If you’ve visited Belize in the past you probably have this image of a slow and simple Caribbean paradise, and the vast majority of the country remains that way. But specifically in and around Belize City in 2007 there has been a murder spree that visitors should be aware of. News keeps coming of multiple bodies turning up after bloody weekends, with one recent report of 6 murders discovered in two days. For a country with fewer than 300,000 people, these are sad and significant numbers.
A huge percentage of this violence is happening in Belize City and its neighboring districts. Even though most visitors do come and go from the former capital, the city doesn’t really offer much as a destination itself. There are strips of large hotels and small resorts located on the coast outside the city, and visitors shouldn’t have to worry staying in those areas. The main caution should be for anyone who is curious about staying in the heart of Belize City on their own.
Many of the worst problems involving innocent victims recently have involved groups entering banks and other shops, and overpowering or shooting the security guard. After that happens everyone around is in obvious danger so one cannot be too careful when entering a business where things don’t seem right.
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The United States Embassy in Belmopan has issued a one-page downloadable pdf file with specific tips on how to avoid most of the danger. You can download the document yourself if you are considering spending time in Belize City, but just to sum it up:
- If you are about to enter a bank or store or gas station, look closely to see if anything looks strange. If something seems wrong it probably is.
- Don’t visit the portion of the city south of the river, especially at night or alone. The exception is daytime visits to downtown or to the Swing Bridge area.
- Be very careful around the Embassy area. (Note – The US Embassy moved from Belize City to Belmopan late in 2006 so there is no reason for Americans to visit this area anymore.)
- If you are being robbed it’s usually wise to give up your possessions. And with that in mind, travel with as few valuables as you can.
- Traveling in groups, acting conservatively, and being aware of your surroundings are the best ways to stay safe.