Belize has long appealed to visitors who prefer exploring off-route, and don’t want to rely on shuttle services or private transfers to get around. But driving in a new country can be intimidating, and if you haven’t visited before, you may have a lot of questions.
Most people’s first question is: ‘how safe is it to drive in Belize?’ – and it’s a good one to ask. While driving here is overwhelmingly safe, there are some differences between highways in the States and in Belize that are worth knowing about before your trip.
What is the road quality like in Belize?
One safety concern in Belize is the condition of the roads. They’re paved in some areas, but not all, so travel by road can make for a bumpy ride. Luckily, the road is almost entirely paved between Belize City and Hopkins – plus, you’ll also get to enjoy the Hummingbird Highway, Belize’s most famous (and scenic) road along the way.
Driving at night isn’t recommended in Belize. If nothing else, potholes become difficult to see after dark, which won’t do your rental any favors. Also, Belize uses ‘topes’, or speed bumps, for speed control, and hitting one of those at high speed is another guaranteed suspension-killer. Best stick to daytime driving when you can see exactly what you need to avoid!
It’s worth noting that seatbelts are only mandatory for people riding in the front seats of a car. People in the back don’t have to wear them, but for the sake of safety, they probably should.
Pedestrians in Belize
Jaywalking isn’t a crime in Belize, so another potential safety issue to consider is pedestrians on the road – people can appear out of nowhere sometimes. Pedestrians aren’t such a problem on quieter roads, but in built-up areas, where people tend to cut behind parked vehicles to cross the road, accidents can easily happen.
Night-time is also more dangerous when it comes to pedestrians, as roads are often badly lit, making people virtually invisible. If you do need to drive at night, take your time and be aware of your surroundings to maximize safety.
Car rental in Belize
If you decide to rent a vehicle in Belize, you’ll need either a driver’s license or International Driver’s Permit and you must be at least 18 years old.
Because of the questionable condition of Belize’s roads, it’s best to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle, if possible. This will ensure that if you hit a tricky patch, or if you’re on unpaved roads, your car will be able to manage without a problem.
Also, make sure you purchase a suitable insurance package, and check exactly what is covered, as you may be expected to pay upfront for damage caused by hitting a pothole, for example, or being struck by flying debris.
Another thing to check is whether your rental company will send out a mechanic if you happen to break down. Many companies will, especially the major international brands. But others won’t, and you don’t want to be stranded somewhere rural with no easy access to help.
If you bear all this advice in mind, driving in Belize can be an exciting, worthwhile – and safe – experience, allowing you the freedom to explore in a way that you’ll never forget.