The most comprehensive FAQ's you will find about travel to Ambergris Caye, Belize!
How do I get from Belize International Airport to San Pedro?
Transportation from Belize International Airport (BZE) to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye - you can do a water taxi or puddle jumper. The water taxi is less expensive, but you have to get a taxi from the Belize International Airport to the water taxi stand (about $25US) then your water taxi is about $17US per way. ($35US or so round trip). The water taxi takes about 90 minutes to reach Ambergris Caye, with a stop at Caye Caulker. Here are the websites for two recommended water taxis with schedule:
The quickest/easiest method to get from the Belize International Airport (BZE) to San Pedro is to take one of Belize's regional planes ("puddle jumpers"). You can pre-book this flight by going to www.tropicair.com, or www.mayaislandair.com. The flights are scheduled throughout the day. We recommend leaving at least 60-90 minutes between your incoming flight and your puddle jumper flight. Please note that the airlines still recommend 2-3 hours in between. While there is always a chance of delays, please schedule what makes you comfortable - if you breeze through customs and immigration, they will put you on an earlier flight if possible. The flight is only 15 minutes long and once you are away from the mainland the water turns beautiful shades of blue and turquoise. Ask the pilot if you can sit in the co-pilot seat - they will let you if you ask. You'll love the spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea - get your camera out! These flights are around $150usd, including everything, for a round trip, and are truly the fastest, most fun, and easiest way to get here - highly recommended and if you can save money elsewhere - it is worth it.
How do I get through Customs/Immigration as quickly as possible?
If you are taking Tropic or Maya Air, coming from the US or Canada.....you'll fly into our one and only international airport (the airport code is BZE). Note - planes deplane from front AND back at BZE - you really want to try to be one of the first off, as this will get you in the front of the line for immigration - this makes a big difference! We recommend you book in the last few rows or as close to the front as you can, but avoid the middle of the plane. When you get off the plane you'll go through immigration and customs, and then after collecting your bags, will proceed to the Tropic Air/Maya Island Air counter to check in for your flight to San Pedro. If you breeze through immigration and customs, you may be bumped up to an earlier Tropic or Maya Air flight. No worries, this happens often, ask the desk to call us at 630-4781 and let us know you got on an earlier flight, so we can be there to pick you up!
What do I do when I get to San Pedro to get to PUR?
We will be in touch before check in to get your arrival time, and answer any questions. We provide complimentary transportation from the San Pedro Airport/water taxi - we will have a driver waiting when you land to take you to your suite, where staff will be waiting to check you in. If for any reason you can't find the driver, call us at 630-4781.
Immigration - After getting off the plane have your passport and Arrival Form (they give it to you on the plane) available to go through customs. As noted above, try to sit at the front or back of the plane, not the middle, to get off the plane first. Immigration is pretty straightforward, and you just need to get your passport stamped. You then pick up your bags...**
** Another note here before you leave the baggage claim area (the baggage claim duty free store is the only place you can buy duty free at arrival in BZE, to take with you for your vacation - the others are in the main waiting area and for taking back out of the country when you are leaving). After you are in the baggage claim area look around and you'll see a store called "Arrival Duty Free". This is not your typical duty free store where you buy wine or perfume, etc, when you leave; this store is for buying when you arrive in Belize and they have the very best prices. If want to enjoy any of the name brand liquors like Bombay Gin, Johnny Walker Scotch, Stoli Vodka or any of the others make sure you buy those liquors here at this store. Because of the high import tax these same liquors will cost twice as much in Belize (local rum, beer, vodka are relatively inexpensive.)**If you buy duty free, as you head towards customs, you will have to get in the line for "Declaring" items.
Customs - You will fill out the form on the plane, and you present this here; you can get through quickly if you are not declaring anything. The officer may direct you to the line to get your bags checked, but again this is pretty low stress. Your personal items are allowed duty free in Belize. There is an import allowance of 200 cigarettes or 1/2 pound of tobacco goods, 20 ounces of alcohol and one bottle of personal perfume. For other questions regarding customs, please check: http://www.customs.gov.bz/
How can I use my cell phone in Belize?
