If you're looking for some practical "local tips", then look no further...
In Belize, U.S. $ is accepted practically everywhere. To avoid any difficulties, make sure your bills are looking crisp and aren not damaged or torn. Local businesses will not accept a bill that has a tear or mark.
On Caye Caulker, most restaurants do not accept credit cards. Those that do will typically charge a hefty 5% surcharge on your bill. If you want to avoid these additional expenses, you may want to carry some cash on you.
With the exception of real estate and the occasional hotel room, everything for sale in Belize should be quoted in Belize $, inclusive of sales tax and GST. For example, if the sticker says it's $10, you will pay $10 at the check out.
Most of Caye Caulker's dozen grocery stores are located along Front Street and Middle Street. As a general rule, stores located on Front street tend to cater more to tourists and can be more expensive than those located on Middle Street.
Grocery stores on the island can often "make mistakes" when adding up your bill. For this reason, we recommend that you keep a running estimate in your head and question any discrepancies.
Canned Goods and all imported Items tend to be very expensive in Belize. If you simply 'must have' an important item, be sure to check the expiry date first.
Coffee Cream is usually not available on Caye Caulker. But you can often find fresh milk. However fresh milk is crazy expensive and almost always goes sour long before the expiry date. You are far better off buying the readily available milk in cartons and/or canned milk right off the shelf.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are usually readily available on Caye Caulker. However they can be 50% higher on Caye Caulker than in Belize City. If you are on a budget and you happen to be arriving in Belize City by bus, you will arrive at what is known as "Novelos Bus Terminal". Right beside the terminal is a large market called "Michael Finnigans" selling fresh fruit and vegetables.
Saturday is a best day for buying fresh fruit and vegetables on Caye Caulker as the barge arrives on Fridays.
Mosquito Repellent and sun tan lotion can be crazy expensive in Belize = Bring it from your home country. Also more than a few of our guests have been severely burned by the sun after using sun tan lotion purchased on Caye Caulker = Hmm ?
Beef is not that great in Belize. Although you might luck-out and find a decent burger; you are practically guaranteed a tough steak in almost every restaurant in the country = Eat like the locals = eat fish and chicken and beans and rice and rice and beans and beans and beans and beans…….
There are many street vendors selling tacos on the streets in the morning on Caye Caulker. These tacos are either corn or flour and filled with a mixture of stewed chicken, vegetables and onions (and hot sauce if you like). These tacos cost 50 cents Belize for Corn and one dollar for flour. Grab 3 or 4 and you are good to go ! = This is a great time to impress your new friends by buying them breakfast !
Bottles of wine are very expensive in Belize and usually not that great. If you like to imbibe, be sure to bring a few bottles from your home country or pick up a few bottles from the airports duty free shop. Or if you are traveling to Belize via Mexico or Guatemala; you can usually pick up some good reasonably priced bottles from stores like "Mega" or "Sam's Club:".
You can buy beer and pop by the case of 24 bottles at wholesale prices on Caye Caulker by going to the Beer/Coca-Cola distributor and picking it up yourself. The distributor is called "Bowen and Bowen" and is located at the back of the island beside the commercial pier.
If you do not have heart or cholesterol problems, another good choice for a cheap breakfast on Caye Caulker is a "Errolynns house of Fry Jacks" which is located across from the Atlantic Bank. These are like a fried dough stuffed with whatever you want like chicken, beans, cheese, eggs etc etc. They cost around $4 Belize.
On Saturdays on Caye Caulker many individuals set up bar-b-ques. One of our favorites is Alma's chicken and ribs who sets up just down from China town grocery store on Middle Street.
There are about 70 restaurants on Caye Caulker. As a general rule those run by Belizean's are usually far less expensive than those run by foreigners. However again as a general rule the service in Gringo run places is usually far superior. = If you are in a Belizean run restaurant; when the waitress finally comes to your table order 2 beers instead of one.
If you come across a guy roasting a pig on a spit or see a whole hog on the bar-b-Que = keep walking.
Chef Juan's Kitchen which is located near a couple of hostels has excellent desserts such as Cherry Cheesecake and Caye Lime Pie at a fair price !
There are 2 water taxi operations serving Caye Caulker from Belize City. One is called "Belize Express" and the other is called "Ocean Ferry" . Taxi drivers will usually opt to take tourists to Belize Express because it has more runs and it also has the latest departure from the city. But remember the water taxi beside the metal swing bridge which is called "Ocean Ferry" is significantly less expensive !
There are 2 airlines serving Caye Caulker. "Maya Island Air" and "Tropic Air". Maya Island is usually a few dollars less expensive. But sometimes Tropic Air runs seasonal specials. = Check both airlines online booking calendars !
NEWS FLASH - THE AIRPORT ON CAYE CAULKER IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REPAIRS AND SCHEDULED TO RE-OPEN OCTOBER 01 / 2018 = UNTIL THEN YOU HAVE TO TAKE A WATER TAXI .....OR SWIM....
Coming from or going to Chetumal Mexico ? : There are 2 different water taxis which run on alternate days of the week. Be sure to book your ticket with the correct company on your departure date. and if you are not exactly sure of your return date; just buy a one-way ticket so you can keep your options open and return with the alternative company if you need to……
There are several professional "touts" on the island that collect money for "Kids Sports Clubs" and other nice warm and fuzzy sounding charities. Several other "touts" will pitch snorkel or fishing tours at "unbelievable prices" and ask for advance reservation deposits. Most of these are scams and you will lose your money……Remember this important rule = If he acts like a weasel, and he looks like a weasel, and he sounds like a weasel, and he talks like a weasel………Keep Walking !
If you do want to help the local community; there are several excellent ways to help. Here are a couple of suggestions : Donations of cash to the local high school "Ocean Academy" or to the village chairperson "Enelda Rosado" to help support the elementary schools kids lunch program. Another amazing organization always in need of funding is the Caye Caulker Humane Society……..
Taking a local bus somewhere in Belize ? - Most of the time you will just line up and when the bus comes in there will be a "Mad Rush" to get on board. If it is a 72 passenger bus and you are # 73 - you get kicked off the bus. If you are a couple, one person stands in line and quickly gets on the bus and grabs 2 seats, while the other person goes to the back of the bus and loads the luggage. Once underway the drivers assistant will make his way down the aisle and collects the fare.
Before going to bed at night, lock your bicycles and remove any valuables from your porch and LOCK YOUR DOOR !
If you arrive on Caye Caulker with no reservation, there are dozens of small family run hotels and places to stay that are not listed anywhere on-line. You can almost always (except for New Years Eve and Easter weekend) find a suitable place to stay.
There are local "Touts" that meet the incoming boats and ask the disembarking passengers if they need a room. These touts will usually take tourists to the closest place that offers the tout the biggest commission. These touts are very good at what they do and will say or do anything to make money. If you have already have place in mind; they will often lie and say the place is dirty or has no vacancy in order to steer the tourist to alternate inferior places offering commissions. The operator of the accommodation will also quote the tourist a higher price because he has to pay the "tout" a commission. Do not follow the tout or allow the tout to follow you. On the other hand, if it is late, you are tired, and just want to get a room; these touts can provide an invaluable service… …"Caveat Emptor"
Do not throw your bones or lobster shells in your garbage can = After cleaning and/or eating your fish walk to the end of the pier at night and throw the bones and shells off the end. This is a great food source for the crabs and small fish = and you won't be wondering what that weird smell is at 2:00 a.m.
Tightly seal any snacks such as cookies and chips and remove garbage and empty bottles from your cabana at night and be sure to clean up any spilt pop = or you are going to have a bug-party in your cabana and it ain't pretty !
Sometimes at dawn and at dusk; and especially on dead-calm days with no wind, sand flies can be a problem on the Caye's. Who invited the sand flies to our party ? = Sand flea's, sand flies, sand gnats or no-see-ms are all the same thing. They live in the sand and are attracted to white and light and therefore anybody with pale skin and particularly those who are new to these parts like tourists = beware!. The only prevention for sand flies that is 100% effective and environmentally friendly is baby oil or a product from Avon that we supply to our guests called "skin so soft". If you think you might be a "Bug Magnet" bring some "skin so soft" from home as it is not available in Belize. = If you are feeling your ankles getting chewed = move locations quick !
Marijuana is readily available on Caye Caulker. You may see locals smoking it and may even be offered some for sale. However please note that Marijuana in larger quantities is still illegal in Belize. If the police catch you with some significant amount of weed you may suddenly find yourself in jail…. or broke…. or both.
There are 2 ATM machines on Caye Caulker. These machines dispense Belize $ only. They often malfunction and/or run out of cash. Some European debit cards do not work in Belize = check with your bank in your home country before leaving. = carry some emergency $
If you are staying in a cabana that has a kitchen and want to buy some fish, walk to the end of the pier and look up and down the coast. Watch for a flock of Frigate birds circling a near or faraway pier. This will mean a fisherman is cleaning his catch (and may have some for sale). You can usually expect to pay around $6.00 per pound for whole fish and around $12.00 per pound for fresh snapper or Barracuda fillets.
"Rambo" the fish monger comes through Colinda Cabanas on a regular basis selling his "brothers" catch of fish fillets or lobster and conch in season. Talk to Juan or Emelita at Colindas and tell him " Me need some fish Mon ".
Another good place to buy fish is beside the fisherman's co-op at the back of the island beside the beer distributor. The fishing boats usually come in around 3:00 p.m. = Don't be afraid to ask !
To be continued………………….