Day 17: Belize City, Belize
Belize City is dangerous. I know it’s a harsh statement. But in the world there are only a handful of things I know to be true, and this is one of them.
Chetumal was rough but it was only preparing me for the trip farther South. Despite the warnings from several friends and a quick read of a traveler’s Lonely Planet on the bus ride here, I decided to go to Belize City anyway. How bad could it be?
Bad. Really bad.
Belize City is the dirty, dodgy, scammy city that everyone says it is. On the 10 minute walk from the bus station to the hostel I was asked for money twice, hissed at several times and I beginning to understand the negative reviews.
I stayed at the Belcove Inn and asked the women at reception about how safe the city was. I learned that they all have the same rehearsed response “it’s the same as any big city” but then they follow up with, “just stay on the main streets, don’t wear jewelry or carry all your money on you.”
So I picked up some dinner and beer and decided it would be a night in. On the way I saw a guy in a van screaming at two street dudes that he “wanted his fucking money”
Then I passed by three guys sitting in a two-seat tinted Mercedes with California plates. I kept walking. Quickly. I met a couple from Saskatoon who were on their way back home. They told me not to go out at night without a group, and even then to make sure to take a taxi even a block or two.
On a brighter note, the stewed chicken with beans and rice that I bought at Jenny’s roadside stand was amazing. So tender and spicy, it made staying in bearable.
Confined to the patio facing the river, I met Dulio who I eventually realized was guarding the hostel. He had seen the country evolve from British Honduras to Belize and rise of crime throughout the 80s and agrees Belize City is dangerous.
He attributes the crime due to drugs and the fact that the US extradited any foreigner convicted of a drug crime. It meant the underbelly returned to Belize City and back to their old ways. Now, almost everyone in Belize has a close friend or family member that died due to drug related violence.
The next morning I ate breakfast next to the hotel and listened to two guys talk about how bad it was getting, nearly 30 shooting deaths in 3 months. I finished breakfast and bought the first ticket to Caye Caulker.
Is Belize City Dangerous?
I left feeling somewhat guilty as I hate to say that people shouldn’t visit a city; but this is one you can definitely miss.
Update: I’ve had a lot of people share their feedback about Belize. I stand by sharing my experience on Belize City but in no way does it represent the entire country. Just as Guatemala City doesn’t represent Guatemala or Managua for Nicaragua. I understand I stayed in a bad hotel but I didn’t know any better at the time.
But I suspect many people want to know if Belize is safe because I can see every day people come to my site searching “buy Belize complaints”, “belize crime” and “Belize city crime.” I do think it needs to be shared that there is crime in Belize, just like in any other country but crime in Belize City is prevalent.
Many people have asked my opinion for travel in Belize and while I would like to return I don’t yet have much experience in the country so I’d like to refer to you my friend Lorenzo’s site: Belize Adventure. He is from Belize and moved to Canada a few years ago. Working in tourism, I think he provides a really balanced view of the country and can provide really great recommendations. While I wrote the post 4 years ago I would still say to tourists to spend little time in Belize City and move onto other areas in the country as I do believe Belize has many beautiful things to offer.