LOCATION: At latitude approximately 17 degrees North, Belize is the northernmost country in Central America. Bordered on the South and West by Guatemala, the North by Mexico, and the East by the Caribbean Sea, Belize is approximately 200 miles from North to South and 100 miles East to West, or approximately the size of Massachusetts.
CLIMATE: The climate of Belize is sub-tropical with temperatures averaging around 80 degrees throughout the year. Lows during winter months rarely drop below 70 and highs during the warmest months are only occasionally above 100. April and May tend to be the warmest months and “cold fronts” in the late fall or early winter generally bring the coolest temperatures.
TERRAIN: Belize is a small but very diverse. Much of the coast is covered by mangrove forest which provides important protection from storms and erosion. Inland, much of Belize consists of tropical rainforest. Victoria Peak, in the Maya Mountains, is the highest point at approximately 3,000 feet. Along the coast of Belize are nearly a thousand islands, locally called “cayes”, as well as three of only four coral atolls in this hemisphere.
BRIEF HISTORY OF BELIZE: Belize was once the center of the Mayan civilization which flourished until around AD 1000. In the classical period of the Maya, between 300 and 900 AD, Belize is thought to have been occupied by as many as 2,000,000 people. Several important Mayan archaeological sites, including Xunantunich, Caracol, Lamani, Altun Ha and Cahal Pech are located in Belize.
The first European settlement in Belize was established by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. British settlers included buccaneers (pirates) who continuously harassed Spanish ships for their riches of gold and silver. These settlers called themselves “Baymen” in reference to the Bay of Honduras.
Logwood, and subsequently mahogany, became important exports from British Honduras and for centuries, Spain and Great Britain fought over the right to settle this area. The British eventually prevailed in 1798 when the Spanish were defeated by the “Baymen” in the Battle of St. George’s Caye.
Devastating hurricanes struck British Honduras in 1931 and 1961. Following Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the capital of Belize was moved from Belize City to Belmopan.
In 1973, British Honduras became known as Belize, and in 1981 Belize gained independence from England, although it remains a member of the British Commonwealth.
PEOPLE AND POPULATION: Substantially the least densely populated country in Central America with only 280,000 inhabitants; Belize is a magical “melting pot” of races, cultures and nationalities. The indigenous people of Belize are the Maya and Mayan remains the principle language of a number of villages in Southern Belize. Spanish and English influences are obvious and the largest population group in Belize is Creole (a mixture of Africans and Europeans). Garifunas (African Caribs), Mestizos (Spanish and Indian), Hispanic, African, East Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Mennonite and several other groups make up the diverse population of Belize.
GOVERNMENT: Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize became an independent country on September 21, 1981. Belize has a democratically elected parliamentary government and is a member of the British Commonwealth.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Environmental Protection: Belize has been a leader in environmental protection with with nearly one third of the country under National Park or some other protected status.
CURRANCY: Local currency is the Belize dollar which is pegged to the US dollar at two Belizean dollars for one US Dollar. US dollars are readily accepted in Belize.
LANGUAGE: The official language is English and but most people speak at least one other language including Creole (the local patois), Spanish, Mayan or Garifuna.
TIME ZONE: Belize is in the Central Time Zone but the country does not observe daylight-saving time. As a result, Belize is the same as Mountain Daylight Time during summer months.
GETTING TO BELIZE:: International airline service is available at Phillip Goldson International Airport in Ladyville, on the outskirts of Belize City. Local airline carriers including Tropic Air, Maya Island Air and Javier Flying Services provide excellent connections throughout the country.
International connections are available from the following cities on the following carriers.
Atlanta, GA- Delta Airlines
Charlotte, NC - U.S. Airways
Chicago - United
Dallas, TX – American
Houston, TX - United, Southwest and TACA
Los Angeles, CA - United
Miami, FL - American Airlines
Newark, NJ - United
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for entry to Belize; however, a visa is not required for citizens of the United States, Mexico or Costa Rica as well as members of the European Union, the British Commonwealth or the Caricom nations.
For further information on visa entry requirements to Belize please visit the Belize Tourism Board website by clicking the following link http://www.travelbelize.org/immigration.html#visa
EXIT REQUIREMENTS: An exit tax of $37.50 US per person is payable when leaving Belize. This is often included in your airline ticket.