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. It is a diverse country with various cultures and languages. It has the lowest population density in Central America with 35 people per square mile or 14 people per square kilometer.
Belize is 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 the land is undeveloped and forested with hardwoods. It is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot and it has many jungles, wildlife reserves, fauna and the largest cave system in Central America. Belize's flora and fauna include the black orchid, the mahogany tree, the toucan and tapir.
The first people to develop Belize were the Maya around 1500 B.C.E. As shown in archeological 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.
Come to Belize and you’ll hear familiar words of the English language. In fact, it is the only English language-speaking country in Central America. While English is the official language of Belize, Kriol is the language that Belizeans all speak.
When you hear a Belizean talk, you know you’re in a country unlike any other. Even its most uptight citizens sound relaxed. They have a Caribbean lilt and their words seem a bit shorter. But don’t worry, you’ll understand everything and they may teach you a few phrases you don’t know.
Here, even the language is a diverse adventure. Spanish, African-based Garifuna, Maya-Kekchi, Maya Mopan, Mandarin and German are just a few of the languages that form the unique dialects spoken throughout the country.
Here are a few different ways you’ll hear “good morning:”
“Gud Mawnin” – Kriol
“Buiti Binafi” – Garifuna
“Buenos dias” – Spanish
From the moment you arrive in Belize – whether you are an adventure traveler, on a family trip or in the country for a relaxing beach vacation – the people and culture make you feel more welcome and comfortable than anywhere you've ever visited.
In Belize, their 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, their visitor, inspires all to achieve a genuine and intimate connection to a variety of extraordinary experiences.
Belize is truly a melting pot of colorful personalities, making their 321,115 residents the country’s greatest resource for tourism. The Belizean people are made up of Maya, Mestizo, Kriol, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab and Chinese.
There also are expatriates in Belize from Canada, 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 destinations.
In Belize (formerly British Honduras), English remains the official language, but the most common language in Belize is Kriol (Belizean Creole). Other languages spoken include Garifuna, Mandarin, Spanish and Maya.
Belize currency exchange is extremely easy for American visitors. The Belize dollar is locked at $2 Belize = $1 USD. So it's very easy to see how much something costs in USD when you go shopping. Most accommodations and tours are listed in US$ prices, and most restaurants, shops, etc. are listed in BZ$. Nearly everyplace readily accepts USD currency. 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 Placencia, Punta Gorda, Belmopan, Dangriga, Belize City, San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Orange Walk, San Ignacio and Corozal.
About Belize, Central America