BelizeOfficial Name: Belize
Passport must be valid for length of stay, except U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (i.e., cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port) will be permitted to enter and depart with a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required for stays under 30 days
Vaccinations are suggested for hepatitis A and typhoid. The traveler’s tetanus and diphtheria vaccination should also be up to date.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
Currency in excess of $10,000 Belize/USD$5,000must be declared.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Currency in excess of $10,000 Belize/USD$5,000must be declared.
Embassies and Consulates
4 Floral Park Road
Telephone: +(501) 822-4011
Emergency After-Hours telephone:+(501) 610-5030
Fax: +(501) 822-4050
Belize is a parliamentary democracy and British Commonwealth country with a developing economy based primarily upon agriculture and tourism. Tourist facilities vary in quality, from a limited number of business-class hotels in Belize City and luxury resorts in the offshore cayes (pronounced: "keys") to a range of luxury resorts, eco-tourism lodges and very basic accommodations in the countryside. Violent crime, especially in areas of Belize City, remains a serious concern. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Belize for additional information on U.S. - Belize relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
All U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid beyond their planned departure date, proof of an onward or return ticket, and sufficient funds (a minimum of USD $60 per day) to cover the cost of the length of stay. No visas are required for citizens of the United States for tourist visits. Visitors planning to stay more than 30 days must have their passport re-stamped by a local immigration office and pay an additional fee of approximately USD $25 for every month before the 6 month mark, for stays longer than 6 months, extension stamps fees are USD $50 per month and you may need to provide further documentation to the local immigration office to explain the reason for a longer stay. Travelers that overstay and do not keep their immigration stamps up to date may face immigration fines (a minimum of USD $500 per fine) and imprisonment up to 6 months. All tourists and non-Belizean citizens are required to pay an exit fee of USD $39.25. This fee is included in the price of all U.S. airline tickets. Cruise ship passengers are charged USD $7 whether they leave the ship or remain onboard, and this charge is included in the price of the cruise ticket.
At the land borders, U.S. citizens are charged USD $15 if their stay was less than 24 hours and USD $18.75 if the stay was more than 24 hours. No specific immunizations are required for visitors to Belize; vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control can be found at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/belize. Visit the Embassy of Belize to the United States website for the most current visa information.
U.S. citizens traveling with their children may be asked by immigration officials to show U.S. birth certificates for each child. When children are not traveling with both parents, immigration officials often request signed documentation to establish the children are traveling with the permission of both parents. Such documentation may include notarized letters from the parent(s), custody or adoption papers, and death certificates in situations where one or both parents are deceased.
Persons who are citizens of both the U.S. and Belize are able to enter Belize with only a Belizean passport. Such dual nationals should be aware, however, that a valid U.S. passport will be required in order to board a U.S.bound flight from Belize. The average processing time to obtain a full-validity U.S. passport at the Embassy is approximately 10 working days.
U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (i.e., cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port) will be permitted to depart or enter the U.S. with a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID. However, the U.S. Embassy recommends that passengers carry a passport in case of an emergency . Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documentation. U.S. citizen passengers leaving their cruise ship and return by air to the U.S. will be required to present their valid U.S. passports to airline officials before being permitted to board the aircraft.
The Embassy of Belize maintains the following diplomatic and consular posts in the United States:
Belize maintains 13 other consulates general/consulates/consular agents in the U.S.; please see www.embassypages.com for their contact information.
