Monthly Archives: May 2013

Transition Destination: Belize City, Exploring the City Part 1

belize city image south end

Belize City – South End

If you are grounded in Belize City for a few days or if you want to make the City part of your Belizean Adventure, I have some suggestions on what to do and where to do it.

First let me explain that over the years I have spent the equivalent of a couple of months in Belize City and for the most part have enjoyed it very much.

The only misadventure I experienced was when a young Belizean man aggressively demanded money from me early one night on my way back to my hotel after eating out. That incident ended abruptly when some locals intervened and sent the young man on his way, apologizing to me for his behaviour. I used that experience as the basis for one of the Belizean Tales in my book called Belizean Sextet, the tale called Encounter on King Street.

The problem with Belize City is that it has become the home of several or many drug-gangs who are in competition with one another and fight over who rules over certain sections of the city. These turf wars often end up with shoot-outs and the victims are usually the bad guys, but still…

And, in a third-world country where poverty is endemic, drugs and crime go hand-in-hand, especially in Belize City which accounts for about 20 % of the total population of Belize.

About six months ago, I issued a Travel Advisory advising travellers to stay clear of Belize City except as a place to go to get somewhere else. Since then, from what I have heard and read the local and Federal governments have worked hard to deal with the drug/crime problems and have been investing funds in cleaning up and maintaining the city superstructure. During my last visit to Belize, I spent some time in the City and noted first-hand some of these improvements. So now I would not say, “Stay Clear”, but I would say visit with caution.

When we first visited Belize back in 2000, we stayed five nights at the Radisson Hotel at $140 usd a night. It was a good experience at the time but I would never do it again. It is far too expensive for my travel budget and it offers luxuries we can do without. But it is well situated at the south end of Belize City where we have always stayed.

We tried the Caribbean Hotel near to the Radisson. Not as pricey but not as good as the Radisson.

Then we discovered the Hotel Mopan on Regent Street, walking distance from the water-taxi terminals and the bus station and priced right at 50-60 usd a night.  Unfortunately, the brother/sister owners and managers of the hotel had to shut it down last year.

The only other hotels I know of in the south end are the Bakadeer Inn, near the Belize Museum, the Belcove Hotel, near the down-town swing bridge and the Conningsby Inn a well-established 12 room hotel on Regent Street across from where we stayed at the Hotel Mopan. I can’t recommend them because I’ve never had the experience of staying in any of them but you can check them out on-line.

Near the Water-Taxi

Near the Water-Taxi

Near the Water-Taxi

South End Street Scene

TRANSITION Destinations in Belize: Belize City

Belize City has something to offer to the traveller, but these  days it is most often used as a Transition Destination or,  to put it another way, a jumping off point for going somewhere else.

You should know something about it because it could play an important part in your Belizean vacation/adventure.

You can make Belize City the place where you want to go to get somewhere else or you can  spend some time  in Belize City and explore it as you would any other  place in Belize. Or both.

BELIZE CITY: Gotta Go There To Get Where I Wanna Go

Belize City is by far the largest and perhaps by Canadian standards the only city in the country of Belize. It used to be but no longer is the capital of Belize.

Thrusting into the Caribbean Sea at near to sea level, Belize City  has a history of being razed to the ground by hurricanes every 20 years or so. After Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the capital was moved inland to a newly created centre called Belmopan.

Today, though Belmopan has certainly become the administrative centre of Belize, Belize City  remains the focal point, as it always has been.

Some say that Belize City has as many as 85,000 inhabitants, and so it might, though recent census figures  peg it at 75,000. No matter. In a country of only 300,000 +, that’s a high percent of the total Belizean population.

The Goldson International Airport is about 15 miles inland from Belize City. As you travel by taxi from the airport to the city, you can see  symptons of the 3rd World with tumble-down shacks with corrugated tin roofs sprawled next to upper-class enclaves with Caribbean-style mansions and expensive SUV’s.

In the daytime, at the south end of Belize City, the downtown is bustling, exhuberant, loud and conjested, about 8 streets by 2 streets of shops and services, squawk and squalor. It is also where the old colonial Supreme Court sits at the edge of the Caribbean Sea and dispenses justice based on the English system, just like Canada.

Headed for Caye Caulker or San Pedro?

If you are on foot in the City,  head for Albert or Regent Street, cross the Swingbridge and head toward the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal or keep going down the street to the Tourist Village where you will find the San Pedro Water Taxi Terminal. They are both reliable, differing mainly by schedule.

If you are taking an Airport Taxi from the International Airport to BC ($25 usd), tell your driver where you are going and ask him which Water Taxi he recommends.

Taking a water taxi is one way to get out of Belize City, especially if you are headed for San Pedro on the Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, where we spend most of our vacation.

We’ve always enjoyed the 45 minute from BC to CC. Even on a hot, hot day when the boat is packed and  sweaty all you have to do is look to the back of the boat and watch the three 200 h.p. motors cutting a swath across the sea, white foam frothing over the turquoise-blue water to realize you are somewhere special and you are about to have a good time.

(Recently it has become more and more popular to land at the International Airport and take either Tropic Air or the Mayan Airline directly from the International to Caye Caulker or San Pedro. It is more costly but it does save time and allows you to skip Belize City entirely. Check out both airlines on-line)

If you are going to Orange Walk Town, Corozal Town, San Ignacio, Dangriga or Punta Gorda, your best bet might be to take an Airport Taxi ($25.00 usd) to the main bus terminal in the City and hop on a bus. Bing or Google Belize Bus Schedules and ask your destination- hosts to confirm. The bus is by far the least expensive mode of transportation and can be part of any traveller’s adventure.

Depending on when you arrive in the City, of course, there is a chance you can get to your destination before nightfall.

An increasingly popular option is to arrange a pick-up at the Airport through your destination- hosts.

If you can’t make a connection to get where you want to go in Belize, don’t worry. You can find a safe and comfortable hotel on the outskirts or in the city limits and commence your journey in the morning.

With that in mind, I am going to suggest the following mid-priced or budget hotels that you can investigate on-line. These hotels were identified by friends of mine in the hotel business. I cannot recommend them because I never stayed at them:

D’Nest Inn in Belama, a quiet residential area 3 miles out of the City, $82-92 usd, double occupancy

Easy Inn on the Northern Highway, a few mile out of the City, $65-75 usd, double occupancy

Bakadeer Inn, in the City near the Belize museum. 15 minutes from the Water-Taxi Terminals and the Main Bus Station

Conningsby Inn on Regent Street in the City, a well-established 12 room hotel by the water front, 15 minutes from the Water-Taxi Terminals and the Main Bus Station

Belcove Hotel, “in the heart” of the City by the Swing Bridge, minutes away from the Water-Taxi Terminals, 15 minutes from the Main Bus Station.

In my next blog at the end of the month, for those of you who want explore  Belize City as part of your Belizean Adventure, I will suggest places you can visit and where you can eat, i.e. where you can have a good time.