Belize- Consular Information Sheet
April 2, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Belize is a developing country. Tourism
facilities vary in quality, from business class hotels in the
old capital of Belize City, to comfortable ecotourism lodges,
to very basic accommodations.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens need a passport valid
for duration of stay. U.S. citizens do not need visas for tourist
visits up to thirty days, but they must have onward or return
air tickets and proof of sufficient funds. Visitors for other
purposes must obtain a visa. Additional information on entry and
customs requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Belize
at 2535 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone
(202) 332-9636. Information is also available at the Belizean
Consulate in Miami or at the Belizean Mission to the UN in New
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Local and international water taxis
do not always carry sufficient safety equipment, may carry an
excess number of passengers and may sail in inclement weather.
Travelers should exercise caution when using water taxis.
The border between Belize and Guatemala is in dispute, but the
dispute thus far has not affected travel between the two countries.
CRIME: Crime, including robbery and mugging, continues
to be a problem. Belize City has been the site of more reported
incidents than other areas of the country. While still rare, crimes
against tourists at resorts are on the increase. The incidence
of such crimes as theft, burglary and pickpocketing rises around
the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Although rape is not
a common occurrence, several American female travelers were the
victims of assaults and rape in 2000, usually after accepting
rides from strangers.
To minimize the risk of being targeted, visitors should travel
in groups, keep valuables out of sight, avoid wearing jewelry,
and avoid going out at night.
Armed robberies have been reported near the western border with
Guatemala. Americans visiting the border area should not travel
alone, and should travel only during daylight hours. Vehicles
should be in good operating condition, adequately fueled, and
carry communications equipment, if possible.
The ability of the police to investigate crimes adequately and
apprehend serious offenders suffers from a lack of resources and
training. As a result, a number of murders of Americans remains
unresolved. Nonetheless, victims of crime should report immediately
to the police all incidents of assault, robbery, theft or other
crimes. Visitors may contact the Belizean tourist police unit
as well as the main police office for assistance.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad,
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Belize is a hurricane-prone country.
The coastal islands of Belize, which are low-lying and lack high
ground, are particularly vulnerable to direct hits by hurricanes
and tropical storms. The islands have been cut off from communications
and assistance during previous hurricanes. Extensive flooding
as a result of storm activity is common both on the islands and
in areas of the country not directly affected by hurricanes. General
information about natural disaster preparedness is available via
the Internet from the
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is limited, and severe
injuries or illness requiring emergency care may require evacuation
to another country.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur.
Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the
CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Belize is provided for general reference only,
and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Valid U.S. driver's licenses and international driving permits
are accepted in Belize for a period of three months after entry.
Buses and private vehicles are the main mode of transportation
in Belize; no trains operate in the country. There are no emergency
numbers to call when serious problems are encountered, and there
are very few public telephones along the road. The Belizean Department
of Transportation is responsible for road safety.
Roads in Belize vary from two-lane paved roads to dirt tracks.
Most are high-crowned roads, which can contribute to cars overturning.
The Manatee Road, leading from the Western Highway to Dangriga
is easily flooded after storms. The Southern Highway from Dangriga
to Punta Gorda is under construction, and sections are in poor
Poor road and/or vehicle maintenance cause many fatal accidents
on Belizean roads. Driving at night is not recommended, due to
poor signage, a tendency not to dim the lights when approaching
other vehicles, and drunk driving.
Service stations are plentiful along the major roads, and most
villages have at least one service station nearby. For safety
reasons, travelers should not stop to offer assistance to others
whose vehicles have apparently broken down.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are
55 miles per hour on most highways and 25 miles per hour on most
other roads, but they are seldom obeyed or posted. Seatbelts for
drivers and front-seat passengers are mandatory, but child car
seats are not required. There are very few motorcycles, but bicycles
are numerous and constitute a traffic hazard at all times. Driving
while intoxicated is punishable by a fine; if an alcohol-related
accident results in a fatality, the driver may face manslaughter
Local traffic customs include: stopping in the middle of the road
to talk to someone while blocking traffic, pulling to the far
right in order to make a left turn, and tailgating at high speeds.
For additional information about road travel in Belize, please
U.S. Embassy home page at http://www.usembassy.state.gov/belize.
For additional general information about road safety, including
links to foreign government sites, please see the Department
Of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at http://travel.state.gov/road
safety.html. For specific information concerning drivers' permits,
vehicle requirements, and insurance in Belize, please e-mail
the U.S. Embassy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Belize's civil aviation authority
as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation
safety standards for the oversight of Belize's air carrier operations.
While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, the
Belizean air carriers currently flying to the United States will
be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights
or new service to the United States by Belize's air carriers will
be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted
by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety
standards. For further information, travelers may contact the
Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone
1-800-322-7873, or visit
the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some
foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air
services. In addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to
use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business
except for flights originating from or terminating in the United
States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding
the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the
DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Penalties for possession of unlicensed
firearms or unlicensed ammunition are strict, including high fines
and mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders. U.S. citizens
contemplating bringing firearms or ammunition into Belize should
contact the Belizean Embassy for additional information.
Individuals and organizations must obtain a permit to possess
pre-Columbian artifacts. Permits are not granted for the export
or sale of such artifacts. The possession, sale or export of artifacts,
or the attempt to sell or export artifacts, carries stiff fines
and jail sentences. Individuals in possession of such artifacts
have been arrested and fined.
Individuals and organizations must obtain a Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit to collect, possess
and/or export certain plants, animals and plant and animal products.
Failure to obtain the proper permits can result in confiscation
of the item and imposition of fines and jail sentences.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Belizean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal
drugs in Belize are strict, and convicted offenders can expect
jail sentences and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: It is not possible to access U.S.
bank accounts through automated teller machines (ATMs) in Belize.
Travelers, however, can obtain cash advances from local banks,
Monday through Friday, using major international credit cards.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Belize are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy in Belize City and obtain updated
information on travel and security in Belize. The U.S. Embassy
is located at the intersection of Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street
in Belize City; telephone 011 (501) 2-77161/62/63. The Embassy
is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except
for the 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. lunch hour.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September
14, 1999, to update the sections on Crime, Aviation Safety Oversight,
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, to add information on Disaster
Preparedness, and to delete Y2K information.