Is Belize safe?

Belize City has a bad reputation, are travelers to believe all that they hear?

Belize City, Belize

We have been living in Belize City on and off since 1990, and we have owned a house there for years. There are parts of the city you should never go at night, and there are parts of the city you should never go to, period. But the casual tourist would probably never end up in those places anyway, so you shouldn’t worry about that. You should simply take cabs at night, and during the day when you are walking around, be prepared to be approached by someone wanting something from you. The obnoxious Belizeans who pester tourists are in the minority, say less than 1% of the population, but if you are a green tourist, it can seem like everyone wants something from you. For the most part, Belizeans avoid all conflict, so the regular, nice people are just going to walk on by while someone is bothering you. You have to stick up for yourself, the other citizens are not going to come to your defense, that’s not their nature.

The system we developed from years of experience is to ignore those pestering you as much as possible. If they persist, just say, “Thanks, I’m all set.” They are rarely dangerous, but once you acknowledge them, they’re hard to get rid of. What they want is to give you advice on where to eat or something like that, and then ask for a tip for the advice. We have also seen scammers pretend to know you and ask to borrow $20 to pay back later (claiming they work at your hotel, and they recognize you). Others have a sign-up sheet fabricated to look like it is from a local school, asking for sponsors for a sports team. They likely pocket this money. Those are the common tactics; don’t get into any conversation at all with people like this, they will drive you crazy.

We have found taxi drivers to be safe to ride with, in fact the only problem we have ever had is over-charging. We have heard concerns from prospective guests quoting paranoid websites that claim cab drivers in Belize City are unsafe and will hurt you, but we don’t believe this. They simply want to take you where you re going, get paid, and get you out of the cab so they can go find someone else to drive around. Just always settle the price before getting in (make clear it is per cab, not per person, and determine whether they are talking US or Belize dollars.)

Although violent crime is common in Belize, it is almost always between people who know each other: spurned lovers and drug deals gone bad. Rarely tourists are involved. If you put your wallet down, it won’t be there long, but it is rare for someone to grab your purse off of your body.

The bottom line is to avoid Belize City as much as you can. It’s an icky place, don’t spend extra time there. You usually can’t avoid it entirely because you often need to stay there the night you arrive and the night before you depart, so when you have to do that, stay at a good hotel (the Biltmore, the Princess, the Radisson-Ft. George, or The Great House), take cabs to dinner, and don’t walk around at night. The rest of the country is great, the people are wonderful (as are the Belize City-ites you may never get to meet) and you will have a fantastic time.

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