Frequently Asked Questions
Transportation from Belize International Airport (BZE) to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye – you can do a water taxi or puddle jumper. The water taxi is less expensive, but you have to get a taxi from the Belize International Airport to the water taxi stand (about $25US) then your water taxi is about $17US per way. ($35US or so round trip). The water taxi takes about 90 minutes to reach Ambergris Caye, with a stop at Caye Caulker. Here are the websites for two recommended water taxis with schedule:
http://www.belizewatertaxi.com/ or http://www.oceanferrybelize.com/
The quickest/easiest method to get from the Belize International Airport (BZE) to San Pedro is to take one of Belize’s regional planes (“puddle jumpers”). You can pre-book this flight by going to www.tropicair.com, or www.mayaislandair.com. The flights are scheduled throughout the day. We recommend leaving at least 60-90 minutes between your incoming flight and your puddle jumper flight. Please note that the airlines still recommend 2-3 hours in between. While there is always a chance of delays, please schedule what makes you comfortable – if you breeze through customs and immigration, they will put you on an earlier flight if possible. The flight is only 15 minutes long and once you are away from the mainland the water turns beautiful shades of blue and turquoise. Ask the pilot if you can sit in the co-pilot seat – they will let you if you ask. You’ll love the spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea – get your camera out! These flights are around $150usd, including everything, for a round trip, and are truly the fastest, most fun, and easiest way to get here – highly recommended and if you can save money elsewhere – it is worth it.
After arriving at our one and only international airport (the airport code is BZE).
Note – planes deplane from front AND back at BZE – you really want to try to be one of the first off, as this will get you in the front of the line for immigration – this makes a big difference! We recommend you book in the last few rows or as close to the front as you can, but avoid the middle of the plane.
When you get off the plane you’ll go through immigration and customs, and then after collecting your bags, will proceed to the Tropic Air/Maya Island Air counter to check in for your flight to San Pedro. If you breeze through immigration and customs, you may be bumped up to an earlier Tropic or Maya Air flight. No worries, this happens often, ask the airline desk to call the number of the cart company you rented thru and let them know you got on an earlier flight, so they can be there to pick you up!
Immigration – After getting off the plane have your passport and Arrival Form (they give it to you on the plane) available to go through customs. As noted above, try to sit at the front or back of the plane, not the middle, to get off the plane first. Immigration is pretty straightforward, and you just need to get your passport stamped. You then pick up your bags…**
** Another note here before you leave the baggage claim area (the baggage claim duty free store is the only place you can buy duty free at arrival in BZE, to take with you for your vacation – the others are in the main waiting area and for taking back out of the country when you are leaving). After you are in the baggage claim area look around and you’ll see a store called “Arrival Duty Free”. This is not your typical duty free store where you buy wine or perfume, etc, when you leave; this store is for buying when you arrive in Belize and they have the very best prices. If want to enjoy any of the name brand liquors like Bombay Gin, Johnny Walker Scotch, Stoli Vodka or any of the others make sure you buy those liquors here at this store. Because of the high import tax these same liquors will cost twice as much in Belize (local rum, beer, vodka are relatively inexpensive.)**If you buy duty free, as you head towards customs, you will have to get in the line for “Declaring” items.
Customs – You will fill out the form on the plane, and you present this here; you can get through quickly if you are not declaring anything. The officer may direct you to the line to get your bags checked, but again this is pretty low stress. Your personal items are allowed duty free in Belize. There is an import allowance of 200 cigarettes, 1 litre of alcohol (or 4 bottles) but if uncertain check with duty free agents and they are more than happy to let you know how much is allowed in per person and one bottle of personal perfume. You will need your passport when you pay for your duty free. The duty agents are also happy to wrap everything up in a box (if you buy enough bottles) so it can be checked thru with your baggage on your island hopper flight. Otherwise if you are only planning on buying a bottle or two leave enough room in your suitcase that you can place it in there for the island hopper flight. For other questions regarding customs, please check: http://www.customs.gov.bz/
The best option and the one we recommend to all our guests is to hire a golf cart (which is easy to be pre-arranged before your arrival), the golf cart company representative will be at the terminal you choose to fly to the island on to meet you at the estimated time of your arrival. By having a golf cart for your vacation it gives you complete flexibility in going and doing things when you want to.
