Living in Belize

If you are thinking about Living in Belize, as most people who visit at least once seem to do, here are some important things to know.

WHERE IS BELIZE? - Belize is to the south of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and shares a border with Guatemala to the south and west. The population is over 225,000 and it is the size of Massachusetts,

GOVERNMENT - Previously called British Honduras. achieved its independence in 1981. A parliamentary democracy and also a member of the British Commonwealth.

TIME - Time is GMT-6 all year round, which is the same as US Mountain Time (MST) or US Central Standard Time (CST). Belize does not recognize Daylight Saving Time so it changes from MST to CST.

LANGUAGE - The official language is English. Almost everyone living in Belize speaks another language - e.g. Maya, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, and the local Creole.

WHAT TO WEAR - T-shirts, Shorts, swimsuits, sundresses and sandals are all you need when living in Belize along the beaches. Bring a sweatshirt or sweater for evenings if you're staying in the mountains. Long pants are preferred when visiting the jungle.

WHAT TO BRING - Insect Repellent and Sunscreen are a necessity. Drinking water is usually not difficult to find.

ELECTRICITY - Everyone supplies 110 volts. Adapters are not needed for U.S. appliances. Electricity and living in Belize can be a challenge at times as power outages occur often especially during storms.

GENERAL INFORMATION - In order to preserve resources for those living in Belize, the following are outlawed: exporting and/or the removal of black coral, gathering orchids on forest reserves, hunting with out a license, spear fishing while scuba diving, taking of archaeological artifacts and camping in public places, especially any forest reserves. Its main Industries: bananas, fisheries, sugar, lobsters and citrus.

AIR SERVICE - There are quite a number of cheap flights to Belize City, an easy 2 hour flight from Dallas, Miami, or Houston - and it is the main hub for visiting the major cities on the mainland or the cayes. Maya Island Air or Tropic Air offer Regional Flights from Belize City to the rest of the country and Cayes.

TAXI SERVICE - Taxis are readily available at the Belize City or Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport and typically in all major cities. Rates are regulated in Belize City. There are also water taxis available to take you to Caye Caulker and San Pedro.

BUS SERVICE - Scheduled, daily bus service runs to and from all major cities and also to the border of Guatemala and even crosses the Mexican border through to Chetumal and even Cancun.

CURRENCY - The currency exchange is a steady $2 BZ for $1 US. Cash, traveler's checks, and credit cards are widely accepted. ATM machines are a little harder to find so plan ahead.

RELIGIONS - Anglican, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish and some various local, ethnic religions.

FOOD - Beans and rice make up the staple of a Belizean diet, usually served with chicken. Mexican, Creole, Central American, Indian, Chinese and American cuisines are also widely available. Seafood is also available everywhere. Living in Belize can be a challenge for those addicted to fast food restaurants as all US franchises are illegal.

TIPPING - Follow the exact same guidelines you use at home, tipping being a way of rewarding good service. A few restaurants and hotels add a 15 percent service charge, which is typically shared among the staff.

HISTORY - The many available ruins show that for 100s of years Belize was populated with about 1 million Maya. Relatively advanced, its civilization reached its peak somewhere between AD 240 and 910. A small population is still in Belize today, mostly residing in Toledo, which is the southern-most district. In 1637. British loggers, also known as the Baymen, were the 1st Europeans to live in Belize. The Baymen used slave labor for their logging operations. Logwood is used to make red and purple dyes. These first settlements were often attacked from the nearby Spanish settlements over the following 150 years. It was only in 1763 that Spain, in the Treaty of Paris, permitted the British settlers to work in the logging industry. However, the Spanish attacks kept happening until a primary battle was won by the British settlers, with the help of the British navy. It was the now famous Battle of St. George's Caye in 1798. After that decisive battle, British control over the area gradually grew. Constitutional advances in law came in 1833 with the eventual emancipation of the slaves. British Honduras was declared a British Colony in 1871 and the Crown Colony System of Government was implemented. In 1955 Universal Adult Suffrage was introduced and an elected majority to the legislature. The Ministerial System was voted in in 1960, which lead to Self Government in 1965. Belize formally changed its name from British Honduras to Belize in 1975. Belize attained full independence on September 21, 1981. This is now celebrated annually in great style throughout the country. Today, Belize is a member of the Commonwealth, OAS, the United Nations as well as the Association of Caribbean States.

PEOPLE - Belize is a melting pot. By far the greatest number of settlers living in Belize are the Mestizo (Spanish Indian) followed by Creole (African-European), Garifuna, Maya, Mennonites and most recently came the Europeans, Chinese, North Americans, and Canadians making Belize their home.

CLIMATE - Belize has a tropical climate with average annual temperatures of 81ºF, reaching 96ºF in the summer months and down to 64ºF in the winter months. “Rainy’ season is June to November, but most rainfall is short refreshing showers.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS - Cellular phones, radio, fax, televison, email, and of course internet are widely available. Many hotels and businesses now offer wireless internet access. When living in Belize, be prepared for slow Internet speeds and to spend much more.