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#51294 - 05/23/02 09:30 PM CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
Has anyone rented a car on the mainland during any part of their trip. I am looking for any information....What was your experience like? Cost of Vehicle? Road conditions?


#51295 - 05/23/02 10:02 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
davem Offline
I rented from Budget on two trips and everything was great, if a little expensive (but all car rentals are expensive by US/Canadian standards in Belize). $75 US/day for a Suzuki Samurai. Picked up at the airport and dropped off in Belize City, they gave me a lift to the airport.

At one point in San Ignacio I realized that the oil cap had fallen off and the oil was low. I called Budget and they offered to send a new vehicle, but I suggested that they send a new cap (and oil) by bus - they must have put the package on the next express bus because 3 hours later I had everything, and they gave me a discount. Good service.

The Northern, Western and Hummingbird highways are all 2-lane paved roads in good shape (the Hummingbird, through the Stann Creek Valley between Belmopan and Dangriga, is newly renovated and very scenic). The Southern highway from Dangriga to Punta Gorda is partially paved.

Hope this helps,


#51296 - 05/24/02 11:06 AM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Here's the skinny on driving in Belize, from my Guide to Mainland Belize. I agree with Dave that Budget is a great choice (they have a comprehensive Web site) but there are a number of other good rental agencies including Crystal, Hertz and Thrifty. Offseason you can get a small 4WD for around US$55 and up, plus 8% tax and CDW if your credit card doesn't cover it.

--Lan Sluder www.belizefirst.com

Road Conditions, Gas Availability
and Tips on Rental Cars

The roads in Belize are getting better and better. Sure, there still are sections of washboarded dirt that will shake your fillings out, but more roads are now paved and even the gravel or limestone byways seem to be scraped more frequently. A few roads, such as the newly completed Hummingbird Highway and resurfaced sections of the Western Highway, are very good indeed, among the best in all of Central America and the equal of any rural road in the U.S. or Canada. Not too many years ago the Western Highway was unpaved, the Hummingbird was a nightmare of potholes, the Old Northern Highway was a jungle of tire-stabbing asphalt chunks, and not even Belize City had stop lights.

Signage, too, is improving, being better than in most of Mexico or the rest of Central America. Most critical turns and junctions are marked. Many roads have mile markers — though road work on the Southern Highway and elsewhere means many markers are missing. Around Belize City, San Ignacio and elsewhere, new signage helps visitors navigate to key destinations such as the international airport or the Mountain Pine Ridge.

Main Roads
NORTHERN HIGHWAY This 85-mile route is a very good two-lane black-topped from Belize City to Corozal Town and then a few miles to the border with Mexico at Chetumal. The only thing that will slow you down are a few “sleeping policemen” in villages, the main drag through Orange Walk Town, slow-moving trucks when the sugar cane harvest is going on in late winter through late spring, and a toll-booth at the bridge over New River (BZE 75 cents or US 37 1/2 cents). Your first glimpse of the azure waters of Corozal Bay is a highlight of this route.
Overall Road Condition: Very Good
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Excellent — there are many gas stations including a few new ones open 24 hours

OLD NORTHERN HIGHWAY If you want to see Altun Ha ruins, you’ll have to drive at least part of this 41-mile arc to the east of the New Northern Highway. Under the British, this highway was paved, and at last the Belize government is patching the remaining blacktop. The section south of Maskall village is better than the section north. Most sections are narrow and some are dirt. The 2-mile access road to Altun Ha is not paved.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 70%
Gas Availability: None

WESTERN HIGHWAY The 78-mile road takes you from Belize City quickly past Hattieville, the Belize Zoo, the capital of Belmopan, the “twin towns” of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and then on the Benque Viejo road to the Guatemala border. Just past San Ignacio, you hit “cottage country,” where a number of excellent lodges offer cold beer and a soft bed under quiet Central American skies. The Western Highway is in pretty good condition, and some sections were resurfaced in 1999 and 2000. More topes are popping up as the road passes villages.
Overall Road Condition: Very Good to Excellent
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Good

