Lonely Planet says Belize City is fairly safe, with the most dangerous part being near the river. The hostel I chose for the night is next to the river. It is a dump, but at $12 a night, it is the cheapest option. Everywhere else was at least $30. It is dark now and I am hungry. The semi-slow French Canadian running the show suggests I eat at "Peoples". I can eat there or bring it back, but whatever I do, the hotel gate will be locked at 10 pm with no one entering or exiting until the morning.
I did not like the two-block walk to "Peoples" restaurant. This is the sketchiest area I have been in so far. The locals hanging out in the street stare me down as I walk by. I wonít be taking photos here. I just try to walk confidently and mind my own business. I spit on the road a few times to look tougher.
Once inside Peoples I don't feel much safer. The menu is on the wall and thick bars separate me from the man working behind the counter. In Belize everyone speaks English so it is easy to communicate, but they are all business here. Not too much chitchat. I get my shrimp curry to go and make my way back to the hostel.
For being a dump the hostel is set-up pretty well. You just have to get past the questionable wiring in the rooms and the giant spider that likes to hangout in the bathroom. The rooms are on the second floor and there is a locked gate coming up the stairs that protects a balcony over looking the road. This is a safe place to hangout, but you feel connected to what is going on outside at the same time. I eat here with three other travelers who are also on a tight budget and we swap stories for the next few hours. One man's life has been completely twisted and turned upside down in the last few months. He and his wife moved down here from Canada to retire, but were arrested for not registering their guns at the border. They went to prison where is wife got hepatitis from the poor conditions and passed away. Their camper burned down and all he was left with was his dog M&M. It is a wake-up call for me about the dangers of traveling. He is an example of how things can go from good to bad to unexplainably horrible in a matter of weeks. A man below on the street begs for my food. I am full and hand down what I have left. The Canadian worker locks the front gate and we all go to bed.
Two nights laterÖ
I wake up a few hours after going to bed to dogs barking in the street. Then I hear men arguing. Something about it feels odd. It is not a comfortable feeling. The yelling reaches a climax and then I hear it.
POP POP POP POP!
The dogs stop barking. A moment goes by with dead silence for the first time since I have arrived at this place. There is some shuffling and someone says the world "police". Then nothing again. Eerie silence. I pull back the curtain in my room, but the driveway gate blocks the view. Hmm...I think I just heard someone get shot! The rest of the night, dogs bark on and off, but I hear no more people. In the morning, I pack my bags to leave. The street is buzzing with normal activity. If someone did get shot, there are no signs of it now. Iím out of here. The crazy Canadian opens the gate for me and I ride towards Guatemala.
This story by Luke Swabb was originally posted on the RoadRUNNER blog. I thought you guys would enjoy it.
Thanks for the story
I have traveled a bit in Belize, and found it a tough place to enjoy. There are tourist enclaves in places like Ambergris Quay and tons of jungle ecotourism lodges that seem just fine. But we had trouble finding places to stop or to eat or explore when we just struck out on the road and followed our noses. My conclusion was that you do better in Belize to have a clear destination in mind, after a bit of research, or with some intel with some other travelers. That's very different from my normal travel mode, which usually involves getting myself lost and found in somewhat random fashion. And Belize city is far from welcoming.
I may be setting myself up for a scolding from some seasoned travelers, but I am no shrinking violet myself. I've traveled in about forty countries, and am not opposed to traveling rough. Belize is a tough nut to crack, and your spidey senses will be humming.
I've been to that area, and would consider it safe during the daytime. Like many areas of the world, it sounds like the night has its own cast of characters. I can see the potential for danger at night. The people are very poor, and there will always be a segment of the population who are driven by their addictions or desperation.
Belize is an interesting place. The majority of the population are descendants of slaves, unlike the Hispanic countries around them. They are very young, because of their history. Some time ago, the majority of working age people left the country in desperation, planning to send money back when they found work. The children were left in the care of their grandparents, who have since passed away, and the parents never came back. The remaining generation has a strong Christian base, instilled in them by their grandparents. Love for their fellow human beings seems to be important to them, and the people will often offer a kind word or directions to tourists.
Out of the city, nearly every shanty is a business of some sort, selling everything from fruit to medical services. :eek1 Most homes are built on stilts because of flooding in the rain forest-like setting. The major archaeological sights are cared for by small colonies of people. They are happy to talk, even if it is clear you are not purchasing anything.
In many ways, Belize is like Jamaica. The people live day to day, smoking their worries away. It is paradise and poverty, all wrapped up in one.
..... No Thanks
A CLASSIC Example
of you "GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR". :deal
Which, as one may see, isn't always all that.
IF you are on THAT tight of a budget, try Couch Surfing. Set up a profile and begin making friends. You may, quite literally, Couch Surf your way around the world.
OK, I'm pretty sure I am preaching to the choir. :rofl
Back to surfing RRs...
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