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Belize Driving Guide

Belize is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-07-23 · 9 mins.

If you’d like to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life by relaxing by the seashores, and admiring historical and unspoiled natural wonders, Belize is the perfect getaway for you. It’s home to some of the world's famous Mayan ruins within the Yucatán Peninsula -- an area that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea.

To freely wander this nation of a paradise, driving in Belize by car can offer you a greater Belize adventure. If you’re visiting Belize as a tourist, securing an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) will help you rent a car and drive around the country legally. This will give you a smooth sailing journey and explore more of its breathtaking scenes with ease.

How Can This Guide Help You?

This article is packed with all the information you need to get the most out of your Belizean excursion: how to get an IDP, renting a car, understanding the road rules when driving in Belize, safety measures, as well as guiding you through road trip destinations and tourist spots. Are you ready to take on an adventure in this tropical Caribbean gem? If your answer is yes, then you’re on the right page of the internet.

General Information

If Belize is in your travel bucket list, then you must really need to get to know the country by heart. Travel vlogs and postcards are just invitations, so knowing a little bit more about the country will make things easier for you when you get there. This section gives you an overview of its history, and in case you’re wondering where Belize is, you’ll soon find out where it is exactly on the map.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to connect with friendly locals without the language barrier, to know why, read further below.

Geographical Location

Belize, formerly known as British Honduras was the last British colony in the American mainland until it fully gained its independence on September 21st, 1981. This pint-size country sits right next to Guatemala and Mexico to the west, on its jungle side, and faces the Caribbean sea to the east. Belmopan, its metropolis, offers an amazing view of the majestic Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.

Interestingly, Belize has six districts with capital cities which are: Belize City in Belize, San Ignacio in Cayo, Corozal in Corozal, Dangriga in Stann Creek, Punta Gorda in Toledo, and Orange Walk in Orange Walk. Because of the country’s location on the map, Belize is considered a gateway between the Caribbean Sea and Central America yet, separating the two regions.

Languages Spoken

Belize’s official language is English because of British colonization, though many of them are multilingual and most speak a creole patois -- an Englished-based language with a heavy West African influence. Yucatec, Mopán, and Kekchí are spoken by the Maya. Mestizos speak Spanish, and the Cariguna speak an Arawak-based language and also speak either English or Spanish, while the Mennonites speak Plautdietsch.

Land Area

The small island of Belize has a total land area of 22,966 km², and it’s one of the tiniest islands, and also one of the least populated countries in Central America. It’s proximity to the United States and Canada makes it easy for North American tourists to travel. You can also drive to neighboring nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, which take only a few hours. Take advantage of the proximity and explore and discover more of the Americas while you’re in the beautiful country of Belize.

History

Home to many of the most-visited Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize is a young country by independence, which gained its full liberty from the British colony in 1981. The island’s good harbor which offers a natural outlet to transport lumbers to other British colonies in the Caribbean region and England, attracted English businessmen. The Belize Town prospered with the workforces of slaves from other Caribbean islands and West Africa.

In the 1800s, slaves and descendants of the freed slaves inhabited the Belize Town, and became the colony of British Honduras. In the 20th century, its colonization began settling other freed slaves from Great Britain. Other settlers were then added to the groups of inhabitants, making Belize a diversified cultural haven. The British colony has left a huge part of what makes Belize unique today.

The influence of the British are seen and infused in Belizean culture, including the country’s official language, which is English. Historical architectures also exhibit Belize’s history. With unique forestland, history and culture, Belize definitely flourished in the shade.

Government

Belize has fully gained its independence but it remains a member of the British Commonwealth, with a stable democratic government established following the model of British Parliamentary. The country consists of six districts with electing members to the House of Representatives. The People’s United Party (PUP) led by Honorable Prime Minister Juan Antonio Briceño, forms the government after a landslide victory against the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP)

The Belizean population of 400,000 is highly diverse. According to history, the Mayans are said to be the first inhabitants in the country dated back to 2500 B.C. Mestizos or Mayans of Spanish descent make up almost half of its population. Creoles or Afro-Belizeans take up about 25 percent while 10 percent identify as the Maya and about 5 percent identify as Carinagu, people of a mix of Indian and African heritage.

Caucasians like German Mennonites and some South Asians of Chinese ancestry take up the remaining percentage of its population. The Mennonites began to settle in Belize in the 1950s from Canada, the USA, and then Mexico in an attempt to escape religious persecution. Since then, they have been allowed to settle in rural areas of the country.

Tourism

As beautiful as other countries enclosing the Caribbean Sea, the coastal lines of Belize has its hallmark of being the world’s second-largest barrier reefs of 240 miles along the coast, making it one of the top Caribbean destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling. Most of its lands are preserved, hence the slogan “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret” as per the Belize Tourism Board. Its pristine nature attracts more than 1 million tourists a year.

