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Tag Archives: Belize

Belize to Guatemala

We decided to stay 2 nights in San Ignacio, Belize before crossing the border, partly to gain information on the crossing and partly because we were sorry to leave Belize.

We learned there are 2 ways to cross. The first is to take a bus from the station to Benque Viejo del Carmen, the last town in Belize, then take a taxi to the border and walk across, once on the other side take another taxi to town and then a shuttle onwards.

Option two and slightly easier was to take a taxi from San Ignacio all the way to the border, which was 20$BZ. Once at the border the actual crossing is very easy. You enter the first building, hand over your passport and pay 37.50$US exit fee, your passport is then stamped out.

You then cross the road to the next building and head in on the right hand side, here you hand over your passport again, pay 20 quetzals entry fee and are simply stamped in. Job done.

The only thing to remember is to start speaking Spanish again!

Once formally in the country you will be bombarded with taxi drivers wanting to take you anywhere. However, we opted to walk into the town and then pick up the shuttle to Flores, the walk is only 15 minutes away and easy. Don’t worry about not finding the shuttles as you really can’t miss them.

If like us you are going to be heading to Flores then you will need around 90 quetzales, you can change money at the border if you don’t have local currency. But to save yourself a few quetzales jump off in Santa Elena instead from here you can take a Tuk-Tuk for only 5 quetzales across to the island, plus you then get a more interesting journey!

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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When planning doesn’t work out

After a couple of failed attempts to go manatee watching we decided that our best bet would be to go to Gales Point village, a small community of Garifunas who are located next door to a manatee sanctuary, where a large concentration of manatees live. We figured this was as close to a guarantee as possible for sightings.

Our plan had been to take the bus up from Placencia to Dangriga, along the coast, and then either take a bus straight to Gales Point for the night or spend the night in Dangriga and use it as a jump off point to the sanctuary.

We left Placencia on the 7am bus and arrived in Dangriga just before 9am, with the whole day ahead of us we thought why not drop off our bags and head straight out to the manatees?

We found a guesthouse not too far from the bus station and checked ourselves in for the night. Once settled and ready to go, we asked the owner about how to get to the sanctuary.

She looked at us rather bemused and explained that there is only one bus per day that goes to Gales Point and it leaves Dangriga at 6.15am, so the only other way to get there would be a taxi, but finding a good price would be hard due to the road being unpaved for part of the way.

Feeling only slightly discouraged we headed back to the bus station to where the taxis were stationed and asked around, to say we were shocked with the price would be a huge understatement.

Gales Point is only 18 miles away and yet they were asking for $50 (US) – one way!

To be perfectly honest we may have considered this had we not also known that we would have to pay about the same again for a boat ride around the lagoon to actually see the manatees.

With our budget already at a critical low for Belize we decided that despite our best intentions and best laid plans this was not going happen, so we had a choice to make. Stay in Dangriga for the day and head out to San Ignacio the next day, or leave now.

After a stroll around the town we decided there was no reason to stay if we were not going to the sanctuary.

We headed back to the guesthouse and explained our predicament, luckily the owner gave us a refund on the room, and we headed once more back to the bus station.

Unlike Gales Point, buses to Belmopan ran every hour so we jumped on the 11.30am and arrived at Belmopan an hour later, after a bite to eat we were headed onwards to San Ignacio on the 2.15pm bus, our last town before we crossed to Guatemala.

Oh, and did I mention the manatee watching was supposed to have been my birthday treat? Instead I got to spend the day travelling through Belize on buses – what a delight!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Placencia

Placencia is at the southern most tip of a small peninsula in the south of Belize, it is so small that it consists of 2 roads, a main one and a sidewalk that form a loop around several accommodations and places to eat.

Sidewalk Directions - Placencia

When in Placencia you feel like you are on an island as you are surrounded on three sides by water, giving you a sense of still being totally isolated from mainland Belize.

We arrived in Placencia following a 3 day, 2 night sailing trip from Caye Caulker, with the initial plan of staying a night before heading out to Gales Point to see manatees

Upon arrival we headed down the sidewalk to find a hostel for the night and stumbled on Deb and Dave’s Last Resort, a secluded little hideout, with lovely rooms and a veranda to hang out in.

Deb and Dave's Last Resort

Despite our plan to move out the next day we found ourselves staying a further day, mainly due to all the swimming we had done the previous 3 days, and during that time we barely saw more than a handful of people around the village.

