Violent gang related crime sometimes occurs in Belize City and surrounding areas. The violence is related to narcotic trafficking and the struggle for power in the streets. Exercise caution, avoid areas that have obvious amounts of poverty or crime, and Belize can be a very safe and rewarding country.
Belize City is the most dangerous city in Belize, although it's very easy to be safe there. Remain in the tourist zone that runs just north of the marina to the southern extension to the east of the main canal. There are plenty of khaki tourist police monitoring the area, and should you have a problem, feel free to approach them. Be sure to know the police officer. Belize City is known for corrupt police officers. Just exercise common sense and do not go wandering around alone after dark. Stay near tourist areas or other commercial zones.
Other areas of Belize are generally safe as well, but like in other places on the world, one should practice skepticism when dealing with strangers. Most are genuinely helpful, but it never hurts to be cautious. Belize City south side is beautiful as well as dangerous. Otherwise, Belize City is a great place to go if you want to eat, learn or shop.
Belize is a relatively healthy country. Bottled water is a must in most areas. And, unless you eat only at tourist restaurants, dysentery may strike at some point; be prepared with over-the-counter medication and prescription antibiotics as some drugs may be hard to find in Belize particularly outside the major cities.
The CDC lists all of Belize except Belize City as a malaria risk area, and recommends the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Other drugs may also be recommended in certain circumstances - consult a qualified professional specialist.
Dengue Fever is also a risk in many parts of Belize. Dengue Fever is carried by mosquitoes. Some common medications can increase the risks associated with Dengue Fever, therefore if Dengue Fever is suspected, seek prompt medical advice.
Insect/mosquito bites should be prevented with appropriate clothing, repellents and insecticides, and bed nets if sleeping in non-air-con/unscreened rooms.
The sun, as anywhere else in the tropics, is very intense. A hat, high-SPF sunscreen, and sunglasses will serve you well.
Many places in Belize are very hot and humid, and dehydration is a risk. An expat suggests to drink as much water as you want, and then drink that much again.
The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is currently at 2.5% or 1 per 40 adults.
The standard of healthcare is generally poor. So if traveling be sure to buy an insurance policy that includes evacuation in the event of a medical emergency.
As a former British colony the official language of Belize is English, which makes it stand out from its Spanish speaking neighbors. Spanish, Maya, Garifuna Carib, and Belizean Creole are widely spoken in various parts of the country. Many Belizeans speak a mix of Creole and English among friends, and full English to foreigners. The strong Caribbean accent may take some getting used to.
Some Belizeans will code-switch change languages mid-sentence without realizing between English and Creole. As Creole and English sound similar, this can cause some confusion to the listener who doesn't understand why they suddenly can't understand when everything was making sense a minute ago. Drawing the speaker's attention to the fact that you haven't understood, will usually result in some laughter and a switch back to English.
Belizeans place a strong emphasis on the 'o' sound in the word 'two'. Some English accents particularly Australian's may find that their pronunciation of the word 'two' is heard as 'three'. Holding up two fingers, emphasizing the 'ooo' sound and watching to see that sales attendants have understood correctly can help mitigate this confusion.
A great deal of confusion amongst travelers has resulted from Belizeans love of the phrase 'right now'. Contrary to most other English speaking countries, in Belize 'right now' does not mean 'immediately' but rather 'soon' or 'in a minute'.
Belizeans are some of the most socially relaxed people in the world, especially if you venture inland away from the tourist islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The pace of life is generally slower in Belize, so it's good practice to begin any social interaction, even to ask a quick question, with eye contact and a genuinely pleasant greeting. Most rural Belizeans enjoy casual conversation and you could easily find yourself chatting it up for a few hours. Hey, it's part of the charm!
The Maya communities can be a little more reserved at times. As always, a little respect and politeness will carry you through.
In professional settings Belizean's can be very formal and will refer to their colleagues and associates as Miss/Mr Mrs and Ms are rarely used, most married women will be called Miss. Where there is some familiarity the person may be refereed to by their title and first name eg. Miss Julie, instead of Miss Johnston.
The terms "boy" and "girl" "bawi" and "gayl" in Creol are considered highly offensive in many countries, particularly if applied to an adult or a person of African descent. This is not true in Belize where the terms are usually intended in a friendly manner. Whilst travelers unfamiliar with Belizean culture would be ill-advised to use these terms, they should also be aware that they are widely accepted and being called "boy" or "girl" is not considered offensive by Belizeans.
You may also hear women called 'Mammy'. This is a very informal and generally a friendly term used when the speaker doesn't know the woman's name.
Many Belizeans are very religious, with the various Christian religions being the most common. Visitors should be mindful that opinions and ideas which are inconsistent with religious organizations may cause offense.Sundays are considered an important time for relaxation. Most businesses will close on Sundays and many Belizean's will stay home for the day, or leave only for church. Even social events are likely to be low-key.