Belize has some of the best prepaid SIM card deals in South America to help reduce your mobile phone bills while you travel.
Using your phone in Belize can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better tariffs and plans. You can buy 500MB of data for as little as BZD10 (AUD$6.70). So, whether you’re planning a holiday or a tour of the Americas, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
There are two main phone operators in Belize: DigiCell and Smart! Both operators have been tried, tested and trusted by locals and travellers alike, and go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country. DigiCell works on GSM compatible phones, while Smart! operates through the antiquated CDMA platform. However, Smart! is due to switch over to GSM this year.
According to Speedtest’s connectivity report, Belize has an average mobile phone network compared to other South American nations, reaching 8.91 Mbps speed, slower than Panama and Honduras, but faster than Costa Rica and El Salvador.
Belize’s operators offer competitive roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of local offers and deals. Both networks offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G services. Both operators sell prepaid SIM cards on either short-term or long-term plans, and they can be purchased from most stores, supermarkets, post offices, or approved resellers. Locals call their SIM cards chips and there are rules and regulations when purchasing them. Tourists can only buy SIM cards from authorized dealers, after filling out a registration form and supplying a passport.
DigiCell is the only GSM-based operator in Belize, so most of you won’t have a choice over your network provider. CDMA-users from the US or Canada can use the Smart! SIM card (detailed below), but other users with a world phone, which provides a GSM SIM slot can also use this service.
DigiCell is run by state-owned Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), and because of the monopoly they have over the market, speeds can be slow and prices are sometimes higher than other South American countries. BTL also offers many Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country. DigiCell offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. To use their new 4G/LTE plans you'll have to purchase a uSIM which can be changed for your old DigiCell SIM, totally free of charge. Up until 2013, all voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services were blocked, but luckily for those who like to keep in touch with family and friends through Skype it has been reactivated!
DigiCell offers a prepaid SIM card package, which includes BZD10 credit, for BZD20. This SIM can be purchased from any store, supermarket or official reseller. Insert the SIM card to activate and the credit will automatically show up when the number comes online. Credit can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets, or post offices. Dial *10 to add credit using the vouchers, and dial *20 to check your account balance.
The following data packages are available for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE:
|75MB||Valid for 24 hours||BZD2||‘Data S’ to activate|
|200MB||Valid for 3 days||BZD4||‘Data M’ to activate|
|500MB||Valid for 7 days||BZD10||‘Data L’ to activate|
|1.2GB||Valid for 30 days||BZD30||‘Data XL’ to activate|
|2.5GB||Valid for 30 days||BZD40||‘Data XXL’ to activate|
Text the code to 400 to activate. The prepaid data SIM plans will run until the data runs out or the time allocation ends. Notifications will be sent via SMS when your data consumption reaches 80%, then once it has expired. It’s better to add more credit once you receive the 80% notification to avoid being idle.
Smart! is the only other provider in Belize run on a CDMA and EVDO network. In 2017, they announced that they will change over to the GSM platform. 4G/LTE has already started on 700 MHz (band 13) for mobile broadband.
Smart! sell data plans called Zoom+ for 4G/LTE, which is still only compatible with CDMA phones. The SIM costs BZD15, and comes with 1GB of standard data and BZD10 credit.
Smart! provide bundles of anytime national minutes, SMS and Internet. Smart prepaid, Flex Jr., Choice or Select customers can now choose the bundles which suit them. Dial *3539 to purchase the following bundles:
3G Prepaid Plans
|BZD12||25 min.||160 SMS|
|BZD25||30 min.||160 SMS||512MB|
|4G LTE Prepaid Plans|
|BZD12||25 min.||160 SMS|
|BZD25||30 min.||160 SMS||720MB|
|* Bundles exclude international minutes.* Bundles expire 30 days after purchase.|
- They speak English and Spanish in Belize. English is the main language spoken, as up until 1981 Belize was a British colony.
- Locals call a SIM card a chip or SIM.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM card for you. If not, follow the instructions above or go to the official mobile operator website to seek advice.
- Belize is small, so try and get to the shops early to beat the crowds. Because there a few shops they tend to get rather busy.
TripAdvisor users offer some great advice to help guide you through the best SIM cards to purchase in Belize.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “I picked up a SIM at the telecom office and had my iPhone up and running in 10mins. BZD30 for 60 mins and 1G. Renew easily online. Belize is beautiful”
- “First you need an unlocked phone for a BTL SIM card to work, that means if you are on two-year contract for your phone it will not work. Speak to your provider before you travel to see if they will unlock it”
- “Digicell SIM chips are on sale at the Belize Telemedia Office just north of town for about BZD50. They will be able to tell you if your phone will work with a local SIM”
Both networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible mobile phone. To double check you have this option on your phone, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Competitive rates
- Belize has an average speed for South America
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones or CDMA handsets
- Rules and registration make buying a SIM complicated
Q: Can I use the SIM card in other South American countries?
A: Both networks should only be used in Belize if you want to take full advantage of local offers. Although the chips will work in other South American countries they will operate on higher roaming rates, which doesn’t make sense when the point of switching to a local SIM is to reduce your roaming costs. Using a local SIM card will certainly offer competitive pricing to your mobile phone plan, and could save you money!