The national currency of Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZ$). It is "pegged" to the USD and has a 2:1 fixed exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar - USD$1 = BZD$2.
US Dollars are widely accepted by most businesses in Belize.
Belize currency exchange is extremely easy for American visitors. So it's very easy to see how much something is costing in USD when you go shopping. Most accommodations and tours are listed in US$ prices, and most restaurants, shops, etc. are listed in BZ$. Nearly everyplace readily accepts USD currency. Most also should accept traveler's checks as long as you write your passport number or driver's license number on the back. Large bills (anything above a $20) are a little more difficult to cash. Shopkeepers generally ask you to spend a minimum amount.
ATMs are also available across the country, particularly in most tourist destinations- including Placenica,Punta Gorda, Belmopan, Dangriga, Belize City, San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Orange Walk, San Ignacio and Corozal.
Government and Legal System
Belize is a Westminster style democracy with peaceful transfers of power from one party to another based on free and fair elections.
The government has three branches: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The legislative branch includes a Senate and House of Representatives and functions similarly to the system in the United States. The judiciary branch originates in English Common Law and includes Magistrate’s Courts, the Family Courts, the Supreme Court, The Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice. Nominal executive authority is vested in the Queen of England (seriously), who is represented in Belize by a Governor General. True executive authority rests with a Prime Minister, who is the leader of the ruling party in the House, which is decided by popular election.
Belize is a member of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), and the British Commonwealth.
Belize is located in Central America and it is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. We are a diverse country with various cultures and languages. We also have the lowest population density in Central America with 35 people per square mile or 14 people per square kilometer.
Belize is also known for its extreme biodiversity and distinctive ecosystems. On the coast, there is a swampy coastal plain with mangrove swamps. In the south and interior there are hills and low mountains. Most of our land is undeveloped and is forested with hardwoods. It is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot and it has many jungles, wildlife reserves, a large variety of different species of flora and fauna and the largest cave system in Central America. Some species of Belize's flora and fauna include the black orchid, the mahogany tree, the toucan and tapirs.
The first people to develop Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. As shown in archaeological records, they established a number of settlements here. These include Caracol, Lamanai and Lubaantun. The first European contact with Belize occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast. In 1638, the first European settlement was established by England and for 150 years, many more English settlements were set up.
In 1840, Belize became a "Colony of British Honduras" and in 1862, it became a crown colony. For one hundred years after that, Belize was a representative government of England but in January 1964, full self government with a ministerial system was granted. In 1973, the region's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize and on September 21, 1981, full independence was achieved.
English remains the State language of Belize. Come to Belize and you’ll hear familiar words of the English language. In fact, we are the only English language-speaking country in Central America. While English is the official language of Belize, Kriol(Belizean Creole) is the language that most people speak. Although Spanish is commonly spoken as well, especially in Northern part of Belize and Western Cayo District.
Also unlike most of Central America Belize is a relaxed country even our most up-tight citizens sound relaxed more like the Caribbean Islands neighbours. The pronunciation is very close but words seem a bit shorter. But don’t worry, you’ll understand everything people say around here and majority of population speak pretty good common English!
Apart from English, Kriol and Spanish there are African-based Garifuna, Maya-Kekchi, Maya Mopan, Mandarin, German are just a few of the languages that form the unique dialects of Belize.
From the moment you arrive in Belize – whether you are an adventure traveler, part of a family trip or in the country for a relaxing beach vacation – Belize people and culture make you feel as welcome and comfortable, like nowhere you’ve ever visited.
In Belize, our traditions and customs are varied and represent more than eight diverse cultures. For generations, the people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s unique charms. This enduring promise to the land, the waters and you, our visitor, inspires all to achieve a genuine and intimate connection to a variety of extraordinary experiences.
We are truly a melting pot of colorful personalities, making our 321,115 residents the country’s greatest resource for tourism. The Belizean people are made up of Maya, Mestizo, Kriol (Creole), Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite and Chinese.
There also are a number of expatriates in Belize from Canada, UK, Europe and the United States – and many of them retire here. A blending of cultures has resulted in one of the happiest and most peaceful countries in the region and a widespread reputation as one of the world’s friendliest tourist destination.
One of the nicest things about visiting Belize is the weather. With an average yearly temperature of 84° F (29°C), it’s always warm, yet comfortable. Costal sea breezes as well as our jungle and rainforests keep you cool even in the hottest summer months while winters can be cool but never very cold. In short, the climate is pretty much near perfect. Even in winter (November-March) the temperature in Belize rarely falls below 60°F (16°C), while the summer (May-September) is around 86°F (30°C). Humidity is also fairly consistent at around 85 percent.
Belize’s dry season is between February and May and has significantly lower rainfall than the rest of the year. When it does rain, it is usually in mild, short bursts.
June through December is our wet season, when parts of the country receive up to 150 inches of rain and the heavy, sometimes wild storms associated with the Caribbean occur, usually in the late afternoons. The most frequent rainfall usually happens in June or early July and is punctuated by a break in late July or August known as the "little dry."
We also have a hurricane season, and while statistically Belize does not attract many major direct hits, it does get its share of severe tropical weather with high winds and rain. However, we have cooperative early warning network that we share with our neighbors. Our safety, evacuation and other procedures have proven to be effective, so no worries.
No matter what season you visit, there’s plenty to do and see down here.
From Cerros Maya in the north to the stone walls of Lubaantun in the south, Belize is truly the heart of this once great and mysterious culture.
Archaeology buffs and curious travelers alike will find that anywhere you are in Belize, our history is there. The Ancient Maya Temples are an attraction no other tropical location can offer, and one you'll always remember.
Belize is believed to have been at the heart of the Maya civilization that dominated Central America from 250-900 A.D. Supporting this theory is the fact that Belize possess 1,400 recorded Maya sites, the greatest concentrantion in the entire region. Physical evidence of this incredibly advanced civilization includes ceremonial temples, stately structures and fine artwork made of jade, stone and clay.
The Maya were highly evolved mathematicians, and sites are imbued with fascinating symbolic meaning. Archaeologists and students from around the globe come to Belize to advance their own learning. Maya antiquities are also on display at various visitor centers coutnrywide, and at the Museum of Belize in Belize City that includes the largest carved jade Maya object ever discovered.
Belize Barrier Reef
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System lies about half a mile off the windward side of the island. It is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world. To the east of the Barrier Reef are three separate atoll reefs. There is also a fourth atoll reef, Banco Chinchorro, just to the north in Mexican waters, which will be of particular interest to wreck divers. The three Belize atoll reefs are formed on two tiers of submarine ridges: Turneffe and Glover's on one ridge and Lighthouse on a separate ridge farther to the east. There is famous Great Blue Hole - a giant submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the centre of Lighthouse Reef.
Find a lot of interesting information about Belize here.