When you see the small country of Belize, you see history -- it’s home to over 600 archeological sites and Maya ruins. Aside from these, it’s also the only English-speaking nation in Central America. Tourists from all over the world keep coming back to Belize because of its exotic wilderness, diverse flora and fauna, pristine waters, and ancient Maya cities, just to name a few. Here are top reasons why tourists love to come back:

  • Travelers easily get connected with locals. When you come to Belize, you don’t need to go through the headache of the language barrier because the country’s official language is English. It’s the only English-speaking country in Central America.
  • Belize has some delicious and mouth-watering food. Belizeans do have a wide variety of food from different ethnic groups: the Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo, East Indian, and Creole. Try their tummy-filling rice and beans, fry jacks, johnnycakes, juicy stew chicken, gibnut, fresh escabeche, tamales, hudut, and rish sere. Bring your exercising mat, in case you the number on the scale increases.
  • Belize has nice, warm weather, all year round. Because Belize is located close to the equator, it has more hot, sunny days than cold ones. The average yearly temperature is 84° F (29°C), allowing you to hit the road more and explore. The unspoiled jungles and rainforests conditions the air in the summer.
  • Belize has wonderful potpourri and islands. Belizeans call their 200 islands “cayes”, which are easily accessible and are ideal spots for fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling and more.
  • Belize is the center of the Maya civilization. According to archeologists, more than one million Maya lived in present-day Belize. They are the first group of people to settle and grew during the Classic Period from 300 to 900 AD. Temples like Caracol, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech and Lamanai are a courtesy of the Maya.
  • The Great Blue Hole is the world's largest hole. Just off the coast of Belize, this gigantic underwater blue hole measures 1000 ft across and 412 ft deep. Divers flock here to see giant stalactites, dripstone sheets, a vast array of fishes, and swim with nurse sharks, Caribbean sharks.

The Blue Hole was made famous in the 1971 television series - The Undersea world of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. It is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Belize is a paradise. If you love nature, you will love Belize. 40 percent of Belize is classified as protected and home to wildlife species of plants, birds, amphibians and reptiles, and marine life.
  • There’s nothing like snorkeling in Belize. The country has the largest barrier reef in the world. It offers opportunities to snorkelers to see different hues of blues and marine life in the turquoise waters of the Carribean.
  • Belizean caves are one of the most complex in Central America. The caves were where the ancient Maya conducted their sacred rituals and today, the caves can be explored throughout Belize. One example is the nearly 540,000 square foot long Chiquibul Cave System, which is the longest cave in Central America and is a hotspot of geological and archaeological wonders.
  • Only Belize has a jaguar preserve in the world. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is world renowned for being the only jaguar preserve in the world, and is home to the five Belize cats: Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Jaguarundi and Ocelot. It was established in 1984.

International Driver’s Permit FAQs

An international driver’s permit allows you to not only hit the road off-grid at your own pace, but it will also grant you a rental car. If you’re a tourist driving in Belize by car, getting a Belize IDP will secure your chance of not getting pulled over by traffic police officers. If you have a US driver’s license, however, you can use it to drive around the country as this is an accepted valid driver’s license in Belize

Does an IDP Replace My Native Driver’s License?

Your native driver’s license is still valid in your home country. An IDP does not replace your native driver’s license, it supplements your IDP application at the International Driver’s Association. The purpose of your international driver’s permit is to grant you permission to drive in 150 countries, hassle-free. It contains your name, photo, and driver’s information translated into the 12 most widely used languages in the world, which are understandable to most local officers and authorities of the countries you visit.

Can I Use My Local Driver’s License in Belize?

You can use your driver’s license to apply for your international driving permit in Belize. If you’re a valid US driver’s license holder, you need not to apply for an IDP, but you need to eventually apply for one to after 30 days to avoid getting your rental car confiscated, or worse, you get arrested. Belize highly suggests getting an IDP, especially if you plan on extending your stay. It enables you to rent a car as most rental companies ask for an IDP.

And IDP is one of the most important papers to carry if you plan on driving in Belize. After all, it is smart to just get one because you can use it to drive in other countries you plan on visiting in the future.

How Long Is My IDP Valid?

The IDP provided to you by the International Driver’s Association (IDA) can last from one to three years, depending on the validity period you chose. How long you can use your local driver’s license in Belize depends on your status as a visitor. If you’re a retiree and are staying here for a while or wants to become a resident, even if you have a usable local driver’s license in Belize, you will still need to apply for a Belizean license. You will have to obtain a QRP card or a permanent resident card to be eligible for a Belizean license.

But even a permanent residency card takes a minimum of two years to get, while an IDP takes only a few days, so you weigh which one would you go for. In terms of convenience, an international driving permit is a safe bet.

Who Can Apply for an IDP?

Anyone with a valid driver’s license can apply. If your local driver’s license is not printed in English, you can get an IDP so local officials can understand that you are driving in Belize, legally. It’s worth noting that an international driver’s permit is printed in a variety of languages and it explains to a non-English speaking officer that you are a valid driver’s license holder from your home country. However, you still have to carry your local driver’s license along with your IDP.

How Can I Apply for IDP?

Securing an IDP is very easy. Here is a list of things that you need to prepare.:

  • A copy of your government-issued driver’s license
  • Passport size photos of yourself

The International Driver’s Association will then evaluate if you’re eligible for an IDP. After your approval, you will be sent a digital copy of your booklet and card and the physical and printed copy will be mailed to you in 7 business days if you’re from the US, and it will take 30 days internationally. Price starts at USD49 with one-year validity, USD55 for a two-year validity, and USD59 for a three-year validity.

