I have a confession to make, and I know it’s not going to make me popular.
I didn’t love Belize.
I’m in the minority here. Every person I know who’s been to Belize has returned singing its praises. Many of my friends count it among their favourite countries. As I’ve been writing posts about my travels in the country, so many of you have commented to tell me how much you love Belize. That it’s amazing. That you’d love to live there one day.
It’s not that I didn’t like it.
Belize is a beautiful country, filled with jungles and ruins, tons of wildlife, pretty beaches, and friendly locals.
But it was expensive.
Expensive in a way that felt like I was receiving poor value for my money.
Belize is a small country that imports the vast majority of its goods, which obviously results in higher prices. This is then coupled with basic infrastructure, which makes it hard to get excited about what you’re spending your money on. Now, I’m fine with places being more expensive than I’m used to, but in Belize, it felt as though I was spending so much money on things I could get for far cheaper in neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala. In some places, I was spending what I’d expect to in the U.S.!
Mexico was cheaper than Belize and had better infrastructure and food, in my opinion. Guatemala had a similar level of development, but was much more affordable.
Whenever I hit the road, I’m thinking about finances. Mostly because I’m dedicated to recording every penny I spend. But as I explore a new place, I’m always weighing up whether it’s offering up good value for money. Sometimes I’ll be averaging $100 a day and feeling like it’s more than worth it; other times I’ll be spending a quarter of that and thinking, nope, no way.
Belize was a struggle for me because of that.
As an aside, I love looking back and noticing how my priorities and style of travel have transformed over the years.
For a long time now, I’ve had this idea in my head that Belize was over-the-top-expensive, but when I sat down to put this post together, I realised the prices no longer sounded so dramatic. These days, while I’d still notice I was receiving less for my money than in neighbouring countries, I don’t think it would be as much of an issue.
But still, if you’re a budget traveller, Belize will be more expensive than its neighbouring countries, and you won’t receive as much for your dollars.
Let’s get on with my budget breakdown for Belize! All prices listed are in U.S. dollars, as always, because most of my readers are based there.
The Cost of Accommodation in Belize
Accommodation in pricey in Belize, and we struggled to find a basic guesthouse room anywhere for less than $50 a night. We stayed in lovely guesthouses in San Ignacio and Placencia, and an Airbnb apartment in Caye Caulker. Prices for accommodation were slightly more than we were paying in Mexico, but the quality was only about half as good.
I update this post with prices every three months and check the reviews to make sure I’m still recommending the very best options for you.
River Park Inn, San Ignacio: $50/night
I couldn’t get enough of the guesthouse I stayed at in San Ignacio, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Belize. The owner was unbelievably welcoming (we gave him our laundry and he secretly repaired all of our hole-riddden items for free!), and I loved hanging out in the hammocks while surrounded by colourful butterflies. It was like staying in paradise! There was A/C and Wi-Fi in the rooms. Search for the cheapest rates on HotelsCombined | Read reviews on TripAdvisor
Seaspray Hotel, Placencia: $55/night
Placencia is an expensive part of Belize, but Seaspray Hotel is one of the best budget options in town. For $55 a night, we had access to a beachside room (they have economy rooms for $33 a night) on the best stretch of sand in town. With beautiful views of the ocean and sunloungers to relax on during the day, this was an excellent choice, and well worth splurging on. They aren’t listed on any of the online booking websites, so you’ll need to book through their website. Read reviews on TripAdvisor.
I’d probably go for a stay in Lydia’s Guesthouse in the future for my next visit to Placencia. They’re ranked first on TripAdvisor for best value B&B, are cheaper than Seaspray Hotel at $29/night, and still receive excellent reviews.
Axios Sun Apartments, Caye Caulker: $52/night
Caye Caulker is the party hotspot of Belize, so you can expect to shell out extortionate amounts for a stay on the island. I’m talking $30 for a 6-bed dorm expensive here! The apartment we chose wasn’t anything amazing, so I’d recommend shopping around to find somewhere slightly better for the same price. I’d look to book Sea N Sun Guesthouse for $71 a night next time, or Blue Wave Guesthouse ($31 a night) if I was on a tight budget, as both receive excellent reviews.
