Next up for some advice on budgeting is the small Caribbean nation of Belize, where I spent some time in February 2015. Despite its proximity to the US, you don’t hear a whole lot about travel to this land, home to jungle and reef. As such, I thought it was worth providing an idea of what the damage to your wallet will be like when visiting. I had honestly expected Belize to be fairly cheap considering the part of the world it’s situated in, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Compared to my usual budget, Belize was actually quite expensive and there were several factors that impacted that.
As always, these numbers will be based on travel for one person and are generally at a level of travel comfort somewhere middle of the range. I know that you can certainly travel on a smaller and tighter budget if you’re willing to, but these numbers relate to how I travelled, including the mistakes and issues that led to me spending more than I would have liked. The currency in Belize is the Belizean dollar, which is fixed at $0.5US for easy reference.
Over 11 days my stops through Belize were: San Pedro/Ambergris Caye (including a day trip to Caye Caulker), Corozal, Orange Walk and San Ignacio. Here’s how my Belize budget broke down.
Much of my increased accommodation cost is a direct result of limited choices in my chosen destinations. Corozal, for example, is not a major tourist stop nor big town and therefore had few choices for me to stay the night. This led to paying considerably for a night in a town I was really only using as a transit point. Even touristy towns like San Ignacio had limited budget options aside from dorms.
Another big factor on my Belize budget is that the only cheap accommodation throughout the country was dorm rooms, with a huge leap in prices from them to single rooms for everywhere I looked. As I’m not a fan of dorms (I really value sleep!) this naturally led to spending much more on accommodation than I did in Mexico, Cuba or Guatemala.
So even though I stayed in a hostel in San Pedro, I spent more per night than I have for 3* hotels in Europe! It’s worth noting that Caye Caulker, the backpacker equivalent to San Pedro may have presented me better budget choices but an initial lack of information led me to choose San Pedro.
My accommodation in Belize consisted of 4 nights in a hostel, 3 nights in basic 2* hotels and 4 nights in an Inn. My advice is to seriously consider how you’re willing to stay during Belize and what you’re willing to pay; Plus, be flexible!
Accommodation = 1130 bzd (493€) / 44.8€ a night
Food and Drink
Perhaps surprisingly, I spent a lot more on food in Belize than I normally would and this was due to a number of factors. First of all, throughout my time in Belize none of my accommodation included complimentary breakfast and so heading out to cafes and the like definitely set me back more than I would usually be willing to spend. I rarely came across a decent breakfast for less than 10bz, especially in San Pedro, where it was usually double that. Despite their price, there are some really good breakfasts to be had in Belize, especially the local food Fry Jacks, a deep fried dough had with beans or syrup. Yum!
That brings me to my second point, which is that most food was pretty expensive on San Pedro because it caters quite heavily to tourists for the most part. Food was certainly cheaper on the Belizean mainland, but still a little more expensive than neighbouring countries like Guatemala.
The last reason more reflects my own travels than anything. I arrived in Belize shortly after spending time in Cuba where common western snacks are harder to find (not a complaint by the way). However, I may have over-corrected when I got to Belize and overindulged more than I usually would. So essentially, had I been eating normally my wallet would not have been so light. Still, what I’m trying to say is be prepared to fork over more money than you may expect when visiting Belize.
Food and Drink = 664.85 bzd (290€) / 26.36€ per day
Travelling around Belize is generally limited to two forms of transport: speedboat and chicken bus. The chicken buses are for getting around the mainland of Belize, while the speedboat is how you get around to the islands. As you may have guessed, the chicken buses were cheap, with a bus ride of a couple of hours only costing 4 or 5 bzd. Don’t necessarily expect to sit down for that fare though, it really depends on how full the bus is and I ended up standing for quite a lot of my bus trips.
Nearly all of my transport costs associate with getting to and from the island of Ambergris Caye. On the way there, I took the boat over from Chetumal in Mexico which came to 94 bzd. I had intended to take the speedboat back to the mainland town of Corozal in Belize, but in a crazy series of events, the boat had been allegedly seized by the police that very morning in a drugs bust!
In the end, my best option was to actually take a light plane from San Pedro to Corozal which only cost me 88 bzd (plus the taxi fares to/from airports). But yes, my 25 minute flight in a light plane cost less than the 1.25 hour speedboat of roughly the same distance! I’d seriously look into using either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air to get around Belize, both for the experience and the price.
Transport = 240 bzd (104.7€)
Due to the nature of the country and the sights on offer, I ended up taking a lot of packaged day tours in Belize. This of course comes at a significant cost. For example, I went out on a day trip sailing and snorkelling the reefs off the coast of San Pedro, which also included a stopover at sleepy Caye Caulker. That trip alone cost 190 bzd, but considering it was with a group of only 14 people and considering all the included activities, transport – not to mention free drinks all afternoon – that’s decent value. Day trips to the ruins also cost a sizeable amount due to the remoteness of the ruins and the transport requirements, eg. 1.5 hrs by speedboat each way from Orange Walk to Lamanai.
Another factor that likely influenced my eagerness to hand over so much money for activities, was that I was still in the early stages of my trip through Central and South America. Before Belize, I had only been travelling 2 weeks through Mexico and Cuba and everything still felt brand new, with little concern for my future funds. I can tell you, I became a lot more thrifty say by the time I reached Panama.
Activities = 506.75 bzd (221€) / 20.09€ per day
Final Numbers – Belize Budget for 11 Days
Days = 11
Accommodation = 1130 bzd (493€)
Food and Drink = 664.85 bzd ( 290€)
Transport = 240 bzd (104.7€)
Activities = 506.75 bzd (221€)
Misc = 33 bzd (14.4€)
Entry Taxes = 39.75 bzd (17.34€)
Total = 2614.35 bzd (1140.48€) / 103.68€ per day
I hope that this Belize budget has given you an idea of what to expect when budgeting a trip to the little Caribbean nation. If you have any questions or comments about travel costs or anything really, let me know in the comments below.