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Driving in Belize

Old Sep 13th, 2016, 08:38 AM
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Driving in Belize

My husband I are heading to Belize the end of January, and have booked 5 nights at Black Rock Lodge near San Ignacio and 4 nights in Hopkins. We are thinking of renting a car (would need an SUV/4 wheel drive per Black Rock). Our flight arrives in Belize City at 3:20 p.m. Hopefully, it wouldn't be completely dark by the time we got there. Is it safe to drive in Belize? How are the roads? We always rent a car when we are in Costa Rica. I am little bit nervous because my husband read something about banditTransfers will cost us around $500 for airport to Black Rock, Black Rock to Hopkins, and Hopkins back to airport. I'm sure with insurance the 10 day car rental won't be cheap, but it may give us a little flexibility. Any thoughts?
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Old Sep 13th, 2016, 08:45 AM
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oops...typo...bandits/robberies.
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Old Sep 13th, 2016, 09:54 AM
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I've never been tempted to rent a car in Belize - we like the buses when the schedules and routes work for us, fill in with taxis and private drivers when they don't, and sometimes take hopper flights. If you're planning to use the car a lot when you're in each of those places, maybe it would be worth it. If you're just wanting it for the routes you describe, I'd find cheaper private drivers and consider flying to BC for your flight home (from Dangriga so you'd need a ride there from Hopkins).

Re: safety, I'd just be vigilant and not drive in the dark and not overworry on that. Lots of great info about all sorts of transportation in Belize here: www.belizebus.wordpress.com

Happy trails!
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Old Sep 14th, 2016, 05:53 AM
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Go ahead and rent a car at the airport. If you're experienced drivers, you should have no problems driving in Belize. The highway system is simple, and all the main highways are paved.

If your flight lands on time, you should be out of the terminal & car rental by 4:30 to 5pm. Sunset at that time of year is around 5:30 pm so if you set out for Black Rock, you will be driving at night. That shouldn't be a problem on the highway, but take care because the highways do not have lighting and pedestrians and cyclists often walk/ride on the highway, not on the shoulder. I'd say it will take about 2 hours to reach BRL.

If you don't want to continue driving to BRL in the dark, spend a night at San Ignacio, or maybe at the Belize Zoo jungle lodge (it's on the way about 45 minutes from the airport -- details are on their website).

It can be safe to drive in Belize. You have to be careful in wet conditions because the highway can get very slippery (due to the nature of the paving material). Watch for speed bumps near the smaller towns/villages along the highway -- sometimes they're not marked and difficult to see in the dark.

The main highways are paved and in satisfactory condition, but the road to BRL is not paved and the road to Hopkins is in the process of being improved. The highway from Belmopan to Dangriga is curvy and has some one-lane bridges. Watch for speeding buses. The BelizeBus website has a good summary of driving in Belize (I wrote it).

I don't recall reading about any bandits on the highways, but there have been a few occasions where Guatemalans have crossed the border to Belize and robbed people at lodges.

The car rental company can arrange insurance. They offer weekly rates which are around BZ$25 to $30 per week.

If I were staying at BRL & Hopkins and wanted to do day trips, I'd prefer to have a car for the freedom. You won't need a car in to plan to stay at the lodge or at Hopkins all the time. Many of the activities you might want to do can be done with tour groups and they will provide transportation.
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Old Sep 14th, 2016, 05:56 AM
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Typo correction...

You won't need a car if to plan to stay at the lodge...
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Old Sep 14th, 2016, 11:32 AM
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I agree with most of the comments of MisterB2. Additionally, I recommend that you read my trip report from southern Belize (2015?) in which I describe the experience my sister and I had (good) and mention various road conditions. Last, I would not drive anywhere at night in Belize, not because I am so much afraid of bandits on the roads, but because of pedestrians, animals, bicycles, vehicles of every sort, and lack of lighting. ZZ
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Old Sep 21st, 2016, 11:39 AM
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I've made that exact same journey, 3 years ago. You should Love Black Rock, fantastic jungle lodge!

The drive over isn't too bad, just as people say the road's not all lit after dark so watch out for pedestrians etc, slow down. It's not that far!

Every town you approach, watch out for the Giant speed bumps (also known as "sleeping policemen"). A fellow guest didn't know about them and just about lost control of his car hitting one. They go about 6" up and are at the start and end of every town, so if you see town, slow down! They function very well to keep speed down in the country, but do cause accidents.

The trip to the lodge is not bad, I've driven on worse tracks in the US in a sports car, but a lot of the roads are washboard bumpy, something with some suspension would be nice if you plan on visiting coracol. You'll unlikely ever use 4wd, but by the time we were done in our little rented Jimny 4wd, the "door ajar" permanently stayed on from all the jarring lol. This time I think I'm going more with an SUV, not so much the offroad kind. I didn't ever put it in 4wd and I did go off on some mud trails.

Keep your speed down as you drive in on their long driveway, when you drive by the one house shortly after entering (and veering right if i recall correctly), kind of driving through some sort of orchard looking area, they have cows you have to watch out for. Later on you get to drive by a small waterfall coming down right next to the car but it's not much more than a garden hose. There are very few ways to mess it up though, aside from crashing. It certainly feels like an adventure! After a couple days we made it in and out very quickly for jaunts into town, Rio On Pools (play in the river, lots of fun), coracol, dinner in town, the market on saturday in san ignacio is great too.

As for bandits, every half a dozen years someone gets waylaid, usually in more remote areas and at night. The Lodge isn't all THAT remote, they pretty well know what's going on around them too. You should be fine so long as you use common sense and don't wave diamonds around (WHY are you bringing diamonds to Belize?? Leave the fancy at home, it's a casual country!

We'll be going back end of the month ourselves, hope you have a great time! Feel free to msg with any questions as well.
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