Some information on money and entry/exit requirements from my new Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize (288 pages, US$14.95, soon available from amazon.com and elsewhere, Belize First subscribers get it as part of their sub).
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/
Following is copyright 2000 by Lan Sluder:
Entry and Exit Requirements
You must have a valid passport to enter Belize, with at least six months before expiration, but visas are not required for citizens of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and most Caribbean and European Union countries. Entry is granted for up to 30 days, with renewals of up to a total of six months permitted (renewals cost US$12.50 per month.)
TIP: You do not automatically get entry for 30 days; the exact period, which may be 7 days or fewer, is up to the immigration officer stamping your passport. He or she usually will ask how long you plan to stay. Just in case you decide to extend your stay, when answering it's best to err on the side of estimating a longer stay.
When leaving Belize by air, there is a US$18.75 exit fee for those who are not citizens or residents of Belize. (The fee increased from US$15 in mid-2000.) This consists of a US$3.75 conservation fee, a US$1.25 security fee and a US$13.75 departure tax. These fees must be paid in cash (either Belize or U.S. dollars) and are collected by the ticket agent when you check in for your international flight.
When leaving by land, at either the Benque Viejo border with Guatemala or Corozal border with Mexico (but not when you go by boat to Guatemala, Mexico or Honduras), there is a US$10 border fee. Students with valid student ID pay US$5. Children under 12 accompanied by parents are exempt. This new fee was imposed beginning August 1, 2000, and may increase to US$15 after January 1, 2001.
TIP: If you return to Belize in less than 48 hours, your border crossing fee is credited against your departure tax when leaving by air, so save your receipt. Note also that those leaving by land borders usually are charged the US$3.75 conservation fee; this, too, can be credited when you leave by air, so save the receipt and avoid having to pay the fee twice.
The Belize currency is the Belize dollar, which is tied to the U.S. dollar at a fixed 2 Belize to 1 U.S. dollar rate. Common paper-money denominations are the 100-, 50-, 20-, 10-, 5- and 2-dollar bills, with the one-dollar bill occasionally still seen. Belize coins come in one-dollar, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 Belizean cent units. The 25-cent piece is called a shilling. U.S. dollars (bills, not coins) are accepted everywhere in Belize, although you often will receive change in Belizean money, or in a mix of Belizean and U.S. money. There's no need to exchange U.S. currency for Belize dollars at banks, and if you do you will lose a percent or two in conversion fees.
TIP: When bringing cash in U.S. dollars, it's best to have most of your money in 20-dollar and smaller denominations, as large bills may be difficult to change.
Money changers at the Mexican and Guatemalan borders often will give a higher rate than 2 Belize for 1 U.S. dollar, sometimes as much as 2.20 to 1, depending on the current demand for American greenbacks.
Canadian dollars, Mexican pesos and European currencies are not widely accepted. These should be exchanged at banks.
Traveler's checks in U.S. dollars are accepted by most hotels and at some stores, restaurants and other businesses. You usually need to show your passport when paying with a traveler's checks. Banks and some businesses only give about 1.96 Belize to 1 U.S. for traveler's checks.
TIP: Dealing in two currencies, both with the name dollar, can get confusing. Most hotel, car rental and tour rates are quoted in U.S. dollars, but prices at restaurants, supermarkets, shops and most other places frequented primarily by Belizeans are in Belize dollars. If in doubt, ask "Is that Belize dollars?" In this guidebook, all prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Visa, Master Card and American Express are widely accepted at most hotels and at some shops and restaurants. Discover, Diners and other cards are rarely accepted. Sometimes there is a surcharge for credit card use, usually 3 to 5% but occasionally as much as 10%. Surcharges are becoming less common, due to complaints by consumers and moves by credit card issuers.
TIP: Always ask if there is a surcharge for credit card use.
Belize has four main banks, not including offshore banks. Two are based in Belize, Belize Bank and Atlantic Bank, and two, Barclays and Bank of Nova Scotia, are international banks. Here is contact information for the main offices of each bank:
Belize Bank, 60 Market Square, Belize City; tel. 501-2-77132, fax 2-72712; e-mail [email protected]
Atlantic Bank, Atlantic Building, Freetown Road; tel. 501-2-34123, fax 2-33907; e-mail [email protected]
Barclays, Belize City; tel. 501-2-77129, fax 2-78572.
Bank of Nova Scotia, Albert Street, Belize City, tel. 501-2-77027, fax 2-77416.
Belize Bank has eleven offices, Atlantic eight, ScotiaBank six and Barclays four. Bank offices typically are open 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. The Belize Bank office at the international airport is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All four banks have ATMs at most of their branches. For example, Belize Bank has ATMs at nine of its eleven branches. However, as of this writing only Barclays and ScotiaBank ATMs accept ATM cards issued outside of Belize. Even if you find a bank ATM that takes your card, your PIN number may not work.
TIP: It is best NOT to count on using your ATM card to withdraw funds.
Most banks will issue an advance on your Visa or MasterCard. The fee for this is US$5 and up, depending on the bank, plus whatever fees and interest your bank card charges. Getting a cash advance may take a little time and paperwork.
Smart travelers bring a combination of cash in small U.S. currency denominations, traveler's checks in U.S. dollars and credit cards.