The country of Belize has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with about one person per 36 square miles, and this allows for some beautiful nature and wildlife, but it also accounts for some difficulty for tourists navigating backcountry roads. Many of the highways in Belize have been repaved in recent years, but some city streets can be difficult to navigate. We've compiled all the pertinent information you need to know about driving in this Central American country so that you're prepared for your Belize vacation.
Learn about what documents you need to bring and what to do in case of emergency, as well as scenic routes to take.
Visitors must be 18 or older to legally rent or drive a vehicle in Belize, and it's well worth it for travelers, as it allows you to explore the country with greater ease. Travelers should check if their credit card covers Collision Damage Waiver coverage (which can be up to $15 a day but usually doesn't cover the initial cost of damage up to $1,000), as this is often available via providers such as American Express. But before you book a rental car, see below and make sure you have everything needed for driving in Belize:
- Driver's License: Required (U.S. license accepted)
- IDP: International Driving Permit required if you do not have a license
- Age Requirement: 18 to legally rent or drive a car in Belize
- Registration: Required
- Insurance: Required
Rules of the Road
Drivers in Belize should beware of pedestrians when traversing the country on wheels, and also be careful when driving at night, as there is often low visibility. Drivers are encouraged to take advantage of the scenic routes, particularly Hummingbird Highway, which is world-renowned for its beauty. But before you set out on your epic Belize toad trip, read below to make sure you understand the rules of the road first.
- Drive on the right side: Travelers from the U.S. don't have to worry about adjusting to the left side of the road, as the country of Belize also drives on the right.
- Right-hand turns: Drivers are allowed to make a right-hand turn on a red light, but be cautious prior to attempting.
- Left-hand turns: Drivers must use their turn signal and wait on the right-hand shoulder of the road until traffic going both ways is entirely clear before making a left-hand turn on the highway.
- Seat belts: Seatbelts are required for drivers and passengers in the front of the car, but riders in the rear are not required by law to buckle up.
- Speed limits: The speed limit on highways is 55 mph, and drops to 25 to 40 mph in towns and cities. Drivers should be cautious about pedestrians in both rural and populated areas.
- Cell phones: It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving unless it is a hands-free device.
- Alcohol: The BAC is 80mg in Belize.
- Car seats: Car seats are not required by law in Belize.
- Toll roads: The only toll bridge is found when accessing Orange Walk Town from Belize City, and the rate is just under 38 cents.
- Fuel: Unleaded gas is widely available at $5.06 a gallon, while Premium is $5.96, and Diesel is priced at $4.81 a gallon.
- Checkpoints: There are police checkpoints located throughout the country, where drivers will be asked to show their driver's license, and the officer will check the windshield license sticker of the vehicle.
- On-the-spot fines: On-the-spot fines do not exist in Belize. Instead, if you are guilty of violating the law while driving, you're given a penalty notice by the police officer, which will detail next steps for payment.
- In case of emergency: Call 911 for the police, fire, or ambulance, in case of emergency.
Road Conditions in Belize
Many roads in Belize have been resurfaced in recent years, so the driving is smoother for visitors traversing across the country. Read on for the road conditions for the major highways in Belize, and plan your journey accordingly:
- Northern Highway (Phillip Goldson Highway): This is one of the better highways in Belize and the two-lane 85-mile highway from Belize is in good condition, leading from Belize City to Corozal Town.
- Hummingbird Highway: This highway in Belize is one of the most beautiful roads in the entire world and stretches for 56 miles through some of the country's most breathtaking natural wilderness (including the Belize Blue Hole, located inland.) It was resurfaced in 2018, so it's in good condition, and is a must-visit for travelers.
- Old Northern Highway: This 41-mile road leads to the Altun Ha Maya Temple, and the highway south of Maskal Village is in better condition than the road to the north. The highway has many potholes, however, and many sections are narrow, but the condition of the road is fair.
- Coastal Highway: Also known as Manatee Highway or the Shortcut, the Coastal Highway links La Democracia with the Stann Creek Valley Road. The 36-mile gravel road isn't as pretty as Hummingbird Highway, and is subject to dust in the dry season, so the conditions are more challenging for drivers.
- Western Highway (George Price Highway): Though the 77-mile road from Belize City to Hattieville has the largest concentration of traffic bumps in Belize, it is in fairly good condition. It also boasts a plethora of roadside attractions, including bars, restaurants, and (highly recommended) lodges.
- Southern Highway: The condition of the Southern Highway is very good, and offers scenic views of the Maya Mountains.
Things to Know When Driving in Belize
Ambergris Caye: Ambergris Caye, home to the popular town of San Pedro, is an island in which there are no cars for rent. The best way to get around is via golf carts, many of which are powered by gasoline, and are very handy for getting to such picturesque regions on the island as Secret Beach.
Belize City: Driving in Belize can be very confusing for tourists, as the maze-like streets are often very narrow and feature one-way alleys that may be difficult to navigate for first-time visitors. There is also not as much signage on the streets, and the roads are often clogged with bikers and pedestrians, so drivers should stay alert at all timed.