Orange Walk is a small, quiet town north of Belize City and most people visit the city as a stop on the way to (or from) Mexico.
There isn’t a whole lot to see and do here, but it’s an ideal location for exploring the ruins of Altun Ha and Lamanai. There are a variety of nature parks in the area as well.
Orange Walk is also a surprisingly diverse town, with a range of locals from Creoles to Mennonites. It has a scenic location on the New River, and the street food scene is fantastic.
However, honestly, that’s about all there is.
I wouldn’t suggest spending more than a night (maybe two) here before moving on. It’s a bit run down, and with so many other places to visit in Belize, I don’t find it worth an extended stay.
In order words, when it comes to backpacking Orange Walk: see the ruins, and head back down to the beaches! This travel guide can help you plan your trip to the city by giving you everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Orange Walk
1. Visit Shipstern Conservation & Management Area
2. Tour Altun Ha
3. Explore Rio Bravo
4. Go to Lamanai
5. Visit Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Other Things to See and Do in Orange Walk
1. Go back in time at Cuello
Dating back to the early years of the Mayan Civilization, Cuello is the oldest (and probably the most mysterious) Mayan site in Belize. It’s estimated to be between 2,000-3,000 years old and is located on private land, so you must gain permission from the Cuello family to access it. The owners are generally good-natured about it though. You can call ahead to arrange a time.
2. See the Mennonite Communities
There are many Mennonite communities throughout Belize, but Orange Walk has the most. Most communities are sustained by farming, and locals ride around in their horse-drawn carriages while speaking a form of old German.
3. La Inmaculada Church
La Inmaculada is one of the few Spanish colonial churches in Belize and is located in the center of town. It’s small and run-down but a reminder of the Spanish influence in the country’s history.
4. Visit Nohmul
Nohmul is one of the lesser-known Mayan sites near Orange Walk. Nohmul means “Great Mound” in Maya, and it was home to 3,000 people in the Late Classic Period. This place popped up in international news in 2013 when a construction crew bulldozed one of the main site’s temples to make way for a new road. The temple was ruined, but you can still wander around the jungle-covered structures that remain. If you’re a history buff, it’s nice to visit.
If you’re heading to other parts of Belize, check out some of our other city guides:
Orange Walk Travel Costs
Hostel prices – There is one hostel in Orange Walk. A bed in their 4-person dorm costs 25 BZD while a private room is 50 BZD. They have free Wi-Fi and a kitchen and are just three blocks from the bus terminal.
Budget hotel prices – There are not a lot of options here (you won’t find any on Booking.com). For a hotel with a pool, expect to pay at least 400 BZD per night. For budget guesthouses, you’ll need to just show up and book on the spot as they aren’t on any online booking platforms.
You’ll find more options on Airbnb. Private rooms range from 60 BZD-150 BZD per night. Entire apartments (or even quaint cabins) start around 80 BZD.
Average cost of food – Belizean cuisine leans heavily on beans, rice, cheese, and tortillas. Rice and beans is a common lunch choice, and you can always find tamales, panades (fried meat pies), onion soup, chicken stew, and garnaches (beans, cheese, and onion in a fried tortilla) pretty much everywhere you go.
Food is cheap up here with most meals costing about 7-10 BZD. Fast food costs about 15 BZD, and there are a lot of street vendors here that sell cheap chicken and corncakes for 2-6 BZD.
A sit-down meal at a restaurant with drinks costs upwards of 40 BZD. A beer costs around 3.50 BZD while a cappuccino or latte is around 6.50 BZD. Bottled water is 1.50 BZD.
A week’s worth of food is around 80 BZD for basic staples like pasta, vegetables, and chicken.
Backpacking Orange Walk Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Orange Walk, look to spend around 75 BZD per day for a hostel dorm, occasional meal from a street vendor, and getting around everywhere on foot. You’ll be cooking most of your own meals and limiting your drinking on this budget.
On a mid-range budget of about 185 BZD, you can stay in a private room on Airbnb, tour the wildlife sanctuaries or visit Altun Ha, eat out for most meals, take the occasional taxi, and enjoy a few drinks out.
