Safety and security
Belize has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. There have been increased incidents of violent crime (armed robberies, home incursions, murders) against long term expatriate residents; and physical assaults, including rape, of tourists. Armed criminal gangs have also been known to operate in the past around the densely forested areas of Belize, particularly around the border area with Guatemala, close to tourist sites. These incidents are uncommon and the areas are patrolled by the Belize Defence Force.
The majority of muggings occur in Belize City but are common in all districts, including tourist destinations such as San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia and San Ignacio. Avoid dark alleys, don’t hitchhike or accept lifts from strangers, keep valuables out of sight and be aware that wearing expensive jewellery could attract unwanted attention. If possible, travel in groups and use a qualified guide for trips off the beaten track.
Incidents of serious gang-related violence do occur in Belize City, most commonly in the area to the south of the Haulover Creek (known as Southside). While tourists are not normally the targets of gang violence, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected. You should exercise particular caution and remain vigilant of your surroundings if in and around these areas, especially at night.
You should immediately report all incidents of crime, including assault, robbery and theft to the police, who will take a statement and investigate the matter. This may take several weeks. You can pay a fee at any point during the process to receive a copy of the report when it is completed.
There have been a number of injuries and fatalities resulting from adventure sports activities including snorkelling and diving. Severe weather and inadequate safety precautions are the main causes. Check local weather forecasts and only use registered and licensed operators.
Take particular care in the Belize/Guatemala border area because of the ongoing dispute between the two countries. Only use officially recognised border crossings.
You can find more information on local travel on the Belize Tourism Board’s website.
You can drive using your UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit for up to 3 months. For longer stays, you’ll need to get a Belize driving permit from the Department of Traffic in the district you’re in.
Road accidents are common and local driving standards are poor. Take great care when driving, particularly during rainy conditions when roads can become slippery. In southern parts of the country, particularly in Stann Creek and Toledo, temporary bridges and causeways in low-lying areas may flood during severe weather.
Political demonstrations can occur in Belize City and Belmopan, often at short notice. Most are peaceful, although some have resulted in civil disorder.
Follow local media and avoid large gatherings of people or demonstrations.