First, it is a very ethnically diverse country. English is the primary language with Kriol (Creole) second and "Spanglish" after that. There is much more of what I consider a Caribbean feel with the darker skin, dreadlocks, and the Kriol language. But there is a big mix of people. You have Belizeans, Mesitzos (Spanish / Mayans), Caribs (Garifuna), Mennonites (i.e. Pennsylvania Amish), Kriol, and Chinese!
The small stilted wooden houses are painted in bright colors and if you are there in December, you will see more holiday lights that you'd expect! They are indeed into the holidays but apparently the government runs a contest. They'll drive around and give a prize to the most decorated homes.
The food itself is not overly interesting. A typical local meal is the same plate over and over again: fried chicken, coconut rice & beans, coleslaw or potato salad, fried plantains, and rum punch. So yeah, being vegetarian I had a good bit of rice & beans with slaw. Yay. Because of that I did splurge on some Indian food one night that was only barely worth it. But there are other things to be found like salbutes and fry jacks and the rum & coke is not only delicious but sometimes the cheapest drink on the menu.
Very strangely, the Chinese run all the supermarkets. The prices are high and the selection is crap. Someone told me that they started out with super low prices to run everyone else out of business, then they jacked the prices up.
It's pretty well known that Belize is more expensive than most other Central American countries. That's definitely true. But although there are pricey options at every turn, some of them are avoidable. Local "fast food" is an inexpensive option ($3-$5 bze), the public transport is pretty reasonable, and accommodation can be found for $15 - $30 US. You'll still want to budget a bit more than usual to visit this country though.
I still have sticker shock at the cost of tours in Belize! I supposed it's because so much of the country's economy relies on cruise ships, so the tours are cruise ship-priced. Many sites are not easy (or not possible) to visit independently. Expect to pay between $45 - $95 US per tour! And yes, they are actually priced in US dollars. That's never a good sign when you're budget traveling. If you can, choose your tours on non-cruise ship days (Tues, Wed, Thurs at time of writing).
Now here's the biggie. Belize is MILES ahead of its neighbors (or any other developing country really) as far as protecting their resources, nature conservation, preserving ancient sites, and keeping the country clean from litter. In 1 1/2 hours on a river and a separate 3 hour drive on back roads to the Caracol ruins I saw only one piece of litter, one! It's really outstanding and it's not just on the tourist track. It extends into the rural areas. There are strict rules for visiting the historic sites, sometimes with armed guards to protect the relics (and tourists!). Water refill stations are ubiquitous in hotels, on tours, even in some shops for a massive decrease in plastic bottles.
Orange Walk Town - A Quick Survival Guide
Orange Walk is definitely not a touristy town which is nice, but it has some peculiarities that are good to know before you go.
Crossing the Border from Mexico to Belize
Despite the difficulty in finding concrete or consistent information, and in light of the recent transportation changes, it was fortunately quite simple to get from Bacalar to Belize.
River Tour to Lamanai Mayan Ruins
Being a budget traveler, I don't normally care for organized tours. But even on this rainy day, the trip up the river to Lamanai was absolutely worth it.
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