Belize uses the Belizean dollar, complete with a picture of the queen of England, Elizabeth II.  Of course, her marketing reps insisted it was a shot of her in her younger years.  

Yet, despite the Belizean dollar being printed by Great Britain’s great money printer, De La Rue, and despite having the queen on the money, the value of the Belize dollar (BZD) is not pegged to the British pound but the US dollar.

The Gist: The Belize dollar (BZD) is pegged to the US dollar (USD) at 2:1 i.e. 2 Belizean dollars = 1 US dollar.   That’s 2 BZD = 1 USD.  Just divide or multiply by 2 based on which direction you are going. 

Many products and services in Belize are quoted in USD, especially in tourist zones.  You can give USD in all places, though you will probably get change in BZD or a mix of USD & BZD.  No money changer required.  Just make sure you are carrying small enough bills appropriate for the vendor’s ability to give change. 

The USD is the most commonly used currency in the world. Whether a visitor is American, Canadian or European (most common tourists to visit Belize), most are familiar with the rough value of the US dollar and can easily calculate value of BZD on the fly.  However, there can be a few hitches.

On-The-Fly Belizean Money Conversion

When visiting most countries, ultimately, we have to think in Pesos in Mexico and Yen in Japan. It’s part of the fun.  When a street vendor will sell you a sushi roll in Japan for 200 yen, at first you have no idea whether it’s a deal or not until either you have been there a while or you run the math.  You break out Google and learn that 200 yen is about $1.90 USD or 1.49 EURO.  At that price, it’s a steal!  Buy that sushi (or at that price you can maybe enjoy some food poisoning).  Lol.

Because it’s so easy, visitors in Belize can just think in “dollars” and forget to do the typical money conversions required in most countries.   Folks from USA and many others are quite familiar with the US dollar. Visitors tend to think in US dollar even after they arrive.   Plus, the US dollar is so ubiquitous that Belizeans switch back and forth instantly and without explanation. They convert and make change on the fly doubling or dividing as needed.

This can happen so fast, some will wonder, Wait, how much was that? Did I just get cheated?  Not usually.

For example, you might owe a Belizean $36 BZD and give her a $50 BZD bill. You need $14 BZD in change.  On the spot, she might give you $14 BZD in one $10 bill and two $2 bills ($14 BZD).  She might also give the $4 as four $1 coins.  That’s all easy enough.

Yet the same vendor might be short on change and instead she might give a $10 BZD, a $2 BZD and make up the remaining $2 BZD with a $1 USD.  10+2+1 still equals $14?  All three of these scenarios still equal $14 BZD.  

Change is frequently given in Belize dollars as it’s the official currency and because USD are horded by some businesses and individuals.  Still, change in a transaction are often a blend of BZD and a little USD.

Did I Just Get Cheated? Most likely not. 😊

If change is made with a little or all USD, quickly adding your change might look wrong.  In this case the numbers add up to $13 ($10 + 2 + 1) instead of $14. In a flash of the moment, the raw numbers add up to 13 “dollars.”  Your instant math brain can go, “What just happened? I mean, Belize was home to pirates for centuries, right?  They have lots of rum and a street in Belize City named proudly Bayman Avenue after all.”    Lol.  Yes, it’s a wonderful place to get your Pirate on.  But it’s also a place where, in this case, 10+2+1 still equals $14.   

Remember, the Belize dollar (BZD) is pegged to the US dollar (USD) at 2:1 i.e. 2 BZD = 1 USD.  Everyday.  Always. 

Let's illustrate. All the following accurately make up $14 BZD on the street of Belize.

  • Seven $1 USD bills = $14 BZD.
  • One $10 BZD bill + two $1 USD bills = $14 BZD. 
  • One $5 USD bill + two $2 BZD bills = $14 BZD.
  • One $5 USD bill + one $2 BZD bill + one $1 USD bill = $14 BZD. 

4 common ways to get $14 BZD change.

This is easy to keep straight if you remember you are always REALLY doing business in Belize dollars, even when it’s quoted in USD.

The old saying goes, "When in Rome, do as Romans do."  Save yourself stress and go local.  When you are in Belize, THINK IN BELIZEAN DOLLARS! Always, just as you would think in Peso’s in Mexico or Yen in Japan.  Plus, it’s fun. It’s a great way to go local and understand what is really going on. 

You can practice this and do the same scenario below. Think in Belize dollars.   You gave $50 BZD and need $14 BZD in change.  When you see USD below, simply double the USD and do the math in Belize dollars below:

  • Seven $1 USD bills (7 x $2 BZD= $14 BZD)
  • One $10 BZD bill + two $1 USD bills ( $10 BZD + $2 + $2 BZD = $14 BZD)
  • One $5 USD bill + two $2 BZD bills ($10 BZD + $2 + $2 = $14 BZD) 
  • One $5 USD bill + one $2 BZD bill + one $1 USD bill ($10 BZD + $2 BZD + $2 BZD = $14 BZD)

Going the other way, if you are spending $80 USD on a tour and you only have BZD, then double the value:  $80 USD = $160 BZD.  

In Summary

We have to use local currency almost everywhere we go in the world. In Belize, we get the convenience of using the USD everywhere in Belize without a money changer. As long as your bills are small enough to make change, you can use them anywhere.  You and your new Belizean friend become your own money changers.  :) 

Think in Belize dollars when you arrive.    Do the math in Belize dollars. Unless you are a cruise ship tourist at a cruise ship tourist site where EVERYTHING is in expensive USD, it’s easier in long run to think in Belize dollars. It's usually cheaper too.   It's far easier than converting, say, Peso's on the fly, where every store/vendor might give you a different exchange rate.

Tips:

  • So when you come to Belize, feel free to not change money into Belizean dollars in your home country. Simply carry clean/crisp USD in $20’s, $50, and $100's. Maybe carry a $5 bill or 2 to pay for taxi rides when you first arrive. 
  • Make sure none of your USD are torn or ripped. Folks will reject them because the banks will reject torn USD.
  • Breaking larger bills can be an issue, so make sure you have a few small USD bills at all times. You can also walk into a convenience store or grocery store to break a larger bill whether USD or BZD. You might have to buy a water or candy bar, but most will issues lots of small bills without complaint.
  • Have fun! Go find your Belizeism.

 

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