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Welcome to... Belize!
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-04-09 20:24:52 | San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize
Keywords: Welcome to
Belize is the first country I visit in Central America. But it's a Central American country only by physical location, it has little in common with its neighbours and is often considered as the only continental (non insular) Caribbean country. Although there are some Mayas, this ex-British colony is mostly populated by black people, you'll hear much more reggae than any other types of music and the official language is English. It's also the youngest independent country of the Americas... having obtained its independence in 1981. It uses imperial measures system and is part of the Commonwealth.

In terms of geography, it's bordered on the North by Mexico and in the West and South by Guatemala. It's a very small country in terms of size and population, making it the least densely populated country in Central America. With a total of about 23 000 square kilometres (about 8 800 square miles)... it is roughly 40 times smaller than Canada, but still not the smallest country in Central America (El Salvador is). With a population of about 350 000 people for the whole country it's by far the smallest population in Central America (10 times smaller than Panama, in second place). The population of Belize is extremely young (half of the population is below 22 years old). The national holiday September 21(Independance Day, 1981) and national anthem is Land of the free.

Nature-wise, Belize is gifted by a wonderful coastline that is a paradise for divers and have heavy dense forests where also florished part of the Maya civilization. Most of the country is around sea level, with slight elevations in the Western part of the country. It's largest city is Belize City, which is the transportation hub with the largest international airport of the country and easy access to the cayes (sand islands) off the coast which are the main tourist attractions. Belize City used to be the capital of the country but after it was hit on many occasions by hurricanes, the most devastating almost wiped out the city in 1961. Then the government seeked permission and funding to London (it was still a British colony then, known as British Honduras) to create a new capital. The location was chosen and it became Belmopan, which after its construction received the title of capital in 1970.

On the economy aspect, Belize is a Third-Wold country, still fighting hard to develop. With half of its population below the poverty line and a high rate of unemployment (about 15%), it's a very struggling economy. Most of its revenues come from tourism and other services (like banking). One thing very surprising in this context is to see the cost of living in Belize! It's extremely expensive to live in Belize, often prices are higher than they are in the US or Canada! For example, a loaf of sliced bread costs about US$2, a litre of fresh milk US$4 (US$2 for Mexican UHT milk) and eggs are about US$2 a dozen. But the most surprising of all daily expenses is the gas. It's more expensive here than anywhere in the USA at US$5,75 per gallon (or US$1.52 per litre).

Bank notes and coins of Belize

The official currency is the Belize dollar (B$), but the US dollar is often used and accepted everywhere, especially since the conversion is simple... 1 US$ = 2 B$ (official rate is slightly different, but everyone accepts it as 1 for 2).  People usually distinguish them by saying "10 Belize" or "10 US".  The bank notes come in values of B$2, B$5, B$10, B$20, B$50 and B$100, all bearing the Queen Elizabeth II on them. The coins are 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents (referred to as quarter, but also as schilling), 50 cents (rare piece but legal tender) and 1 dollar. The dollar coin is exactly same shape, weight and colour as the Canadian one, just a different printing on it.

Related posts:
Welcome to... Honduras
Welcome to... El Salvador
Welcome to... Guatemala
Welcome to... Mexico!
Welcome to... USA


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