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.