Belize borders the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico. Belize is the most sparsely populated nation in Central America with about 400,000 residents. Of these, around 60,000 people live in Belize City, the largest of the country’s two cities, and its economic center. Belize City is also home to the country’s main port, and is a popular destination for cruise ships sailing around the Caribbean. 

Belize is larger than El Salvador and compares in size to the State of Massachusetts. Slightly more than half of the population lives in rural areas.

English is the official language of Belize, and it is the only English-language-speaking country in Central America. While the official Belize language is English, Belizeans speak the Kriol language and many also speak Spanish.

The Belize dollar is the official currency in Belize (currency code BZD). It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. The official value is pegged at BZ$2 = US$1. This makes currency conversion easy. You can pay in US$ but often will get change in BZ$, which is not desirable for short visits. 

Belize is an independent Commonwealth formerly known as British Honduras, and still retains King Charles III as its Head of State. Until 1970, Belize City also served as the country’s capital city. However, after the destruction caused by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the capital city was moved inland, to what is now the city of Belmopan. Today, Belmopan has around 20,000 residents, making it the smallest capital city in the continental Americas.

More than sixty percent of Belize is covered in forest, and human cities and towns make up just twenty percent of the country’s land. The majority of the remaining population live in towns and villages.

Tourism is important to Belize. Travelers are attracted to its climate, the Belize Barrier Reef, over 450 offshore Cays (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving and snorkeling. Belize also has rivers for rafting, and kayaking, various jungle and wildlife reserves of fauna and flora, for hiking, bird watching, and helicopter touring, as well as Maya sites.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Belize in 1981 following the country’s independence from Britain. The largest Belizean community outside Belize, estimated at 160,000, resides in the United States. 

A U.S. State Department advisory explains that violent crime – such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder – are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. A significant portion of violent crime is gang related. Due to high crime, travelers are advised to exercise caution while traveling to the south side of Belize City. Local police lack the resources and training to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Most crimes remain unresolved and unprosecuted.

I landed in Belize City a day before boarding a cruise ship in Belize City. I agree it’s better to avoid Belize City if possible. There are far nicer places to see in Belize. I always felt safe on the cruise ships and when exploring Belize by zodiac and on foot from the ship.


Leave a Comment