There's frequent bus service on the Philip Goldson and George Price highways and to southern Belize via the Hummingbird and Southern highways. Elsewhere service is spotty. There's only limited municipal bus service in Belize City on several small local lines. Fares are BZ$1–BZ$2 depending on the route and the bus line.
Buses can get you just about anywhere cheaply (about BZ$2–BZ$30 for inter-town trips) and quickly. Expect to ride on old U.S. school buses or retired North American Greyhound buses. On some routes there are a few express buses, some with air-conditioning. These cost a few dollars more.
Be prepared for tight squeezes—this can mean three people in a two-person seat—and watch for pickpockets. Drivers and their assistants (in Guatemala, cobradors or ayudantes, fare collectors, who call out the stops) are knowledgeable and helpful. They can direct you to the right bus, and tell you when and where to get off. To be sure you're not forgotten, try to sit near the driver.
Most buses on main routes run according to more-or-less reliable schedules; on less-traveled routes the schedules may not mean much. Buses operate mostly during daylight hours, but they run until around 9 pm on the western route between Belize City and San Ignacio. Published bus schedules are rare, and almost no bus lines have websites. Some lines post hand-written schedules in bus terminals. The Belize Tourism Board sometimes has schedules for popular routes. Also check online for the Belize Bus Blog (www.belizebus.wordpress.com), which has generally up-to-date information on Belize bus rates and schedules and also on other types of transportation in Belize.Buses in Belize accept only cash in U.S. or Belize dollars.
In 2011 Mexican bus line ADO (www.ado.com.mx) began offering daily express service between Belize City and Cancún, using executive-class 44-seat Mercedes buses with reserved reclining seats, air-conditioning, bathrooms, and videos. These buses leave late in the evening in both directions, allowing passengers to sleep en route and arrive early in the morning. Buses make brief stops at Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Corozal Town, and Orange Walk Town. Fare is around US$39 (BZ$78) one-way. ADO also has service to Mérida, Mexico, from Belize City.
Inexpensive public buses, also of the converted school bus variety, crisscross Guatemala, but they can be slow and extremely crowded, with a three-per-seat rule enforced. Popular destinations from Guatemala City, such as Santa Elena/Flores near Tikal, use Pullman buses, which are as well equipped as North American bus lines. Your hotel or INGUAT office can help you make arrangements. Fares on public buses in Guatemala are a bargain.
In Guatemalan cities you pay the bus driver as you board. On intercity buses, fare collectors pass through the bus periodically. Buses follow loose schedules, sometimes waiting to leave until the bus fills up. On some routes the day's very last bus isn't always a sure thing. Schedules for Pullman buses are usually observed.
Reservations are usually not needed or expected in Belize or Guatemala, even for Pullman or express departures. The terminals in Belize City and some towns have ticket windows where you can pay in advance and get a reserved seat. If you board at other points, you pay the driver's assistant and take any available seat. Arrive at terminals about a half hour before departure.
James Bus Line (7 King St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 702/2049.)
Autobuses del Norte (Terminal de Buses. 502/2251-0610 in Guatemala City; 502/7924-8131 in Santa Elena, Guatemala. www.adnautobusesdelnorte.com.)
Fuente del Norte (Terminal de Buses, Santa Elena, Petén. 502/7947–7070 in Guatemala; 223/0457 Marine Terminal in Belize City; 502/7926–2999 Terminal de Buses, Santa Elena. www.grupofuentedelnorte.com.)
Línea Dorada (502/5983–1163 Linea Dorada in Santa Elena, Guatemala; 223/1200 Mundo Maya Travel, in Belize City. firstname.lastname@example.org. lineadorada.info.)