The Total Cost of Belize
I knew traveling to Belize was not going to be nearly as affordable as my trip to Thailand. For Thailand, I had paid the $800 roundtrip ticket using credit card points and spent less than $1200 overall. Even with my scuba certifications.
Belize is typically known as the most expensive country (in terms of travel and food costs) in Central America, beating out Panama and Costa Rica. This is offset by the fact that, unlike other Central America countries, it is extremely easy (and safe) to travel through because English is the native language, they accept US dollars, and they have a more-developed tourism infrastructure.
Still, I was a little surprised once I added everything up.
The total cost of my trip was $2,232 for 21 days. This reflects what I spent in-country. This does not include one of my one-way flights and the cost of my travel insurance.
How did I pay for the trip? I knew when I came back from Thailand that I was going to do a similar, three-week trip in May again. So I started saving.
I left for Belize with $2,635 in my Charles Schwab travel account. I saved this money in two ways:
- I put half of my tax refund into it. The other half paid off a credit card.
- I made monthly deposits. Deposits varied from $50 to $300 a month. It just depended on how much I could save that month, but I always deposited something.
Here's a breakdown of my costs.
In-country travel: $289
Includes: One-way flight to Ambergris Caye ($90), one-way flight to Belize City ($132), water ferry rides
Includes: Hostel accommodation for 9 nights ($144), private Airbnb for 2 nights ($235), private guestroom for 4 nights ($121)
Food / Drinks: $264
Includes: A lot of Western food. I only used a kitchen once (to make pasta - definitely my cheapest meal of the trip!). A few times I got cheap food from food stands. But most of the time I was eating at restaurants with friends. I also drank a lot of pretty rum punches.
Includes: Checked baggage ($50), laundry, and souvenirs (paintings, jewelry, and bath products for around $150)
Includes: Three-day sailing trip ($350), six dives ($460), massage ($100)
Total cost: $2,232 (Expenses Spreadsheet)
I think it's easy to see that I treated this trip as a vacation and spent what I wanted to spend. When I went to Thailand, I had less than $1100 to spend and that was that. I went into this trip with nearly $2,700 saved, so I was much more lenient in how I spent my money.
It's also very easy for me to see the outliers in this trip. The sailing trip was $350, but it paid for itself by the second day in terms of all the food and accommodation and travel being provided. The diving, admittedly, was very expensive for me. For just six dives, I spent almost as much as it cost me to get certified in Thailand. I wish I could have dived more, but the prices made me think twice.
I also splurged on accommodation. I stayed in a great hostel in Ambergris, but had trouble finding a hostel I liked on Caye Caulker. So I turned to Airbnb and reserved a private room (I literally closed my eyes as I hit "submit" because it was a lot of money for me!). It ended up being worth it because I was sick and I really needed time to myself. In Placencia, I found a great guesthouse for only $30/night, so while I could have stayed in a hostel for $15/night, I didn't feel I was losing out on paying a little extra.
I flew instead of taking the bus. The bus was significantly cheaper but took significantly more time. I didn't feel like sitting in a bus, so I paid for flights. Again, if I didn't have the budget I did, I definitely would have been on that bus.
If you pare my expenses down to more budget-conscious choices, the trip easily could have been done for under $1500. This would mean taking the bus/ferry, staying in a hostel all 15 nights, keeping the sailing trip but only diving three times, buying fewer souvenirs, and buying less alcohol. If I cut out what (in my opinion), were unnecessary splurges, the trip would have cost me around $1300.
Costs that weren't included in this number include one of my flights and my travel insurance. The total cost of the flights to Belize (I bought two, one-way flights) was $372. I paid off of one of them with credit card points. The remaining flight, for $161, I paid for out of pocket. The travel insurance cost $132, which is about to pay itself off because I just filed an insurance claim to be reimbursed for my $320 iPhone.
The $400 that I didn't spend is going right back into saving for my next trip.
This breakdown reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend recently. We were talking about things we are passionate about. She loves redecorating and remodeling her home. I, obviously, love traveling. She saves her money to purchase new tiles for the bathroom and I save my money to get a plane ticket to anywhere. Both passions bring us joy and fulfillment. As we were talking, she said, "I'm just kind of confused about travel because when I remodel my bathroom, I can see what I've spent my money on. It's tangible. It's right there in my home. But with travel, I just feel like what you spend your money on doesn't come with you. It's not like you can take it with you. Except maybe a souvenir."
I struggled with a response. Because, to me, traveling does come with me. I love travel so much that paying for the trip itself is almost like investing in who I am as a person and how happy I am. Every travel experience is so embedded in me that it doesn't even matter what I spent on it. It doesn't even feel like money spent. Most of my treasured travel memories didn't even cost anything - they were free! I just had to get myself there. And I'm okay with paying for that.