|Belize Tourist Board
83 North Front Street, POB 325,
Belize City, Belize (Central America)
Tel: (501) 277 213, Fax: (501) 277 430
Physical geographyBelize is located on the east coast of Central America, south of the Republic of Mexico and east and north of the Republic of Guatemala. The full length of the eastern coastline is washed by the Caribbean Sea. The country lies between 16° and 18° north latitude and 86° and 88° west longitude and covers an area of 8,866 square miles which includes 266 square miles of cayes (islets) which dot the sea offshore.
North of Belize City the country is mostly flat; to the southwest the land rises up to 3,000 feet to the mountain range called the Maya Mountains. Except for savannah and swamp land, mainly along the coastal area, the country is forested throughout, the dominant type of forest being the mixed hardwood forest in which mahogany, cedar and sapodilla grow. Alternating with these forests and mostly confined to flat regions are extensive tracts of pine groves. Most of the coastal regions, including the cayes, are covered with mangrove.
ClimateThe climate is sub-tropical with temperatures varying on the coast from 50° to 96°F, usually tempered by trade winds. The inland temperature range is greater with cool nights.
Rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the north to 170 inches in the south. The rainy season is usually between June and August and the dry season from February to May. At the end of October the weather becomes cooler and between November and February is pleasant with showers. Average humidity is 85 per cent.
Economic geographyBelize's partners in development consist of a number of government and international development agencies. These include multilateral agencies such as the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); bilateral agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Government, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Taiwan Government and Mexico. The economic co-operation programme which complements and forms an integral part of Belize's National Development Plan assists in guiding Belize's development efforts from year to year.
The economy of Belize was traditionally based on forestry, mainly the export of logwood, mahogany and chicle. The country's economy is now based on agricultural development. But in recent years there has been a resurgence in forestry.
The main exports are sugar, citrus, bananas, fish products (mainly lobster), timber and garments.
Dairy farming is growing in importance and the livestock industry continues to grow.
Several oil companies hold exploration or prospecting licences. Oil was discovered in the north of the country in 1981, but not in commercial quantities.
Tax concessions and other incentives encourage the development and diversification of manufacturing industries which include clothing and textiles for export, plywood and veneer manufacturing, matches, beer, rum, soft drinks, furniture, boat building and battery assembly.
Exports in 1991 totalled Bz$197.1 and imports were BzS441.2 million. As of 31 December 1992 exports totalled Bz$231. 1 million while imports were at Bz$492.7 million. As of 1 September 1993 - exports - 158,777,833, imports - 426,518,428 and for the same period in 1992 exports - 182,406,283 and imports - 410,658,754.
DemographyThe present population of Belize is about 250,000 with a greater portion of the people concentrated around the urban areas and the main towns. The average density of population is around 16 persons per square mile.
A brief historyThe Mayan civilisation - which excelled in architecture, astronomy, agriculture and the arts - flourished here for several centuries BC until around 1000 AD. Some Mayan occupation was still in existence up to the beginning of European colonisation in the 17th century.
Disputes with the Spaniards over territorial sovereignty reached a turning point in 1798 when a Spanish invasion force was routed in an engagement off St. George's Caye. The settlement became a colony in 1862, universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1954 and self-government was achieved in 1961. Britain has agreed to grant independence whenever this is required by the national government.
ReligionsMost Christian denominations are represented here. Among the larger groups are Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists. There is complete freedom of religion.
Languages spoken by nationalsEnglish is the official language. Spanish, Creole and other dialects are widely spoken.
Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)1 January, New Year - 9 March, Baron Bliss Day - 13-16 April, Good Friday through Easter Monday - 1 May, Labour Day - 24 May - 10 September, St George's Caye Day -12 October, Columbus Day - 19 November, Carifuna Settlement Day - 25 December, Christmas Day - 26 December, Boxing Day.
What one should not fail to seeBelmopan (50 miles west of Belize City) - The new capital of the country built because, due to the lowness of Belize City, it is very much exposed to hurricanes. The new Capital is built inland and on higher grounds.
