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Belize is a tiny Central American country chock-full of things to do and places to see. This country’s ancient Mayan ruins, mountainous terrain, beautiful beaches, tropical forests and barrier reef are just a few of the awe-inspiring sights. The former British colony is a perfect blend of cultures and geographical wonders which are best discovered by car.
You should exercise care while driving in Belize as local driving standards are poor. Driving conditions worsen in the rainy season when roads can become slippery. However, driving in Belize is an excellent way to see this beautiful country.
Driving licences: UK drivers are permitted to drive with a UK photo licence for up to 90 days or with an International Driving Permit for up to one year.
Which side does Belize drive on: the right.
Highways: 55mph (88kph)
Other roads: 25mph (40kph)
Alcohol limits: the same as in the UK at 0.08 per cent.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory for people riding in the front of the vehicle. However, children’s seats are not required by law.
Mobile phones and GPS: it is not against the law to operate a hand-held mobile phone while driving in Belize but it is not advisable due to the dangerous driving conditions. Using a GPS device is allowed.
Cost of fuel in Belize: slightly more expensive than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: many petrol stations in urban areas accept credit card payment; however, stations in rural areas normally only accept cash. Major car hire suppliers have credit card facilities but local suppliers may not. Travellers should notify their credit card company of their travel plans.
Insurance: car hire comes with third-party insurance but excess insurance is advised.
Traffic and parking: parking should be in a secure lot as car thefts and break-ins are common. Traffic can be a problem in large cities during rush hours.
Taxis throughout Belize are affordable and easily spotted by their green licence plates. Taxis in Belize are not metered so it is necessary to negotiate the fare prior to beginning the trip, but short city hops are typically less than £3. It is easy to flag down a taxi, with drivers often seeking tourists’ attention.
Travelling to and around Belize via bus is one of the most convenient ways to travel. Buses are the primary means of travel for the locals so there are many options, including international routes to Guatemala and Mexico. Some buses are air-conditioned while most are not. Fares are cheap and almost always under £8.
Cruise ships dock at Belize City, while there are international services to Honduras (around £30) and Guatemala (around £12 to £30 depending on departure port). One of the attractions of Belize is the islands that line the coast. One of the most popular and most scenic ways to travel from the mainland to the islands is by ferry or water taxi. There are also some inter-city routes, including from Belize City to San Pedro with the San Pedro Belize Express, with a single fare around £10.
International air entry is via Philip SW Goldson International Airport, near Belize City. UK travellers can connect to Belize via the US airports at Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte or Dallas-Fort Worth. Many domestic flights, which mostly cost under or around £60, use Belize City Airport.
Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is a UNESCO World Heritage site and harbours such threatened species as manatees, sea turtles and the American crocodile. Because of overdevelopment and mangrove cutting, this site has been a part of the endangered list since 2009.
Belize is believed to have been the centre of the ancient Mayan civilization and there are many Mayan ruins to be discovered while visiting. The Altun Ha Ruins close to Belize City can be visited from the capital on a half-day tour. The Lamanai Mayan Ruins are also located near Belize City, while the Caracol Ruins are the largest Mayan ruins found in Belize. These ruins are located deep in the Chiquibul Forest, about seven miles from the Guatemalan border. Also located near the border are the Xunantunich Ruins, which are the most restored ruins in Belize and one of the easiest to reach.
For those seeking adventure, Caves Branch River flows through central Belize. Starting from a deep underground cave, the river flows through almost 30 miles of rainforest before meeting the Sibun River. Visitors are able to leisurely travel this river by raft, kayak or even tubing.
In order to maximise your time on Belize’s beaches and experience the least amount of rainfall, it is best to visit from December through April. The average temperature on the coast is somewhere around 27°C. The rainy season extends from June until November, with the heaviest rains generally falling between August and October.