The Cost of Transportation in Belize
Public transportation was inexpensive in Belize, and I recommend taking the local buses over hiring a scooter or car, both for safety reasons and to save money. I saw somebody get killed on a scooter during my first day in the country.
Distances are short, as the country is so small, but bear in mind that that doesn’t necessarily mean your travel days won’t be long and sweaty. A particularly memorable (read: awful) travel day saw us taking a full nine hours to get from San Ignacio to Placencia, a distance of 120 miles. It was a public holiday on that day and it turned out most of the country was trying to travel on that route, too! Thankfully, days like that were a rarity.
Here’s what I spent on transportation in the country:
Bus from Cancun to Belize City: $41.70
Bus from Belize City to San Ignacio: $4.50
Return bus trip from San Ignacio to Xunantunich: $1.50
Taxi from San Ignacio to the Guatemalan border: $3.22
Taxi from the Guatemala border to San Ignacio: $3.22
Bus from San Ignacio to Belmopan: $7.50
Bus from Belmopan to Placencia: $7.50
Bus from Placencia to Belize City: $15.00
Return ferry ticket from Belize City to Caye Caulker: $17.50
The Cost of Food in Belize
The price of food in Belize was fairly steep and more in line with what you’d pay in the U.S., rather than neighbouring Mexico or Guatemala. Hunting down street stalls would get you a meal for around $5, but if you want a sit-down meal for dinner, you’ll looking in the region of $15-20 per person.
I spent $417 on food for my 13 days in the country, which worked out at $32 a day.
The Cost of Activities in Belize
I was all about the ruins in Belize! One of the cheapest activities in the country is clambering all over the ruins, so we made sure to do exactly that while we were based in San Ignacio. In Placencia and Caye Caulker, I opted to spend my time sunbathing and exploring on foot to save money. Here’s how much I spent on activities and entrance fees while I was in Belize:
Entrance fee for Xunantunich: $5
Entrance fee for Cahal Pech: $5
Not much, hey? One of my greatest regrets about my time in Belize was not feeling as though I could justify spending money on some of the pricier activities in the country.
One of the big-ticket items that everybody insists you have to do while in Belize is take a tour of the ATM caves ($110). This full-day experience takes you through the jungle, where you’ll swim through caves, ford a river, and learn about the Mayan civilisation. I regret not taking the tour because as the reviews show, practically every single person says it ended up being one of the highlights of their trip.
If you’re not on a budget, you may want to work in a trip to Belize’s barrier reef, whether it’s snorkelling the Belize Barrier Reef ($75) or taking a helicopter over the Great Blue Hole ($420). If you’re not going to be venturing into Guatemala on your trip, it also might be worth opting for a day trip from San Ignacio to the magnificent Tikal ruins ($150). I absolutely adored my day spent exploring Tikal, so highly recommend taking the day to see as much of it as possible from Belize, especially as that tour receives fantastic reviews.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance for Belize
Now, I’m always urging you guys to get travel insurance for every single trip for one specific reason: to be covered during medical emergencies. I’ve seen enough injured backpackers begging for money on GoFundMe because they weren’t insured and need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to cover medical treatment to know it’s a risk that’s never worth taking.
Travel insurance is a travel essential, and given that I witnessed somebody dying in Belize, I definitely want to encourage you guys to ensure you have it. Travel insurance will cover you if somebody steals your laptop, if your flight gets cancelled, or if you suddenly come down with appendicitis. I’ve been using and recommending World Nomads insurance for travellers for six years and counting, and they’ve always been a pleasure to deal with.
I paid just $15 for my two week trip to Belize, although it was part of a longer trip, which helps keep the insurance costs low.
The Cost of Travel in Belize
Now that I’ve taken a look at how much I spent while in Belize, let’s add it all up to get to my total amount spent, as well as how much I averaged each day.
Accommodation: $329.50 each.
And all of that totalled $858.14 for a 13-day trip to the country. That works out at $66 per day.
Have you been to Belize? How did my travel expenses stack up against yours?
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Stock photos via: Duarte Dellarole/Shutterstock.