Perfectly positioned between the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Sea and the tropical jungles of Central America, Belize has a wealth of diverse cultures and a variety of languages including Spanish and Kriol. Among the 300,000 inhabitants, visitors will come across an eclectic melange of ethnic groups from ancient Mayan descendants to Chinese and even East Indian. Thanks to British colonial roots, the country’s official first language is in fact English. Belize is also renowned for having a wealth of flora and fauna featuring the Belize Barrier Reef. Travellers will have the opportunity to take advantage of the breath-taking Mayan ruins, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving or just sit back and admire more than 570 different species of birds fly by.
Belize has a mainly tropical microclimate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The rainy season runs between May and November whereas the dry season takes place between February and May. Watch out for the hurricane period between June and November. The ideal time to visit Belize is either in February or March, when coastal temperatures reach a mildness of 25 degrees.
Visitors can enjoy an assorted mix of local Belizean dishes that takes its inspiration Mexican and Western Caribbean cookery. Staple ingredients include rice and beans with a splash of coconut milk that can often be eaten alongside various meats from veal to pork and chicken. This is finished off with delicately fried plantain for that truly authentic local taste. Travellers might even spot one of the more unusual ingredients on the menu, such as venison and armadillo meat. One of the most popular and traditional Belizean dishes includes conch soup, which contains a mixture of okra, potatoes, cassava flour, yams, and a dash of habanero. More than 1,000 islands are located in Belize.
In addition to seeing incredible wildlife and tropical seas, people often visit Belize to set up offshore businesses.The International Business Company (IBC) Act was ratified during the 1990s. It transformed Belize into an offshore jurisdiction with zero tax, where businesses and sole entrepreneurs could choose to register their offshore company. The Belize IBC Act has played a major part in the country’s tourism and economy, so much so that by now, more than 147,000 offshore companies are registered here in Belize. Currently, Belize has an extremely high rating as far as offshore jurisdiction is concerned. Furthermore, companies choosing to register in the country enjoy the quickest registration around the globe, usually just a few hours. Belize offshore companies enjoy zero tax and no reporting at all. Belize is fast becoming the supreme company setup hotspot, offering organisations a number of offshore plans featuring trusts law, a wealth of free zones, and investment incentive schemes.
Currency:Belize Dollar (BZ$), fixed exchange rate of BZ$2 to US$1
Ethnic Groups: Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese and Eastern Indian
Population: 340,844 (July 2014 est.)
Total Area: 22,966 sq. km
Independence: September 21, 1981
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy, part of the British Commonwealth
Language: English is the official language; Spanish, Creole, Garifuna and Mayan are also spoken
Electricity:110 volts AC. (The same as the United States of America)
Time: GMT-6, which is the same as United States Central Standard Time. However, Daylight Savings Time is not observed, as it is in the United States Central Standard Time Zone.
Climate: Subtropical with a prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The country has an average temperature in the winter of 23 degree Celsius (°C) and 31 degree Celsius (°C) in the summer. Rainfall: Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the north to 170 inches in the south.
Location: Belize lies on the east coast of Central America in the heart of the Caribbean Basin. It borders Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and the south, and is flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the east. It is a two hour direct flight from either Miami or Houston in the United States.
Visas: United States citizens and nationals of the European Community member nations do not require visas for short stays in the country. Visas are required for the nationals of the following countries: China, Columbia, Cuba, India, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, and Taiwan.
To obtain a visitor’s permit: An application must be submitted to the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department in Belmopan, Cayo District, Belize. (Telephone: +501-822-2423) Visa requirements are subject to change; please contact the Belize Embassy in the United States for up-to-date information, at 2535 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008-2826, USA. (Telephone: 202-332-9636 Ext. 221)
Entry Requirements: A valid passport and, when necessary, a visa are required for entry into Belize. Visitors are permitted to stay in Belize for up to 30 days. For US$25.00, extensions may be granted upon application to the Immigration Office. (Telephone: +501-822-2423)
Health Services:There are three hospitals in Belize City; one public and two private. Several private doctors are also available. The district towns and larger villages also have hospitals or clinics.
Water: Potable water is available in most areas of Belize, but it is advisable to ask, and if in doubt, to drink boiled or bottled water.
Diseases: There are no serious epidemic diseases in Belize. No vaccinations are required for entry, but anti-malaria tablets are recommended for extended stays in the jungle.