belize-travel-guide_road-affair

Backpacking Belize On A Budget

Belize is a country on the eastern coast of Central America and it is the only country in Central America whose official language is English.

Although Belize is technically part of Central America, it feels more like the Caribbean. After speaking (or should I say, attempting to speak) Spanish for months, it definitely threw us off when we greeted Rastas with a friendly “Hola” and they replied with “Ya Man, Wha a gwaan?”

The Split, a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals alike.
The Split, a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals alike

However, it didn’t take long for us to readjust and fully immerse in the Caribbean culture. The locals are very welcoming and laid back. Not to mention the food is simply delicious.

Belize has also one of the lowest population density in Central America and offers a rich variety of wildlife and nature. The lack of development, billboards and other modern world crap, makes Belize one of our favorite countries.

However, its beauty comes with a heavier price tag than its neighboring countries. Even experienced budget travelers will spend more money in Belize than anywhere else in Central America, but don’t let that keep you from visiting. With careful planning and our tips below, you can significantly reduce your cost and stay within your budget.

Average Costs

Transportation: Public buses are by far the cheapest mode of transportation around the country.  Although those old North American school buses can get crowded sometimes, they are just as efficient as private shuttles and taxis. Belize is a pretty small country and a ride from east to west takes about three hours. Fares cost between $1-10, depending on how far you go.

The island ferries cost around $15 one way. If you buy a round way ticket you can usually save a couple of bucks.

Food: Did we mention that the food is pretty damn delicious in Belize. If you like seafood, you will love it here. Eat at local places and avoid any touristy place that will charge you double the price. Depending on what you order you can expect to pay around $4-6 for a basic, yet tasty meal. No matter what you do, you have to try the coconut rice and beans. It will have you wondering, what else in life have you been missing out on.

If you want delicious lobster, visit Brenda's BBQ In Placencia
If you want delicious lobster, visit Brenda’s BBQ In Placencia

We ate some pretty amazing lobster (with a drink and dessert) in Placencia and paid $25 for the both of us. That was the priciest meal we have had on our travels so far, but it was definitely worth it.

Accommodation: We recommend you avoid booking accommodation in advance and simply walk around town to find the best deal. Many small establishments are not listed on the internet so you could possibly be missing out on a great bargain. Expect to pay around $15 for a dorm room in a hostel and $20+ for a private double room in a guest house.

Budget Friendly Tips

Travel off season: Low season does not necessarily mean rainy season. In the two weeks we were there it maybe rained once or twice for a couple of minutes. Even if it does rain a little bit, the money you save while traveling off season will make up for the rain in the long run. Prices are negotiable during low season and many times you can save up to 50% of popular activities, such as scuba diving, caving and more. So, bargain as much as you can, because accommodation owners know that they won’t have too many costumers.

Use public transportation: As stated earlier, public buses will save you a big chunk of money. Avoid private shuttles and travel the local way.

Happy Hour: Alcohol can be very expensive in Belize and can drain a backpackers budget very fast. Fortunately, many bars offer happy hour specials such as 2 for 1 or even all you can drink for $20.

Hitchhiking our way across Belize
Hitchhiking our way across Belize

Hitchhiking: As you might know, Jazzy and I started our adventure by hitchhiking the US, so it shouldn’t come much as a surprise that we hitchhiked in Belize as well. Hitchhiking is very common in Belize and locals do it too, so again travel like a local. If you are open minded to this idea, go for it because you will save big in the long run.

Top Things To Do In Belize

The Cayes: No visit to Belize is complete without visiting at least one of the beautiful islands on the coast of Belize. The most visited islands are Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Ambergris is the biggest and most expensive of the two. Caye Caulker is a more ideal location for Backpackers. What’s nice about Caye Caulker is that you won’t not find any cars. The locals and tourist get around by golf carts, bikes or simply by walking. There is not a ton of stuff to do on the island but for people who simply want to relax and enjoy the laid back lifestyle, this is the place to be.

See also: A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Caye Caulker

Breathe in the air in Caye Caulker
Breathe in the fresh air in Caye Caulker

Actun Tunichil Muknal: Actun Tunichill Muknal, also know as the ATM Cave, is a beautiful cave near San Ignacio. The cave used to be a Maya site and still contains ancient skeletons and ceramics. Unfortunately, the cave can only be visited with a rather expensive guide, so expect to dig deep in you pockets for this tour. The ATM Cave tour costs around $110 during high season and $80 during low season. The price usually includes lunch, the guide and equipment depending on the tour company you use. Although the price is rather steep, Jazzy and I decided to do the tour and you know what, it was well worth it. The cave was absolutely breathtaking and we would recommend it to even the most frugal travelers. If you can save the money elsewhere and spend it on the ATM Cave, do it. Trust us you won’t regret it.

