Public Transport & How to Get Around Safely in Belize

Roads in Belize aren't too bad, and are constantly getting better. Major arteries, like the Northern, Southern and Hummingbird Highways rival the best ones in Latin America and many in the developed world.

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But once you get on some of the minor roads, you'll feel like a space cadet training for motion endurance. A long ride in the people's bus (chicken buses, as they're affectionately called), will leave you rattling for hours after you arrive.

But, you didn't come to Belize for suburban comforts.

Accidents on the Road

Road accidents are common in Belize, as in the rest of the region, due to the combination of bad roads and beat-up cars. Driving can sometimes be reckless at best and nonsensical in the worst of cases. Some drivers, for example, have a habit of pulling to the right before making a left turn, passing to the right of cars indicating a right turn, or simply stop in the middle of traffic to catch up on the day's gossip.

Even if roads are well paved, they may be poorly marked, leading drivers to squeeze into as many imaginary lanes physics will allow.

Cyclists generally follow no rules, and often go against traffic, running red lights on the way. It's common to see bikes balancing large loads, like animals, furniture, inventory crates, and small children.

If you're driving, try to follow the speeds limits, even though no one really does. It will let you react quicker to unexpected hazards on the road. Know that drivers who strike pedestrians or cyclists are assumed to be at fault, no matter the circumstances. Tourists who have been involved in accidents were dinged with fines, even jail terms.

Catching a Taxi in Belize

You should only ride in licenced taxis, identified by their green licence plates. Try to agree on a price before you take a seat, and keep your doors locked and windows up so you're not victim to stop-and-snatch, which can occur at traffic lights.

Road-Side Robberies

A perennial road danger in Belize (although an uncommon one) is robbery. There's the rare armed robbery on highways, but they usually happen under the cover of night, when criminals will be doing criminal things. It's a good idea to always travel during daylight.

This may sound paranoid and downright mean, but it's not recommended to stop and offer assistance to people whose cars have broken down. It could be a ploy by robbers. If you have a good gut feeling about these things, use it.

On weekends, there might be a flurry of cyclists on the highways, either training for or competing in an organized race. These could be accompanied by slow-moving escort vehicles.

In 2008, a bridge over the Sittee Rive on the Southern Highway was washed away by a tropical storm. There is a temporary causeway in its place, but exercise extreme caution crossing it, especially if the water level is high.

If you're near the Guatemalan border, be alert. You don't want to inadvertently cross illegally into the country. At night, illicit cross-border trafficking peaks, and you really don't want to be anywhere near that. For this reason, visit border areas only during the day.

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