As dozens of other countries ban Americans, Belize rolls out the welcome mat
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Belize is again welcoming tourists — even Americans.
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Belize’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the small country in Central America wants visitors to come back. Belize has only had 30 confirmed cases and two deaths according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Belize reopening August 15
Philip Goldson International Airport (BEZ) reopens on August 15. All nationalities are being welcomed back. 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, but Prime Minister Dean Barrow said: “We decided that any further delay would likely gain us nothing from a safety standpoint.”
In a statement, the tourism board said, “As the country reopens for travel, Belize wants to assure travelers and residents that hotels and restaurants will be cleaner and safer than ever before.”
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. 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.
What you need to visit Belize
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.
Visitors will need to get a negative COVID-19 PCR test within three days of arrival, and download a phone application that will assign every guest an individual numeric code for contact tracing. (If you’re thinking of visiting Belize, plan ahead. Getting a test can be complicated.)
There will be testing upon arrival, but you will be quarantined at your own expense until the results are back. Note that you can only stay at one of the country’s approved all-inclusive hotels during this process.
You’ll need to check-in daily via your downloaded app once you are in the country.
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 housing
- 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
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 they may be placed in quarantine.
Still no word on when cruise ships will be allowed to return.
What is open?
Belize is currently in stage 3 of a 5-stage reopening. Masks are required in public, but there are no curfews. Most sites are open to the public with limited capacity. You cannot, however, explore on your own. All tours and activities have to be arranged by your hotel. Travel Belize writes, “During this first phase of reopening for international leisure travel, visitors will be able to visit tourism sites on tours with an approved Tourism Gold Standard tour operator. Tours to sites and parks can be arranged with your Tourism Gold Standard hotel.”
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?
Belize tourism says three major U.S. carriers will resume service in August.
- American Airlines – Miami to Belize, daily service
- United Airlines – Houston to Belize, 5 times per week
- Delta – Atlanta to Belize, 3 times per week
Flights on American Airlines resume August 18. I found roundtrip airfare from Miami International (MIA) for $299. Business class was only available on the return. You could also use 29,000 American Airlines miles and $78 in taxes and fees, but it is a web special fare. “Regular price” appears to be about 52,500 miles and the same $78 in taxes and fees.
On United, I found flights from Houston International Airport (IAH) beginning August 16 for 35,000 miles and $78 in taxes and fees in coach. If you wanted business class, the same flights would be 110,000 United miles and $78. The same flights in cash would be $823 roundtrip.
I didn’t find flights on Delta until October for as low as $523 roundtrip in basic economy. If you want to use miles in early October it would cost you 42,500 plus $78 in taxes and fees.
Where to stay?
It wasn’t entirely clear what resorts and hotels meet the new standards required by the government. However, I was able to find lots of resorts that are accepting reservations. More than a dozen hotels were taking reservations that I found on both Hotels.com and on Google Hotels.
There was even a points property: The fairly new Mahogany Bay Beach Club and Resort by Hilton is open for business. Rates in late August were as low as $138 a night plus $45 a day in fees and taxes or 44,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
Marriott’s new Autograph Collection hotel the Alaia Belize isn’t set to open until December of 2020, so Bonvoy fans will have to wait.
A Hyatt Small Luxury Hotels of the World hotel called Ka’ana Resort is closed until October 31 at the earliest.
Be sure to consider if you want to travel in these strange times, and book refundable airfare and hotels just in case. It takes a lot of planning and patience to travel, and you need to make sure you follow all these rules and guidelines.
And if you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:
- How coronavirus is impacting airline award availability
- How coronavirus has left the travel industry reeling
- Airlines scale back inflight offerings due to coronavirus
- How to ward off coronavirus in your hotel room
- Guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
- Extreme measures cruise lines are taking during coronavirus
Featured image of the Blue Hole, Lighthouse reef, Belize via Getty Images.
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