It's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms on a vacation: a mix of cash, credit cards, debit cards, and, occasionally, traveler's checks.
The Belize dollar, abbreviated BZ$, is the official currency of Belize. It is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a ratio of 2 Belize dollars to 1 U.S. dollar. Both currencies are acceptable at almost any business or establishment around the country. As long as you have U.S. dollars or U.S. dollar-based traveler's checks, it is entirely unnecessary to change for Belize dollars in advance of your trip. However, travelers from Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand will want to change a sufficient amount of their home currency to U.S. dollars before traveling. To check the very latest exchange rates before you leave home, point your browser to www.xe.com/ucc.
Once you are in Belize, the change you receive will most likely be in Belize dollars, although it is not uncommon for it to be a mix of both currencies. However, do try to have some small-denomination bills for paying taxis, modest meal tabs, and tips.
The branch of the Atlantic Bank at the international airport is only open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 2:30pm. If you are flying out on a Sunday, or outside of these hours, be sure to spend or exchange any Belize dollars beforehand.
Tip: Be careful to note whether or not the price you are being quoted is in Belize or U.S. dollars. Many hotels, restaurants, and tour operators actually quote in U.S. dollars. If in doubt, ask. At a two-to-one ratio, the difference can be substantial.
ATMsATMs aren’t consistent throughout the country: your card may work well at the Atlantic Bank in Caye Caulker, but be unusable at the San Ignacio branch. There isn’t really any rhyme or reason to it, which is why you always want to have a backup plan for payment.
Currently, in Belize, you will find internationally accessible ATMs in major cities or towns and tourist destinations, including Belize City, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, Punta Gorda, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Dangriga, and Corozal Town. It’s best to assume you will have to use cash, but then charge when possible, which will be the case at most tourist-oriented businesses.
Tip: It’s probably a good idea to change your PIN to a four-digit PIN. While many ATMs in Belize will accept five- and six-digit PINs, some will accept only four-digit PINs.
Credit cards are another safe way to carry money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).
Most major credit cards are accepted in Belize, although MasterCard and Visa are much more widely accepted than American Express, especially by smaller hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. While there are some exceptions, Diners Club and Discover are rarely accepted around Belize.
Some credit card companies recommend that you notify them of any impending trip abroad so that they don't become suspicious when the card is used numerous times in a foreign destination and block your charges. Even if you don't call your credit card company in advance, you can always call the card's toll-free emergency number if a charge is refused -- a good reason to carry the phone number with you. But perhaps the most important lesson here is to carry more than one card with you on your trip; a card might not work for any number of reasons, so having a backup is the smart way to go.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.