On a “luxury” budget of about 360 BZD, you can stay in a private Airbnb apartment or cabin, eat out for all your meals, and have lots of drinks. You can taxi around or rent a car, and also enjoy a daily tour to any of the ruins. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in BZD.
Orange Walk Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
This part of Belize is already affordable but here are ways to save money in Orange Walk when you visit:
- Shop around – Prices for excursions can vary greatly based upon what is included. For instance, a trip to Lamanai including lunch can be up to 30 BZD more expensive than one without.
- Take the bus – Try to use the public bus system when possible rather than going on a shuttle service.
- Travel off-peak – The most expensive time to visit is between October and April. By traveling in the off-season, you can significantly reduce prices for accommodation and flights.
- Bring your own food – Because many trips cost extra for lunch, bring your own food and save money.
- Happy hour – Most bars have a happy hour in the late afternoon and offer two for the price of one drinks.
- Couchsurf – Orange Walk has a small Couchsurfing community. If you plan ahead, you might find Couchsurfing host who can give you a place to say and share their insider tips. Just make sure to send your request early since there are not many hosts here.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy here. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw
Where to Stay in Orange Walk
There’s only one budget accommodation in Orange Walk. Be sure to book early so you can secure a spot!
How to Get Around Orange Walk
Bus – Buses from Belize City to Orange Walk leave at least every 30 minutes and cost about 5-8 BZD for the 90-minute journey.
Walking – As for getting around the town, it’s small enough that you can walk around (there are just 13,000 people here), so don’t worry about public transportation.
Taxi – Taxis cost a minimum of 3 BZD and fares are 4.50 BZD per kilometer.
When to Go to Orange Walk
It’s hot in Orange Walk year-round and temperatures are usually between 66-91°F (19-33°C). (It rarely gets below 59°F (15°C).) Peak season is from November to mid-April, during the dry season, which is ideal for visiting ruins or wildlife parks. April to June are the hottest months and are also really humid.
Orange Walk is never overly busy compared to other destinations in Belize so you won’t experience much price inflation or crowds whenever you go.
How to Stay Safe in Orange Walk
Orange Walk is a generally safe place to backpack and travel around. To avoid petty theft, keep your luggage, and valuables secure. Make sure windows and doors lock correctly in your room, and use hotel safes where provided.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Orange Walk! Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Orange Walk Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Orange Walk. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no-money-down policy, a great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Belize, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Orange Walk Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Orange Walk Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Walking the Americas, by Levison Wood
This is the true story of Levison Wood’s 1,800-mile trek across the Americas, through eight countries from Mexico to Colombia. He works his way down through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama – meeting refugees in Nicaraguan camps, friendly locals, and dangerous wildlife along the way. Some of his tales are harrowing, but mostly you’ll want to be right there with Wood, enjoying secret waterfalls and making awkward negotiations with policemen.
Understanding Belize, by Alan Twigg
Despite its small size, Belize has a fascinating history and a cultural background with roots in Creole, Maya, English, East Indian, Mennonite, Chinese, Lebanese, and more. In this book, Alan Twigg starts from Belize’s early days as a pirate hub to its colonial period to its current position as a prime place for Mayan archaeology. It might seem like a dense book but it’s full of original photography and makes for a good base of knowledge before your trip to Belize.
The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, by Bruce Barcott
This is the true story of Sharon Matola, an animal rights activist who cared for orphaned animals at her zoo in Belize. When a multinational corporation began building a dam that would destroy the nesting ground of the only scarlet macaws in the country, Matola became the symbol of resistance, leading a crusade to stop the company in its tracks. With some brave locals, she sparked protests around the globe and took the company to court. The author, Bruce Barcott, does an excellent job of telling the story.
If Di Pin Neva Ben, by Timothy Hagerty
If Di Pin Neva Win is a collection of Belizean oral tradition that recounts tales and legends that reflect Belize’s amazing cultural diversity. They include supernatural stories, mythical animals, and entertaining tales that originate from Africa, the Maya kingdom, and Europe. It’s a good read to browse before your trip if you want a better understanding of Belizean folklore (and you can read it in bits and pieces).