Renting a Car in Belize

Ditch buses or taxis or those rideshare apps because commute is for those who have no exciting place to go. Renting a car is a top option when touring around any country, especially in a small one like Belize where you cannot go that far and get lost wherever you go. To know more about rental cars, and how to get the best one that fits your vacation style and budget, consider reading further.

Car Rental Companies

Renting a car in Belize is easy as these car rental companies offer good services. You can either book your rental car online before your travel date, or you can rent your vehicle right at the airport. There are many options with regard to booking, and you can even have your car supplier pick you up at the airport. Most of the car rental companies below have desks at Belize International Airport and have offices all over the country. Here is a list of car rental companies you can check out though most of them you might have heard of already:

  • Budget
  • AVIS
  • National Car Rental
  • SIXT
  • Europcar
  • Interrent
  • Alamo
  • Enterprise
  • Keddy
  • Thrifty
  • Hertz
  • Firefly
  • AQ Auto Rentals
  • Crystal Auto Renta

Documents Required

After assessing yourself on which car rental you’d like to hire, there are a few requirements you must meet to avail of a car renting service. Most rental companies will ask for your international driving permit along with your native driver’s permit. Aside from an IDP, you may be asked to present the following documents:

  • Valid credit card (Not a debit card. Visa, Mastercard, American Express are all widely accepted.)
  • Valid driver’s license in your home country
  • Valid Passport
  • You must meet the legal driving age in Belize

Vehicle Types

Larger four-wheel vehicles such as Isuzu Trooper, Toyota 4runner, Jeep Cherokee, or Ford Explorer, are the vehicles of choice for visitors. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is ideal for a long ride as it provides smooth transitions, road-to-road and on washboard roads, and the large petrol tanks reduce the need to step out for gas. Given the benefits, you get what you pay for. Japanese rental cars like the Suzuki Jimmy, Vitara, or Sidekick are common vehicles and they can be hired for a decent price.

Because of cheaper rental prices, these Japanese cars often come without safety features and are referred to as road fodders by experienced Belizean drivers.

Car Rental Cost

The rental cost of your chosen vehicle varies depending on some factors. The type of car you want, the season, and how long you want to hire it, indicate the cost. If you’re a hardcore car renter, you know that taking a ride weekly would save you a buck or two rather than hiring a car every day. With a week’s rent, you could get the 7th-day rent for free. The rental fixed price for large vehicles is quite high. They can cost around US$90 to $125 or more, and they drink gas.

You can always monitor the changes in prices and compare the best deals for rental cars among car suppliers. Most rental companies may also charge you the young driver’s charge if you are below the required renting age in Belize. Insurance can also affect the cost of your rental car.

Age Requirements

The minimum age requirement for renting a car in Belize is 25 years old. Some rental companies may even maximize this number. If you are 25 years old below, you could still rent a vehicle, but an additional security deposit will be asked -- it’s called the Young Driver Surcharge and usually cost between $15 to $50 per day.

Car Insurance Cost

The convenience and flexibility of driving a rental car can also come with a costly affair if a misfortune happens, which might occur considering the current physical state of the roads in Belize. Car rental companies may include CDW or LDW coverage within their fee. If you’re not sure whether your car supplier includes these insurances or not, it’s best to consult with them. You may also add safety amenities within your fee, such as gas, airbags, extra tire, or request a proper child seating system.

Car Insurance Policy

Confirm if you have additional coverage with your credit card or an annual policy to avoid paying extra coverage for theft with loss damage waiver (LDW), or collision damage waiver (CDW), as per the rental company. This can lessen some or all of your responsibility for the damage to the vehicle. After all, knowing the breakdown coverage in detail before signing on for your rental will save you unnecessary stress if the car breaks down somewhere in the boondocks.

Some agencies provide a customer hotline and they will send a driver with a replacement vehicle to be dispatched to you, or send a mechanic to repair the car, while others may not offer these services at all and you’re stuck on that spot forever. Understanding the process and knowing what’s covered before needing to know it, pays.

Road Rules in Belize

Driving in Belize is enjoyable. Besides the scenic roads, another thing that keeps driving fun is your adherence to the road rules in the country. It’s easy to get around the island as it’s a small nation, and the road rules are easy to follow as it’s similar to the British driving rules. If you want to have a safe road trip experience in Belize, below are some of the most important road rules you must familiarize when you decide to drive on the Belizean roads.

Drunk-driving

Belize ordains a drunk-driving law that limits a driver’s alcohol intake to 80mg/100 ml or 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). Be aware of this to avoid violation for drinking and driving laws in Belize. Getting caught intoxicated while hitting the road will result in fine, penalties, and jail time. Driving while under the influence of alcohol requires extreme caution, especially if you’re driving at night.

It’s no wonder that drunk-driving has been one of the leading causes of road accidents which often result in serious injuries among motorists and passengers. If you can, avoid consuming alcohol when you know you will need to drive.

Using a hands-free device

The use of mobile phones while driving is a serious offense. Belize’s traffic laws prohibit the use of hand-held gadgets, unless it’s a hands-free device. Driving while texting or calling can make you lose your focus on the road, and it often results in road accidents. If you’re caught using a mobile phone while driving, the police will interfere and you could get penalized and fined. Avoid getting into an accident, and into trouble with the authority by investing on a hands-free equipment.

