Tips for Backpacking in Belize

caye caulker beach swing
Reading Time: 5 mins

Backpacking in Belize can be budget-friendly and enjoyable if you follow a few basic travel 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.

1. What’s the Cost

Belizean Grocery store

Traveling on a shoestring budget is possible, but compared to the other countries in Central America, things are 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 $6 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 around 3 PM to 6 PM. 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.

See: Belize on the cheap and best hostels in Belize

2. Is Belize Safe?

caye caulker the split
Playing corn hole at The Split

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

local Belize bus

If you’re strict about keeping a low budget, the cheapest 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.

On the other hand, shuttles or private transfers are nice and comfortable, however, they cost plenty more since gas is expensive. A good option is chartering a taxi if you are traveling in a small group.

See: Getting around in Belize

4. What to Eat

Hudut Garifuna Food
Hudut with Fu-fu and Casava bread

Local food is cheap and delicious!

The best eats are always at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and street vendors. I also recommend that visitors try the Chinese restaurants – they don’t sell typical Chinese food, their menus have been modified for Belizeans. As for traditional Belizean cuisine, look out for rice and beans, bollos, salbutes, garnaches, boil up, Hudut and conch ceviche.

5. Where to Go and Stay

Tobacco Caye Belize
Tobacco Caye

The least amount of time recommended to backpack around Belize is two weeks. However, if you’re in a rush, the top spots for backpacking in Belize are San Ignacio, Placencia, and Caye Caulker. By visiting those three places you’ll get the most out of the country. Of course, this would mean that you’d miss out on the many other cool destinations and off-the-beaten-path spots in Belize.

Hopkins is a great place to visit to experience the Garifuna culture, Toledo is great for the Maya culture, and Orange Walk is wonderful for the Mestizo culture. Glover’s Reef, Tobacco Caye, and South Water Caye are perfect spots to spend time on a secluded island. Dangriga is the cultural 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 to 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

snorkeling in belize

In Cayo, a few of the best activities include cave tubing, horseback riding, birdwatching, and trekking Mayan temples and caves.

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.

Head to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye to explore the barrier reef: dive the Blue Hole or Half Moon Caye Wall and swim with turtles, rays, and nurse sharks at Hol Chan marine reserve.

In Southern Belize, visit the Creole village of Placencia, and the Garifuna village of Hopkins. Here you can visit small cayes, relax on the beach, hike the rainforest, 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.

Read: 10 reasons to visit Belize

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Reader Interactions


  1. Noreen Slater says

    We take american money with us from home. and some places take u.s money and they will give you Belizean money back that you can use to. My husband uses the atm all the time..but i think he is set up for it? we use our credit cards as well..Yes been to Placenia and are going to stay there this april for a couple days. Dont know about whale sharks?

  2. Noreen Slater says

    My husband would be the best to ask about this, he loves Guatemala and he has been there twice from Belize..and our friends backpacked in Guatemala and came to Belize to visit as well. I know they took the bus then boat…I can ask him…when he calls from Belize..I know the customs/ pass port office was a little shack and they couldnt find it! lol

  3. Noreen Slater says

    Gaia Donelli Hi Gaia…we have actually done both! just winged it and also booked ahead..the first time we were pulling a suitcase down the beach in caye caulker! lol looking for a place to stay..i did not enjoy that experience! so i started to look at sites on the computer, the tourist board of Belize etc…and travel guides…Now 8 years have passed and we have noticed Belize to be much busier then when we first starting go there…as i look for places to stay now…some are all ready booked up for april..and i have to really watch the prices as our Canadian dollar is so poor!..also the flights for us arent as good as they used to be…long layovers..I would suggest booking something for your main work from..what area were you thinking of? What price point were you thinking? its less stressful to have a place to stay at! But you know..i still believe you can wing it as well…and see where the adventure takes you!
    we always did have somewhere to we had our boat docked at alittle island..but we liked to explore most of the country…and now we own a fix me upper home…I am planning to meet my husband April he has been gone since Decemeber..but still want to travel around.. I found the more info you get and the more you know about Belize and what you want to do is so important! I usually pick different activities for us to do each time we go…jungle…beach…ruins..cayes…etc…i make a list and go from there…it helps because really there is so much to see and do….sorry this is so long!

