Here are some useful tips and facts when on vacation in Belize on Ambergris Caye.
Entry Requirements & Exit Taxes
All visitors must travel to Belize on a valid passport (non-expired). The passport must be valid for no less than six months after the intended period of stay in Belize.
Nationals of the following countries do NOT require a visa to enter Belize as a tourist for a period of 30 days
- Citizens of the European Union (EU)
- Citizens of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
- United States of America
- Costa Rica
- South Africa
- Citizens of the Commonwealth Nations
Nationals of most other countries REQUIRE a visa to enter Belize.
A visa is the entrance permit to the country issued by the consular body of Belize. If there is no Belizean consulate in your country, please apply at the nearest British consulate, who will be happy to assist you.
The application form must be fully completed, signed and dated, then submitted with the following:
- Your Passport
- One recent passport-sized photograph
- Proof of Travel Arrangements: Return Tickets
- Proof of Accommodation: Confirmed Hotel Reservations
- Proof of Financial Means: Recent bank statements
- Payment of Fees
All tourists and non-Belizean citizens are required to pay an exit fee of U.S. $39.25. As of October 2010, all U.S. airlines include this fee in the price of the ticket. Cruise ship passengers are charged U.S. $7 whether they leave the ship or remain onboard. This charge is included in the price of the cruise ticket. At the land borders, U.S. citizens are charged U.S. $15 if their stay was less than 24 hours and U.S. $18.75 if the stay was more than 24 hours.
What to Pack
If you’re travel to Ambergris Caye leave the suits and stilettos behind. Pack shorts, t-shirts, sandals, bathing suits and sarongs. Ladies, bring something frilly and beachy for a night on the town (and remember forget the high-heels as they do not do well in sand!). Fancy dress for men means a shirt with buttons. Ambergris Caye is a very casual place – shoes are not required anywhere! Don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray and hats! If you have snorkel equipment bring it along so you may explore the reef in your own villa kayak. Bring a couple of small flashlights for moonlight strolls along the beach. If you have cravings for certain snacks or have special dietary needs please inquire about availability in San Pedro before coming, some items may bot be available on the island. If you forget something, chances are it can be purchased in San Pedro – from casual clothes to drugstore sundries, the town is well stocked with all the basics of daily life.
Currency exchange rate is $BZ2.00 = $US1.00. Most businesses on the Ambergris Caye accept US currency as payment and will offer change in either US or Belizean currency depending on availability and which you prefer. Many businesses on the island also accept British Pounds and Euros, however exchange rates for those currencies vary and are subject to change without notice. Credit cards are widely accepted in most restaurants, shops and tour operators; however, when walking around town it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand for purchases from street-side vendors and smaller gift shops.
There are various bars and nightclubs around the island that provide an opportunity to enjoy local music and to mingle (and dance) with a wide variety of people. Several times each year there are town festivals that offer unique entertainment. Your Villa consultant will provide you with the latest information. Notable places for clubbing and dancing are: The Famous Jaguar’s Night Club, & Daddy Rocks. Popular bars and mingling areas are: Wet Willy’s BC’s Beach Bar, Roadkill Bar, Wahoo’s Beach Beach and Fido’s
Safety and Security
Certainly! Ambergris Caye is very safe. Belizean culture one of the friendliest in the Caribbean and Central America. People are always willing to lend a hand or engage in a conversation or story. Be sure to being a flashlight for your evenings outside the villa and strolling along the beaches – without one there is the possibility of tripping over a coconut or a sleeping tourist. However, as with any destination it is always a good practice to avoid certain areas and activities. If your walking on the beach late at night, walk along with a friend. As with any tourist destination, heavy alcohol consumption can cause misunderstandings and raucous behavior so be on on the lookout for those individuals who may have had a bit too much and avoid confrontation. If you are staying at one of the many beautiful resorts on the north end of the island you may want to take the water taxi down to visit the town, the road leading to and from the north side does get quite dark at night.
911 will connect you to the local police station wherever you are in the country of Belize including on Ambergris Caye. The police will be able to render assistance in almost any circumstance. They will also alert the Fire Department and summon an ambulance if needed.