HUMMINGBIRD HIGHWAY This 56-mile highway stretches from the Western Highway at Belmopan to Dangriga. The Hummingbird dips and swoops through some of the most beautiful territory in Belize. This was once a very bad road. Now it is in superb condition and fully paved. Take a break at the Blue Hole, where a swim in the truly blue water is refreshing (a guard will watch your car, so don’t worry) or at Five Blues National Park. Technically, the road is called the Hummingbird for only about 33 miles from the Western Highway to the village of Middlesex, and then it is known as the Stann Creek Valley Road. The section into Dangriga town is fully paved.
Overall Road Condition: Excellent
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Fair to Poor — best to gas up at Belmopan or near Dangriga

COASTAL HIGHWAY This 36-mile gravel road, connecting Democracia near Mile 30 of Western Highway with the Stann Creek Valley Road near Melinda, is also known as the Manatee Highway or the “Shortcut.” It does save time on trips to Dangriga or Placencia from Belize City. However, the road is washboarded in places and is dusty in dry weather. During heavy rains, bridges occasionally wash out. It is far less scenic than the Hummingbird.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: Poor — gas up in Dangriga or on the Western Highway

SOUTHERN HIGHWAY The Southern Highway, long known as the worst major road in Belize, is getting better, although it will be a long time before it’s a pleasure to drive the entire 100-mile stretch. The section from Punta Gorda to just beyond Big Falls, about 25 miles, is now paved and in excellent condition. The section from the Dangriga junction to the cut-off to Placencia is paved, as is a section near Independence. Between the far north and far southern tips, however, about 35 miles of road is just as it was — muddy after rains (occasionally even 4-wheel drives get stuck) and blindingly dusty the rest of the time. The scenery, except for views of the Maya Mountains at about the halfway point, is unexceptional. Due to the road work, some road signs and most mile markers are missing.
Overall Road Condition: Poor to Excellent
Paved Section: 65%
Gas Availability: Fair to Poor — best to gas up in Dangriga or near PG; in a pinch, there’s gas in Independence and Placencia.

BELIZE CITY The roads and streets of Belize City confuse many visitors. Many streets are not signed, and some are little more than narrow, one-way alleys. Streets abruptly terminate at Haulover Creek, and you have to find a bridge to get from one side to the other. Taxis, bicycles and pedestrians dart in and out of traffic. However, things are getting better. New roundabouts on the Northern Highway have improved traffic flow, and new signage has popped up on main routes. Most streets are paved. Belize City is so up-to-date these days it even has a rush hour and traffic jams.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Excellent
Paved Section: 95%
Gas Availability: Excellent — modern gas stations have everything that U.S. stations have including convenience stores, except that you don’t have to pump your own gas.

Other Important Roads
ROAD TO CONSEJO This level 8-mile stretch takes you from Corozal Town to the Chetumal Bay, where there is a Belize customs station.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: None

ROAD TO SHIPSTERN Once past the paved section near Orange Walk Town, this road just goes on and on, over rough, washboarded limestone. It’s about 40 miles to Sarteneja village and Shipstern, but it will seem like twice that. A redeeming feature of this road is Progresso Lagoon, the quintessential tropical lagoon. If you want to go to Cerros instead of Shipstern, you start the same way, but about 12 1/2 miles from Orange Walk Town, and 6 1/2 miles past the village of San Estevan, you go straight instead of turning right; this takes you to Progresso, Copper Bank and Cerros. The road can be tricky after heavy rains. From Corozal Town, take the new hand-pulled ferry across the New River, saving you several hours of driving time.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Poor
Paved Section: 15%
Gas Availability: Fair

ROAD TO CHAN CHICH AND GALLON JUG From Orange Walk Town, it’s about a three-hour, 68-mile drive to Chan Chich, the stupendous Barry Bowen lodge. Along the way, on a road that varies from a poor rubble road to an excellent paved road at Gallon Jug, you’ll pass a number of villages, some farms, the Mennonite settlement of Blue Creek (where you can also spend time as a hard-working, paying volunteer at a major Maya archeological site) and plenty of jungle. As you cross the Programme for Belize preserve and Bowen land (you’ll have to stop at two guard houses), you’ll almost certainly see a variety of wildlife, including Belize’s two species of deer and the oscellated turkey. At San Felipe village, about 23 miles from Orange Walk Town, you can turn on a dirt road to the Lamanai ruins and Lamanai Outpost Lodge, about 13 miles from San Felipe. This road is now passable year-round.
Overall Road Condition: Mostly Fair to Poor, with some Good to Very Good sections
Paved Section: 15%
Gas Availability: Fair (gas up at the Linda Vista “shopping center” at Blue Creek, run by Mennonites; closed Sunday)

