Click here to read my short travel guide (money and cards, transport, accomodation, safety etc) about everything you need to know about travel in Belize.
Note: In this post I use 4 different currencies: Euro because I am European. Belize Dollar (bzd) because… well, I write about Belize. Mexican Pesos because I describe how to get from Belize to Mexico and there’s a part of the bus ticket that you have to pay in Mexican Pesos. AND Us Dollars because US$ is commonly used in Belize. If you pay with BZD$, it’s perfectly possible that they’ll give you your change in US$. US$1 = BZD$2.
Caye Caulker; a Caribbean island off the coast of Belize known for its laid back atmosphere and
bad coconuts with barely any water inside...
Caye Caulker is located between the main land of Belize and the second biggest barrier reef in the world. Needless to say that some of the main activities – except for being lazy af – is snorkelling and scuba diving around the reef.
Those are the things that make Caye Caulker famous. However, there’s one more that makes the tiny island (and the rest of the country too) famous, or should I say infamous?: the prices. Belize is known to be one of the most expensive countries in Central America. If not the most expensive one.
Therefore, many budget travelers (like myself) skip Belize on their Central America trip. Not for the same reason as why they skip Honduras and El Salvador but simply because it’s too. fucking. expensive. Especially Caye Caulker.
I was once one of those people. I remember discussing with my boyfriend where to go for out next visa run out of Mexico. He mentioned Belize but I immediately told him No fucking way, we don’t have money for some over expensive country which looks exactly the same as Quintana Roo in Mexico. (That was wrong btw, Caye Caulker doesn’t look exactly like Quintana Roo.)
However, after our trip to Guatemala and Honduras, we figured that we should spend our last 3 weeks somewhere in Quintana Roo as we will fly out from Cancun (back to Europe). In order to go from Guatemala to Quintana Roo, you have to pass through… yes, Belize.
It IS sad to just drive through a country without spending some time there, especially when we found out that we would have to pay the exit fee anyway, even if we just drove through the country without stopping anywhere.
And so we decided to spend some time at the infamous Caye Caulker. After reading many articles on “How to do Belize on a Budget”, I was totally discouraged. All of those budget-travel-articles mentioned that the minimum you will spend in Belize is still around €45 per day, per person…
€45 (us$50) Per day is way above our budget.
But we had to pass through the country anyway, we had no choice but actually going there so I decided to do it differently. There was no way I was gonna spend €45 per day. And I surely didn’t do that.
If I tell you that you can do Caye Caulker for €26 (us$30) per day (everything incl) OR €21 (us$24) per day if the bus from Belize City to Bacalar (Mexico) is NOT incl. Do you believe me? I couldn’t believe it myself but it is the truth.
I think it’s totally worth paying this island a visit and therefore I’ll share my secret to stay at Caye Caulker on a tight budget and yet be comfortable.
Note: “Tight budget” might not be that accurate as I usually spend between €15 (us$17) and €20 (us$23) when traveling in Mexico and the cheaper countries in Central America. Though, spending that little in Belize is almost impossible. Unless you do couchsurfing and take chicken busses and hitchhike. Spending €26 per day (everything incl) instead of the €45 that I read in articles about” Staying in Belize on a Budget”, IS quite cheap.
- Go during the low season ( = rainy season) and go during the week. Avoid weekends and Friday nights at all cost
- Go to Hostelworld.com and search for the cheapest dorm beds in Caye Caulker (even if you’re a couple), make sure the hostel isn’t one of the most popular hostels on the island. Check if they have free drinking water but usually they always have. We found beds for €8,5 (bzd$20) per person. Because we went on weekdays during the low season, the hostel was almost empty. We had the biggest dorm room for ourselves and we had the private beach of the hostel for ourselves. It felt like we had our own apartment and we only payed €8,5 each. Of course, luck has to be on your side. It’s not because you go during the low season, that you’ll be alone in the hostel. Though if you don’t choose the most popular hostels, it’s more likely that you’ll be almost alone.
- You have to take a watertaxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker. Buy a round trip. You’ll save around €4 (us$5).
- This is the most important tip I can give you: I assume you’re traveling over land and you didn’t land in the Belize Airport. If you travel over land, you’ll come either from Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras. All of those countries are a lot cheaper than Caye Caulker. So, what do you do? Buy oaths, coffee, pasta, tomato sauce and some cookies in one of those countries. Buy as much as you’ll need for the time you’ll stay at Caye Caulker. Buying all this in Guatemala and Honduras cost us less than €5 (us$6) each (this is included in the €26 or €21 per day). Because of this, we only had to pay for 1 meal a day. We simply went to the cheapest place we could find (some Chinese take away where they had Chop Suey for €4 (bzd$10). We didn’t have to pay for water either as the hostel had free drinking water.
- I’m sorry to say this but don’t take any snorkel, scuba diving or flying over the blue hole tours. They’re extremely expensive and if you’re not obsessed about those things, I think you can easily leave it out. Mexico and Honduras have a similar coastline and snorkelling and scuba diving is a lot cheaper there.
If you follow those 5 steps, you’ll save up A LOT of money.
My blog is about comfortable travel on a tight budget; we could’ve saved up quite some money by taking a chicken bus to Mexico but we simply cannot handle being in an overcrowded bus with tons of luggage and valuables when it’s over 35°C outside and no airconditioning in the bus.
Therefore we took the ADO bus. But we did it the cheap way. If you buy a ticket all the way from Belize City to Playa del Carmen (we were heading to Cozumel) you’ll pay €44 (us$50) (you have to pay €9 (bzd$20)) in Belize and then €35 ($700 Mexican Pesos) when you arrive in Bacalar for the rest of the trip – you stay at the same bus.
However, you can buy a ticket from Belize City to Bacalar, which costs €15 (bzd$35). When you arrive in Bacalar, you simply get off the bus with all of your luggage and buy a ticket to Playa (or wherever you’re going) in the Bacalar bus station for only €15 ($300 Mexican). Which is in total €30 (us$35). This is €15 (us$17) less than if you buy all the way from Belize City to Playa del Carmen but it’s exactly the same bus. You’ll just have to wait a bit in the Bacalar bus station.
When you cross the border, you have to pay an exit tax to Belize of €17 (bzd$40 or us$20 – payable in those 2 currencies).
Now that you know how to comfortably travel in Caye Caulker on a tight budget, what are you even waiting for?