Planning your Belize journey: Hostels, itineraries and transport

I visited Belize in September 2018 and spent a total of seven weeks in the beautiful country. Belize is an extremely diverse country, with white sandy beaches, tall Mayan temples and lush rain forest. In separate posts you can read about Caye Caulker, Cockscomb Basin and more! Belize is much different than it’s neighboring countries, it is a cool mix of the Caribbean, the Mexican and the Mayan culture.

I never felt unsafe in Belize, and I used public transport on several occasions, and I only paid taxi transfers from the airport to the port in Belize City. Bear in mind that Belize City has some bad reputation. Meeting fellow travelers, people warn you against visiting the coastal big cities such as Belize City and Dangriga.

This post is lots of text and fewer travel photos, if you’re looking for gorgeous views and cool wildlife, feel free to browse my other posts 🙂

Language and safety

Best of all, people in Belize speak English, which was a great experience for a non-Spanish speaking tourist like myself.

I always advise people to read the latest news about any destination on the UK Government travel advice.

The places I’ve visited include:

Since I was participating in a bird banding internship at the field station Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society, I spent the weekends on exploring different cities and sites.

Belmopan, Cockscomb Basin, Dangriga, Placencia, Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society, Caye Caulker, Belize Zoo, Blue Hole National Park, Caracol Maya Ruins, Hopkins and San Ignacio. (MUST sees in bold).

My reference material throughout my trip was Lonely Planet book about Belize.

I traveled with my friend and intern and went exploring on weekends. Before and after the internship I traveled some parts by myself. I believe it’s safe to travel alone as a solo female traveler, but in case you want company, it’s very easy to meet other like-minded people at the hostel, who have similar plans to you.

Almost everyone has different itineraries, but I try to be open and meet other people and plan from there. It’s best to have an idea of what you want to see since there are tonnes of activities to do!

ATM and currency

The Belizean dollar (BZD) is always double the American dollar, which makes it easy to deal with.

The US Dollar is usually accepted everywhere, but you get the change back in BZD, unless you ask for USD. Depends on the place.

Most ATM’s have good security, I prefer the ones inside a bank with cameras and where you can close the door. There are banks on Caye Caulker, Belmopan, Dangriga, Placencia, and San Ignacio. I did not try any ATM’s in Belize City, and the one in Hopkins is not reliable for foreign credit cards.

Budget

Make sure you have your budget planned ahead. I don’t think you should skip Belize simply because it’s more expensive than other countries.

A meal in a restaurant costs around 20-30 BZD and you can eat cheap seafood by the sea, like grilled lobster for 30 BZD. A street-food burrito is about 5 BZD, and a beer is ~4 BZD. You may feel like Belize is more expensive than Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, and it might be whats keeping you from going. But if you stay in hostels and eat street food, you can make your Belize trip budget-friendly!

The biggest expenses to me personally were sailing to Caye Caulker and dining in restaurants.

Public transport

Is easy going! You can find timetables in your hostel sometimes, buses always pass Belmopan and Dangriga when you travel north-south. And you cross Belmopan traveling east-west.

It’s cheap, the staff is friendly and helpful. You can basically tell them to drop you off anywhere, they know at least all stops along the Hummingbird Highway.

I never encountered anyone trying to charge me a higher price than the locals, and a ride costs from around 3 BZD to 15 or more, depending on how far you are traveling. Always have your belongings in sight, unless they are in the storage under the bus, they are safe there.

Belize itinerary

Depending on how many days you plan to spend in Belize, there are different things to do. To experience all of the adventures I have done, you will need around 12 days in Belize.

There are six cities or islands you should check out online before you plan your stay and travel: Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize City, Belmopan (in the center of Belize), Dangriga (just travel-through), Hopkins and Placencia.

If you have less than five days in Belize I recommend:

2 days in San Ignacio – 2 days on Caye Caulker – 1 day in Placencia (if you’re coming from Flores in Guatemala, or the other way around if you’re coming from the south)

If you have more than five days:

2-3 days in San Ignacio – 2-3 days on Caye Caulker – 1 day on the Hummingbird Highway – 1 night in Cockscomb – 1 day in Hopkins – 2 days in Placencia.

In this post you can read more about:

  • Visit the Belize Zoo on your way to or from the airport
  • Stay on the Hummingbird Highway at TREES
  • Places to stay in San Ignacio
  • St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
  • Belmopan – the true capital of Belize and a stepping stone to the east, west, north or south

Read about my experiences in the post below or find other related posts in the bottom of this page.

Discover local wildlife at the Belize Zoo

If you are traveling east-west or vice versa on your way from Caye Caulker, San Ignacio or the airport, you should stop by the Belize zoo for a few hours. Here you will see a selection of local wildlife, where some are rescues.

