While I have traveled before, this trip is my first official hardcore solo backpacking adventure. So, I can say with confidence that beginner backpackers should absolutely feel comfortable traveling in Belize. Here’s why:
- One of the biggest challenges while traveling is navigating any language barrier that may exist, but if you speak either English or Spanish, you will have no issue communicating in Belize. Just about everyone speaks English, including those who prefer to communicate in Spanish or Creole. Belizeans do have accents, but nothing you won’t be able to handle.
- The food and water are relatively safe, so you can eat well here without much worry. Whether the practice of using purified water to make ice or wash greens etc. is always used, I’m not sure. But I do know that people brush their teeth with tap water and eat unpeeled fruit with no consequence. I have had ice in drinks, eaten street food and just generally acted as if I were at home and suffered no negative repercussions. This has not been the case in other places I have visited even while trying to be careful.
- The conversion rate to USD is as straightforward as you are ever going to get it. 2 Belizean dollars equal 1 US dollar. Whatever the price, divide it in two. While Belize is much more expensive than say Guatemala or Nicaragua, it is still affordable for the backpacker set, especially if you limit your time in the Cayes where prices tend to be higher. This also makes it ridiculously easy to keep track of your spending and stay on whatever your budget might be.
- It is very cheap and easy to get around the country. As I wrote about in a past post, the buses are such a great way to get around. They take you almost anywhere you’d want to go, or at least get you close. A two-hour ride won’t cost you more than $10 BZ and is often much less than that. There are only a few highways in Belize so figuring out how to get from place to place is never too difficult. Buses run regularly and in my experience on or very close to schedule. Where buses can’t go, water taxis fill in the gaps. While the water taxis are significantly more expensive, they still won’t break the bank at $20 BZ- $60BZ.
- The people are friendly and always eager to answer your questions about the country they love. Not sure where something is? Just ask. Belizeans will definitely give you directions, but they’ll often just walk you to your destination. Wondering why something is done the way it is? They’d be happy to explain it. Lots of locals have told me they really enjoy talking to tourists, especially if you are a type they don’t often see (I’m talking to you in particular African Americans and really just people from the U.S. as a whole! We are like travel unicorns)
- Belize is a beautiful, raw country, still largely unaffected by tourism in most places. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely tourists, but their presence has not yet irredeemably altered most places (Ambergris Caye being the major exception). As a result you will mostly see beaches in their natural state-coconuts, seaweed and all (Placencia being the still totally worth going exception), eat in local restaurants with one talented lady cooking up a storm and feeding all the guests as quickly as one person can, and always have dusty feet. Backpacking you definitely get a feel for what this culture, made up of a mixture of many other cultures, is about.