Belize Travel Guide
Kitty cats. They rule the internet and, whether we realize it or not, pretty much the world too. Ever noticed how cats sometimes stake out the coolest spots in a city? This new featureTravel Catfocuses on exactly that. Submit a photo to be featured by tweeting or Instagramming it to us (details below).
Travel Cat spotted in: Belize
This week's Travel Cat comes from @scooterkat on Instagram, who says of this chill cat:
Cool tabby hanging out under drying bikini in Caye Caulker, Belize
While most of the US State Department's travel warnings seem pretty obvious--Don't vacation in Sudan? No problem!--an update yesterday concerned a surprising destination: Belize. Usually considered a safe and easy intro to Central America, it seems the country's extensive ecotourism facilities are more dangerous than we'd have guessed.
Says the department's website:
Following a fatal accident at the Cave Branch Archeological Park in September 2008, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is implementing new regulations, effective and legally enforced beginning October 15, 2008, to improve safety at cave tubing attractions. Those policies will include an enhanced, mandatory guest-to-guide ratio of eight-to-one for all operating cave tubing tour companies in Belize.
Additional signage will be posted in each cave tubing excursion site, informing participants of park rules and current water conditions and/or warnings. Mandatory specialty training for each cave tubing guide will continue and include education on new regulations. Helmets will also be required for each cave tubing participant starting January 1, 2009.
Diving can also be dangerous, not because of intrinsic risks, but because of ill-maintained equipment or poor decisions on the part of dive operators and boat crews. If you end up left behind at the dive site, don't say Condi Rice didn't warn you!
Our Eat 'n Sleep feature profiles a restaurant in a random city and a hotel nearby. It's kinda like that old show "Dinner and a Movie" but you know, with restaurants and hotels. And better jokes.
Hostels, bungalows, and cafés line Front Street on Caye Caulker, the tiny island off the coast of Belize. Amor y Café is the perfect place to drink morning coffee and watch "downtown" wake up. The narrow dirt path serves as the one-mile island's main drag. While over-the-top Italian restaurants along the strip indicate the locals are catering to what they think travelers want, Amor adheres to the island's backpacker tradition. The new owners pay attention to details, from the still-warm homemade breads to the still-tacky homemade granola.
When we traveled to Belize in March, our use of the Tourism Board website usurped our need for a tree killing travel guide book.
Like any tourism board site, it has go-to information on travel, accommodations, events, and tours. But the information has less useless PR-speak and more Orbitz-esque tools like a search engine to select hotels by price and amenities.
Second, the country (or the people who make its tourism decisions at least) acknowledges and embraces its status as a backpackers' destination, and offers a portal exclusively for the budget traveler. The Toucan Trail is a tourism board-backed marketing effort of over 100 small hotels that offer rooms for U.S. $60 per night or less.
Another linked site attempts to lure retirees to take a permanent vacation to Belize. It requires anyone making the move to prove their pension pays them at least $2,000 per month, though. Oddly enough, most of the permanent expat travelers we met, especially of the older, non-working set, didn't take to the bourgeois idea of working a nine to five for 30 years. Exhibit A: Lonny.
Claire Duffett lives in New York City and recently completed a 10-day trip from Guatemala City to Antigua, Lake Atitalan, Tikal, and the cayes of Belize.
Not a bad way to escape this downright dreary North East April weather, huh? Claire will be sharing her field trip experience with us over the next week. Enjoy.
Oh, and if you have any questions about traveling to Guatemala, now would be the time to ask.
In Caye Caulker, dozens of travel agencies line Front Street, the island's main drag. Each hut sustains itself by selling snorkeling trips. In short: it's the thing to do.