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5 Belize Myths

5 Belize Myths by Sharon Hiebing

Frequently I get together with other Expats, such as myself, and we get to talking. Occasionally a topic will come up that we have to stop and laugh about. Not because it’s funny per se, but because before we moved here, we had heard such lavish stories or mis-information. For some of us, this “bad intel” almost stopped us from moving to Belize (thank God we didn’t listen!).

So, in an effort to set the record straight, here are 5 of the most common myths I hear about living in Belize, and why they’re not true:

1. You must learn Spanish. Even though Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, it’s amazing how many people think you must learn Spanish. It’s just not true! Every Belize citizen goes to school and learns English from a very young age. At home, they mostly speak Creole. And because Belize is bordered by Guatemala and Mexico, a lot of Spanish- speaking people do live here, but they usually end up learning English to fit in. So, if you want to learn Spanish, by all means, go ahead. But you certainly don’t have to.

2. There are power outages constantly. This one really gets us chuckling. There are almost never power outages. Definitely no more than I experienced living in the San Francisco Bay Area my entire life. Certainly, once in a while a power outage will occur, but even during the most wicked rain storm, the power is quite reliable. This holds true for San Pedro and San Ignacio Town, Belize, both places I’ve lived. So buy that generator if you must, but I personally think it’s a waste of money.

3. The roads are horrible. OK, I admit, there are certain areas in Belize where the roads can get quite bad, especially during or immediately after a storm (the North road in San Pedro comes to mind, but my golf cart still made it home every day). However, overall, the roads in Belize are quite good. The government has finished paving most of the major roads. Placencia now has their road, which is wonderful.

Hopefully, the road up North in San Pedro, the road leading into Hopkins, and the Manatee (Coastal) Highway will be paved, but I’ve never gotten stuck or been turned back around a day since moving here. If you are buying property at a new development, then beware, the roads are the last thing to get done, so they can be challenging until then.

Having travelled in St. Lucia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, I personally think Belize’s roads are some of the best I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something for a third world country!

4. The weather is always hot. I definitely fell for this myth. When I moved to Belize, I put everything I owned in three suitcases and moved here. I didn’t pack one pair of long pants, no sweatshirts or jackets, and besides a pair of hiking boots and running shoes, no closed-toe shoes. What I discovered is during our winter months (November-March), it can get quite cold, especially at night.

Now Belize’s cold and Minnesota’s cold are not even on the same scale. However, keep in mind that I’m a California girl, so at night when it is 65 degrees and windy, I was cold! Luckily, there are lots of great shops to buy clothes at, so I’ve invested in some jeans, cute closed-toe shoes for going out on the town, and a sweater or two. Also, if you live in the Cayo District, like I do, the nights can definitely be chilly.

So don’t believe that it will be 80 degrees 24/7/365 – sad to say, we do dip below 70 degrees once in a while, lol!

5. Belize is a very dangerous place. When I first considered moving to Belize, I did a lot of online research. I cannot tell you how many different stories I ran across warning of crime or crime gone rampant. It scared me to the point where I almost didn’t move here. Now that I’m here and have had a chance to reflect, I think most of those stories were more than likely set in Belize City, our most populated area in Belize. But in most other towns or villages, while crime does exist, it is mostly petty theft. In Belize City, it is gang or drug related, which leads to robberies and murders.

Still, crime is definitely not on the scale of Oakland, CA, where I’m from, which had one of the highest murder rates in the country. I feel quite safe going for a walk in my neighborhood. I do venture out frequently with my diamond ring on and have yet to be attacked or accosted. Having said that, I do feel in a third world country where unemployment and poverty is high, you should be cautious and take care not to leave your valuables sitting out on your porch (that includes you tourists-so many people do this at hotels and are sitting ducks). If you live here, rent a house with burglar bars, leave your lights on at night, and get a dog if you’d like. Nothing
more beyond that is really necessary.

Belize does have crime, but if you use some common sense, the effects of it are not normally felt by most of us.

So, now the record is set straight – don’t believe everything you read online about Belize. A lot of it can be exaggerated, stale, or just plain wrong. Are there any rumors you’ve heard about Belize you’ve  wondered about?