Belize City - If you are around you might see the daily swinging of the Swing Bridge in the centre of the city (built in 1923).
St. John Cathedral - The oldest Anglican Cathedral (1826) in Central America. It was in this cathedral that the kings of the Mosquito Coast were crowned.
The Cayes - Over 200 beautiful tropical cayes (islets) lie off the coast of the country providing beautiful beaches.
The Barrier Reef - The second largest barrier reef in the world, with crystal clear water providing excellent opportunities for scuba diving and skin diving; and within the sheltered waters of the reef some of the best swimming and fishing grounds.
The Maya Ruins - Xunantunich (80 miles west of Belize City) ancient Mayan archaeological site going back in history more than 14,000 years.
Altun Ha (301/2 miles from Belize City). - the most extensively excavated Mayan site; it was an important ceremonial centre of the ancient Mayas and here was found the famous jade head of Kinich Ahau - reputed to be the largest carved jade of this era ever found.
Many more unexcavated ruins are scattered over the country.
Blue Hole - Mysterious underwater cave with fascinating forms of marine life. Jacques Cousteau, world-renowned oceanographer, did extensive explorations here.
Mountain Pineridge - The high elevation, coniferous forest with numerous mountain fed streams and falls - the abundance of wild life, orchids, birds, caves makes the Mountain Pineridge an attractive destination for nature lovers.
Placencia Resort Area - A mainland resort with miles of the finest quality beaches covered with coconut palms. Sea bathing fishing offshore or in the lagoon behind, or hunting in the foothill of the nearby mountain range are the big attractions.
San Antonio Village - A beautiful Maya Indian Village to the south of the country where the inhabitants still retain most of their primitive ways of life.
St Hermans Cave - This cave is part of a vast cave system which exists in the hilly limestone area of the country with beautiful underground streams and evidence of use by the ancient Mayas.
Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touringOctober to May.
How to dressLight informal tropical clothing is recommended except for hunting trips. 'Short shorts' should be reserved for beach areas.
Main holiday resortsSan Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Glovers Reef, Placencia, Mountain Pineridge Area.
Main holiday sportsFishing, swimming, scuba diving, hunting, or one may watch horse racing, boxing, football, soft ball or boat racing.
What to eat and drinkEuropean, American, Oriental and local dishes are available. Go into any restaurant and ask for a 'rice and beans and chicken' or a dish of cow foot soup, conch soup, or a Spanish dish like Rellene or Escaboche. Popular drinks are available in the many bars around the country.
What to buySouvenirs at reasonable prices are available in hardwood: boats, fishes, birds, bowls, etc; straw, ceramics, conch shells, baroque jewellery and jewellery of gold or silver with black coral, pearls of Belizean origin.
Passports and visasFor Canadian, US or British visitors no visa or passport required. Simple form of identification accepted. Other visitors may obtain permits from the nearest British Embassy.
Health regulationsAll visitors must have a valid certificate of inoculation against smallpox except citizens of Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Salvador and the USA.
CustomsApart from used personal effects visitors are allowed one bottle perfume, one bottle of liquor and 200 cigarettes. Customs duty may be levied according to the nature and value of the goods to be declared and if the said goods will remain or be consumed in the country.
Currency regulationsThere is no currency regulation for entering Belize except that one should have sufficient funds to cover period of stay (minimum US$50 per day). The Belize Central Bank monitors the flow of currency out of the country, but does not have any real restriction on the amount.
Main travel routesA scheduled Bus Service links all the main district towns with Belize City. Daily boat service links Belize City with the two major cayes. Local airways link Belize City with all main towns and the Island of San Pedro, Caye Caulker.
List of representatives abroadUSA: Belize Tourist Board, 421 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1110, New York, NY 10001, Tel: 1 800 624 0686, Fax: 212 563 6033
Germany: Belize Tourist Board, Bopserwald str 40 G, D- 70184 Stuttgart, Germany, Tel/fax: (49 711) 233947.