Here is the complete skinny on getting to San Pedro. By the way, Banana Beach is a great place -- you should enjoy it.

--Lan Sluder
Belize First Magazine http://www.belizefirst.com/

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GETTING TO SAN PEDRO
Getting to San Pedro is easy as lime pie, but it does require at least one stop along the way. There is no international air service direct to San Pedroís little 3,000 foot airstrip. Continental, American and TACA fly non-stop into the International Airport at Ladyville near Belize City from three U.S. gateways: Continental and TACA from Houston, and American from Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami. Delta has checked out Belize but so far hasn't committed to serving the market. Occasionally there are charter flights to Belize from large U.S. and Canadian cities. Belizeís International Airport also has non-stop service from San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Flores, Guatemala; San Salvador, El Salvador; and, at least in the high season, from Cancun, Mexico.

From Belize City, you can either fly or take a boat to San Pedro. By air, itís a 20 minute flight; the boat trip takes about 75 minutes. Two Belize airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, each have about one flight per hour every day to San Pedro, starting at around 7:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. In peak visitor season, sometimes additional flights are added to accommodate demand. Flights originate from both the International Airport in Ladyville about 9 miles north of Belize City, where your TACA, Continental or American flight arrive, and Municipal Airport, a small airstrip in Belize City. In many cases the same Maya Island and Tropic flight picks up passengers at both airports, making the short hop between the two in a few minutes.

Should you fly to San Pedro from International or Municipal? Depends on whether youíd rather save time or money. Itís easier just to fly into International and walk over to the domestic concourse and catch your connecting puddle jumper. But youíll save money, especially if traveling in a party of several people, by flying from Municipal. Adult and child one-way fares on both Maya Island and Tropic are approximately US$47 from International; from Municipal, adult one-way is US$26 and children under 12 are US$18. Round-trip fares are twice one-way. Rarely are there any bargain fares or discounts for advance booking.

Transferring between the airports requires a 15 or 20-minute taxi ride. A taxi from International to Municipal is about US$17.50 for up to five passengers, and taxis take U.S. dollars. A tip isnít necessary unless the driver carries a lot of your luggage, in which case add a couple of bucks. Taxis -- they have green license tags -- are plentiful and await passengers just outside the main lobby.

A party of four will pay almost US$400 round-trip to San Pedro via International, and less than US$250 round-trip from Municipal, even including the taxi transfers. If the party has children under 12, the savings will be even greater.

Do you need to make reservations for Maya Island or Tropic flights in advance? Off-season, itís not really necessary, though having a reservation wonít hurt. In-season, a reservation might save a wait, though more often than not flights are boarded on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of reservation status. Most hotels on Ambergris Caye will arrange for your air travel to the island at the time you make your hotel reservations, and thereís usually no extra cost to you. The hotel gets a small commission from the airline.

You also can book direct with the airlines by telephone or over the Internet. Hereís contact information:

Maya Island Air: 800-521-1247 or 501-26-2435l fax 501-26-2192; e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]; schedules and fares at //www.ambergriscaye.com/islandair/ or www.mayaairways.com
Tropic Air: 800-422-3435 or 501-2-62012; e-mail [email protected]; schedules and fares at //www.ambergriscaye.com/tropicair/ or www.tropicair.com.

Another option is to take a water taxi or ferry from Belize City to San Pedro. The trip, mostly on fast open boats with twin outboard engine seating 20 or 25 people takes about 75 minutes. On a sunny, calm day, itís a great introduction to Belize; on a rainy, windy day the trip can be wet and rough.
Several fast boats ferry passengers back and forth between Belize City and San Pedro, including Thunderbolt, Andrea, Sea Escape and Triple J. Probably the most reliable boats are those in the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association. These leave from the Marine Terminal near the Swing Bridge in Belize City. The Marine Terminal has a waiting area and two small museums to visit while you wait. Boats to San Pedro leave at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m., with a brief stop at Caye Caulker. Fares are US$12.50 one-way to Ambergris Caye. You disembark at Sharks pier in the middle of town. Fares just to Caye Caulker are US$7.50, and boats depart at 9, 10:30, noon, 1:30, 3 and 5. Children 5 to 10 go at half price; under 5 free. You can make reservations, but service is more likely to be first-come, first-served. A cab to down Belize City from the International Airport is about 20 minutes and US$17.50 for up to five people.

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TIP: The cheapest way to get to Belize is usually not to fly to Belize but to fly to Cancun (or sometimes Cozumel) and then bus from there. There are many charter flights into Cancun from the U.S., Canada and even Europe, often at fares that are one-third to one-half what they are into Belize. From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can take a bus to Chetumal (five to six hours and US$15 or so for a nice, comfortable reserved seat, with air conditioning and videos). There you transfer to a Noveloís or other Belize bus into Corozal Town or Belize City.


Lan Sluder/Belize First
http://www.belizefirst.com