NEW AIR CONNECTIONS TO SOUTHERN BELIZE
by Lan Sluder
Travelers to and from Southern Belize - Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia, Punta Gorda and other areas of the South - now have another option for air travel. Spirit Air (www.spiritair.com
), a low-cost discount carrier, now goes from Ft. Lauderdale to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The equipment is late-model Airbus A319s. Fares vary but can be as low as US$60 one-way. With taxes and fees, fares typically run around US$180 round-trip. Currently, Spirit flights depart Ft. Lauderdale at 11 p.m. and with the time change arrive at 11:25 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Returning flights depart SPS at 2 a.m. and arrive Ft. Lauderdale at 5:20 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. (Schedules subject to change.) Spirit also has connecting service from Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere to Ft. Lauderdale and then on to Honduras. Once in San Pedro Sula, travelers can overnight in San Pedro Sula and fly Maya Island Air's new service (www.mayaairways.com
) from SPS to Savannah (across the lagoon from Placencia) Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3:15 p.m., arriving Savannah at 4 p.m. Fare is US$125 one-way or US$250 round-trip. Connections are possible to other Maya Island destinations in Belize. Atlantic Air to Belize City on Monday, Wednesday and Friday is another option from San Pedro Sula, at around US$150 one-way.
If you don't want to pay Maya Island's rates - twice the fare from Florida to Honduras - you can go by bus and water taxi to Punta Gorda and then fly or bus to Placencia or other destinations in Southern Belize. Here's the recent experience of one Placencia resident, Ken Keys:
“I made the trip as an adventure, and here are my costs. It takes a bit of effort, but it was a senic and fun trip, once I got over the anxiety of the actual travel - since there is so much written about the dangers of travelling in Honduras and Guatemala. I did not experience any problems myself, but, I have an advantage - I have a large physical size 6' 6", and weigh over 240 lbs - maybe this is why I am seldom approached at all even in cities like Detroit. I also speak Spanish, just a bit more than enough to get by.
Here is how it went, and the prices: Spirit from Ft.Lauderdale to San Pedro Sula - US$86 one way. Great price, and I actually got a lower price for my trip in October - US$75. Only problem is the flight leaves Ft. Lauderdale at 11 p.m., and arrives at around 11:25 p.m. This time, a friend of a friend met me at the airport, and drove me to Omoa. In october I will take a taxi to the Holiday Inn in SPS for the night.
The next morning I caught the (chicken) bus from Omoa to the Guatemala border (US$3). It stopped quite a lot, but it got me there cheap, seemed safe, and the scenery was really nice. Walked across the border (easy and no hassles), and caught a van to Puerto Barrios in time for the 10 a.m. ferry to Punta Gorda. Van driver was good, stopped at passport control, and I did not even have to leave the vehicle! He drove me to the ferry ticket office, conveniently located next to the passport check office to exit Guatemala - fee to exit is about US$12, I think (can't remember exactly). Easy again. US$18 for the ferry to PG. Nice ride in a twin Yamaha engine oversized panga. On board with me - about 10 Belize locals, 5 Guatemalans, 3 Dutch girls on holiday with backpacks, 3 Brits on holiday with backpacks and me.
Customs (non-existant) and immigration in PG is a breeze, and therefore I was standing at the airport (BZ$6 taxi ride to Tropic Air desk) and on the 11:20 a.m. flight to Placencia (16-minute ride), US$41. I was at lunch at the new Purple Space Monkey in Placencia at 11:55 a.m.
Whole trip one way cost me about US$150 without hotel (in Omoa, the hotel was US$18 for a cabina w/ A/C) and I had a nice adventure. The roads were very good between SPS, Omoa and in Guatemala, quite excellent). Others would spend about US$195.
I left Belize through Corozal, and that took a REALLY long time on the bus from Chetumal (nice bus, though, for US$20 to Playa del Carmen) but that is another story. Spirit goes there too, and nearly as cheap, but the Mexican taxes on the ticket are high. Do not recommend this way as an alternative to Southern Belize, but it could be OK for a trip to San Pedro.
I could have easily caught a bus from SPS the next morning instead of had a friend pick me up or I am sure I could get a ride in a taxi direct to the border 42 miles away -- pretty cheap from SPS if I did not want to take the bus the next day.
(September 17, 2007)
Lan Sluder, http://BelizeFirst.com