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Belize


Shopping

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Page last updated on November 28, 2012

Belize is not a major shopping destination. There aren't any malls in the country and only one or two department stores, though not like the big ones you might be used to back home. Most shops in Belize are small and locally owned, rarely larger than an average North American convenience store. Hours of operation can be sporadic, depending on the inclination of the owner. The standard is to be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and closed on Sundays and through the lunch hour.

Apart from the numerous souvenir booths and shops in tourist heavy areas, most stores cater to locals, selling things like construction materials, clothes and appliances. Food is often bought from local stalls or carts, and most people hit multiple stores on a grocery run to get everything they need. Cities and most major towns have small supermarkets, which provide a greater variety for slightly higher costs.

The widest assortment of stores is in Belize City, where the best shopping for souvenirs can be had downtown or at Tourism Village. Just south of the Swing Bridge is the Commercial Center, a two story market with a variety of food stalls and small stores tucked within. In San Pedro, Barrier Reef Drive is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops and on the weekends, the road is closed to traffic and local souvenir makers flock to sell hand-made crafts and carvings. For serious shopping, many people pop over the border into Mexico, where selection and prices are often better.

Belize is considered to be one of the most expensive countries to visit in Central America, with some goods costing as much or even more than you might pay back home. Apart from souvenirs and basic foods, most of the goods sold in Belize have to be imported, which drives up the prices considerably. Tack on the 12.5 percent General Sales Tax and you can start to see where the reputation comes from. It's not so expensive if you're living like the locals, as food and locally produced goods aren't usually as expensive, and essential goods aren't subject to GST.

Bartering or haggling, while not unheard of, isn't commonly practiced in Belize. You might get a taste of it when buying from souvenir merchants, but for the most part people pay the price they're quoted. Often the prices are higher for tourists than locals and one should always check whether a price is in US dollars or Belizean dollars, as both are equally common and it's not always clear.

The most popular souvenirs from Belize are the delicious Marie Sharp's Hot sauce, mahogany and slate carvings, local rum, cashew wine, wood furniture and small handmade trinkets and jewelry. Smaller trinkets can go for a few dollars, whereas larger souvenir arts and crafts can easily sell for USD$20 and up. To save a few dollars, head to a supermarket instead of a souvenir shop for Marie Sharp's. The Garifuna people are famous for their dolls, the best of which can be found in Dangriga, and Placencia is popular for standard Belizean souvenirs. Mayan artisans can be found in Toledo or near Mayan ruins, selling slate carvings and other Mayan crafts.

Be aware that it's illegal to carry ancient Mayan artifacts out of Belize and you should check import restrictions in your country before taking anything home. Keep a cautious eye out for things made from black coral, cat furs, or turtle shells, as many endangered and protected species are poached for souvenirs and the products may be illegal internationally.

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