See THIS blog post for our recommendations.
What amenities are provided by PUR?
Click HERE to read about the many indoor and outdoor amenities the cabanas offer.
What is rainy season like? What about the weather overall?
Belize is subtropical, with a mean annual temperature of 80 degrees F. It is similar to South Florida weather. During the months of November to March expect temperatures in Placencia to be in the middle to high 70's or low 80's. Winter storms called "Northers" may bring rain and lower the temperature down to the low 60's. Inland, temperatures are usually higher, reaching the 90's during the warm season. Trade winds blow along the coast and on the cayes most of the year, keeping temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months, except for a few weeks, generally around mid-August through mid-September.
The dry season generally lasts from November through May while the rainy season is typically June-November. The rain during this season often comes during the night. Hurricanes occasionally occur August through October (about once every 30 years, in the last hundred years). Rainfall is heaviest in the south and the jungle areas (around 180 inches), lightest in the north and on the Cayes (around 50 inches). Water temperature averages between 76 and 83 degrees F.
Many people ask if they should even consider coming during rainy season. There are many mini droughts in "rainy season" and sometimes it seems to rain as much in "dry season." Weather is always unpredictable, but, your chances of having your particular week ruined by the weather are statistically small. There is not one particular time of year that is "predictable" - with the exception, September and October are typically the wettest/muggy-ist/hottest/buggy-est - but you can also find great deals on travel then.
Do I need to worry about ZIKA or other tropical diseases? Are the bugs bad? Do I need shots/vaccinations? What about sand fleas/flies/no-see-ums?
We always refer to the CDC page for any updates. We recommend being careful with applying DEET especially at high risk times (after a rain, at dusk/dawn, in the jungle.)
There may be some sand flies and mosquitoes but primarily when it is calm and at dawn or dusk. They are more prevalent on the mangrove cayes and near the lagoon. The biggest health hazard is a serious sunburn which can ruin your travels. It is highly improbable that you will be in an area on the peninsula where you will be bitten by an Anopheles mosquito with the malaria parasite. The same is true of other diseases, such as Dengue Fever. If your plans include a stay in the jungle however, check with your health provider about risk versus treatment. It is always a good idea to keep your tetanus booster up to date though no shots are currently required to enter the country.
Sand flies/fleas/no-see-ums - These are present in all tropical places. We rake our sand daily which is done to prevent them. Where you see raked sand, you are probably pretty safe from them. We recommend using Avon's Skin So Soft as this is a natural repellent they can't bite through. As they are actually tiny crustaceans and not insects, DEET has no effect on them. Most people will have no problems, they are generally active after a rain, or when it is cooler. You will not know you are bitten until the next day, when they show up as very itchy red bumps, often many at a time. They are a nuisance but nothing serious or life threatening - Benadryl cream is helpful to stop the itching.
Other "creatures" - In your suite, you may come across a few common bugs. Tiny (non biting) ants are common, and you will see that if you leave any sort of food out they will find it. Occasionally you may run across a cockroach but they stay away from people and only come out when it is dark, and we do treat for them frequently. You may also see an occasional gecko in the cabanas—they are harmless and scared of people, and actually are pretty cute. They are good guys in that you rarely see too many bugs/spiders, because they eat them. They make a loud bird like chirping noise you may hear from time to time. Scorpions are present in Belize, but usually prefer to be where it is wet and are not seen as frequently on the beach. Please be aware anytime you are putting your hand into a dark space. Scorpion stings are painful but temporary. SPF and DEET are readily available at all local stores.
Because we are close to the reef, where there is a plethora of sea life, you will occasionally find jellyfish in the water. We have occasionally sighted a stingray and barracuda close to the shores as well. The best defense against jellyfish is to wear goggles, and exit the water if you see more than one, as the current may be bringing them closer to shore. If you get stung, take a Benadryl and scrape the sting with a credit card, then apply white vinegar. Barracuda normally do not attack people. Take caution in wearing shiny jewelry in the water, and if you see one, give it plenty of space. When entering the water if it is cloudy, take care to shuffle your feet as if there are stingrays present, they will be scared off. You can see them in clear water. On a positive note, look for dolphins in the water in front of your cabana, as these are frequently spotted.
