Is Belize Safe?
Visiting Belize is a great idea. 60% of Belize is covered by forests, there are 450 offshore islands to explore, it boasts the largest cave system in Central America. Oh, and then there’s the huge Belize Barrier Reef for you to discover; around here are excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, safe waters for boating, good fishing to be had, and we’re only scratching the surface.
Even though tourism is such an integral part of the Belizean economy, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the safest place in the world. In fact, violent crime of all kinds is on the rise, especially in urban areas like Belize District. Unfortunately, Belize ranks consistently in the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rate of homicides.
Both drug and human trafficking – and the gangs responsible for them – are the main causes of increased violence. While this is a tragedy, it also means that Belize is relatively safe for tourists. Unless you’re a gang member or a Belizean citizen caught in the crossfire, you’re unlikely to be a victim of these crimes. Pickpocketing and theft from hotel rooms is the most common crime committed against visitors. And the country is also prone to hurricanes.
With so many natural points of interests, it’s no wonder that Belize is a such a popular destination for tourists and backpackers. In 2017 there were over 1.5 million visitors to Belize in 2017, which includes people jumping off cruise ships for a day trip; the number of overnight visitors is increasing every day though. Usually, tourists aren’t the target of crime in Belize, however, in recent years crimes have been increasing in tourist areas. It’s believed that this is due to a large disparity between rich and poor – which is vast.
But this disparity is not as big as in other Central American or Caribbean societies and lacks the same racial and class tensions that have shaped the narrative of other nations in the region. Neighboring countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have higher murder rates. At the end of the day, Belize is safe to visit but practicing good personal security (i.e. traveling smart) is likely to diminish any chance of you becoming a victim of crime.
Generally, anything north of Belize City is considered ‘risky’ because of gang activity. Some areas in the country have been classified as “crime-ridden” and police in these places have the right to stop and search without warning, so be aware of that.
In 2018 there’s also been trouble along the western border with Guatemala, thanks to border tensions that go back to 1821. Border areas may be best avoided. The Caribbean coast is where most tourist activity is limited to.