Belize Country Profile

Belize’s strategic location in the Americas.

Belize is a country located on the northeast coast of Central America. Belize, which was known as British Honduras until 1973, was the last British colony on the Americas mainland. Its prolonged path to independence was marked by a unique international campaign under the leadership of Premier and eventually Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. George Price, (even while it was still a British colony) against the irredentist claims of its neighbour to the west, Guatemala. Belize achieved independence on 21 September 1981 and has retained its historical links with the United Kingdom through membership in the British Commonwealth. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, and while it has many things in common with the Caribbean island-states, formerly part of the British Empire, the country has strong links with its geographic Spanish-speaking Central American neighbors.

In the past, the majority of the population was English or Creole-speaking African-descent Creoles. This is a legacy of its status as a former colony of the United Kingdom that introduced slavery to the settlement then known as British Honduras. Outward migrations of Creoles to North America, and the inward migration of Latinos following civil wars in the eighties in neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador, upended the demographics of its once mainly Anglo-Caribbean architecture.

Spanish-speaking Latinos and Mestizos now comprise 53% of the population (2010 census) but the country continues on a relatively peaceful path of socio-political development as it finds its unique place as a bilingual and young nation-state on the Central American isthmus.

The country has three official land border crossings, the first into Mexico at Santa Elena in the northern Corozal District, the second into Guatemala at Benque Viejo del Carmen in the Cayo District, and another to Guatemala at Jalacte in the South.

The only official port of entry by air is the Phillip Goldson International Airport at Ladyville 12 miles north of Belize City. This city is the commercial and crime capital of the country and its dilapidated condition does not make it attractive to tourists.

Maritime entry and exit points are located at the north with Mexico, and at the south with Guatemala and Honduras.  Passenger water taxis do daily runs into Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.

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Belizeans consist of the peoples and cultures of the Americas –bilingual Spanish-English speaking Latinos, Mestizos, who are of mixed Maya Indian and European ancestry and mainly speak Spanish, the original settlers the Maya who speak their own language, Creoles, that speak an English dialect and who are of African and African-European extraction, and the Garifuna, who are the descendants of Arawak Indians and Africans deported and transplanted by the British from St. Vincent. More detailed information is in our People Of Belize and also Belize Demographics pages.

Formerly known as British Honduras, this was England’s last colony on the American mainland. Its independence was delayed until 1981 by long-running friction with neighboring Guatemala, which claims a large portion of its territory. Guatemala recognized Belizean independence in 1991, but the two neighbors have yet to settle their border dispute. The matter is now before the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Interesting Factoid: the Belize Flag is the only national flag in the world to depict human beings. See our Belize Flag and National Anthem page.


Xunantunich Maya Temples Belize
Xunantunich Maya Pyramids. Belize was home of the ancient Maya civilization.

Tourism is the largest source of foreign currency. Attractions include extensive rainforests, the largest cave system in Central America, major Maya ruins, wildlife, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, and three of the four true atolls in the Americas including the Great Blue Hole. More than 100 islands and beaches nestled inside the reef make for traditional sun, sand, and sea attractions as well as world-class SCUBA diving. Check out our article on the Xunantunich Maya Ruin.

Cruise ship arrivals have increased in recent years and mass tourism operators such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise have port facilities in-country.

The country has a problem with crime mostly concentrated in Belize City, some of it drug and gang-related but it has so far been able to escape the very serious problems of this type plaguing Mexico and Guatemala. While the government continues to make large investments in tourism promotion, Belize is a developing country. The public infrastructure is wanting, the roads are narrow and poorly maintained and illuminated, law enforcement is weak and safety protocols are mediocre, particularly those that affect locals and tourists – road safety and boating regulations. Boating accidents due to overloaded vessels, or vessels operating at high speed near the beach are not uncommon.

Origin Of The Name Belize

The origin of the name Belize is traditionally believed to have evolved from the Mayan word belix (“muddy water” “belize river”) or belikin (“road to the sea” “road to the east”). Another theory is that it derived from the Spanish pronunciation of the last name of Peter Wallace, a Scottish pirate who may have had a hideout at the mouth of the Belize River about 1638. How do you pronounce the word BELIZE? Click Here For Belize Definition and Pronunciation


• Full name: Belize (English) Belice (Spanish).
• Capital:  City Of Belmopan
• Population: 400,900 (Belize Statistical Unit Extrapolation July 2020)
• Area: 22,965 sq. km (8,867 sq. miles)
• Major languages: English, Spanish, Creole, Maya, Garifuna
• Political System: Westminster style two party democracy – general elections every 5 years.
• Legal System: Based on English Common Law
• Legislative: Bicameral – elected House of Representatives – government appointed Senate
• Major religion: Christianity
• Head of State: His Majesty King Charles III
• Head of Government: Prime Minister Johnny Briceño – elected 2020
• Life expectancy: 75 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
• Currency Exchange: Fixed peg to U.S. Dollar – 2 Belize dollars = 1 U.S. Dollar
• Monetary unit: 1 Belize dollar = 100 cents
• Main exports: Sugar, bananas, citrus concentrate and solids, grain, beef, fish products, gold, molasses
• GNI per capita: US$4,510 (World Bank, 2014)
• Internet top level country domain: .bz
• Belize country International dialing code: +501


Belize government structure
Belize parliamentary system and branches of government.

Belize has a bicameral National Assembly, consisting of a House of Representatives with 31 members and a thirteen-member Senate.

