Experienced Belize travelers please respond...

Old Apr 2nd, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Experienced Belize travelers please respond...

Hi, I have been hoping to visit Belize, and have been planning a trip in the near future but I recently read the travel advisory on the CIA site and now I am concerned that crimes against tourists are too much of a threat. I know of a few friends that recently visited and they described hotels and tourist sites that are protected by armed guards...that doesn't sound like fun. I know these things are sometimes blown out of proportion so I would like to hear from fellow travelers who have experience in Belize...would you consider it a safe place to visit at this time? Thanks for any replies.

PS: We were looking at staying in a few different areas..i.e. Placencia, San Pedro, and in the Pine Mountain region...how safe is it to drive (2 females)?

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velodurt is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2005, 08:34 AM
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CIA advisory!!?? Those are the folks who got everything wrong about Iraq -- I wonder if the CIA even knows where Belize is!

If you mean the State Department Consular Information Sheet on Belize, last updated in early March, I think it's pretty much boilerplate State Department info (reproduced below). You'll read about the same thing on any developing country. There is not a travel *warning" to Belize, as there are to about 28 other countries including Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Colombia, Guyana, Kenya, Phillipines, Indonesia and Israel.

There certainly is crime in Belize, and much of Belize City is not a safe place to be after dark, but I think 99% of visitors feel quite safe. I've been traveling the country with my family for almost 15 years and the worst that's ever happened to me is that someone tried to break into my car over night when it was parked on a remote rural road, and it cost me 50 bucks to have the lock repaired.

--Lan Sluder
www.belizefirst.com

>>

SAFETY AND SECURITY
Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment when visiting Belize. Crime can be a serious problem (see Crime), particularly in Belize City and remote areas. Road accidents are common (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.) Public buses and taxis are frequently in poor condition and lack safety equipment. Boats serving the public, especially water taxis, often do not carry sufficient safety equipment, may carry an excess number of passengers and may sail in inclement weather. Rental diving equipment may not always be properly maintained or inspected, and some local dive masters fail to consider the skill levels of individual tourists when organizing dives to some of Belizeís more challenging sites.

The border between Belize and Guatemala is in dispute, but the dispute thus far has not affected travel between the two countries.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Departmentís Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of Stateís pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/...fety_1747.html.

CRIME: The incidence of crime, including violent crimes such as armed robbery, shootings, stabbings, murder, and rape, is on the rise. The Embassy has noted an increase in recent years in reports of crimes against tourists at resorts and on the roadways and rivers. The incidence of crimes such as theft, burglary, purse snatching and pick-pocketing rises around the winter holidays and spring break. Several victims who resisted when confronted by criminals have received serious personal injuries, including gunshot wounds. Although the majority of reported incidents are in Belize City, crime occurs in all districts including tourist spots such as San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia.

Sexual harassment and/or assault of females traveling alone or in small groups can be a problem. Although violent sexual assault is not common, it does occur. Several American travelers have been the victims of sexual assaults in recent years. At least one of these rapes occurred after the victim accepted a lift from an acquaintance, while another occurred during an armed robbery at an isolated resort.

To minimize the risk of being targeted, visitors should travel in groups, stay off the streets after dark, in urban and rural areas, and avoid wearing jewelry, or carrying valuable or expensive items. As a general rule, valuables should not be left unattended, including in hotel rooms and on the beach. Care should be taken when carrying high value items such as cameras, or when wearing expensive jewelry on the street. Womenís handbags should be zipped and held close to the body. Men should carry wallets in their front pants pocket. Large amounts of cash should always be handled discreetly.

Armed robberies of American tourist groups have been reported near the western border with Guatemala in the past few years, several of which escalated to sexual assault. In the past, criminals have targeted popular Mayan archeological sites in that region. Visitors should travel in groups and should stick to the main plazas and tourist sites. Although there are armed guards posted at some of the archeological sites, armed criminals have been known to prey on persons walking from one site to another. Victims who resist when confronted by these armed assailants frequently suffer personal injury. The number of armed robberies on rivers in the western districts increased significantly in early 2005.

