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Holger is a management consultant turned volunteer. He loves to take pictures, run around in the sun, dive and he has never met a beer in his life he didn't like.
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Belize is a safe country. But Belize City is not a particularly safe city – unless you adhere to some basic rules:
Belize City is the largest city in the country of Belize and had about 70.000 citizens at the time of the last census. It is the former capital and home to most companies. From a tourism point of view there is not much to do in Belize City and it is a launchpad to the safer areas in the country or on the cayes.
If you’re an expat, or a volunteer, you may live here. If you arrive on a cruise ship you will disembark here.
You may have heard rumors or surfed websites that made a violent death seem like the inevitable result of a day spent here.
We’ve been here for almost 2 months now. We haven’t been killed, though a newbie carelessness quickly resulted in a snatched mobile phone.
Your trip to Belize city can be pleasant and uneventful. If you follow some basic rules:
How to get there (and away)
Belize City is situated on a peninsula, surrounded by water on the North, East and South. Two of the three major Belizean highways connect in the city: The Northern Highway leaves the city northbound and leads to the mexican border at Corozal/Chetumal. The Western Highway leads out of town westbound into the direction of Belmopan, San Ignacio and the border of Benque Viejo del Carmen that leads into Guatemala, close to Tikal. To go South, you need to head West on the Western Highway first.
Belizes municipal airport services Belizes main islands (called Cayes) and smaller city airports with little puddle hoppers. It is located at the northern tip of the city. The international airport that has daily routes by Delta, United and the likes from several big US hubs (Florida, Houston, Atlanta, etc.) lies about 20 minutes outside of town on the Northern Highway.
Haulover Creek runs from West to East and divides the city in a (relatively) safe northern part and a (relatively) unsafe southern part. The eastern part of the northern half can be considered the tourism centre.
Crime and safety situation in Belize City
Belize City is a city. The situation is comparable to any large city I know. There are areas that are safe, there are areas that are OK and there are some areas that you do not want to be – either at night time or just never. Crime is high in the city as opposed to the country side. Muggings, shootings, choppings (machetes are a normal accessory here) and hit-and-run accidents happen regularly. Violent crimes usually happen between members of rivaling gangs and tend to happen during the weekend and at night time. Lately there have been considerable exceptions to this where the wrong house was covered in a hail of bullets on a weeknight.
That said, Belize City is full of a vast majority of nice, cheerful, friendly people who do not hesitate to big the time of day with a smile or lend a helping hand.
Be careful and follow some rules and you will survive Belize City.
Map of Belize city with crime centers and safe zones
This is a rough layout of Belize City, outlining areas we consider safe and unsafe. (Feel free to comment on this as we’d like to gradually refine this ‘zoning’).
It should give you a general idea about the city, but keep in mind that there might be nice spots in unsafe areas just like any area considered safe should be explored with caution or not at all when you’re alone or when it’s dark.
Getting around on foot
There are plenty of places you can walk. Just make sure that you
Taking a taxi
There’s plenty of taxi drivers in Belize. Here’s what they cost on average:
Think of the fares as security expenses rather than transportation.
Some considerations about drivers:
Don’t be an easy victim
Here are some general tips that apply everywhere – not only in Belize City:
Don’t let this get you down
Belize City has a crime problem – but so do other cities. There is plenty of places in Belize City that are a lot safer than the Frankfurter Berg or the Tenderloin District in San Francisco. The intimidating thing about it is that you don’t know this city as well as your hometown so any neighborhood you wander into may be the local Tenderloin. Just plan ahead
… and pick an adequately safe mode of travel (by yourself, with a friend, with 10 friends, with 10 armed friends, with a taxi).
This way you don’t need to feel scared and can enjoy this city with its beautiful, friendly people.