Belize

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 10 July 2013.   It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Belize because of high levels of serious crime.

Belize overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Belize because of high levels of serious crime.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See the Natural Disasters section for detailed advice.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Belize. The Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provides consular assistance to Australians in Belize.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Belize for the most up to date information.

If you are travelling to Belize from a country endemic for yellow fever, you are required to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate on arrival. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a list of countries endemic for yellow fever.

If you are travelling to Belize through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations, protests, marches and strikes may occur at any time in the capital Belmopan, Belize City and throughout the country. You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Belize because of high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Violent crime, including assault, rape and armed robbery, continues to increase. Gang-related murders have increased in Belize City since mid-2011, and significantly in the first six months of 2012.

Muggings are common, especially in Belize City and other urban centres. Tourists have been the victims of armed robbery, particularly near the border with Guatemala. Criminals have targeted travellers at Mayan archaeological sites in that region. To reduce the risk of robbery and other crime, we recommend you use a reputable tour company.

Persons travelling alone can be victims of harassment and violent sexual assault. Use only licensed taxis. Do not let the driver pick up additional passengers. Security risks are heightened after dusk. We recommended that you travel in groups.

Due to the risk of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Belize.

Credit cards and travellers' cheques can only be used in large tourist facilities in Belize.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You should be careful to avoid the loss or theft of your passport. Travellers are likely to experience significant delays and expense arranging replacement travel documents in Belize where there is no resident Australian mission.

Australians are required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Belize has an ongoing border dispute with neighbouring Guatemala. You are advised to use only officially recognised border crossings when travelling between the two countries.

Driving in Belize can be hazardous due to poor roads and vehicles, local driving practices including drink driving, and inadequate street lighting. Road traffic accidents are common. Be especially careful of bicycles as cyclists commonly disregard traffic laws and run red lights. For further advice, see our road travel page.

The safety standards that Australians might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports, such as scuba diving. Diving equipment may not be properly maintained and safety equipment, including life jackets, is not always provided. Ensure you use registered and licensed operators.

There have been reports of travellers becoming stranded in the jungle following heavy rains and flooding. If considering undertaking adventure sport, including jungle treks, you should check local weather conditions and use the services of an experienced tour operator.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Belize, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences, including possession, are severe and include lengthy imprisonment served in local jails.

Serious crimes, such as treason and murder, may attract the death penalty.

Homosexual acts are illegal and penalties include imprisonment of ten years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal to possess pre-Colombian artefacts without a permit.

It is illegal to photograph official buildings. You should check with local authorities before taking photos.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

The government of Belize recognises dual nationality.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities are basic in Belize City, and are very limited or non-existent in rural areas. Doctors and hospitals may require cash payment prior to providing medical services, including emergency care. Serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to the USA where the cost of medical treatment is very high.

Belize has one decompression chamber which is located in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

Malaria is a risk throughout the year in all areas except Belize City. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers, particularly during the wet season (April to November). We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

HIV/AIDS is a significant risk in Belize. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Belize. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago:

Australian High Commission
18 Herbert St, St Clair
Port of Spain
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Telephone: (1 868) 822 5450
Facsimile: (1 868) 822 5490

If you are travelling to Belize, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Belize is subject to hurricanes. The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

If you are travelling during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo IDs etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.

Belize is located in an active earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, including the Caribbean. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure for more information on tsunamis.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Belize National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.