Entering Belize as a tourist can be blissfully easy, requiring very little paperwork and even less stress. Belizeans want to encourage tourism, so rules and regulations for visitors are kept as simple and straightforward as possible.
Nationals of the United States, Canada, Mexico, European Union countries, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Venezuela and members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) don't need a visa to enter Belize. All you need is a passport valid up until your date of departure, though it's recommended that your passport be valid for at least six months afterward. Tourists who aren't from the countries previously mentioned may be required to apply and pay for a tourist visa before coming to Belize and, in some cases, must also get permission from Belize Immigration to enter the country. Visas can cost anywhere from USD$100 to USD$2,000 depending on your nationality.
All international flights land at Philip Goldson International Airport, close to Belize City. Upon arrival, your passport will be stamped with a Tourist Entry Permit free of charge. Tourist Entry Permit durations can range from a few days up to a month, so if you're asked how long you intend to stay in the country, your answer should be the longest time you'll possibly be there. You also might be asked to show a return ticket, and depending on your age and appearance, you may be asked to show proof of sufficient funds while visiting Belize, about USD$50 per day. Proof of funds, though an official requirement, is rarely enforced. Travelers entering Belize from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission are required to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
When you step out of the airport, an army of taxis will be waiting for you, but only the legitimate ones have green license plates. Taxis in Belize don't have meters; make sure you understand the price before you go. Fares from the International Airport to Belize City will cost roughly USD$25 for up to four people. Belize City is the hub of the country and most tourists use it as a stepping stone to get elsewhere.
If entering Belize by car, the most important document next to your passport is proof of ownership of the vehicle or permission from the owner to have it. Officials will check this very carefully as many cars are brought into the country illegally. If your car is a rental, the rental documents will be required. Proof of insurance is also needed, though you must purchase Belizean liability insurance at the border. Your car will need to be fumigated, which shouldn't cost more than a few Belizean dollars. You'll also need to sign a document promising not to sell the car in the country. You'll then receive a Temporary Import Permit and you're on your way.
The usual things like illegal drugs, firearms and some fruits and vegetables are forbidden from entering Belize. You'll have to declare all fruits and vegetables, electronics, cameras, jewelry and other expensive items at customs. Beer is another item to declare. The Belize Brewing Co. Ltd. has a monopoly on beer in Belize and bringing in foreign beer is prohibited. This surprises many tourists as officials confiscate their six pack.
When it's time to end your fun in the sun and head back home, make sure you have some cash on you to cover the departure tax. If departing by air, the tax is USD$39.25 per person for travelers, and USD$17.50 per person for nationals or permanent residents. Departure fees by land are USD$18.75 per person. Payable only in U.S. dollars or by credit card, the tax covers various things like passenger service fees, airport development fees, security fees and luggage screening fees. Sometimes, though not always, this tax is included in the cost of your flight, so check your ticket before you accidentally pay it twice.
- A moderate crime rate exists throughout Belize, especially in Belize City. Theft and robbery are common, though less so against tourists.
- Violent crime against tourists is increasing but is still a rare occurrence.
- There is a low threat from terrorism but there is always a global risk of indiscriminate attacks against foreign travelers.
- Belize has the highest concentration of HIV in Central America. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure.
- The hurricane season runs from June to November. Floods, mudslides and heavy rain are common and sometimes disrupt essential services. Monitor local media and the Belize National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) frequently to get the most current information available.
- For more safety tips, read Health & Safety.
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