Places in Belize

Top events in Belize

April
02

The whole of Belize seems to shut down for Easter Week, so book your hotels and stock up on supplies in advance. While this is generally a time...

August
01

An alternative one: the Deer Dance Festival takes place each August, in the old Mayan village of San Antonio. Festivities include a dance re-...

August
01

Belize’s biggest event of the year, the Costa Maya Festival is a week of dancing and music and the beauty pageant for Miss Costa Maya, with...

Nature is one of Belize's main attractions
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Nature is one of Belize's main attractions

© CTO – Demian Solano, Belize Tourist Board

Belize Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

22,965 sq km (8,867 sq miles).

Population

334,297 (2013).

Population density

14.6 per sq km.

Capital

Belmopan.

Government

Parliamentary democracy and member of the Commonwealth. Independent from the UK since 1981.

Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II represented locally by Governor-General Sir Colville Young since 1993.

Head of government

Prime Minister Dean Barrow since 2008.

Electricity

110 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style two-pin plugs are standard.

For the outdoor enthusiast, Belize presents unlimited opportunities, packed as it is with nature reserves, national parks, archaeological ruins and a barrier reef that is the envy of the world. Though the country is tiny, much of the mainland is covered with protected jungle, which forms some of the world’s best flora and fauna reserves. Scattered among the wilderness are well-preserved Mayan temples, and out in the waters of the cayes lives an incredible array of marine wildlife. You can swim with sharks and stingrays off the islands or track the elusive jaguar in the jungle.

You won’t find urban sprawl galore here; Belize City has the country’s highest population, peaking at around 80,000. Belize’s cities and towns are small, low-key, and often very dusty and rural with nice community vibes. San Ignacio is a great place to base yourself for trips into the wilderness, whereas the beach town of Placencia is perfect for relaxing by the Caribbean Sea. Heading down to Punta Gorda in the south of the country, you’ll find the remaining indigenous populations who come together on market days. Belize’s capital city, Belmopan, with its population of under 15,000, is barely on the tourist radar, while Belize City provides a look at the grittier side of Belizean life.

 

Exploring the ancient history of Belize is awe-inspiring. The country has over a dozen archaeological sites, some of which are in excellent shape and conjure up the past of the indigenous peoples. The 20th-century excavation of Altun Ha yielded a 5kg (11lb) head of a sun god carved out of jade, and the fabulously well-preserved Caracol was once the centre of a major Mayan kingdom. At the vast cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal you can follow the footsteps of the Mayans in their ritual of human sacrifice to please the gods.

But what most people come here for is the nature. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is considered to be the best jaguar sanctuary in the world; the protected barrier reef is one of the world’s largest, 90% of which has still not been researched; and the Half Moon Caye is an island entirely dedicated to birds, in particular the red-footed booby.

Belize stands out in its position in Latin America: surrounded by Spanish-speaking and Spanish-influenced countries, it has a lot more in common with the Caribbean island states than its neighbours. Now part of the Commonwealth, Belize was British-owned for centuries and the official language is still English, though the dialect has a definite Caribbean twang. Independent since 1989, Belize very much has its own laid-back, relaxed identity, running on ‘Belize time’. Don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything in Belize – the key here is to be ‘chilled’.

Belize is a country of various cultural, language and ethnic groups. Approximately 200,000 people in Belize consist of Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese and East Indian heritage. Due to racial harmony, religious tolerance and a relatively non-violent political culture, all of these different elements have mixed and blended successfully, to give Belize a widespread reputation for its friendly peoples.

 

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 February 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

There have been incidents of violent crime and physical assaults including armed robbery and rape targeted at tourists. Armed criminal gangs from Guatemala have been known to operate in the past around densely forested areas of Belize and close to some tourist sites. These incidents are now uncommon and the Belize Defence Force patrols these areas.

The majority of muggings are in Belize City, but crime occurs in all districts including tourist spots like San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Placencia. Avoid dark alleys, keep valuables out of sight and don’t wear jewellery. If possible travel in groups and use a qualified guide for trips off the beaten track.

In some areas of Belize City there is a risk of gang related violence. The areas around George Street and Kraal Road are particularly dangerous. Take carewalking in the city

You should report all incidents of assault, robbery, theft or other crimes to the police. The police will take a statement and investigate the matter. This may take several weeks. You can pay a fee at any point during the process to receive a copy of the report when it is completed.

Local travel

There have been a number of injuries and fatalities resulting from adventure sports activities including snorkelling and diving. Severe weather and inadequate safety precautions are the main causes. Check local weather forecasts and only use registered and licensed operators.

Take particular care in the Belize/Guatemala border area because of the ongoing dispute between the two countries. Only use officially recognised border crossings.

You can find more information on local travel on the  Belize Tourism Board’s website.

Road travel

You can drive using your UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit for up to 3 months. For longer stays, you will need to get an International Driving Permit.

Road accidents are common and local driving standards are poor. Take great care when driving, particularly during rainy conditions when roads can become slippery. In southern parts of the country, particularly in Stann Creek and Toledo, temporary bridges and causeways in low-lying areas may flood during severe weather.

Political situation

Political demonstrations can occur in Belize City and Belmopan, often at short notice. Most are peaceful, although some have resulted in civil disorder.

Follow local media and avoid large gatherings of people or demonstrations.

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