Other important contact numbers in San Pedro are:
- Fire Department – 226-2372
- Medical (Lions Clinic) – 226-2073 or VHF Radio 147.550
- Medical (San Pedro Health Center) – 226-3668
- Hyperbaric Chamber – 226-2851
- Belize Tourism Board – 223-1913
- Belize Tourism Industry Association – 223-3507
Visitors and locals delight in strolling around San Pedro Town and obtaining souvenirs for their friends and relatives back home. In San Pedro this can be a really rewarding experience and an adventure in itself. The gift shops carry a wide range of items – local, Belizean, Mexican, Guatemalan and even US products.
Most of the shopping on Ambergris Caye is typical tourist fare. You’ll see tons of T-shirts and tank tops, with dive logos and silk-screen prints of the Blue Hole. Beyond this, the best buy on the island is handmade jewelry and wooden carvings sold by local Belizean artisans from makeshift display stands along Barrier Reef Drive. Be wary of buying black coral jewelry. Black coral is extremely beautiful, but as with every endangered resource, increased demand just leads to increased harvesting of a slow-growing coral.
This celebratory nation knows how to have fun and acknowledge monumental moments in the country’s history. Annually, Ambergris Caye hosts numerous celebrations that residents and visitors enjoy. If you are visiting the country during these times, be certain to attend any one of them.
Celebrations Held Throughout the Year
- Fiesta de Carnival – Annually, the old traditions of Belizian culture are explored and enjoyed. Dance competitions or “comparsas” are held to help people remember and enjoy the time. This carnival, typically, occurs one week before Lent occurs.
- San Pedro Carnival – Carnival participants use lipstick, paint, flour and powder to tease certain people.
- International Bullfish Tournament – In this tournament, the winner will be awarded a prize of $50,000 if a blue marlin over 500 pounds is caught.
- Easter – Many people in the area celebrate religious holidays such as Easter. Easter participants often attend church, socialize and celebrate this holiday season. Kids often engage in Easter egg hunts and kite design.
- San Pedro Eco-Kayak Challenge – This kayak race is usually held around Earth Day. Local residents typically cheer on the participants as they kayak from the lagoon side of San Pedro to the Mexico border.
- San Jose Succotz Fiesta – Annually, people of the area come together to celebrate the patron saint. This celebration features entertainment and rides for kids. Food and marimba music are also a part of this festive occasion.
- Commonwealth Day – This day celebrates the Queen’s birthday with horse races, walks and cycle races. This is a festive event that many people do not like to miss.
- Labour Day – On this day, numerous parades, rallies, races and contests are held. It is not uncommon to find people participating in kite contests, horse races and cycle races on Labour Day. The day typically begins with a message by the Minister of Labour.
- Toledo Festival of Arts – Children participate in this week long celebration by engaging in drama and music presentations. Arts and crafts exhibitions are also common during this time. Participants engage in basket weaving, clay sculpting, paintings, seashell and calabash vessel design.
- Cashew Festival – This festival celebrates the cashew harvest season. The season is complete with live Punta music, Caribbean-style dishes, cashew wine, games and folklore stories.
- San Pedro Lobster Fest – The Lobster season opens on June 15th and extends through February 15th. The first week of lobster seasons is accompanied by a block party. Contests are held to determine who can prepare the best lobster dish. Visitors enjoy tasting the latest creations.
- Dia de San Pedro – The three-day festival honors the patron saint of San Pedro, St. Peter, with boat parades. During this event, a special mass is held and boats and fisherman are blessed. A fiesta or jump-up follows soon after.
- Costa Maya Festival – The Costa Maya Festival is held annually in San Pedro and is characterized by music, food and dance. Food may be featured from both Mexico and Brazil.
- Tres Pescados Slam Fishing Tournament – During this tournament, sport fishers are reminded of the need to protect these three special species of salt water angler fish.
- Independence Day – Independence Day is marked by numerous religious and sporting activities. These activities are held several weeks before St. George’s Caye Day. Miss San Pedro is crowned on this day before flag-raising ceremonies, music, dance, parades and street jump-ups.
- Garifuna Settlement Day – This festival marks the arrival and independence of the Garifuna people in 1832.
- San Pedro Christmas Boat Parade – Residents engage in friendly competition by decorating boats with Christmas lights and other decorations. The parade begins at the Town Square and sails toward the Caribbean Villas. At the end of the parade, there is a block party.
The official language of Belize is English and is widely spoken by just about everyone on Ambergris Caye. Spanish is also widely spoken as many residents are fluent in both languages.
High on the list of Belize’s many charms is a very comfortable tropical climate with an average yearly temperature of 84° F (29°C). Costal sea breezes and Belize’s large tracts of jungle and rainforests provide cooling relief even in the hottest summer months while winters can be cool but never very cold. In short, the climate is pretty much near perfect.
Even in winter the temperature in Belize rarely falls below 60°F (16°C), while throughout summer the mercury sits at around 86°F (30°C). Humidity is also fairly consistent at around 85 percent. With temperatures so consistent year round, Belize has two, rather than four seasons – the wet and the dry.
Belize’s dry season, falling between February and May, has significantly lower rainfall than the rest of the year, and when rain does come it is usually in mild, short bursts.
June through December marks Belize’s wet season, when parts of the country receive up to 150 inches of rain and the heavy, sometimes wild storms associated with the Caribbean occur, usually in the late afternoons. The most frequent rainfall usually occurs in June or early July and is punctuated by a break in late July or August known as the “little dry.”
The wet is also hurricane season, and while statistically Belize does not attract many major direct hits, it does get its share of severe tropical weather with high winds and rain. However, Belize and its neighbours share a cooperative early warning network, and the country’s safety, evacuation and other procedures have proven to be effective.
Both the wet and dry seasons have their own pros and cons for travellers, but due to the overall mild nature of Belize’s climate, visitors can enjoy the country year round.
Belize Weather for January
January in Belize features mild temperatures and varying amounts of rainfall. This is the beginning of the dry season – not too dry and not yet wet, and is a very popular month for visitors both inland and on the coast.
January temperatures in Belize range from an average monthly low of 70°F (21°C) to a high of 80°F (27°C).
Belize Weather for February
Now we’re moving into the dry season, and February temperatures in Belize average between 70°F (21°C) and 80°F (27°C). Days are generally mild, and with the cooler nights it is a very pleasant time of year.
Belize Weather for March
March weather in Belize is as pleasant as February’s. Right in the middle of the dry season, the day and nights are clear and uninterrupted by rain. Belize temperatures for March fall between 83°F (28°C) during the day and 74°F (23°C) at night.
Belize Weather for April
April in Belize brings rising temperatures and the welcome “Iguana Rains”, the brief, cooling showers appearing up and down along the coast. Expect average highs of 85°F (29°C) and lows of 76°F (24°C) with an overall monthly average of about 80°F (27°C).
Belize Weather for May
May temperatures in Belize climb to an average high of 87°F (31°C) and fall to around 79°F (26°C), with an overall monthly average of 82°F (28°C). If there is rain, it will most likely be in the morning, with the occasional thunderstorm at night.
Belize Weather for June
This is another warm month, with June temperatures in Belize averaging 86°F (30°C) to 82°F (28°C). However, fresh easterly breezes off the Caribbean Sea and more frequent short afternoon showers moderate the temperatures and make June a generally pleasant month.
Belize Weather for July
July temperatures in Belize range from an average high of 86°F (30°C) to lows of 79°F (26°C) with an overall monthly average of 82°F (28°C). The weather is much the same as June with increasing rainfall, especially in the mornings, and the easterly breezes providing relief from the heat. Thunderstorms may begin appearing at night.
Belize Weather for August
During August temperatures in Belize begin to change as drier winds from the west replace the easterly sea breezes. August marks the “Little Dry”, as it is known, with a decrease in rainfall and rise in temperatures, which range from 86°F (30°C) highs to average lows of 78°F (26°C). Overall average temperature for August is still a pleasant 82°F (28°C).
Belize Weather for September
September temperatures in Belize average around 81°F (27°C), with highs of 86°F (30°C) and lows of 77°F (25°C). There is increasing rainfall, especially in early mornings and at night, but most days are sunny with warm temperatures.
Belize Weather for October
Northerly breezes bring heavier rainfall, and October temperatures in Belize cool down to a monthly average of 79°F (26°C). Daytime highs of around 84°F (29°C) and lows of 75°F (24°C) are common, as are occasional “northers”, two or three day storms often centred around the Maya Mountains.
Belize Weather for November
November temperatures in Belize are some of the lowest and most variable of the year, but the monthly average is still an enjoyable 76°F (24°C), with common daytime highs of 82°F (28°C) and evening lows of 73°F (23°C). While this heralds in winter for the people of Belize visitors coming from northern climes find it quite warm and sunny.
