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How to stay safe in Belize

How to Stay Safe in Belize: A Guide for Travelers and Expats

Belize is a tropical paradise, but like everywhere, it has a dark side. Here, we offer some tips on how to stay safe in Belize. This article contains a link (or links) to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases.

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 any 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 – you should know your surroundings, 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. However, 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 any valuable items on the seat of your golf cart”. “Don’t leave towels on your rental porch”. “It’s petty crime tourists complain about”.

Now, however, since I started visiting and subsequently moved here, I can speak about crime and how to stay safe in Belize.

Crime exists in Belize, and in recent years, it has become more violent. While it may not be like some cities in the United States, you need to be aware of it. Nobody wants to talk about it, especially the government or even fellow expats.

Why is that?

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.

Since I arrived, I’ve learned firsthand that there’s more serious crime in Belize than I thought, and definitely more than the expat blogs and tourism industry say!

Homes, both 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 homes are rentals occupied by tourists and invaded at night by armed criminals.

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

  • Don’t walk around dressed like you are rich, wearing fancy dresses, jewelry, expensive cameras, iPads, etc.
  • Don’t pull out wads of bills from your wallet anywhere in public.
  • Don’t keep buying the house “bar” a round, and try not to be drunk in public.
  • Be aware of strangers around your neighborhood. They may be watching how long you’re away from your home, or looking for patterns in your routine to rob you.
  • Always lock doors and windows at night. If you’re renting a place, ask if the windows and doors are secure and the locks work.
  • Make sure your home or rental has outdoor security lights that work. Ensure they’re on all night or are the ones that kick on with movement.
  • Make sure your home/rental has a secure place for your belongings, such as cash, passport, and credit cards. And only carry the items you need to use with you.
  • If you have a house or are building one, do you have a “safe room” in it? You should plan on having one if you’re building, where you can lock yourself in with your phone to call for help, with the door secured. Make sure it’s a solid door, especially if you use a bathroom – those usually have hollow doors.
  • Always program the local police phone number on speed dial. To that end, make sure you have a local SIM card for your phone, too. A travel esim is a good way to go about this.

I’m not trying to scare 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 at all.

Your best defense when learning how to stay safe in Belize is knowledge, good safety preparation, and defense.

Make it difficult for anyone to see you entering or leaving your home. Ensure that your home is hard to enter, and make it difficult for someone to reach you if they do get in. 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. After all, if you were a burglar, what would you target?

If you build a giant home to rent out because you’ll hardly be there, do you think crooks will know that whoever is renting it will have cash or not?

Belize is a poor country with high unemployment and many needy communities.

Foreigners often appear rich to locals, coming down to Belize to play and throw money around. It’s difficult to avoid appearing 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 keep in mind how you might appear to others.

So please come to Belize. It’s a beautiful country with friendly people, tasty food, great rum, 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.

Gary Peterson

Gary Peterson

Gary Peterson has traveled and written about many destinations worldwide. He’s written travel guides for Europe including Italy, France, and the Greek Islands. For the past few years, he’s traveled extensively throughout Central America, publishing two books on Belize. Gary lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he continues writing about Central America and the Caribbean.