Lonely Planet Belize

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9781740592765: Lonely Planet Belize

With detailed maps to help you get around, this guide offers you all the information you need to plan from snorkelling off the cayes - it includes a section in the coast's renowned diving sites - to exploring Mayan ruins, and covers tips on budget travel in this expensive destination.

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Belize embraces a beguiling mixture of Caribbean and Latin cultures, infused with a colonial history brought to its shores by early British settlers. The fact that English is the official language makes it all the easier for most travelers to get to know the country and absorb its cultures. The people are friendly, open and relaxed - everyone here seems to know how to have a good time - and though tourism is big business, travelers rarely feel commodified: Belizeans readily offer visitors help and advice, and they're committed to avoiding the pitfalls of mass-market tourism. The preservation of the country's many natural wonders is a high priority; some pioneers of the ecotravel movement started their work in Belize, and the local tourism industry boasts many earth-friendly innovations.

Both in population and landmass, Belize is a tiny country, and to this it owes much of its charms. The entire population numbers only about 256,000 (the size of a small city in Mexico, Europe or the USA), making it Central America's least populous country. Its 8866-sq-mile (23,300 sq km) area - 174 miles (280km) long and 68 miles (109.5km) at its widest - makes it only slightly larger than Wales or Massachusetts. Yet despite its diminutive size, the country offers a variety of terrain and plenty of opportunity for adventure. You can go snorkeling and diving in the cayes (pronounced 'keys'); hiking and caving inland; bird- and wildlife-viewing in the country's robust network of unspoiled national parks and wildlife preserves; or exploring at any of several Mayan ruins, which you're likely to have to yourself outside peak tourism hours.

Belize is a very young country. Formerly known as British Honduras, it gained independence in 1981 and has been through only five governmental administrations since this changeover. As a result of being settled and populated by various waves of migration since the 1500s, the country collectively possesses an open, accepting and tolerant attitude. It seems to be that everyone here knows or is somehow related to everyone else. With this comes a feeling that you're always looked after - that although you may never have met, it's reasonable to assume that you have some sort of connection. The respect and courtesy that comes from this dynamic is extended to travelers, even in the most visited parts of the country.

Many visitors opt for a 'surf and turf' vacation, dividing their time between the cayes in the Caribbean Sea and the mountainous region of western Belize. Travelers who wish to get off the beaten track - to get to know Belize and its people beyond the lodges and tours - need only travel a couple of hours from Belize City, heading north to, say, Corozal or south to Punta Gorda. The country is an independent traveler's dream - an efficient network of buses making frequent runs in all directions, as well as web of internal air routes, means that it's easy to get from point to point without much waiting around or advance planning.

While good values, comfortable lodges and wholesome cheap meals are available here, travelers will not be working on the same budget scale as they would be in neighboring Guatemala or Mexico. The Belize tourist industry has invested heavily in bringing travelers, mainly US travelers, to the country and in pointing out the value one gets for the price here. For the most part, they've been successful, and while prices are high compared to its neighbors, the rush of tourists to the country, and those who return again and again, indicate that it's worth paying Caribbean prices over Latin American ones. Budget travelers should not despair: There are bargains to be had and areas of Belize often figure prominently on the itineraries of backpackers - especially stops in San Ignacio (Cayo), Caye Caulker and Placencia.

Those looking for relaxation, adventure and wildlife in a small, easy-to-get-around package will be enamored by Belize, and indeed, many travelers return year after year. You'll get the best of both worlds here - there's a well-trodden tourist trail and all the amenities that come with it, but step off the trail and you'll find that you're in a Central American country with unlimited opportunities for adventure.

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Carolyn Miller Carlstroem; Debra Miller
Editorial: Lonely Planet Publications (2002)
ISBN 10: 174059276X ISBN 13: 9781740592765
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Carlstroem, Carolyn Miller, Miller, Debr
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