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Belize Travel Safety 2024: How Safe is Belize for Travel?

Susan Laurent
Last Updated on
by Susan Laurent

Nearly 900,000 tourists visited Belize in 2022. Its striking waterfalls and rivers, lush jungles, simple yet tasty food, and rich Mayan cultural and historical heritage are some of the many reasons that draw visitors there every year. 

But how safe is Belize for travel? Despite its breathtaking natural beauty, the country doesn’t have a good reputation. Before you decide to book a trip, read this article to learn why.

Is Belize Safe?

Belize

Belize is, unfortunately, not a very safe country.

There’s nuance to what makes it unsafe for tourists, but here’s a quick summary before we dive into it in detail:

  • Travel advisory: Every major travel advisory advises potential travelers to exercise caution and vigilance if traveling to Belize.
  • Crime rate: The country has a high crime rate and serious problems with homicides, burglaries, theft, and the presence of gangs and organized crime.
  • Homicide rate: The homicide rate in Belize is 31 murders per 100,000 people, while Belize City has 105.1 murders per 100,000 people.
  • Dangerous areas: Caye Caulker, the Mayan ruins of Caracol, Belize City (especially Southside Belize City), the Guatemalan border, and the Honduras border.
  • Natural disasters: There is no significant risk from dangerous hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis.
  • Public transport: Is unsafe and unreliable.
  • Medical care quality: The public health institutions are underfunded and under-equipped — private hospitals might be better.
ESSENTIAL BELIZE TRAVEL RESOURCES

Are you planning a last minute trip to Belize? We’ve put together all the resources you’ll need for a fun & safe travel:

🛌  Best & Safest Places to Stay in Belize:

👉 Victoria House Resort – Beachfront, Family rooms, Free Wifi
👉 Treetops Hotel – Beachfront, Airport shuttle (free), Free WiFi
👉 Laru Beya Resort – Private beach area, Room service, Bar
👉 Costa Nube – Tea/coffee maker in all rooms, Free WiFi, Non-smoking rooms

⛱️ Fun Activities & Tours in Belize:

👉 Cave Kayaking
👉 Zip Line & Altun Ha
👉 A trip to Altun Ha Maya Ruins and Cave Tubing the underworld


🚗 Best & Safest Belize Transportation Services:

👉 Airport Pickup Service – Welcome Pickups
👉 Rent a Car – DiscoverCars

🙏 Stay Safe While Travelling:

👉 Safetywing (for medical insurance)
👉 VisitorsCoverage (for trip insurance)

Travel Advisory for Belize

Almost every major government in the world advises citizens to exercise caution and vigilance if they’re traveling to Belize, with most recommending not to travel there.

The US State Department categorizes Belize as a level 2 country and advises American citizens to exercise increased caution if they’re staying in the country, due to a high prevalence of crime.

The crime reports from the country indicate a prevalence of home invasions, armed robberies, murder, and sexual assault, which are not unheard of even during the daytime.

According to the US advisory, most of the crimes reported in Belize are either unresolved or unprosecuted. Additionally, most crime is reported to be gang-related and happens in the Southside of Belize City, outside the tourist areas, which shouldn’t be frequented by visitors at any cost. 

According to the advisory from the Government of Canada, travelers to Belize should exercise a high degree of caution and avoid non-essential travel to Southside Belize City. Their recommendation is very similar to the State Department’s, with an even greater emphasis on the danger of drug-related violence, murders, and shootings.

They strongly emphasize that Southside Belize City, south of the Haulover Creek River, should be completely off limits to tourists, as the area is the battlefront for frequent (and armed) inter-gang conflict, and that the border areas between Belize and Honduras and Belize and Guatemala also see increased criminal activity and violence.

Similarly, the Government of Australia advises a “high degree of caution overall,” due to the high crime rate, but also because Belize presents significant health risks.

The Australian travel advisory for Belize also warns about the high prevalence of the HIV virus (1 to 4% of adults are seropositive in Belize), the potential presence of the dangerous Zika virus, and the dangerous insect-inflicted diseases like chikungunya. Luckily, malaria has been completely eradicated from the country

Finally, the travel advisory for Belize issued by the Government of the UK closely follows the recommendations of the US State Department, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Australia.

A Comprehensive Look at Belize Crime Rates

When we dig deep into the data, Belize crime rates give us much to worry about. The country has a serious problem with homicides, burglaries, theft, the presence of gangs, and organized crime.

According to Numbeo, the crime rating of Belize is 59.05. It’s the third of the five categories that Numbeo uses to categorize crime: Belize’s crime is classified as moderate but just short of being considered high.

