With completely different vibes to the other countries on our Central American adventure, Belize adds a Caribbean flavour into the mix. This post is specifically about the island of Caye Caulker (because we didn’t actually get round to exploring any other cities, oops) but if you’re looking for an island escape then look no further… this is the trip for you!
Where to stay:
Yuma’s House, Caye Caulker
$15 per person, per night (4-BED DORM)
9/10 – This hostel is number 1 on both TripAdvisor and Hostel World. It’s not hard to see why though… it’s absolutely amazing! It’s located 2 seconds from the dock, which means you won’t have to lug your backpacks too far when you arrive. The maximum dorm room size is a 4-bed room (there are quite a few private options available too), the kitchens are well equipped, there’s nice decking/common areas and the upstairs bathroom is SO luxurious! I deducted a point at first because there aren’t really enough bathrooms available here – just one upstairs and one downstairs – but then I added the point back on because when the showers are hot it’s hard to complain! The owner isn’t local but she is very friendly and will help you find the best food/tours in town if you ask. There is free drinking water but no free breakfast, which is why this place doesn’t quite manage to score a 10. It’s also fairly pricey but we’ve paid up to $16 each in the past, so this didn’t bother us too much. Just to warn you though, in high season (November-March) prices go up to $20 per person per night which may be too expensive for some backpackers on a tight budget.
• Belize currency is Belizean Dollars. The rate is exactly 2x US$, so it’s easy to work out how much you’re spending without too much mathematics. So, BZ$10 is US$5 etc. etc.
• There is no entry fee but there is an exit fee of BZ$37.50 (US$18.75). It’s actually one of the most expensive border taxes that we’ve had to pay on our trip – some travellers we spoke to avoided Belize entirely for this reason! Not sure we’d have gone to such extreme measures but do make sure to have enough cash left to pay for this when travelling on to Mexico/Guatemala.
• The ferry to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye does not have to be booked in advance. They run hourly, so just buy your ticket at the office when you arrive for the next available time. A return ticket to Caye Caulker cost us BZ$50.
• Technically, during low season, you don’t even need to book a hostel in advance. We booked beforehand because Yuma’s is so popular and needs to be reserved a month or two in advance to score a bed. If you’re not fussed about where you stay, there will be people at the bottom of the dock upon arrival advertising backpacker accommodation.
• Yuma’s House cannot be booked on hostelworld.com or any other online booking service. You have to email the hostel directly and submit a deposit via bank transfer. This hostel is so popular with backpackers, you’ll have to act fast if you want to bag yourselves a room.
• Watch the sunset at the split but don’t hang around at the Lazy Lizard bar afterwards. A lot of backpackers swear by Lazy Lizard and say that it’s the best spot in town but locals will tell you that Sip’n’Dip bar just a few metres down from there will offer much cheaper drinks prices and a more authentic atmosphere.
• DO A SNORKELLING TOUR! There are opportunities to scuba dive but the snorkelling is the top rated activity on the island. Make sure to choose the Hol Chan reserve (there are other reserves that are cheaper but the marine life isn’t as good there). All the tour companies around town will offer different types of boats, lunch options and dive stops – you can get them to lower their prices if you persist and some companies will even lend you a GoPro for the day or throw in an extra dive stop just to get you to book with them. There are some luxury sail boats that will take you there and serve a buffet lunch with unlimited drinks and then there are basic boats (like the one we took) that may not have a fancy lunch option but will give you more time in the water. It’s really up to you to find which tour you like the sound of the most.
• At the same time, you’re not guaranteed to see manatees or sharks so go with an open mind. The snorkelling is fun regardless and you’ll probably see tons of fish and stingrays. There’s also a shipwreck at one of the dive spots to explore so I think it’s still a worthwhile activity.
• ‘Belizean Flava’ is the best restaurant in town. Ask for their BZ$20 deal – you get 3 courses and 3 drinks for the equivalent of US$10! What a bargain. Also, go to Fry Jacks for breakfast and make sure to get a potato on a stick from ‘The Fair’ stall on the main road.
• Talk to the locals! Our time in Caye Caulker wouldn’t have been half as amazing as it was without Chucky and his family. They went out of their way to make our stay extra special and gave us a sneak peek into their everyday lives on the island. Belizean people are some of the friendliest that we’ve stumbled across so far and it’s a blessing to speak to them and learn about their culture. Plus, although they speak Creole to each other, they speak in English to travellers, so no need to have studied Spanish here. No language barriers = no excuses!
• All the supermarkets in town charge different prices for the same things. We bought different things from different places and just kept a mental note of where each product was the cheapest. Sounds like effort but we were determined to save our pennies!
• The cash withdrawals from ATM’s are free for foreign cards in Caye Caulker – rejoice!
• The bus station in Belize City is about a 15 minute taxi ride from the port. We didn’t think there was any need to get there early to buy tickets but we’ve read a few advice pages online that recommend getting there a few hours before to secure a seat. Hard to say what the right answer is! We ended up milling around the bus station for hours because we were there far too early and there are no restaurants or things to do nearby so you’ll get bored very quickly.
• The ADO ticket booth (Mexican bus company) isn’t obvious. The owner of the very first shop on the left hand side of the station sells international bus tickets as well as Coca Cola and chocolate bars.
Belizean creole is super confusing, despite the fact that they’ve taken a lot of words from English. For example, they’ll say ‘It no mata’ instead of ‘It doesn’t matter’ and although that seems easy enough to understand written down like that, it’s a completely different story when you hear it. There were 2 key phrases we heard all of the time, which I’ll share with you below:
De meh time? – What time is it?
You straight?/Straight – You okay?/Good
If you’d like to know more about our time in Belize then click this link: