How to get around Belize for the ultimate adventure

Belize is a very small country, so it’s easy enough to get from one spot to another within a few hours at the most.

It’s even possible to see most of Belize’s top sights in one trip if you know the transportation options available. Sometimes getting around means taking an ad hoc approach of pairing this plane with that boat, or that bus with this car service. The bigger your budget, the easier it is to navigate Belize, but no matter what, it’s always an adventure. 

Here are the best ways to travel around Belize.

A 1950s-style green school bus is parked at a bus station in Belize City
Local bus services are a good-value way to get to most major towns and villages © Morenovel / Shutterstock

Experience local life by taking the bus

Anyone harboring nostalgia for 1950s American vehicles will be delighted by Belize’s public transportation: it’s made up of retired Bluebird buses. The various bus companies throughout Belize are private companies, but they share the familiar school buses painted to evoke Caribbean colors. 

Taking the local commuter buses is useful for traversing the major highways on mainland Belize, including the Northern, Southern, Western, and Hummingbird highways.

They go through the major villages and towns including Belize City, San Ignacio, Dangriga and all the way down to Punta Gorda, with major connections taking place at the bus station in Belmopan.

The buses run on a schedule that is more or less adhered to – the express buses in particular – and the cost will vary by distance, though often you’re looking at no more than a few dollars.

The longest bus ride is from Belize City to Punta Gorda, a seven-hour trip that costs BZ$27 (around US$13). There are no municipal bus services in Belize City, but private bus companies can still be found there. 

Local tips for taking the bus: Belize’s culture is both friendly and casual, so the bus experience here is less than strict. Yes, there are bus stops, but generally, you can flag down a non-express bus anywhere along the roads they drive. It’s also possible to ask your bus driver to let you off wherever is convenient along the route. Bring cash, as there are no passes or digital ways to pay. 

See Belize’s beautiful coast by boat

Belize’s mainland is lucky enough to have nearly 200 miles of Caribbean coastline, and for many Belizeans those waters are the roads they navigate in their daily lives.

Visitors will typically use boat transport to visit various cayes on tours, or to stay at resorts that employ their own boats. However, the most common way to get out on a boat is by taking the water taxi to and from Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.

The San Pedro Belize Express water taxi station is located at a terminal in Belize City near the tourism village, about a 25-minute drive from the international airport. You will need to take a taxi to get there.

The water taxi works like a ferry, shuttling guests on a regular schedule from Belize City to Caye Caulker (which takes 45 minutes) and on to San Pedro, which takes another half hour. It returns to Belize City along the same route.

There is also a daily service to Chetumal, Mexico – one from Belize City, and the other from San Pedro. It’s an additional 90 minutes from San Pedro to Chetumal.

It’s possible to buy tickets in advance via the website, and there is a small discount for buying roundtrip tickets. There is also a ticket office onsite for purchase in person. While you will be asked to select a particular time of departure, if you miss that boat you can just catch the next one – unless it was the last boat of the day!

Get the guided experience by hiring a shuttle service or taxi

A great way to get around is to hire drivers as needed. Belize City and the larger towns like San Pedro, San Ignacio, and Placencia have taxi drivers that you can flag down, or you can have your hotel call one for you.

Drivers will often share their phone numbers with you so you can call them later when needed. Taxis are best used for shorter rides within a single town or region. 

Shuttle services are also available. Belizing is a popular shuttle service offering a range of mainland routes, most significantly to and from San Ignacio – a taxi ride from the airport could run to US$150, while the shuttle can be as low as US$35 per person. The shuttle vans are clean, well-maintained and even have wi-fi.

Choose your own adventure when renting a car

Belize is pretty drivable if you don’t mind navigating potholes, random rainstorms and the occasional Mennonite horse cart.

Renting a car enables you to visit harder-to-reach destinations like the Mountain Pine Ridge, visit several destinations in one trip without worrying as much about logistics and timing and, of course, allows for great road trip stops like fruit stands or Ms Bertha’s Tamales on the Hummingbird Highway – keep an eye out for the red-and-white shack on the side of the road surrounded by parked cars.

Most car rentals take place at the airport, where there are several global brands, but also a local favorite called Crystal Auto Rental.

Most rental cars in Belize are not going to be in the greatest condition, but they have plenty of options, including the 4WDs needed to get into the country’s more adventurous destinations. If you’ve made it to San Ignacio and realize you want to get behind the wheel, Matus Car Rental will have you covered. 

Local tips for driving: Belize’s roads and buildings are not always well marked, so don’t be shy about pulling over to ask for help with directions. There’s no real risk in revealing you’re lost or need help. Belizeans are generally friendly and will gladly point you where you need to go – often going so far as to call someone else who may have more information to share with you. 

A small white golf cart is parked under palm trees on a beautiful beach backed by turquoise ocean
A golf cart is pretty much the only way to travel around on Caye Caulker © lanabyko / Getty Images

Get into the island spirit and rent a golf cart

Cars are not the only way to drive around Belize and on Ambergris Caye they’re not even an option. Renting a golf cart is the way to go in San Pedro, whether you’re a tourist or a local. The narrow island can barely accommodate the few trucks and cars that do use its roads, so you will mostly see golf carts. It adds a sense of charm to Ambergris Caye: it’s just too relaxed for a mainland-style commute.

Carts can be rented all over the island. There are dedicated stores near the San Pedro airport, rental services at various places in town, and many of the higher-end hotels offer their own fleet to guests for an additional fee. Take care to note which one is yours – there are only so many golf cart varieties out there. 

Local tips for driving a golf cart: Golf carts may not seem particularly powerful, but you will feel it if you hit a speed bump – or “sleeping policeman” as Belizeans say – while going too fast. And there are speed bumps everywhere.

Sometimes they’re made of asphalt, sometimes they are thick nautical ropes that seem to be melting into the ground and sometimes there are no road signs letting you know they’re coming up. The last thing you want to do is launch your cart into the air, not only because it hurts coming down, but you will be on the hook for the cost of its repairs – or replacing it entirely. 

Caye Caulker from above with plane wing in foreground
If you choose to take domestic flights you might get a view of Caye Caulker like this one © Emma Shaw / Lonely Planet

See stunning bird’s-eye views when traveling by plane

There are two domestic airlines in Belize: Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. The environmental impact is undoubtedly greater than other forms of transport, but flying does significantly reduce the time it takes to get between places like Corozal, Orange Walk, San Pedro, Dangriga, Placencia, and Punta Gorda, as well as both the municipal and international airports in Belize City.

There is a landing strip in San Ignacio that has been out of service since the pandemic, but keep an eye on it reopening. 

Flying is a memorable way to get around in Belize. Flights are not particularly expensive, they reduce overall travel time and they offer an incredible perspective of the country.

From above you can enjoy the jungle canopy, the sweeping savannahs and the colors of the coastline just by traveling to your next destination. It’s the kind of view that would typically be charged at a much higher price during an airplane tour.

Local tips for flying: Many travelers are accustomed to being bound to a strict timetable when it comes to flying. However, if your flight coming into the country is delayed, the domestic airlines are more than likely going to get you onto one of the next available flights, which leave frequently from the international airport.

Transportation is not very accessible in Belize

The truth is that, overall, Belize is not a particularly accessible destination. This is true not only for transportation but experiences as well. The Belize Zoo is considered the only accessible nature experience in the country. It is currently recovering from Hurricane Lisa but has reopened.

Perhaps the best way to arrange accessible transport is to work with a tour guide who will have local intel on who can provide such services. Check our accessible travel resource page for more info on traveling with disabilities.

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