  4. Gaia Donelli says

    Hey how do you manage to get a cheap accomodation? You reserve it or just go and see? I'm planning a two weeks trip with my boyfriend and i would like to find a cheap room by the sea. Thanks!

  5. Belize Adventure says

    Hey Kerry, tour ideas are: day trip to caye caulker, snorkelling hol chan and shark ray alley, day trip to Lamanai Mayan ruins, manatee watching and sailing/ fishing trip with bbq on a small secluded island.

  6. Paul Sanderson says

    I plan on traveling from Cancun down to Belize and travel as much of the country as i can in about 5weeks spent there,I am interested in historic sites, why are the flights so cheap to Cancun in January, is that a bad time to go there?, many thanks can anyone give someone some tips that hasn't done anything like this for 33yrs.

  7. Kerry Vivian says

    I will be in Belize from august 5-12 this year, i plan on spending much of my time in San Pedro and have booked into a hostel for the week there and will use it as a base but still want to see as much as possible of course but would like to stick to a budget? any cheap ideas??? thanks in advance!

  8. Alice M Hadwin says

    Erin Wilson heya I'm sorry but i changed my travel plans! will be in ecuador instead. But hope you have a lovely time! x

  9. Erin Wilson says

    I think I will be there for a few weeks in mid-June, and if I am, I would love to meet a travel buddy!

  10. Alice M Hadwin says

    hey anyone going to belize between 1st june and 31st july? would love to meet a travel buddy!

  11. Mailoha Albaladejo says

    I will be spending a couple of weeks in Belize and have a few questions. Should I take cash with me and exchange before I go at bank or airport or should I use ATM while I'm there and get cash that way? Any other tips for studying abroad? Anyone been to Placencia and know where to stay and know what the chances are of seeing whale sharks on 4/4/15 (full moon)?

  12. Kristin McNeil says

    This is great information! My 13 yr old son and I plan to backpack from Cancun to Panama from November to March. For budget reasons I don't plan to spend hardly anytime in Mexico and want to limit our time in Belize to a week maybe then head to Guatemala. What's the best way to get to Guatemala City or Lake Atitlan from Belize? Would we see Tikal on the way or should that be a day trip from Belize City? Advice?

  13. Noreen Slater says

    My husband and i have been going to back to Belize for 7 years now…we have stayed in 9$ a night huts to cabins right on the ocean for 40-50 a night. to 120$ a night hotels. and tree houses for 50$ a night. some places you can pitch your tent for 5$ a night! we are a mature couple and we just take a smaller backpack and hop on the chicken bus, taxis and the water taxis and go!!! we have covered most of the country, next is the orange walk district and then the Toledo district. I do believe you can do a trip to Belize on a tight budget! The great thing about the country is that one can stay in so many different types of accommodations ! you don't have to be a backpacker and can go luxury for sure! there are many beautiful , expensive places to stay as well. We usually rough it and then stay in a real nice place with hot water, lol. for our last night before we take a taxi and head to the airport for home..Belize is like our second home..and one has to experience it to really know what people are talking about!!!! Love it! on the food end…some places will feed you for 25$ each for 3 meals a day…or yes one can just get street vendor food to..

    • Lesa Wells says


      We will come in on cruise ship but would like to take a public bus ride to get off the tourist path. What bus and where would you recommend that we go? couple in 50’s and 70’s. want to experience the authentic and not the tourist set-up. Thank you. Lesa

  14. stizzle says

    Respect bro…..u thi put Belize pan thi map…..nuff respect….da 8 stizzle…

  15. Jenn says

    I’m not a backpacker but belize looks like fun! Any chance you will write a luxury guide?

  16. Agness says

    Good to know the local food is cheap and delicious, but $5 per meal sounds pretty expensive. Looking at the prices of hotels I don’t think I could manage to stay there for $25 a day (that’s my daily budget), but I love the beach and the activities !! 🙂

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

      Yeah I always hear the same thing from backpackers who have just been traveling all over Central America. Visiting Belize ain’t cheap.
      But I’ve posted average prices for food and stay. You could get some meals for $2 USD from street vendors and you could also stay at one hostel in Caye Caulker for $10 – $15 USD.