Central America is one of the trendiest spots of the post-crisis scene, having even surpassed Europe as the most popular destination for backpackers and solo travelers for the first time last year.
Famous for its tropical jungles, development-free beaches, and high affordability, the region has a lot going for it in terms of culture and tourist offer, but there’s no denying it remains largely unexplored.
As a testament to Central America’s diversity, the lesser-known country of Belize stands out as the only English-speaking country amid a collective of Hispanic nations.
While its closest neighbors in Mexico and Guatemala were settled by Spaniards, Belize came under the control of the British Empire instead, importing certain customs, and certainly the language and vernacular of the British settler.
English is still the country’s official language well into the 21st century, making Belize nationals as much native speakers as Americans are, but there is a lot more to Belize than just its complex colonial past.
In this article, we will give you 5 reasons why you should give this English-speaking Central American country a chance and why it is perhaps the subcontinent’s most underrated destination.
It Is Not Crowded
Off-path travel is one of the leading trends now that the world has reopened. With virtually all of the main tourist hotspots again awash with tourists and places like Cancun and Cabo experiencing record surges in arrival figures, travelers are looking elsewhere for not-so-crowded alternatives.
Believe it or not, Belize is one of your best bets for a crowd-free tropical getaway. Many Americans are not even aware it exists, so if you’re looking for an exclusive vacation experience, you are extremely unlikely to run into your co-nationals strolling down a sandy stretch in Belize.
Last year, despite the obvious bounce back from the pandemic, Belize failed to reach its 1-millionth visitor target, making it one of the lesser-known countries in Central America and the wider Caribbean region.
It is very much ‘off the beaten path’ still, and though it is yet to be spoiled by overtourism, it has potential to grow, what with its abundant nature, gorgeous coastal scenery, and fascinating culture.
It’s truly a matter of time until Belize is on everyone’s radar, but for now, you still get to enjoy it while it remains pristine.
It Can Be Cheaper Than Other Caribbean Countries
The fact that not that many foreigners visit also impacts on local prices. As we have seen in parts of Mexico and across South America, touristy places tend to be more expensive as the local market responds to the influx of affluent guests by raising prices to better reflect their expenditures.
According to Expatistan, a non-peer-reviewed, crowd-sourced database, visitors can expect to find reasonable lunch deals in a business district in Belize City for an average US$13, while 0.5 l of domestic beer generally costs only US$2.53.
Hotels are also more on the cheap side, with nightly rates at the Costa Blu Beach Resort by Wyndham, a luxurious retreat near San Pedro Town, an up-and-coming resort city on the Caribbean coast, starting at just US$127.50 per night.
Less-than-stellar AirBnBs and guesthouses in Tulum could cost a lot more than that.
Less Communication Barriers
At the heart of the American-Hispanic world, Belize clearly stands out as one of a handful of countries where English is not only the lingua franca, meaning the language most widely spoken and understood by a majority of locals, but the state’s official language.
Unlike in parts of South or Central America, where you could run into some trouble if you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese well enough and reception is poor, or your mobile data plan unexpectedly fails, there are almost no communication barriers awaiting Americans in Belize.
Of course, there may be dialectal differences, as Belizean English is more closely related to Caribbean English and creole than other North American varieties, but you will have absolutely no major difficulties conversing with taxi drivers, hotel staff, or the friendly locals.
If you’ve ever been to Mexico and got into a cab only to learn the driver does not speak a word of English, and he then tried to overcharge you for a ride, which you feel completely helpless about as you can’t argue back in Spanish, you will know how important it is to be able to get your point across.
As a result, as you speak the same language as Belize, bar the dialectal lingo, your risk of getting scammed in tourist hotspots, or at least of not being completely unaware a scam is taking place, may be lower.
Mayan Ruins Without The Crowds
A little-known fact among most Americans is that Mayan ruins are not an exclusivity of Mexico. Back then, at the apex of the bygone civilization, the Mayan natives knew no borders.
They roamed freely across parts of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of modern-day Mexico, which comprises the south-easternmost tip of North America, either trading with their counterparts, establishing colonies, or founding legendary city-states.
Belize is part of what we call the wider Mayan World, and in fact, it encompasses some of the best-preserved and most impressive Mayan cities of Antiquity. Except here, you are unlikely to find a swarming crowd at the bottom of a step pyramid, as is the case in Chichen Itza, or Tulum’s archaeological site.
The most iconic Belizean ruin is Caracol, a major complex featuring countless pre-Columbian temples and a landmark pyramid, partly reclaimed by nature and partly restored, though there are truly too many Mayan World attractions to count.
Belize may be a small country, but it is jam-packed with ancient wonders, and upon visiting, you’ll wish you’d have known about it sooner.
New Nonstop Flights From The US
Finally, Belize is so trendy at the minute it is getting new nonstop flights from the U.S., making it a lot easier to reach.
JetBlue has just announced a new flight route launching from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Belize, starting December 6 this year. It marks the first-ever service to operate between New York’s busiest hub and Belize’s Phillip S.W. Goldson Airport.
It will be a year-round service, running every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, with one-way fares starting at just US$193 one-way on select dates throughout the peak season, only on JetBlue’s official website.
As the company stated, ‘this is a huge win’ for their efforts to make Belize more accessible to U.S. nationals, seeing that JFK is one of America’s busiest hubs, hosting millions of transiting passengers every year.
Besides New York-JFK, there is a competing United Airlines service operating from Newark Liberty, in the New York area, to Belize and 9 other cities from which nonstop flights are available regularly, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston (Hobby), and Houston International.
American citizens can remain in Belize visa-free for up to 30 days.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com