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Location

Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico, on the west and south by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from its neighbor to the southwest, Honduras.

Area & Population

Size: Approximately 8,866 square miles. Belize's mainland is approximately 180 miles long and up to 68 miles wide. Belize also consists of over 200 cayes (islands), ranging in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and four miles wide; most of which are located inside the 200 mile Belize Barrier Reef.

Population: The population of Belize is approximately 320,000. There is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans, who include Hispanic, Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Mennonite, Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern and Asian. The largest single group is Hispanic.

Climate

Climate: Belize weather is characterized by two seasons: a rainy and a dry season. Belize annual rainfall: most of the year's rainfall occurs during the period June to November, that is, the rainy season. It is noted that the transition from dry to the rainy is very sharp. Belize annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches (1524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year.

The onset of the rainy season begins in the early May in Toledo, (where the Belize annual rainfall is highest) progressing north to the Stann Creek, Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk District in late May, followed by Corozal District in early June. The mean temperature varies from 81F/ 27C along the coast to 69F/21C in the hills. The coldest month is January while the highest temperatures are experienced during the month of May.

Language

English is the official language and is widely spoken, as is Spanish. Other languages include Creole, German, Mayan and Garifuna.

Political Status

Belize has been an independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations since 1981. Belize is governed by a parliamentary democracy with two major political parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's United Party (PUP). The Belizean constitution is similar to documents adopted by other former British colonies and includes a bill of rights.

Entry Requirements

A passport and return ticket is required to enter Belize. No visas are required for citizens of the United States, British Commonwealth nations, or European Union countries. In general, cruise ship passengers are exempt from entry requirements.

Ports of Entry By Sea

Boats may clear customs and entry at Belize City, Dangriga, Big Creek, Punta Gorda and San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye. There is no customs officer in San Pedro; boats wishing to enter must pay the cost of transport for the customs officer to and from San Pedro from Belize City.

Firearms

It is illegal to take firearms and ammunition in or out of Belize.

Pets

Pets must be certified as free from infection or contagious disease by a veterinarian following examination not more than 48 hours prior to shipment; animals must also be certified as having been vaccinated against rabies not less than one month nor more than six months prior to departure; and must be free of open wounds. Dogs must have a valid certification of vaccination against distemper, parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis and leptospirosis. Animals may be required to be re-vaccinated against rabies on arrival if certifications are deemed unsatisfactory.

Currency

The Belize dollar is the national currency. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere in Belize, although change will often be given in Belizean currency.

Credit Cards/Travelers' Checks

Most hotels, restaurants and shops in the major towns and tourist areas accept major credit cards. Smaller establishments, however, are likely to accept only cash. Travelers' checks should be kept in a waterproof pouch, as they are considered void if they get wet.

Electrical System

110 volts AC (the same as elsewhere in North America) is the standard.

Water

Most Belizean homes and hotels use cisterns to collect rainwater for drinking and home use. Thus, tap water is potable with no ill effects. During severe droughts, the cisterns may run low, making bottled water advisable. Visitors should be aware of the need to conserve water during the dry season, especially on the Cayes.

Time Zone

Belize is in the Central Standard Time zone, and does not observe daylight savings time.

Sales Taxes

Belize's sales tax is set at 8 percent and is applied to all goods and services except hotel accommodations. There is a 7 percent hotel tax. Some hotels also add a 10-15 percent "service charge" to the bill. (Fortunately, our tours are not subject to sales tax.)

Tipping

Tips of 10 percent are considered acceptable. Since Belize's economy depends heavily on the tourism industry, tips are an important source of income for many.


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