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Bartenders at the Lazy Lizzard in Caye Caulker, Belize.   Photo © Tami Gilliam, 2005-2007 Map of Belize

A

bout ...Belize

Belize lies on the eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala. The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called 'cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country.  We especially enjoyed Caye Caulker, Placencia & Tobacco Caye.

CHECK IN-CHECK OUT PROCEDURES

The Belize Tourist Dept website says this about fees:  No entry fee for up to 30 days.  Departure by boat from Punta Gorda, Dangriga or San Pedro there is a conservation fee of $3.75 US.  This is supposedly the only fee.

Immigration & Customs in San Pedro, Belize.   Photo © Tami Gilliam, 2005-2007

02/07:  Checked into Belize at Big Creek (no fees, unless they decide to board you and then there is a $25 US boarding fee) and out of San Pedro (paid $3.50 US per person).

06/01/06 - Checked into Belize in San Pedro for 30 days.  No fees.  Visit Immigration first with your passports, zarpe from last port and crew list from last port.  Next door to Immigration is the Customs office.  They need your passports, zarpe from last port and crew list from last port.  They have you complete forms stating quantity of cigarettes, liquor, food on board, etc.  

06/19/06 - Checked out of Belize at Big Creek.  Did not have to take boat over.  Took the water taxi from Placencia to Big Creek.  Checked out at customs.   Then took a taxi into Mango to immigration where they charged us $7.50 BZ ($3.75 US) per person to check out. 

In San Pedro, Customs & Immigration are right next door to each other. 

There is a lot of talk about fees in all the parks now.  There is some info on the NW Caribbean website that discusses these fees.

Just for fun, our past experiences checking in & out of Belize:

IN:  June 29, 2004:  1st time into Belize we checked in at San Pedro on Ambergris Cay.   Customs and Immigration around 2:00 pm with no problems and no fees.  Our friends on Blue Sky and Necessity arrived later in the day and went to check in at 4:00 pm.  Both were charged $20 US at customs and immigration for overtime.  Objecting to 4:00 pm being overtime did no good.  We were asked to fill out a form stating all food/liquor items on the boat.  They seem to mostly be interested in fresh fruits & veggies and liquor ... but truthfully, they seemed to just want us to put something/anything down so they wouldn't have to come to the boat and check us out! 

OUT: July 12, 2004:  checked out at Big Creek (by Placencia).  Customs is close by, but immigration is in Mango Creek.  The trash officer gave us a ride for $15 BZ.  We checked out and walked back, I think it was about 2 miles. 

IN:  Nov. 13, 2004:  2nd time into Belize we checked in at Punta Gorda.   Cost was $40 US, but it was Saturday so we expected to get charged overtime.  Took about 2 hours of waiting, but it was Saturday and they are not in any hurry.  If you are cruising, it's best to learn not to be in a hurry anyway.  

OUT: Nov. 29, 2004:  We checked out of San Pedro on a Monday at about 2:00 pm.  It was free to check out the last time we left Belize.  This time they charged us $82 BZ.  They wrote on our papers overtime charges, we objected so they scratched that out and wrote boarding fee.  Of course, they didn't board.  

CHARTS & GUIDES WE FOUND HELPFUL

Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast, Including Guatemala's Rio Dulce by Freya Rauscher is a must have for cruising the NW Caribbean.

We recommend... Lonely Planet Belize & Lonely Planet Diving & Snorkeling Belize (Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkeling Belize)

Adobe ReaderDownload the NW Caribbean Charts Ebook.  This book was put together by several sailors, be sure to check out the credits.  As always, hurricanes, etc. change waypoints and information.  Be sure to check with fellow cruisers for the most up-to-date and common sense rules.  You will need Adobe Reader to view this ebook. 

CRUISER'S NET

If you have an SSB, 6209, with an alternate of 6212, at 1400z (8:00 am central time) is the NW Caribbean Net.  They keep track of cruisers under sail and share information about weather, conditions, etc.  There is no organized VHF net.

INFO ON PETS

This info was obtained from the Belize Tourism Dept. website:

Bringing a pet into the country falls under live animal importation and is regulated by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA).

Requirements:  Domestic pets will be allowed to enter the country provided that owners present the following:

  • valid import permit
  • international veterinary certificate (needed 7 days prior to departure)
  • valid rabies vaccination certificate
  • inspection by quarantine officer
  • US $30 entry fee + US $12.50 fax fee

Import Permits:  To apply for an import permit, request application form from the Permit Unit, however, we found that they would not respond to email or answer their telephone.  We did receive a response from the Animal Health Department.