Turning at a traffic light and intersection

You will not find traffic lights in Belize unless you drive in big cities. Although turning left is not allowed, you can make a cautious right-hand turn at a red traffic light. If a left turn is allowed in that area, use your left turn signal and stay on the right-hand shoulder of the road until it's alright to take a left turn. Drivers simply communicate with one another to arrange their approach with intersections at increased traffic flow and efficiency. On the occasion where two vehicles are to meet at an intersection, one of the vehicles may slow down so it gives the other vehicle a way to get to the lane first when a slot is vacant. This traffic model is often referred to as the “slower is faster” effect.

Parking

In Belize, there are some spaces that you may deem safe to park on where doing so is actually prohibited. You cannot park at a curve on the road as this is an offense, and can be dangerous. On a taxi stand, only taxis are allowed to park; on a bus stand, only omnibuses are allowed to park. When you park at a corner, do so but with a distance of 30 feet within a corner. Certain streets in Belize you can park on, but must be done in an alternate manner.

General Standards of Driving

Learning about Belize’s driving standards is part of the journey, and whether you want to admit it or not, even experienced drivers struggle to get their way around. In Belize, the best tourist sites will have you driving on unpaved roads, so the best option is to rent a four-wheel-drive car as most rental companies here prohibit driving on rough roads unless it’s a 4WD. This will save your sanity in case you hit a stretch of sand, quagmires, or an unexpected river overflow caused by heavy rain.

Speed Limits

Observe a speed limit of 55 mph on main highways and rural areas, and 25 or 40 mph in villages and towns. You will occasionally see speed limit signs though these are not enforced but are merely suggestions. It is best to just follow the speed limits indicated if you are a tourist. If you’re driving in Ambergris Caye, all pedestrians and vehicles such as bicycles, mopeds, small motorcycles, golf carts, and motor vehicles share the roadway and even though this seems disorderly, you will seldom see any accidents.

When you’re driving in Belize with a video recorder on, note that a safety camera warning device is not illegal, though only a few people do this. Traffic authorities usually ask for on-the-spot fines. But for your own safety and those that are on the same road as you, just stick to speed limits. Miles are used for distance and miles per hour for speed. However, you’ll find some Japanese-made rental cars having distance shown in kilometers and speed in kilometers per hour.

Seatbelt Laws

Stubbornness on the seat belt laws is one of the reasons why serious injuries happen when met with a collision or road accident. There are currently no child restraint laws in Belize, however, seatbelts are a must for both passengers and drivers in a moving car. If you are driving with children, it’s best to practice self-protection by having them seated at the rear seats of your vehicle. Negligence of the seatbelt laws will result in fine and penalties.

Driving Directions

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts had reduced 75 percent of injuries from road crashes. Roundabouts in Belize help maximize road safety for drivers and pedestrians by slowing down traffic and avoiding any collisions. When entering a roundabout, travel at low speed, between 12 and 20 mp/h. Always yield to traffic when entering; if you find no traffic in a roundabout, you can continue to drive.

When reversing, ensure that the road behind you is clear, and that your action does not block off in either direction. When approaching a curve, dip your headlights at least three to four times to let the other vehicles know of your presence on the road.

Traffic Road Signs

Traffic signs are mostly seen in Belize’s major towns. You may encounter some unusual and funny traffic signs like “slow down, hot dog crossing” which backstory originates from a Dachshund owned by a woman who died some years ago, and the dog is still seen crossing the street of Caye Caulker. Traffic signs are limited in Belize, and are written in English so this should not stress you out in terms of understanding the markings. Simple traffic signs include:

  • No Entry sign - it means that no vehicles of all types can go through, not even a bicycle.
  • Keep Right sign - it instructs the drivers to keep on the right side of the road you are on
  • Yield sign - this means that you shall slow down and stop whenever needed, allowing the right of way to traffic on the road you are about to approach.

“Sleeping policemen” is the term locals use to refer to suspension-rattling speed bumps all over the country to encourage motorists to slow down. Most of these bumps are marked in advance. Take note not to go for more than 10-15 mph when you encounter one of these, or you will have to explain to the rental company why the axle of your rental car is broken. You will also find signs in areas that have hospitals, schools, and other establishments.

Right of Way

On the subject of road rules, some foreign motorists, especially novice drivers, get confused with which traffic has the right of way. Driving with the knowledge of this particular traffic rule will save you from unnecessary fuss with your fellow driver. Major highways in Belize are all a two-lane road. Some roads in remote areas are one-way lanes. To complete a left-hand turn, drivers are required to indicate a left-hand turn, then pull on to the right-hand shoulder until traffic clears up in both ways.

When you’re driving around Belize, you are required to slow down at a maximum speed when entering a roundabout. This helps manage safety and traffic flow efficiently.

According to the driving laws in Belize, the required legal age for driving in Belize is 18 years old, while the renting age is 25 years old. If you’re under 25, your car supplier may charge you an extra fee, as young drivers’ lack of carefulness on the road tend to contribute to many road accidents; this is true all over the world. Younger drivers are more likely the one to get into an accident since traversing unpaved roads in remote Belize can be challenging.