Belize Weather for December
December usually arrives wet and leaves drier as the wet season begins to wind down. December temperatures in Belize fall to an average low of 71°F (22°C) with highs of 80°F (27°C) for a monthly average of around 75°F (24°C) – the perfect weather to enjoy a comfortable Christmas holiday, warm enough for swimming and with pleasantly cool evenings.
Ambergris Caye has the highest concentration of overnight accommodations anywhere in Belize; from budget friendly hotel rooms, hostels and bed and breakfasts to ultra luxurious 3 bedroom villas and vacation rentals. Most of the more popular resorts are found on the north side of the island along the beach and are accessible either by boat via the Coastal Express Water Taxi or by a main road that leads to the north and runs parallel to the rear of all of them. However there are quiet a few popular and well recommended locations in Town as well, most notably, The Phoenix Resort, The Villas at Banyan Bay and SunBreeze Hotel. Prices for accommodation range from as low as US$30 per night. Average Resort prices range between US$250 to US$500 per night for double occupancy. Most visitors to Ambergris Caye will choose to stay at one of the northern resorts and travel into town to experience San Pedro.
Fees & Taxes
All hotel and resort accommodation in Belize are required to charge a 9% hotel tax on guests staying in the country. In addition to this mandatory hotel tax some resorts also choose to charge an additional service charge fee for staying at the resort. The service charge fees vary from resort to resort and can be anywhere between 6% to 10%. Expect to see an anything between 12% to 15% added on to your stay for hotel and service charge related taxes. A few resorts DO NOT charge service charge fees and require only the mandatory hotel tax. Those who do not charge this additional fee will happily display this on their websites or booking engines.
There is a standard government sales tax (GST) of 12.5% that is charge for many consumer goods & services. Many tour operators do not include this tax in their advertised rates and as such will include the tax in their billing process. Most restaurants and gift shops include the tax in their sale prices. Some restaurants also charge an additional 4% to 6% group service change fee for parties of 6 or more persons. Be sure to read the menus to know if the taxes are included in the price and/or if any additional fees will be applied.
Golf Carts are the most popular mode of transportation on the island. A valid drivers license is required to rent a golf cart and persons driving a golf cart must have their drivers licence with them at all times. Traffic laws are similar to those in other countries around the world. Driving is done on the right hand side of the road. Golf Carts and motor cycles are not allowed on the beach expect for Boca del Rio drive in the northern part of San Pedro Town from Blue Tang Inn to the Boca del Rio bridge. Most streets in downtown San Pedro are one-way, so be sure to read the traffic signs carefully to know which ones are one-way and which allow bi-directional traffic. Notable one-way streets are Barrier Reef Drive (Front Street), Pescador Drive (Middle Street) and all connecting streets that run perpendicular to both.
Being the country’s most popular tourist destination means that Ambergris Caye has the widest selection of restaurants, bars, and lounges in Belize. These range from inexpensive local spots and pizza joints to a few that are rated among the finest in the world. The emphasis is on seafood, of course, but many restaurants also serve chicken and pork. Lobster is usually the most-expensive item on the menu (in-season mid-July to mid-February), at around US$30. Pasta and Mexican-style dishes also are very popular along with the typical American style foods such as for children and families. After all that pricey seafood, an honest plate of Belizean beans and rice will taste real good. Dress is very casual, even at the spiffy places.
Conch season is September 30-July 1st, and shrimp doesn’t really have a season but very hard to get from June-August.
Price ranges shown are for typical meals for one (usually dinner), not including tip, tax or alcoholic drinks:
- Inexpensive: Under US$10 (Street vendor and coffee shops)
- Normal: US$12-$20 (Most restaurants in town fall within this price range)
- Moderate: US$25-35 (Restaurants on the north end and at resort tend to fall within this range)
- Expensive: Over US$40 (Few restaurants charge as much as $40 for a meal however there a few that do)
Tours & Excursions
Belize offer and amazing array of tours and adventures to choose from when on vacation here. Birding, Maya tours, diving, fishing, trips to the mainland, the Belize Zoo, nature conservatories, the wonder of Belize is endless.
You can use San Pedro as a base to tour much of Belize, including other cayes and much of the mainland. You can even do a day trip to Tikal. Most hotels will help you arrange tours and guides. Prices, schedules and destinations change regularly, depending on the weather, the season, the particular guide and how many other people want to go.