BURRELL BOOM You have two choices to get to Burrell Boom, Bermudian Landing and the Baboon (Black Howler Monkey) Sanctuary: Either turn off the New Northern Highway at about Mile 13, or off the Western Highway at Mile 15.5. The road to the Boom also functions as a short-cut if going between points on the Northern and Western highways, eliminating the need to drive through Belize City. It’s a downer, though, to drive past the Hattieville Ramada, one of the most depressing prisons anywhere.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 5%
Gas Availability: Fair

ROAD TO SPANISH LOOKOUT AREA This part of Cayo will remind you a bit of the Midwest, with spiffy Mennonite farms. The roads are mostly gravel and better-maintained than average. You’ll take a hand-pulled ferry over the Belize River. (Note: In theory it is possible to get to Chan Chich from Cayo via this route, a much shorter route. But access involves crossing private lands, not presently open to the public.)
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 5%
Gas Availability: Fair

MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE ROAD TO CARACOL By the route from Georgeville, it is about 46 miles from the Western Highway to the ruins of Caracol. From San Ignacio, the trip is a few miles longer — this route connects with the Mountain Pine Ridge Road near the village of San Antonio. On a recent visit, the road from San Ignacio was in better shape than the route from Georgeville, but this varies depending on when the roads are scraped. Even in good weather in a good vehicle, don’t expect to average more than 20 or 25 mph on this road — it’s a three-hour rough ride to Caracol, even with recent improvements to the road between the Augustine station and Caracol. A reward: I have never seen so many butterflies in Belize as I’ve seen on this road, and the scenery in many spots is lovely. After a heavy rain, the limestone dirt can be very slick and dangerous, and clay areas even more so. En route, stop for a cold drink or a hot gourmet pizza at Francis Ford Copolla’s lodge, Blancaneaux, about 15 miles in from Georgeville.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Very Poor
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: None

ROAD TO PLACENCIA This 25-mile mostly dirt and gravel road runs from the Southern Highway to the tip of the Placencia peninsula, passing Maya Beach and Seine Bight. In wet weather, this road can be dicey. To placate real estate developers, who want more sea-front land to sell, a section of the road along the sea has been moved closer to the lagoon. Small sections near Placencia and Seine Bight villages were paved but Hurricane Iris damaged parts of the paving.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 2%
Gas Availability: Fair (one station in Placencia village)

ROAD TO MAYA VILLAGES IN TOLEDO A series of connected roads take you from the Southern Highway near PG to the Mayan villages of San Antonio, Santa Cruz and Pueblo Viejo villages, or in other direction, to San Pedro Columbia village, Lubaantun ruins, San Miguel village, and then back to the Southern Highway near the Nim Li Punit ruins. This area was badly hit by Hurrican eIris.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Poor
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: Poor (gas up at the junction to the road to San Antonio)

AMBERGRIS CAYE You can’t rent a car on the island, although residents seem to be stocking up on pick-ups and cars, crowding out golf carts, bikes and pedestrians on the caye’s sandy roads. Two small sections of Coconut Drive, one at the airstrip and the other at Island Supermarket, were paved with cobblestones in 1999, with an additional small section paved in 2002. You can rent a golf cart and putt south to near the tip of the island, and north (if the rental company allows its carts to go over the river on the hand-pulled ferry) to around Belizean Shores. After rains, these cart paths are rough and muddy, and away from the water the mozzies will swarm you if you slow down.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Poor
Paved Section: 1%
Gas Availability: Fair (gas is available at the Belize Yacht Club, but most golf carts run on batteries)

