One of the most important aspects about planning a trip anywhere in the world is figuring out how to get there and then how to get around once you arrive at your destination. Most people arrive in Belize via the international airplane. However, once you are in Belize, there are a range of options for getting around the country that will suit any time frame or budget.
The main options for getting around on the mainland (this includes Belize City, the Cayo District, Placencia and the Belize Central Coast, the Toledo district, and Northern Belize) are to hire private transportation, rent a vehicle, take a public bus, or even fly. Most hotels and resorts and several reputable tour operators offer some sort of shuttle or private transportation services that can take you anywhere in mainland Belize in comfort and safety. This is the quickest, safest, and most comfortable way to travel between mainland destinations, and if you have chosen to visit a remote resort, it may be your only option for getting there. We often recommend this option to our clients as it really is the most reliable and hassle free option for getting around.
Private transportation is certainly not the cheapest way to travel around Belize however; the most affordable option for getting to/from any of the major towns in mainland Belize is to take one of the public buses that plow the main highways on somewhat regular schedules throughout the day. These are refurbished old Blue Bird school buses that have been imported from the United States. By refurbished, we mean that they have bright new paint jobs – the insides remain largely unaltered and offer worn benches for seating. Traveling by bus is lively and interesting, affordable (US $3-10 for most journeys), mostly safe, and a great way to meet locals and see the country, but it is not the most comfortable, quick, or reliable way to travel so it is not the best choice for everyone. Bus travel will restrict you to the main towns and make it difficult for you to travel to areas with limited service in one day and you will also still need to hire a taxi or private transfer to get to any of the remote lodges. Note that you should be able to manage all your luggage yourself when traveling by bus and it will either ride with you on your lap or at the back of the bus, where it can be hard to keep an eye on.
Another option for getting around the mainland is to rent your own car. There are several rental options available these days, and we prefer Crystal, which is tried and true and also allows you travel outside of Belize with the rental to visit Tikal in Guatemala for example. Renting a car is a great choice for adventurous travelers who wish to explore Belize mostly on their own and don’t plan to do many guided day tours as it allows you to go where you want when you want. When deciding whether renting a car is the right choice for you, here are a few considerations to bear in mind:
- Fuel is expensive in Belize, ranging from US $5-6 per gallon on a regular basis, so once you add this to your rental fee, it can get expensive.
- Any days that you do not use your rental because you have decided to stay put or have done a guided day tour instead, is money lost on the rental.
- Roads in Belize are on the whole, poor. Rough dirt roads are common everywhere and though the main highways are “paved”, they can be pothole ridden and in poor condition, with no lines, dividers or markings, and so narrow in some places that it is hard for two vehicles to safely pass each other. Meanwhile you share the road with pedestrians, livestock, bikers, wildlife, and aggressive truckers, so in general, you must drive with extreme caution and night driving is not recommended.
- Belize’s tour guides are extremely well trained and quite knowledgeable so hiring them to provide your tours can really enhance your experience, and almost all day tours include transportation so you won’t need your rental for them.
- If you are staying in a town like San Ignacio or Placencia, you can walk everywhere or get a taxi for cheap.
- If you are staying at a remote Jungle Lodge, there is usually nowhere nearby to go for meals so you will be staying at the resort for at least breakfast and dinner.
Our bias is that anyone planning to do a range of guided day tours – which most people traveling to Belize do – will find that renting a vehicle simply for transportation is not worth it and that it is more convenient and economic to hire private transfers for travel days.
Finally, the quickest way to travel between mainland Belize’s major population areas is to book a short flight on a propeller plane aboard one of our local airlines (we prefer Tropic Air as they have the most variety and schedule and are very reliable). If you are traveling as far south as the Toledo district, a short flight can beat the hours of land travel to get there and is often even cheaper than a land transfer. We often recommend that any of our clients finishing their trip in Hopkins, Placencia, or one of the southern Cayes fly to the Belize International on their departure day as well because this will shave hours of sitting off of your day and it is often cost competitive to traveling back to the airport by land.
Flying is also the quickest and easiest way to travel to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker from any mainland destination and flight rates can be quite reasonable. The other main way to travel to the northern Cayes is to take one of the water taxis from Belize City. The two main companies are the Caye Caulker Water Taxi and San Pedro Belize Express. Both are good and similarly priced – the one-hour journey to Caye Caulker is about US $17 roundtrip and the one and a half hour ride to San Pedro is US $25 roundtrip. The San Pedro Belize Express also runs daily boat services to/from Chetumal in Mexico as does Water Jets.
Once you are out of the Cayes is easy to get around on foot, by bicycle, or by taxi. You can also rent a golf cart by the hour or day, and on Ambergris Caye, the Coastal Express water taxi makes regular runs up and down the island stopping at any resort or private rental with a decent dock.
As you can see, there are many ways for you to explore our beautiful country and make the most of your journey to Belize. We will be sure to provide you with all the information that you need to choose whichever travel option will be best for you. We look forward to helping you plan your journey!