Belize

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

The mail in Belize is generally reliable, though it can be slow. Individuals must go to a local post office to check whether they have received mail. Often in rural villages one person is responsible for collecting and distributing all mail addressed to people in their village. It is best to wait until you are at your permanent assignment to begin receiving care packages. To receive letters or small packages during training, please have them mailed to:

“Your Name"

Peace Corps Office
6130 Iguana St. Ext.
Belmopan City, Belize

Telephones

Peace Corps/Belize will issue you a local cellphone shortly after you arrive. This phone will not be able to call internationally, but is able to text international phone numbers at an additional charge. Many Volunteers have a personal smartphone they brought from the United States. If you intend to bring a smartphone, you will need to have the phone unlocked to be used in Belize.

Internet

Many Volunteers bring laptop computers to Belize and find them extremely useful. Before deciding to bring your devices, you should consider insuring your valuables before departing the U.S. The Peace Corps office in Belmopan has two computers with Internet access, a printer, and scanner available for Volunteer use.

Housing and Site Location

Trainees will be required to live with a Belizean host family in a rural village for their entire 27-month tour. Beginning with pre-service training and ending with their site assignment, trainees/Volunteers will be assigned to a host family, as this will enhance a trainee’s safety and security, language learning, and community integration. Housing will be modest and trainees will need to ensure that they are prepared to cope without many of the amenities they have in the United States. All trainees and Volunteers will have, at a minimum, a room in their homestay equipped with a bed, mattress, and other basic furnishings. However, trainees must be willing to live in homes where the family structure, dynamics, and daily practices are vastly different from the United States. This may include having to live with young children and/or extended family members. Living with a host family will require an open mind, cultural sensitivity, patience, and great flexibility and may mean the loss of some personal independence, adhering to curfews, and living in a home with either young or teenage children. Volunteers are assigned primarily to rural communities throughout Belize. Generally, the population of rural villages is between 200–1,000 people.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and Diet

The staple diet in Belize is composed mainly of rice, flour, corn, beans and chicken. Garden vegetables, bananas, and oranges are fairly inexpensive and readily available year-round. The main meats in Belize are chicken, beef, and pork. Belizeans also consume moderate amounts of game meats, such as deer, armadillo, iguana, turtles, and gibnut (a large rodent, also called paca). Many also eat fish, which can be purchased at local markets and supermarkets. Depending on the size of your community, you should be able to purchase basic foods such as butter, eggs, cheese, vegetable oil, and milk locally. Breads, biscuits, and pastries are also available in supermarkets. A vegetarian diet might be challenging in the Belize as smaller villages do not always have fresh fruits and vegetables available, or the variety is limited. Soy products are also occasionally available in larger towns. Your host families will be told if you are a vegetarian, but it will be up to you to meet your nutritional needs through dialogue with them and you will need to be flexible. Those who cannot eat gluten will find it common to eat corn tortillas, but other options will be limited.

Transportation

Many Volunteers use bicycles to get around in their communities. Volunteers must wear helmets whenever they ride on bicycles. The Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicles and from owning or driving private cars. Violation of these policies will result in the termination of your Volunteer service. Most Volunteers travel around the country on buses. Buses to main cities and towns are regularly available. Village buses run as early as 4 a.m. and cease operation by 8 p.m. In rural areas, buses run less frequently and may be as infrequent as once or twice weekly.

Social Activities

Social activities will vary depending on where you are located. They might include taking part in local festivities, sporting events, dances, or town fairs. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers on weekends or plan visits to the world’s second-largest barrier reef. The country also offers Mayan ruins and wildlife reserves to explore. In spite of these attractions, Peace Corps/Belize encourages Volunteers to spend as much time as they can at their sites to accomplish the Peace Corps’ Second Goal: helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Belize is a socially conservative country and personal appearance is important. Dressing neatly and professionally is an important way to gain credibility and respect in your site and your work. Volunteers are required to behave and dress according to locally accepted cultural norms at all times and are held at higher standards than other guests in Belize. Therefore, as a guest, it is your responsibility to demonstrate respect for the local customs at all times. Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and tattoos for both men and women are not generally accepted in professional settings. Multiple, visible tattoos can carry a heavy stigma and can be associated with gangs, drugs, and criminal activity. Please be prepared to cover tattoos whenever possible. Also, Belizeans generally consider long hair on men to be unprofessional. Belizean men and women do not generally wear shorts or flip-flops outside the house. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to observe their co-workers and Belizean friends to learn what is considered proper dress. For field activities and around the house, casual dress is appropriate. When visiting the Peace Corps office in Belmopan, Volunteers should adhere to a professional dress code at all times.