Visit the Embassy of Belize website for the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Belize.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
The potential for domestic terrorist activity such as bombings, kidnappings, or hijackings is considered low in Belize. However, domestic gang members and other criminals have used fragmentation grenades and firearms to settle disputes. Neither U.S. citizens nor other foreign nationals are known to have been the victims or targets of terrorist activity in Belize. U.S. citizens are not believed to be specifically targeted for robbery or other crimes but are instead targets of opportunity. No areas are closed to travel but visitors should exercise caution, particularly in southern Belize City and remote areas along Belize’s borders.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Belize on Twitter, Facebook, and visit the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and check for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Much of the violent crime in Belize occurs on the south side of Belize City, home to several street gangs. Belizean officials in November 2012, in an attempt to control the security situation in these areas, invoked a “declaration of crime infested areas” under the Belizean law that allows for law enforcement and security forces to conduct warrantless searches of personnel and property in these “crime ridden” areas. Organized crime beyond street gangs is primarily connected to drug trafficking or trafficking in persons. Incidents of crime remain high, including violent crimes such as armed robbery, home invasions, shootings, stabbings, murders, and sexual assaults. The Embassy has noted an increase in crimes against tourists at resorts and on the roads and river ways. U.S. citizens are primarily the victims of opportunistic crime. There is no evidence suggesting criminals specifically target U.S. citizens, but foreigners have been targeted for crime due to their perceived wealth. Incidents of crime (such as theft, burglary, home invasion, purse-snatching, and pick-pocketing) increase during the winter holidays and during spring break. Although the majority of reported incidents occur in Belize City, particularly southern Belize City, crime may occur anywhere including tourist destinations such as San Pedro Town (Ambergris Caye), Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, Dangriga, Corozal, and Placencia.
Violent crime overall declined slightly in Belize last year, with a sharp drop in homicides from 145 in 2012 to 98 in 2013. The majority of homicides in 2013 occurred in the Belize district, with most in the southern portion of Belize City, an area that has become increasingly violent due to ongoing gang warfare between local groups for control of lucrative narcotics smuggling routes and sales rights. Although robberies, home invasions, and daytime assaults are committed across Belize, it does not appear that tourists are targeted; the victims are mostly Belizeans who were targets of opportunity. Violent crimes are not common in tourist areas, but in January 2014, the Embassy did receive a report of a tourist couple that was kidnapped, in what appears to have been a crime of opportunity.
We encourage U.S. citizens to exercise caution and good situational awareness in all their travel activities. Visitors to tourist attractions should travel in groups and remain at the main plazas at Maya ruins and the central areas. Although there are armed guards stationed at many of the archeological sites, armed criminals have been known to prey on persons walking alone or in small groups from one site to another. While many victims of theft are unharmed and only robbed of personal belongings and cash, victims who resist assailants have suffered injury. U.S. citizens who become victims of a robbery should report it immediately to the nearest police station as well as notifying the Embassy.
The Embassy recommends that visitors travel in groups and only during daylight hours. Avoid wearing jewelry or carrying valuable or expensive items. As a general rule, valuables should not be left unattended, including in vehicles, hotel rooms or on the beach. Caution should be taken when carrying high value items such as cameras and other electronics. Women’s 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.
Theft of credit card information or funds committed against patrons of tourist destinations is not uncommon in some areas of Belize. Belize is NOT “PCI Compliant” (PCI – Payment Card Industry) with the Point of Sale (POS) credit card swipe machines used at hotels. This means that when a receipt is printed out from a credit card machine, it does not delete the first 12 numbers of the credit card number, instead printing the numbers, making it possible for someone such as a server at a restaurant, a cashier at a store, or a front desk clerk at a hotel to record the numbers for making unauthorized charges against the card. It is believed that several credit card fraud rings are currently active in Belize, particularly in San Pedro.
“Confidence scams” also occur in Belize, especially in resort areas. While there is no indication U.S. citizens are specifically singled out because of their nationality, tourists in general are particularly vulnerable to these crimes, resulting in visitors being pick-pocketed or robbed. More serious crimes have included armed robbery, physical assault, and being swindled out of large sums of money from fraudulent real estate and land sales or other business deals.
There have been reports of fraud committed against expatriates who have attempted to purchase land in Belize. Many expats have reported being the victim of scams in which land is purchased that either did not exist or was legally owned by other parties. It has been reported that Belizean authorities have not been proactive in investigating these crimes and enacting measures to ensure that they do not occur in the future.
