Belize Travel Information

Photo Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.

PEOPLE

Belize is the most sparsely populated nation in Central America; it is larger than El Salvador and compares in size to the State of Massachusetts. Slightly more than half of the people live in rural areas. About one-fourth live in Belize City, the principal port, commercial center, and former capital.

Most Belizeans are of multiracial descent. About 46.4% of the population is of mixed Mayan and European descent (Mestizo); 27.7% are of African and Afro-European (Creole) ancestry; about 10% are Mayan; and about 6.4% are Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remainder, about 9.5%, includes European, East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and North American groups.

HISTORY

The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 1200. Several major archeological sites--notably Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich--reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. European contact began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the coast. The first recorded European settlement was begun by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period also was marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements.

ECONOMY

Forestry was the only economic activity of any consequence in Belize until well into the 20th century when the supply of accessible timber began to dwindle. Cane sugar then became the principal export and recently has been augmented by expanded production of citrus, bananas, seafood, and apparel.

U.S.-BELIZEAN RELATIONS

The United States and Belize traditionally have had close and cordial relations. The United States is Belize's principal trading partner and major source of investment funds and also is home to the largest Belizean community outside Belize, estimated to be 70,000 strong. Because Belize's economic growth and accompanying democratic political stability are important U.S. objectives, Belize benefits from the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Important: Travel to Belize may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Belize visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: none
Capital city: Belmopan
Area: 22,966 sq km
Population: 327,719
Ethnic groups: mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7%
Languages: Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9%
Religions: Roman Catholic 39.3%, Pentacostal 8.3%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.3%, Anglican 4.5%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.5%, Methodist 2.8%, Nazarene 2.8%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.6%, other 9.9%
Government: parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Chief of State: Queen ELIZABETH II
Head of Government: Prime Minister Dean Oliver BARROW
GDP: 2.786 billion
GDP per captia: 8,200
Annual growth rate: 2%
Inflation: 2.5%
Agriculture: bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar
Major industries: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Location: Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Trade Partners - exports: US 38.1%, UK 16.5%, Costa Rica 10%, Nigeria 4.4%
Trade Partners - imports: US 38.2%, Mexico 10.2%, Cuba 9.2%, Guatemala 5.4%, China 5%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.1%