How To Read the Budget:
The first two columns show the Belize Budget for a couple over a months for time and for the applicable categories we included per day averages. The next two columns are what we actually spent. The final two columns are on a backpacker’s budget so you see both the reality and how you could do Belize for less, which can work for some people and not for others.
Valcomspirt vs Backpacker Budget:
Valcomespirit is a word we made up combining the words value, comfort, and free spirit. After much contemplation of the type of travelers we are, we really couldn’t pick one as we are a little bit of everything. We seek valuable life experiences and if it makes sense we will live more like a backpacker, like traveling around New Zealand in a campervan. Other times we seek more comfortable accommodations, especially after living in a campervan for 17 days! We are always trying to get the most value of where we are with a balance of staying true to our free spirit of not planning every detail. Being open to take up whatever adventure strikes us at the time, without always having to restrict ourselves to a tight budget.
We discovered while researching our trip around the world that there were a bunch of these Travel blogs that focused on spending as little as possible. The consensus was you could live on $50/day, which sparked some questions in our minds. When you live on $50/day what activities are you doing, what conditions are you living in, and how many countries that you want to see are you actually seeing?
With the Valcomspirit budget we are looking to have more freedom to go out and experience the fun things in life. We also will be trying to live in places where we at least have privacy as a couple most nights. With a Valcomspirit budget we intend to spend about $32/person a day more on average than what the typical backpacker budget would spend. This gives us more flexibility to do the things we enjoy and not count pennies as we travel.
Generally, we were pretty on track in total with our budget for Belize. We added an additional excursion which made up most the overage in our budget, but it was an amazing experience so it was totally worth it! We budgeted for a total stay in San Pedro for one month, but decided to go to the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour just outside the city of San Ignacio, which included extra lodging (~$80), rental car transportation (~$150), and the cost of the tour (~$180) for a total additional spending of ~$410 USD.
We spent a total ~$1,100 USD on entertainment for the month. Most the amount was spent on scuba diving (~$70 for a two-tank dive), the ATM cave tour, and alcohol. When we made our initial budget we generally budgeted for alcohol in entertainment, but then decided we wanted to track how much we spend here for your informational purposes and our own self-awareness.
You are probably thinking, shit they spent pretty much their entire entertainment budget on alcohol! Ok yes we might have drunk more during the month then we have in an entire year back home, but we were on an island, how can you not indulge? Being the first month of our travels and transitioning from a corporate job working an average of 50 to 55 hours a week to being on an island with no real schedule or responsibilities has its own learning curve! To make us sound less like alcoholics if you average out the alcohol it comes to ~$18 per day. The beers and drinks are cheaper if you stick to beer and rum drinks $3 per drink with tip. The ever popular and my favorite Mojito is approximately $6.50 per drink with tip.
With a budget around $125 USD for a month for entertainment this squeezes what you can do as a couple. You could go on one scuba dive or snorkel for $90 USD for a couple. After tip this leaves around $20 USD to go down to the local supermarket and buy a 6 pack of beer. Forget the bar or going out at night to any events.
We found a place through AirBnb in a new modern building with all the amenities. We had maid service every other day, full kitchen, appliances, New A/C unit, a full gym, tennis courts, swimming pool beach side, and a swimming pool on our premises. Since our place belonged to a resort we could use their beach side chairs and amenities as well. Check out the pictures on our Belize page of our place. For our two night excursion to San Ignacio we stayed at Hector’s house through AirBnb and had our own private room, bathroom, and access to a kitchen. Hector even made us some smoothies for breakfast!
The cheapest options in San Pedro, Belize would be at Pedro’s Hostel or Sand Bar Hostel ($15 USD pp per night). These would set you up with a single bunk bed. Can you picture yourself sleeping on the top bunk and looking down at your wife and wishing her a good night? I know we don’t. You will only have access to a microwave and shared refrigerator. The mainland is less expensive where you could find a hostel around $12/13 USD pp per night.