Maps. The best general road map to Belize is from ITMB. A new 5th edition was released in 2001. The color, 1:350,000-scale map retails for US$8.95. Even more useful for most travelers is the mile-by-mile Driver’s Guide to Beautiful Belize, published annually by the famous Emory King. Although the maps are rough, this 60-page guide is reliable and easy-to-use. The 2002 edition is US$14. Both are available from Equator Travel Publications, 287 Beaverdam Road, Candler, NC 28715, fax 828-667-1717, or e-mail BZEFIRST@aol.com. In North America and Belize, add US$3.75 shipping and handling for the first item, and $2 for each additional one. Outside these areas, add US$8 for the first and $4 for each additional item. It is a good idea to buy these or other maps and guides before arriving in Belize, as they often cost more in Belize or may not be available.
Gas Stations. Belize has Texaco, Shell and Esso service stations, with a total of around 50 stations in the country. Unleaded gas is widely available now in Belize, at about US$3.20 a gallon. Leaded is a few cents less, and diesel about a third less. Skilled mechanics are few and far between, although you can get a tire changed almost anywhere. Someone will come out and pump gas for you, and there’s no need to tip. Belize gas stations accept Belize or U.S. dollars, but usually not credit cards.
Miles or Kilometers? Like the U.S., Belize has been slow to accept the metric system. Distances are given in miles, and gas is sold by the U.S. gallon. However, some Japanese-made rental cars have speed and distance shown in kilometers only, a source of confusion on Belize’s mile-denominated roads.
Speed Limits. You occasionally see a speed limit sign in Belize, but there is little if any traffic law enforcement. Belize drivers, to be charitable, are not always the best in the world.
Sleeping Policemen. Speed-breaker bumps are used to slow traffic coming into residential areas. In many cases, you’ll get no advance warning about the bumps, but expect them as you enter any town or village.
Bum Raps and Bad Cops. Unlike in, say, Costa Rica, where shaking down gringos in rental cars is a small industry, in Belize you will not be pulled over for phony traffic offenses, and if you are stopped at a checkpoint, which occasionally happens, no one will promote a bribe. Just answer the questions, show your license or passport and visitor entry card, and you’ll be on your way, with a friendly smile and wave from the police.
Safety. Traffic accidents are now the number one cause of death in Belize. Belize drivers are often not well-trained, and driving after drinking is unfortunately common. Watch carefully when passing stopped buses — kids may suddenly dart around the bus to cross the road. Outside of settled areas, you may drive for an hour or more and never see another car. Be prepared: Bring water, a flash-light and other basic supplies, and maybe a cell phone, just in case. In a poor country like Belize, anyone driving a car is, ipso facto, wealthy. Don’t leave valuables in your car, locked or unlocked. In Belize City, it’s best to park in a secured lot, or at least in a well-lit area. Do not pick up hitchhikers.
Driving at Night. Driving at night in developing countries is seldom a good idea, but in Belize night driving is easier than elsewhere because there are so few people on the roads after dark. Jaguars and snakes, yes; people, no. Still, after dark it’s hard to see potholes and topes.
Best Vehicles for Belize. Do you really need four-wheel drive in Belize? On the main thoroughfares such as the Western and Northern Highways, no. In the dry season, even back roads generally are passable without four-wheel drive if you have sufficient road clearance. But four-wheel drive is good insurance, just in case you hit a stretch of soft muck or sand. On long trips in Belize, usually there are a couple of occasions when four-wheel power comes in handy. After a period of heavy rains, some back roads become quagmires.
The vehicle of choice in Belize is a larger four-wheel drive, such as an Isuzu Trooper, Jeep Cherokee or Ford Explorer. These offer a smoother ride on washboard roads, and the large petrol tank cuts down on the need to stop for gas so frequently. However, rental rates on these large vehicles are high — US$80 to $110 day or more in most cases — and they drink gas. The Suzuki Jimny, Vitari or Sidekick are common rental vehicles, and they do a good day’s work at a decent price.
Tips on Rental Cars in Belize. Having a rental car is a real plus in Belize. You can go places not easily visited by bus, and while rental prices are not cheap, you may more than pay for the cost of the rental by avoiding high-priced tours. Here are questions to ask and things to check BEFORE driving off in your rental. Keep in mind that a break-down on a deserted road in Belize is not like a break-down in Suburbia, USA.
• Check the mileage on the vehicle you’ve been assigned. Even “name brand” renters often have high-mileage cars in their fleet. If the mileage seems high, ask for another vehicle.
• Check the tires. Six-ply truck tires or high-quality radials are best for Belize roads. But since these tires are more expensive, many rentals run inexpensive passenger car tires, which may not stand up to heavy off-road use. At the very least, tires should have plenty of tread. Also, check the spare, and be sure you know how to locate and use the jack.
• Ask what will happen if you have a break-down somewhere in the boondocks. Major companies, such as Budget, will send a mechanic out to repair the problem. Others may not.
• Don’t be shy about asking for discounts off published rates. During busy times, discounts may not be available, but in the off-season or during slow periods you may be able to negotiate a little on rates.
• Determine in advance whether you need to accept Collision Damage Waiver coverage. CDW runs US$10 to $15 per day in Belize, and typically it does not cover the first $500 to $1,000 in damage — so you have to cough up for a windshield broken by a flying rock, for example. American Express and some other credit cards DO provide primary CDW coverage in Belize, but the catch is that these cards may not cover driving on unpaved roads or in larger 4WD vehicles — check with your credit card company to be sure.
• In season especially, make reservations in advance, as rentals can be tight. There’s a car rental row at the international airport, a short stroll from the airport entrance. In the rental strip are Budget, Avis, Hertz, Jaguar, Crystal and Pancho’s, among others. Over the years, we have had the most consistently excellent service from Budget.
Lan Sluder/Belize First