Another option is to rent a taxi which are readily available outside the terminal doors.
From either Tropic or Maya terminals you will proceed north thru the town of San Pedro for about 3 ½ miles where you will come to a t-intersection, at the t-intersection take a left (there will be plenty of signage at this location advertising for Secret Beach), follow on that road for another 3 miles till you come to the big SECRET BEACH sign, take an immediate right and follow that road going past a few bars on your left hand side for about 2 minutes when you will see Casa Nova Cabanas ahead.
You will find that most of the beach bars at Secret Beach will close their kitchen’s by 5:00 to food orders, certain one’s will continue to serve drinks till after sunset (but usually no blended drinks) as generator’s have been shut down. We recommend if you don’t wish to drive into town for dinner to order from the beach bar you are at before 5:00. Of course if you prefer to drive into town most restaurants will have the grills on till at least 9. We also can provide your evening dining on property (for a fee) if you let us know before 10am so we have time to prepare. We will be doing “meal of the day” type dining with homestyle cooking. Of course if you go fishing and wish the chef to prepare catch of the day that is totally possible (for a fee).
Belize is subtropical, with a mean annual temperature of 80 degrees F. Trade winds blow along the coast and on the cayes most of the year, keeping temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months, except for a few weeks, generally around mid-August through mid-September.
The dry season generally lasts from November through May while the rainy season is typically June-November. The rain during this season often comes during the night. Hurricanes occasionally occur August through October.
Many people ask if they should even consider coming during rainy season. There are many mini droughts in “rainy season” and sometimes it seems to rain as much in “dry season.” Weather is always unpredictable, but, your chances of having your particular week ruined by the weather are statistically small.
We do have an automatic misting system for the control of mosquitoes at Casa Nova that comes on for 45 seconds at a time, 3 times a day, it is pre-programmable so we try to set it for early in morning (before guests are up) or later in the evening. It is completely safe for humans if they get misted during the time it is running.
We recommend applying DEET especially after a rain, or at dusk/dawn if you still feel a concern for mosquitoes.
If your plans include a stay in the jungle however, check with your health provider about risk versus treatment.
Sand flies/fleas/no-see-ums – These are present in all tropical places. We rake our sand daily which is done to prevent them. We recommend using Avon’s Skin So Soft as this is a natural repellent they can’t bite through. As they are actually tiny crustaceans and not insects – DEET has no effect on them.
Most people will have no problems, they are generally active after a rain, or when it is cooler. You will not know you are bitten until the next day, when they show up as very itchy red bumps, often many at a time. They are a nuisance but nothing serious or life threatening – Benadryl cream is helpful to stop the itching. Unfortunately the misting system does not work for no-see-ums.
Other “creatures” – In your suite, you may come across a few common bugs.An occasional small gecko in the cabana is possible – they are harmless and scared of people, and actually are pretty cute. They are good guys in that you rarely see too many bugs/spiders, because they eat them. They make a loud bird like chirping noise you may hear from time to time. Scorpions are present in Belize, but usually prefer to be where it is wet and are not seen as frequently on the beach. Please be aware anytime you are putting your hand into a dark space. Scorpion stings are painful but temporary.
SPF and DEET are readily available at all local stores but we do recommend if you have the space to pack it and bring it with you as the costs of sunscreen and bug spray is probably higher than you would normally pay back in your home country.
Yes – you can drink the water at Casa Nova. However if you are out touring around we recommend bottled water as each place you stop at will probably have their own source of water. Some of the island is on city water, some is well water – but you only want to drink out of the tap where you know it has been purified.
Electrical power is 110 volts/60 cycle, which is the same as the United States and Canada. The plugs and outlets are the same as the US and Canada. A small surge protector is highly recommended for computers and other sensitive equipment as we do operate on solar and in the rare event that the generator comes on a surge could be possible.
We do not provide hair dryers as being off grid and running with solar electricity it is a high draw, if you feel you need a hair dryer please pack one but you will probably find after a day or two the “beach hair” look is easier and more suiting to the island way of life.
Local currency is the Belize Dollar. One U.S. dollar is worth two Belize dollars – it is set at this rate and does not change. Almost all prices are in Belize dollars except where noted. (The exception to that pricing is tours, and real estate) .There is no need to exchange money as USD is accepted – for example, if the total is $20, this means Belize dollars, and you hand them $10US, they won’t bat an eyelash.