Sharon Hiebing is an American Expat living in San Ignacio Town, Belize. She is the founder of Wealth Ships’ and offers Expat Relocation Consulting Services via email, phone and one-to-one at affordable rates. She also owns the only property management company in Western Belize, Red Roof Property Management. She has written two ebooks, writes a weekly blog, and posts tidbits daily about her life and work on Facebook. She’d love it if you came and got to know her.

11 comments

  1. Hey Laurie – once again, thanks for the opportunity to share some of my experiences with your audience. I appreciate the opportunity!!

    Sharon Hiebing
    Relocate Without Rose-Colored Glasses

  2. Sharon you heard of Murphy’s Law? Well in Corozal there is Manzanilla’s Law: “cuando la electricidad es muerta fijamos quizá el día siguiente” Which means learn Spanish and get a 5.5KW generator. I did both and no regrets.

  3. I know a few people here who are pro generator too Al. We have decent power out lighting and a rechargeable dvd player thanks to my cousin so we manage ok for power outs – though I would imagine if it was a really long time a generator might be useful.

  4. Anytime Sharon – your articles are always greatly enjoyed.

  5. Although both my parents were bilingual I grew up speaking mostly English (mixed with some creole) in Belize.

    I can get by with mildly passable Spanish but English is my tongue of choice.

    My girlfriend is fluent in Spanish so I have ZERO problems when traveling with her:)

    Concerning the power cuts, its has GREATLY improved from how it was 15 years and longer. Its still a work in progress but I am not complaining too much.

    Concerning the weather, my father told me that it fell below 60F quite a few times back in the 1950’s and 60’s for example. My uncle said one time in the early 80’s he saw frost on his car glass one Christmas. Of course, with global warming it has gotten hotter for the most part but still NEVER always hot by any means of the imagination.

    I love cold nights in Cayo during winter:)

    Concerning crime, if you look at the statistics and in my humble opinion most MAJOR crime occurs in the south side of Belize City in a five by five block radius roughly. Imagine if the south side of Belize City would just vanish? Then, the crime statistics would VASTLY improve.

    I am not wishing that, just trying to draw an example that is all.

    cheers…..

  6. After having experienced a 1 week cold front here 5 years ago and not having enough blankets I can totally imagine your uncles car with frost on it Remo. Power has improved a lot in past 5 years, I notice a difference that it does not go out as much as it used to.

  7. Remo, I love your feedback! I think it is probably why some of these rumors, or myths, persist. Things have changed quite a bit in Belize over the years (roads, intrastructure for power, weather), yet the old stories linger.

    And wouldn’t it be a dream come true for everyone who loves Belize if that five block radius in BC just vanished?

    Thank you for shedding a historical light on the situation.

    Sharon Hiebing
    Relocation Without Rose-Colored Glasses

  8. For Sharon not so much Laurie: The problem I see that might be hard to rectify is the US Consular info sheets on Belize which I think everyone visting or moving to Belize reads. The roads,(?high crowned roads), bicycles and devil maycare driving style is noted as dangers. As for the current situation on the current the power in CZL as of last spring, went out montly for “infrastructure repairs” sometimes at really dumb times like a thursday from 7 to 1pm which meant 3pm. That is why most businesses like Franks Meats have big ass generators. Periodic voltage fluctuations cause fans to 2 step across the room on occasion. Surge protectors on electronics are mandatory.

  9. Great information on this post. I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing a book about Caribbean expats, the pros and cons. This story hits home with that. I may just be calling on TacoGirl for an interview, stay tuned!

    Cheers!

  10. Hey Al! I think your perspective is valuable, because most people know I’ve never lived in Corozal. So for those considering moving there, yes, they should know power outages are, it seems from what you’re saying, much more common.

    And yes, surge protectors on everything, no matter where in Belize you live.

    Also, if you have a business that depends on power, then I definitely think it’s smart business to get a generator. Thanks for your input.

    And Ryan, you can call me for an interview too, lol!!

    Sharon Hiebing
    Relocation Without Rose-Colored Glasses!

  11. Appreciate being tossed into the idea Ryan and I am all in.