Tips For Handling Money in Belize: 2024 Update

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 I need to bring cash to Belize, do shops accept US dollars, do ATMs take US or foreign cards? It’s just smart travel planning. So here is a breakdown of the basics of money and Belize Currency.

Our Belize coins – penny, 5 cents, 10 cent, a shilling (or 25 cents), 50 cents and one dollar

Belize Currency, the Belize Dollar or BZD

$2 Belize Dollars = $1USD

The Belize dollar is the official currency of Belize – and it is pegged (or set) to the US Dollar.

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 55 other countries.  Interestingly…Barbados just left the commonwealth last year.

And there has been talk of it in Belize, especially since the recent visit of Kate and William (4/2022) and the Queen’s death (9/22).

Belize Currency - the 20bzd bill
$20bzd bill

Can I use US dollars in Belize?

Yes. Always. The two are interchangeable – just make sure the bills are in good condition!

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. All prices at supermarkets, most restaurants (some resort quote in USD), 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.

Belize Currency - Ice Cream prices
Ice cream prices at the Truck Stop quoted in BZD

“Is that price Belize or US?”

Easy.

TIP: I’d recommend bringing smaller bills – $1, $5, $10 and $20US in your wallet. $50US or $100US bills will be hard 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 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. But they are not EVERYWHERE in every resort and store like they can be in big cities in the US. They are generally in town…and there are handful.

Remember, 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 before you arrive.

Belize Bank and Atlantic Bank 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.

Travelers Checks

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.

Belize Currency - Local Menu Prices

VISA and Mastercard are generally preferred and at many places, the only cards taken. American Express charges high fees to the merchant and won’t be accepted at many spots.

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.

Belize Currency - Coconut Piggy Bank
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.

There is a legal limit: up to $10,000USD – any amount over that must legally be declared at Customs on arrival.  

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

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10 Comments

  1. David Martin on March 26th, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    I understand handling the money thing just fine, but I don’t understand why there’s more of an interest to leave the commonwealth after Bill & Kate’s big adventure. Did they create a faux pax I didn’t hear about?
    BTW: I don’t give a whit about the monarchy but I do wish the best for Kate (and William)

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 27th, 2024 at 4:27 pm

      There were protests from the Maya in Belize – and I believe in other parts of the Caribbean. I don’t think it was the two of them…more the show they put on and the…colonialism of it all. They seem to bring controvery everywhere these days.

  2. Rob Stark on March 26th, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    Hadn’t been down in 4 years and was pleasantly surprised when we were there in January. Brought way more cash than we needed. Only business we went to that didn’t take VISA was The Baker.

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 27th, 2024 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for that…looks like cards are becoming WAY more used. And mmmm…the baker.

  3. David Grusenmeyer on March 26th, 2024 at 6:48 pm

    If u plan on going . DONT PUT OFF. I wish I had went years ago. Been all over the world and wish I would have gone earlier. It will b my first place to visit yearly. Everyone so friendly.

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 27th, 2024 at 4:25 pm

      Great advice.

  4. DREW on March 27th, 2024 at 12:55 am

    Great Country,
    Great people!
    However , as everywhere there are con artist.
    On a few occasions and very few when you hand a $20 U.S bill to a vendor for a souvenir that cost $10 Belize dollars he may hand you back 5 1dollar U.S Bill’s and 10 dollars Belize.
    You should have a total with both currencies combined $15 U.S.
    But the above is only $10 U.S.
    Again buyer beware!!!

    • David Martin on March 29th, 2024 at 5:34 pm

      That’s sneaky but very clever. I bet they get away with that a lot. I guess you should request all BZD.

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