Travel on rural roads, especially at night, increases the risk of encountering criminal activities. Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous. Though there is no evidence that Americans in particular are targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should be vigilant.

Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization. It is best to stay in groups, travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles, and stay on the main roads. Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Travelers should avoid budget hotels, which lack security guards and safes for guests, as guests in such hotels are more vulnerable to crime. Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites. And remember always to pay close attention to your surroundings.

Americans visiting the Belize-Guatemala border area should consider carefully their security situation and should travel only during daylight hours. Vehicles should be in good operating condition, adequately fueled, and carry communications equipment. Persons traveling into Guatemala from Belize should check the Consular Information Sheet for Guatemala and the U.S. Embassy web site at http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala for the latest information about crime and security in Guatemala.

A lack of resources and training impedes the ability of the police to investigate crimes effectively and to apprehend serious offenders. As a result, a number of crimes against Americans in Belize remain unresolved. Nonetheless, victims of crime should report immediately all incidents of assault, robbery, theft or other crimes to the police. Tourists may contact the Belizean tourist police unit as well as the main police office for assistance.

Drug use is common in some tourist areas. American citizens should avoid buying, selling, holding, or taking illegal drugs under any circumstances. Penalties for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia are generally more severe than in the U.S. Although not common, there is anecdotal evidence of the use of so-called date-rape drugs, such as Ruhypnol.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.



