Driving in Belize: Belize has long appealed to visitors who prefer exploring “off the beaten path”, who don’t want to rely on shuttle services or private transfers to get around. But driving in a new country can be intimidating.
Most people’s first question is: ‘how safe is it to drive in Belize?’ While driving here is mostly safe, there are some differences between highways in other places and in Belize that are worth knowing about before your trip. Read on!
What is the road quality like in Belize?
One safety concern in Belize is the condition of the roads. They are paved in some areas, but not all, especially in small villages and the access roads to them, so travel by road can make for a bumpy ride. The road is entirely paved between Belize City and Hopkins – plus, you’ll get to enjoy the Hummingbird Highway, Belize’s most famous (and scenic) road.
Note that the “Coastal Road” will show on most map apps, but it is not complete at this time, and not recommended unless you have a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle. It is mostly unpaved, and well nigh impassable after a rain. There is very little cell coverage, so if you do get stuck or brake down, be prepared for a long wait. Most rental companies expressly forbid driving on the coastal, and insurance will not cover any damage incurred.
Driving at night isn’t recommended in Belize. Potholes are difficult to see after dark, which won’t do your rental any favors. Also, Belize uses speed bumps, often unmarked, for speed control, and hitting one of those at speed is very dangerous. Many vehicles do not have working lights, so are invisible at night. Best stick to daytime driving when you can see exactly what you need to avoid!
Be aware that some drivers in Belize will pass you on blind turns and hills, at high speed. It is also a “rule” that if you are making a left hand turn and there is traffic behind you, you pull off to the right, let the traffic pass, and THEN make your turn. If you do not, vehicles may try to pass you on your left, honking their horn the entire time. Slow moving vehicles, such as agricultural tractors, large trucks, and small motorcycles, are everywhere.
Pedestrians in Belize
Jaywalking isn’t a crime in Belize, so you need to consider pedestrians on the road – people can appear out of nowhere. Accidents can easily happen.
Night-time is also more dangerous when it comes to pedestrians, as roads are often badly lit, making people virtually invisible. If you do need to drive at night, take your time and be aware of your surroundings to maximize safety.
Car rental in Belize
If you decide to rent a vehicle in Belize, you’ll need either a driver’s license or International Driver’s Permit and you must be at least 18 years old. Most cars are not “new”, and it is highly recommended that you make a close inspection of the vehicle and note any damage in the presence of the rental agent, else you might be asked to pay for damages when you drop the vehicle off. Take pictures to document.
One-way rentals are basically non-existent in Belize, you will have to drop off where you picked up.
Make sure you purchase a suitable insurance package, and check exactly what is covered, as you may be expected to pay upfront for damage caused by hitting a pothole, for example, or being struck by flying debris.
Check whether your rental company will send out a mechanic or replacement vehicle if you happen to break down. Most companies will, but some do not, and you don’t want to be stranded somewhere with no easy access to help.
Driving in Belize can be an exciting, worthwhile – and safe – experience, allowing you the freedom to explore as you like, when you like.
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