Belize Currency and Advice For Travelers With Foreign Currency

Central Bank of Belize Headquarters

What is the unit of currency in Belize? The Belize Dollar. One U.S. dollar equals two Belize dollars. For several decades now the BZ Dollar has been tied to the U.S. dollar at an official rate of two BZ Dollars to one US dollar.

A lively parallel market usually gives BZ$2.05 for U.S.1.00 Dollar. US dollars are gladly accepted throughout the country. Visitors with US dollars do not need to worry about changing their money into local BZ dollars – it doesn’t make much sense. BZ Dollars are generally worthless outside Belize and the few places that might change them, for example at foreign exchange abroad will offer little for it. BZ dollars are readily accepted in the towns immediately across the borders at Melchor de Mencos, Flores Peten and Puerto Barrios Izabal in Guatemala and at Chetumal in Mexico. Strangely, the BZ Dollar is not accepted at the Corozal Free Zone inside Belize at the Northern Border. Only Mexican Pesos and the U.S. dollar are negotiable there. This a practice by government to capture as much foreign exchange as possible.

Alert For Travelers to Belize – Declare Funds on Entry

Belize Law allows travelers entering the country to bring with them a MAXIMUM of U.S. $5,000. be it in cash, checks or negotiable instruments. This limit is per adult individual. You MUST declare the total sum of money on your Disembarkation Card before presenting to the Belize Customs Authority at all air, sea or land entries.

Be Very Careful: Visitors entering Belize must make a customs declaration of any currency or financial instruments exceeding a total value of $5,000 U.S. dollars. Some travel writers classify Belize’s coercive currency controls as the equivalent of small town speed traps in the U.S.A.

Violation of the the above mentioned restrictions can lead to arrest and fines of TRIPLE the amount of undeclared funds. This information you will not easily find on Government or Belize Tourism Board websites but we include it here for your consideration.

Belize Currency – Print The Money

Belize currency is printed at the British firm of Thomas De La Rue Ltd. All local bank notes feature a prominent image of Queen Elizabeth II on the front. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth and has King Charles III of England as Head of State. Nationals of Belize are prohibited by law from holding U.S. dollar accounts – this is one way the government tries to shore up its local currency.

Nationals and residents – from the regular citizen to businessmen, must fill out special forms and apply to purchase foreign exchange for whatever reason – be it for emergency medical treatment abroad, or to pay for imports. The government also taxes these purchases and the banks of course charge a commission. At times of high demand, the banks simply have no foreign exchange for regular customers. U.S. dollars are usually sold by the banks at a rate of 2.0175 BZ dollars for one U.S. dollar.

If you hold a Belize Passport but are a not domiciled in Belize (non dom), and thus classified as a non-resident, the law against owning or holding foreign exchange does not apply to you when entering the country. However, as noted above, you MUST declare money in any form or denomination equivalent to U.S. $5,000. or more that you are bringing into the country.

Visitors arriving by land from Mexico or Guatemala will encounter free-lance money changers, sometimes called “peseros” who will usually give you a better exchange compared to the banks. You will not have to fill out long forms with personal information or stand in line at a bank to get foreign exchange. These money changers are frowned upon, but tolerated by the authorities.

If you are planning to live in Belize you may want to consider opening up a local offshore account before applying for residency or citizenship. An offshore account has many advantages one of which is the ability to deposit and withdraw your foreign exchange in cash or cheque without applying for permission from the government. Nationals and expats of course are free to open up offshore accounts outside of Belize. A popular place to open offshore accounts other than in Belize, is the Cayman Islands popular with the Belizean elite for second homes and to do business.

Belize Currency Converter

There is no need for a BZ Currency Converter as the BZ Dollar by law is tied to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of Two BZ Dollars for One U.S. Dollar, i.e. One U.S. Dollar equals Two Belize Dollars. In practice the BZ Dollar is officially accepted at a slight fluctuation – usually $2.0175 BZ for one U.S. Dollar – but this really applies only when purchasing a bank draft for example. We advise expats and Belizeans NOT to purchase bank drafts. The Belize government in March 2017 introduced additional taxes on foreign exchange purchases. It is is better to keep your foreign exchange outside Belize in a bank in the U.S.A., Canada or Europe. That way you can purchase items abroad and have them shipped to Belize at a reduced cost.

Belize Currency and Security Features

Belize 100 and 50 dollar currency notes

The principal security features of Belize bank notes are: 1. Watermark 2. Windowed security thread 3. See-through feature 4. Novel numbering 5. Intaglio 6. Intaglio over-foil feature 7. Multi-redundant Hologram 8. Actual Size: * $100 and $50 is 150mm x 75mm * $20 and $10 is 140mm x 70mm – source Research and Central Bank of Belize.

Belize Currency History

Section 62 of the Central Bank of Belize Act empowers the Bank to issue those notes and coins issued under the Monetary Authority of Belize. “The Monetary Authority of Belize” notes, therefore are the liability of the Central Bank of Belize and are legal tender. On 1st January 1981, the Monetary Authority of Belize demonetized all those notes issued under the Currency Ordinance 1965 by the Board of Commissioners of Currency. “The Government of British Honduras” notes and “The Government of Belize” notes, therefore are not legal tender and are redeemable only at the Central Bank of Belize. While the first Belize currency notes under the Central Bank of Belize were issued in 1983, they maintained the design of those notes issued under the Monetary Authority.

In May 1990, however, the Central Bank put into circulation a new family of Belize currency notes. This family, captured the rich variety of Belizean wildlife, national culture and historic sites and highlighted some of the rare and endangered species of the birds and animals of Belize. Since then, this family has twice been upgraded to enhance its security; in 1998 and in this year, 2003. The main enhancements on the 1998 upgrade included two different sizes (one size for the $100 and $50 and another for the lower denominations), two different watermarks; the Jaguar and the Sleeping Giant, a hologram on the $100 denomination, a foil feature on the $50 denominations and a stardust windowed security thread on all denominations. The 2003 upgrade consisted of an intaglio overprint (the periwinkle flower) on the hologram on the $100 denomination only, a wider security thread and the denominational value (under the watermark) incorporated in the notepaper of all denominations.