Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is a small Central American country that is situated along the Caribbean Sea. It is bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala on its southern and western sides. This English speaking country is an independent member of the British Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State. On Feb 8, 2008, Dean Barrow was elected into power as the Prime Minister. He represents the United Democratic Party (UDP).
Belize is well known for numerous cayes (pronounced keys) as well as for the 185 mile long barrier reef that lie off the coast. The barrier reef is the longest in the Western Hemisphere, the second largest in the world, and attracts people from all nations. Sixty percent of the Belize has been designated as national parks or natural marine reserves and the country boasts over 450 species of fish, 70 different types of coral, and over 540 species of exotic birds.
Today Belize’s population is estimated to be at approximately 273,700. The country is a melting pot of many races and over the years the multi-racial make-up has risen through the influx of people from Central America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. Males outnumber the female population by only 1%.
The climate is subtropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The country has an annual mean temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is nicely tempered by Sea breezes.
A summer high temperature, usually never exceeds 96 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows are seldom below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night.
Saltwater temperature varies between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 170 inches in the South. The rainy season is usually between June and August and the dry season is between February and May. Average humidity is 85 percent.
English is the official language of Belize, although Spanish, Creole, Garifuna and Mayan are widely spoken throughout the country as well.
Banks: Monday – Thursday 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Commerce & Industry: Monday – Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
A few businesses are open on Saturdays and even fewer are open on Sundays.
The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ$2 to US$1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept U.S. currency, traveler’s checks, or credit cards. When using your credit cards in Belize, most establishments will add 5% service charge to your bill.
Belizean paper money is distributed in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2 dollar bills. Belize coins come in 1 dollar, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 Belizean cent units.
Time observed year round is GMT-6, which is the same as United States Central Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Belize.