Water and other drinks
Caye Caulkers’ biggest ‘supermarket’, China Town, is right around the corner. You can get all of your food there (and your drink), and most of the other travelers’ needs. There are several vegetable and fruit stands or carts scattered around the island for more variety of produce. There are countless other mom-and-pop grocery stores. We have a bakery and a meat store and a few carts selling cake and pastries. The fishermen clean their catch in the afternoon near the front bridge, and you can usually get snapper or grouper, or conch and lobster when in season. While all the stores are small, we find it fun to go wandering around, foraging here and there for the best ingredients. You can live quite well on Caye Caulker, and on less money than in North America. You’ll find some souvenirs as well, but don’t expect to spend a lot of time shopping.
We would recommend bringing your favorite cosmetics and sunscreen with you. Sure, you can buy sunscreen here, but just a handful of different brands, and for cosmetics the selection is even smaller. Waterproof, dry-touch sunscreen is better than heavy, greasy formulas in the heat and humidity. Choose reef-safe brands if you go snorkeling or diving.
The pharmacy is also close to us and well stocked. More drugs are available without a prescription than in North America. A doctor is there at certain times and the health center with the nurse is upstairs.
We provide the first 5 gallon jug of purified drinking water free of charge. The tap water is safe, but still contains a bit salt and of course chlorine, so most people choose to drink bottled water. Any further water you can get yourself, at Auntie’s store just around the corner (1 min). Or just flag down the green beer truck, they carry beer, water and coke and drive around all day. If you like wine, it is best to buy it at the duty free shop at Belize International airport, since it is expensive ( $ 16 US and up) otherwise. You are allowed 6 bottles, and we’ll gladly buy any leftover bottles off you before you leave. Belizean Rum, on the other hand, is excellent and cheap. Try Caribbean Gold.
There is a great and ever-changing variety and most are decent. Street vendors offer authentic flavours at great prices and are generally safe. Some restaurants we especially like are Rose’s for seafood off the BBQ, Happy Lobster for pasta, Caye Caulker pizza, Glenda’s for breakfast, Rainbow (right over the water) and Tropical Paradise.
Yes we got some, and sand flies. If you have a nice natural bug spray, bring it. Off or Cutter spray, you can buy here. Mosquitoes are usually only a problem for an hour or so around sunset, but if you explore around the mangroves you can run into them during the day, too. Sand fly density depends on weather and location, but they can be out during the day as well. They’ll get you around the legs unless you apply baby oil or mosquito repellent. We provide good screens, just keep the screen door closed and you’ll be fine inside.
Bikes: can be rented at many places and are fun, but not absolutely necessary since we are located in the village, not way out by the airport. You can walk anywhere within 15-20 minutes.
Taxis: the going rate for all destinations on the island is $ 5 Belize per person.
Water taxis: these are big, safe boats going to the mainland (Belize City, 1 hr, about US $ 17 return) and San Pedro (on Ambergris Caye, 40 min, also US $ 17 return), roughly every two hours (daylight hours). As for coming to Belize and for all travel within the country, this is maybe the best website for options and schedules: http://belizebus.wordpress.com/
Other packing considerations
Beach towels: Please bring your own.
Electricity: Belize uses the same plugs and voltage as North America.
Phones: pricey and you don’t always get service. Skype is blocked in Belize, so install a IP-address hiding program like Hotspot, then it should work. Gmail video chat usually works better.
Clothes: you’ll need more bathing suits and less fancy clothes than you think. No, it does not get cold in the evenings.
Shoes: go for comfort, we have only coral sand roads.
Water: Bring your water bottle and refill it at your apartment – cheaper and you don’t have to discard several plastic bottles every day!
Bags: Bring a reusable bag for your grocery purchases, saves some plastic bags and sets a good example.
Internet: can get slow, don’t expect to stream a lot of video.
Money: US$ are accepted anywhere in Belize (although small stores may not accept $100 bills). They are always exchanged 2:1, so you don’t need to worry about bad exchange rates. You will always get your change in Belize $. Prices posted are usually in Belize $, except for tourist services like tours, dive trips and hotel rooms. In case of doubt, ask, it can get confusing since they are both just called ‘Dalla’. Credit Cards are not widely accepted and usually a 3-4 % surcharge is leveled. There is one ATM machine on Caye Caulker (at Atlantic Bank), and it can be empty now and then, so don’t leave it to the last minute to get more cash.
Fishing gear: you can rent rods at one place, but if you got something nice, might as well bring it! And anyone should at least try a few times to catch dinner off the front bridge in the evenings, with a hand line. You can get line and sinkers at the grocery store for about $ 5, sardines nearby, that’s all you need. Or go big with these guys: http://www.barefootfishermanexpeditions.com/ and they’ll give you everything you need.
Snorkeling and diving: you just HAVE to try it! If you have a mask or fins, bring them. You’ll go more often than you think. Here’s my favorite dive shop, www. belizedivingservices.net . Safe practices, nice new equipment, big comfortable boat, outstanding staff.
Kayaking: Although you won't find them on the web, about four places rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards,and there are local guided tours as well. If you have a dry bag, bring it (or get one cheap at Walmart) they are a handy accessory to have on Ocean-happy Caye Caulker.
Weather: it is warm. Period. So sometimes it rains, especially from May to July. It is still warm, showers happen often at night, and usually don’t last too long. Don’t go overboard with long-sleeved clothing, or worry too much about when to go. More about weather here, http://www.summerinbelize.com/why.html
Typical patterns month by month here: http://www.belizenet.com/weather/climate.html
Current weather and forecast: http://hydromet.gov.bz/
Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye - a personal opinion: Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing and all water sports are equally great in both locations. I prefer swimming at the Split to the shallows off San Pedro. The water is clear and multi-colored here and the snorkeling more interesting. On the other hand, the undeveloped north end of Ambergris has some nice sandy beaches, if you’re up for the long hot bike ride. On Caye Caulker the ‘beach’ is firmly packed white coral sand, a bit more gritty. Prices for accommodation, groceries and restaurants are much lower on Caye Caulker. We got more cosmopolitan, young or young-at-heart guests, most are outdoorsy, some backpackers. Here, you’ll meet more travelers, there, more tourists. There is much more traffic in San Pedro, the minivan taxis on Front Street always threaten to take off your arm in passing. Here, dogs sleep on the street and kids play soccer. Nightlife, though…ok, if you’re into night life, go to Ambergris Caye. We got about five lively bars and clubs on Caye Caulker, that’s it. We don’t have fancy boutiques like in San Pedro. But we also don’t have the ghostly half-empty condo or resort developments that blight the landscape everywhere on Ambergris Caye. More info about us, www.gocayecaulker.com . And here’s the official Caye Caulker video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS9JyeVgFsI
Hope to meet you soon!
Walter and Christina Martin
Macaw Apartments, Caye Caulker
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