Belize – 501 Places http://www.501places.com Travel stories that won't change the world Thu, 09 Feb 2017 19:56:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Belize City: does it deserve its awful reputation? http://www.501places.com/2011/03/belize-city-does-it-deserve-its-awful-reputation/ http://www.501places.com/2011/03/belize-city-does-it-deserve-its-awful-reputation/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 10:18:57 +0000 http://www.501places.com/?p=5023 I’d heard about its reputation before we decided to go to central America. I even read many articles advising those travelling in the country to steer well clear of its largest city. Dirty, seedy and dangerous were just some of the words that painted a very negative picture of Belize City. I had to go; […]

Belize City: does it deserve its awful reputation? is a post from: 501 Places

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The Swing Bridge, Belize City

I’d heard about its reputation before we decided to go to central America. I even read many articles advising those travelling in the country to steer well clear of its largest city. Dirty, seedy and dangerous were just some of the words that painted a very negative picture of Belize City. I had to go; if a place was this awful I needed to see it for myself. It didn’t disappoint.

We arrived on the passenger boat from Caye Caulker at around 9.30am. Our plans were open; we had a place booked for the following night in the west of Belize but for a day and a half we were free to go wherever the delights of the city and beyond would lead us.┬áIn the end we didn’t manage two hours.

Leaving the ferry terminal we walked south across the famous swing bridge (famed for its unusual engineering pedigree rather than its aesthetic qualities). While the area immediately around the creek is full of touts offering something or other, once away from the water Belize has the feel of a pleasant sleepy city, albeit one that has seen better days. Faded colours on the exteriors of the wooden houses provide a perfect compliment to the untidy pot-holed streets.

Supreme Court building, Belize City

Half an hour was enough to walk along Regent Street, past the grandeur of the Supreme Court and as far as St John’s Cathedral. A school Christmas concert was under way as we peered through the doors of the attractive church, so we continued on Albert Street, back towards the centre of town.

St John's Cathedral, Belize City

It is to the north side of the creek that all the action takes place. From the swing bridge, along Front Street and onto Fort Street there is a long line of touts who pounce on any passing tourist. Boat trips, taxi rides and horse-drawn carriage tours are the main offerings while you can also buy every type of trinket that you’ll find anywhere else in the tourist world.

Front Street with touts, Belize City

The sellers here are persistent and plentiful rather than unpleasant in any way, but the hassle is relentless. In other parts of the world the traders may beckon tourists just as eagerly but the atmosphere of the surroundings creates a charm to the experience; not here. A line of run-down semi-derelict buildings and an unattractive waterfront beside the optimistically named Tourist Village complex complete the backdrop for the sorry scene.

We headed for a cafe for refreshments and were soon accosted by a young man selling sunscreen. Once we had shown him our recently purchased bottle he switched to begging for money and was very persistent. By this point we’d had enough and took a cab to the municipal airport for the short flight south to the peace and calm of Dangriga.

All of which makes me wonder why so many cruise ships dock here. Their passengers step off, run the gauntlet of earring and pony trap sellers and then get back on their ships and sail away. For what?

I heard the findings of a recent survey of cruise ship passengers coming to Belize. Of those who stepped off the boat and didn’t venture beyond Belize City, 99% said that they would never return to Belize. By contrast, of those who took day trips inland around three quarters would happily come back to the country. Neither finding surprises me.

Of course Belize City has some major social and economic issues and analysing it from a tourism perspective provides only a very narrow viewpoint. But of all the cities I’ve ever visited this would be near the bottom of the pile as a tourist destination; if the Belize government insists on using this as a showcase of their nation, they need to do something quickly to address the damage that the city is doing to the country’s image.

Belize City: does it deserve its awful reputation? is a post from: 501 Places

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