Permit Unit
Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA)
Belmopan Showgrounds
Belmopan City
Tel: 822-0197 or 822-0818
Fax: 822-3084
Email: baha@btl.net
 
return completed form to Permit Unit of BAHA
(Note: date of arrival must be specified)

 

Animal Health Department
Dr. Victor Gongora
Technical Director
Central Farm
Tel: 011-501-824-4872/99
Fax: 011-501-824-4889
E-mail: animalhealth@baha.bz

Belize City
Tel: 011-501-224-4794
Fax: 011-501-224-5230

Approved permits will be faxed to applicant at a cost of US $12.50 to be paid at the point of entry on the day of arrival.

Persons who forego the application process will be subject to a US $100.00 violation fine in addition to the US $30 entry fee.  This happened to several people we met in Placencia.  They have a regular customs officer that goes to the dinghy dock to check out arriving boats.  

2006 note on birds:  Belize is not allowing any pet birds into the country at this time because of the bird flu.

MARINAS
  1. Cucumber Beach Marina
  2. Sanctuary Bay Marina
OVERALL INFO ON PROVISIONS

Belize is expensive compared to Mexico or Guatemala.  Do as much of your provisioning as you can elsewhere.  Wine, liquor, beer & soft drinks are very expensive here.  You will want to come prepared.  For example:  a gallon jug of Gallo wine costs $32.00 US!   

INFO ON BELIZE CITY

We stayed at Cucumber Beach Marina.  The marina was nice with internet & cable, however it also has major NO SEE UMS.  We had always avoided Belize City as we heard it was so dangerous.  However, we didn't find any problems anywhere we went...but, we did only venture out during the day. 

There's a pretty good bus system that will get you from the marina to the City.  A taxi ride into town was about $7.00 US. 

Groceries:  This is the best place in Belize to provision.  Prices are still high (after all you are in Belize), but more reasonable than anywhere else in the country.  There are two Brody grocery stores in town.  The older one is in downtown & a new larger one is on the outskirts of town.  You can find meat markets & veggies stands without too much trouble. 

Entertainment:  The Belize City Zoo was very nice.  It was about a 30 minute bus ride outside of Belize City.  It's a small zoo, but very entertaining.  We enjoyed visiting the cruise ship area.  This is definitely the tourist area & we had lots of fun talking with the taxi drivers & sellers of tours.

INFO ON CAYE CAULKER

A view of Cay Caulker, Belize.   Photo © Tami Gilliam, 2005-2007The anchorage at Cay Caulker is very nice.  It's a grassy bottom, but we were able to find a sandy spot to set the anchor.  We went thru several blows and never had a problem.  There are dive boats, etc. that race by and kick up a wake now and then.  The dinghy dock is easy to spot.  It's a short walk up the dirt road into town.

Fuel & Water:  You can procure diesel & water from Pelican Point Marina.  They monitor channel 16.  Contacts are Liz Ross or Danny Wooldridge.  Phone #'s:  Marina phone 220-4210; Liz's cell:  670-4021; Danny's cell:  610-4021.

Groceries:  The main grocery is Chan's (just a short walk up the road from the dinghy dock).  There was no fresh meat, but several freezers with pork, chicken & beef.  The vegetable selection is limited.  Canned goods are pricey.   There is a fisherman's co-op right next to the dinghy dock.  There is a bakery just down the street from Chan's that makes wonderful bread.  There is a tortillaria in town if you want Mexican corn tortillas ... just ask a local for directions.

Restaurants:  We didn't eat out very much in Caye Caulker so our restaurant review is limited until we return in May 2006. 

  • Herbal Tribe:  We ate grilled chicken here.  The food is mediocre and the service gives a new meaning to the word slow.
  • Rasta Pasta:  Good lobster burrito, reasonably priced.  Service was good.  The burrito was large enough for two.
  • Street vendors:  We were here during Lobster Fest and there were plenty of locals dishing up their specialties from booths.  We ate lobster, but found it to be a bit tough so we stuck with the chicken which was good.

Favorite Haunts:

  • The Lazy Lizard Bar:  Bar located on the tip of the island by the cut.  Can swim, snorkel, eat & drink here.  We did everything but eat.  Fun place.
  • Oceanside Bar:  The band wasn't really that good, but there's a dance floor & we enjoyed it.

Our favorite activity here was just walking around the streets of town.  There are lots of interesting people & sites.

INFO ON PLACENCIA

Sunset in Placencia.   Photo © Tami Gilliam, 2005-2007We anchored between Placencia and Placencia Cay.  A large portion of the anchorage is taken up by the charter company The Moorings .  The center of the anchorage is around 20' which is too deep for us.  We pulled in fairly close to Placencia Cay and found water around 8' which works for us.  The dinghy dock is easy to spot from the anchorage, just look for the gas pumps.

