PART 1 OF 2
Belize can be an awesome summer vacation spot, but know before you go. We traveled there a couple of years ago and found Caye Caulker to be a quaint, quiet island with a little adventure. Times have changed for now, so here is what you need to know about a vacation in this paradise.
Belize is a beautiful country, but it can be dangerous too. According to the U.S. Department of State (http://travel.state.gov) – October 2020, “Violent crime such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder – are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. This includes much of the interior of the country, especially in the capital city and closer to the Guatemala and Honduras borders. On our visit to Caye Caulker, we took a cab from the Belize airport to the ferry that takes you to the islands. When discussing stopping at a local shop to get a drink for the road (something we often do when traveling), our cab driver told us to "NEVER stop in Belize City, it's too dangerous." As we passed Belize City, it reminded me of a poverty-stricken, third world country. However, the whole country isn't like this.
Belize is listed by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the top places in the world to retire for numerous reasons. Their government is stable, their dollar is sound, and most of the country is safe. Not to mention, the beauty of the mountains and ocean. Just like everywhere else in the world, including the United States, you just have to know where to go and where to avoid. Here in the US, there are places you should avoid because of crime, but that doesn’t mean it’s an unsafe country. In my experience, New Orleans is relatively safe along Bourbon Street, but walk a couple of blocks over and you will see a whole different perspective. The same applies in some area of most major cities in the US. On the islands in Belize, we felt very safe and welcomed, so don’t write off Belize because of a small section of the country. In fact, there was a very welcoming, laid back island atmosphere. They really do want your tourism dollars.
Before you plan a trip anywhere, make sure you check the latest COVID restrictions. These regulations can and do change frequently, but as of today, here is what I found. Belize does not have a travel ban on any country, but definitively has some strict protocols for you to visit their country. The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) announced in January that Belize has achieved the Safe Travels Stamp, granted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). The Safe Travels Stamp, a global safety and hygiene stamp, was awarded to Belize in late December 2020 in recognition of the country’s enhanced health and safety protocols. In addition, in response to the new US, Canadian, and various other country requirements, Belize confirmed that COVID testing will be expanded and made available to all passengers departing Belize for those countries who now require a test to re-enter. They are ready for safe tourism.
To travel to Belize, you first need to download the Belize Health App. You will need to complete the information and obtain a negative COVID test within 96 hours of travel. The information must be entered into the health app within 72 hours of your departure. After you complete the information, screenshot your unique ID and QR Code on your smartphone. Upon arrival at the Belize airport, report to the Hospitality Center (nice name) and show it to the health officer. If you didn’t get your COVID test, they will give you one at the airport for $50. You can only imagine the delay this will cause getting to your vacation spot. Even if you have had a COVID test, you may also be selected at the airport for a random test. All airport tests are “Swab and Go” but you must stay at a Gold Standard hotel. If you test positive, you will be notified within 24 hours and will have to quarantine at your hotel. They will not contact you unless you are positive. What the heck is a “Gold Standard" hotel? It is a hotel that has met the Belize health standard protocols for sanitizing, social distancing, etc. A list can be found here. If your hotel isn't on this list, change. You will not have a good experience in one that has not met the standards. Once you’ve completed all of this, then you can board your transportation and be whisked away to your vacation paradise. While in Belize, you will have to adhere to the same standards as elsewhere; wear a mask, sanitize, and maintain a 6’ social distance.
So, why even go to Belize? Seems like a lot of trouble. Well, watch for my next article that will tell you about our last trip to Caye Caulker. Trust me, it is worth it. Also, for those of you that are COVID-conscious but ready to get out of the house, maybe Belize is a good foreign destination for you. It has all the Vitamin D sunshine you want, along with some of the strictest COVID protocols in the world. The islands are safe and relaxing.