What should I pack?
Click HERE and scroll to the second section for info on this topic.
Is Belize safe?
Read our post HERE about safety in Belize. The crime here is mostly opportunistic theft - we recommend you keep a close eye on your belongings and do not leave anything unattended, just as you would do anywhere. You can be lulled into a sense of security here because it is so quiet and peaceful, and lose vigilance to lock doors and bring things inside. We have had very few incidents of theft here, and these have only occurred as a result of leaving things unlocked or unattended. You have a very low chance of anything crime related happening here, and this is true throughout the country. The one exception is the south side of Belize City, where tourists do not go. This pocket accounts for the majority of reported crimes in the country. Because the country is the least population dense in Central America, the crime appears on paper, higher than reality. Visitors come here again and again because they do feel safe here, and unlike a lot of tourist destinations, you do not have to stay behind the closed walls of your resort. The town IS the experience and it is encouraged to go out and enjoy. Just like anywhere, don't flash cash or bring attention to expensive items. The later you are out or the more you've had to drink - this is true anywhere in the world - your chance for a problem increases, so have a plan for these types of nights! (be in a group, have a ride home, have a responsible person with you, etc.)
Can I drink the water?
Yes - you can drink the water at PUR. However, on the rest of the island, you will want to stick to bottled water. Some of the island is on city water, some is well water - but you only want to drink out of the tap where you know it has been purified. We also provide water at the bar all day long for guests to put into their reusable bottles in the cabanas - we try to save on plastic where possible.
Do I need to bring a special outlet for my electronics?
Electrical power is 110 volts/60 cycle, which is the same as the United States and Canada. The plugs and outlets are the same as the US. A small surge protector is highly recommended for computers and other sensitive equipment.
Do I need to exchange my money?
Local currency is the Belize Dollar. One U.S. dollar is worth two Belize dollars - it is set at this rate and does not change. Almost all prices are in Belize dollars except where noted. There is no need to exchange money as USD is accepted - for example, if the total is $30, this means Belize dollars, and if you hand them $15US, they won't bat an eyelash.
What time zone is Belize in?
Belize is on Central Standard Time, however, they do not observe Daylight Savings Time. The local time is Greenwich mean time minus six hours.
Can I rent a car or golf cart? Do I need a car?
You can easily rent a golf cart from us when you arrive. You do not need a car, everyone gest around on golf carts or bikes. We also have complimentary bikes. Many tour guides will pick you up at PUR, or you can take a golf cart or bikes a few minutes into town for an excursion that takes off from there.
I heard Belize has sea grass or that the beaches aren't swim-able. What are the beaches really like?
Belize has the second biggest barrier reef in the world, and with the plethora of tropical creatures, comes some sea grass that helps to sustain them. You will read occasional complaints that people couldn't get in the water because of the sea grass. We give this estimate - about 70% of the time, the water is amazing. Also, please note - the water in San Pedro is some of the prettiest water in the world, with perfect white sand, but much of the beachfront is seawalled or has boat docks. There are few swimmable beaches on the island. However - the swimmable beach we have - is gorgeous. The #1 place to have a beach day is called Secret Beach - it is an incredible experience. We are conveniently located between town and Secret Beach.
All beaches in Belize are public, so you are welcome to walk freely on all the beachfront. Although many resorts are located on the beach, they are not for swimming except where listed below.
--You can walk right to the shore, steps away, from PUR, and walk the beautiful, picturesque beach front
--You can swim off the docks at Tiki Maya, just minutes walk away, head north on the beach
--We recommend swinging over the water and playing in the sea at Dive Bar, just down the road, south
--Head to Boca Del Rio to Sandy Toes to sit on the shore, or Palapa Bar to swim in the tubes on the sea
--For a full beach day experience - especially if there is sea grass on the Caribbean side - we highly recommend going to Secret Beach for a day - because this is technically the "lagoon side" there will be no grass here, and this is a very fun day trip. You can walk out in the waist-deep water as far as you can see, and it is an incredible experience! We are conveniently located between the heart of town and Secret Beach.