Belize makes an effort to maintain a natural environment, and there are limits to a developing country’s ability to use resources that are available at first world places. The amazing, natural, unspoiled, authentic vacation you get here far outweighs some limitations for most travelers; the amount of repeat guests, and people who move here, is a testament to how special this place is.
Within a few minutes, you can be at several grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Produce is sold at farm stands throughout town. The grocery stores here are relatively well stocked. You can always find the basics, but specific, selective items are inconsistent. Things like bug spray, SPF, toilet paper, basic groceries are plentiful. There are pharmacies in town where you can buy prescriptions drugs without a prescription. Prices here are similar to the US. Remember all prices are in Belize dollars so it looks double the price.
Credit cards are accepted widely in town. Some tour operators accept credit cards, but you will want to be prepared to pay cash for some. ATMs are available in town for a fee of a few dollars.
We have a safe in each room.
English is the official language, though Spanish, Creole, Mayan, and Garifuna are also spoken. While the population of Belize is only about 365,000, there is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans, who include Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern and Asian.
Yes – bring your snorkel gear and you can jump in off almost any dock you see!
Tipping is appreciated and is about the same as the US/Canada. It is always kind and appreciated to tip tour guides or for any extra service.
Here at Casa Nova we offer Wifi free to our guests. WiFi is available almost everywhere you go in town, just get the password from each place.
The options can be a bit overwhelming….Cave tubing, hiking, snorkeling, boating, sailing, fishing, fly fishing, fine restaurants, shopping, Mayan tours, sunset cruises, scuba diving, cave tours, bird watching, biking, jungle tours, zip lining, parasailing, kite surfing, the zoo, and more. You can book before you come, or simply ask us for help in planning whatever excursion you are interested in.
Belize is not known for cutting edge medical services, and this should be taken into consideration. Belize City has the most advanced medical services, and for serious problems, arrangements are made for individuals to fly out on the next available puddle jumper. In town, there is a 24 hour PolyClinic, and north of town the new Belize Medical Center located at Grande Caribe, and you can call 911 in an emergency.
“Low season” (arguably) starts around June. June has Lobsterfest, however, so things stay pretty lively. The weather gets a bit hotter and a few more rain showers (at night) by June, and many of the hard working businesses will shutter for a couple weeks/month at a time to recover from high season. There is NO reason to not come here in ” low season.” You can have just as much fun, a couple places here or there might be closed but you can’t possibly hit every hot spot here on one trip anyway. Generally, September and October are the slowest times to come, least crowded, and it will be the hottest/wettest/buggy-est. However – plenty of people come during those months and have a wonderful experience. Come when your schedule allows you to, and know that you will have more to do here, than you know what to do with!
A valid passport and return ticket is necessary for entry into Belize. No visas are required for citizens of Canada, the U.S., British Commonwealth nations, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and Uruguay.
There are many types of people on the peninsula. Some locals, some from other countries or parts of Belize, expats, and tourists. Belizean people are very friendly on the whole and enjoy chatting and asking questions. You may notice that the boundaries may be different in some cultures; it is not unusual for some cultures to hang out closely, the sense of personal space or personal territory is different in each culture. Some will want to sell you things, and in general most are very kind and not pushy if you say no thank you (or as Belizeans say, “nah, we straight!” Which means no thank you, I do not want what you are selling). You may meet the Coconut Man, Mayan women selling baskets, people asking for donations, men selling blankets, it is much less intrusive than most Caribbean Islands or Mexico. If you are uncomfortable, simply saying I do not have any cash makes most lose interest in you!
PLEASE NOTE – if you leave something in Belize, it is VERY DIFFICULT and expensive to ship things back. Most things cannot be shipped at all. We will make every effort to ship it or see if a guest staying after you have left is willing to take it back to Canada or the US and ship it.
We can do laundry at Casa Nova for $15usd per load.
Lastly, before coming to Belize make copies of your passports, credit cards and driver’s license. Scan and email yourself copies and leave a copy at home in a safe. That way if you lose any of these items while you are here they will be easier to replace. Also, bring enough medicine with you if you take any prescription meds. Our local pharmacies are usually well stocked with general antibiotics, minor pain killers, cold and flu meds, etc, but if you need anything special bring it with you.