Driving in Belize

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Dec 22nd, 2004, 07:10 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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Driving in Belize

We are thinking about going to Belize in mid march. We are very independent. Is it a issue to rent a car and drive. We have been to Costa Rica and drove. What are some of the spots not to be missed.

Also, wondering about the mosquitos that time of the year. I get eatten alive.
anitas is offline  
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Dec 22nd, 2004, 10:09 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
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March is 3 mnts into the dry season, so mosquitos should not be aproblem in most areas. Main roads are well paved and marked. Easy to drive around. People are friendly and will help with directions. Cayo is a popular area offering maya sites, caving, river trips, scenic jungle and mtn trips, horses and more.
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Dec 24th, 2004, 05:53 AM
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Here is the first part of my take on driving in Belize. The full article is available on my web site at www.belizefirst.com.

--Lan Sluder

>>

DRIVING IN BELIZE
The roads in Belize are getting better and better. Sure, there still are sections of washboarded dirt that will shake your fillings out, but more roads are now paved and even the gravel or limestone byways seem to be scraped more frequently. A few roads, such as the Southern Highway and Hummingbird Highway and resurfaced sections of the Western Highway, are very good indeed, among the best in all of Central America and the equal of any rural road in the U.S. or Canada. Not too many years ago the Western Highway was unpaved, the Hummingbird was a nightmare of potholes, the Old Northern Highway was a jungle of tire-stabbing asphalt chunks, the Southern Highway was a mud trap, and not even Belize City had stop lights.

Signage, too, is improving, being better than in most of Mexico or the rest of Central America. Most critical turns and junctions are marked. Many roads have mile markers — though road work on the Southern Highway and elsewhere means many markers are missing. Around Belize City, San Ignacio and elsewhere, new signage helps visitors navigate to key destinations such as the international airport or the Mountain Pine Ridge.

Main Roads
NORTHERN HIGHWAY This 85-mile route is a very good two-lane black-topped from Belize City to Corozal Town and then a few miles to the border with Mexico at Chetumal. The only thing that will slow you down are a few “sleeping policemen” in villages and slow-moving trucks when the sugar cane harvest is going on in late winter through late spring, and a toll-booth at the bridge over New River (BZE 75 cents or US 37 1/2 cents). There is now a by-pass around Orange Walk Town. Your first glimpse of the azure waters of Corozal Bay is a highlight of this route.
Overall Road Condition: Very Good
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Excellent — there are many gas stations including a few new ones open 24 hours

OLD NORTHERN HIGHWAY If you want to see Altun Ha ruins, you’ll have to drive at least part of this 41-mile arc to the east of the New Northern Highway. Under the British, this highway was paved, and at last the Belize government is patching the remaining blacktop. The section south of Maskall village is better than the section north. Most sections are narrow and some are dirt. The 2-mile access road to Altun Ha is not paved.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 70%
Gas Availability: None

WESTERN HIGHWAY The 78-mile road takes you from Belize City quickly past Hattieville, the Belize Zoo, the capital of Belmopan, the “twin cities” of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and then on the Benque Viejo road to the Guatemala border. Just past San Ignacio, you hit “cottage country,” where a number of excellent lodges offer cold beer and a soft bed under quiet Central American skies. The Western Highway is still in pretty good condition, and some sections have been resurfaced. More topes are popping up as the road passes villages.
Overall Road Condition: Very Good to Excellent
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Good

HUMMINGBIRD HIGHWAY This 56-mile highway stretches from the Western Highway at Belmopan to Dangriga. The Hummingbird dips and swoops through some of the most beautiful territory in Belize. This was once a very bad road. Now it is in very condition, with only a couple of bridges that are still one-lane. Take a break at the Blue Hole, where a swim in the truly blue water is refreshing (a guard will watch your car, so don’t worry) or at Five Blues National Park. Technically, the road is called the Hummingbird for only about 33 miles from the Western Highway to the village of Middlesex, and then it is known as the Stann Creek Valley Road. The section into Dangriga town is fully paved.
Overall Road Condition: Excellent
Paved Section: 100%
Gas Availability: Poor — best to gas up at Belmopan or near Dangriga

COASTAL HIGHWAY This 36-mile gravel road, connecting Democracia near Mile 30 of Western Highway with the Stann Creek Valley Road near Melinda, is also known as the Manatee Highway or the “Shortcut.” It does save time on trips to Dangriga or Placencia from Belize City. However, the road is washboarded in places and is dusty in dry weather. During heavy rains, bridges occasionally wash out. It is far less scenic than the Hummingbird.
Overall Road Condition: Fair
Paved Section: 0%
Gas Availability: Poor — gas up in Dangriga or on the Western Highway

SOUTHERN HIGHWAY The Southern Highway, long known as the worst major road in Belize, is now the best road in Belize. It is all paved except for a 9-mile section near Big Falls. The scenery, save for views of the Maya Mountains at about the halfway point, is unexceptional. Overall Road Condition: Good to Excellent
Paved Section: 91%
Gas Availability: Fair — best to gas up in Dangriga or near PG; in a pinch, there’s gas in Independence and on the Placencia peninsula.

BELIZE CITY The roads and streets of Belize City confuse many visitors. Many streets are not signed, and some are little more than narrow, one-way alleys. Streets abruptly terminate at Haulover Creek, and you have to find a bridge to get from one side to the other. Taxis, bicycles and pedestrians dart in and out of traffic. However, things are getting better. New roundabouts on the Northern Highway have improved traffic flow, and new signage has popped up on main routes. Most streets are paved. Belize City is so up-to-date these days it even has a rush hour and traffic jams.
Overall Road Condition: Fair to Excellent
Paved Section: 95%
Gas Availability: Excellent — modern gas stations have everything that U.S. stations have including convenience stores, except that you don’t have to pump your own gas.
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Jan 6th, 2005, 02:30 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 27
We went to Belize last year and loved it!! The driving was actually fun, and getting around was easy. I drove the Hummingbird from Chaa Creek to Placencia and the scenery was worth the price of the rental car. If you drive this road, enjoy what my mother in law called "the squeezy bridges". You'll know what this means when you see one! By all means rent a car and drive, you will not regret it. We picked up, and dropped off right at the airport and it was a breeze. Have fun!
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