If you're planning a trip to Belize during the covid pandemic, you've probably heard about gold standard hotels and read conflicting information on the subject. Do you have to stay at gold standard hotels or not?
Despite the fearmongering marketing put out by the Belize tourism sector, gold standard hotels are completely optional. In fact, it's even possible to enter Belize without booking a gold standard hotel with the proper tactics.
Because of the pandemic, Belize created a new tourism gold standard program where the main goal was to enhance safety and health within the tourism industry. Unfortunately it's a bit of propaganda and a type of tourist trap from my point of view. Here's why...
In order to get gold standard certified, a business had has systems and procedures for travelers, employees and their environment. This costs a lot of money, so it filters out most of the low-budget accommodation and services and leaves only mid-range and high-end players.
And this leads us to another important question...
In general yes, most of higher end hotels will have the staff, space and resources to get gold standard certified. While, this is required for health and safety, it does mean that low budget accommodation like hostels don't have enough profit margins to stay operational.
This doesn't seem like a fair market in my eyes. Yes, it's a form of natural selection, but it sucks for small businesses, most of which are owned by locals.
The short answer is no. The Belize Tourism Board and all the certified hotels definitely want to sell you that narrative and make you condemn you if you don't. But! It's not mandatory!
Who am I for you to trust me on this? Well I travelled with my partner while the rules said you must stay in a gold standard hotel. And guess what? There was no one verifying what hotel we were staying at. Our small third world country just isn't capable of having such organized surveillance systems.
Yes, but keep in mind rules are constantly changing. So I have two suggestions that have worked for me and my friends in case you're trying to avoid gold standard hotels. These will work even if you're an international tourist entering the country.
Suggestion #1: Find a local Belizean citizen that is willing to give you their name, address and phone number. According to the rules, anyone who is visiting friends and relatives are allowed to enter without booking a gold standard hotel.
Suggestion #2: Contact a gold standard hotel via wh@tsapp and ask them to send you an invoice to have as proof. After arriving, you can simply choose another place to stay. Is this moral? Maybe not but being obligated to stay at a certain type of hotel isn't exactly correct either.
Remember these suggestions are to cover your ass. The immigration will likely not ask you for proof. How do I know that? Well I've lived in Belize most of my life and everyone that works at the border doesn't like their job, so they exert as little effort as they can. Bureaucracy ladies and gentlemen...
Of course you can! Don't let propaganda scare you into thinking it's safer to stay in these fancy hotels and that it's better to have a peace of mind. If you're thinking about travelling to Belize, you have likely already been vaccinated or taken your covid test.
Now, what's left is just to follow protocol and have a good time. There are no police officers asking for proof of your gold standard certified hotel. In fact, Belizeans are happy to see tourists pushing money into the economy.
Well, while I was traveling for three weeks with my partner, we mostly ate at markets & street food stalls and traveled by bus. Do you think they are gold standard certified? Absolutely not! So you are free to eat, move around and do whatever you want without any fear.
I hope I'm making you feel a bit more relaxed by now. Belize has always been a chill place, and it hasn't changed much in the recent years.
Remember to trust your travel instinct. If someone is telling you something is obligatory, they likely stand to win something because of it. And this seems to be the case with the introduction of the tourism gold standard program.
Hopefully I destroyed all the myths and helped you with your research.