Belize Quick Facts

Location
Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, and is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and by the Caribbean Sea to the east. With approximately 8,867 sq. miles, Belize's mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. Belize also consists of over 200 offshore islands, or cayes, ranging in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and 4 miles wide; most of which are located inside the 200 mile long Belize reef. Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world - 185 miles long - and three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere fall within Belize's territory.
Language
English is the official language of Belize; however Spanish is also widely spoken. Maya, Garifuna, and Creole are also spoken.
Population
Belize's population is approximately 300,000. There is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans who include Hispanic, Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern, and Asian. The largest single group if Hispanic.
Climate
Belize's weather is characterized by two seasons: a rainy (June to November) and a dry season. Annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches in the north to 160 inches in the south. Rainfall is variable from year to year except for in the south. The coldest month is January while the highest temperatures are experienced during the month of May.
Current Exchange
Local currency is the Belize Dollar or BZ$. The Belize dollar has been pegged to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate of 2:1 for over 25 years. ATM machines are located countrywide, and most accept credit and debit cards with the VISA, MasterCard, Plus, and Cirrus logos.
Government and Legal System
Belize has a long-standing history of peace, stability, and democracy. It became a British Crown Colony in 1862 and achieved independence from the United Kingdom on September 21st, 1981. The political system is based on the British Westminster model with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, represented in Belize by a Belizean Governor General. The leader of the Executive is the Prime Minister, and there are two major political parties - United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's United Party (PUP). The UDP currently holds power, led by Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow (February 7th, 2008). Belize's legal system and rule of law are firmly rooted in the English Common Law, and supplemented by local legislation, with the Privy Council serving as the final court of appeal. Belize has a constitution and a bill of rights
Economy
Agriculture was traditionally the major driver of Belize's economy with export products such as sugar, citrus, and banana. Tourism has however, now surpassed agriculture as the main foreign exchange earner. Belize benefits from a number of preferential market access arrangements, especially with the USA, Canada and the European Union.
Communication
Belize has excellent satellite and fiber-optic telecommunication services including international roaming with its GSM network. Internet access is readily available through satellite, cable, and DSL. International courier services such as FedEx and DHL are also well established. There are currently two telephone companies in Belize - Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and SMART.
 

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