The Analysis of the State of Citizen Security, published in 2021 by the Belize Crime Observatory (part of the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries), gives comprehensive data on all the crimes in Belize committed between 2019 and 2021, which can provide you with a good overview. 

Crimes201920202021
Murder134102125
Rape302512
Robbery251160167
Burglary693479456
Theft896777
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse675546
All Major Crimes1264888883

The number of homicides per capita in Belize is really worrying. According to World Bank Data, the homicide rate is 31 murders per 100,000 people. When we look at particular cities, Belize city, for example, which is the former capital of the state and the country’s largest city, the numbers are even worse — 105.1 murders per 100,000 people.

Belize, as a country, has the third largest number of homicides in the world, and Belize City, in particular, has the fourth largest murder rate in the world, trailing only Guatemala City, Caracas in Venezuela, and Basseterre in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

But the largest problem in Belize is not murder — it’s burglary. According to data from the Belize Crime Observatory, around 54% of the total crimes committed in the state are burglaries. The next in line are robberies, which amount to around 17.7%.

The high prevalence of violent crimes in the country is deeply rooted in the substantial cartel presence and a structured and developed matrix of organized crime overall.

According to the Organized Crime Index, Belize is a major crossroad for gun and drug trafficking, especially heroin and cocaine, and a stopping point between the drug cartels operating deeper in South America and the US.

Moreover, Belize has around 40 active gangs operating throughout the country. At least eight of them are considered very powerful and dangerous and most are concentrated in Belize City, the major crime center in the country.

Belize News Reports Regarding Crime

While most violent crime is perpetrated by and targets locals, and is likely to be related to drug trafficking, there are some incidents that pose a danger to tourists as well.

In early September 2019, the Belize police forces confiscated no less than 1,210 parcels of cocaine. The drugs were found in a plane that landed on the Coastal Highway close to the village of La Democracia, but which took off from Venezuela. There was a shootout before the seizure of the drugs: a total of six people were arrested, one from Mexico, one from Ecuador, and four from Honduras.

A few years later, on 16 October 2023, a Maya Island Air plane was stolen and crashed in Placencia. The plane was allegedly stolen by an Argentinian and Venezuelan man. Both men died immediately after the plane crashed. Given the circumstances, the police suspected that the plane was stolen for drug-trafficking purposes and that the theft was helped by the locals.

Most cases of homicides target local residents. Nonetheless, there are some incidents, like the murder of American tourists in San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye that happened this year, which illustrate that tourists are also at risk. In this case, the US visitor was not the original target of the perpetrators but found himself in the line of fire. More sinister was the case of a strangled 39-year-old American woman in the Cayo District. Both the motive and the perpetrator remain unknown.

Finally, in March this year, a family of eight was robbed by four masked men while staying in the Sirenian Bay Resort in Placencia, Stann Creek District. Luckily, no one was hurt. Although the police noticed the criminals, and there was a short shootout between them and the burglars, the men managed to escape.

While it’s hard to draw conclusions based on a few isolated cases, the news reports, together with the extensive data shared by international entities, illustrate that Belize is far from safe as a tourist destination.

Police Presence in Belize

Police in Belize

Belize is protected by the Belize Police Department, formerly known (before the independence of the country) as the British Honduras Constabulary.

They have more than 1000 sworn officers at their disposal and nearly 150 civilian employees.

In case of an emergency, you can contact the police by dialing 911.

If, on the other hand, you don’t require an immediate police response or reaction, you can email the police force at pitu@police.net.bz.

The Risk of Natural Disasters in Belize

Although Belize is not in imminent danger from natural disasters, there are some chances for smaller earthquakes, hurricanes, bigger storms, flooding, and damage caused by wind. That being said, hurricanes and powerful storms are the only weather events that pose a significant risk.

Hurricanes in Belize

Statistically, Belize is hit by at least seven hurricanes every year. There’s no reason for panic, though. Most of them are very weak and don’t cause damage.

According to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS), which is usually used for measuring hurricane strength, these strong winds are divided into roughly five categories:

  • Category 1:  Very dangerous winds that cause some damage, like breaking branches and damaging roofs.
  • Category 2: Extremely dangerous winds that are likely to cause extensive damage, like snapping shallow-rooted trees and extensive damage to houses.
  • Category 3: Reserved for hurricanes that cause devastating damage, like toppling entire trees and blocking roads, which typically results in the loss of electricity and water in buildings.
  • Category 4: Considered catastrophic because they cause enormous damage. The affected areas are uninhabitable for some months.
  • Category 5: Can destroy entire cities, and are always accompanied by catastrophes, like destroyed homes, toppled trees, power outages, and uninhabitable areas.

