Welcome to Belize City
In Belize nearly all journeys begin and end in Belize City, the
country's biggest urban enclave and port of entry, although in
truth not a very enticing tourist destination in itself. Belize
City sits in a swamp that stretches across Haulover Creek at the
mouth of the Belize River, criss-crossed with narrow streets and
rather smelly canals which are lined with a jolly jumble of
buildings, some little more than dilapidated shacks and others
attempts at rather pretentious modern stores. In between are some
pretty wooden houses and colonial landmark buildings.
The city has clung tenaciously onto its muddy roots since it was
abandoned as a Mayan fishing camp in the 1600s and taken over by
pirates and buccaneers as a logging camp. Late in the 17th century,
along came the Spanish, who cut down the mahogany upriver, floated
the logs downstream and exported them from the motley little
encampment at the river mouth. Later the British established Belize
Town, which began the city's formal, rather tragic, passage into
modern times. Three times devastated by fires, scourged by disease
epidemics, flattened by hurricanes and tidal waves, the city
somehow survived and today, in the new millennium, it subsists on
tourism and fishing, remaining the cultural, commercial and social
centre of Belize despite the capital having been moved to Belmopan
Most visitors to Belize City come ashore on tenders from dozens
of luxury cruise liners which include the city in their
itineraries, mainly to allow passengers to take adventure
excursions to see and experience the wonderful natural attractions
of the interior and coastline of Belize. Cruise passengers are
welcomed at the showpiece Belize Tourism Village, where courtyards
and attractive buildings contain a variety of restaurants, souvenir
shops, craft stalls and other facilities to cater for their needs.
It is the departure point for numerous land and marine tours.
Independent visitors to Belize also generally start their
exploration of the country in Belize City, and can find some sights
of interest to fill a few days layover in the town, including the
world's only manually operated swing bridge, some colonial
architectural treasures like the Paslow Building, the novel St
John's Cathedral built by slaves from bricks brought as ballast in
ships from Europe, and the art gallery at the Bliss Institute,
bequeathed to the city by British Baron, Henry Bliss, who died on
his yacht in the harbour. Also well worth a visit are the Maritime
Museum and Museum of Belize.
Information & Facts
English is the official language and the one most
commonly spoken, but you will hear Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and
Mayan as well.
The unit of currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD), which is fixed
against the US$ as BZ$2 = US$1. Most tourist resorts, hotels,
restaurants and tour operators accept US currency and travellers
cheques. Credit cards are also accepted, and most banks in Belize
City and Belmopan will advance cash against Visa or MasterCard.
When using credit cards most establishments will add a 5% service
charge to the bill. First Caribbean International Bank has several
ATMs in Belize City. Always make sure you understand which dollar
rate is being quoted, either Belize Dollars or US Dollars.
Local time is GMT -6.