Should You Rent a Car When in Belize? Here Are the Pros and Cons

by Megan Rodden

To rent or not to rent?  That is the question!  At least, that’s the question when planning your Belize vacation and considering your transportation options.  Should you rent a vehicle for the entirety of your trip?  Get one for a day or two?  Forego a rental altogether and rely on public transportation or private transfers?  It really depends on your preferences, budget, and vacation plans within the country.  Here are the pros and cons of renting a car for your Belize holiday.

What Type of Traveler Are You?

car rental

Consider what type of traveler you are.  Are you a confident and independent type of traveler?  Are freedom and flexibility paramount to your enjoyment of a destination?  Are you a control-my-own-destiny and off-the-beaten-path tourist?  If so, then you’d certainly want to hire a rental car for your mainland Belize vacation. 

Having your own wheels will give you the opportunity to explore the country on your terms and on your timeframe.  You don’t need to be at the mercy of a bus schedule or the preset parameters of a tour operator’s itinerary.  You can make your own plans or simply see where the road takes you.  A rental car gives you accessibility to places that public transport doesn’t run such as remote national parks and archeological sites.  If you’re hoping to see as much of the country as you can and perhaps overnight in several different locations during your stay, then a rental car might make sense for your Belize vacation.

Things to Consider When Renting a Car in Belize

Where will you be headed? 

Golf Carts line the streets of San Pedro, Belize’s top travel destination. Photo by the Belize Tourism Board.

If your holiday plans don’t include multiple destinations or trailblazing to parts unknown, then you should weigh your alternative transportation options; a rental car might not be your best bet.  Consider where you’ll be spending the majority of your vacation.  In many locales, a car isn’t necessary at all. 

If your accommodations are in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, Hopkins, or Placencia then you may find it easier to walk or peddle around than to drive and park a car.  Belize’s popular tourist towns have plenty of taxis and tour guides to take you from point A to B and you can forego the hassle of finding directions.  Domestic flights within the country are a quick and convenient way to hop around from north to south and west to east with the added bonus of bird’s eye views of Belize’s beautiful land and seascapes.

Do you have a tight budget?

Photo © Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle

The average rates for car rental in Belize are not cheap, around $90 USD a day, nor is the cost of fuel, so the expense of having a car for the entirety of your trip may be significant.  Aside from the cost, there are a few other potential cons to hiring a car.  The need to navigate yourself through unfamiliar terrain can be a considerable drawback for some. 

Are you a confident driver?

Belize’s Picturesque Hummingbird Highway.Photo via Meritt Thomas/Unsplash

Driving new and foreign roads can induce stress and fray nerves- the opposite of what you expect your vacation to entail!  Poor signage on some of the roadways is a factor to consider – as is the lack of cell phone signals in remote areas.  Though not crowded, the country’s highways pose a danger to travelers with speeding and recklessness causing a substantial number of traffic accidents.  Speed bumps and humps are used liberally throughout the country to control excessive speed. They can catch unsuspecting drivers unaware, though, as they may be missing proper signage or painting.  A healthy dose of defensive driving skills and situational awareness is needed to traverse the Belizean roadways. Careful drivers, however, will find that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Enjoy Your Travels Regardless of Which Option You Choose

When considering whether to rent a car for your Belize holiday it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages based on your travel needs and preferences.  Factor in your vacation plans and destinations, your budget, and your comfort level with roaming the roadways independently.  Whether you choose public transportation, private transfers, flying, or driving yourself, I hope you enjoy the journey as much as the destination!

Featured: You’ll need an all-wheel vehicle for Mountain Pine Ridge’s terrain. Image courtesy Roeming Belize

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