Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project
Some of the questions that are frequently asked before you arrive:
What days should you book your plane ticket? Will someone pick you up at the airport?
Yes, we will pick you up at the Belize City international airport (BZE). We pick everyone up on the official project arrival dates, which are typically on Sunday. Please check the fieldwork page for exact dates and do not book your flight if you are unsure of the official start date. To return to the airport for departures (whether you are 2 or 4 week students) we arrange for a shuttle to take you back on the Saturday after the last day of work. Note that if you book an early morning departure out of Belize (before 9AM) that it is a 2 hour drive from San Ignacio to Belize City and you will need to be there 2 hours early, meaning that you will need to depart San Ignacio at 5AM.
Alternately, you may make your own plans for travel if you choose to arrive/depart on dates that do not align with official project arrival/departure dates. We do not suggest this option, as you are likely to miss project instruction, but if you choose to arrange your own travel, we highly recommend that you book a shuttle from the airport to San Ignacio through William's Shuttle.
Are you required to have travel/evacuation insurance?
The project requires all students and staff to have evacuation insurance that will cover the costs for your evacuation in cases of severe injury back to the United States (or other origin). Some companies that carry such insurance include ISIC or other companies listed here. Evacuation insurance is often not included in your normal medical insurance plans in the United States and elsewhere.
Where in Belize is the project based?
The BVAR project is based in San Ignacio, Cayo District, located in western Belize. It is about 2 hours by car from Belize City and only around 15 minutes from the Guatemalan border. The town has modern conveniences, including ATM machines, stores, travel agencies, and other amenities. Many of the restaurants and other businesses now have wifi, although the speed can sometimes be slow.
The downtown area of town is small and walkable and you will be able to walk into town from your room. Although the town is usually safe and friendly, like any location anywhere in the world, the project does recommend for students to walk in groups at night and not to carry valuables. We always recommend students use common sense when traveling in any locale.
Stores carry the same types of goods as found in stores in the US, although the variety of different brands is less varied than in the US. We highly recommend that you bring all tools and supplies with you from the US, since they will cost more (since they are imported) in Belize. Common items such as shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper,sunscreen, and other toiletries can be bought in local stores. Metric graph paper for mapping archaeological features can also be located in many stores. It is harder to find clothing or shoes in specific sizes (although if you shop around you might be able to find what you need).
What will accommodations be like?
It is always difficult to say which hotels that we will be staying at prior to the beginning of each summer, as it depends how many students we have. Given the large size of the project, we often stay in the rooms at Hode's Place, Mana Kai, or Western Guest house. However, this frequently changes each year and we cannot assign rooms in advance (so if you are a field school student, please do not email us to request specific accommodation).
It will likely be that there are about 2-4 students per cabana (bunk or twin size beds). You should not bring so much stuff that you upset your roommates by taking up all of the space. Most rooms will have bathrooms (may not have hot water, but in the summer, you rarely need it), although there may be a few rooms which don't, but there are shared bathrooms for those rooms.
What will the food be like?
The BVAR project base of operations for all meals and lectures is at Hode's Place. Buffet-style breakfast featuring typical American breakfast cuisine (eggs, sausage, cereal, coffee, juice), as well as Belizean breakfast (eggs, beans, tortillas/fry jacks) are typical. Meals are varied, but often some combination of those options. Boxed lunches are delivered to the sites, varied throughout the week but often featuring stewed chicken and rice and beans, fried chicken, burritos, or quesadillas. Dinner is also varied throughout the week, featuring both American and Belizean food. You can get a sense of some of the variety on their website. Students and staff are not permitted to order food that differs from that planned by the project, unless they are paying for that meal independently
Alcohol is prohibited during project hours, including during dinner and lectures (see project rules).
What should I bring to Belize?
You can find a list of required supplies here. In addition, read suggestions by former BVAR students and staff here.
What is the daily schedule like?
We work in the field on weekdays (Monday-Friday) for the first two weeks of each session. We schedule a 4-day long weekend at the end of Week 3 (so we typically work Mon-Thurs that week and Tues-Friday during Week 4). Students typically travel to the Cayes on the long weekend, but it is up to them what they do (they can stay in town if they like). Any students leaving town must registre their travel plans with the project. Students have weekends free to explore local sites and restaurants.
Each work day, breakfast is available at Hodes Restaurant between 6:45-7:15am. Students are responsible for bringing sufficient drinking water to the sites as it is likely not to be available. Bottled water will be available for purchase in the morning at Hode's. We depart for the sites by 7:30, with Cahal Pech students and staff departing first and the van returning for Baking Pot and other departures. On-site research begins upon arrival and resumes through 12pm, when we break for lunch. Hot lunches are delivered to the sites by Hode's restaurant. After lunch, we resume work at the site until 4pm when students return to the hotels.
Students have free time until 6pm, when we have plated dinner at Hode's restaurant. On Fridays and Sundays we typically have a lecture after dinner, after which time students are on their own time.