If you are independent-minded, you can put together your own day trips and perhaps save money. For example, instead of paying US$125 per person for a day tour of the Belize Zoo and points west, find another couple to share the costs, grab a map and guidebook, take the ferry to Belize City (or fly into municipal airport) and rent a car for the day. You can easily visit the Belize Zoo, Xunantunich and Cahal Pech ruins and see something of San Ignacio. Done this way, your cost will should be less than US$75 per person including your share of car rental, gas and entrance fees.
However, a guide can add a lot to the quality of your sightseeing. All guides in Belize must attend training and are licensed by the government. The San Pedro Tourist Guide Association is in the Town Hall on Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2391.
Here’s information on few of the popular day trip and tour options, with price ranges.
Belize Zoo/Western Belize
This trip usually begins with a flight on Maya Island or Tropic to the municipal airport, where you connect with a shuttle bus which takes you on the Western Highway for a visit to the wonderful Belize Zoo, maybe a quick peep at Belmopan, Belize’s mini-capital, lunch and perhaps a tour of Xunantunich, a Classic Period Maya site. Around US$100 per person.
Most of these trips start with a short boat ride across the lee waters of Ambergris to the mainland, then a trip up the beautiful New River. You will see many birds and perhaps manatees, crocodiles and other wildlife. Lamanai has a wonderful setting on the New River Lagoon. You’ll get a private tour of this Maya site and likely will see a troop of black howler monkeys. Often includes lunch at Lamanai Outpost Lodge. About US$150 per person.
Altun Ha Ruins
You go by boat across to the mangrove cut, where you transfer to a van to visit this Maya site, which dates back some 2,000 years, on the Old Northern Highway. There is an abundance of wildlife, such as monkeys… for the more leisurely who would rather see the jungle, cool off, enjoy swinging like Jane and Tarzan, and perhaps get mood mud treatments and lunch at Maruba Spa. Much less travel time than the Lamanai trip. About US$125 per person.
You go by boat to the mainland, then up the Belize River to the Community Baboon Sanctuary area. About US$100 per person.
Birders will want to investigate this trip. It usually includes a round trip flight to the municipal airport in Belize City where tour members are met by a van and driven up the Northern Highway to Crooked Tree, one of the main birding centers in the country. Around US$160 per person.
A day trip to Ambergris Caye’s “little brother” island can be done by air or boat. If the latter, the trip is usually packaged with a snorkeling tour. One of the best trips to Caulker is on the Winnie Estelle, a classic island trader. Several catamarans also do this trip. US$40 to $75 per person.
The Tikal ruins in the Petén district of Guatemala are, in excavated area at least, larger and more spectacular than any Maya site in Belize. It’s an astounding place. The only way to get there and back in one day from San Pedro is to fly to the air strip at Flores. Several tour companies offer day trips from San Pedro, around US$250 per person.
Begin your journey back through time as you enter the amazing realm of Belize’s cave-systems. Enjoy this experience into the Mayan underworld. Click here for more information
This exciting experience is where the adventurer gets a true birds eye view of the pristine jungle while feeling the exhilaration of zipping along on a set of cables, from treetop to treetop.
Flying through the air surrounded by nature is a very exhilarating feeling, the birds and Howler Monkeys are at eye level making you at one with the prolific nature Belize is famous for.
A first class high adventure Trip for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers in the heart of the Belizean Wilderness.
The following local businesses can get you going on one of these tours.
- Adventures in Belize
- Amigos del Mar
- Ambergris Divers
- Belize Ocean Divers
- Belize Jungle Trek
- Belize Diving Adventures
- Capt Jerry Beach BBQ and Fishing Adventures
- Chuck and Robbie’s Scuba Diving
- Caribbean Breeze Tours
- Ecologic Divers
- Jungle Water Belize
- Ramons Divers
- Reef Adventures
- SEAduced by Belize
- SEArious Adventures
- Travel & Tour Belize
- Tanisha Tours
- White Sand Dive Shop
Business & Banking Hours
Banks are open for business transactions from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. On Friday banks close at 4:30 p.m. Some banks are opened on Saturday morning.
Most businesses open at 8:00 a.m. close for lunch at 12:00 noon, reopen at 1:00 p.m. and close at 5:00 p.m.
Most restaurants and gift shop stay open until lat evening closing at around 9:00 to 10:00pm.
Check with your hotel for more information.