Belize is an increasingly popular eco-tourism destination with beautiful jungles and islands drawing throngs of visitors each year. While the Caribbean islands of Belize are some of the safest places to visit, crime can be a serious problem in this Central American nation. Learn what areas in Belize to avoid and what safety precautions to implement to ensure a happy and trouble-free visit.
- The U.S. State Department suggests increased caution in Belize due to crime and urges people to reconsider travel to the country because of COVID-19.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that travelers should avoid Belize since the country has very high levels of COVID-19. Anyone who must travel needs to take a COVID-19 test one to three days before their trip.
- Canada urges travelers to exercise a significant degree of caution in Belize due to a high rate of violent crime throughout the country.
Is Belize Dangerous?
Belize is a small country that has been continually named one of the worst five countries in the world for homicides, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Additional violent crimes like home invasions, armed robberies, and sexual assaults take place regularly, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. Gang violence—largely centered on Belize City—is a big part of the problem. The south side of Belize City, in particular, should be avoided at all times. Dangers in tourist areas mainly consist of burglary, pickpocketing, and hotel room theft. While crimes against visitors are taken seriously, the police force in Belize is typically understaffed and poorly equipped, so their ability to respond is limited.
However, many travelers enjoy trips without incidents, especially in the Caribbean islands off the coast of Belize, which have much less frequent and generally non-violent crimes of opportunity. Such misdeeds often target tourists or more affluent long-term residents. There have been a few high-profile murders of tourists and expatriates.
Cruise ship visitors disembarking for a few hours while at the port have been targeted by scammers. The criminals offer to sell drugs and then set the person up for arrest and payment of a substantial fine to secure release. Purchasing illegal drugs in Belize will subject visitors to heavy penalties and jail time.
Is Belize Safe for Solo Travelers?
Belize is easy to navigate, which usually helps solo travelers enjoy safe journeys. But anyone exploring on their own should be street smart, keeping a watchful eye out when in both rural and metropolitan locations. To avoid being targeted, always travel in safe areas, take main streets, and be aware of your surroundings. Don't go out alone at night and stay away from dark side streets. Those who do venture out at night should take a registered taxi rather than walking. If you go hiking, join a group and make sure any guides are experienced and from a reputable company.
Is Belize Safe for Female Travelers?
While women with sufficient travel experience may feel comfortable to explore Belize on their own, it is not recommended, even if accompanied by another female companion. Sexual assaults can occur, and sexual harassment such as catcalling and stares are common in the country, especially on the beaches and islands. Don't hitchhike or accept taxi rides with other passengers unknown to you, and be especially cautious in taxis as sexual harassment by the drivers has been reported.
Limit excessive alcohol and always keep an eye on your food and drinks. Don't accept snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from people you don't know. These strangers may lace your items with drugs that put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Homosexuality became legal in Belize only as recently as 2016. Because the country is conservative—even the younger generations—it serves LGBTQ+ tourists to be cautious. Verbal or physical abuse and harassment may take place. Choose accommodations carefully and be discreet in most situations, including with public displays of affection. Travelers may not find many gay bars or clubs in Belize, but resorts host some LGBTQ+ friendly events. San Pedro in Ambergris Caye is said to be the most gay-friendly spot in Belize, with ample nightlife opportunities during the high season.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Most of the population of this Central American country is multiracial, and with diversity the norm, BIPOC travelers can typically expect friendliness and warmth from the locals. Tourists can also enjoy a culturally rich experience learning about the families who grew up here. More than half the people are a mix of mostly indigenous Mayan and European roots. Belizeans also have Creole (descendants of Africans), East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and North American heritage.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Here are additional general tips all travelers may consider:
- Should you need emergency medical attention, Belize City has the only two major hospitals considered adequate by U.S. standards and equipped to handle serious problems: Belize Medical Associates and Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Dial 911 nationwide or 90 in Belize City in case of an emergency.
- Store valuables and cash in a secure location such as a hotel safe and never have these items visible inside a parked car. Keep important items out of reach of outsiders while driving.
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Refrain from dressing in a manner that displays or indicates wealth.
- Beware of pickpockets. Keep wallets and cash in front pant pockets, and hold small purses closely in front of you.
- The door to your hotel or accommodation should be secured at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
- Travelers are advised to avoid buses in Belize.
- Drive with extreme caution, even on major streets, and avoid night trips. Road conditions are generally very poor and may be hazardous. Ensure that you have a cell phone, spare tire, and other emergency equipment—even some non-perishable food. Travel with more than one vehicle, if possible.
- It is vital to look both ways when crossing the street in Belize as vehicles do not yield to pedestrians.
- Carefully cross the borders into Guatemala or Mexico. Only use officially recognized border crossings and avoid night travel.
U.S. Department of State. "Belize Travel Advisory." October 5, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COVID-19 in Belize." December 2, 2020.
Government of Canada. "Official Global Travel Advisories." November 27, 2020.
Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Belize 2020 Crime & Safety Report." March 27, 2020.