Once we arrive in Belize city we took a taxi ($25 USD) to the ferry station where we hopped on a boat to San Pedro ($35 USD per person round trip). For local transportation around the island we rented bikes for a week ($85 USD) and a golf cart for two weeks ($ 375). Again, a large part of the variance between budget and actual is from the extra trip to San Ignacio to cover the rental car ($150 USD). Also, we ended up adding an extra day to our golf cart rental ($~45 USD), the rest of the difference as we say in the auditing world is immaterial.
What does transportation for a couple in San Pedro and the mainland on a backpacker’s budget look like? Arriving at the airport you would take a local bus ($5 USD total) into Belize City. Walk with all your bags 1 mile to the Water Taxi station. Water taxi would be $70 USD round trip for a couple. Then walk to your place once on the island, yep that’s another mile or two; at least you’re getting a work out in!
Then let’s say you rent bike for a week for $42.50 USD per bike ($85 USD total) to explore the island, and walk the rest of your time there. This leaves you a total of $35 USD for the rest of your trip. The local buses in Belize City do go to San Ignacio and you could head out there and back to the airport for ~$30 USD total for a couple. No there is no air conditioning but they do leave all the windows open and drive pretty fast! That leaves $10 USD to get around to see anything in San Ignacio.
Having a kitchen in our apartment and loving to cook came in clutch and helped offset our overage in other areas. On average, we made at least a third of our meals in the condo. Groceries seem slightly cheaper than the states for the necessities. One place that was noticeably cheaper was in the butcher shop. To buy meat it was around 25% cheaper than the states at it was fresh! When we ate out we didn’t go balls to the walls and go to the fanciest restaurants in San Pedro. We did indulge a few times, who can say no to ~$25 USD for two fresh lobster tails? Our average bill when we went out to eat averaged around $35 USD (slightly monitoring costs on the menu). The mainland is a bit less expensive for meals on average around $25 to 30 USD for two people eating out.
With $15 dollars per person a day in San Pedro with only a fridge and microwave you must think outside of the box. Eating at local street vendors and buying fruits and vegies from farmer’s markets. If you’re a morning person (need to arrive at 5 or 6 am) once a week the Mennonite farmers come and bring fresh produce to the ferry dock. You also would need to eat more breads or other carbs like tortillas that are less expensive, as meat from the butcher shop would be hard to cook in a microwave. If you stuck to it, you could average out and splurge on a couple of meals at some of the restaurants in San Pedro and San Ignacio if you watched what you ordered.
For flights, we were in line with our budget. This was the cost for two roundtrip flights during the non-busy season. Generally, Belize’s busy season runs from the end of November to March when all the snowbirds are looking for a place to get warm. I looked up flights during this period and they can run from ~$2,000 USD roundtrip for a couple (coming from San Francisco) which goes to show that timing can be everything! Obviously if you live closer to Belize the flights could be significantly cheaper.
If you are coming from the California area I don’t think you could do much better on flights than we did at $436 USD round trip per ticket including fees (but not checked baggage). Like I said above the closer you live or are traveling from the cheaper it will be. Something a backpacker might do is buy two separate plane tickets. A ticket from one major hub to the closet major hub near Belize, say Houston for example, then look for separate ticket from Houston to Belize City. This could save money but not time. The result could be a lower fare but it would require more leg work and you might have to be willing to stay a night or two in Houston. So you just have to ask yourself: What commodity do you have? What is most important to you? Time or money and strike a balance between the two.
Miscellaneous, other things we didn’t consider:
On the island, there are no laundry mats for you to go and wash your own clothes. They offer wash dry and fold places which on average cost us $10 USD per load. Also, we didn’t budget for buying any gifts, postcards, or souvenirs. This was mainly because we are trying to live a more minimalistic lifestyle plus where the hell are we going to put it? We did end up buying a couple items for family members and some post cards which were relatively inexpensive.