There are two ways of looking at the prices in Belize: Either it's one of the cheapest countries in the Caribbean or one of the most expensive countries in Central America. A good hotel room for two will cost you upward of BZ$250; a budget one, as little as BZ$40. A meal in one of the more expensive restaurants will cost BZ$50–BZ$75 for one, but you can eat the classic Creole dish of stew chicken and rice and beans for BZ$8. Prices are highest in Belize City, Ambergris Caye and the Placencia peninsula.
Prices throughout this guide are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are usually available for children, students, and senior citizens.
ATMs and Banks
Belize has three local banks: Heritage Bank www.heritageibt.com, Atlantic Bank www.atlabank.com, and Belize Bank www.belizebank.com; and two international ones, First Caribbean International www.cibcfcib.com, and ScotiaBank www.belize.scotiabank.com. Hours vary, but are typically Monday–Thursday 8–2 and Friday 8–4. There is a branch of Atlantic Bank at the international airport, with longer hours. Belize Bank closed its branch at the international airport but still has an ATM there. All the banks have ATMs across the country that are open 24/7, though occasionally machines may run out of cash or are out of order.
Your own bank will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad; the foreign bank you use will also charge a fee. However, extracting funds as you need them is a safer option than carrying around a large amount of cash. That said, machines sometimes are down or out of money. As a backup, carry some U.S. currency, a credit card, and perhaps a few traveler’s checks.
ATMs in Belize give cash in Belize dollars. There are ATMs in Belize City (including two at the international airport), Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belmopan, San Ignacio, Spanish Lookout, Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia, and Punta Gorda. Most ATMs in Belize have a BZ$500 daily limit. Belize Bank's 25 ATMs around the country take ATM cards issued outside Belize on the CIRRUS, MasterCard, PLUS, and Visa networks. Atlantic Bank's 15 ATMs also accept foreign cards on the CIRRUS, MasterCard, PLUS and Visa networks. First Caribbean International Bank’s seven ATMs and ScotiaBank’s 11 ATMs around the country also accept foreign-issued ATM cards. Heritage Bank has ATMs, but as of this writing they only accept ATM cards issued in Belize. Other bank offices you see in Belize City or San Pedro are likely international banks; they are set up to do business with individuals and companies outside of Belize and do not provide retail banking services in Belize.
In the Petén you can get cash in quetzales from ATMs in Flores and Santa Elena.
The biggest employer in Belize—the Belize government—pays most employees on the 14th or 15th of the month, and on those days in particular banks in Belize are jammed, with customer lines often snaking around the outside of the building. Banks are also usually busy on Friday.
You should have a four-digit PIN. ATM scams—where the ATM "eats" your card or your PIN is stolen—are rare in Belize but increasingly common in Guatemala. Most banks offer cash advances on credit cards issued by Visa and MasterCard for a fee ranging from BZ$10 to BZ$30.
Atlantic Bank (Main Office, Corner Freetown Rd. and Cleghorn St., Belize City. 223/4123. www.atlabank.com.)
Belize Bank (Main Office, 60 Market Sq., Belize City. 227/7132. www.belizebank.com.)
First Caribbean International Bank (21 Albert St., Belize City. 227/7212. www.cibcfcib.com.)
Heritage Bank (106 Princess Margaret Dr., Belize City. 223/5698. www.heritageibt.com.)
ScotiaBank (4 Albert St., Belize City. 227/7027. www.belize.scotiabank.com.)
Atlantic Bank. The Atlantic Bank San Pedro office is on Pescador Drive, but the ATM in on Barrier Reef Drive. Pescador Dr., Office is on Pescador Dr., but ATM is on Barrier Reef Dr., San Pedro. 226/2195. www.atlabank.com.
Belize Bank. Belize Bank has a large office on the north end of Barrier Reef Drive and ATMs in San Pedro on Pescador Drive in the center of town, in the Richie's and Island supermarkets, on Coconut Drive, and in the Wings department store. 49 Barrier Reef Dr., San Pedro. 226/2482. www.belizebank.com.
Heritage Bank. Formerly Alliance Bank, Heritage Bank has an office in San Pedro and also partners with several credit unions in Belize, including St. Francis Xavier Credit Union, which has an office and ATM on Pescador Drive at Ambergris Street. 33 Barrier Reef Dr., San Pedro. 226/2136. www.heritageibt.com.
ScotiaBank (12 Coconut Dr., San Pedro. 226/3730. www.scotiabank.com/bz.)
Atlantic Bank (4th Ave. and 3rd St. N., Corozal. 422/3473.)
Atlantic Bank Orange Walk. Also a second Atlantic Bank branch in Orange Walk Town on Belize-Corozal Rd. 47 Main St., Orange Walk Town. 322/1575.