Sidewalk Placencia

Even in the evening when we went out to a lovely restaurant on the beachfront called Cozy Corner we barely saw more than 10 other people out and about.

We are not sure if this was a post Easter instance or if Placencia is generally that quiet, but it was nice to have a day to ourselves and with its long stretches of beaches it seemed like a nice destination for some relaxation before moving on again.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is a small island situated just off the coast of Belize City that can be reached directly by water taxi. One way tickets cost 20 BZ$ and returns are 35 BZ$, it is worth noting that return tickets are valid for 3 months.

There are 2 water taxi companies that run stops to both Caye Caulker and San Pedro on Ambergris, the San Pedro Express and Caye Caulker water taxi, the latter is Belizean owned but the prices and routes are the same for both.

Welcome to Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is a small enough island to allow you to easily walk around, however if you are feeling particularly lazy you can jump on a golf cart taxi or rent either a bicycle or golf cart. There are no vehicles on the island except for some small tractors used to collect rubbish and deliver goods from the docks.

The island has a very laid back feel to it, with a key motto being “Go Slow”. The locals are very friendly and the area feels safe both in the day and at night.

Activity wise there are a range of tours available from half day snorkelling, to scuba dives, to night time crocodile watching or you can take sailing lessons, rent a kayak or simply relax with a book.

Despite it being an island there are not a lot of beaches to choose from, in fact there are few sandy patches big enough to class as a beach. This is mainly due to the hotels privatising areas of beach, leaving very few places for non-hotel guests.

Caye Caulker Beach

As the island is inside the Barrier Reef the water tends to stay shallow for quite a distance and the best place to swim is at “The Split”, where the water is deeper. The area is known as “The Split” due to Hurricane Hattie which in 1979 blew a channel through the island causing a divide.

During our time on Caye Caulker we stayed for 2 weeks at the Vega Inn apartments, which offer use of their beach and is very well situated. As we were then delayed, we moved for a further 3 nights to Yuma’s House, formerly known as Tina’s Backpackers. Although there is no beach at the hostel, they do have a private deck with a covered hammock area, making it a nice place to relax.

Caye Caulker Vega Inn Beach

Caye Caulker offers plenty of places to eat with a range of prices for most budgets, along with numerous supermarkets (strangely all owned by Chinese people), a bank with a cash point, a bakery, bars and clubs and several shops.

If you are planning to visit Caye Caulker and then move on to other coastal areas, it is worth noting that snorkelling and scuba were all much cheaper than in places like Placencia. Plus, the island somehow seems to have a much more hospitable feel about it.

As a treat we decided to take a 3 day, 2 night sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia with Raggamuffin Tours, the price was 700 BZE$ per person but included everything for the trip from food and drink to all camping equipment.

We would highly recommend the tour and the guys at Raggamuffin for anyone wanting to do something different.

The Ragga Queen

The crew on the Ragga Queen, our sailing boat for the trip, were genuinely welcoming and we felt totally at ease and taken care for

.The Ragga Queen Crew

The days were spent sailing slowly along the Barrier Reef, with stops to snorkel either at sea or from the shores of cayes.

Rendezvous Caye:

Rendezvous Caye

Tobacco Caye:

Tabacco Caye

While in the evenings we would set up camp on the beach and be treated to amazing food, including freshly caught fish from the day.

Rendezvous Camping

All in all it was a truly worth while trip that allowed us to soak up the sun, enjoy the Barrier Reef and see some amazing small islands all in the course of a day. Unfortunately this was then repeated again the next day, and the day after that! 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Belize

We arrived in Belize, on Monday 26th March. The journey from Mexico to Belize was relatively easy; we hopped onto the overnight ADO bus from Tulum, Mexico and arrived at the border crossing near Chetumal at around 3am.

The immigration process was very easy but we were grateful to be on a bus along with other people for our first land crossing.

At the border we got off the bus and had our passports stamped out of Mexico, we then re-boarded the bus for a 2 minute drive down the road to the Belize border.

Here we descended again taking all our bags and went through customs, no payments were needed to enter and we were lucky enough to not have any checks done to our backpacks, which was a blessing as we were not really awake enough to have had to unpack and re-pack.

From the border the bus proceeded to Belize City, where we arrived at about 7.30am at the main bus terminal. At this point we had no local currency and were not aware of the wide-spread acceptance of US dollars so we decided to head into the centre to find a cash point before crossing to Caye Caulker.