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Old Apr 2nd, 2005, 01:20 PM
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We were in the Cayo and in Placencia and Tikal in February. The only place where we saw armed guards was when we crossed the Belize/Guatamala border and in Tikal itself at night. At the resort in the Cayo we did not have a key for the room- it was unlocked all day. In Placencia the resort did have a few security people on the grounds, not armed that we could see. I have seen more guards with heavy duty guns at Logan airport than in Belize. Some day I want someone to write a State Department report for Boston or New York. I bet it would scare a lot of tourists away.We did meet a woman in the Cayo who had stayed in Belize City and said that there were a lot of police around but she felt perfectly safe in the area where she stayed.She was travelling alone. From what I saw the biggest danger is that local drivers, including our van driver, drive very fast and some of the dirt roads aren't great.If you are worried about driving You might consider using the resorts for transfers between the different areas or flying on Maya Air. My wife and I did that and it was very easy.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2005, 08:50 PM
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Been to Belize many times. Great place and great people. It is safe, just use common sense like you would use if you travel anywhere in the world. On Ambergris Caye, most hotels have a night security guard. Remember, Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, etc is all about tourism. They want to make sure their guests feel safe & secure. Go have fun. If you have a chance, must see Tikal just over the border in Guatemala. Maybe the top of my list of all the things I have done in Central America
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Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 04:51 AM
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I live in Belize and travel all over- many times in remote areas and on my own-and feel a high degree of personal safety. Belize is not, however, immune to crime, of which a large percentage are gang kids killing each other in certain parts of Belize City. You'll be fine drivng in the MPR (just remember to hug the right hand side of the road and be aware its easy to skid on the gravel roads) and be fine and feel safe in Placencia and San Pedro as well.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 08:02 AM
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Hi velodurt! Go! Enjoy your trip! Belize is a wonderful place. I've only been once but am already planning my second trip. We went to the Cayo area, Tikal, and Ambergris Caye. The only time we saw armed guards were at Xunantunich in the Cayo area and at Tikal in Guatemala. Their presence didn't bother us in the least bit. No more so than our community police that drive by every now and then to show their presence and make sure everything's OK in the neighborhood. Use the same cautions you use while at home. One thing the other boarders told us that we stuck to, was not to wear alot of jewelry, don't carry expense luggage, and don't flash alot of money around. Not like any of that really applied to us anyway . Enjoy!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 08:04 AM
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oops! I meant "expensive luggage".
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Old Apr 3rd, 2005, 11:19 AM
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I wouldn't be suprised if you are in greater danger in some of the US's urban centers.
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Old Apr 4th, 2005, 08:36 AM
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While I have not been to Belize myself yet, my daughter now lives there and from what she's told me, the travel advisory you menton, velodurt, sounds a bit exagerated. Though I understand most of Belize City is rather gritty, the outlying areas and resorts (which are filled mainly with American tourists) should be fine. Visiting Guatemala can be iffy though. I've heard from my daughter that San Pedro is beautiful. BTW she lives at Lighthouse Reef which is a scuba dive resort - if you're into diving it is apparently a must-see, so if that's your interest, go there and if you see my girl say hi for mom. You can't miss her, she's the pale one.
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Old Apr 4th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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THanks so much to everyone who replied...I am feeling much more comfortable now. I am a seasoned traveler but that excerpt on crime was quite lengthy and so I wanted some first-hand advice. I really appreciate all the feedback..thanks! So what is everyone's favorite jungle resort? I woould love to be in an area where you might catch a glimpse of exotic birds and perhaps some monkeys. Looking at Chan Chich and Blancaneaux right now. oh, and I am also hoping to get to the reefs (Daisy54 i will keep an eye out for that pale girl ;-)and I am really hoping to time it right for whale sharks...any advice? Best reefs, snorkeling, tours etc? Thanks again everyone!!
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Old Apr 4th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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I was in Belize City and San Pedro. Safer than Los Angeles where I live. Go for it. Never saw an armed guard in San Pedro.
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Old Apr 5th, 2005, 04:43 AM
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Whale sharks off Placencia, 3 days before and after the full moon, for the next few months.
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Old Apr 5th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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Hi velodurt! My sister and I have been vacationing in Belize for the past 3 yrs now. We both in our late 20's/early 30's and have never felt a threat while walking at night and there was certainly no guards at our hotel. If you want to experience great snorkeling, I would recommend Ambergris Caye(just north of San Pedro) Any resort/hotel you stay at can arrange tours to the "Blue Hole", cave tubing, beach bbq's or any rustic jungle tour you may want. We love it every year and intend to keep going. Good luck!
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Old May 29th, 2005, 04:37 AM
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My wife and I just returned yesterday from a week in Belize. We were in Placencia and the Pine Forest Reserve area. We never felt threatened or apprehensive in any way, but I should tell you that whenever we left the resorts we were accompanied by guides hired by the resorts. We never saw armed guards anywhere. The only obvious security was in Placencia, and consisted of unarmed night watchman at each end of the hotel's beach every night. Having said all that, it doesn't seem very prudent for two females to be driving around alone there. Many of the sites you will want to see are accessible only by lonely dirt roads.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Hi velodurt,

We were at Blancaneaux last summer and absolutely loved it! Very relaxing, great accomodations (no air in rooms), beautiful surroundings, it was my husbands favorite place during our trip. The food, people and atmosphere are awesome, you will not be disappointed. The drive there is very long, so just be prepared for that but our driver was very nice, arrived on time all well and very safe.

Just to give you an idea on how safe it was for us, on Ambergris my husband forgot his credit card at one of the grocery stores. We were trying to find a pay phone to call our credit card company that night when a young guy came up to us and said that they were holding our card at the store for us, I guess we stood out and he remembered us from the store!

Go for Belize, great place very friendly you will enjoy it.
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Old Jun 4th, 2005, 09:11 AM
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We just returned yesterday from a week in Belize. Feels very safe to me. We rented a car at BZE and drove to San Ignacio. We were only there a couple days, didn't use the car much. Always felt safe. Returned the car and headed to Ambergris Caye. After four trips that place feels like a second home to us. Never felt unsafe there either, although we were never out late at night.
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