January 19, 2013
First Impressions of Belize
December 2011: A giant Welcome to Belize information “guidebook” I’d found in a small guesthouse in the coastal town of Placencia was slightly misleading in some of its information. The book, upon closer scrutinizing, was less of a guidebook, and more of a coupons and advertisements packet. Hard-backed with pictures of exotic beaches and birds on the cover, it momentarily caught my attention. Patrick and I browsed through it mindlessly. We’d just arrived after boat, bus and more boat from Guatemala, and were exhausted.
|boat ride to Belize from Guatemala|
Patrick chuckled as he glanced over the book’s press releases and coupons, noting how it highlighted the English language and safety. It was clearly targeting Americans, most likely those who would be scared of the rest of Central America. He went on reading, announcing the occasional astronomical price the book called a bargain, and then he laughed again when he read “there is no public transportation in Belize.” The article went on to describe the various car rental options and taxi services available.
The book was stretching its facts if not being completely false. Belize felt as safe as Guatemala or Mexico. Our guesthouse landlady told us to lock our doors at night, and then checked regularly to make sure we’d actually done it. The most recent Lonely Planet guide on Placencia warns of night intrusions and recommends not going out at night in groups smaller than three.
Of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, there is no doubt that Belize is the place we got offered marijuana the most. For us it was quite obvious that a few of the locals weren’t too concerned with laws.
Belizeans do speak English, but the thick accents and Garifuna creole slang that most have (unless speaking directly to foreigners) made it difficult for met to understand what was going on. Not to mention there is a huge amount of Spanish and other indigenous language always being thrown around as well.
|Interesting street names and public transportation in Belize.|
The claim of the non-existence of public transportation was the guidebook’s most obvious fallacy. The overflowing, reggae-blasting, old American school bus we’d just arrived in from Punta Gorda was not luxury, but it got us to Independence, on newly paved roads no less. We lamented for the folks who would pay far more on a rental car than the few dollars we did to ride the bus, and we went out to see the town. After two nights in Placencia, the smallness of the place became stifling, so we figured it was time to head north. We awoke from the guesthouse at 6 am and made it to the bus stop by 7.