Even to the most hardened cosmopolite Belize City – the country’s largest city, though not the capital – can be a daunting place. Dilapidated wooden buildings stand right on the edge of the road, offering pedestrians little refuge from the incessant traffic, and local attention ranges from simple curiosity and good-natured joking to outright heckling. Still, travellers who approach the city with an open mind – and those who are willing to spend more than a few hours here – may actually enjoy themselves. The streets, which certainly are chaotic, buzz with energy, the result of the diversity of the city’s 76,000 citizens. And the city is, without a doubt, an experience; those who manage to feel comfortable here should have no problems anywhere else in the country.
Belize City is divided into northern and southern halves by Haulover Creek, a branch of the Belize River. The pivotal (literally) point of the city centre is the Liverpool-made Swing Bridge, the only manually operated swing bridge left in the Americas. Formerly opened twice a day, it is now only operated on special request due to the decrease in river traffic. North of the bridge is the slightly more upmarket part of town, home to the most expensive hotels. South of the Swing Bridge is the commercial zone, home to the city’s banks and a couple of supermarkets. It’s all compact enough that walking is the easiest way to get around.