Nine Tips For Staying Safe In Belize (Or How Not To Be A Victim Of Crime)

Belize is a tropical paradise but like everywhere, it has a dark side. But you needn’t be a victim in this country. Gary Peterson talks about crime and offers some tips on how to stay safe in Belize.

I’ve traveled all over the planet and would call myself worldly. If you ask my wife how she feels about traveling anywhere with me, she’ll use one descriptive word – “safe!”

I’m always alert, always looking for trouble, and always prepared to deal with trouble. My military background makes me this way. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Wherever you travel – Europe, Asia, South America, or even cities in the US – know your surroundings. You should understand where crime is more likely to occur, and what to look out for.

This includes Belize.

When I first started researching Belize, I checked out local blogs, social media, and publications like International Living.

Pretty much, all I found were the same statements. First, Belize City wasn’t a good place to hang out because that’s where all the gang crime is. Second, “crimes of opportunity are all you’ll find in Belize”.

“Don’t leave cameras or such on the seat of your golf cart”. “Don’t leave towels on your rental porch”. “It’s petty crime tourists complain about”.

I can’t talk about crime, or how to stay safe in Belize before I first visited or moved here, but I can since.

Crime exists in Belize, and in recent years, it’s become more violent.

No, it’s not like Detroit or Chicago, but it’s here, and you need to be aware of it. Nobody wants to talk about it, especially the government or even fellow expats.

Why, you might ask? Well, the primary industry of Belize is tourism. So, admitting that tourists might be a target here isn’t good for business. Whether it’s the hotels, resorts, or home rental owners, no-one will tell you to be careful.

I could talk about many cases of many tourists and expats assaulted or murdered in Belize since I’ve been here. In fact, I already have

The bottom line is, since I arrived, I’ve learned first-hand there’s more serious crime than I thought. And definitely more the expat blogs and tourism industry says!

Homes – vacant and occupied – suffer from frequent break-ins. And more often than not, they belong to foreigners who leave them vacant and only come down a few weeks a year.

Some are homes are rentals, occupied by tourists, and invaded at night by armed criminals. Yes, that’s a fact.

Although the chances of experiencing an armed home invasion are slim, you can take steps to stay safe in Belize and avoid becoming a victim: 

  1. Don’t walk around dressed like you are rich, fancy dresses, jewelry, expensive cameras, iPads, etc.
  2. Don’t pull out a wallet of $100 bills in a big wad.
  3. Don’t keep buying the house “bar” a round. And try to not be drunk a lot in public.
  4. Be aware of strangers around your neighborhood. They may be watching how long you’re away from your home, or be looking for patterns in your routine to rob you.
  5. Always lock doors and windows at night. That warm ocean breeze you’re enjoying, might cost you your valuables or your life. If you’re renting a place, ask if the windows and doors are secure and the locks work.
  6. Make sure your home or rental has outdoor security lights that work. Ensure they’re on all night, or they’re the ones that kick on with movement.
  7. Make sure your home/rental has a secure place for your belongings, like cash, passport, and credit cards. And only carry the items you need to use with you.
  8. If you have a house, or are building one, do you have a “safe room” in it? You should plan on one if you’re building, where you can lock yourself in with your phone to call help, with door secured. Make sure it’s a solid door on it, especially if you use a bathroom – that usually has a hollow door.
  9. Always program the local police phone number on speed dial.

I’m not trying to scare you, or discourage you from coming to Belize. I’m only trying to make you aware of the facts.

This isn’t the US, with its massive police forces, alarm companies with response teams, or firearms in every home. This is Belize, where most of the police carry clubs or nothing.

Your best defense is knowledge, good safety preparation, and defense.

Make it difficult for anyone to see you entering/leaving your home. Make your home hard to enter, and hard to get to you if they do enter. Get to know your neighbors, the local police, and volunteer in community actions.

And remember – your home reflects you!

If you want to fit in around these small Belizean communities, build something simple that looks less “wealthy” than some giant mansion. If you were a burglar, what would you target?

If you build a giant home to rent it out because you’ll hardly be there, do you think crooks will know that whoever is renting it will have cash?

Belize is a poor country, with high unemployment, and many needy communities. Foreigners often appear as rich to locals, coming down to Belize to play and throw money around. It’s difficult to not appear that way, I know, but it should be something you work on, as I do.

I’m not saying to build a little shack to live in, just to keep in mind how you might appear to others.

So come to Belize, please. It’s a beautiful country, with friendly people, tasty foods, great rums, diving, fishing, and lots of sun and sand.

Not everyone wants to rob you, but like most places in the world, there are always a few. I want you to come here with your eyes open, not clouded by a government and industry that always tells you not to worry about crime. 

Gary Peterson lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he writes books about Central America and the Caribbean. Read more of Gary’s work on his blog.