Budget Guide to Belize – including my route and unique places to visit!

Letter 185

Before the world descended into lockdown madness, I was lucky enough to be travelling on the other side of the world, exploring beautiful Belize and Mexico. I spent 6 weeks in Belize and loved my time there. I covered a lot of ground, leant about the varied Belizean culture, honed new skills and volunteered for an eco project for a month. In this post I’ll offer a guide to budgeting for Belize, describe my route and must-see places and reveal a few more key lesser-visited gems!

 

Budget

I had a lot of expectations before going into Belize. I had been told that it’s one of the most expensive Central American countries and that my money wouldn’t go as far as Mexico. Therefore, I was quite careful when I was there, and I actually found that it wasn’t as bad as people make out, though I can see how people can throw money away out there. I also found that because I was being careful not to spend too much, I was more restrained than in Mexico and in many aspects spent less.

NOTE: This is a budget guide for a backpacker budget. I was aiming to spend around £200 per week including accommodation, transport, activities, food etc. The only exception to this was my diving course which came in at 400USD.

  • ACCOMMODATION
    • For a bed in a dorm room, you can expect to pay between 25 and 36BZD (£10-£15). This is definitely higher than surrounding countries but it could also be to do with the fact that there still aren’t many hostels in the country.
  • FOOD
    • Street food is the cheapest way to eat. I found the cheapest street food in San Ignacio where I could eat dinner for about 5BZD (£2). In somewhere like Caye Caulker, which is generally more expensive, I could find good street food for about 15BZD (£6).
    • In restaurants, you’re more likely to pay about 30BZD (£12) for dinner including a drink and tip. Portions are massive so typically if I had a good restaurant meal mid-afternoon, that would do me for the day.
    • Food in supermarkets can be expensive, especially on the islands, so it’s not necessarily cheaper to eat in. I would at least eat breakfast in most days (though you can get something like fry-jacks for a couple of dollars). Check out markets for fresh produce which will be cheap if you buy locally grown.
  • TRANSPORT
    • Getting around Belize is cheap. This is where the biggest difference was seen between my travels in Belize and Mexico. Mexican transport is no doubt better, but it also costs a lot more. The ‘chicken buses’ in Belize are perfectly fine to use, are quick and simple, and will usually cost no more than 10BZD (£4) for any journey.
    • The exception to this are the boats between the islands and mainland. From Chetumal, Mexico to San Pedro it was 110BZD (£44) and from Caye Caulker to Belize City it was about 20BZD (£8)
  • ACTIVITIES
    • This is where you can easily blow all your money, and why Belize is considered much more expensive than surrounding countries. Below I’ll list some example prices of popular things to do.
      • Half-day snorkelling in San Pedro: 100BZD (£40)
      • Full-day snorkelling on the islands: 160BZD (£64)
      • Visiting wildlife/nature reserve (Shipstern in Sarteneja): 10BZD (£4)
      • Bioluminescence boat trip in Hopkins: 60BZD (£24)
      • ATM Cave Tour in San Ignacio: 190BZD (£76)
      • Cahal Pech Ruins in San Ignacio: 10BZD (£4)
      • Belize Zoo Entrance: 30BZD (£12)

Typically on a standard week I spent between £210 and £250, though it’s difficult to calculate as it was broken up by volunteering. I was happy with this and still did everything I wanted to (including that ridiculously expensive cave tour).

If you want to include things like snorkelling or diving tours, I would budget extra for this, as they are expensive. As a general estimate, I would say £250 is enough to budget per week if you’re staying in hostels, not moving too quickly and eating street food as well as restaurant meals.

For example, with a £250 budget:

  • Accommodation £90
  • Food £75
  • Transport £25
  • Activities (remaining budget) £60
    • Though you may need extra here if you’re short on time and want to fit in lots of fun activities!

 

Route

  • Chetumal, Mexico
  • San Pedro, Ambergris Caye – 2 nights
  • Sarteneja – 4 nights
  • Caye Caulker – 6 nights
  • Hopkins – 3 nights
  • Flores, Guatemala – 3 nights
  • San Ignacio – 6 nights
    • I volunteered near San Ignacio and spent a couple of weekends in the town – amounting to about 6 nights
    • Santa Familia – 4 weeks volunteering
  • Bacalar, Mexico

 

San Pedro

Full post for information: Snorkeling Shark Ray Alley from San Pedro, Belize

San Pedro is situated on the resort island of Ambergris Caye. Here you’ll find a strange combination of a bustling city and relaxed Caribbean island life. Most visitors stop here for the snorkelling – which is what I did – but on reflection I might be tempted to miss it out and just snorkel from Caye Caulker. Having said that, the trip was brilliant and as one of my first snorkelling experiences, it will take a lot to top it.

Belize San Pedro Shark Ray Alley 4

 

Sarteneja

Full post for information: Sweet Sarteneja: a million reasons to visit this lesser visited Belizean gem

This little northern coastal village was one of my favourite places I visited on my whole trip. I got to wander around nature reserves, go horse riding, explore the local streets and beachfront and relax on a hostel-farm. It truly is a beautiful place and I would put it firmly on any itinerary in Belize.

Belize Sarteneja Village 3

 

Caye Caulker

Full post for information: Caye Caulker: Learning to breathe underwater on Belize’s Barrier Reef

This is where island life truly belongs. This laid back, quirky, backpacker island is the perfect place to unwind, sample Caribbean culture and access some amazing snorkel and dive spots on Belize’s Barrier Reef. You definitely shouldn’t skip Caye Caulker and I fully fell in love with the place in my week there.

