Belize travel guide
Sandwiched between Mexico, Guatemala and the shimmering Caribbean Sea, Belize occupies a slice of paradise that is packed with culture, wildlife and a wondrous selection of historical sites. Much of the mainland remains swathed in jungle, where the vestiges of ancient cities punctuate verdant forest canopies. Caracol is the most famous. Its crumbling temples and stone pyramids stand as powerful reminders of the Maya civilisation.
The history is fascinating for sure, but most people visit Belize to see its natural wonders and admirable conservation work; the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was the first jaguar sanctuary in the world; the island of Half Moon Caye has been entirely dedicated to the conservation of birds; and the protected Belize Barrier Reef harbours an incredible array of marine life. Visitors can swim with sharks and stingrays along colourful walls of coral, or explore the Blue Hole, renowned as one of the world’s best dive sites.
Numbering fewer than 335,000, Belizeans have surprisingly diverse roots: the country is a melting pot of Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese and East Indian heritage. Racial harmony, religious tolerance and a relatively peaceful political culture, have allowed these different elements to blend successfully and have given Belize a reputation as a friendly, laidback destination.
Belize’s towns and cities are small and, on the whole, pleasantly unexciting. San Ignacio is a charming enough stop-off for those disappearing into the jungle and Punta Gorda offers insightful home stays with some of the country’s last remaining indigenous communities. The somewhat bland capital, Belmopan, however, is hardly worth going out your way for and bustling Belize City, though energetic and ruggedly charming, is used largely as a gateway to the islands.
And what exquisite islands they are. Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, Cayo Espanto (to name a few) are everything you expect from the Caribbean and more; swaying palms, pellucid waters, sandy shores, ramshackle beach bars and charming restaurants. All that’s missing are the crowds. Go figure.
22,965 sq km (8,867 sq miles).
366,942 (UN estimate 2016).
14.8 per sq km.
Parliamentary democracy and member of the Commonwealth.
HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Sir Colville Young since 1993.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow since 2008.
Last updated: 11 December 2018
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.
13,444 British nationals visited Belize in 2017. Most visits are trouble free.
There has been an increase in violent incidents against tourists and expatriate residents. You should take precautions against crime throughout Belize, in particular the Southside area of Belize City, due to dangerous gang violence and gun crime.
The hurricane season in Belize normally runs from June to November. During the hurricane season, you should monitor updates from local authorities and the media before travelling to or around Belize.
The rainy season in Belize normally runs from June to November, though it can occasionally continue into December. The risk of large scale flooding is very low, though small pockets of localised flooding may be possible after major storms throughout the year.
UK health authorities have classified Belize as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Belize, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Belize has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. There have been increased incidents of violent crime (armed robberies, home incursions, murders) against long term expatriate residents; and physical assaults, including rape, of tourists. Armed criminal gangs have also been known to operate in the past around the densely forested areas of Belize, particularly around the border area with Guatemala, close to tourist sites. These incidents are uncommon and the areas are patrolled by the Belize Defence Force.
The majority of muggings occur in Belize City but are common in all districts, including tourist destinations such as San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia and San Ignacio. Avoid dark alleys, don’t hitchhike or accept lifts from strangers, keep valuables out of sight and be aware that wearing expensive jewellery could attract unwanted attention. If possible, travel in groups and use a qualified guide for trips off the beaten track.
Incidents of serious gang-related violence do occur in Belize City, most commonly in the area to the south of the Haulover Creek (known as Southside). While tourists are not normally the targets of gang violence, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected. You should exercise particular caution and remain vigilant of your surroundings if in and around these areas, especially at night.
You should immediately report all incidents of crime, including assault, robbery and theft to the police, who 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.
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.
You can drive using your UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit for up to 3 months. For longer stays, you’ll need to get a Belize driving permit from the Department of Traffic in the district you’re in.
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 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.
Local laws and customs
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind: possession is considered a serious crime in Belize and can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2016 decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults, however being open about being LGBT is generally considered to be socially unacceptable. There are no openly gay bars or clubs. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
You are not required to carry identification whilst in Belize, but it can be useful to carry a picture ID.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Belize, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Belize. On arrival, you’ll be allowed to enter for a limited period. Any extension to remain in the country will incur a fee as follows:
BZD$50 for each month’s extension for the first 6 months
BZD$100.00 for each month’s extension thereafter
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Belize.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Belize.
Travelling with children
Single parents or adults travelling with children under the age of 18 are required to provide notarised documentary evidence of parental responsibility, or consent to travel from those with parental responsibility. Such documentation is often required before being allowed to enter Belize and, in some cases, before permitting children to leave the country.
When leaving by air the departure tax is BZD$111 or US$50, though it’s often included in the air fare. Make sure you have enough cash with you, as it isn’t always possible to pay by card.
When leaving by land the departure tax is BZD$40 or US$20, which must be paid in cash.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
Medical facilities in Belize are limited. Serious medical cases are normally evacuated to the United States (at the patient’s expense). Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
UK health authorities have classified Belize as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The hurricane season in Belize normally runs from June to November. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and the National Hurricane Centre. For advice on what to do if you are caught up in a hurricane or tropical storm see our tropical cyclones page.
Belize does not suffer from earthquakes, but tremors from earthquakes in neighbouring countries can occasionally be felt in Belize. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
ATMs are widely available in larger towns and they generally accept UK cards. The local currency is Belize dollars. However, US dollars are also accepted as currency.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.