Belize is physically a small country that can be traveled by car in about five hours (from north to south) as it’s only about the size of the state of Massachusetts. However, the city of Cleveland, Ohio has a larger population than Belize. Belize has Mexico to its northern border, Guatemala to its west and southern border, and the Caribbean Sea to its east.
The people of Belize are wonderfully diverse with Mestizo (Maya and Spanish descendants), Creole (European and African), Maya, Garifuna (African and Arawak’s of Caribbean), East Indians, Chinese, Maya, and the Mennonites.
Belmopan, is the country’s capital and it is considered the world’s smallest capital city. After Hurricane Hattie, in 1961, the capital was moved from Belize City inland, where Belmopan was created as a planned community. The government buildings are designed to resemble that of the Maya pyramids. The name Belmopan is derived from two rivers-Belize and Mopan.
Belize gained its independence from the British in 1981. Belize, formerly British Honduras, is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Just like the people of Belize are diverse, so are the many languages spoken in the country. I get several questions asking if I have learned Spanish yet and I re-iterate with people that everyone speaks English in Belize, just like in the U.S., and English is taught in schools.
However, unlike the U.S., many other languages are spoken in Belize and many people are bilingual. Hopkins, is a Garifuna village, so Garifuna is widely spoken as well. Typically, it is taught and passed on orally. All Garifuna in Belize speak English. There are also Maya and Creole villages, where those languages are spoken, in addition to English. But, Spanish is quite common too, but more in the other areas of Belize than in the Hopkins coast.
Belize is on Central Standard Time and does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
The Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at two to one. $1US=$2BZ. The dollar is accepted everywhere. You can use both U.S. and Belize dollars to pay for something. Cash is preferred, but more places are taking credit cards. ATM cards with no foreign transactions fees are more common than they used to be, so why not save on fees and acquire one before traveling?
Electricity is the same as the U.S. and Canada, so no special plugs and adapters are needed. However, many jungle lodges are “off grid” and do not appreciate energy-draining accessories, like hair dryers and straightening irons. Besides, we find most people enjoy a break from high-maintenance hair days!
To reach the police, dial 911.
Belizeans drive on the right side of the road.
If you are making a left-hand turn, you should pull over to the right and put your left-hand blinker on and wait until the road is clear from both ways before making a left turn. One should not travel the highways at night because they are no lights, reflectors, etc.