Belize it or not: Top Surprizing Things About Belize

Greetings from Belize.

Those of you who have been to Belize before might not find these surprising, but this is my first time here and they surprised me. Here is a brief laundry list:

  • The U.S. Dollar is widely accepted. With the Belize Dollar pegged at 2:1 to the U.S. Dollar, it’s not surprising. Guess where you should be traveling when the U.S. Dollar is practically worthless? Where they accept dollars, of course! Although Belize is pretty expensive comparing to other Central American countries, the cheap dollar makes it affordable.
  • English is all you’ll ever need. While guidebook after guidebook tell you people speak Spanish or Creole, Belizeans almost universally speak perfect English. It’s the official language, don’t forget.
  • It’s not all jungle. While the UN pegs forest cover at 79% in Belize and the country itself claims to have 44% of its land under some legal land-protection regime, there are whole sections of the country that are open, rolling hills and farmland.
  • It’s not just the Blue Hole. There’s great diving all up and down the world’s second-largest barrier reef. The terrain is varied, and so is the wildlife. I can tell you that first hand, as I squeezed in 5 dives in 2 days off two different islands.
  • There’s a surprising level of development. Literacy is above 75% (depending on the source). The economy is rapidly growing. While the UN’s human development index generally puts the country at about number 80 of 177 countries studied (in terms of education, GDP per person, etc.), life expectancy here is in the top 40 worldwide.
  • The population density is one of the lowest in the world. With 300,000 or so people in an area the size of the state of New Jersey (which has almost 9 million folks), and 1/3 of people living in Belize City, it’s not surprising, really.
  • The rainy season (May-November) is quite pleasant here, especially if you stay in the north. We are in the middle of it right now. It rains about once a day, if that, for a while and then it’s sunny again. The benefit over the dry season? It’s cheaper and there are hardly any tourists.
  • People are really friendly, helpful and pleasant. The islands have a Caribbean feel, while the inland is more Spanish-influenced.

I give Belize two thumbs up.