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Country Reports

Belize Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travel to this small Central American country (population 360,000) will require a certain amount of vigilance on the part of the traveler due to several sensitive issues, including environmental risks, high crime rates, and other security concerns.

CRIME

Significant crime rates - primarily theft and burglaries - are reported throughout the country. Violent crime is also a serious issue in Belize, which has an annual homicide rate of 40 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, the vast majority of victims are locals and not foreigners. Travelers should nonetheless be especially cautious in Belize City (notably the south side of the city) and the capital Belmopan due to the presence of gangs. Visitors traveling to remote border areas should also be particularly vigilant.

Crime rates are generally lower in areas with tourist attractions, such as Mayan ruins and beaches, thanks in large part to a tourism police force tasked with patrolling areas frequented by foreigners. Nevertheless, petty crime is common in tourist areas as well as on public transportation; as such it is advisable to take precautions, such as concealing signs of wealth. Avoiding walking around Belize City at night (particularly alone) and avoid nonessential trips to the south of the city. Never leave items of value in a parked car.  

NATURAL RISKS

Travelers should pay close attention to weather reports between the months of June and November as tropical storms can strike the country, particularly in coastal regions. The storm season typically peaks in September and October. Hurricane Earl made landfall in the country in August 2016, resulting in significant flooding, wind damage, and mass power outages.

Flooding can occur year round and often results in transportation disruptions.

The south of the country is subject to earthquakes, although they are typically of low magnitude.

TRANSPORTATION

With the exception of main highways, roads are often in poor condition and traffic accidents present a significant risk. Avoid travel outside cities after dark and during heavy rains. Additionally, roads are not well marked and local driving habits make driving in the country dangerous, especially after nightfall.

Keep in mind that police checkpoints are routine and widespread; stop whenever asked and cooperate with security forces. Cases of extortion at false checkpoints set up by criminals are rare. 

For security reasons, take only official taxis (identifiable by their green license plates), picked up from taxi stands as opposed to hailed on the street.

Water taxis, used to link Belize City with the nearby cay islands, are generally safe. Air travel is also safe.

SOCIOPOLITICAL CONTEXT

Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his United Democratic Party (UDP) were narrowly reelected in late 2015. The next general elections will be held in November 2020.

Political violence is rare. Demonstrations typically remain peaceful but should be avoided as a precaution.

HEALTH

While medical facilities are staffed with competent personnel, the medical sector in general suffers from infrastructural deficiencies. Therefore, a medical evacuation may be necessary in case of a serious health issue. All visitors to the country are advised to take out travel medical insurance that covers care and medical evacuation.

Visitors to the country often experience diarrhea. To minimize this risk, do not drink untreated tap water - particularly outside cities - and avoid foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked or disinfected.

A number of mosquito-borne diseases are present although the risk of contracting such a disease remains relatively low.

  • There is a very low risk of contracting malaria; only five cases were reported in Belize in all of 2016.
  • There is a risk of exposure to chikungunya.
  • Dengue fever is a present risk in Belize, although transmission rates are currently low; some 200 probable or confirmed cases were reported in 2016.
  • As of summer 2017, the risk of contracting the Zika virus remained classified as "high" despite a general fall in rates across Central and South America. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

Risk of exposure to epizootic rabies is present in the country. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals, particularly street dogs. If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

OTHER

Although there are no laws against homosexuality, LGBT travelers may face harassment or hostility from locals.

Climate

Belize's climate is subtropical, hot, and humid. The dry season, when temperatures are milder, days are sunny, and rain is relatively rare, lasts from February to April in the north of the country. It rains daily between June and August. Annual rainfall is higher in the south than in the north. In the Maya Mountains (south and west of the country) days are hot and humid during and nights are cool throughout the year.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +501 Police: 911

Electricity

Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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