Backpacking Belize on a budget? Noo, way… Everyone told us Belize was expensive. More expensive than Costa Rica! Don’t spend too long there if you’re on a budget, a lot of travellers said. We’re not sure it was even worth the journey, others said.
Maybe we should just bypass Belize we said to each other. Don’t you want to go diving there though? I asked Luke. He said that maybe it would be comparable to the diving he’d done in the Corn Islands, but more pricey. Maybe, I said.
We could go around Belize, through Mexico instead, said Luke. What, skip Belize altogether? I said. Well maybe, I said. but we’ve come all this way and might never get the chance to go to Belize again. That’s true, said Luke. So perhaps we should just blitz it, and take the budget hit knowing it’ll be an expensive week for us, said Luke. So that’s what we did.
Our Belize Travel Route
We decided that the best way to get to Belize was to go via boat from Chetumal in Mexico to Caye Caulker. Then we’d hop across to Belize City (people say it’s horrible), pass straight through and get the bus to the border town of San Ignacio. We’d spend some time in San Ignacio then cross straight across the Belize-Guatemala border to Flores and Tikal.
Our Belize travel route meant that we cut out a number of exciting Belizean destinations, including Orange Walk, Hopkins and Placencia. We thought all of those places looked like great destinations but we’d been blinded by rumours of Belize being a budget-breaker and didn’t want to get off track on our travel route towards Tikal.
1 Week is Not Enough Time in Belize
Well, you know what, that’s the last time we listen to other travellers. We spent just 7 days in Belize and it was nowhere near enough. We loved Belize. We loved the laid-back, beachy vibes in Caye Caulker, San Ignacio was the prettiest border town we’ve ever been to, we couldn’t get enough of eating coconut rice and beans, and the Belizean people always had something interesting to say. If you can, spend more time travelling in Belize.
Our Belize Travel Budget
And what about our budget? Our travel costs were exactly the same as travelling in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucatan is known for being Mexico’s most touristy and expensive region and the cost of travel in Belize wasn’t much different.
Perhaps if we’d travelled the other way round and come to Belize after being in Guatemala, Central Mexico and/or Nicaragua, we’d have felt the prices were high in comparison. Thinking back to our travels in Nicaragua and Guatemala before, there’s no doubt that Belize is more expensive, but budget travel in Belize isn’t impossible.
In Belize they use the Belize dollar, which has our British queen’s face on it! A Belize dollar is double that of a US dollar. So $2 BZD = $1 USD. It makes things pretty easy to work out. The infographic below is all in US dollars.
How to Travel on a Budget in Belize
We thought that our budget was going to be so busted up by travelling in Belize that we were pleasantly surprised by everything. While it’s definitely possible to go over budget in Belize, some careful searching for accommodation and wise food decisions mean you can easily travel in Belize on a budget.
Budget Accommodation in Belize
Our advice on finding budget accommodation in Belize is to look for family-run, economical guesthouses. You can sometimes find out about budget guesthouses online if you do a bit of digging around, though may have more luck asking locals when you arrive in some cases.
Budget Accommodation in Caye Caulker
We left it too late to book our accommodation online for Caye Caulker which was a mistake because the island gets pretty busy. We arrived late in the evening and already most of the accommodation was already booked out or they had closed up their reception / gone to bed. After some traipsing around, we were quoted a dorm bed in a noisy backpacker’s hostel for 30BZD ($15 USD) per bed and a hotel room with air-con and a TV (we never want air-con or a TV in our room) for 120BZD ($60 USD). We saw a tiny yellow-painted alley with an old sign “Jerimiah’s Guesthouse.” Some guests directed me to go up a tiny spiral staircase and knock on their living room door. I called through, got a reply and we got a basic double room for 50BZD ($25 USD) per night.
Budget Accommodation in San Ignacio
We toyed with the idea of booking an Airbnb in San Igancio so we could be sure of some decent wifi to work on during the weekdays, but after a little searching online I found a budget guesthouse in San Ignacio. Other travellers had left reviews saying how excellent the wifi was, so we sent an email and booked for 4 nights.
J&R Guesthouse was a really excellent family-run guesthouse. The wifi was good, we had a kitchen to use, we had a private room with en-suite, the whole place was clean, the family were really friendly and there was a beautiful blossom tree outside with butterflies and honeybee hummingbirds (the world’s smallest bird) around it. We paid just 48BZD ($24 USD) per night.
Budget Eating in Belize
The best and really the only way to eat on a budget in Belize is to eat local food. For breakfast, try fry jacks. These are deep fried dough stuffed with different fillings such as scrambled eggs, beans, cheese, or meat. A fry jack from a local place will usually cost around 3BZD ($1.5 USD) and you will be full all day.
Locals eat a very economical meal rice and beans for lunch and dinner. It usually comes with chicken for 6 or 7BZD ($3-3.5 USD), and the price is annoyingly usually the same without chicken (if you’re vegetarian like us). If you’re drinking, stick to Belikin, the local beer, or rum, which is extremely cheap in Belize.
Budget-Friendly Activities in Belize
Budget-friendly activities really depend on where you are in Belize. If you’re on an island like Caye Caulker, then the best budget activity is to simply spend all day at the beach, enjoying the sunshine and going swimming. Most people – tourists and locals – will hang out all day at the split. You can also go on snorkelling trips but these will set you back around 70BZD ($35 USD).
In San Ignacio, we mostly enjoyed walking around town and buying fruits and food to cook from the local market. You can go walking up to the Cahal Pech ruins, which have a 10BZD ($5 USD) entry fee if you want to go in. We spent 24BZD ($12 USD) on a cacao workshop, learning how to grind cacao into chocolate paste on a traditional Mayan grind stone. We’d highly recommend it if you’re in San Ignacio.
Budget Transport in Belize
We mostly found that transport in Belize wasn’t too bad. In Caye Caulker and San Ignacio, you can get everywhere around town by foot (as both are quite small places). Getting between places was also reasonable. The speed boat from Caye Caulker to Belize City cost only 19BZD ($9.5 USD) and the chicken bus from Belize City to San Ignacio only cost 9BZD ($4.5 USD)
Be sure to avoid any tourist minibuses or anyone who offers you a ride with air-conditioning. These will definitely be way more expensive and likely even a complete rip-off. The best budget option is to travel on the same buses that the locals take.
Warning: Crossing the Border from Chetumal to Caye Caulker
The speed boat from Chetumal to Caye Caulker was actually a real budget breaker for us. Not only is the boat ride quite expensive, but this particular border crossing is known for the notorious “service fee” scam. The border guard demands that all tourists leaving Mexico pay a “service fee” which, as long as you took an international flight into Mexico, you have already paid in arrival taxes.
The travellers in front of us in the queue had their proof of entry and a receipt of their international flight showing they’d already paid the tax. The guard couldn’t care less and told them they could either pay the 380 Mexican peso charge or they could not get on the boat. We heard the same story from another couple we met in San Ignacio who had been equally well-prepared and suffered the same fate.
Other Resources for Budget Travel in Belize
- What We Spent in Belize by the guys at Along Dusty Roads, another awesome budget travel couple from the UK.
- What Not to Miss in Belize, also from Along Dusty Roads. Definitely don’t miss Marie Sharp’s delicious hot sauce.
Are you travelling to Belize on a budget? Let us know how you get on and how budget-friendly you found Belize.