In addition, if you meet the legal driving age in Belize, this also means that you are eligible for a driver’s license. Your driver’s license is a valid document that you can use a supporting document for getting an IDP.

Laws on Overtaking

If you need to overtake another vehicle on the road, then you should do so on the left. Make sure that the road ahead of you is clear of traffic before you overtake the vehicle in front of you. When you overtake at night, you must set your headlights from high to low several times. This technique alerts the other drivers about your intentions and lets them know of your presence on the road. If a vehicle overtakes you, you must drive as close as possible to the right side of the road, and let the overtaking vehicle pass safely.

Overtaking in Belize can impose danger among vehicles, given that the majority of the country roads are unpaved and poorly-maintained one-way lanes. The act of overtaking could also cause misunderstandings between drivers, so it’s crucial to take special cautions when attempting to overtake.

Driving Side

When you’re driving in Belize, which side of the road are you going to drive on? As a former British colony, you must drive on the left side of the roads in Belize; it’s the same as other countries under the same colony. If you are an American who is used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, it could take some practice to familiarize yourself with such traffic rules. But if you’ve ever driven in some parts of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and a few other European countries, this shouldn’t be as challenging for you.

Driving Etiquette in Belize

Belizeans take traffic rules seriously. Watch out for signs of driving distances in Belize. You will encounter checkpoints throughout the country, you will be asked to show your driver’s license or international driving permit. Comply with the local officials; you wouldn’t want to get into trouble. If you commit violations of driving laws in Belize, you will be given a penalty notice by the police officer which indicates the next steps for payment. For emergencies, call 911 for an ambulance or the police and fire department. The driving etiquette in Belize is common sense, so this would be easy for you.

Car Breakdown

Because of the conditions of some roads in Belize, it is good to always have a set of jumper cables and extra tires with you, or you can hire mechanics to fix your tires for you as they are everywhere, or some good locals to help you with fixing your rental car if you face problems along the road. You can also call and ask your hired rental company for help such as sending off another car to you. Check with the rental place if they have this kind of service before you rent a car.

Police Stops

You may encounter on-the-spot fines if you happen to mistakenly commit a violation. A police officer may pull you over and will usually give you a penalty notice. Cops in Belize do not indulge in bribery, although a few still do. If a cop stops you, comply and show your legal documents if asked. The best way to avoid this incident is to slow down when you see speedbumps. Watch out for these though, as these marks can be hard to see.

Fixed-speed cameras are not commonly used in Belize, but the police like to use mobile speed traps because of the low speed limits given. If you're caught while driving in Belize on a video, you could get pulled over further down the road and a penalty notice will be given to you. A police officer may initiate a conversation with you to see if you get nervous and try to determine whether you are doing something suspicious or illicit such as drugs. Just answer their questions and you will be alright, with a friendly smile and a thumbs up from the cop.

Asking Directions

Most streets in Belize don’t have street signs, except on major highways. Google Maps may confuse non-metric users because it will show distances and speed limits in kilometers. It will also show you street names in Dangriga and Belize City, but establishments and businesses are not always accurately pinpointed on the map, so don’t count on the information about driving directions in Belize it provides you or any other GPS.

Belizeans speak English fluently as it’s their official language. Kindly approach and ask locals to help point you in the right direction if you feel lost; do so nicely and with full respect.

Checkpoints

One of the many things you may encounter while driving in Belize is a police checkpoint. This is how they control the traffic flow and spot uninsured cars. They just want to make sure that your vehicle is insured and that you are here legally. Show them your passport, your IDP or driver’s license, and car rental paperwork, if asked. Cops also check on your windshield -- this proves that your car is insured.

Other Tips

Driving in a foreign country like Belize can be a daunting experience but to truly enjoy it, extreme vigilance is a must. Driving around Belize is safe as long as you practice good personal security to avoid any vehicular accidents, natural hazards, or crime. To get around the island with ease, here are a few dos and don'ts in case you encounter the following:

  • Hitchhikers. Although normal, it's not recommended to pick them up as a first-timer or as a tourist here. You are not responsible for them so just roll by, and you’re all good.
  • Speed bumps. You will encounter bumpy minor roads in Belize. Almost 100 percent of them are marked but can be hard to see so take your time in spotting these and drive slowly when you see one. It’s a good way to avoid a vehicular accident as well.
  • Pedestrians, cyclists, and speeding buses. Give way to pedestrians crossing their lanes, or even when they can be seen just walking on the highway. You may also see bicycles and motorcycles on the highway and not on the shoulder. Be cautious because lights and reflectors are seldom used here. Some poor bus drivers exist in Belize, so be careful and keep a certain distance from them.

How to get around safely in Belize?

How safe is driving in Belize or how is driving in Belize in general? These might have popped up in your head at some point. Driving in general can be safe if precautionary measures are taken. Don’t risk leaving valuable things inside your car, locked or unlocked. If you’re driving in Belize City, park your car in a secured space, or at least in a well-lit area. Belize has harsh drug and gun laws so make sure you don’t carry those with you, or you will end up spending the night in the cell.