Drug use is common in some tourist areas, but you should not buy, sell, hold, or take illegal drugs under any circumstances. Most tourists arrested with small amounts of illegal drugs may be released after paying a fine, but are often detained for one or more days pending trial and, if convicted, could serve their sentence in Belize. Belize classifies marijuana as an illegal drug for which a conviction of possession of even small amounts could result in heavy fines or imprisonment. Belize does not recognize the medical use of marijuana as permitted in some U.S. states, and U.S. citizens can be charged, fined or serve time in jail for possession of an illegal substance.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these items illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local laws.
Possession of a firearm or ammunition requires a license from the Government of Belize. The government recently tightened its restrictions on possession of guns and ammunition. An individual charged merely with possession of an unlicensed firearm, or unlicensed ammunition, is subject to being REMANDED WITHOUT BAIL to the Belize Central Prison since this is considered a serious offense, and charged at the Belizean Supreme Court level. Several U.S. citizens have received stiff prison sentences for what would be considered a small amount of ammunition in the U.S.
Sexual harassment and/or assault of persons traveling alone or in small groups have occurred in recent years. In recent years, there have been several sexual assaults on U.S. citizen women after leaving night clubs, and even during daylight hours while walking with friends and while cycling alone on isolated stretches of local highways.
A lack of resources and training impedes the ability of the police to effectively investigate crime and apprehend serious offenders. As a result, a number of crimes against U.S. citizens in Belize remain unresolved.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Belize is 911.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Belize, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Persons violating Belizean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belize are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you break local laws in Belize, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Visitors entering Belize must make a customs declaration of any currency or financial instruments exceeding a total value of USD $10,000.
With regard to business investments and contractual relationships, U.S. citizens should always conduct their own due diligence before entering into business ventures or other commercial arrangements. There have been recent cases where investors have disputed commercial agreements with the Government of Belize through formal commercial dispute resolution procedures and the cases are not yet resolved. There have been several cases of fraud involving land title in recent years that affected U.S. citizens in Belize. The Embassy cannot intervene to settle business disputes, though local business and trade associations, including the American Chamber of Commerce and Belize Chamber of Commerce, as well as government offices, may be able to provide information regarding Belize commercial requirements, validity of businesses, and reputable vendors and business agents. More information about investing in Belize is available in the Business Section of the U.S. Embassy, Belmopan website.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: The current criminal code states that “carnal intercourse” with any person “against the order of nature” shall receive a punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment. This law was interpreted as including only sex between men, but the law was rarely enforced. Additionally, the Immigration Act prohibits “homosexual” persons from entering the country, but immigration authorities did not enforce that law. In May 2013, the Government of Belize (GOB) released its Revised National Gender Policy 2013 (RNGP), shortly after the closing arguments before the Supreme Court on a constitutional challenge to the “anti-sodomy” element of the Belize Criminal Code. The Court has not yet issued its decision. The RNGP was the first document that was endorsed by the Government of Belize cabinet to include sexual orientation as a protected status. This has generated some opposition and protest by socially conservative groups.
The tourist friendly San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, remains relatively open and welcoming to the LGBT community. Outside of the tourist friendly Cayes, LGBT persons, especially males, are reluctant to display affection in public (including holding hands) because incidents of verbal or physical assault have been reported. There continues to be a significant hostile sentiment towards individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). LGBT issues are frequently highlighted in the press and can spur passionate discussions at community forums or public protests, and there have been some instances of violence reported against LGBT individuals.
For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Belize, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Belize, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from in the United States. The law does not expressly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air or other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. The law does not provide for accessibility to persons with disabilities and most public and private buildings and transportation are not accessible.
Medical care for minor ailments is generally available in urban areas. Trauma care or advanced medical treatment is limited, even in Belize City or Belmopan, and may be extremely limited or unavailable in rural and remote areas. Pharmacy services are generally good in larger cities. Many medications such as antibiotics which are available only by prescription in the U.S. can be obtained over-the-counter from licensed pharmacists. However, more specialized prescription medications may be completely unavailable. U.S. citizens bringing their own prescription medications with them must ensure they carry a current doctor’s prescription for each medication.
