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Getting Around Belize: Transportation Tips

SmarterTravel

Because it’s small and the locals speak English, Belize is relatively easy for travelers to navigate. You might choose to rent a car and explore the country’s jungles and Mayan ruins at your own pace — or, if you’re short on time, you can opt for a few short flights aboard the country’s two local airlines. Water taxis will speed you to the offshore islands, and if you want to chat with the locals, you can hop aboard a retired American school bus for a raucous trip down one of the major highways.

Flying to and Around Belize

Most international travelers fly into Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, about 10 miles northwest of Belize City. American, United, Delta and Southwest are among the carriers that fly here from the United States. The airport isn’t served by public transportation, so you’ll need to arrange a hotel shuttle, rent a car or take a cab to get to your next destination.

To save money, some budget travelers fly to Cancun, Mexico (where the fares are typically cheaper), and then take an overnight ride south into Belize with the bus company ADO. The trip between Cancun and Mexico City takes eight to 10 hours.

Belize has two local airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, that offer short hops around the country to destinations including Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Corozal and Placencia. Keep in mind that baggage restrictions on these small planes will be more stringent than those on the international airline you fly to Belize. Maya Island Air limits travelers to one checked bag, while Tropic Air permits two checked bags but won’t accept carry-on bags that don’t fit in your lap.

Domestic flights tend to be pricey in comparison to other alternatives such as buses and water taxis, but can be a good bet if you have limited time. Note that some flights, particularly to the cayes, depart from the municipal airport near downtown Belize City rather than from the international airport.

Belize Air Travel Resources:
ADO.com.mx (Spanish only)
MayaIslandAir.com
PGIABelize.com
TropicAir.com

Renting a Car in Belize

While public buses can get you from one major town to the next and organized tours are available to just about every major attraction, renting a car is the most flexible way to get around Belize, allowing you to plan your own schedule and stop at will.

The major highways in Belize are flat and easily navigable in any type of car. However, secondary roads aren’t always paved, and if you’re headed into the rain forest you might need a 4×4 vehicle. Driving conditions can become treacherous in heavy rain.

You’ll find several familiar international rental car agencies in Belize, including Avis, Hertz and Budget, but there are also some local companies to consider such as AQ Belize Car Rental, Crystal Auto Rental and Jabiru Auto Rental. Compare rates on multiple sites before booking, and read the rental terms and conditions if you’re planning to drive the car into Mexico or Guatemala; border crossings may require advance permission and/or additional insurance (or not be permitted at all).

Most rental agencies require drivers to be at least 25 years of age; a driver’s license from your home country will suffice. Belizeans drive on the right side of the road, and seatbelts are required. While most rules of the road are fairly straightforward, be careful when making left-hand turns on the highway; the law requires that you pull over to the right to let all traffic in both directions clear before you turn left.

Before purchasing insurance for your rental, check whether you might already be covered through your credit card or the company that insures your car at home.

Belize Car Rental Resources:
AQBelizeCarRental.com
Crystal-Belize.com
JabiruAutoRental.bz

Belize by Bus

If you want to get around the way the locals do (and save a lot of money in the process), take the bus. Retired U.S. school buses ply the routes between major cities and towns across the country, though there’s no single nationalized company providing service. Because companies change schedules and go out of business from time to time, it’s best to consult a local — such as a hotel front desk clerk, a tourist office staffer or a taxi driver — for the latest timetables and options. Or you can simply show up at the nearest bus terminal an hour or so before you’re hoping to depart.

If you have a choice, express buses are the way to go; they don’t stop to pick up travelers on the side of the road, so they get to their destination more quickly. (They’re also sometimes air-conditioned.) Regular buses are slower and more crowded. In either case, store your luggage as close to you as possible and keep an eye on it, as thefts do occur.

Keep in mind that bus service may be limited on Sundays and on public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Christmas and Boxing Days, and Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19).

Belize Bus Resources:
BelizeBus.WordPress.com

Belize by Water Taxi

A variety of water taxi companies serve the islands off the coast of Belize. The most visited are Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, which can be reached from Belize City aboard the San Pedro Belize Express. The trip takes 45 minutes to Caye Caulker, followed by an additional 30 minutes to Ambergris. The water taxi continues on to Chetumal, Mexico (90 minutes). The Thunderbolt service runs daily between Ambergris Caye and Corozal, a two-hour trip.

Many hotels on the islands, particularly those that are more remote, can also arrange transfers for guests.

Belize Water Taxi Resources:
AmbergrisCaye.com/thunderbolt/
BelizeWaterTaxi.com

Belize by Cruise Ship

Belize City is a popular port of call on Caribbean cruise itineraries, with regular visits from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian, among other cruise lines. Typical shore excursions include snorkeling trips to the barrier reef off of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker; visits to Mayan ruins such as Altun Ha and Xunantunich; and tubing through a variety of cave rivers. Because cruise ships only call here for a single day at a time, this is not a good way to explore Belize in depth.

Belize Cruise Resources:
Carnival.com
NCL.com
Princess.com
RoyalCaribbean.com

Belize by Motorcycle

Adventurous travelers may enjoy the freedom of coasting around Belize on two wheels instead of four. Motorbike Rentals & Alternate Adventures in Hopkins rents two types of motorcycles — one for cruising on paved roads and one that’s appropriate for off-roading. The company will help you design a day trip or a multi-day itinerary, and equip you with a helmet, map and local cell phone.

To rent, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a motorcycle license from your home country.

Belize Motorcycle Resources:
AlternateAdventures.com

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