Money in Belize
The Belize currency is the Belize dollar (BZ$), which typically equals about BZ$2 per each US$1. Travelers can use both currencies at most businesses in Belize, although smaller establishments may only take Belize dollars. Prices may be listed in American dollars, and you can receive change in either American or Belize dollars.
Before you board your plane for the tranquil beaches of Belize, here is some assurance that there is little cause for concern when visiting the country: The nation of Belize has a stable democratic government. Specifically it is a parliamentary constitutional democracy. The Belizean economy did suffer some setbacks during 'The Great Recession' (as most countries did), but is now enjoying a growing economy. There are no issues with the government, economy, or currency which might negatively impact your trip or cause you difficulty during your holiday in Belize.
Belize isn’t cheap — it’s on par with Costa Rica, which is probably the most expensive country in Central America. If you’re traveling to Belize from Guatemala, Mexico, or Honduras, you’re going to have to get used to traveling in a more costly country. This is partially because Belize’s economy relies upon imports and has fairly high taxes. Even so, costs here are still cheaper than most places in the United States or Europe.
Midrange travelers will likely spend BZ$200 to BZ$300 a day for comfortable hotels and good food. Midrange hotels run around BZ$150 to BZ$200 a night, while more luxurious accommodations begin at around BZ$300. Hotels are more expensive during the dry season (December through May) and around holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Semana Santa. A tasty meal with a couple of drinks will cost you anywhere from BZ$20 to BZ$50.
Banks and ATMs
ATMS are available in most major towns, and will typically accept Visa, MasterCard, Plus and Cirrus cards. ATMs only dispense Belize dollars. Some ATMs may charge a fee for each use and enforce a withdrawal limit per day (usually around BZ$500). Banks that are part of the Global ATM Alliance do not charge a fee for cash withdrawals at the ATMs of other Allegiance members — this includes Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, BNP Paribas, and Scotiabank.
Major banks in Belize include Bank of Nova Scotia, Atlantic Bank, and Belize Bank. Most banks are open from Monday–Thursday until 2 P.M., but are open slightly later on Fridays. They are usually closed for lunch, and are always closed on Sundays.
You can exchange money at most banks in Belize to obtain Belizean currency. Many banks that exchange currencies – including Barclays Bank, Atlantic Bank Ltd., Belize Bank, and the Bank of Nova Scotia – are often set near the main plaza in cities. Money can also be exchanged at a casa de cambio (exchange house). After exchanging currency, keep your receipt of sale.
Though you won't be able to use your debit card in Belize, most major credit cards are accepted.
Larger hotels, restaurants, and shops typically accept Visa and MasterCard. Certain places accept American Express (AmEx), but few establishments will take Diners Club or Discover. Some establishments will include a 2–5 percent surcharge for travelers using a credit card. Credit cards can be used to obtain cash advances from major banks in Belize; you will, however, incur additional charges when doing this.
It’s a good idea to notify your credit card company (and bank) before traveling abroad. That way, they won’t get suspicious when foreign charges start showing up.
Traveler’s checks can be exchanged at most banks. Having a reputable brand – like Visa or AmEx – will make this easier, as will having checks made out in American dollars. You may have to pay per-check fees when cashing each traveler’s check. Traveler’s checks are accepted at many hotels in Belize, but it’s uncommon for restaurants to accept them.
Taxes and Tipping
Many hotels and restaurants include a 10–15 percent service charge on the bill. Even if this isn’t included, it’s good form to tip this amount. Taxi drivers don’t need to be tipped, but feel free to tip them if they provide solid service. Tip tour guides 10–15 percent if they’ve done a good job.
A general sales tax of 10 percent is applied to all purchases, and hotels will add a 9 percent tax to the price of a room. Furthermore, there’s a US$20 departure tax when leaving the airport, but this is usually included in the price of a flight. Using a credit card will also incur a tax; most businesses tack on an extra 2–5 percent to the bill.