Belize, Belize, Belize!
Belize is an English speaking nation located on the eastern coast of Central America and is found between the countries of Guatemala and Mexico. Once a colony of Great Britain, Belize is now independent and is self governed. Belize is considered to be part of the Caribbean as the Caribbean Sea borders its eastern side and for this reason, the nation is a member of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community). Belize has a very diverse culture which is in part a result of its extremely colorful population which includes persons of African, Spanish and English descent, Mestizos, Indigenous Mayans, Chinese and Kriols as well as other documented ethnic groups. The estimated population of Belize is three hundred thousand (300,000) people.
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Belize’s economy is supported by a strong tourism and agricultural industry. Belize produces sugar and crops such as corn, bananas and citrus fruits but the country also benefits from the export of fish and lobster (to North America and a few CARICOM countries).
Tourism is taking over as the main income earner of Belize, and without a doubt Belize is a prime tourist destination well known for its sweeping white sandy beaches, great barrier reef, other reefs and atolls which provide some of the best diving sites available in the Caribbean Sea. In addition to being marketed as a prime tourist location, Belize is also being promoted as an ecotourism destination; rightly so as Belize has over 880,000 acres of forested areas which include natural reserves, protected areas, national parks; a world heritage site (the Belize Barrier Reef), and hundreds of rivers, waterfalls, caves, reefs, cays and atolls. Scattered across the mainland of Belize are the remains of ancient Mayans towns and cities, cited as one of the most advanced civilizations to have existed centuries ago.
The currency of Belize is a relatively strong one against the US dollar in which case a Belizean dollar or BZ$ which has an exchange rate of two (2) Belizean Dollars to one (1) US Dollar. Outside of tourism, another major contributor to the economy of Belize is the country’s offshore financial sector. Belize offshore financial sector was set in motion in the 1990’s through the passing of approved legislation. The more popular offshore services facilitated by Belize’s offshore financial centre include offshore banking, the incorporation of International Business Companies, offshore trusts and offshore insurance companies. The Government of Belize has what is referred to as “progressive legislation” where laws governing offshore sector are updated and reviewed as often as is necessary to enhance the sector’s competiveness. As that is ongoing, Belize is recognized as a superior offshore jurisdiction or tax haven, plus, since its implementing its first offshore act, Belize has a track record of being one of the most secure offshore jurisdictions available.
Belize has a mixture of culture, races and ethnic groups which add to the richness of the country’s culture. Belize celebrates many events during the year which attract visitors to participate and learn of the country’s culture. The first big event of the year is the Baron Bliss Day, an annual regatta to celebrate the life of Baron Bliss who willed a generous amount of money to Belize. The regatta takes place in Belize City. During the Easter weekend there is a cross country bicycle race. During the summer vacation there are many festivals in the country; Lobster Fest, Cashew Fest and the Costa Maya festival which runs over five days. The Costa Maya festival includes the countries of Guatemala, Belize Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. Independence celebrations are held in the month of September. The Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize is celebrated in November and this is a national holiday to mark the arrival of the Garifunas in Belize.
Belize can be accessed from most continents. There is an international airport in Belize and people can fly to the country from the United States directly while there are flights from the neighboring countries of Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. There is a major sea port in Belize City which accommodates cruise liners such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International among others and there are smaller sea ports located on different locations on Belize.
Shopping hours in Belize are from eight in the morning to twelve in the afternoon and from one to four thirty in the afternoon. Some shops stay closed on Wednesday afternoons. Banking hours in Belize are from eight to one from Monday to Thursday and from eight to four thirty in the afternoon on Friday. Hotels and big business establishments accepted major credit cards. Automatic Teller machines are services provided by most banks on the island and many accepted major credit and debit cards.