October 6, 2000
While cleanup and repair efforts in Belize are underway in the wake of Hurricane Keith, power and telephone lines throughout the country continue to function only sporadically, and remain out on Belize's coastal islands. Commercial flights within and out of Belize have resumed. American citizens considering travel to Belize should monitor local conditions before coming to a decision, especially in the main tourist areas off the coast of Belize.
The Department of State has lifted the authorized departure status of American personnel in non-emergency positions and of family members of American personnel. Most Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize have returned to their assignments. Those Volunteers who are unable to return to regular duty because of adverse conditions are assisting with relief efforts in Belize City.
This replaces the Travel Warning issued October 1, 2000, to reflect improving conditions in Belize in the aftermath of Hurricane Keith and to note the lifting of authorized departure status of non-emergency U.S. Government personnel and their dependents. This Public Announcement expires on October 31, 2000.
Belize is a developing country. Its tourism facilities vary in quality, from business class hotels in Belize City to comfortable ecotourism lodges to very basic accommodations. It is not possible to access U.S. bank accounts through automated teller machines (ATMs) in Belize. Travelers can, however, obtain cash advances from local banks, Monday through Friday, using major international credit cards. Belize has completely recovered from the effects of Hurricane Mitch in October 1998.
U.S. citizens need a passport valid for duration of stay. U.S. citizens do not need visas for tourist visits of up to thirty days, although onward or return air tickets and proof of sufficient funds are required. Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa. Additional information on entry and customs requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Belize at 2535 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 332-9636. Information is also available at the Belizean Consulate in Miami or at the Belizean Mission to the UN in New York.
Local and international water taxis do not always carry sufficient safety equipment, may carry an excess number of passengers and may sail in inclement weather. Travelers should exercise caution when using water taxis.
Crime, including robbery and mugging, continues to be a problem. Belize City has been the site of more reported incidents than other areas of the country. Crimes against tourists at resorts, while not unheard of, are rare. During daylight hours on May 2, 1998, a group of masked armed robbers blocked one of the three major highways in Belize, the Hummingbird Highway near the capital of Belmopan, and held up some twenty vehicles. The robbers killed one man who did not cooperate and injured others who tried to flee the area. A few less serious armed robberies have been reported near the western border with Guatemala. Travelers visiting the border area are advised to travel during daylight hours. Travelers should not travel alone, and should ensure that their vehicles are in good operating condition, are adequately fueled, and carry communications equipment, if possible.
The incidence of such crimes as theft, burglary and pickpocketing rises around the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Travelers should keep valuables out of sight, avoid wearing jewelry, and travel in groups during daylight hours to minimize the risk of being targeted. Individuals may contact the Belizean tourist police unit as well as the main police office for assistance. All incidents of assault, robbery, theft or other crimes should be reported to the police immediately.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of Stateís pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This publication and others, such as Tips For Travelers to Central and South America, are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
Medical care is limited. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether your insurance company will make payments directly to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of Stateís Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Belize is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor
Roads in Belize vary from two-lane paved roads to dirt tracks. It is not uncommon to encounter pedestrians, horses, bicycles, farm equipment, trucks or other motorized vehicles traveling or stopped on highways and roads. Service stations are available on the three main highways, connecting Belize City with Mexico, Guatemala, and southern Belize, at distant but reasonable intervals. There are few service stations other than on these highways or in large towns. There are no emergency road services, and there are few public telephones, even on the major highways. Since May 1998, there has been one serious robbery on one of the major highways and a few other less serious incidents near the western border with Guatemala. It is not recommended that travelers drive after dark, given the condition of the roads, lack of services and the absence of street lighting. It is recommended for safety reasons that travelers not stop to offer assistance to others whose vehicles have apparently broken down.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Belizean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belize are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
U.S. citizens living in or visiting Belize are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Belize City and obtain updated information on travel and security in Belize. The U.S. Embassy is located at the intersection of Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street in Belize City; telephone 011 (501) 2-77161/62/63.