In much of the country, emergency services will be either unavailable or delayed and serious injuries or illnesses often require evacuation to another country. The Embassy strongly suggests visitors obtain traveler’s insurance and medical evacuation coverage in advance of their travel to cover unexpected medical emergencies.
Dengue and malaria are two mosquito borne diseases and leishmaniasis is a sandfly borne skin infection, that are each present in Belize. Travelers should carry and use insect repellents containing either 20% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Treating clothing and tents with permethrin and sleeping in screened or air conditioned rooms under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets will help diminish bites from mosquitoes and sandflies as well ticks, fleas, chiggers, etc, some of which may also carry infections.
The Government of Belize reported that dengue fever quadrupled in 2013 compared to previous years and the number of confirmed cases in 2014 has remained close to the same level. In 2013, Belize saw over 600 suspected cases but only 20 confirmed by laboratory. According to WHO (World Health Organization) no hemorrhagic cases were reported. Dengue is carried by day biting mosquitoes and topical repellants should be used as one of the methods to diminish mosquito biting and dengue risk.
Malaria is common throughout the districts of Toledo and Stann Creek, including all cities, towns, and islands. Malaria in Belize is almost exclusively the less severe Plasmodium vivax but chemoprophylaxis with chloroquine, mefloquine, atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline is recommended in these areas. There is NO malaria in the cities of Belize City and Crooked Tree; the district of Corozal; Ambergris Cay; island portions of Belize District.
Leishmaniasis, a skin parasite transmitted by sandflies, is common especially in jungle areas. Insect precautions (primarily evening and nighttime) are recommended.
Diarrheal illness is very common among travelers even in large cities and luxury accommodations. Travelers can diminish diarrhea risk through scrupulous washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers, especially before food preparation and eating. The greatest risk of traveler’s diarrhea is from contaminated food. Choose foods and beverages carefully to lower your risk (see Food & Water Safety). Eat only food that is cooked and served hot; avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice (because it may have been made from unclean water). Talk to your doctor about short course antibiotics and loperamide to take with you in case of diarrhea while traveling.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Belize, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Valid U.S. or international driver’s permits are accepted in Belize only for a period of three months after initial entry.
Public buses and private vehicles are the main mode of transportation in Belize. Currently, no railways operate in the country. Like in the United States, drivers operate vehicles on the right side of the road and road signs are in English with distances indicated in miles. But driving norms do not always follow U.S. practice, and caution must be exercised at all times. Poor roads and/or vehicle maintenance cause many fatal accidents on Belize’s roads. Speed limits are a maximum of 55 miles per hour on highways and 25 miles per hour on most other roads, but they are seldom observed or even posted. Drivers should particularly watch for speed bumps and rumble strips as they pass through villages on the major highways. These usually denote pedestrian crossings and are not always marked by clear signage or reflective yellow paint. Roadside assistance can be difficult to summon as there are very few public telephones along the road and emergency telephone numbers do not always function properly. While cell phone service is fairly reliable, reception in remote areas is spotty or non-existent. Driving without insurance in Belize is a very serious offense and is checked at police checkpoints. There are permanent police checkpoints on the major highways throughout Belize, at which all vehicles are obliged to stop. The Belize Department of Transportation is responsible for road safety.
Roads in Belize vary from two-lane paved roads to dirt or gravel tracks. The few paved roads are “high-crowned,” which refers to roads that are built to a slight point in the middle and slope down on the sides. There are usually no shoulders on the sides of the roads such that when vehicles get too close to the edge, the vehicle may lose traction on the loosely packed gravel, which contributes to cars overturning. There are few markings or reflectors; even in urban areas, most streets lack lane markings, leading many motorists to create as many lanes as possible in any given stretch of street or road. Bridges on the major highways are often only a single lane. The Manatee Road (Coastal Road), leading from the Western Highway east of Belmopan to Dangriga, is mostly unpaved, easily flooded after storms and without services. The Southern Highway from Dangriga to Punta Gorda is now completely paved and in good condition. Service stations are available along the major roads although there are some significant gaps in the rural areas.
