Driving in Belize

Finally after dreaming of traveling to Belize for years, it was finally going to come true. Russ and I decided Belize would be our next destination. I love to plan trips in advance and learn everything I can about a location prior to going so I don’t miss a single thing. I immediately started studying everything I could about Belize and soon decided that we would spend half of our trip inland in the San Ignacio area and the other half on the island of Caye Caulker.

After reading several blogs and articles one of my main concerns was driving in Belize. There are many articles out there advising people to heed caution, not drive at night, or skip renting a car all together. I uncovered all of the pros and cons of renting a car in Belize:

Cons:

  1. Rental cars are very expensive in Belize
  2. Gas is very expensive in Belize
  3. It seemed like all of the blogs I read warned against renting a car

Pros:

  1. No need to wait for a bus. A car offered freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted to.
  2. The cost to rent a shuttle van to get from the airport to San Ignacio round trip was equally as expensive as renting a car for 4 days.
  3. We would end up saving a sizable amount of money because we could go to the ruins and other sites without having to hire a guide or take a taxi.

In the end we decided to rent a car because of two reasons: financially it would be a wash compared to shuttles, taxis, and tour guides and because of the freedom it allowed us.

 

There were a few different on-airport rental companies available but I decided to rent through Budget because the brand was familiar to me. When we arrived, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea because it was the only car rental company at the airport with a line of people waiting for their car. There was pretty much no one else at any of the other companies.

Other than the long wait to get our car, we had a great experience with Budget. They gave us a free upgrade and the car was in great condition. I wasn’t concerned with breaking down or getting a flat tire because the car seemed newer and well taken care of. Plus, they let us return the car to the Belize City location and then gave us a free ride to the water taxi.

With great instructions from the rental agent, we were on our way. As we got further out of town it was quickly evident why people advised not to drive at night. While the road isn’t horrible, it isn’t like a road in America. As someone who has traveled in Central America before, I wasn’t taken by surprise. The sides of the roads were worn and to control speed, there were large speed tables every so often. Sometimes they snuck up on us, so at night they would be even more difficult to see.

The roads outside of Belmopan were in perfect condition. I assume they have better upkeep there because it is the capital of Belize.

As we continued on to the San Ignacio area, we started seeing more and more people walking along the side of the road or standing on the side of the road. Because there is really only the one paved road in the area, it is used by cars, bikes, pedestrians, horses – you name it. That makes paying attention even more important.

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A view while leaving San Ignacio
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There is a large population of Amish in Belize.
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The gravel road on the way to our first stop – Lower Dover Field Station and Jungle Lodge

Outside of the main road, city streets were in good condition. Well maintained gravel roads posed no issue either. However, we did try to drive to a site off the main road. Immediately we realized the roads were going to be a challenge. There were huge boulders and large potholes – overall the terrain was pretty extreme. We drove about 2 or 3 miles in what seemed like an extremely long amount of time. At that time we decided to turn around. It was over 100 degrees and it wasn’t worth the risk of breaking down or getting a flat.

Overall if you’re debating renting a car in Belize, I say go for it. Just make sure to pay attention and take it slow – especially at night. And if you plan on going to any areas off the beaten path, make sure to get a full size SUV (and probably car insurance).

 

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