Money in Belize and Belize Currency Conversions
I get lots of questions from first-time visitors about money in Belize — does everyone accept credit cards, do shops accept US dollars, do ATM machines take US or foreign cards? It’s just smart travel planning. So here is a breakdown of the basics of money and Belize Currency.
The Belize Dollar
The Belize dollar is the official currency of Belize – and it is pegged (or set) to the US Dollar. $2bzd = $1US.
Bills come in $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 – coins 1 cent, 5, 10, 25 (or a “shilling”), 50 cents and my favorite the $1 coin.
Yes, that is the Queen of England on the front. While Belize has been her own country since 1981, we are still part of the British Commonwealth along with 52 other countries. Interestingly…Barbados just left the commonwealth last year.
Can I use US dollars in Belize?
Yes. Always. The two are interchangeable. Can I use US coins? No.
You’ll find prices quoted in both US and BZD across the country. In general, the higher prices are quoted in US dollars – like real estate, hotel, and tour prices. And all prices at supermarkets, most restaurants and shops are quoted in local prices.
Always double-check on menus how your price is being quoted. Ask if you are unsure or if it isn’t specified.
“Is that price Belize or US?”
TIP: I’d recommend bringing smaller bills – $1, $5, $10 and $20US in your wallet. $50US or $100US bills will be hard, often impossible to cash in smaller villages or small shops and restaurants. People don’t have the change and/or these large bills are somewhat rare and can be counterfeit – no one wants to take that risk.
Make sure that your bills are in good condition! A few years ago, the Belize banks decided that they can no longer accept US bills with ANY marks or tears. So take a close look – at things you wouldn’t even notice at home. For a pen mark or a tiny tear.
Nothing more annoying than being down to your last $20US bill and finding that no one will accept it.
(If you do get into that position, you will find that some of the larger supermarkets or bars — ones that deal with many tourists — will accept the bill – or help you out. Just ask them at the counter before you order.)
ATM Machines in Belize
Cash machines in Belize dispense money in Belize dollars. Never USD. There is often a $500bzd-$800bzd limit depending on the bank.
You will find ATM machines in all major tourist towns and more urban centers – San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, San Ignacio, Punta Gorda, Dangriga, Belize City, Belmopan, etc.
Something to keep in mind, you will often be hit with two fees – one from your bank for international use (find it out before you leave) and one for the local Belize bank.
Belize dollars are not accepted outside of Belize — except at some border towns like Melchor, Guatemala, and Chetumal, Mexico — so be careful of the amount you withdraw – especially at the end of your trip.
If you are staying in a more remote area – one of the smaller cayes or a less touristy village, please ask your hotel/resort for information.
Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank and ScotiaBank all accept foreign ATM cards.
Exchanging Money in Belize
There are no official money exchanges in Belize and banks (for some reason) give a less than ideal rate for exchanging money (like $1.96BZD to $1US).
There is no reason to exchange cash in a bank — you can use your US dollars everywhere – at bars, restaurants, shops and get BZD in return.
Can I use Canadian dollars or Euros in Belize?
If I were you, I would exchange Canadian dollars or any other currency into US dollars before arriving in Belize or any Central American country. You are not going to get the most advantageous rates for exchange here — so do it before you arrive.
If for some reason, you have other currencies (Canadian dollars, Mexican pesos, UK pounds, or Euros), most banks will exchange it for Belize dollars but again, BAD RATES. I’d do my best to avoid.
Wait…do they make travelers checks anymore? Would it be rude to suggest a time machine? Yes…rude. But these are a major pain in the butt. I’d exchange in the US and bring the US cash. That kinda defeats the whole purpose.
When can I use credit cards in Belize?
Unlike the US market, cash is still the standard form of payment in Belize.
These days all hotels, many larger restaurants, supermarkets and bars accept credits cards for payment – generally for amounts over $20bzd. Your hotel expects credit card payment, as do the larger and more expensive restaurants. It is no problem at all.
VISA and Mastercard are generally preferred and at many places, the only cards taken. American Express charges high fees to the merchant.
Banks generally assess a 3-6% fee (lower end, VISA/MC and higher end, AmEx) for use of credit cards to the merchant, so cash is ALWAYS preferred.
You might even find that for larger purchases – like art or more expensive souvenirs, the vendor will give you a small “cash discount” – often 5% but it can be higher.
At smaller merchants and often in smaller villages, cash is your only option.
SO…How much cash should I Bring To Belize?
No matter how experienced you are, or the careful planning you do, don’t you always find you underestimate this?
I’d certainly bring enough cash with me (in US dollars) to make my first few days easy – again, stick with the smaller bills. No one wants to be running around the evening they arrive looking for an ATM machine.
I can’t estimate the amount for you – but budget enough for smaller meals like breakfast and lunch and shopping you might do. Check if your lodging has a safe (most do) where you can keep your cash.
If you plan to tick EVERYTHING off your bucket list, you’ll need more money.
And again, bring smaller bills — it’s nice to have $1s and $5s for tipping and smaller things like beverages or snacks as soon as you get off the plane.
Hopefully that helps. And if you’ve visited and have suggestions, additions or questions, please let me know!
Eat local food (AND street food), go on tours, talk to people – especially those who live here – for suggestions and local color, take the precautions that you would take visiting any new place and you’ll enjoy your time in Belize.
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