Inclement weather during Belize’s June to November hurricane season can create hazardous road conditions. Motorists should not attempt to cross any low bridge with water flowing over the surface of the bridge as both the strength and depth of the current may be stronger than is apparent. Certain stretches of the George Price Highway that connects Belize City to Belmopan and continues west to the Guatemalan border have been the site of several fatal accidents.
Many vehicles on the road do not have functioning safety equipment such as turn signals, flashers, or brake lights. Seatbelts for drivers and front-seat passengers are mandatory, but children’s car seats are not required and are not widely available for purchase. Maintaining a safe driving distance will help avoid accidents.
Driving while intoxicated is punishable by a fine. If a road accident results in a fatality, the driver may face manslaughter charges, regardless of whether alcohol or drugs was involved. U.S. citizens can and have been imprisoned in Belize as a result of road accidents, even where intoxication is not suspected.
Unusual local traffic customs include: pulling to the right before making a left turn; passing on the right of someone who is signaling a right-hand turn; stopping in the middle of the road to talk to someone while blocking traffic; carrying passengers, including small children, in the open beds of trucks; and tailgating at high speeds.
Bicycles are numerous and constitute a regular part of traffic. Cyclists, like drivers, do not always obey basic traffic laws; they commonly fail to obey red lights or stop signs, and often ride against traffic. Although frequently encountered after nightfall, few cyclists have lights or wear reflective clothing. It is not unusual to see cyclists carrying heavy loads or passengers, including small children balanced in their laps or across the handlebars.
During daylight hours, particularly during weekends, highway drivers may encounter groups of cyclists engaged in either training or in organized competitions. These may be accompanied by slow-moving “pace” vehicles such as pickup trucks or motorcycles. View these pace vehicles as the warning they are, and exercise caution when passing groups of cyclists, as their attention may be on each other rather than passing motorists.
The driver of a vehicle that strikes a cyclist or pedestrian is almost always considered to be at fault, regardless of circumstances. U.S. citizens who struck cyclists in Belize have faced significant financial penalties or even prison sentences.
Driving at night is not recommended even in populated areas. Major driving hazards include poor signage and road markings, a tendency by drivers to not dim their lights when approaching other vehicles, drunk driving, and poor or unfamiliar road conditions. Pedestrians and motorcyclists without reflective clothing and cyclists without lights or reflectors also constitute very serious after-dark hazards exacerbated by the lack of street lighting at night. Local wildlife, dogs and livestock in the road are also hazards even outside of rural areas. For safety reasons, travelers should not stop to offer assistance to others whose vehicles appear to have broken down as it may be a robbery scheme.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR BOATING AND WATER SAFETY: The Belize Barrier Reef System presents special challenges to boat operators. Nautical charts may not reflect the current location or depth of underwater hazards and individuals who cause damage to the reef can be fined large sums and even imprisoned while awaiting a hearing. If you are involved in an accident involving the barrier reef, you should notify the Belize Port Authority. In addition, you should be aware that the improper removal of a vessel stuck on the reef could cause further damage for which you could be held liable.
We recommend that those considering operating a boat in Belizean waters make certain that they are in compliance with all of Belize’s requirements for boat captains – further information is available from the Belize Port Authority. In addition, we recommend that boat operators obtain insurance to cover possible damage to the barrier reef and that individuals use caution if selecting a yacht charter company.
Sea conditions can change rapidly and may be very different from one side of the reef to another. Boat operators should not assume that calm waters inside of the barrier reef will reflect conditions outside. Use good judgment, heed local advice, and pay attention to weather forecasts when boating in Belize.
For scuba divers, there is currently only one hyperbaric chamber in Belize which is located on Ambergris Caye. Medical services requiring a hyperbaric chamber can be very expensive, therefore specialized scuba diving accident insurance is highly recommended. Information about the chamber and dive safety can be obtained on the ambergriscaye.com website and from Divers Alert Network.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Belize, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Belize’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.