Since the system was implemented in 1851, only two category 5 hurricanes have reached Belize: Hurricane Janet in 1955 and, more recently, Hurricane Dean in 2007. Furthermore, Belize has been hit by category four hurricanes only three times: the British Honduras hurricane in 1931, Hurricane Keith in 2000, and, most recently, Hurricane Iris in 2001.

The most recent tropical storm that hit Belize was Hurricane Lisa in 2022. The winds propelling this category 1 hurricane reached a speed of around 148 km/h. 

Safety Tips in Case of a Big Storm or a Hurricane

In case of a hurricane hitting Belize, you should follow the necessary precautions: stay up to date on local news, communicate with the locals, and follow official updates. The US Embassy of Belize suggests:

The National Hurricane Center and the World Meteorological Organization are also reliable sources of hurricane information that share real-time data.

Additionally, according to the US Embassy in Belize, you should always be aware of the three phases of alerts in the event of a hurricane.

  • Hurricane Alert: All residents in the Cayes are advised to leave the islands at this stage of the hurricane.
  • Hurricane Watch: The international airport will close when there is a sustained 40 mph wind speed, usually during the watch phase. Residents of Belize City and coastal regions are advised to move into central Belize during this time.
  • Hurricane Warning: During this stage, the hurricane or storm appears likely to strike the coast of Belize in a matter of hours. Anyone still in the coastal region of Belize is advised to move to the central highlands.

They also note that there are designated hurricane shelters for the evacuated from the major tourist areas, like San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Placencia.

Breathing Safely in Belize: Carbon Monoxide Awareness and Prevention

There’s been only one reported death from carbon monoxide in Belize. Namely, in the winter of 2000, a tourist from America and his wife were found unconscious in the bathtub of the hotel room they were staying in.  

After the toxicological analysis ruled out other possible causes of death, a large quantity of carbon monoxide was found in the body of the 31-year-old man. His wife completely recovered after a prolonged stay in the hospital. The main reason for the positioning was the gas water heater they were using in the bathroom.

No other cases have been reported by the authorities in Belize since.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless poisonous gas which may leave permanent damage and even cause death if inhaled. The best way to stay completely safe during your travel if your accommodation doesn’t include a CO detector is to bring a portable CO detector with you.

Belize Weather Patterns: What to Expect

Belize has a tropical climate that only has two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season usually starts in December, and ends in May, while the wet season runs from June to November.

The temperatures are high throughout the year, but they can vary by month and depend on a particular location’s proximity to the coast.

Spring

March and the first part of April are hot and dry. May is equally hot but has a higher chance of rain. The coastal temperatures hover around 77 and 82°F (25 and 27°C), while the inland temperatures are more capricious, ranging between 69 and 91°F (20 and 32°).

The rain is usually mild and short in the morning, while there’s a real chance of a stronger thunderstorm at night, especially in May.

Summer

June marks the start of the wet season in Belize. Stronger winds from the Caribbean keep the weather cooler and bring a lot of rain-heavy clouds. Storms hit the island frequently, and the rain can last for a couple of days at a time.

July is the wettest month of the year, while August in Belize is dry for the most part, providing a short respite from the rain at the pinnacle of the wet season. The coastal temperatures stay between 80 and 88°F (26 and 33°C), and inland around 75 and 90°F (23 and 32°C).

Autumn

September signals the highest point of both Belize’s wet season and hurricane season, which continues in October and November. However, while it often rains in the mornings and at night, the days are mostly clear and sunny — shattering the myth that the rain in this region is always heavy in hurricane season.

That being said, this is the low season for tourism, since most of the biggest natural landmarks in Belize become unsafe due to the frequent rain.

The temperatures on the coast range between 77 and 84°F (25 and 29°C), while inland, it can get both hotter and colder — the temperatures there fall in the range of 69°F and 88°F (20 and 33°C).

Winter

Winter in Belize is temperamental. December starts wet, but from the middle of the month onward, the climate starts getting drier and drier. January is the definite beginning of the dry season and the official start of the high tourist season, when Belize gets busy, but February is considered the best month to visit Belize (weather-wise).

The temperatures generally range between 76 and 79°F (24 and 26°C) on the coast, and between 67 and 81°F (19 and 27°) inland.

