Belize is relatively wired. DSL high-speed (though not always the "high speed" you may be accustomed to) Internet is available in most populated areas, and cable Internet is offered in Belize City, Placencia, San Pedro, and elsewhere. Relatively high-speed cell Internet is becoming popular around the country. In more remote areas, there's the option of satellite Internet. There are Internet cafés in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City, San Ignacio, Placencia, Hopkins, Corozal Town, Punta Gorda, and other areas. Rates are usually around BZ$10–BZ$20 an hour. Most offices of the main phone company, Belize Telemedia, Ltd., have computers with DSL Internet connections (BZ$10 per half hour). BTL also has Wi-Fi hot spots at the international airport (free) and elsewhere. Most hotels, lodges, and inns now offer free Wi-Fi access for guests.
Cybercafés and Intenet Cafes
Cybercafés are now common in Belize City and in most towns and resort areas all over Belize. The problem is that these lightly capitalized businesses frequently are here today and gone tomorrow. Your best bet is just to scout the area where you're staying for an open Internet café. If you’re visiting on a cruise ship, Click & Sip is inside the Tourism Village in Belize City. Rates vary, but typically you'll pay around BZ$5–BZ$10 for a half hour, BZ$8–BZ$15 for an hour. There is free Belize Telemedia Ltd. Wi-Fi at the international airport.
Cybercafes. Cybercafes lists more than 4,200 Internet cafés worldwide. www.cybercafes.com.
Click & Sip Internet Café (Fort St., in Tourism Village, Belize City, Belize. 223/1305.)
Internet at Accommodations
Most mid-level and upscale hotels, and many budget ones, now provide Internet access, typically Wi-Fi, for your laptop, tablet computer, or Internet-enabled smartphone, and also a computer or two in the office or lobby, at no charge. A few hotel operators still charge a fee, up to BZ$30 a day. In towns and resort areas this is usually DSL, but with speeds of only 1 or 2 Mbps down or less. At jungle lodges and other remote properties, the access is usually via a satellite system, with very limited bandwidth. At these lodges you’re usually asked to use the Internet for email only and not to upload or download large files. If you're traveling with a laptop in Belize, be aware that the power supply may be uneven, and most hotels don't have built-in current stabilizers. At remote lodges power is often from fluctuating generators. Bring a surge protector and your own disks or memory sticks to save your work.
Calling Within Belize
All Belizean numbers are seven digits. (In Guatemala there are eight digits.) The first digit in Belize is the district area code (2 for Belize District, 3 Orange Walk, 4 Corozal, 5 Stann Creek, 6 for mobile phones, 7 Toledo, and 8 Cayo). The second indicates the type of service (0 for prepaid services, 1 for mobile, 2 for regular landline). The final five digits are the phone number. Thus, a number such as 22x/xxxx means that it's a landline phone in Belize District.
To dial any number in Belize, local or long distance, you must dial all seven digits. When dialing from outside Belize, dial the international access code, the country code for Belize (501), and all seven digits. When calling from the United States, dial 011/501–xxx–xxxx.
Belize has a good nationwide phone system. There are pay phones on the street in the main towns. All take prepaid phone cards rather than coins. Local calls cost BZ25¢; calls to other districts, BZ$1. Dial 113 for directory assistance and 115 for operator assistance. For the correct local time, dial 121. You can get phone numbers in Belize on the website of Belize Telemedia Ltd.
Calling Outside Belize
To call the United States, dial 001 or 10–10–199 plus the area code and number. You'll pay around BZ$1.50 a minute. Pay phones accept only prepaid BTL phone cards, available in shops at BTL offices in denominations from BZ$5 to BZ$75. BTL blocks many foreign calling cards and also attempts to block even computer-to-computer calls on Skype and similar services.
The country code is 1 for the United States and Canada, 502 for Guatemala, 52 for Mexico, 61 for Australia, 64 for New Zealand, and 44 for the United Kingdom.
Belize Telemedia Ltd. (800/225–5285 toll-free in Belize; 223/2368 main number in Belize City. www.belizetelemedia.net.)
If you have a multiband cell or smartphone and your service provider uses the GSM 850/1900 digital system (like AT&T) you can use your phone in Belize on BTL’s DigiCell system. You'll need a new SIM card (your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card). The SIM card will cost about BZ$50, and you’ll also need a prepaid phone card to pay for outgoing calls (incoming cell calls are free). Both items and also rental cell phones (starting at BZ$10 a day or BZ$70 a week) are available at the BTL office at the international airport (near the rental car kiosks), at some BTL offices, and at a number of private shops and stores around Belize that are DigiCell distributors. A few car rental companies throw in a free cell phone with a vehicle rental.
Another option is a small BTL competitor, Smart!, which operates a nationwide cell-phone system that uses CDMA technology (like Verizon in the United States). At one of its offices—in Belize City, Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town, Belmopan City, San Ignacio, San Pedro, or Benque Viejo—you can reprogram your unlocked 800 MHz or 850 MHz CDMA phone for use in Belize. There's an activation fee of BZ$40, and you'll need to purchase a prepaid plan with per-minute rates for outgoing calls of BZ55¢ to BZ70¢ (incoming calls, text messages, and voice mail are free).
You may also be able to activate your own cell phone for use in Belize. Check with your service provider, but be aware that international roaming charges are high. Typically, you’ll pay US$3 or more per minute to use your cell in Belize, even if you are calling local numbers.
BTL International Airport Office. The BTL office at the international airport, which rents cell phones and sells phone cards and SIM chips for cell phones to use in Belize, is at the far left end of the group of car rental offices across the main parking lot, as you face the line of offices. 225/4162 office at international airport; 800/225–5285 toll-free in Belize.
Smart!. Smart! also has other offices around Belize where you can purchase a cell phone or have your CDMA phone activated to work with a local number in Belize. Mile 2 1/2 Goldson Hwy., formerly Northern Hwy., Northern Suburbs, Belize City, Belize. 280/1000 in Belize City. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.smart-bz.com.
Local Do's and Taboos
Customs of the Country
Patience and friendliness go a long way in Belize. Don't criticize local ways of doing things—there's usually a reason that may not be obvious to visitors—and, especially with officials, adopt a respectful attitude.
Belizeans generally are incredibly kind and friendly. Greet folks with a "Good morning" before asking for directions, for a table in a restaurant, or when entering a store or museum, for example. It will set a positive tone and you'll be received much more warmly for having done so.
Don't take pictures inside churches. Do not take pictures of indigenous people without first asking their permission. Offering them a small sum as thanks is customary.
Out on the Town
With the exception of Pullman buses and shuttles, the seats on many buses often have three people seated abreast. Though tourists are often larger than the average local, you should respect the rule, and make room for others. It's fine to step into the aisle to let someone take a middle or window seat.
Business dress is casual. Men rarely wear suits and ties, and even the prime minister appears at functions in a white shirt open at the neck.
English is Belize's official language. Spanish is widely spoken especially in northern and western Belize. Several Mayan dialects and the Garífuna language are also spoken. Some Mennonite communities speak German. Creole, or Kriol, which uses versions of English words and a West African–influenced grammar and syntax, is spoken as a first language by many Belizeans, especially around Belize City.
Around Tikal, wherever tourist traffic is heavy, you'll find a few English speakers; you'll have considerably less luck in places off the beaten path. In general, very little English is spoken in El Petén, and in some small villages in the region absolutely none. In addition, many Guatemalans will answer "yes" or "si" even if they don't understand your question, so as not to appear unkind or unhelpful. To minimize such confusion, try posing questions as "Where is so-and-so?" rather than asking "Is so-and-so this way?"