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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Un-Belize-ably Affordable! 2.12.11

Can you believe it’s the middle of February already? Time is flying again by this year. You know what the means, don’t you? Precious travel minutes are ticking away.  I know most everyone is still recovering from the holidays, but if you’re looking ahead to vacation time already, that means planning is not far behind. In fact, in my last post, I gave you some great tips on saving on your Summer travel, which is very important when hotels and airfare can skyrocket and be double their normal prices. Don’t worry, though. If you start planning and booking now, you’ll still be able to take advantage of Winter and Spring rates before too many people start reserving their Summer journeys.

Today I’d like to start a new trend in talking about specific destinations that are travel- and budget-friendly, since there are many places that just aren’t on our radar when we think of vacationing. A reader has brought up Belize as one such destination and I totally agree that it should be on everyone’s “Must-Visit” list. The country is beautiful, affordable and depends heavily on tourism for their economy. In fact, one in seven people work in the tourism industry.

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A majority of tourists only see one side of Belize, as they get off their cruise ship and shop in the port. I find new places fascinating and want to see as much of the country as I can. When we chose a cruise that docked in Belize City, I immediately went online to see what there was to do in the city and how we could make the most of our 9 hours on the mainland. It didn’t seem like we had much time, but we were able to find an amazing tour from a local business (http://belizecruiseexcursions.com) that was much more affordable than booking through the cruise company and also benefited the local economy, which is very important in developing nations like Belize. Our tour guide was awesome, since she was a native and knew the country inside and out. We took a tour through Belize City, where she pointed out historical buildings, explained about the economy, school and medical systems, racial populations and the history of the city. She asked us questions and answered every question we had, too. She then drove us to the Altun Ha ruins (one of the many ruins sites in the country), where she was our tour guide and a fountain of knowledge on the structures, the history, the people, the plants and daily life. We learned so much and had a great time. We were able to take our time wandering around the ruins and shops, had a provided lunch of delicious Belizean chicken and rice and had a whole different view of city on our way back through town.

Now, this was just one of the many tours that were offered. Belize has so much to choose from, including awesome diving and snorkeling off the Belize Barrier Reef (and other great diving spots), island hopping, tremendous fishing and boating opportunities, river rafting and kayaking, wildlife reserves, jungles, ziplining, cave tubing, rainforests, bird watching, hiking and more. There are so many things to do in Belize that it’s impossible to list them all, and with its compact geographical area, you’ll be able to reach things outside your “home base” within a couple hours, so you don’t have to waste your day just getting there.

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If you aren’t into outdoorsy activities, like those listed above, then consider these facts:
·    Lands are protected from deforestation and clear-cutting and for every tree lost, a new one must be planted elsewhere. All the lush greenery makes a wonderful backdrop for pictures.
·    Beautiful sandy beaches are everywhere along the coast for swimming and sunbathing.
·    The country has the lowest population per square mile in Central America, making it feel like you are the only tourist around at any point in time.
·    With both Latin and Caribbean influence, the food is spectacular and unlike dishes you will find elsewhere.
·    The Belizean people are welcoming and are eager to show you everything their country has to offer.
·    The bus system is easy to use, since for many residents it is their sole transportation. Gas is not cheap in Belize, so rent a car only if you have to.
·    There is a never-ending supply of handmade items, local wines, tropical fruit and fish you’ve never heard of.
·    In comparison to many other “touristy” countries, inexpensive shopping opportunities abound, so your dollar goes further.

With its tropical climate and landscape, you can totally pack shorts, short sleeves and a bathing suit for year-round visits. Spring does tend to get quite rainy, so plan your trip accordingly, or just do what we do and bring a rain jacket and continue to enjoy your vacation whenever you go.

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While in Belize, we encountered many Americans who packed up their lives and moved to Belize and we could see why from just our short visit. We don’t plan to move there anytime soon, but we immediately started to discuss a real vacation there in the near future and have told many of our friends since coming home how gorgeous the country is and how wonderful the people and culture was. And the cashew wine wasn’t bad either!

Other things to consider when planning a trip to Belize include the following:
  • English is the official language, so you don’t need to learn a new language, brush up on your Spanish or feel totally out of your element there.
  • You can use U.S. Dollars to shop here, as well as your major credit cards, without issue. Belize dollars and U.S. dollars have the same value.
  • With the tropical climate, you’re going to encounter bugs. While we barely saw any, we did gather some bug bites. Protect yourself by bringing a good bug repellant. We had a nice one that smelled pretty good and kept the bugs away in Honduras, but then didn’t remember when we traveled in Belize.
  • Affordable hotels are plentiful! In fact, AMAZING and convenient hotels can be booked for around $50 and high-end resorts for around $100/night. That’s totally unheard of in most vacation destinations. As is not having to pay to use the resort’s recreational equipment, like kayaks and canoes.

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With all the extras you’ll get with your accommodations and money saved on dining and shopping, you’ll be able to do so much more than you ever dreamed of in an incredible location with amazing people. For less than the cost of your average vacation, you can fly, stay, shop, eat and EXPERIENCE Belize and still come home with some money in your pocket.

When you return from your trip, you’ll feel like you did everything you could, helped boost the economy of Belize and had a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Then, like me, you’ll tell all your friends and family what a great time you had and start planning to return.

For more information on tours, accommodations, attractions and Belize itself, check out TravelBelize.org. Start creating your own unique itinerary now!

Eric and I at Altun Ha

As you can see I've changed up my page a bit. Now you can find all my sites that I've written for on the sidebar to the right. You can click and go right to my article. I do ask that you take the time to check out the rest of the site while you're there, as they can be very useful for travelers and budgeters alike. There is now a list of my favorite links on the sidebar as well, and you can grab my button, too, if you would like to point others to my blog from your blog or website.

Soon, I will have a guest blog post on Independent Traveler, which is also a great resource for efficient and affordable travel. It should run on Wednesday, so I'll link you up when it's available. You might also be seeing me on the Minimus blog. Stay tuned for more info!

Do you have a travel site/blog that you’d like me to write a travel article for? Contact me here and give me details. I’d love to do it!

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