How does Belize compare to other tropical destinations?
Read THIS post about Belize as compared to other countries - Belize makes an effort to maintain a natural environment, and there are limits to a developing country's ability to use resources that are available at first world places. The amazing, natural, unspoiled, authentic vacation you get here far outweighs some limitations for most travelers; the amount of repeat guests, and people who move here, is a testament to how special this place is. You can read HERE why this is....
Can I buy basic needs at the local stores? What are prices like?
Within a few minutes, you can be at several grocery stores and farmer's markets. Produce is sold at farm stands throughout town, not at the grocery stores. The grocery stores here are relatively well stocked. You can always find the basics, but specific, selective items are inconsistent. Things like bug spray, SPF, toilet paper, basic groceries are plentiful. There are pharmacies in town where you can buy prescriptions drugs without a prescription. Prices here are similar to the US. Remember all prices are in Belize dollars so it looks double the price.
Can I use credit cards, and is there an ATM available?
Credit cards are accepted widely in town. Some tour operators accept credit cards, but you will want to be prepared to pay cash for some. ATMs are available in town for a fee of a few dollars.
How much cash should I bring? Are there safes in the room?
We have a safe in each room. Cash - most people bring about $100US for each excursion per person, and then expect that most places will take your credit card for dinners. I would bring about $50 per day for a couple extra cash plus your excursion money, just in case.
What languages are spoken in Belize?
English is the official language, though Spanish, Creole, Mayan, and Garifuna are also spoken. While the population of Belize is only about 365,000 and it is only about the size of New Hampshire, there is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans, who include Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern and Asian.
Can I snorkel right off the beaches in Belize?
Yes - bring your snorkel gear and you can jump in off almost any dock you see!
How much should I tip?
Tipping is appreciated and is about the same as the US. It is always kind and appreciated to tip tour guides or for any extra service.
How is the WiFi in Belize?
Belize is still a developing country, and the infrastructure is not a first world operation yet. Here at PUR, we just installed the second of the 2 internet service providers in the country to help keep our WiFi as consistent as possible. When it is stormy, the WiFi can be intermittent. You should expect to be able to check email and do your basic surfing here, but do expect for there to be occasions where it is slow or not connecting for a few minutes here or there. For the most part, you wouldn't notice unless you were online all day, which we hope you won't have to do on vacation! We have installed the best equipment here and upgraded to a faster service, and we continually upgrade our equipment to keep it as consistent as possible. WiFi is available almost everywhere you go in town, just get the password from each place.
Is there a gym we can use?
There is yoga right up the road and several gyms in town.
What excursions should I take?
The options can be a bit overwhelming….Cave tubing, hiking, snorkeling, boating, sailing, fishing, fine restaurants, shopping, Mayan tours, sunset cruises, scuba diving, cave tours, bird watching, biking, jungle tours, ziplining, parasailing, kite surfing, the zoo, and more. You can book before you come, or simply visit the excursion offices while you are here—they are all within walking distance of your cabana. HERE are our recommendations for your time here.
Are there emergency medical services? How do I call the police if necessary?
Belize is not known for cutting edge medical services, and this should be taken into consideration. Belize City has the most advanced medical services, and for serious problems, arrangements are made for individuals to fly out on the next available puddle jumper. In town, there is a 24 hour PolyClinic, and you can call 911 in an emergency.
Does everything close in low season? When does low season start?
"Low season" (arguably) starts around June. June has Lobsterfest, however, so things stay pretty lively. The weather gets a bit hotter and a few more rain showers (at night) by June, and many of the hard working businesses will shutter for a couple weeks/month at a time to recover from high season. There is NO reason to not come here in " low season." You can have just as much fun, a couple places here or there might be closed but you can't possibly hit every hot spot here on one trip anyway. Generally, September and October are the slowest times to come, least crowded, and it will be the hottest/wettest/buggy-est. However - plenty of people come during those months and have a wonderful experience. Come when your schedule allows you to, and know that you will have more to do here, than you know what to do with!
