One of the best reasons why it is relatively easy for travelers to navigate Belize is that it’s small. All locals can speak English that’s why communication isn’t a problem here. You can also rent a car to explore Belize’s Mayan ruins and country’s jungles at your own pace. But, if you’re visiting for only a short period of time, from your Belize vacation rentals or apartment, you can book online your flights aboard Belize’s two local airlines. You can also ride their water taxis going to offshore islands, or if you want to make friends with the locals, you can hop aboard a retired American school bus for an adventure trip down on the major highways.
Flying to and Around Belize
About 10 miles northwest of Belize City, most travelers from around the world fly into Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport. Among the carriers that fly to Belize from the United States are the Southwest, Delta, United, and American. There’s no public transportation served in the airport of Belize so you’ll be needing to arrange a shuttle from the hotel, take a cab, or rent a car to get to your next destination.
To save you money, most of the budget travelers fly to Cancun, Mexico where the fares are typically cheaper than other airlines. Then, take an overnight bus ride going to Belize. Bus company like ADO usually offer this overnight trip. Travel time between Cancun and Mexico City usually takes about eight to ten hours.
There are two local airlines in Belize, Tropic Air, and Maya Island Air. They both offer a short trip around the country to destinations such as Placencia, Corozal, Caye Caulker, and Ambergris Caye. Take note that these small airlines are very strict when it comes to baggage compare to those international airlines you fly going to Belize. In Maya Island Air, they limit travelers to check one bag only while Tropic Air permits up to two checked bags but won’t accept any hand-carry bags that don’t fit in your lap.
Same with the other airlines in any country, domestic flights tend to be pricey in comparison to other alternatives like water taxis, and buses, but it can be a good choice if you have limited time only and more comfortable especially when you’re traveling with kids. Take note that some flights depart from the municipal airport near downtown Belize City rather than from the international airport (particularly to the cays).
Renting a Car in Belize
While public transportation can get you from one destination to another destination, renting a car is the most flexible way to get around this small country. If you’re planning to tour around Belize at your own pace and your own itinerary, renting a car in Belize should be your main option. It allows you to plan your own schedule.
The major highways in Belize are good for driving and easily navigable in any type of car. But some secondary roads aren’t always flat, and if you’re headed into the rainforest, you’ll be needing a 4×4 vehicle. Driving conditions can become more slippery in the heavy rain.
Belize by Bus
If you’re on a tight budget and want to get around Belize the way the locals do it, getting around Belize via bus is a great idea. Retired U.S. school buses ply the routes in major cities and towns all around the country. But there’s no single nationalized company providing this service because most companies change their schedules and go out of business from time to time. It’s best to consult locals in the hotel you’re staying at, a tourist office staffer or the taxi drivers for the best options and timetables. Or you can just simply go to the nearest bus stations before your departure time to get some information you need.
You have an option also to try the express buses, they don’t stop to pick up passengers on the side of the road, so they get to their destinations quickly. Some of them are air-conditioned. There are regular buses available but they are slower and more crowded in comparison to express buses. But make sure to keep an eye on your luggage as thefts do occur.
Note that bus service is limited during Sundays and on public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Boxing Days, Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19), and Christmas Day.
Belize by Water Taxi
Another option to try is via Water Taxi. There are plenty of water taxi companies that serve that islands off Belize’s coast. From Belize City aboard the San Pedro Belize Express, you can reach the most visited Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It takes about 45 minutes going to Caye Caulker and another 30 minutes going to Ambergris. And another 90 minutes as the water taxi continues on to Chetumal in Mexico. The Thunderbolt service operates daily between Ambergris Caye and Corozal which is a two-hour trip.
There are hotels on the islands, especially those that are located in a more remote area, can also arrange a transfer for guests. Ask your local hotels for more information.
Belize by Cruise Ship
Belize City is one of the popular ports of call from the Caribbean cruise itineraries, with regular visits from Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, among other cruise lines. The usual shore excursions include tours to Mayan ruins such us Xunantunich and Altun Ha; snorkeling trips to the barriers reef off of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye; and tubing through a variety of cave rivers. Since cruise ships only call here for a single day at a time, it’s not a good idea to explore Belize in depth.