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?”
However, it didn’t take long for us to readjust and fully immerse ourselves in the Caribbean culture. The locals are very welcoming and laid-back. Not to mention the food is simply delicious.
Belize also has one of the lowest population densities in Central America, and it offers a rich variety of wildlife and nature. The lack of development, billboards and other modern 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 costs and stay within your budget.
What You’ll Find in This Guide
- Best Time to Go Backpacking in Belize
- Visa & Entry Requirements
- Is Backpacking Belize Safe
- How Much Do Things Cost
- Money Saving Tips
- Best Places to Stay in Belize
- Top Things to Do in Belize
- How Much Did We Spend
- Insurance for Backpacking Belize
- More Information on Backpacking Belize
Best Time to Go Backpacking in Belize
Late November to mid-April is considered the dry season in Belize, which means less rain but also more tourists and higher prices for tours and accommodation. The rainy season starts around June, so if you are on a budget, want to avoid the crowds and don’t want to get rained on then late April to early June is the best time for you to be backpacking Belize.
Check flights to Belize from the USA (starts at $190 RT)
Belize Visa & Entry Requirements
Most people entering Belize do not need a visa and will receive a 30-day entrance stamp upon arrival. There is no entrance fee, but all visitors who stay in Belize for more than 24 hours are required to pay a $18.75 USD exit fee. If you want to stay longer than one month in Belize, you will have to visit a local immigration office and get a new 30-day stamp for $25 USD.
Is Backpacking Belize Safe?
Belize City is considered the most dangerous place in Belize, so use caution when walking outside of the tourist zone, especially after dark. However, the rest of Belize is quite safe, as most crime here is gang related and rarely affects tourists. Just stay alert, without being paranoid, and you should be fine.
How Much Do Things Cost in Belize?
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 USD, depending on how far you go.
The island ferries cost around $15 USD one way. If you buy a round-trip ticket you can usually save a couple of bucks.
Did we mention 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 USD 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 you have been missing out on :)
We ate some pretty amazing lobster (with a drink and dessert) in Placencia and paid $25 USD for the both of us. That was the priciest meal we have had on our travels so far, but it was definitely worth it.
We recommend you avoid booking accommodation in advance (unless you are traveling during high season), 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 USD for a dorm room in a hostel and $20+ USD for a private double room in a guesthouse.
If you are traveling during high season or prefer to book your accommodation in advance, we have listed our favorite spots for you below. Keep reading or click here to go directly to our favorite places to stay in Belize.
Money Saving Tips
Below are some money saving tips for Belize for even more awesome tips on how to save money while traveling, click here.
1.) Travel During 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’ll 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% off of popular activities, such as scuba diving, caving and more. So, bargain as much as you can, because accommodation owners know they won’t have too many customers.
2.) Use Public Transportation
As stated earlier, public buses will save you a big chunk of money. Avoid private shuttles and travel the local way.
3.) Happy Hour
Alcohol can be very expensive in Belize, and it can drain a backpacker’s budget very fast. Fortunately, many bars offer happy hour specials such as 2 for 1 or even all you can drink for $20 USD.
Hitchhiking is very common in Belize and locals do it too, so again, travel like a local. If you are open to this idea, go for it because you will save big in the long run.
Best Places to Stay in Belize
Belize is home to many hostels and budget hotels but below are some of our favorite places to stay.
- Pause Hostel: Cat sanctuary turned hostel. Quiet. No partying or smoking allowed on property.
- Dirty McNasty’s Hostel: Caye Caulker’s #1 party hostel. Free rum punch and breakfast.
San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
- Sandbar Beachfront Hostel: Located on the beach. Best value for money in San Pedro.
- Hostel La Vista: Rooftop terrace overlooking the beach and central park. Free rum punch. Great location.
- The Funky Dodo: Located in the center of Hopkins Village and a 1-minute walk from the beach. Basic, but clean rooms.
- Lydia’s Guesthouse: Private rooms with a balcony and fan. Communal kitchen and shared bathrooms.
- Anda Di Hows Hostel: Basic, but clean rooms with a private bathroom and shared kitchen. Best value in Placencia.
- Akihito Hotel: Private rooms with ensuite bathrooms.
- Bella’s Backpackers: Located in San Ignacio town, close to restaurants and other attractions. Shared kitchen, lounge and BBQ facilities.
Top Things To Do In Belize
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 find any cars. The locals and tourists get around on 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.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichill Muknal, also known as the ATM Cave, is a beautiful cave near San Ignacio. The cave used to be a Mayan site and it 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 USD during high season and $80 USD 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.
The Belize Zoo started out as a rescue center for wild animals and has since become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Belize. The zoo is settled upon 29 acres and exhibits over 150 animals, all native to Belize. The entrance fee is $15 USD for adults and $5 USD for children.
Mayan Cacao Farm
We loooove chocolate. Real Mayan chocolate is the best chocolate 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 from the raw cacao bean by hand, without machines. 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.
Belize Barrier Reef (Hol Chan Marine Reserve)
The Belize Barrier 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, which makes snorkeling the Hol Chan Marine Reserve one of the most popular things to do in Caye Caulker.
This ancient Mayan 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 by thick jungle. The entrance fee is $15 USD.
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 USD per person per night.
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 barbecuing 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 USD in two weeks. That is a bit more than 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 :)
Get Insured Before Backpacking Belize
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 recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
More Information On Backpacking Belize
If you are more of a book person and would rather carry a physical guide with you while backpacking Belize, we recommend Lonely Planet Belize. Remember though, don’t follow it step by step, use it as a guide instead.
If you enjoyed our backpacking Belize on a budget guide, please share it on social media and consider coming back to plan your next trips with our other detailed backpacking guides.
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