After delay, Belize reopens its doors to international visitors
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Editor’s note: This post was updated Oct. 27 with new information.
After one false start, Belize has opened its doors to international tourists once again.
The country began preparing for international visitors months ago, with an original goal of reopening on Aug. 15. Unfortunately, a surge in coronavirus cases worldwide led the island nation to postpone its reopening. As of Oct. 1, 2020, Belize is again welcoming tourists from all around the world.
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Belize’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the small country in Central America is eager to welcome back international tourists. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, as of early October, 2020, the country has recorded 3,100 cases and 48 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Belize has reopened
Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE) reopened Thursday, Oct.1, and travelers of all nationalities are being welcomed back to the island. American Airlines and United Airlines have resumed flights to the Central American country from their Miami (MIA) and Houston (IAH) hubs, respectively. Delta Air Lines will resume flights to Belize on Nov. 20 from its Atlanta (ATL) hub, according to a press release from the Belize Tourism Board.
Visitors who present proof of clean health in the form of a negative COVID-19 PCR test can “fast track” their arrival process, but may still be randomly selected for secondary screening.
Visitors and returning citizens will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight or will be tested on arrival.
Note that all visitors will have to stay at one of the country’s full-service hotels or resorts that have received the Belize Tourism Gold Standard Certificate of Recognition (the full list is updated regularly and can be found here). Among the requirements for this designation? The hotels must have private transportation to and from the airport, a restaurant on-property, and strict cleanliness protocols.
The complete protocols for visiting Belize are listed below in this graphic from the country’s tourism board, and include detailed processes for guests before and during their trips.
Entering travelers who are not Belizean citizens or residents must book their stay at a Gold Approved Standard hotel which has passed local certification requirements.
Visitors will also have to download the Belize Health App and complete all required information. The health app will assign every guest an individual numeric code for contact tracing, and you’ll need to check-in daily via the app once you’re in the country.
Related: Thinking of visiting Belize? Plan ahead. Getting a COVID-19 test can be complicated.
There will be testing upon arrival. Anyone who tests positive will need to quarantine.
Belize tourism laid out the following guidelines and requirements for tourists:
- Obtain a certified negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure
- Book approved lodging
- Wear face masks when traveling to the departure airport
- Wear face masks and practice physical distancing at the departure airport
- Download and verify information on Belize Health App at least 72 hours before departure
On the plane
- Wear a face mask while on the plane
- Practice social distancing to the extent possible
- Continue to wear face masks and practice physical distancing
- Get a health screening
- Check-in daily on health app
Once at the airport, you’ll need to be medically screened as well as go through customs. If a passenger is showing symptoms upon arrival, they may be placed in quarantine at their own expense until cleared. If you show up without a PCR COVID-19 test, you may be able to get tested on arrival for $50.
There’s still no word on when cruise ships will be allowed to return.
What is open?
Belize is currently in stage three of a five-stage reopening. Masks are required in public, but there are no curfews. Most sites are open to the public with limited capacity. All tours and activities have to be arranged by your hotel, and operated by Gold Standard-certified tour operators — the list of which can be found here.
Spas are open, though there are restrictions in place. Shops are also open, but visits must be arranged via your hotel.
How to get there?
As mentioned above, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all offer nonstop flights to Belize. While American and United served the country from multiple hubs in the past, they’ve resumed flights from one U.S. gateway each. Delta plans to restart flights from Atlanta on Nov. 20.
Flights are predictably expensive for close-in bookings, but prices decrease dramatically, with American’s nonstop flights from Miami dropping below $300 round-trip in November.
If you’re located in a city other than the ones offering nonstop flights, you can connect on a variety of carriers including the aforementioned Delta and United, as well as Panama’s Copa Airlines.
Where to stay?
The current list of Gold Approved Standard hotels can be found on the Travel Belize website and will be updated daily.
As of this time of publication, the only approved properties from major hotel chains are the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina, and the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza.
Belize had been on a steady upward trajectory in terms of attracting new visitors before the coronavirus derailed that trend. Now, it’s open again for tourism after several months of being closed.
Before you go, consider if you feel safe to travel, and book refundable airfare and hotels just in case. It takes a lot of planning and patience to travel right now, but if you follow the guidelines put in place by the Belize Tourism Board, you should have no problem having an enjoyable vacation.
And if you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Additional reporting by Nick Ellis and Katherine Fan.
Featured image of the Blue Hole, Lighthouse reef, Belize via Getty Images.
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