A young Baird’s tapir at the Belize zoo

To enter the zoo you pay 15 USD as a foreigner, and the money are well paid out. The zoo strives to release as many animals as possible through rehabilitation at the zoo. They have conservation projects such as the Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration program and the ‘Problem Jaguar’ rehabilitation program, which you can read more about on their website.

If you are traveling by bus, you can ask the driver to stop at the Belize zoo, it is situated between Belize City and Belmopan. After your visit at the zoo, hitch a bus in any direction from the main road.

A majestic Harpy eagle from the zoo

Belmopan – the navel and capital of Belize

You cannot go to Belize without crossing the capital of Belize, Belmopan. Here there are large supermarkets and governmental offices if you need to extend your stay.

The bus terminal can be very busy but it is well functioning. From here you can go almost anywhere in Belize, especially if you’re heading south to Placencia or west to San Ignacio towards Guatemala.

The staff working at the terminal are extremely helpful and answered any question I had. There were clean public toilets for a small charge. Lots of little shops to buy snacks or water.

Visit the local market for fresh farmed products and get a bargain. Don’t buy all your food in the big supermarkets. You support locals by buying at the market, just outside the bus terminal.

Unemployment in Belize is very high, but most people live by self-sustaining farming and living off what they produce and sell at the market.

Visit the Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (TREES) on the Hummingbird Highway

The cabins overlooking the Maya Mountains

Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (TREES) was a field research station where I stayed for a total of six weeks during my internship.

The station is open to visitors, and you can rent your own cabin at a reasonable price. Here you can spend your days relaxing in the hammocks, trek in the jungle or swim in the local swimming hole. You can use this site as a base when exploring sites such as the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National park.

Maximum chill out in the hammocks at TREES

Swimming and cave exploration in the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

The national park is easily accessible by both public transport (either direction, coming from Belmopan/Belize City or Dangriga). Parking spots available. You can also visit the national park if you are staying at TREES on the Hummingbird Highway. The entrance fee to the national park is a mere 8 BZD including the St. Herman’s cave and the Blue hole.

If you are a nature lover or simply love exploring this site is a must. Owned by the Belize Audubon Society, there are many bird species to see.
If you are into action you can do cave tubing here, but I did not try this since it rained too much the weekend we wanted to go.
It is possible to enter the St. Herman Cave by only 200 meters, make sure to bring a flashlight! 🔦

Exploring the cave at Blue Hole National Park

To swim in the Blue Hole you must either drive or hike there if you start with the cave exploring, I believe it’s 3 km each way. If you go on a Sunday you can expect there to be lots of activity by the lake.

There were changing rooms where you can change into swimwear.

As you can see, the water is very blue and it was refreshingly cold! You can do this as the last thing to cool down after your hike. Then you can grab the local bus by hitching it from the Hummingbird Highway.

Have a swim in the clear waters of Blue Hole
Packing list for one day

Sunscreen, bug spray, water, camera, sturdy shoes, food or snacks, binoculars, swimwear, towel.

Adventure packed days in San Ignacio

It is the easiest thing to get to San Ignacio from anywhere in Belize and even from Flores in Guatemala.

I stayed in San Ignacio one weekend to explore the ancient ruins of Caracol. Later I came back as I continued my travels to Guatemala after my internship at TREES had ended.

If you are looking for activities around San Ignacio, I can recommend the company MayaWalk. They offer a vast selection of more or less action-packed tours, even including the famous ATM cave. You can find their office on Burns Avenue just behind the bus station.

Where to stay

The first time we stayed at the Hotel Casa Blanca, a fine hotel if you prefer some privacy rather than staying at a hostel, but there are many places, some more central than others.

The second time when I was alone in San Ignacio I stayed at Bella’s Backpackers with the intention of meeting someone else who was going the same route as me.

Bella’s Backpackers is a very social place with backpackers traveling to or from Guatemala. The house is a tree-house style place with many levels with cozy corners where you can read a book or catch up with your roommates.

The sitting area outside my bunk bed on the second floor at Bella’s Backpackers

San Ignacio is a stepping stone to Guatemala, which you can read about in another post.

San Ignacio is the place to go to if you’re looking for a base, from where you can explore local Maya ruins, waterfalls or caves.

Itinerary: If you want to explore the ATM cave and a Maya ruin with base in San Ignacio you need to stay there for two full days at least. From here you can get to Flores in half a day or less or the ferry dock in Belize City (if you are heading to Caye Caulker) in about five hours.

//Rie

© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.

One thought on “Planning your Belize journey: Hostels, itineraries and transport

  1. Pingback: Weekend in Placencia on a budget | Traveling Female Ornithologist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s