Belize, a country slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts, was once home to a number of Mayan city-states, was formerly the colony of British Honduras, and became an independent nation in 1981.
Located on the Caribbean Sea, Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west, and Honduras to the south. Its small size hides a surprising variation of geographical features, ranging from reefs, saltwater cayes and mangrove swamps in the coastal areas on the east, to lush hills, mountains and rainforests only a two-hour drive to the west.
Belize boasts the world's largest population of wild jaguars and is home to the world's second-largest reef system (after Australia's Great Barrier Reef). Indeed, Belize has become one of the most biologically diverse nations on earth. As a member of PACT (Protected Areas Conservation Trust -- "an environmental trust fund serving an enabling and empowering role in the conservation, preservation, enhancement, and management of Belize's natural resources and protected areas"), 42% of Belize's land is under some form of legal environmental protected status. With over 93% of its lands under forest cover, Belize is able to take pride in the fact that it is home to over 500 species of birds, as well as a healthy population of tapirs, kinkajous, howler and spider monkeys, peccary, puma, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, margay, iguanas, and anteaters -- most of which have either been seen or heard on the grounds at Table Rock.
With a population of less than 290,000, Belize has one of the lowest population densities in the world, and is home to a unique variety of cultures unlike any other. Mestizo (Spanish/Maya descent), Creole (at least partly Black descent), Maya, Garifuna (Carib descent), and Mennonite ethnic groups comprise the majority of Belize's population, but you will also find Chinese, European, American, East Indian, and Middle Eastern cultures represented, as well as everything in between. Belize is one of the rare nations where such an intermingling of groups seems to be natural and expected, and experiencing it yourself is one of the added treats of your time spent here.
We have provided below a list of additional, but important, items that may be of help to you when considering your travel plans in Belize:
- Belize Currency:
- Belize Dollar (BZD). The BZD has a current and set exchange rate tied to the US Dollar of 2:1 ($1 USD = $2 BZD). Additionally, nearly all service providers, stores, and shops accept US Dollars directly. Many vendors also accept credit cards and travelers checks, and ATMs are available in all of the larger towns.
- Belize Driving:
- Although a former British colony, all driving is done on the Right Hand side of the road. All major highways are paved, although some areas experience states of disrepair. To drive in Belize it is only required that you have a valid Drivers License. The only traffic signals in the country are found in Belize City, although around most population centers there are speed bumps to slow traffic.
- Belize Electricity:
- Belize Communications:
- Phone communication systems are fairly reliable, with most of the population utilizing cellular phones. Some GSM phones will work in Belize. Cellular phones are also available to rent at the local phone company. When calling Belize from the United States, dial 011, then country code 501. To call internationally from Belize, dial 001, the country code and phone number. Internet cafes are readily available countrywide in all larger towns and some villages.
- Belize Government:
- Parliamentary Democracy with an English legal system. There has never been a war, uprising, or revolution in Belize and you get the impression from the people that they would like to keep it that way. Crime, compared to most large cities in the U.S., is minimal and infrequent.