The first thing that struck us upon arriving in the country was how strange it was to be in Central America but be speaking English!

The second observation we made was how relatively empty the place felt, with a population of 350,000 for the whole country you do have a feeling of vast open spaces, despite being able to cross the country in day.

The third thing we noticed about Belize, and probably why loved the country so much was the variety of cultures in such a small area.

As we travelled around we discovered that Belize is split up into regions of 4 key cultures: Mayan, Creole, Garifuna and Belizean. So much so that when on the coast you feel like you are in the Caribbean, with reggae beats and laid back attitudes but when you move further inland you feel closer to what Central America should be like and almost feel like you should be speaking Spanish.

The best thing about this variety of culture has to be the food. So far Belize has offered us the best and tastiest food we have ever had. With fresh fish in abundance this is the country for sea food lovers, our only disappointment was we were here outside of lobster season!

In fact the only downside we could find to Belize was the price. Unfortunately as Belize is an importer and not a producer everything other than bananas, coconuts and fish is expensive.

In fact we found it almost on par with UK prices; with food costing around 2/3 of what it does back home, which is a shame as we would have loved to stay longer as the hospitability is second to none!

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Go slow

It is our 3rd week in Caye Caulker and I would love to say that this is because we love the island so much, but that would not be the whole truth. In fact, it is starting to feel like we are being held hostage.

We had arrived with plans of staying 2 weeks to do some snorkelling, see some sites and have a friend of ours come join us for our second week.

Instead this is what happened.

We arrived a day early and managed to check in to our apartment at Vega Inn without any problems. We then spent the next couple of days sunbathing and swimming, things were going well.

Then unfortunately our friend couldn’t make it, which was a real shame but also seemed to be the start of our downfall at Caye Caulker. The plan had been for her to bring out my replacement Keen sandals, which were stolen in Mexico, so instead now she would have to post them. No big deal we thought, there is always DHL.

In the meantime we went for a day trip to the Lamani ruins which included a river boat ride, unfortunately that turned out to be the best part of the day. If you plan to go there, don’t go with a tour from the islands it’s too expensive for what you get even if they throw in the entrance fees, lunch and drinks.

We also started to look around at snorkelling tours and stumbled upon a 3 day boat trip to Placencia, island hopping, snorkelling, sleeping on cayes and all inclusive. Great we thought, we were planning to go there so why not take in the Barrier Reef instead of the highway?

The boat rides were scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays, we were due to check out on Tuesday – perfect so far, except for one point – Easter and DHL apparently don’t mix.

My last update from DHL came on Wednesday afternoon to say my parcel was delayed for clearing at customs, not good when Belize shuts down from Thursday to Monday for Easter.

On Tuesday morning and with a couple of places still available for the boat, we made a few frantic last minute calls to DHL to see where the parcel was and if they could instead ship it to Placencia. Ragamuffin Tours who organise the boat ride kindly offered to receive it for us in Placencia so it would be waiting for us upon arrival.

However, as my luck would have it the DHL representative tells me that the parcel will not move any further along the line until I pay them around US $35 to take the sandals through customs, as apparently no-one but a broker can do it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

After contemplating missing the boat ride I thought fine, let’s just get it cleared so we can also move, so I ask if I can pay by phone with my card. The answer; “sorry no, we only accept payment in person or bank transfers”.

So my options were either miss the boat and spend the morning in Belize City or pay for a timely long-distance phone call followed by around a 3-5 day wait for the money to actually transfer. Either way it was bye bye boat trip….

So where does that leave us now?

We have moved to a hostel for the next couple of nights. With the boat to Placencia currently full we asked to be added as stand by passengers for this Friday’s boat ride in case spaces become available.

Today I spent the morning in Belize City DHL to sort out the payments for customs in person, what followed was even more amazing.

After a long chat with what I assume was the manager, she assured me she would endeavour to get the sandals sent out to me this afternoon or tomorrow morning at the latest, and that she would send me an email to confirm.

Needless to say it is now gone 5pm and no email has arrived from DHL.

Upon further investigation from my friend in the UK it seems I was not supposed to even pay import taxes on my item in the first place as the UK representative screwed up and did not list my sandals as personal use. Great so all this could have been avoided?!

Thanks DHL for really making our trip in Caye Caulker memorable!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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