After making my plans to visit Mexico I had quite a few days unaccounted for. I decided to go on an organised trip with Intrepid as they offer the true local experience. They try to be sustainable and use the public transport rather than a private one, they organise evenings and nights with local families and they take you to local places where you can try some local cuisine. And what’s good about organised trips is that you meet other people.
In Belize we visited two places. The first place was the island of Caye Caulker where we spent three nights. It was a great place to have a nice relaxing break. The island itself is a perfect place for a lazy traveller. They don’t really have a beach but you can find some sandy spots where you can lay down and enjoy a Pina Collada, Margarita or a local beer. There are a few places on the island with signs saying “Slow down” and it perfectly describes people’s attitude. There are no cars, only electric golf buggies and bicycles. However if you go too fast, or God forbid run, people will feel like something bad is about to happen and they will ask you to slow down. There is no need to be in hurry.
By the end of the island you will come across a man selling coconuts for really cheap. He always smiles, always is happy and makes funny jokes – really like pretty much everyone on the island. Our guide told us his life story how he ended up being a homeless man begging for money and one day he decided to start his coconut business and now he earns enough money to feed himself and get a shelter over his head. The coconuts really cost them nothing as they pick them up from the ground. But you pay a couple of dollars for the service. They will cut the hole for you, give you a straw and once you finish the will chop it for you so you can eat the inside. If you are lucky, some would keep them in an ice bucket so it might be also very refreshing.
There are a few good places around where you can eat for cheap. Breakfast can cost as much as 2-3 USD and dinner around 5 USD if you find the right place. The island is really small so after 30 min of walking around you should know all the spots and decide what is best for you.
They do have a few bars with live music where most of the nightlife concentrates. There is always a place to dance and have a drink. However, if you are looking for a different type of experience I can suggest an open-air cinema where they show some recent movies. They have more alternative choices like psychological dramas. Our choice for the evening was “Nocturnal Animals” which was keeping us in suspense most of the time and left with some unanswered questions. Amazing!
The biggest attraction of the island is a guided snorkelling trip which cost around 80 USD for a day trip and includes equipment, lunch and a lot of different stops along the way.
From the island we took the water taxi to get to the mainland and from there we had to catch a local ‘chicken’ bus. It is a typical way of travelling from one city to another. They are old American School busses transformed for the needs of local people who literally transport with them everything including the live animals hence the name ‘chicken’ bus.
After a three hour adventurous journey we made it to San Ignacio. Forested hills of the Belize Highlands. We checked into the hotel and have some time to walk around the area. The town is not very touristy but they have a morning market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables and you can also try some street food which is perfect for a cheap feed. The town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins making the ideal base to explore the region.
Most of the people who come to the area go to Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves. It is a Mayan ceremonial site with ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1400 years. This excursion costs around 100 USD and takes a full day. Personally I’ve already been to a few underground caves so I gave it a pass. Instead together with a group of a few people we went to Cahal Pech Ruins which are about 30 min walk from the centre. The entry costs around 8 USD and gives you a fantastic opportunity to explore a palatial, hilltop home for an elite Maya family which dates to 1200 BC making Cahal Pech one of the oldest recognisably Maya sites in Western Belize.
In the evening there is always a place for a little party. Together with one of my friends we went for a little wonder. There is a club in the centre but apparently not getting busy til like 1am. Since it was only after 11pm we went to look for something else. About 10 min walk from the centre up the hill, there is a casino and an open-air club called Thirsty Thursday’s. We stayed there for a couple of drinks and had a good evening dancing to Reggaeton which is a musical genre influenced by hip-hop and Latin American music.
Currency – what to take with me?
The Belizean Dollar is the currency of Belize. The exchange rate to USD is 2:1 and you can use either of them. You can mix them when paying and you might also get a change in those two currencies.