An absolute breeze: What it’s like traveling to Belize during COVID-19
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Belize was one of the first countries to reopen to international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’ve been eager to see the country. When Alaska Airlines launched new service to the Central American nation, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally visit.
So, how hard is it to make the trip? As it turns out, it’s not hard at all.
Read on for all you need to know to visit Belize and what it’s like right now to go as an American.
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COVID-19 testing requirements
Visitors arriving at Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE) need to provide a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within two days of arrival or a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of arrival — regardless of vaccination status.
As an alternative, you can test on arrival at the airport, but they charge $50 per passenger and some airlines might not allow you to board if you don’t have a test.
The Belize Tourism Board website does offer updated, straightforward information on the requirements for entry based on how you plan to arrive.
Tourists must stay at a Gold Standard property
If you want to go to Belize, you’ll need 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).
Just be aware not all certified hotels are on the list. For example, the resort I stayed at, Gaia Riverlodge, wasn’t on the list when I first looked (though it is now).
The Gold Standard hotels have to have a restaurant on the property, provide transportation to and from the airport and follow strict cleanliness protocols.
At the airport
As usual with international trips during COVID-19, I was worried about not being able to get on my flight.
Even though I knew you technically don’t need a negative test before arriving, I was going to come prepared.
My plan was to use the BinaxNow test I took to return to the United States from Colombia a few days before the trip as my negative test to visit Belize. However, I realized the day before the trip that the BinaxNow test wouldn’t qualify because it’s an antigen test and my result was older than two days.
I knew there was a Clarity Lab at Terminal 6 at LAX, so I scheduled a PCR test for the morning of my flight. I took the PCR test at 7:18 a.m. for the price of $125. The test on arrival in Belize is only $50, but I didn’t want to take a chance that I’d be denied boarding in Los Angeles.
I also had a backup Binax test in my bag “just in case,” but I was hoping to save that to use before leaving Belize.
However, I needn’t have worried.
Incredibly, there was no mention of entry requirements at the boarding area. In fact, aside from showing my passport, there was nothing unusual about getting on the flight. Good thing, too, since I didn’t end up getting my test results back until I was already on board the plane at 11:05 a.m. That was a nearly four-hour wait for results (Clarity promises results in three to five hours).
They did make an announcement at the boarding area that anyone who checked in online or at a kiosk needed to see a gate agent for a passport check. They didn’t mention anything about COVID-19 requirements.
Honestly, it’s easier to go to Belize than it was to go to Hawaii.
Fill out the immigration form
The only thing the flight crew stressed about the arrival into Belize was that every passenger must fill out a two-sided immigration and customs form. One side is for your arrival details and asks for your home address, passport information, residency status, occupation and the countries you’ve visited in the past 30 days. The other side is a basic customs declaration form. There’s no specific mention of COVID-19.
COVID-19 screening in Belize
Once you land in Belize, you’ll descend either a ramp or stairs. As I came off the plane, I was greeted by at least 20 workers, many saying, “Welcome to Belize!”
Arriving passengers are divided into two lines: One line for those who don’t have a negative COVID-19 test, and a separate line for those of us who brought negative test results.
I was directed to a stand with a plexiglass shield where I showed my negative test results from Clarity Labs (stored on my phone as a photo) as well as the immigration form. The form was stamped by a friendly woman working the check-in station, and then I was sent around the corner to the next station where my form was stamped again.
After that, you go around another corner to see customs officials who look at your paper immigration form, digitally scan your passport and put another stamp on your immigration form.
Then you see an official at a final customs declaration station who physically checks your passport and gives you yet another stamp on that immigration form.
Finally, you pass the immigration document (now full of stamps) to one last official and exit the airport.
Despite all of the form-stamping required, it only took about 10 minutes total, and I was officially in Belize.
Visiting Belize was a breeze. No matter your vaccination status, you can visit by testing beforehand or on arrival. It’s been, by far, the easiest entry I’ve had of the three countries I’ve recently visited. In fact, it was easier than visiting Hawaii at times during the pandemic.
I’m staying at the Gaia Riverlodge in the forest of the Cayo District, and I really love Belize so far. Everyone speaks English, which is convenient for any U.S. travelers who don’t know any other languages. I hope I get to come back to explore the famous coastline at some point soon. Maybe another flight on Alaska?
Keep in mind, there is a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and they are very serious about the wearing of masks.
If you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Do note that the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory for Belize is Level 4: Do Not Travel due to COVID-19 and crime, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory for the country is Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19.
Featured photo by Michael Godek/Getty Images.
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