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Belize Currency

The currency in Belize is the Belize Dollar. For a long while this has been pegged at two Belize dollars per US dollar (bz$2=$1), which gives the Belize dollar more stability than many of the other Central American currencies. I've seen the US dollar deteriorating in value for years since I started in the international business in 2002. However, in contrast, some of the other Central American currencies have devalued at a much worse rate than the US dollar, whereas the Belize dollar has only done as badly as the US dollar.

Another thing about the Belize dollar is that the banknotes are made to a reasonably good standard and it feels "like proper money" according to some Europeans.

It's almost like something from a science fiction parallel world to see banknotes in DOLLARS and with The Queen! Belize (having previously been British Honduras) is a genuine independent country but is well linked with the UK and is part of the British Commonwealth.

In Belize, US dollar notes are accepted in most places alongside Belize dollars, and the rate of 2:1 is kept constant in just about everywhere in Belize. US coins are not so well accepted, unless you can find a slot machine of some sort!

There is a problem with the Belize currency which I feel I must make you aware of, in case you are going to visit Belize. It's relatively easy to get your money changed into Belize dollars, but not so easy to get it changed back! I found this was particularly bad at the airport, where even at the bank you're not allowed to change more than a couple of hundred dollars back into non-Belize currency. So, if you're not careful you could end up with hundreds, or even thousands of dollars of Belize money which you can't do much with. Souvenir shops in the airport are forbidden by some draconian law from exchanging foreign currency money, and it does appear that there is a government racket going on where visitors are just supposed to be left stuck with Belize currency which is non-spendable in the wider world.

This might at first seem a clever idea in terms of trying to balance the import/export economic problem, but such a view is short-sighted in the extreme and various other countries that have tried a protectionist monetary policy like this have ended up on a slippery slope to ruin.

The most successful world currencies are the ones which can be freely traded around the world. The Belize dollar is NOT of that classification, and if you end up stuck with some Belize dollars after you have escaped from Belize, it is tricky to get rid of them!

Barclays Bank had a sign on their currency screens saying something like "do not deal in this currency". But don't panic, because HSBC have a different policy, being the world's local bank. They're in close association with Thomas Cook, and even in towns whose HSBC bank branch has no foreign currency counter sometimes have a branch of Thomas Cook in the shopping centre.

In the end I did not need to resort to putting up an advertisement to find people who were going to Belize to exchange local currency, and I can now say WELL DONE TO THOMAS COOK for changing the currency back to UK Pounds Sterling! Admittedly the exchange rate they gave was not great, but at least I am not stuck with currency which is internationally worthless! Thomas Cook saved the day, and even at a rate of 4.45 to the pound, it's better than nowt!

On the good side, Belize currency has a collectable value. In fact, if the Government of Belize realised this they could probably use the fact to help to prop up the ailing economy. The thing is, a mint condition Belize two dollar note is worth about 65p, or one US dollar, and yet in terms of tourist souvenir collectability, it's worth much more than that! If every tourist who visited Belize took away with them some two dollar notes to give away to their friends back home, the Belize economy would be doing much better.

Very few countries are able to do this type of thing, but Belize is especially well-placed to do this, having particularly nice-looking banknotes, and the country being sufficiently small relative to the rest of the world that the world banknote souvenir market demand could help the country's balance of payments.

Other points:

* The image of a slightly crumpled banknote on this page is a one-sided LOW RES image and not usable for forgery purposes! Besides, if someone was going to go into the illegal forgery business they'd forge fifty dollar notes instead!

* The Belize two dollar note is the favoured item of collectors. I had myself collected a two dollar note as a souvenir of Belize and had it carefully fixed in my travel diary along with other minor value banknotes from other countries. However, during a no-warrant police search in Santa Elena, it was TORN OUT! Shame! More about this story at the page involving the Police in San Ignacio. (Police corruption is the main downside of Belize, and that's why I'm not emigrating there!)