#51297 - 05/24/02 12:47 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
mountain Larry Offline
I wanted to rent a car on the mainland myself for our visit in mid June, I searched much like you are doing and found by contacting Orbitz.com I was able to get a 4 wheel drive small vehicle for about half the price I had been quoted by others. You might want to give that a try. ML

#51298 - 05/24/02 01:34 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
diveron Offline
Isn't Lan AWESOME ! I have rented from Crystal several times. The owner is a cigar smoking good ol boy from Texas who is happy to chat and show you all of the interesting artifacts that he has collected. It's like a mini museum. The customer service is excellent. Milli is super nice and if you like cuban cigars Jay has Cohibas and Monticristo's. I bought 25 for US 125.00 thats less than half of what you will pay on AC. They have a location at the International airport and will send a car to pick you up if you fly from AC to the Municipal airport.The roads in Belize are fine. Lan gave you all of the info you need.Also, If you want to go to Guatemala, Crystal is the only car rental that will allow you to do so. Tikal is amazing and only a couple of hours from San Ignacio. Have a great trip!!! www.crystal-belize.com
I know Marty will have to fix that link.
Thanks Marty

#51299 - 05/24/02 01:39 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
diveron Offline
PS print Lans info and bring it with you.

#51300 - 05/24/02 04:27 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
Thanks for all the information, this is great!!!!! I will be able to make my decision from this.....

#51301 - 05/25/02 05:57 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
Marty Offline
Crystals awesome...

Crystal Auto Rental Ltd., Cars, 4X4's, Vans
crystal@btl.net http://www.crystal-belize.com

#51302 - 05/27/02 02:41 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
sweetjane Offline
barb @ barb's belize gave us this name, said he was dependable:
lewis auto rental, belize city http://www.lewisautobelize.com



we got an isuzu trooper for $310 (+tax) for 4 days. in '93 had a sidekick...FUN!

[This message has been edited by sweetJane (edited 05-27-2002).]

#51303 - 05/27/02 02:57 PM Re: CAR RENTAL ON MAINLAND
Halonna Offline
We have always rented a 4 wheel drive through Hertz and used our platnium credit card because that has the additional insurance coverage . Through much research and experience, we have found Hertz to be the cheapest and best vehicles. Using the credit card saves about $10.00 to $15.00 a day that other wise would be out of the pocket money. Some of the other car rentals will not except this coverage. They want money up front. Check with your credit card company and have them send you a statement of insurance on rental cars.

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