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Belize Budget Recap

Written by Jared on February 3, 2012

This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.

Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.

Another country, another budget recap. I'll keep this one short since you're probably still recovering from the awesomeness of my Mexico Budget Recap.

We only spent 11 days in Belize. Three days on the island of Caye Caulker and the the rest camping in the jungle. We were a bit over budget, but that's largely due to our decision to take an expensive ferry trip from Sarteneja to Caye Caulker.

Budget Recap

Number of Days in Belize:  11
Average Exchange Rate (BZ$ per USD$): BZ$1.975
Budgeted Per Diem:  $74.19
Actual Per Diem:  $95.79
One-Time Expenses Budgeted:  $40.00
One-Time Expenses Spent:  $28.00
Total Spent:  $1,053.66
Total Budgeted:  $860.17
Belize Balance:  -$193.49

Belize took a toll on our pocketbook. Specifically, Caye Caulker did. The cost of getting there was $180 for the three of us, about the amount we were over budget. In fact, if you took the price of those boat trips out, our per diem numbers line up just about perfectly.

Our only budgeted one-time expenses for Belize was the border crossing, it cost $28 for the mandatory vehicle insurance and fumigation. Note that the "exit fee" from Belize of BZ$37.50 per person, is NOT included in this amount.

The exchange rate from Belize dollars to US dollars is artificially fixed at 2:1. Our average rate is a bit off due to bank and ATM withdraw fees.

Per Diem Breakdown

Eating Out:  $246.00 27.16%
Transportation:  $180.00 19.87%
Lodging:  $176.50 19.49%
Groceries:  $152.48 16.83%
Coffee and Booze:  $58.50 6.46%
Park Fees:  $45.00 4.97%
Vehicle Import:  $28.00 3.09%
Gas:  $25.00 2.76%
Laundry:  $10.00 1.10%
Tolls and Parking:  $7.88 0.87%
Charcoal and stove fuel:  $2.50 0.28%
Misc. Supplies:  $2.00 0.22%

Food & Lodging

  Budget Actual Difference
Percent Time Camping:  50% 73% +23%
Average Camping Cost:  $15.00 $14.56 +$0.44
Average Hotel Cost:  $30.00 $20.00 -$10.00
Daily Food Expenses:  $30.00 $32.41 +$2.41

All but our three nights on Caye Caulker were spent in a tent. We managed to find a super cheap room there, otherwise our budget would have been totally blown because we ate out every meal due to not having a kitchen.

The per diem breakdown pretty much tells the whole story. Our numbers were solid, we just failed to account for the $180 we'd spend on transportation costs to get out to the islands.


Gas in Belize is very expensive, nearly $6/gallon. We filled up right before we crossed into the country, and only had to put five gallons in to make it to Guatemala. Good thing it's a small country.

We were told by a police officer that gas prices only fluctuate a little bit between gas stations, so it's not even worth shopping around.

Lessons Learned

  • If you go out to the Cayes, especially the popular ones, spend some time shopping around for good eating and lodging deals. We found a hotel room for $15 a night for three people, and it wasn't listed anywhere. There was barely a sign on the street. Just ask around, people in Belize are very friendly (and everyone speaks English).
  • Same goes for eating out. Shop around to find the best deals. It seems like lunches are big meals, so if you're not into eating heavy while the sun's up you can usually get enough to split with two people or save for a second meal later.
  • If you're driving, definitely fill up in Mexico or Guatemala. And leave the country on empty, there are gas stations just over both borders.
  • It's a lot cheaper to take a ferry to the northern cayes from Belize City than Sarteneja or Corozal. We didn't want to leave our car in Belize City, and we were already at Sarteneja, but we could have saved $100.

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