Belize is a country on the east coast of Central America. Belize City, the capital, is a popular travel destination because of its attractions. Placencia is a well-known beach resort destination with the Belize Barrier Reef and Placencia Lagoon. Finally, you can find the Cahal Pech Mayan ruins in San Ignacio – there are plenty of things to do in Belize.
What you may not want to do, however, is roaming with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases. Telecommunications in Central America is relatively cheap, which is why travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Belize. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Belize
Belize has 2 telecom providers: DigiCell by Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Smart!. DigiCell should not be confused with Digicel, with one L, who is active in the Americas and Oceania. BTL is a nationalized company run by the Belizean government. The operator had a monopoly, which unfortunately means that speeds and coverage in Belize are not as great as other Central American nations because BTL has no incentive to improve things. Instead, you pay relatively high prices for subpar service.
Smart! entered the Belize market in 2005 to compete with BTL. The locals were happy a second operator would operate in Belize because they were fed up with the monopoly position of BTL, which led to many protests. Smart! competes with BTL with lower rates. Initially, the company used CDMA. However, as many countries around the world use GSM, they finally decided to launch a 3G GSM network in 2017, meaning that many phones can use the Smart! network now. In 2015, 4G/LTE was launched and is still being developed, like the 3G GSM network.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Belize? If you want to buy a SIM card in Belize, I would recommend going with Smart! because they have lower rates than DigiCell. If you, however, are not staying in the bigger cities, then you should go with DigiCell for their better coverage.
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Telecommunications in Belize is relatively expensive compared to other nations in the Americas. Just like many other countries in Central America, you need to show your passport when buying a Belizean SIM card. The registration process with both providers is straightforward, quick, and easy, and you will be out of the store within minutes (unless there is already a long queue in the shop).
With that said, let’s see what BTL and Smart! will offer us in Belize.
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DigiCell by BTL
DigiCell by BTL used to be travelers' only option because of Smart!’s CDMA network. That changes with Smart!’s introduction of 4G/LTE and, eventually, a 3G GSM network. DigiCell runs 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks throughout Belize. They used to falsely advertise their 3G network as 4G, just like Digicel (with one L) does in other countries in the Americas. However, since 2016, DigiCell has been developing its real 4G/LTE network.
When purchasing a DigiCell SIM card, be sure to ask for their uSIM so that you can use DigiCell’s 4G network. Otherwise, you will be limited to 3G only.
DigiCell SIM cards are sold for 10 BZD ($5) in BTL stores. Authorized dealers may sell you the SIM card for more, which is why I would recommend you going to a BTL store. You can recharge your card online or through agents, which may be at a surcharge.
The following DigiCell data packs can be added:
- 2.25 BZD: 225 MB for 24 hours
- 4.50 BZD: 400 MB for 3 days
- 11.25 BZD: 1 GB for 7 days
- 33.75 BZD: 2.4 GB for 30 days
- 45 BZD: 5 GB for 30 days
Smart! is the cheaper alternative to stay connected in Belize. However, their coverage is not as extensive as DigiCell’s, which is why Smart! should only be considered if you are staying in populated areas, such as Belize City, San Ignacio, Santa Elena, and San Pedro. Smart! does not have a 2G network. Although 2G is too slow for modern web usage, it is often used for voice calls and SMS. Operators need less 2G antennas to cover the population, which is why Smart!’s coverage is lacking behind DigiCell’s because they do not have a 2G network.
Smart! SIM cards are sold for 15 BZD and come with 1 GB and 10 BZD in credit. Recharge cards are sold from 5 BZD to 100 BZD.
Smart! data packages have different pricing depending on whether you want to use 3G or 4G/LTE. The data packages for 4G/LTE have been marked with (4G).
- 1 BZD/1.25 BZD (4G): 160 MB for 24 hours
- 6 BZD: 625 MB for 5 days
- 7 BZD (4G): 650 MB for 5 days
- 12 BZD/14 BZD (4G): 1.2 GB for 15 days
- 35 BZD/39 BZD (4G): 2.8 GB for 40 days
- 50 BZD: 6.2 GB for 40 days
- 59 BZD (4G): 6.5 GB for 40 days
- 105 BZD: 14 GB for 40 days
- 109 BZD (4G): 15 GB for 40 days
- 150 BZD: 29 GB for 40 days
- 159 BZD (4G): 30 GB for 40 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Belize
Some travelers do not want to get a Belizean SIM card for various reasons. Some prefer to roam with their providers while others would prefer an international SIM card. Then we have those who like portable WIFI devices, and others who will connect to WIFI networks instead.
Roaming in Belize with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in Belize without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Belize.
Roaming can be expensive. This person received an £8,348.41 data roaming bill. I also found out why roaming is so expensive. However, it does not always have to be costly.
Many providers offer roaming plans where you can roam for free in select destinations like Belize. Others may offer bundles that give you some minutes, SMS, and data. You also have providers that allow you to use your plan's allowance for a daily fee. Every carrier is different, so it is recommended to explore your roaming options before you go out and experience bill shock (which is not fun). Luckily, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers so that you do not have to.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
You can also Roam As You Go, meaning that you will pay per minute, text, and MB. In most cases, this is not recommended, as these rates are insanely high (that is how people get bills in the thousands). There are some providers, however, that do have attractive Pay As You Go roaming rates. Do not get too excited, though, as the number of carriers that have decent standard roaming rates is rare.
International SIM Cards
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard and SIM cards from SimOptions. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.
International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple
International SIM cards are, however, more expensive than using a local SIM card, such as a Belizean one. On the other hand, they are often cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or those who are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. If you are only visiting Belize, stick to a local SIM as discussed in this article.
Portable hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are devices small enough that they should fit into your pocket. These devices turn into your on-the-go WIFI hotspot while they connect to the cellular networks in the country.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.
Free WIFI connections
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected: Free WIFI hotspots.
Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. Belize does have WIFI hotspots throughout the country, but those are all managed by BTL. As you can see, BTL's monopoly is extensive in Belize.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get yours today or find out more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Belize
Getting a SIM card from Smart! would do you well when considering a Belizean SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Central America? Check out my Central America SIM card buying guide, covering other Central American countries, such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Belize
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Belize. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Belize drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Belize
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Belize. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Belize
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Belize, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the currency of your destination for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!