Bus service on the Philip Goldson and George Price highways (formerly the Northern and Western highways) and to southern Belize via the Hummingbird and Southern highways is frequent and generally dependable. Elsewhere service is spotty. There's limited municipal bus service from point to point within Belize City on several small local lines.
Buses can get you just about anywhere cheaply (for inter-town trips) and quickly. Expect to ride on old U.S. school buses or retired Greyhound buses. Buses with restrooms and air-conditioning are rare to nonexistent in Belize. On some routes there are a few express buses, that stop only at bus stations. 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 around bus stations. On some busy routes, seats may be full, and you may have to stand. 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 front of the bus. On most Belize buses, your luggage will be put at the back of the bus, behind the last seats.
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, and service begins before sunrise on that route and on the northern route between Belize City and Corozal Town. Published bus schedules are rare, and almost no bus line has a website. 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, 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.
Mexican bus line ADO offers 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. ADO also has service several days a week between Mérida, Mexico, and 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 first-class Pullman buses. Your hotel or INGUAT office can help you make arrangements. Fares on public buses in both Belize and Guatemala are a bargain.
In Belize, in cities and towns where there are bus stations, you buy tickets at the station. When boarding elsewhere, you pay the driver's assistant. The same system applies in Guatemala.
Reservations are usually not needed or expected in Belize or Guatemala, even for express departures. Arrive at terminals about a half hour before departure.
Belize Bus Blog. This website is the best and most up-to-date source for bus and other travel information on Belize. Corozal Town, Corozal. www.belizebus.wordpress.com.
James Bus Line. 7 King St., Punta Gorda, Toledo. 702/2049; www.jamesbusline.com.
Autobuses del Norte. Mercado Terminal, 6a Av., Flores, Petén. 7924--8131; www.adn.gt.
Fuente del Norte. Terminal de Buses, Santa Elena, Petén. 223/0457; 7926–29997; www.grupofuentedelnorte.com.