Do I need a passport or visa?
A valid passport and return ticket is necessary for entry into Belize. No visas are required for citizens of the U.S., British Commonwealth nations, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and Uruguay.
How long can I stay in Belize while visiting?
A 30 day visitors permit will be issued to you upon arrival. Extensions are routinely granted at the Immigration offices located throughout the country. You can see how to get your passport stamped HERE.
What if I need a taxi?
You can find a taxi pretty easily by heading to main street in town. Hail it the same as you do in the US – a raised hand. To call one from PUR, see us in the office.
What is the story with the beach dogs?
You will find throughout the peninsula (and Belize, and Central America for that matter!) a number of stray dogs. San Pedro has done an excellent job of managing these dogs. Many have collars, which means either that they belong to someone, or that they have been neutered/spayed by the humane society. They are very friendly and seem to sense a tourist! Tourists have typically fed these dogs and you will even see them begging at some restaurants. If you ignore the dogs or gently shoo them away, they will generally leave you alone.
If for any reason you feel threatened by the dogs, an occurrence that has rarely been reported, stay calm and talk slowly and calmly as you back away, same as you would with any animal back home. The worst thing that is likely to happen is that the dog will take a liking to you! They are playful and like to follow people and play. Some people do pet and play with the dogs. It is known that most of the dogs will carry some amount of fleas or ticks so this is not recommended. Common sense says to always wash your hands afterwards. Please do not allow dogs on your veranda or in your room!
Are there high pressure sales everywhere, like in other tropical locations?
There are many types of people on the peninsula. Some locals, some from other countries or parts of Belize, expats, and tourists. Belizean people are very friendly on the whole and enjoy chatting and asking questions. You may notice that the boundaries may be different in some cultures; it is not unusual for some cultures to hang out closely, the sense of personal space or personal territory is different in each culture. Some will want to sell you things, and in general most are very kind and not pushy if you say no thank you (or as Belizeans say, “nah, we straight!” Which means no thank you, I do not want what you are selling). You may meet the Coconut Man, Mayan women selling baskets, people asking for donations, men selling blankets, it is much less intrusive than most Caribbean Islands or Mexico. If you are uncomfortable, simply saying I do not have any cash makes most lose interest in you!
What's the story with the Sargassum seaweed all over the Caribbean?
Click HERE to read about Sargassum seaweed - since 2011 (some say 2015), it has been coming off and on; it does not need to ruin anyone's time here, but it can be a hassle from time to time and it is best to be aware of it, so that even if it comes during your trip, you can plan around it. Plenty of people still fall in love with Belize and find PLENTY to do even if the seaweed is annoying.
Can I ship things out of Belize? What about sending home the fish I catch?
PLEASE NOTE - if you leave something in Belize, it is VERY DIFFICULT and expensive to ship things back. Most things cannot be shipped at all. For example, a recent guest could not get a bag shipped back because "textiles" were not allowed to be shipped out of the country. Our owners/managers here, go back to the US often enough that we will make an effort to ship things back when we return to the US, but it may not be timely. However, if you want to take things back with you - including frozen fish - this can be done. Please check with the CBP before deciding about the fish, and also check with your airline to be sure you can check the fish, as rules can change.
How can I do laundry?
We can do laundry at PUR for $20usd per load.
What if I want to get married in Belize?
We have had a number of weddings at CBC....the process is fun and easy, and you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the process! We are not doing weddings as of yet in San Pedro, but would be an amazing split trip!
Any other safety tips or things I should know?
Lastly, before coming to Belize make copies of your passports, credit cards and driver’s license. Scan and email yourself copies and leave a copy at home in a safe. That way if you lose any of these items while you are here they will be easier to replace. Also, bring enough medicine with you if you take any prescription meds. Our local pharmacies are usually well stocked with general antibiotics, minor pain killers, cold and flu meds, etc, but if you need anything special bring it with you.