Note: According to our tour guide, low season is the best time to visit because they are not in a hurry and can take their time explaining things. Plus you might even get a guide all to yourself, like we did.

Belize Zoo: The Belize Zoo started out as a rescue center for wild animals and has since become one of the most visited tourist attraction in Belize. The zoo is settled upon 29 acres and exhibits over 150 animals, all native to Belize. The entrance fee is $15 for adults and $5 for children.

Making chocolate from cocoa beans
Making chocolate from cocoa beans

Mayan Cacao Farm: We loooove chocolate. Real Mayan chocolate is the best chocolates we have ever had. The ancient Mayans invented chocolate, and experts suggest that Belize is the “Cradle of Chocolate”. So while in San Ignacio, we visited one of the many Mayan cacao farms around the area. There, Mayan descendents showed us how they make chocolate by hand without machines and from the raw cacao beans. It was very interesting to see the whole process but what was even more interesting was the tasting part. If you are a fan of chocolate and want to know how real chocolate is supposed to taste, visit one of these farms. They are usually free to visit and are located all over the country.

The Great Blue Hole: The great blue hole is an underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It is one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. Divers can dive in crystal clear water and find several species of fish there.

Snorkeling in the Hol Chan Reserve in Caye Caulker, Belize

Belize Barrier Reef: This reef is the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is home to a wide diversity of plants and animals and is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Apparently, only 10% of all species have been discovered there.

See also:Snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

Caracol: This ancient Maya site is one of the largest in the country. Caracol used to be a city larger than modern day Belize City and supported more than twice the population. Unlike Altun Ha, this site is less restored and is still mostly covered my thick jungle. The entrance fee is $15.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary is located in southern Belize and is the only Jaguar Preserve in the World. It is also known for its spectacular waterfalls, mountain views and nature trails. The park offers camping grounds for overnight visitors for $10 per person per night.

A local fishing at the pier
A local fishing at the pier

Fishing: You can either go fishing with an organized tour and pay a big chunk of money or you can buy a fishing line and a hook at the store and join the locals fishing by the pier. There are many people barbequing on the streets and for a small fee they will cook your catch for you.

How Much Did We Spend

Together, Jazzy and I spent about $800 in two weeks. That is a bit more than what we usually spend in other places but it was still within a reasonable price. We loved Belize and the extra amount we spent was well worth it.

Backpacking Belize doesn’t have to empty your bank account. By using some of the tips above, you will be able to spend less and save more. Just keep in mind that Belize will not be as cheap as Guatemala or Mexico. Knowing that, will save you from a heart attack later, when reviewing your spendings :).

Other Travel Guides

Here are a few travel guides on Belize from other bloggers:

Wikitravel Belize
Globetrotter Girls

If you are more of a book person and would rather carry a physical guide with you on your journey, we recommend Lonely Planet Belize. Remember though, don’t follow it step by step, use it as a guide instead.

Have you ever been to Belize? How much did you end up spending?

P.S. No matter how long or short your trip, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. So don’t leave home without it. We highly recommend World Nomads.

Inspired? Pin this for later…

Backpacking Belize on a Budget

The Author

Ben

Ben is a professional web designer and the man behind the scenes of Road Affair. He has been traveling around the world with his partner in crime, Jazzy, since 2012.

Like What You've Read?

Sign up for our newsletter and get more great stuff like this in your inbox.

Comments

  1. I’ve heard Belize is more expensive than other CA countries but I see, it’s well worth it. Neat review and I had no clue English was spoken regularly in Belize. Neat to know, although I can break out my gringo Spanish here and there LOL as I did in Costa Rica. CR was also expensive relative to other Central American lands, and much more expensive than here in Bali YET cheaper compared to the US, when I go home ;) Sometimes I lose Western perspective on the road. Or, NJ perspective lol. Thanks for the review guys!

    Ryan

    1. Thanks Ryan. Yea Belize is a little bit more expensive, similar to Costa Rica, but it is totally worth it. Don’t worry I think losing the western perspective on the road is normal for most travelers. :D

    1. Yeah the atmosphere and the people definitely make Belize one of our favorite countries. Fortunately, tourism hasn’t changed it too much.

