencia :).
This will be a VERY familiar sight during your trip
crystalwaterbelize.com
2.) You can feel comfortable driving in Belize - it is not a place where you need to worry about crime on the road, and the "highways" are like country roads, but they are not terrible. You just need to know about speed "humps", the fact that the sun sets early and driving at night is not recommended for your first time, and to know what the check points are - you can read about all that HERE.

3.) The sun rises at about 5:30 year round, and sets about 6 year round. Belize has a healthy appetite for happy hours, and these are right as the sun sets, which is awesome! You will DEFINITELY find yourself saying, "it is only 7pm?? I thought it was 10pm!" And then wake up, wide awake, at 6am :).

4.) I will tread lightly here because the laws do exist, and are sometimes enforced. But, here's what you will see all over the place... you will see people EVERYWHERE walking around (even riding a bike/driving!) with a beer. If you get carried away with it you might get approached(and it is not always advisable to carry glass around), but this country is very friendly to beer and alcohol drinking. You can even bring in a beer from home into a bar. You can drink on the beach, you can drink a beer with breakfast - no judging! There is beer sold everywhere as well.

5.) Watch yourself - in Placencia, Caye Caulker, and San Pedro, there are no sidewalks on the main roads - you really do want to watch youself when you are walking in traffic. You will be inches from bikes, scooters, golf carts, and cars. So combine that with #4, and just be careful :)

6.) Beach dogs- you will see happy, friendly, mostly cute beach dogs everywhere. They are not going to hurt you, occasionally people report they were chased by a dog near a property, but in town this rarely happens. You will notice that they are all fat and happy in Placencia and Ambergris Caye.
Actual guest with actual beach dogs.
7.) Tipping is appreciated, but it is not the same as the US. 10% is an appropriate tip.

8.) Ask before you get that third cup of coffee - most restaurants do not have free refills - I didn't know this was more of a US thing :)

9.) What's with the napkins on the beer bottles at bars? The bottles are recycled, and when the bottles sit in the salt air, they often get a bit of rust. Use that napkin to wipe off the mouth of the beer - recommended. Also there is only a couple kinds of beer you can get in the country and when you are ordering a Belikin, just order a "beer" - yes it feels weird but you'll get a Belikin every time. You can also bring your own beverage containers to bars - you'll see people do it all over the place.

10.) Golf carts - it is FUN to ride around on a golf cart as your transportation, because how many places can you do that?? It is like a video game. It is highly recommended you get one for a day, they are about $40-50us per day, and very easy to rent everywhere.
11.) Almost everything can be delivered if you ask. Even a case of beer!

12.) This one is obvious.....but you'll see sunburns everywhere. The sun is HOT here....even when it is cloudy. Unless you have been hitting the tanning beds like a champ, wear sunscreen and don't ruin your trip. Especially when snorkeling - wear long sleeves and lotion up your butt and legs, the burn you can get on the water is astounding.

13.) You want to get up close to that turtle, the size of a car, while you are snorkeling? Go ahead! There are few regulations here compared to the US - you decide the level of risk you want. This is another shining example of why Belize is fun. Or, will leave you with a good story about the jacka** thing you did.
What you actually see. 
lawbelize.bz

14.) You may hear Belize is dangerous - in reality, this is only in southern Belize City. There are few violent crimes here. What does happen is theft. It is highly recommended that you behave with your stuff as if you really, really care about it - only bring out with you the necessities - not ALL your credit cards, passport, etc. While I know few people who have gotten things stolen, it happens often enough and can happen so fast. Usually because of #4.

15.) Another reason people love Belize - you don't hang out in your all inclusive resort here. Locals hang where everyone else does, and everyone lives in harmony. You'll hear people say "I want to go where the locals go" because they want to have an authentic experience - you don't have to say that here. Everyone is everywhere!
Typical Belize bar at happy hour
16.) You really do not need a car - unless you plan on jetting around the whole country, rental cars are expensive, gas is expensive, and you just won't use it. If you are staying near town you can walk to everything, and the tours will pick you up. See #10 for the alternative.

17.) People sometimes get freaked out because they hear Belize is a "third world country." Actually a better term is developing country - and that is what this is. If you get out of town at all, you will see very rustic villages, and in some Mayan villages they have dirt floors, palapa roofs, and sleep in hammocks. And if you visit, you will find that it is really peaceful. You will see that the maintenance is maybe not what you see in the US. By the end of your trip, you will hardly notice these differing standards. There is so much natural beauty here, and there is also a charm in rustic wood shacks painted in every color! There is very little begging in Placencia or Ambergris and MUCH less than most places. You will be asked if you want to buy a necklace by a child sometimes, but they are not pushy and rarely ask for money.
Typical Mayan village 
mayabelize.wordpress.com
18.) Bugs - how to manage. "Sand fleas/no-see-ums" are present here, and everywhere warm. They come out in cooler weather, at night, after a rain, or by mangroves. You may not have a problem at all - a lot of it is pure luck. If you are hell bent on not getting bit, wear baby oil on your legs, they can't bite through it. Mosquitos - they are no worse here than anywhere in the summer - wear DEET at night, especially between 5:30-7.

19.) Sometimes I hear that Belize is expensive compared to other Central American countries. There are things that are expensive, like imported US foods and booze. Other things are cheap. There are beachfront hotels you can find for about $40us a night. You can eat like a local (stewed chicken, rice, and beans) for $5us. You can drink local beer, rum, and vodka for about $2.50-3us a drink. You do not HAVE to go to the US standard restaurants, which have US prices. You can stay in a US standard hotel, which is really hard to run here because you have to import everything. A US standard hotel will be about the same cost as the US - BUT - for perspective, check the hotels in high season in Key West, in town - those run about $500us a night, for what you can get for $200 a night here. Belize is a tourism country, not a manufacturing country, so goods are expensive, and it is why it is simple and rustic here - and totally charming :). Let's not forget Belize has the 2nd biggest reef in the world, hundreds of islands, jungle, Mayan ruins, and a totally unique experience that is nothing like your sanitized Myrtle Beach vacation. There are almost NO chain restaurants or hotels in the country.
If you think this is charming, you'll like it here.
picturebelize.blogspot.ca
20.) People will ask if the sea grass is a problem, and how are the beaches? We are very close to the reef and the reef life has to eat - and they eat sea grass. There is sea grass that washes in a few days a week, and some people are bothered by this. But, again, you are close to the reef!! The sea grass is part of the environment here, and while many places rake and keep it clean, it is also a part of the ecosystem. If you go snorkeling here you will feel better about it, because you will swim with all the creatures that are feeding off it :). There are MANY beaches that are among the most beautiful in the world, but 100% of the beach here is not pristine. You can easily find the pristine beaches if you want them here!
Typical sea grass on the beach
21.) Will I be inundated by people selling things to me? It is NOTHING like Mexico or any cruise port here - not even close. Yes, people will want you to buy their things but the culture here is very laid back. They will not argue or chase you down. If you say no thanks - that's it. And yes, you will easily find someone that may ask if you want to "buy some green." If you don't want it, just say no thank you :)
This is Leo, he's right on the Placencia Sidewalk!
ambergristoday.com
22.) Another reason people come back to Belize again and again is because - the locals really are that warm and friendly. Go out for one evening and you'll see and feel it :). It is a truly charming, welcoming culture here!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Spectacular couple weeks for Belize, in the news!!! A recap if you missed any of these articles...

I don't know if I have ever seen Belize in the news as much as I have in the last couple weeks...here is a recap in case you missed any of these very positive, optimistic articles about Belize!!!

1.) USA Today's "10 Best" Awards....Readers choose out of their Top 20 picks, this time it is for Best Dive Site. The Blue Hole is one of Belize's most famous adventures....there is still time to vote!
http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-caribbean-dive-site/

2.) Southwest Airlines is starting a new nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale to Belize City, due to increased bookings!!
http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2017/01/06/route-map-shake-up-southwest-adds-2-cities-dozens-new-routes/96235950/

3.) My personal favorite.....WOW.....New York Times picked PLACENCIA, Belize as one of the top 52 places to visit in 2017! Although Belize typically gets a lot of attention, Placencia is still considered a small, rather remote village, and this is one of the few times it has gotten a nod like this in such a major publication!
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/travel/places-to-visit.html?_r=0

4.) In lil' old Tipsy Tuna on NYE.....there were two major celebrity sighting....Drew Carey and James Franco were seen having a blast!
http://www.ambergristoday.com/content/stories/2017/01/04/celebrity-spotting-hollywood-stars-bring-new-year-belize#.WG0uT-wGCgQ.facebook

5.) Oyster.com, a "hotel tell all" site, ranked Belize as one of the "cheapest" Caribbean destinations to visit this winter!
https://www.oyster.com/articles/55759-the-11-cheapest-caribbean-destinations-to-visit-in-winter-2017-ranked/

6.) Business Insider ranked Belize as one of the 11 trips everyone in the 30's should take!!
http://www.businessinsider.com/trips-everyone-should-take-in-their-30s-2016-12/#peru-7

7.) Brightside.com ranked Belize as one of the top 15 places you should visit before they "fill up with tourists!" We agree that Belize is one of the few rustic and authentic beach vacations around...
https://brightside.me/article/15-gorgeous-places-you-need-to-visit-before-they-fill-up-with-tourists-42355/

8.) The Washington Post published this wonderful article about Belize, calling it "breathtaking." :)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/beneath-the-surface--caving-and-diving--belize-is-breathtaking/2016/11/03/1c9c52a8-97bd-11e6-bb29-bf2701dbe0a3_story.html

9.) The Telegraph called Belize the most surprising Caribbean destination!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/central-america/belize/articles/adventures-in-belize/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_fb





Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thinking of moving to Placencia, Belize? 13 ways living here will change the way you think!!


It is hard to remember how things change in the way you think, after a few years here...but here are 13 ways that I guarantee you will change if you stick around!

1.) Continuously lowering your expectations about what hair products (and makeup, etc) you'll be OK with using.--unless you are going back to the US a lot, you have to be ok with whatever stock is here. I have been unable to buy hairspray for a couple weeks at a time, and while in the US my preferred brand is certainly not V05 or Suave, I am happy to have it here! (because it is only a few bucks, the occasional random good stuff is 10x the US price!)
Get comfy with this brand. (frugalchick.com)
2.) Although you lose the materialism mentality in the US, the scarcity mentality will hit you hard....--when you DO find a beloved import product in the stores, you will find yourself buying all the things, because you may never see it again.

3.) Finding yourself saying - "Its just a cockroach.... It's just some termites.... Scorpion stings/tarantula bites don't actually kill you....Oh the bees here are all Africanized bees? Sweet."
---Your peripheral vision will pick up dark shadows in the corners pretty frequently. For my first year here that would set off my central nervous system every time...coming from NE US, we are taught to be pretty terrified of all the creatures. I have now become completely desensitized. Oh a little gecko poop on my pillow? Well at least it is here eating the mosquitoes. Oh there was a boa constrictor sighting in my front yard? *yawn.* Oh there is a scorpion by my foot? Well I should move. Oh look at that 6 inch beetle with pinchers. Cool. Shoot that 4 inch cockroach went under the fridge. And so on.
Don't believe me? Check out this Facebook page...https://www.facebook.com/groups/1425989061003132/
Actual pic from the page. Cute!
4.) I guess it is ok to start drinking at 11(am)...---Belize is FUN and you can find yourself finding a lot of excuses why it is a good happy hour day. Every day. Tourists are having fun every day of their vacations. It is a struggle because no one is going to judge you if you do!
Because THIS is a 2 minute walk away.
5.) No, really, I don't miss having a large selection of beer. ---For some reason, you just don't! You can only get Belikin and its cousins here, plus a few other Caribbean beers, but because you are always drinking it while at the beach bars of your dreams, it doesn't occur to you that it matters. 
6.) Having your soul die a little every time you throw away very recyclable plastic.---Placencia is quite clean, and does a great job with its resources, but the amount of plastic garbage you will see....will make you immediately want to open a recycling facility.

7.) Forgetting how to look at a bill and not ask yourself if it is Belize dollars or USD. ---Even when you go home. It is a switch I can't turn off. And you will still probably question your math 100x every time you pay a bill with mixed Belize and USD.

8.) Feeling guilty if you put any toilet paper in the toilet.---Even when I'm in the US, I am programmed to throw toilet paper in the wastebasket....it is ingrained due to the septic systems here.

9.) Being OK with almost getting hit by a golf cart, bike, bus, or truck....every day.---Just head to Main Street during a busy hour for this fun time!

10.) You stop wondering if the Pit Bull-looking stray dog walking towards you is going to rip your throat out. --In the US, if I see a huge, mangy stray coming at me I am accustomed to thinking it is Cujo. Here, he probably just wants you to pet him. The dogs here are unnaturally nice.

11.) You stop wondering where all the tourists are....the hotels are all full....yet you are still the only one on the beach. Every time.
--- This is one of Placencia's mysteries. No one has solved it. But it is why many people come back again and again!
12.) Burglar bars don't mean you are in a "bad" part of town.
---Belize is a DIY country. Also, it is known that if you leave your stuff out, it means it must not mean a whole lot to you. Burglar bars just mean that the person building the house had a bit of extra money to add in this bit of security - there aren't alarm companies down here yet and it is just a little extra peace of mind. 

13.) If you are on the internet, as Placencia runs on facebook....you will write this infinity times to messages you will get - "No, sorry, I don't know of any good long term rentals right now."
---Yes, there is a shortage of these. But here is a good resource!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/495138017228251/

If you've got any more please list in the comments!!












Thursday, January 5, 2017

Improve your mood immediately by looking at these Placencia, Belize beach bars!!

OK, that title is not totally backed by science, but we hope you enjoy these images from Barefoot Bar and Tipsy Tuna - our guests RAVE about the food and atmosphere at these two....they are the template for all beach bars!
This is the (famous Placencia) sidewalk in between CBC and Barefoot :)
This is the totally charming entrance from the sidewalk, heading to the beach at Barefoot Beach Bar...
Getting closer!
Tipsy Tuna has an equally adorable entrance! Just try not to get a picture of one of their many kitschy signs...

Inside of Tipsy Tuna....at their opening, before the lunch and happy hour crowds roll in!
The seating on the beach at Barefoot Bar...have your pick of tropical colors
 THIS VIEW....they share the beach seaside.
Looking down the beach the other way...
The view of Barefoot, standing on the shore
Inside Barefoot
Hopefully you are on your way here soon! If not, and you are looking at snow outside, then take advantage of the recent slew of discounted plane tickets to Belize, and get here!!