Head of State: King Charles III, represented by a local ceremonial governor general Froyla Tzalam.

Prime Minister John Briceño.

General elections were held in Belize on 11 November 2020 to elect the 31 members of the House of Representatives.

The People’s United Party achieved its first national election victory since 2003 in a landslide, winning 26 seats, while the incumbent United Democratic Party had its worst result since 1998, winning the remaining 5 seats. Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent tropical storm, election turnout was over 81%, the highest since 1998

Belize’s First Prime Minister and the architect of Belizean Independence Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price passed away on 19 September 2011.

Belize’s second prime minister Sir Manuel Esquivel passed away on 10 February 2022


Jaguar Panthera Onca
The Jaguar is a protected species in Belize and the largest cat in the Americas. Males can reach a body length of 6 ft 1 in (1.85 metres) and weigh up to 350 lb (158 kilograms).

Nature lovers find a fantasyland in Belize. A walk through the jungle brings you close to myriad animal and bird species, many of which are almost extinct in other Central American countries, Although Belize is a relatively small country, it has an amazing variety of wildlife living in a wide range of habitats. The country’s savannahs and lowlands are home to rare waterfowl, its forests provide a refuge for numerous mammals.

What Country Owns Belize?

Belize achieved independence on 21 September 1981, it is since then a realm of the Commonwealth, with King Charles III as its monarch and head of state. Belize is often thought of as a Caribbean country in Central America because it has a history similar to that of English-speaking Caribbean nations.

Is Belize Considered Mexico?

No. Belize is on the Central American mainland and its northern border with Mexico is the Rio Hondo that separates the two countries.

Is Belize A Good Place To Live?

While Belize is a beautiful, sunny, affordable and easygoing haven, it certainly isn’t perfect. Living here, like anywhere, you’ll encounter challenges and frustrations. Here are three signs you won’t be happy in Belize: You need extensive medical attention. You do not like warm or hot weather. You like big malls and franchise fast food. US citizens, Canadians and Europeans are the largest group of retirees and expats making Belize their home.

Is Belize A Rich Country?

Belize is considered an upper-middle-income country with a GDP per capita of $4,806.50. Despite this, a 2009 study revealed that 41.3 percent of the population of Belize lives at or below the poverty line. The main at-risk group in Belize are children.

How Does Belize Make Money?

Tourism is the number one Foreign Exchange Earner for the Belize Economy at 40% of GDP in 2023. Source: Belize Tourism Industry Association.

What Is The Minimum Wage In Belize?

The minimum wage in Belize for all categories of workers is US$2.50 (BZ$5.00) per hour with effect from 1 January 2023 as per the Wages Council (Wages Regulation) (Consolidation) (Amendment) Order, 2022, Statutory Instrument No. 169 of 2022, and Wages Regulation (Manual Workers) (Amendment) Order 2022, Statutory Instrument No. 170 2022

Are Belizeans Black?

Black Belizeans or Creoles as they prefer to be called are remnants of the slave trade in the Caribbean and are the most prominent group in the Belize district, home of the largest population centre Belize city. Once the main ethnic group, Creoles are the second largest in the country after Latinos.

For more information see our Belize Frequently Asked Questions Page


All newspapers are weeklies, except for the Amandala which is a biweekly; some of the privately-owned weeklies are subsidized by political parties. Government advertising is routinely channeled to media that are in its good graces.

The state-run Broadcasting Corporation of Belize (Radio Belize in the colonial era) was privatized in 1998, and eventually dismantled. It was sold to LOVE FM chief Rene Villanueva.

A staple of local electronic media are call-in shows in the mornings on weekdays where members of the public call to report political shenanigans and complaints or share community news. Private television stations are on the air in major population centers and cable TV is available in the towns and villages.

The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but there are exceptions in the interest of national security, public order and morality. There is no U.S. style First Amendment and the laws are more in line with those of its former colonial ruler the UK.

Private Sector

The country has a small but active private sector. Like most developing countries much of the economy is informal. The two main private sector advocacy groups are the Belize Chamber of Commerce and the Belize Business Bureau.


Amandala – biweekly.
The Belize Times – weekly – official organ of People’s United Party.
The Reporter – weekly
The San Pedro Sun – published in San Pedro Island
The Guardian – official organ of the United Democratic Party

Television Stations

Channel 5 – commercial – P.U.P. affiliated
Channel 7 – commercial – U.D.P. affiliated
CTV3 Orange Walk – P.U.P. affiliated.
Plus TV Cable Channel – P.U.P.affiliated

Radio Stations

Love FM – commercial, music and news
Estereo Amor – private, Spanish-language
Krem FM – private, commercial – part of the Amandala newspaper
• More FM – private, music station aimed at younger listeners
• Wave Radio – organ of the United Democratic Party
• Vibes Radio – organ of the People’s United Party
My Refuge Radio – Christian


Belize Tourism Board – government controlled
Belize Government – Belize government website
Ambergris Today – Guide to Ambergris Caye
Belize Net – classifieds

Sources And Additional Information on Belize

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Amnesty International: Belize

BBC Country Profile: Belize

FAO: Belize

GlobalEDGE: Belize

The Heritage Foundation: Belize

Human Rights Watch: Belize

OEC: Belize

Reporters Without Borders: Belize

The Commonwealth: Belize

Wikipedia: Belize

Worldbank Data: Belize