And while a small percentage of blood alcohol content is allowed, drunk driving in Belize is not advisable, especially at night. Carefully observe when you pass by stopped buses as people may suddenly scamper around the buses to cross the road. Off settled areas, you may never see a car around when you drive for an hour or more. A lot of minor roads in Belize are unpaved so be prepared. Bring water, a flashlight, basic supplies, and a cell phone, just in case. Also, check the weather conditions and consider the travel time before driving.

Driving Conditions in Belize

The Southern Highway, the scenic Hummingbird Highway, and parts of the Western Highway are some of the best roads to traverse as they have been repaved in 2018. These highways are some of the best in Central America and are comparable to that of North American rural roads. Even deteriorated roads in Belize City have been upgraded so driving is smoother for visitors driving across the country.

Important facts about driving conditions in Belize are always a good knowledge to absorb to help prepare you once you set off. Below are some information you may want to soak up before you hit the Belizean roads.

Accident Statistics

Is driving safe in Belize? As per data, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched in 2018, vehicular accidents in Belize reached 68 or 3.73% of total fatality. Road traffic accidents take the 13th spot for the leading causes of death in Belize. The age-adjusted death rate is 23.68 per 100,000 of population and ranks Belize 61st spot in the world. Certain areas of the George Price Highway that link Belize City to Belmopan, and west to the Guatemalan border have been the hotspot for fatal accidents. The condition of many roads leaves a number of accidents.

Common Vehicles

Belize has been working on developing its roads, especially those in rural areas. Transportation lanes have significantly improved in the past years. You may still find some roads difficult to navigate because some are either unpaved or not cemented smoothly. In the rainy season, you are likely to hit a dirt road, and it may traumatize your vehicle’s shock absorber. A sturdy 4x4-wheeler car is well-suited to overcome such situations.

Toll Roads

In Belize, there are only a few toll roads. When approaching such roads, you are required to pay a fee in order to pass. Stop at tollgates and pay the fee which usually costs under USD38 cents, though the only toll bridge is met when you’re driving to Orange Walk Town from Belize City.

Road Situations

Conducting a short review of the roads in Belize can help you prepare for what's ahead. Belizean roads vary from two-lane ways to dirt roads and gravel tracks. Speed bumps are marked in residential areas but in many cases, there is no advance warning about bumps. If you pass by stopped buses, carefully do so to avoid hurting locals that may suddenly run around to cross the road. Driving at night is not good as you might see snakes and foxes on the road more than you’ll see people.

Driving Culture

Belizean drivers are well-trained just like Europeans and Americans, but drunk driving is unfortunately common among them, even though drinking and driving laws in Belize are regulated. Some unusual driving practices Belizeans do is the left turn. You may see some local drivers signal right and pull to the right side when turning left, only to wait for other vehicles behind them to pass. Driving laws in Belize are not strictly imposed, but this does not mean you can violate them. Learning how is driving in Belize can help you prep your trip.

Is driving safe in Belize? Yes, it can be safe if you know how to take personal safety measures. Watch out for disoriented drivers, so it doesn’t confuse you when taking which side of the road when driving in Belize. It’s safe to say, Belizean drivers are not always the best in the world.

Other Tips

When driving in Belize, safety should be your priority. Hurricane season, which is not an ideal driving time in Belize, lasts from May to November and creates threatening road conditions. Drivers must avoid crossing any low bridge with water overflowing on the surface as both the strength and depth of the current may get stronger than you would assume.

Is There a Perfect Driving Time in Belize?

The best driving times in Belize is during the dry season between January through May. You get to access the roads easier and enjoy clear skies, and get a nice tan as a bonus.

Things to Do in Belize

Belize is a young, developing country so when you drive here, you will surely see faces of poverty among many gorgeous landscapes and natural wonders. But locals are generally friendly and welcoming to tourists.

After your excursion and you find out that you want to stay longer, you can do more things such as acquiring a job here to cope with your finances or getting a permanent residency. To know more about employment and residency applications, read further.

Drive as a Tourist

You can drive in Belize as a tourist through a rental car, but an IDP must be secured first as most rental companies ask for an international driver’s permit. Your IDP is a valid translation of your native driver’s license into twelve widely-spoken languages, which are most commonly understood by local authorities of the countries you visit and plan to drive in. Always carry your international Driver’s license or permit in Belize and your native driver’s license.

Work as a Driver

If you want to get driving jobs in Belize, application must be done by obtaining a work grant first. It is a certificate that allows you to work in Belize as a non-resident. Truck driving jobs in Belize are highly in-demand. This way, you can get paid while driving in Belize for free. You can work as a driver through a work permit. The cost of your work permit depends on the kind of work you want to do. The general rule is to pay around US$1,000 each year, and is renewable every year.

Work as a Travel Guide

You could land a job such as a travel guide in Belize, however, a few caveats: you must have stayed in Belize for at least 60 days, prove that you are in the country legally with a proper visa and permits issued by the Immigration Department. It’s up to your prospective employer to fulfill the legal requirements that will allow them to hire a foreigner in Belize. After the legal papers are completed, you will be provided with a valid work permit.

