Tips For Handling Money in Belize: Exchange, Cash Machines, USD Accepted

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 break-down of the basics of currency in Belize.

The Belize DollarThe 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”) and 50 cents.

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 Belize or US?”

Easy.

TIP:  I’d recommend bringing smaller bills – $1, $5, $10 and $20US.  $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!  It’s a relatively new thing here in Belize but the 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.  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 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 will use your US 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.

Travelers Checks 

Wait…do they make travelers checks anymore?  Would it be rude to suggest a time machine?

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 and bars accept credits cards for payment – generally for amounts over $20bzd.   Your hotel expects credit card payment, as do the 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”.

At smaller merchants and often in smaller villages, cash is your only option.

Coconut Piggy Bank on Caye Caulker, Belize

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.

I promise.

For keeping, sharing and pinning, PIN here.

Tips for Handling Money when You Visit Belize- from ATM Machines to the Exchange Rate

 





Be the first to get the Scoop AND receive my weekly newsletter...

  • Great information, Rebecca! On our first trip to Belize, would you believe we brought Traveler’s Checks? This was in early 2010, and although we were able to cash them for BZD in the Belize Bank, it took forever because we had to sign every single check. Lesson learned, and we never did THAT again! This blog post will help anyone planning to visit Belize.

    • anonymoose

      bad advice…isn’t ”great information”.
      it is illegal to use any currency other than belize currency …in belize….it is constitutional law.

  • Lynn Monaco

    Hi, Rebecca, Chris and I always have a discussion about how much to tip for services, like carrying our bags into the airport, or for the housekeeper who cleans our room. Can you gives us any guidance on tipping in San Pedro? Thanks!!

    • I think American guidelines are generally just about standard since the majority of tourists are from the US. Here’s my best guess – and anyone else, please let me know! Carrying bags at the airports – $1 to $2US a bag. Housekeeper at hotels. As with everything, I’d say it depends. $2 to 5US a day for a standard room…big, multi-room suites or very high end hotels, a bit more.

      • Lynn Monaco

        Thank you!!

  • FJL

    See if you have a local smaller bank that rebates ATM charges anywhere in the world with a certain balance. They are out there if you look.

  • Brent

    little known secret… you can cash checks there and make money… like 2.5 to 3… so if you cash a $2,000 dollar check you can make enough for a dinner and drinks 🙂 there are a couple places that I know of… one is a realtor…

    • For sure…but they need to know you. I mean…you can’t just waltz in off the street and cash a check. I’m not sure what the vetting process is exactly…

  • Milisa #VolNurse

    Is the information in regards to vendors not accepting AmEx current? Arriving on Friday and planned to use AmEx. Thx

    • AmEx is not popular here for the high % they extract…so for larger purchases, you can generally use it – for your hotel stay or tours but at many smaller restaurants and bars, they just won’t take it. Bring a MC or Visa if you can too.

      • Milisa #VolNurse

        Thanks. Will domm