Tropic Air and Maya Island Air both have multiple flights daily to various towns around the country and to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. They fly out of both of Belize City’s airports, but flights from Belize City Airport (TZA IATA) are often significantly cheaper than those out of Phillip Goldson International (BZE IATA). Domestic flights are generally pretty reasonable priced, and thus popular if your time is limited and budget is not. Flights are operated with planes ranging from 8 to 68 seats. Because of the limited capacity, booking in advance is advisable. For bookings from outside Belize, there is only one airviva internet agent, who can make bookings, take payment (credit/debit cards/PayPal) and then send e-tickets. Some hotels do also offer to make the flight reservation on your behalf.
Several competing bus lines operate on the main road in the north-south direction from Punta Gorda to Belmopan and Belize City. There are bus stations in the main towns, or simply stand on the side of the highway and wave at an approaching bus. Most buses have a conductor in addition to the driver, who stands by the door and will come to your seat to collect the fare at some point during the trip. Fares run anywhere from BZ$2–25 depending on distance travelled.
Express buses can save up to an hour and a half (depending on the distance of your trip); they do not stop for passengers waiting on the roadside, making only scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs in towns.
Most buses in Belize are retired US school buses (Bluebirds), that have been given a slight makeover, a luggage rack installed, and sometimes a new paint job. They generally aren’t too crowded, but you may have to stand occasionally. Some are the older MCI (Motorcoach Industries) buses that once served as a Greyhound bus (or for some other commuter or intercity bus company) in the U.S. The MCI buses are typically used for some Express services or for international trips to Chetumal or chartered buses to Flores.
Children selling snacks and soft drinks often board the buses at stops, and this is an inexpensive way to have a snack if you’ve exhausted what you’ve brought along or just want to try some home-made travel foods.
See Belize Bus blog for updates, schedules and/or links to other sites regarding bus travel in Belize. The Belize Bus blog site is constantly updated. Since the break up of the Novelo’s monopoly in 2006 the government of Belize has divided the country up with which company to go where from Belize City:
- The Northern Zone (Belize City – Orange Walk – Corozal – Chetumal) Not all buses continue to Chetumal from Orange Walk. Others may deviate east or west from the Philip Goldson Highway (Northern Highway) to other surrounding towns. They are: Albion’s, Belize Bus Owners Cooperative (BBOC), Cabrera’s, Chell’s, Frazer, Joshua’s, Morales, Tillett’s, T-Line and Valencia. Northbound buses depart from Belize City about every half hour from 05:30 to 19:30. Jex and Sons Bus provides bus service between Belize City and Crooked Tree.
- The Western Zone (Belize City – Belmopan – San Ignacio – Benque Viejo Del Carmen) They are: BBOC, D and E, Guerra’s Bus Service, Middleton’s, Shaw Bus Service and Westline. Westbound buses depart from Belize City between 05:00 and 21:00. Some may continue west from San Ignacio to the Guatemalan border at Melchor del Mencos but they do not cross into Guatemala. Others may continue north or south from Belmopan, San Ignacio, etc to reach other towns not on the Western Highway.
- Southern Zone (Belize City – Belmopan – Dangriga – Placencia – Punta Gorda) Buses to the Cayo and Stann Creek Districts to the south are: James Bus Line, G-Line Service, Ritchie’s Bus Service and Usher Bus Line. Buses authorized to operate in the rural areas of the Southern Zone are Chen Bus Line, Yascal Bus Line, Smith Bus Line, Richie Bus Line, Martinez Bus Line, Williams Bus Line, Radiance Ritchie Bus Line, and Polanco Bus Line.
Taxis are common and relatively cheap in Belize. Most taxis do not use meters, so be sure to negotiate the price beforehand.
BY WATER TAXI:
For those wanting a truly Belizean experience, take the water taxis from city to city. The San Pedro Belize Express has the most daily runs and departs from the Brown Sugar Terminal in Belize City at 09:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:30 to San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
Departure from San Pedro Town pier on Black Coral Street next to Wahoo’s Bar and Grill and leaves at 07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 14:30, 16:30 to Caye Caulker and Belize City as well as a last boat to Caye Caulker only at 18:00.
There are boats departing from Caye Caulker to Belize City and San Pedro Town and they leave from the pier in front of the Basket Ball Court. Caye Caulker to Belize City: 07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 and Caye Caulker to San Pedro: 07:00 (connection to Chetumal), 09:45, 11:45, 12:45, 13:45, 15:45, 16:45 and last boat 18:15.
Chetumal Runs are available from Caye Caulker at 07:00 and from San Pedro at 07:30.
Travelling from Chetumal to Belize, the boat leaves the Municipal Pier at 15:30 en route to San Pedro (90 min) and Caye Caulker (120 min).
Rates: Belize City to San Pedro or return: BZ$30 or US$15 (one way), BZ$55 or US$27.50 (round trip). Caye Caulker to San Pedro, Belize City to Caye Caulker: BZ$20 or US$10 (one way), BZ$35 or US$17.50 (round trip).
Compared to most Central American countries, driving in Belize is relatively safe. There is not much traffic, and the four major highways are all in good condition. Unfortunately, almost every road off the four major highways is unpaved so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is advisable. It is best not to drive late at night because there is almost no lighting, road signs are poor, and the last stretch is almost certain to be on an unpaved road (you risk breaking an axle on an unseen, but immense, pothole!) You won’t need a map because there are few roads and it is hard to get lost.
Rental rates often include insurance so you usually don’t need to buy insurance separately. If you plan on using a rental car to visit Tikal in Guatemala, you should plan ahead and you must rent from Crystal Auto Rental because no other company will let you take your car out of Belize. Belize insurance is not valid in Guatemala so check with your credit card or car insurance company to see if they’ll cover you for a trip into Guatemala.
- The Northern Highway (aka Phillip Goldson Highway) goes from Corozal on the Belize-Mexico border to Belize City via Orange Walk. This is the highway you’ll use for the international airport, Altun Ha, and the Lamanai.
- Western Highway (aka George Price Highway) stretches from Belize City, via Belmopan and the Cayo District, to the border with the Guatemalan state of Peten at Benque. Along the way are the Belize Zoo (mile 29), the Hummingbird Highway (mile 47), Belmopan, and San Ignacio (mile 68). Major sights along this route include the adventure itineraries in the Cayo District, Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and access to the road to Caracol, and, from the Guatemalan border, the ruins at TIkal. To get to the Western Highway from the airport, go north on the Northern Highway, make a left at Burrell Boom, and follow the road for 19 km to the Western Highway at Hattieville.
- Hummingbird Highway goes from Belmopan to Dangriga connecting the Western Highway to the Southern Highway. You’ll use this highway to get from Cayo, Belize City or the North to the Southern part of Belize. An alternative, slightly shorter, Coastal Highway takes you from Belize City to the Southern Highway but is a mess that is best avoided!
- Southern Highway runs from Dangriga (the Hummingbird Highway) to Punta Gorda, with a recently built section heading to the southern border with Guatemala. Along the way are the coastal towns of Hopkins and Placencia.