Apply for Residency

To apply for residency, visit the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services. The application fee depends on your nationality. Americans pay US$1,000 while EU citizens pay US$1,500. To be eligible, you must live in Belize continuously for one year without leaving the country for 14 days. Here are the documents you will need.:

  • financial documents
  • health tests
  • police records

  • financial documents
  • health tests
  • police records

It takes about 6 months to 2 years to complete the process, and you must update your tourist visa each month or apply for a work permit. Once your application is completed, there’s no more need for visa renewal or work permit.

Other Things to Do

So little island, yet, so many opportunities for foreigners and expatriates who wish to stay in Belize for long and for a much simpler life. Whether it’s the country is your choice for retirement, or you want to live in Belize for good, and set up your own business, these options are totally possible. Below are a few more things you can do in Belize, all while enjoying its stunning, laid-back vibe.

How to Apply for the Qualified Retired Persons Incentives Program?

The Qualified Retired Persons Incentives Program (QRP) is for everyone who wants to enjoy their retirement years in Belize. You can submit your QRP application at the Belize Tourism Board. It cost a non-refundable fee of US$150, and if you qualify, the program fee is US$1,000 with an extra membership card fee of US$200. The annual renewal fee costs US$25. Benefits of having QRP include not having to renew your visa each month and being able to import your items, tax-free.

To process your QRP application, below are the requirements you must submit.:

  • You have to be over 45 years old
  • Be able to provide a monthly income of US$2,000 from a pension or investment fund outside of Belize
  • You must reside in Belize for at least 30-consecutive days each year to maintain your QRP status.

How Can You Apply for Citizenship?

After you’ve been a permanent resident for 5 years, you can then process your Belizean citizenship at the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, with a US$150 fee. It’s a thorough process and can take years. You will be required medical tests, updated police records, and an interview.

Once you have your citizenship, you automatically get Belize's CARICOM membership benefits which means that you can move freely through, live, and work in other Caribbean member countries.

Can You Set Up A Business in Belize?

If you wish to set up your own business in Belize or want to be self-employed, you can visit your local immigration office and apply for a work permit. Once you obtain a valid work permit, you will no longer need a monthly tourist visa renewal. The application processing and stamp duty cost US$22.50. The process can take up to three weeks to three months, so make sure that you update your visa during this time.

Top Destinations in Belize

Belize may be small, but it displays many of the most charming and scenic destinations on the island. The country is known for its crystal clear and white sand beaches, beautiful sunny weather, its Mayan ruins, dense jungles which are homes to jaguars, howler monkeys, rivers, and caves, it’s no wonder that Belize oozes with natural attractions. There are so many sights your eyes must see in Belize, and going on a road trip to each spot is worth it as it offers scenic views of the island’s raw beauty.

Getting to some of the island’s remote destinations, you may want to drive a rental car instead of taking public transportation. To hire a rental car, you must first secure an IDP as most rental companies in Belize ask for this license as one of the main requirements. But for now, here some top destinations in Belize, and what you can do in each spot.

Belize Photo by Meritt Thomas

Ambergris Caye

Located at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Ambergris Caye is the largest caye in Belize, and attracts tourists with its unique, laid-back vibe. Visitors love saltwater fly-fishing here. If you like to dive and snorkel in crystal clear Caribbean water, fishing, and doing adventurous stuff in nature, then Ambergris Caye has it all for you.

Driving directions:

  1. From Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, follow International Airport Road to Northern Hwy.
  2. Continue on Northern Hwy, then take Philip Goldson Hwy (Northern Highway) and Northern Highway to King St in Belize City.
  3. Take Regent St to Belize City to San Pedro Ferry.
  4. Take the Belize City to San Pedro Ferry.
  5. Slight left onto Calle del Sol.
  6. Take the Belize City to San Pedro Ferry to San Pedro.
  7. Finally, take the Laguna Dr towards your destination.

Things to Do

There are multiple activities that you can do in Ambergris Caye. Learn what else you can do in this top destination.

1. Go on a diving and snorkeling adventure at Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Head off to the coast of Ambergris and enjoy diving and snorkeling under the clear, blue water of Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Named after the Mayan “little cut”, the marine reserve is one of the seven reserves within Belize’s Barrier Reef system. There’s a cut in the reef with steep corals which tourists like, and is one of the top attractions within the reserve.

2. Dive in the Shark Ray Alley and Cat's Eye.

Shark Ray Alley is a diver’s paradise if you're brave and want to get up-close with nurse sharks and southern stingrays. Cat’s Eye sinkhole entices tourists with it’s crescent shape. Both diving spots are within Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

3. Go fishing in the San Pedro Village.

What is a trip to the beach without fishing? The island’s main town of San Pedro is a perfect fishing venue for seafood aficionados. Tarpon, snook, permit, bonefish, and barracuda are the good catches here. Within the village, you’ll find stray dogs, chickens, and it displays vibrant houses.

4. Tour around Ambergris Caye.

You can try out different tasty food and satisfy your palate by visiting cute cafés around the island. The Belize Chocolate Company is also tourable by visitors with a sweet tooth.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll

The Lighthouse Reef Atoll is one of the most famous spots for lovers of nature and water. Getting to here requires a boat ride, as it’s the farthest from the Belizean shoreline of the country’s three atolls. Tourists love to come here for its white-sand beaches, impressive coral formations, and relaxing sights of coconut palms. It’s a destination where you would want to unplug everything, and just enjoy a relaxing scenery.