Essential Tips for Staying Safe

  • Stay out of Caye Caulker, the Mayan ruins of Caracol, Belize City (especially Southside Belize City), and the Guatemala and Honduras border areas
  • If you decide to visit this country, travel in a group and never alone — we recommend booking an organized tour
  • Stay out of deserted areas not frequented by tourists, especially in the larger cities like Belize City
  • Avoid going out at night
  • Don’t flaunt your valuables while walking on the street
  • Don’t bring anything valuable with you while you’re visiting a landmark or a tourist attraction

Emergency Numbers

  • Fire and ambulance (Belize City only): 90
  • Police (Countrywide): 90/911
  • Police (Belpoman): 822-2222

Is It Safe to Visit Belize Solo or With a Family?

Visit Belize Solo

Generally speaking, Belize is not a family- or solo-traveler-friendly destination because of the high rate of armed robberies, theft, murder, and other types of crimes.

But, if you’re planning to go anyway, here are some useful tips, both for traveling alone and with your family.

Tips for Traveling Alone

  • Travel with larger groups or join organized tours
  • Stay away from dangerous or gang-ridden areas, especially at night
  • Don’t flaunt or show off your valuables, like technology, jewelry, or cash
  • Don’t use the ATM in a forlorn place or during the night
  • Don’t try to acquire drugs, as it can put you in contact with the local gangs
  • Avoid consuming alcohol
  • Don’t go into unauthorized taxis (legit taxis have green license plates)
  • Be particularly careful if you’re a woman, since assaults based on gender and sexual assault are frequently reported in Belize.

Tips for Traveling With Your Family

  • Keep an eye on your children at all times. Kidnapping is not very frequent in Belize, but you should be more cautious when traveling nonetheless.
  • Avoid using public transportation while traveling with your family. It’s best to rent a car.
  • Bring a first aid kit

Public Transportation Safety in Belize

Public Transportation in Belize

Public transportation is generally unreliable and unsafe in Belize.

Here’s what the Government of Canada advises on using different public transport options in Belize:

  • Stay away from public buses: they’re unreliable, not commonly used, unsafe, and lack maintenance.
  • Taxis are also unsafe and should be avoided. Registered taxis have green license plates, while private vehicles (which may pose like taxis) have white license plates. Both of them may not have meters. There are also no taxi apps in Belize.
  • Ferries are mainly used for traveling between the cayes. You should be extra attentive and cautious while traveling with them and avoid boarding ferries that are untrustworthy and overcrowded. The best way to stay safe is to stick to well-known companies, such as San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi, Caye Caulker Water Taxi, Ocean Ferry Belize, Tropic Ferry, and Requena’s Charter Service.

Hospital/Medical Care Quality in Belize

Good health services and reliable hospitals are rare in Belize.

The Government of Canada gives a short but apt summary of the medical care quality in Belize:

“Medical facilities are under equipped. They may lack medical supplies and adequately trained professionals. Private hospitals may be better equipped and provide better healthcare. They are mostly located in Belize City. There are none in rural areas.”

An important note is that most reliable hospitals in Belize are private.

Luckily, most hospitals (both private and public) are affordable, just keep in mind you may be expected to pay in cash.

It’s recommended that you get medical insurance before you even leave your home country.

Here’s an overview of the medical facilities in Belize in the major cities or administrative areas, courtesy of the Government of the UK,

Belize District

  • Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital
  • Belize Medical Associates
  • Belize Health Care Partners Limited
  • Belize Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Centre
  • Buttonwood Bay Medical & Cardiology Centre

The Cayes

Corozal

  • Corozal Community Hospital
  • Elinai’s Pediatric Clinic
  • Five Rivers Medical Clinic

Belmopan

  • Western Regional Hospital
  • St Luke Medical Center
  • Belmopan Medical Center
  • Garden City Medical Center

San Ignacio / Santa Elena

  • San Ignacio Hospital
  • La Loma Luz Adventist Hospital

Orange Walk district

  • Northern Regional Hospital
  • Northern Medical Specialty Plaza
  • Dialisis de Belice
  • Clinica Nueva Esperanza

Stann Creek district

  • Southern Regional Hospital

Toledo district

  • Punta Gorda Hospital

Stay Safe!

Unfortunately, Belize is not a safe travel destination. Before we wrap up, let’s do a quick recap of the main takeaways.

Belize has very high crime rates: petty theft, mugging, robberies, assault, gang violence, and other types of crime are an everyday thing in this country. It also has a really big problem with organized crime, gang activity, and drugs, and although most of the violence happens between gang members and criminals, tourists can be collateral damage if they are in the wrong place and time.

While most travel advisories recommend avoiding non-essential travel to some parts of Belize, if you do need to go, heed their advice and keep your eyes open.

About Susan Laurent
Susan Laurent
I'm passionate about world cultures, travel, and discovering amazing new places. I've spent years traveling the globe, very often alone, so I focus on providing important information about travel safety to travelers that I've gathered from first-hand experience.
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