Crime in Belize: What Travelers Need to Know

Like its Central American neighbours, Belize endures that same anywhere-but-the-main-city reputation. Some of it's overblown, some of it is spot-on. But there's no denying that Belize City is where most of the ugliness happens.

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Violent Crime in Belize

Most violent crime affects rival gangs battling for territory. Few, if any incidents are targeted at foreigners. And when the goons fight, it gets nasty. We're talking frag grenades and assault rifles. In fact, a least a dozen grenades, stolen from the country's military, remain unaccounted for.

The type of crime to most likely affect visitors are muggings and other assaults, which happens mostly at night. This means one thing: take cabs after sunset. Even walking with a group makes you vulnerable to armed thugs. Make sure to only take cabs with green licence plates, and don't share it with strangers.

Most incidents in Belize City occur around George Street and Kraal Road, but it's not a reason to let your guard down anywhere else. If confronted with an assailant, don't resist. A human life doesn't have much value to a criminal, who will think nothing of shooting a victim who doesn't comply.

Petty Crime in Belize

The frequency of minor crimes like theft, burglary, pick-pocketing and purse-snatching tends to spike during spring break and winter holidays, when the tourists pour in. If you're there during that time, be extra cautious.

If you've been anywhere else in Latin America, follow the same golden rule: don't flash your cash. Take only the money you'll use that day and keep documents in a money belt under your clothes.

Due to the frequency of hotel room break-ins, it's not advisable to leave valuables in your room, unless it has a safe. Better to leave it with reception.

Safety Outside of Belize City

When you get out of Belize City, things get much safer, and many travelers report only positive experiences. Thieves do lurk around tourist sites, however, so be vigilant in places like San Pedro in Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Placencia.

The worst threat in these places is the theft of bags on buses. The best prevention is to not leave your bag unattended at the back of a bus.

Sexual Harassment and Drugs in Belize

Less common dangers come in the form of sexual harassers, drug pushers, and predators at archaeological sites. A few people traveling alone or in small groups have fallen victim to sexual assault. One rape was reported when a victim accepted a ride from an acquaintance. Others happened during an armed robbery at a resort and after a night of clubbing. There was one reported death.

The country's people have an easy-going attitude to drug use. Marijuana is everywhere, and peddlers do get annoying after a while. But the authorities don't take it lightly. While possession of up to ten grams of marijuana was legalized in 2017, restrictions still apply regarding where you can smoke it (in your home or in someone else's, with the owner's permission, or in your private accommodations, with the manager's consent). Sale and transport is still illegal.

Archaeological sites are usually well guarded, but the paths between them aren't. There have been a few cases of robbers preying of people walking alone or in small groups between them.

LGBTQ Travel Safety

Finally, a word to LGBTQ travelers: Belizeans are warm and friendly people, and are usually happy to welcome all kinds of travelers. Gay awareness and acceptance is on the rise, but don't expect the same pervasive gay-friendliness of Costa Rica.

Some of the country's more restrictive anti-gay laws were declared unconstitutional in 2016. However, homosexuality is unfortunately deplored by some sectors of society. Do an internet search for LGBTQ-safe spots in Belize before taking off.

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1 Comment

  • Ben said

    Belize City isn't the capital of Belize. Belmopan is.

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