Backpacking in Belize can be both enjoyable and budget friendly if you follow a few basic tips. The country is ideally located in Central America, yet it’s more like a Caribbean island with english as its native tongue, vibrant colors and reggae/ dancehall music all over the place. It is small, safe, easy to explore, and locals are friendly and helpful. Just make sure you choose the right time to visit.
Related: 10 step Belize planning guide
1. What’s the Cost
Traveling on a shoestring budget is possible, but compared to the other countries in Central America, things are a bit more expensive in Belize.
Expect to pay $15 USD at inland hostels and $20 or $25 on the islands.
A good plate of food will cost you an average of $5 USD per meal if you avoid fancy restaurants.
As for drinks, beers are $1.50 USD at the store and $2.50 at bars. Rum is the best way to go because it’s a lot cheaper. Happy hour is a good way to get cheap drinks and most bars do it from 3PM to 6PM. If you like beach bars, here are my top five in the country.
Tours and park entrance fees are what usually eat up the most of your money. The positive aspect is that you’re supporting sustainable and responsible tourism. Save on tours by doing self-guided visits to Maya Ruins and there are always free things to do such as hiking, swimming in the sea or river and exploring local markets. A useful tip to get access to “cool stuff” is to befriend locals.
2. Is it Safe
Crime is not a major issue in tourist locales and small towns but I do suggest you be wary if you decide to walk around in some parts of Belize City. Belize City might be inevitable for many people, therefore, a good precaution would be to catch a taxi between destinations or hire a tour guide since they have their own vehicles. However, don’t worry about other places in Belize, you will have no problem feeling safe.
Read: Staying safe in Belize
3. How to get around
If you’re strict about keeping a low budget, the most obvious way to travel around Belize is by public transit aka the chicken bus. Although I must warn, riding the bus is cheap but it isn’t for everyone since it’s similar to buses in Guatemala. The buses are old, loud music is playing, it’s usually crowded, there’s no air conditioning and it involves a lot of stops.
4. What to eat
To be honest, the best eats are always at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and street vendors. I also recommend that visitors should try the Chinese restaurants – they don’t sell typical Chinese food, they have modified their menus for Belizeans. Traditional cuisine includes rice and beans, bollos, salbutes, garnaches, boil up, Hudut and conch ceviche.
5. Where to Go and Stay
The least recommended time to backpack around Belize is two weeks. However, if you’re in a rush, I usually recommend going to San Ignacio, Placencia and Caye Caulker to get the most of the country. Of course this would mean that you’d miss out on the many other cool spots and off the beaten path places.
For example, Hopkins is a great place to go to experience the Garifuna culture, Toledo is for the Maya culture, and Orange Walk for the Mestizo culture — Glover’s Reef, Tobacco Caye or South Water Caye are perfect to spend time on a secluded island, Dangriga is the culture capital of Belize, Corozal boasts tranquillity and San Pedro was once voted the best island in the world by TripAdvisor.
A popular alternative for people who can only be in Belize for 3 to 5 days is to stay a day or two in San Ignacio and spend the remainder of the time in Caye Caulker. Others prefer to spend their week in Southern Belize since they can easily catch a ferry to Honduras from Placencia, Dangriga or Punta Gorda and continue on their journey backpacking Central America.
As for cheap places to stay, here is a list of the best hostels in Belize.
6. Activity highlights
In Cayo, a few of the best activities include cave tubing, horseback riding, visiting the Maya temples of Xunantunich, Caracol, and nearby Tikal in Guatemala, and exploring Barton Creek cave and Actun Tunichil Muknal.
In Belize City, you can visit the Museum of Belize, the One Barrel rum factory, and witness British colonial architecture as you walk around the downtown core. Other nearby options include the Belize Zoo, Burrell Boom village and the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
In Southern Belize you can visit a Kriol, Maya or Garifuna village, hike the rainforest and explore waterfalls, and dance to traditional cultural music.
Two reasons for visiting Northern Belize are for the sleepy fishing villages of Consejo and Sarteneja and the exhilarating boat trip to the Maya ruins of Lamanai.
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