Whether it’s relaxing on a picturesque beach, exploring Mayan ruins, or snorkeling the world’s second longest barrier reef, you’ll discover that Belize is full of amazing and adventurous things to do. The country is one of the most unique destinations in Central America and among my favorite countries in the region. It’s also where I did my first solo backpacking trip and, since that first trip, I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent there.
From the Latin culture of the interior to the Caribbean Rasta vibe of the coast to the old English feel of some of the islands, Belize is a mash-up of vibrant and historic cultures.
The country is popular with backpackers, vacationers, dive enthusiasts, and honeymooners alike, offering something for every travel style and interest.
And tourism is on the rise, too.
In 2018, Belize saw an all-time high of 1.5 million visitors — which is a lot for a country of just over 400,00 people! Tourism will no doubt continue to increase here as Belize is one of the safest countries in the area to visit.
But just because it’s safe doesn’t mean you can let your guard down fully. Here are some tips to help you stay safe during your visit:
1. Avoid isolated areas – If you’re somewhere isolated, you’ll be at a greater risk for getting robbed, especially at night and in the cities. Try to stay where the crowds are — that’s the best way to avoid being singled out by potential muggers.
2. Be aware of your surroundings while in crowds – While sticking to where the crowds will help you avoid getting mugged, it will also make you a target for petty theft. Tourists are usually easy targets for pickpockets, so when you are in the popular tourist areas make sure your valuables are secure.
3. Don’t wear flashy items – Petty theft is the most common threat here, so remove any jewelry or watches, and don’t wave your phone around. Do your best to blend in, so you don’t become a target for pickpockets. If you happen to find yourself a victim of armed robbery, follow the instructions of the robber and give up your valuables; these material items can be replaced — but your life cannot. (I learned this lesson the hard way in Colombia.)
4. Don’t leave your items unattended – If you are spending the day on the beaches of Placencia Peninsula, Hopkins Village, or Caye Caulker, do not leave your belongings unattended while swimming or walking along the sand, as locals and tourists alike can easily swipe your valuables. If you can, find friends at your hostel to hit the beach with so you can take turns watching over each other’s things while you swim and relax.
5. Avoid the bus at night – If you need to get somewhere at night, take a taxi. It will be safer than any public transportation. Have your accommodation call the taxi for you so you can be sure you’re getting a reputable driver. Make sure you get in a taxi with a green license plate, as those indicate authorized taxis. If you’re a solo female traveler, make sure you travel with other people at night (even in taxis).
6. Be careful on public transit – If you must take public transit, keep your valuables on you and well secured, especially on “chicken buses” (colorfully decorated school buses that have been converted to public transportation for goods and people). Theft is common on night buses, so avoid them if you can. (Buses also tend to not run on time, and sometimes they are extremely slow, packed, or both. Be prepared for the experience!)
7. Don’t do drugs – Cartels in Belize have made life very difficult for the local population. Don’t support them by buying their products. Drug penalties are also harsh in the region, and you don’t want to end up in jail!
8. Stick to the touristy parts of Belize City – Belize City (the largest city) has some sketchy neighborhoods that unfortunately have been taken over by local gangs. There are areas, however, that are relatively safe, such as the main tourist part of town. If you don’t wander too far from there, you should be fine.
9. Buy travel insurance – Travel insurance will protect you if you get injured or ill, are a victim of theft, or must deal with delayed or canceled flights. It’s a worthwhile investment and can save you thousands of dollars. Don’t risk traveling without it. I always buy travel insurance before I leave home — a lesson I’ve learned the hard way!