Belize is a tropical country with a multicultural population and green outdoor pursuits. With its stunning beaches and high-quality diving sites, Belize has hundreds of coral islands that are also among the best tourist destinations. But, can you bring a drone to Belize?
Belize currently forbids drones to be temporarily imported for recreational and personal use. It’s possible however to bring a drone to Belize if you have been commissioned for work by a local business, and you obtain an Authorization Letter and a Permit from the Department of Civil Aviation.
In this article, we’ll go over drone rules and regulations in the Caribbean country of Belize, and how to get a permit to bring your drone in if you qualify.
Can I bring my drone to Belize as a tourist?
It sure sounds like it’s a good idea to go on a vacation in a tropical Caribbean country such as Belize and bring your drone to take amazing aerial photos of yourself while you are on the beach. Unfortunately, at this time almost all casual tourists to Belize are not allowed to bring a drone into the country.
Belize has forbidden the temporary importation of drones into the country for recreational purposes. This means that tourists can’t bring in a drone just to shoot some great footage of their vacation in Belize. Bummer.
If you’re tempted to try to sneak one in any way in your luggage, think again. You’re almost sure to be caught at customs, and then your drone will be confiscated. If you’re lucky, you’ll get it back when you leave the country, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
If you do manage to get your drone past customs without getting confiscated and then try to fly it while you’re enjoying the beaches and countryside on your vacation, you run the risk of getting slapped with a big fine, or once again, having your drone confiscated by the local authorities.
There’s hope though that this won’t always be the case. According to the Belize Department of Civil Aviation website, they are working on developing a set of regulations for drone tourists. Supposedly once the rules have been formalized, travelers may be able to bring and use their drones in Belize.
So check back in a few months or years – we can hold out hope that the laws will have changed, and that you’ll be able to bring your drone with you when you go on vacation to Belize.
Can I bring my drone to Belize as a commercial drone operator?
Although tourists are not allowed to fly a drone in Belize, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fly a drone there as a foreigner. Just being a commercially licensed drone pilot doesn’t automatically mean you can bring a drone in either. BUT, if you have been hired by an approved business or organization in Belize for a specific drone job, you may be able to obtain authorization and a permit to bring in and fly your drone.
Here are the only conditions on which you will be able to bring your drone into Belize, as stated on the Belize Department of Civil Aviation (BDCA) website (link):
- If you have been commissioned for works from an approved business or organization in Belize and you are required to fly your drone in such works or services.
- In the circumstance stated above, it is necessary that you have approval from that local business or organization based in Belize. You should also obtain authorization from the BDCA by submitting a letter to the Director of Civil Aviation at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Your letter needs to include the following information:
- The details and contact information of the business or organization that has commissioned your services.
- The arrival date of the drone operator.
- The location or locations of drone operations to be conducted.
- You must also include the following documents with your letter:
- A copy of the drone operator/s identification card (a government-issued ID card i.e. passport etc. from the applicant’s country or residency).
- A letter of approval for works by the Belize Film Commission.
- A completed copy of the Drone Application Form (link)
Once you have submitted your letter of request along with the required supporting documents, the Department of Civil Aviation will analyze your request and notify you of approval or denial.
If your request is approved, when you enter the country with your drone you will need to go to the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) office located in the Philip Goldson International Airport to pay the $30.00 BZE fee for the permit.
Once you’ve paid for your permit, you then need to take your receipt and go to the Department of Civil Aviation (also located in the Philip Goldson International Airport Complex). Here you can obtain your Letter of Authorization and your Permit to allow you to bring your drone into the country and to legally operate it.
Once you’ve checked all these boxes and jumped through all the hoops, you should be good to go in terms of entering with your drone and operating it without any issues. Just plan on the process taking a little bit of extra time on your entry into the country, and make sure you have all your forms and paperwork lined up just so, to avoid any further delays.
General rules for flying a drone in Belize
Whether you’re a foreigner who has managed to get your Authorization Letter and Permit to bring your drone into Belize, or you’re a Belize national wanting to fly a drone in the country, here are the basic rules to be aware of when flying your drone in Belize:
- Belize does not usually allow drone operations without the BDCA’s direct authorization.
- You will not be able to obtain authorization to operate a drone within 3 miles of an airstrip or airport.
For Belize nationals flying a drone in the country, there are a few steps you need to follow to fly legally:
- Complete the Drone Application Form (link)
- Submit a copy of a government-issued ID such as a Passport or Social Security card
- Visit the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) office on the first floor of Philip Goldson International Airport to pay a $30.00 BZE fee for your permit.
Even for Belize nationals, it’s usually required that your drone flight be for commercial purposes, not merely for recreation. You probably won’t be approved for a permit unless you can show your commercial intent.