When a big west wind came thru we moved to the north end of the peninsula and we were quite comfortable.  After the winds turned back to the east we moved back to the anchorage.

Groceries:  There are several grocery stores in Placencia.  We shopped mainly at Wallens.  No fresh meat, but a freezer with chicken, pork & beef.  Vegetables are re-stocked once a week and you'd better be there on those days as they go fast.  Big restocking day is Saturday at 4:00 pm.  There is a new veggie store called Veronia's along the main road.  The fish co-op is very good here.  You can get lobster, fish, conch (in season) at reasonable prices (prices have gone up quite a bit in 2007).  You can buy fresh bread from John the Bakerman located along the sand path.

Restaurants:

  • de Thatch:  Good lobster fritters, reasonably priced rum punch & try the fry jack for breakfast ... yum.  It's on the beach so there's a nice view too.
  • Wendy's:  Okay breakfast.  Thane got pancakes for $6.00 BZ ... 3 pancakes and that's it ... that's $1 US per pancake!
  • Purple Space Monkey:  It's back.  It burned to the ground in 2005, but was rebuilt when we came thru in 2007.

Favorite Haunts:

  • Pickled Parrot:  They serve food here too, but we never ate, only had our afternoon cocktails.  Almost everyday around 3:00 we stopped by and had a rum drink or two while we watched people stroll by on the sand pathway. 
  • Tipsy Tuna & Barefoot Bar:  Tipsy Tuna has the all important sports TV thing going.  The Barefoot Bar is in the same location just outside the Tipsy Tuna's door.  On Sunday night they have a band and most of the town can be found there dancing up a storm. 
PARK REGULATIONS
Here are some new rules and regulations for the Sapodillas.

General Park Rules

  • To commercial fish you need a valid Belize Fisher Folk license from the Belize Fisheries Department.

  • No use of long-lines, spear gun or gill net in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve.

  • No use of Scuba gear to fish.

  • No casting or dragging of any anchor in the manner which may damage corals.

  • All Scuba divers shall register with the Reserve manager prior to diving.

  • All dive boats shall fly the “divers down flag” when divers are in the water.

  • Only certified Scuba divers, or divers undergoing training course conducted by a recognized instructor shall be allowed to use Scuba equipment in the whole of the reserve.

  • Dive guides shall be required to explain the rules of the Reserve to divers within the reserve.

  • For Scuba tours a maximum of eight divers per licensed dive master will be permitted.

  • For snorkel tours a maximum of eight snorkelers per licensed tour guide will be permitted.

  • No harassing of any fauna shall occur within the Reserve.

  • No person shall engage in water skiing orjet skiing in the Reserve.

  • Any person who is desirous of conducting recreational fishing within the Reserve shall check with the Reserve manager.

  • When recreational fishing, an individual shall be allowed a bag limit of three fishes only.

  • All tour guides will need to have a valid tour guide license issued by the Belize Tourism Board and must be worn where visible while doing tour within the Reserve.

  • Any person in an accident which involves personal injury or damage to property or the environment within the Reserve shall report such accident to the person in charge of the Reserve or to any officer of the Reserve or the Fisheries administrator as soon as possible or at least twelve (12) hours of the occurent of the accident.

  • The Government shall not be liable for any personal injury or damage to property occurring within the Reserve.

  • The Reserve office shall be open daily to the public between the hours of eight a.m. to five (5) p.m. However, there is always the presence of an officer at the base at all times.

  • An admission fee of $10 U.S. per person per day or $25 U.S. per person for three (3) to ten (10) days shall be paid to the Reserve upon entering the Reserve. No fee shall be paid by children below eleven (11) years of age.

  • No person shall remove or have in his possession any flora or fauna within the Reserve.

  • No person shall deposit any material in or on the waters of the Reserve.

  • No person shall deface or tamper with any signs, bouys or notices installed in the Reserve.

  • All commercial, recreational, subsistence and sports fishermen shall render the weight of fish caught within the Reserve to the Fisheries officer upon request.

  • No person shall have in his possession lobster during the lobster’s closed season which begins Feb. 14 of each year and ends June 14 of the same year.

  • No person shall have in his possession conch during the conch’s closed season which begins June 30 of each year and ends on September 30 of the same year.

  • No person shall have in his possession Nassau groupers during the Nassau grouper’s closed season which begins on December 1 of each year and ends March 31 of the following year.

  • Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of the regulations commits an offence and shall be liable on summary convictions to a fine and/or confinement.

  • Any person who damages corals will pay a fine not exceeding $25,000 Bze. And a penalty based on damage assessment not exceeding Twenty five million dollars.

Take a photo tour of Belize:  Heart of Gold's Belizian Adventure 

Visit our ship's logs:  We were in Belize in 2004, 2005 & 2007.

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