Budget travellers and backpackers beware: Belize isn’t cheap. Out of the millions of annual tourists, the vast majority fall in love with the country for the beaches, diving spots and natural beauty. Some of Central America’s most luxurious overwater bungalows in Belize are highlights too. But all this comes at a cost. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect on a trip to Belize.
Before we jump in, let’s take a look at a few of the essentials about travelling to Belize. The currency, the Belize dollar, pegs to the US dollar at a rate of 2:1. This means US$1 is always BZ$2. Most places accept both currencies. Cash is king in Belize. You can find ATMs, but not many. Paying by credit card is possible, but businesses usually add on an additional surcharge.
Most flights fly into Belize City with a few direct flights from certain airports across the United States. Expect the prices to be relatively high. Visitors need to pay a US$40 departure fee when they leave the country. There’s also 12.5% sales tax, 9% hotel tax and 10% service charge added to the bill at restaurants. Peak season starts in October and lasts until April, which corresponds to the dry season. Prices are much higher if you visit during this time of the year.
Accommodation prices vary depending on the time of year, location and the level of comfort. The cheapest cost around US$15 for a bed in a hostel dorm ranging up to several hundred dollars a night vacation rentals. Typical hotels and guesthouses will be between US$50 and US$100. Expect high prices if you’re staying on the cayes. If you want a more authentic Belizean experience, head along the coast to the smaller beach towns. The cost of a night here will be much lower than in the more prime locations.
Compared to other destinations in Central America, the cost of accommodation skyrockets. Some tourists say the quality is the same, but prices are two or three times higher. The exception to this will be the beachside bungalows offering world-class service and treatment. Don’t come to Belize hoping for a budget vacation. Given the mediocrity of hotels and guesthouses, it might be better to splurge a little extra and have luxury and comfort.
Food and Drink
The price of food and drink in Belize is similar to what you would expect in the United States. Meals inside restaurants often cost around US$20 per person (drinks excluded). The price on some of the cayes tend to be much higher. If you’re on a budget, street food and local restaurants provide delicious meals for around $5. As you walk around, you’ll see lots of vendors selling a range of tropical fruits. These are delicious and affordable.
If you want to enjoy a few drinks in Belize, the price will be slightly lower than the United States depending on where you go. A bottle of local beer costs a few US dollars. Many bars have Happy Hour with two for one drink specials including cocktails and beer. Take advantage of these to save a few extra dollars. If you’re heading out the cayes, expect the prices to be a lot higher. When you buy alcohol from the supermarket, you have a pay a deposit that gets refunded when you return the bottles. Some tourists stock up in duty-free when they arrive at Belize airport.
Depending on where you are in Belize and your budget, there are several ways to get around. Taxis in Belize City are very affordable, and a journey shouldn’t cost more than US$10. Just be aware that you need to pay extra for each additional passenger. Finding taxis in most parts of the country is easy. But you need to be careful and use common sense as to which ones you take. Scams are common.
The cheapest way to get around is to rely on the public buses. Typical fares are just a few US dollars to ride on the old, colourful bus. Longer distance often takes place on the chicken bus, a small minibus, costing no more than US$8. VIP and air-conditioned ones are available at a higher price. If you’re staying on the islands, a one-way trip on the ferry will be between US$10 to US$20 depending on the distance.
When you reach your destination, the easiest way to get around is on foot, renting a bicycle or getting a golf cart. You can get a car rental too, but daily fees tend to be high and the quality of roads and driving are poor.
The most popular attractions in Belize tend to be clustered around its natural beauty, snorkelling and diving as well as ancient Mayan ruins. You can find several protected areas on both the land and sea where a plethora of wildlife lives. Visiting the ancient ruins in Belize, once a major centre of Maya culture, is a must too. Expect admission fees to cost around US$10 per person. You can either use public transport or join a tour. Renting snorkelling equipment is affordable, and a diving tour tends to cost approximately US$100.
Making the Most of Your Money in Belize
Belize might not be the most affordable destination in the world. But it does make up for this with the tropical paradise along the beach and breath-taking landscapes. If you do plan to visit, splash out and you’ll get better value for money. And don’t forget to see the ruins, national parks and go diving.