Retire in Belize: Getting There, Getting Around & Internet Options

RetirePedia's Roving Reporter Jim VeinotBy Jim Veinot

Want to retire in Belize? It's easy to get there from North America, both by air and by land. Transportation within the country is plentiful, with frequent buses, water taxis and two domestic airlines.

On the staying connected front however, Belize falls well behind other Central American countries. Find out why Internet options are so limited and expensive.

Getting to Belize - By Air

There is regular air service to Belize via the Phillip Goldson International Airport at Ladyville, 11 miles north of Belize City. Major U.S. airlines and Avianca offer flights to Belize. Flights originate in NYC, Chicago, Charlotte, Miami, LA, Atlanta, Newark and Houston. There is also service from El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala.

Ready to explore Belize? Use the search box below to find the best flights...

For northerners from Canada and the U.S. it’s often far less expensive to fly to Cancun and then take a bus to Belize City via Corozal and Orange Walk. Bus service is excellent, air conditioned and frequent.

As of this writing (November 2016) the best rate for a return flight from Detroit to Belize City in January 2017 is $715 USD. A return flight to Cancun in the same time period is $263 USD, and the bus to Belize City is $50 USD. Do this both ways and add the departure tax of $40 USD and you’ve saved about $315.

You can save even more by taking a bus to Chetumal and then Belize City, but it will take longer and is nowhere near as convenient. 

Buses are the most common way of getting around Belize. The photo shows the Belize City bus terminal.Belize City Bus Terminal, still commonly know as Novelo's, although the bus company doesn't exist anymore [Image by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikimedia Commons]

Getting to Belize - By Land

If you are from North America, and want to retire in Belize, you have the option to drive there. It’s anywhere from 1500 to 2000 miles from the U.S./Mexico border, so it’s a good three days of driving. Once you get to Belize you’ll find that fuel is about $2/gal more expensive than back home.

You’ll have to purchase insurance for Belize, which you can do at the border. There is an exit fee by land as well as by air, so you won’t save anything on that score.

All in all, if you’re coming by land the bus is the best bet. There’s excellent and inexpensive transportation service inland and the country is so laid back that most people walk everywhere anyway. Let’s talk about that!

Getting Around When You Retire in Belize: Short Trips

Most places that tourists want to go are accessible on foot, but you can also rent a bicycle for about $10 USD a day or a golf cart for $50 - $60 USD per day. Golf carts are pretty popular for getting to the beach from a rental location, and bikes are great for around towns.

Be careful with walking around Belize City. It can be dangerous in certain parts, so you’re better off taking a taxi. There’s lots available wherever you go and the rates are reasonable. Taxis are unmetered, so remember to agree the fare before you get in. Within Belize City, fares are typically between $2.50 and $5 USD.

Hitching a ride is prevalent in rural Belize but caution must be foremost in your mind. The best places to hitch are the speed bumps or “sleeping policemen” found on the roadways as traffic has to slow down for them. Offering to share the price of fuel is often a good idea.

Getting Around When You Retire in Belize: Longer Trips

Renting a car or motorcycle costs about twice as much as renting a golf cart. A car rental costs between $60 and $90 USD per day if rented for a 4 day stint. This includes insurance, air conditioning and at the higher end, four wheel drive.

Four wheel drive pickup trucks start at around $100 USD per day. Add to this the ubiquitous 12.5% GST. 

You must have a valid driver’s license from home in order to drive or rent a car in Belize, and you must be 25 years of age or more to rent a car.

Cars drive on the right hand side of the road like in all of North America. The posted speed is in mph and is 55 mph on highways and between 25 and 40 mph in towns and villages.

The very best bet for getting around Belize is the bus.

GuideToBelize.info provides a good overview over the various bus companies and the areas they service. I wouldn't rely on the listed schedules though, as they haven't been updated in awhile.

You can check bus schedules at a site called Horariodebuses.com (not just for Belize, but a whole bunch of Latin American countries). 

The schedules are a bit haphazard and sometimes there’s breakdowns as these are the same old Bluebird School buses that you’ll see in other parts of Central America.

The major (and only paved) routes are:

  1. Phillip Goldson Highway from Belize City to Orange Walk, Corozal and finally Santa Elena at the Mexican border near Chetumal (95 miles).
  2. George Price Highway from Belize City to Belmopan, San Ignacio and Benque Viejo del Carmen at the border of Guatemala (80 miles).
  3. Hummingbird and Southern Highways from Belmopan to Dangriga and then south to Punta Gorda.

All other routes are packed dirt, often impassable in the rainy season, even for a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Getting Around When You Retire in Belize: by Boat

Water taxis in Belize City offer scheduled service to Caye Caulker and San Pedro.Water taxis in Belize City offer scheduled service to Caye Caulker and San Pedro [Image by Willamor Media from Cary, NC, USA; via Wikimedia Commons]

Water taxis at Belize City harbor will take you to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. There are several other services available including the Thunderbird and the Hokey Pokey which service various ports on the coast. You can even go to Chetumal, Mexico with a water taxi.

Want to make a trip to the reef or the outlying islands? Rent a launch! Costs are about $50 USD per 10 miles. And if you want to go inland to see the Mayan ruins, you can take a river boat. 

Retire in Belize: Getting Around by Airplane

Insider Tip

Flying within Belize? Depart from Belize City Municipal Airport. It's much cheaper than from Philip Goldson International Airport.

Airstrips are everywhere in Belize, with about 20 of them in this tiny country. Planes can be hired for a quick trip to any location with a landing strip.

Belize has two domestic airlines: Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. Both serve all major mainland destinations and Cayes in Belize. Tropic Air also offers international flights to destinations in Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. 

Although prices are similar it's worth comparing, as you might get different discounts for kids and luggage depending on your destination.

Retire in Belize: Internet Services

My research indicates that Internet service in Belize is slow and expensive due to lack of competition. Although 'Belize TeleMedia Limited' (BTL) is by law no longer the monopolist in telecommunications, it kept much of its monopoly status in the market.

A monopoly which regards the Internet as a profit center ignores the reality that enhanced communication makes all businesses more profitable. This means they will contribute more tax dollars to the public purse, and far more than an inefficient system can add.

ADSL service which would cost perhaps $9.95 per month in the USA will cost $70 USD per month and will be ridiculously slow when multiple users are online at the same time. This is the equivalent of 2 MB service which is minimal.

By the time you get to 10MB service you’re at the $350/mo level. Telmex, next door, offers 10 MB for $39/mo for comparison purposes.

Competition arrived in the form of wireless, and BTL got into that marketplace as well. There are now several services available, such as Centaur Cable Network and smart!. Reports are that bandwidth is limited and that it’s best to have communication at 4 am. ;-)

Only recently did the government stop blocking Skype and FaceTime.

The best bang for the buck is a satellite system. Look around where there are no phone lines or wireless coverage and ask your neighbors where you can find a satellite installer.

They don't advertise for fear of reprisal. Service provided by Starband’s SOHO system offers 100 KPS up and 1 MBPS down for about $150/mo. Then you can sit on the beach and surf to your heart’s content!

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