Belize Caye Caulker Sunset 6

 

Hopkins

Full post for information: Embracing Garifuna Culture and Beach Life in Hopkins, Belize

This, somewhat like Sarteneja, is nowhere near as visited as the islands. However, it offers miles of sandy beaches, lots of lovely cafes and restaurants, a gateway to the Southern Reef and a very unique Afro-Belizean Garifuna culture. It was one of the most enjoyable parts of my trip and I wouldn’t have missed it. You can also visit local nature reserves, though I sadly didn’t get a chance to do this.

Belize Hopkins Beach 4

 

Flores, Guatemala

Full post for information: 3 Day Taster of Guatemala: Flores & Tikal

Most visitors going through Belize, or even just staying in Belize, head over the border to Guatemala for a little bit. Only a couple of hours from the border is Flores, a pretty little lakeside town with easy access to the brilliant ruins of Tikal. I really enjoyed my time there and it left me wanting to go back to Guatemala immediately. It’s well worth a visit and it’s so easy from San Ignacio.

Guatemala Tikal 9

 

San Ignacio

Full post for information: Why San Ignacio is the best place in Belize

Also here are the posts about my workaway in Santa Familia: Workaway in San Ignacio: how much can go wrong in the first week?  |  Workaway in Belize: It got so much better

As you’ll see from the title of my post dedicated to this sweet town, I loved it. It helped that I spent the a month in the area and a good week staying in the town itself. I found endless things to do and still found I wanted more time there. It’s a great base to explore so many beautiful parts of Belize that are often forgotten because they aren’t on the beach. This is a huge mistake because it’s a great place. I would recommend a good few days here, depending on your interests, as you can access ruins, nature reserves, wildlife parks, hiking routes, and you also have numerous bars, restaurants and markets on your doorstep to keep you busy.

Belize San Ignacio Cahal Pech 5

 

Extra Places to Visit

I promised some extra places for any visit to Belize, and you can reach all of these easily from San Ignacio, as they are all along the main highway going from the Guatemalan border, through San Ignacio and Belmopan, towards Belize City. I didn’t manage to visit all of these, but they are on my list for next time!

 

Belize Botanical Gardens

These beautiful gardens are only a half an hour taxi ride (costing about 60BZD (£24 – between up to 4 people)) from San Ignacio and you will feel as if you’ve stepped into an other-worldly oasis. As a bonus, you can spend all day there and then catch a ride back with the lovely workers. The reason it’s so easy to spend all day there is because it happens to also feature a beach on the river, backed by a striking cliff. I loved it and entrance was only 15BZD (£6).

Belize San Ignacio Botanical Gardens 3Belize San Ignacio Botanical Gardens 6Belize San Ignacio Botanical Gardens 11Belize San Ignacio Botanical Gardens 15

 

Belize Conservation Zoo

The very last thing I did in Belize, before boarding the long bus up to Mexico, was visit the zoo. It’s around 20 minutes past Belmopan on the way to Belize City and you can get there and away by public bus. Quick note here – I had intended to get the bus but was then kindly offered a ride by a local I knew pretty well. It sounded great as I’d get there sooner and get more time at the zoo. Turns out, we ended up leaving almost three hours late, and I was left with only an hour at the zoo before having to get the bus to the City to catch the one and only bus up to Mexico that day.

It turned out fine in the end, and I got just enough time to wander around the small but lovely zoo. I would definitely suggest a visit. It’s pretty cheap at 30BZD (£12) and you’ll see lots of gorgeous animals.

If you have more time, and a car, you could visit the nearby Baboon Sanctuary which I’ve heard is great. I didn’t have a car, but it’s on the list for next time!

Belize Zoo 1Belize Zoo 2Belize Zoo 9

 

Benque Viejo – Xunantunich Mayan Ruins and Poustinia Land Art Park

Unfortunately I didn’t get to either of these highly rated places but, of course, I will try to get there in the future. Xunantunich Ruins are supposedly beautiful, with high pyramids that give you views across the border to Guatemala. You get there via a little boat and short hike which makes for an interesting day! Secondly, and pretty nearby, is the Poustinia Land Art Park, which I gather is not very popular at all but does look like an amazing day out. It’s not so easy to get to, as you need to take a taxi from Benque, but not impossible (easy if you have a car).

Along the same lines, a brilliant visit would be to Caracol Mayan Ruins, the largest in Belize. They are difficult and time consuming to get to, which is why I never went, but it looks like a great place. You need to take a tour there, or hire a 4×4. Roads in the Belizean wilderness are not kind to cards.

As I didn’t visit, I’ll leave you with an image of Mountain Pine Ridge, about an hour from Caracol, where I spent an amazing day on a trip from San Ignacio.

Belize San Ignacio Mountain Pine Ridge 21

 

That just about rounds up Belize. 6 weeks in this gorgeous, fascinating country was incredible and I will most definitely try to return. I really thought I might have finished up this country in 6 weeks, much more than most people spend here, but I was wrong. As well as the places above, I’d like to explore the northern town of Orange Walk, the southern beaches of Placencia and the Mayan villages around Punta Gorda. Still a good few weeks left in a Belize trip for me!

I hope this might prove useful if you’re planning a trip to Belize or Central America in general. I’ll be back ASAP.

From Lou

About Me

2 thoughts on “Budget Guide to Belize – including my route and unique places to visit!

  1. ourcrossings says:

    Belize looks and sounds amazing! I’ve never been to Mexico yet, but would love to visit one day once this madness comes to an end. Can’t wait to be back on the road. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

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