Inside Belize: First Impressions
I didn’t know much about Belize when I got the invite to visit the country, but I went anyway. I was glad I did.
Belize is located in Central America about two hours flight from Miami.
It’s a small country the size of the state of Massachusetts but not as densely populated. It has a total population of only 365,000. By comparison, Boston alone, the capital of Massachusetts, has a population of 670,000.
Belize reminds me of the Philippines where I grew up. It makes me feel right at home.
In July, it’s sweltering hot with the temperature in the 90s and relative humidity of 75 percent. And when it rains, it’s like water pouring from huge buckets in the sky.
Like the Philippines, the scenery is a smorgasbord of old and modern structures, narrow streets, paved and unpaved roads, green landscapes, and beaches to enjoy.
If there’s a difference, it’s the absence of tricycles, the motorized version of the pedicab, which serve as a common means of public transportation in my native country.
The Belizean dollar is the official currency but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted as well. One U.S. dollar equals to two Belizean dollar. When shopping or dining out, the prices can be listed with the $ sign. It’s for your benefit to ask if they’re in Belizean dollar or U.S. dollar to avoid confusion. When paying in U.S. dollar, the change will be in Belizean dollar.
Most businesses in Belize appear to be the Mom and Pop variety. It doesn’t have malls or department stores that we’re accustomed to in the U.S. or Singapore. It doesn’t have fast-food chains either. I find it quite amusing, however, that Belizeans are bombarded by MacDonald’s ads and the likes on local and cable TV channels through American programs that they air. Could it be part of conditioning the country for future invasion? We’ll have to wait and see.
Belize is a former British colony previously known as British Honduras. It’s the only English-speaking country in Central America. In addition to its low cost of living and laid back nature, it must be one of the reasons why some folks from Europe, Canada and the U.S. have chosen to settle here.
Belize is a tropical paradise. However, don’t let its beauty lulls you into believing it’s a safe place. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Belize has the world’s third highest murder rate with 44.7 murders per 100,000 of the population. That being said, there’s no place in the world where you can feel totally safe. You’ll do fine in Belize and enjoy the good things that the country has to offer as long as you don’t act naive and hold your guard down.