Driving directions:

As this top destination is an atoll, there is no way to drive there. The best way to get there is through boat. It takes a 4-hour boat ride to get to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.

Things To Do

1. See what’s underneath the Great Blue Hole.

This huge, fascinating sinkhole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a Natural Monument title on the side. You can dive in the sapphire-like body of water, and discover rare limestone stalactites peeping through the steep walls, and get up-close with reef sharks.

2. Do bird watching at Half Moon Caye.

One of the most visited atolls, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a nature monument, Half moon Caye shelters over 40,000 species of birds including the red-footed boobies, a large seabird. With nature trails, you can walk through paths that lead you to sighting nesting frigate birds and boobies.

3. Visit the Half Moon Caye Lighthouse.

Explore the caye’s lighthouse, and have a relaxing moment along the stunning beaches. There are wall dives around that avid divers can enjoy, and the abundant marine life around the island is a gift that brings the island into life.

The Placencia Peninsula

Placencia sits on the Caribbean coast of Belize, within Stann Creek District. This sandy peninsula is a famous fishing village, welcoming tourists who want to relax on the beach resort. The Silk Cayes Marine Reserve and Laughing Bird Caye National Park are some of the best spots for fishing, sea kayaking, swimming, and many other water activities you could think of. The road to Placencia offers a scenic road trip with panoramic mountain views.

Driving directions:

  1. From Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, continue to Western Hwy.
  2. Follow Western Hwy, Coastal Hwy and Southern Hwy to Santa Cruz.
  3. Lastly, follow Placencia Rd to Thunderbird Rd in Placencia.

Things to Do

1. Discover tasty seafood at restaurants around the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve.

You can eat freshly-caught seafood at restaurants around the marine reserve. You can go fishing, kayaking the lagoon, dive, and snorkel all you want while you’re here.

2. Enjoy water adventures at the Laughing Bird Caye National Park.

A natural park near Placencia, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site sash on the side. The Laughing Bird Caye National Park is a popular spot for diving, coral reef sighting, snorkeling, and sea kayaking. You can also go on outdoor fun with its scenic hiking trails.

3. Discover the Garifuna culture in Seine Bight.

The traditional village of Seine Bight is home to the Garifuna people of Belize. You can explore the place and have a glance of the fascinating and unique culture of the Amerindian and African heritage of the ethnic group.

4. Sail the Monkey River.

The Monkey River rises in the Maya mountains, it’s the home to the howler monkeys. You can arrange a tour through the mangroves in the river in the daytime, and spot birds and crocodiles.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

This mountainous sanctuary is located in Dangriga, sheltering and protecting various wildlife including 290 species of birds, jaguars, tapirs, pumas, monkeys, snakes, anteaters, and cats. Tourists who love birds visit the Cockscomb Basin to see toucans and scarlet macaws, which are among the bird species found here. You can get around the sanctuary on foot with expansive trails, but the hike is worthwhile.

Driving directions:

  1. From Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, continue to Western Hwy.
  2. Continue on Western Hwy, then drive from Coastal Hwy to Stann Creek District.
  3. Drive to your destination.

Things to Do

1. Go on a nature hike through a web of trails.

Nature hiking within the sanctuary can be challenging yet rewarding. Waterfall Trail, being the most popular of all the trails, has a swimming hole. Tiger Fern Trail takes you to a breath-taking double waterfall. Ben's Bluff Hiking Trail takes you to a spot where you’ll get to have an awesome view of the Cockscomb Basin. Equip yourself with protective clothing and bring plenty of water.

2. Tour around Che'il Chocolate Factory and its cacao farm.

While you’re in the basin, make sure to check out Che'il Chocolate Factory. You can enter the factory near the entrance of the sanctuary, or when you exit. You can explore the organic cacao farm and learn how such delicious treats are produced. You can even make your own chocolate, and take some with you.

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Here’s another nature reserve on the list. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, located in the southern central of Belize in the Cayo District, offers a soothing vibe because of it’s cooler temperature. A quiet hiking here is unbeatable, exploring trails like the Río Frio Cave & Nature Trail. The forest reserve also exhibits a series of waterfalls, where you can swim and just enjoy a relaxing interaction with nature

Driving directions:

  1. From Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, continue to Western Hwy.
  2. Follow Western Hwy to Chiquibul Rd in Georgeville.
  3. Continue on Chiquibul Rd to your destination.

Things to Do

1. Explore the Río Frio Cave & Nature Trail.

Once used by the Maya as a burial ground back in the day, the Río Frio is now a scenic attraction that is loved by many. You can do a relaxing swim in the river that runs throughout the center of the cave.

2. Swim in the Río On Pools.

A series of natural swimming pools, the water from small waterfalls connects the pools which are carved with granite boulders. After your swim, you can sunbathe on slabs of rocks for a sunkissed glow.

3. Fall in love with the falls.

The Five Sister Falls are five cascades that expand into a stunning natural pool. The Thousand-Foot Falls is a hidden falls with hiking trails as the circumambient. Fall in love with the awesome views of the area from an observation platform here.

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