Belize Bank (5th Ave. at 1st St. North, Corozal. 422/2087.)
ScotiaBank (4th Ave. at 3rd St., Corozal. 422/2046.)
ScotiaBank Orange Walk (Main St. and Park St., Orange Walk. 322/2194.)
Atlantic Bank (17 Burns Ave., San Ignacio. 824/2347. www.atlabank.com.)
Belize Bank (Constitution Dr., at Melhado Dr., Belmopan. 822/2303. www.belizebank.com.)
First Caribbean International Bank (Market Square, Belmopan. 822/2382. www.cibcfcib.com.)
Atlantic Bank. Atlantic Bank also has a stand-alone ATM on the Main Street in Placencia village, next to Placencia Office Supplies. Atlantic Bank, Main St., Placencia. 523/3431. www.atlabank.com.
First Caribbean International Bank (1 Commerce St., Dangriga. 522/2015. www.cibcfcib.com.)
ScotiaBank (Main St., Placencia. 523/3277. www.scotiabank.com/bz.)
Belize Bank (30 Main St., at Hospital St., Punta Gorda. 722/2324. www.belizebank.com.)
ScotiaBank (Prince and Main Sts., Punta Gorda. 722/0098. www.scotiabank.com/bz/.)
It's a good idea to inform your credit-card company (debit-card companies, too) before you travel, especially if you're going abroad and don't travel internationally very often. Otherwise, the credit-card company might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a good thing halfway through your trip.
Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—in a safe place, so you're prepared should something go wrong. Both MasterCard and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you're abroad) if your card is lost, but you're better off calling the number of your issuing bank, since MasterCard and Visa usually just transfer you to your bank; your bank's number is usually printed on your card.
In Belize, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, American Express less so, and Discover and Diner’s hardly at all.
Hotels, restaurants, shops, and tour operators in Belize sometimes levy a surcharge for credit-card use, usually 5% but ranging from 2% to 10%. This practice happily has become less common, but it still happens. If you use a credit card, ask if there's a surcharge. Most credit-card issuers now also charge an international exchange fee, usually 2% to 3%, even if the foreign purchase is denominated in U.S. dollars.
Reporting Lost Cards
American Express (800/528–4800 in U.S.; 954/473–2123 collect from abroad. www.americanexpress.com.)
Discover (800/347–2683 in U.S.; 801/902–3100 from abroad. www.discovercard.com.)
MasterCard (800/627–8372 in U.S.; 636/722–7111 collect from abroad including Belize. www.mastercard.com.)
Visa. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card in Central America. 800/847–2911 in U.S.; 303/967–1096 from abroad including Belize. www.visa.com.
Currency and Exchange
Because the U.S. dollar is gladly accepted everywhere in Belize, there's little need to exchange it. When paying in U.S. dollars, you may get change in Belize or U.S. currency, or in both.
The Belize dollar (BZ$) is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of BZ$2 per US$1, and nearly all shops, stores, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses honor that exchange rate. Note, however, that moneychangers at Belize's Mexico and Guatemala borders operate on a free-market system and pay a rate depending on the demand for U.S. dollars, sometimes as high as BZ$2.15 to US$1. Banks (and ATMs) generally exchange at BZ$1.98 or less.
The best place to exchange Belize dollars for Mexican pesos is in Corozal, or at the Mexico-Belize border where the exchange rate is quite good. At the Guatemala border near Benque Viejo del Carmen, you can exchange Belize or U.S. dollars for quetzales—moneychangers will approach you on the Belize side and also on the Guatemala side. Usually the money changers on the Guatemala side offer better rates.
When leaving Belize, you can exchange Belizean currency back to U.S. dollars (up to US$100) at Atlantic Bank at the international airport. The Belize dollar is difficult if not impossible to exchange outside of Belize.
In Belize most hotel, tour, and car-rental prices are quoted in U.S. dollars, while most restaurant prices are in Belize dollars. In this guide, all Belize prices are quoted in Belize dollars. Because misunderstandings can happen, if it's not clear, always ask which currency is being used.
Traveler's checks should be in U.S. dollars, and the American Express brand is preferred. Most hotels and travel operators accept traveler's checks, and some restaurants and gift shops do. However, even in Belize City and popular tourist areas such as San Pedro, clerks at groceries and other shops may be reluctant to accept traveler's checks or will have to get a supervisor's approval to accept them. Some places charge a small fee, around 1% or 2%, if you pay with a traveler's check. Most banks will cash them for a fee of 1% to 2%, but it may require a long wait in line. In all cases, you will need your passport in order to use or cash a traveler's check.
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