Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico, on the west and south by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from its neighbor to the southwest, Honduras. Belize covers approximately 8,866 square miles. Belize's mainland is roughly 180 miles long and up to 68 miles wide. Belize also consists of over 200 cayes (islands), ranging in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and four miles wide. Most of the cayes are located inside the 200-mile Belize Reef.
Political Status: Belize has been an independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations since 1981. Belize is governed by a parliamentary democracy with two major political parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's United Party (PUP). The Belizean constitution is similar to documents adopted by other former British colonies and includes a bill of rights.
Population: The population of Belize is approximately 350,000. The country enjoys a wide range of ethnic diversity. Major groups include Africans, Creoles (African-European), Mestizos (Spanish-Indian), Garifunas (African-Indian), Mayans, Anglo-Europeans, Arabs, and Asians.
Language: English is the official language. Spanish is also widely spoken, especially in the west. Other languages include Creole, Mayan and Garifuna.
Getting to Belize: Belize is about 2 hours and 15 minutes by air from Miami, Florida and Houston, Texas. U.S. gateway cities to Belize include Miami, Houston and New Orleans, Louisiana. Direct flights are also available from Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C; and from Toronto. International travelers fly into Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City.
Currency: The Belize dollar is the national currency. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere in Belize, although change will often be given in Belizean currency.
Electrical System: 110 volts AC (the same as elsewhere in North America) is the standard.
Time Zone: Belize is in the Central Standard Time zone, and does not observe daylight savings time.
Climate: Belize is subtropical, with a mean annual temperature of 80 degrees F. Winter storms may bring the temperature down to the low 60s. In the summer, temperatures may reach the mid-90s on the mainland. Trade winds blow along the coast and on the cayes most of the year, typically keeping temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months. The dry season generally lasts from November through May; while the rainy season runs from June to November. Hurricanes occasionally occur, most often in August and September. Rainfall is heaviest in the south and in the inland jungle areas.