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American Express -- American Express Travel Services is represented in Belize by Belize Global Travel Services Ltd., 41 Albert St. (tel. 227-7185; www.belizeglobal.bz), which can issue traveler's checks and replacement cards, and provide other standard services. They are open Monday through Friday from 8am to noon and 1 to 5pm, and on Saturday from 8am to noon. To report lost or stolen Amex credit card or traveler's checks within Belize, call the local number above, or call collect to tel. 336/393-1111 in the U.S.

Babysitters -- Your hotel front desk is your best bet for finding a babysitter.

Bookstores -- Bibliophiles will be disappointed in Belize. You'd be best off purchasing any specific reading material, either for pleasure or research, before arriving in the country. Many gift shops carry a small selection of locally produced fiction and poetry, as well as guidebooks and maps. One decent bookstore in Belize City was The Book Center, 4 Church St. (tel. 227-7457). However, it was destroyed in a fire in March 2008, and at press time it was still unclear if, when, and where it might re-open.

Camera Repair -- Although your chances of having any serious repair work done are slim, your best bet for camera repair is the Belize Photo Lab, at the corner of North Front St. and Queen St. (tel. 223-5682).

Cellphones -- DigiCell (tel. 227-2017; www.digicell.bz) has a booth at the airport. If you have an unlocked 1900MHz GSM phone, they'll sell you a local prepaid SIM chip with a local number. The chip and initial activation costs BZ$54 (US$27/£14), including BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65) of calls. You can buy subsequent minutes in the form of scratch-off cards in a variety of denominations. The SIM chips and calling cards are sold at their desk at the airport or at one of their many outlets around Belize. Their website also has information on setting up your home phone for roaming in Belize. But be careful, the rates are quite high.

Currency Exchange -- Most banks will exchange money for a small service charge. It is virtually unnecessary to exchange U.S. dollars for Belize dollars while in Belize, as U.S. dollars are universally accepted at the official 2-to-1 exchange rate. The exception to this is upon leaving the country, when you will want to convert your remaining Belize dollars. There is a branch of Belize Bank (tel. 225-2107) at the international airport, open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm. If you are flying out on a weekend, or outside of these hours, be sure to exchange any Belize dollars beforehand.

Dentists -- Call your embassy, which will have a list of recommended dentists, or ask at your hotel.

Drugstores -- There are a handful of pharmacies around Belize City. In downtown, try Brodie James & Co. Ltd., Regent Street (tel. 227-7070); it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Perhaps the best stocked pharmacy can be found at Belize Medical Associates, 5791 St. Thomas Kings Park (tel. 223-0303; www.belizemedical.com); it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to 7pm and Saturday from 8am to 1pm, and it makes emergency deliveries at any hour.

Emergencies -- In case of any emergency, dial tel. 90 from anywhere in Belize City. This will connect you to the police, fire department, and ambulance central switchboard. You can also call tel. 911.

Express Mail Services -- Several international courier and express-mail services have offices in Belize City, including DHL, 38 New Rd. (tel. 223-4350; www.dhl.com); FedEx, 1 Mapp St. (tel. 224-5221; www.fedex.com); and Mail Boxes Etc., 166 N. Front St. (tel. 227-6046; www.mbe.com). All can arrange pickup and delivery services to any hotel in town. Note: Despite what you may be told, packages sent overnight to U.S. addresses tend to take 3 to 4 days to reach their destination.

Eyeglasses -- The Hoy Eye Center is a small nationwide chain of opticians and eyeglass stores. Their Belize City branch (tel. 223-0994) is located at the corner of St. Thomas and St. Joseph streets.

Hospitals -- Belize Medical Associates, 5791 St. Thomas Kings Park (tel. 223-0303; www.belizemedical.com), is a modern, 24-hour private hospital, with emergency care and numerous private-practice physicians. The city's main public hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, Princess Margaret Drive (tel. 223-1548), is also open 24 hours and has a wide range of facilities and services.

Internet Access -- Internet cafes are becoming increasingly common in Belize City. Rates run between BZ$2 and BZ$10 (US$1-US$5/55p-£2.65) per hour. Most hotels listed either have Wi-Fi or a small business center with Internet connections. You can find also Internet cafes scattered around the principal business and tourist districts of Belize City. Alternatively, BTL (tel. 0800/112-4636; www.btl.net), the state Internet monopoly, sells prepaid cards in denominations of BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65), BZ$25 (US$13/£6.90), and BZ$50 (US$25/£13) for connecting your laptop to the Web via a local phone call. Some knowledge of configuring your computer's dial-up connection is necessary, and be sure to factor in the phone charge if calling from a hotel. The cards are only good for 30 days. In addition, you can buy a 24-hour period of Wi-Fi access from BTL for BZ$34 (US$17/£9), which will work at a number of hot spots around the city.