  2. It seems flight fare to Belize is a lot more expensive than going to other tropical places; any suggestions on how to get a cheap flight there?

  3. I lived in Belize for a short while. The money is interesting there. Prices go down as people get to know you and consider you a local.

    I only spent 1500 for three months staying on the beach in our own private house and eating out every meal everyday.

    1. Yeah I can imagine this is pretty much the case in every non-westernized country. That’s a good budget for three months, I wish we had some local hookups :D

      1. You must be mistaken. We stayed in local Guesthouses all throughout. If you are looking for an apartment I recommend you check out either Airbnb or look around the neighborhood for signs or ask the locals

        1. Hey guys! Thanks so much for the info. I will be visiting Belize for the first time with my best friend (both females going alone) in a few weeks so we’re kind of nervous but extremely excited. We’re currently checking out all of our options.. Did you leave your belongings in the private room? Did you have a private restroom as well? We’ll only be staying a couple of days because that’s what works for our hectic schedules.. If you were to choose 2 or 3 activities, which ones would you choose? Do you know what city is best to stay in that’s close to those activities/tourist sites?

          1. Hey Angela, sorry for the late reply! If you are only staying in Belize for a couple of days, I recommend you stay in one location as traveling to and from different areas can take up too much time, though it does not take much time to get from one end of the country to the other. As for activities, it depends on what you like doing or interested in. But personally if I had to say 2, I would say the ATM CAVE and Snorkeling the Barrier Reef (both expensive but totally worth it). Every location has at least one amazing thing to do, unfortunately all the activities are not all in the same spot. But we really enjoyed Caye Caulker (of course it will be more expensive than the inland because it is an island) because we pretty much did nothing but relax, eat a bunch of seafood and kayaked. We stayed at Pause Hostel and the Vista Mar Guesthouse. In both places we stayed in a private room with shared bath (cheaper) and we left all our belongs in the room.

            Hope this helps Angela and if you have any more questions feel free to ask! Enjoy Belize, it is one of our favorite country in Central America!

  4. This post was great, made me feel so nostalgic. I went to Belize about 7 years ago so I imagine it’s more expensive than it was then. Glad you got to experience the Caribbean vibe! It’s quite interesting, isn’t’ it? ^_^

    1. Thanks Francesca. Seven years is a long time so probably it is a little bit more expensive now. Definitely is, we love the Caribbean and can’t wait to go to Jamaica soon.

  5. Great post! Belize was one of the places we wanted to settle in after leaving the U.S. The primary reason was being an English speaking place. We ended up in Malta :-)

      1. Malta is also English speaking. What decided it was the fact that it was closer for me to be able to visit home (Nigeria) and closer to my husband’s family as well (Rome).

  6. Wadda gwan. Visited and now have lived here for 8 years. I love it…and you are right, the food is AMAZING, travelling by bus is the CHEAP way and it’s not always cheap. Great post.

    1. We were in Belize at the end of September – beginning of October and the weather was awesome. It rained a few times during the afternoons but only for like 15 minutes to an hour. Rainy season doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to rain everyday all day. It just means that it rains more than during the dry season, usually in the afternoons or in the morning. In our opinion the money that you can safe, far outweighs the risk of having a few hours of rain. We travel a lot during rainy season and we have yet to say “this trip sucked because it rained 24/7.”

    1. Hitchhiking is very common in Belize and many of the locals do it as well. As far as camping goes it really depends on where you are heading but there are definitely a few camping grounds around plus you can always ask at a hostel/hotel if you can pitch your tent on their property for a small fee.

  7. The cover page to your article is NOT a picture of Belize…it is a picture of Trunk Bay, St. John’s in the Virgin Islands…why would you mislead your readers?

    1. The cover page of our article is of Belize because we took it ourselves… The pintrest one is not ;(… We got it using flicker … So error on our part. We didn’t mislead our readers on purpose, though Belize islands do have gorgeous water as such!

  8. Hey guys I’m planning on doing a little bit of backpacking through Belize, I’m a little short on time as I’m trying to visit Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador (maybe Cuba also…) in potentially 2.5 months. How long would you recommend I need to see all the amazing locations/spot in Belize without feeling too rushed? I was thinking 3 weeks?

    Thanks,
    Gabi

    1. Yup, I think 3 weeks is a good time frame to visit Belize without being rushed. But I have to warn you that parts of Belize will hold you hostage, you may never want to leave.

      Safe travels, Gabi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *