So you're going it to the beautiful country of Belize... YAY! Now you have the adventure of maneuvering through a foreign airport. Have no fear! I have ventured through this particular airport many of times, and I am here to walk you through it!
What happens when you land?
The Belize airport is nothing like American Airports today. Unlike the ones you are used to, there is only one runway with a small taxi area. Furthermore, there is only one terminal here (at present, though they are adding a second at the time of this writing).
When you land at the airport, you taxi to the terminal and exit from the plane directly on the tarmac. This means you will climb down a set of stairs from the jet. If you have any walking issues, let the flight crew know during your flight, and they will make sure someone comes to help you down.
After being guided into the airport by personnel, you are put directly in line at immigration. I do recommend stopping for the bathroom right before the line if you need to! You can be in line as long as 45 minutes (depending on how many planes have landed at the same time) and the bathrooms right before the line starts are the only ones you will see till you are done getting your bags.
There are four or five lines at the Belize Immigration point. Choose the line farthest to the left if possible. This line is served by three or four agents instead of the one or two agents that are responsible for the other lines.
Remember to have your immigration paperwork filled out before you get up to the agent, including where you will be staying during your trip and how long you plan to be in Belize. If you are not sure how long you will be in the country, I recommend putting down three or four weeks. I have heard of people who noted a week or two on their visa, and the immigration agent gave them a visa stamp of only that week or two. Then if you stay a few days longer, you are screwed.
Also, remember that the maximum tourist visa is 30 days in Belize. If you are going to be in Belize longer than that you will need to go to one of the immigration locations in the country, pay $25 US per person and get another 30-day immigration stamp.
Don't you just love Customs?
After you get through Immigrations, you pick up your bags from the luggage carousel and get in line for Belize Customs.
I want to take a few moments here and give some suggestions to help you get through customs quickly.
- If you are a couple of families, give all your passports and paperwork to your wife or girlfriend to hand to the agent. Belize (like all of Central America) is still very macho, and females get a special pass by most men in the country.
- If you are traveling with a drone into Belize, be prepared to have it seized. Drones have Belize very confused right now because they have a small airport system and they are very worried about one of these drones hitting one of their little planes that fly tourists to the islands.
- Many folks bring in school supplies as a donation to help out local schools. I think this is great but be ready to pay a customs fee (bribe) to get them through.
So you're done with Customs and Immigration...
Once you are done with customs and immigration, you are immediately thrown into what I lovingly call: The Hornets Nest. Now, this may sound awful, but not to worry, you will be just fine.
Just past the customs area, there is an open room where taxi drivers, airline personnel, and vendors who sell excursions await. They will approach you, especially if you look at all lost or in need of help. You will also be approached by many attendants who will want to assist you with baggage. Unless you are willing to tip after, hold onto your luggage; however, if you are prepared, they can be helpful.
All these vendors are crazy!
If I can make one recommendation it is this: do not buy excursions from the airport. I would most definitely do one of the following: book your excursions ahead of time through your host; or, wait till you get to your destination and book your excursions there.
While I would not book any excursions at the airport, it is the best place to find ground transportation. First and foremost, you can step right outside the airport and catch a taxi to your destination. Also, if you have booked ground transportation ahead of time, you should see your name on a paper being held by someone here as well. And fear not! If you are trying to get to the water taxi, they can take you there as well.
What if you're in need of catching a flight to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye? As I am sure you have read in one of my previous posts, there are small "puddle jumpers" that fly to both islands multiple times a day. Maya Air and Tropic Air are the two options you can choose from, both companies have booths right here.
There is no need to even step outside the airport to use this option. You can pick your flight and wait right there in the airport waiting area. There is a restaurant upstairs (with a bar) and some small shops if you have to wait long.
What about my return trip?
Unfortunately, vacations do have to end. I would recommend getting back to the Belize airport roughly two hours before your flight. This will give you plenty of time to get through security and get something to eat inside the terminal. The terminal has a small coffee shop and some last minute shopping kiosks for any last minute souvenirs.
The terminal is small, but you still need to make yourself aware of when you should be boarding your flight. They use speakers to make announcements, but they are not of great quality, so it is hard to understand. Beyond that, you should be good to go!
Are we done here?
I think it is time to sum this up. Flying to any foreign country can be nerve racking, especially for inexperienced travelers; however, if you have the right information, it can make it less anxious for you. When you land in Belize, just expect an adventure and go with it. Remember, that once you are through customs, you can get some good liquor duty free. Also, be sure to stay away from excursion buying through the vendors at the airport; but, you can feel comfortable to book your transportation there, ground or air.
Furthermore, on your return trip, give yourself a solid two hours to get through security and get something to eat. But most importantly, have a rocking vacation!