Belize City and travel to Caye Caulker and Ambergus Caye
My husband and I have always enjoyed traveling and now that the kids are not kids anymore we have been taking advantage of having live in house sitters in January. We started with Ecuador in 2015, and then went to Thailand and Cambodia in 2016, Belize and Guatemala in 2017, Vietnam in 2018 and back to Belize, Panama and Costa Rica in 2019.
From Ottawa the cheapest way to get to Belize City is a round about trip via Washington or Newark and Huston. We went that way on our first trip. In 2018-2019 we had our adult children with us and we flew the more convenient but more expensive route Ottawa-Toronto-Belize City. It gets you into Belize City early afternoon which also makes life much simpler. The last ferries to Caye Calker and Ambergris Caye leave around 5:00 pm. If you take the earlier flight you can get to the Cayes the day you land. It is also possible to fly from Belize City Airport to Caye Calker or Ambergris Caye.
Belize City airport is not very large. There are there are two connected terminals, between them there are a couple of souvenir places, a snack bar, an over priced restaurant and an exchange office which has limited hours . There is a more local looking restaurant out of the terminal past the parking lot but it was not open when we got there. On both trips we arrived at the same time as another large flight from the US. The line was very long for customs but we had no difficulty entering the country. We have Canadian passports and no advance visa’s were required. After we went through immigration we found our bags which were placed on and around the baggage carousel which did not appear to work. For reasons I can’t explain my bag was in the middle of the floor. Oddly enough this happened on both trips!
US dollars can be used anywhere in Belize and there is a fixed exchange rate of $1 US to $2 Belize. Change is usually given in Belize $.
We took a taxi to Belize City from the airport for $10 US per person. When there were 2 of us in 2017 they charged us $25. On both trips we stayed at the Sea Breeze Guest House at some point on our trip. It is walking distance from the Ferry Terminals, the Tourist areas, the swing bridge and the museum.
Everything is behind locked gates with a fence with barbed wire. The rooms are clean but basic, a bed, a fan or AC, a TV which we could not make work and a small bathroom with a reasonable shower. There is a common open area and a veranda. We paid $38 US and they were happy to take a visa card.
On both trips we spent the night of December 26th at the Sea Breeze, nothing was open and the streets were deserted. Belize City has a somewhat questionable reputation for safety and most travel guides suggest you only go there to get somewhere else. The area around the Sea Breeze seemed OK in the daylight but we did not walk around much at night. Belikin is the local brand of beer and you can get it in beer or stout. We preferred the beer. Its $3.00 Belize in stores and $4 plus in restaurants. No one appears to care where you drink it, the stores are happy to open your beer for you. The bottles are returnable the stores have creates to put them in but we never got a refund. Everyone in the stores was very helpful and even the small local stores were happy to take American money although change was always given in Belize $.
Belize City to Caye Caulker
It may have been the heat or it may have been the time change but we woke-up early on our first day in Belize. Too early because nothing was open. This may have been partly because it was December 27th. Our guest house was quite close to the ferry terminal which was deliberate planning on our part, it’s considered one of the safer parts of the city and our goal for the day was to take a ferry to Caye Caulker.
There were police everywhere. The police were on foot, on bikes, in four wheel drive trucks and there was even a police checkpoint on the road quite close to the hotel. No one stopped us or anyone else and the police all seemed very friendly, some even said hello as we passed.
When we first hit the street there was almost nothing open. A few street vendors selling what looked like lunches for people going to work. We found the ferry terminal(s) there are actually two of them. The Marine Terminal which is more upscale, it has restaurants and stores and charges $50 for the return trip to Caye Caulker (when nothing was open we were able to find a place to eat In the Marine Terminal) and the Water Taxi Terminal ( Ocean Ferry) which is just down the street, it is less fancy and charges $29 return. Both trips take 45 minutes. We picked the cheap one! It’s worth buying a return ticket as they are open return and valid for weeks.
Sea Breeze and the ferry terminals are on the north side of the Swing Bridge, a landmark in Belize City.
If you believe the books the north side is the safe side. There is a good sized grocery store just by the bridge but it does not have much in the way of fresh food. Regular business hours look to be 8-4 with many stores closed for lunch. Just over the bridge there is a take out which has coffee and food. It was generally open. The area just to the south of the swing bridge was full of stores and people and other than people trying to sell us drugs it felt safe during the day. We did not find it but there is a BTL store in that area where you can buy a sim card for your phone. You need ID but I got 1GB of data for 15 days for $20. You can top up online. There are also ATM’s in that area.
Tourist attractions in the area include the Belize Museum (which is supposed to be good), Memorial Park, Fort George Light House and the Tourist Village. All are walking distance from the ferries. We explored the Fort George Area which includes historic colonial homes and 5 star hotels.
The tourist village is a shopping area set up specifically for the many cruise ships that make brief stops in Belize City. There were two ships anchored off shore when we were there. The passengers were coming in by the boat load for their one to two hour tour. They were met by tour guides of all kinds with wagons, walking tours and taxis.
By 8:00 am we found a small store that was open and were able to buy juice and buns for breakfast. We boarded the boat which was packed full of people and things but the ride was smooth and we were on our way to Caye Caulker.
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