Laundry & Dry Cleaning -- Most folks rely on their hotel's laundry and dry cleaning services, although these can be expensive. Alternatively, you can try the C.A. Coin Laundromat, 114 Barrack Rd. (tel. 203-3063), Belize Dry Cleaners & Laundromat, 3 Dolphin St. (tel. 227-3396), or Southside Coin Laundromat, 6 Neal's Pen Rd. (tel. 207-0301).

Maps -- The Belize Tourist Board (tel. 227-2430) can provide you with good maps to both the city and country at either their kiosk at the international airport, or at their main office at Mile 3 1/2 of the Northern Highway. Also, most gift shops sell maps of the country.

Newspapers & Magazines -- Belize has no daily newspaper. There are four primary weeklies: Amandala, the Reporter, Belize Times, and the Guardian. Most come out on Friday, and all are relatively similar in terms of content, although with some differing and usually obvious political leanings. A couple, most notably Amandala and the Reporter, actually publish twice weekly. Belize First is a periodic book-style magazine aimed at the tourist trade.

Photographic Needs -- While I recommend bringing as much film as you foresee needing and waiting until you return home to develop it, if you'd rather not wait, your best bet is the Belize Photo Lab, at the corner of North Front St. and Queen St. (tel. 223-5682).

Police -- The main Belize City station is at 9 Queen St.; the Tourist Police is a division of the small force. Dial tel. 90 or 911 in the case of emergency. You can also call tel. 227-2222.

Post Office -- The main post office (tel. 227-2201) is located at the corner of Queen and North Front streets, across from the Swing Bridge. It costs BZ$.80 (US40¢/20p) to send a letter to the United States, and BZ$1 (US50¢/25p) to send a letter to Europe. Postcards to the same destinations cost BZ$.40 (US20¢/11p) and BZ$.50 (US25¢/15p) respectively.

Restrooms -- There are very few public restrooms in Belize City. The only ones I know of are located at the little cruise-ship tourist village on Fort Street in the Fort George neighborhood. However, if you're not a cruise-ship passenger, you must leave an ID at the gate and get a guest pass. Most hotels and restaurants will let travelers use their facilities, although they are happiest about providing the service to clients.

Safety -- Belize City has a reputation for being a rough and dangerous city. While things have improved somewhat in recent years, the reputation was earned for a reason. Tourist police do patrol the busiest tourist areas during the day and early evenings. Still, while most populous downtown areas and tourist attractions are quite safe during the daytime, travelers are strongly advised to not walk around very much at night, except in the best-lit and most popular sections of downtown. Basic common sense and street smarts are to be employed. Don't wear flashy jewelry or wave wads of cash around. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid any people and places that make you feel uncomfortable.

Rental cars generally stick out and they are easily spotted by thieves, who know that such cars are likely to be full of expensive camera equipment, money, and other valuables. Don't ever leave anything of value in an unattended parked car.

Taxes -- There is a US$35 departure tax that must be paid in cash (either in U.S. or Belize dollars) at the international airport upon departure; the land exit fee is US$19. There is a 9% hotel tax added on to all hotel bills, and there is a 10% GST tax on all goods and services. A 10% service charge is sometimes added on to restaurant bills. Take this into account when deciding how much to tip (if the service is really good, an extra 5%-10% is fine).

Time Zone -- Belize City is on Central Standard Time, 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Belize does not observe daylight saving time.

Useful Telephone Numbers -- For directory assistance, call tel. 113; for an international operator, call tel. 115; for the exact time, date, and temperature, call tel. 121.

Water -- The water in Belize City is ostensibly safe to drink. However, many travelers react adversely to water in foreign countries, so it's probably best to drink bottled water during your visit to Belize.

Weather -- The weather in Belize City is subtropical, and generally similar to that of southern Florida. The average daytime temperature is around 80°F (27°C), although it can get considerably warmer during the summer months, while during the winter months, when northern cold fronts extend their grip south, it can get downright nippy.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.