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Local transport

Local Transportation

All of Belize's towns, including the parts of Belize City that most visitors frequent, are small enough to cover on foot, although for safety reasons you should take taxis for some trips within Belize City. Taxis are plentiful in all mainland towns and are also an option for getting to places out of town. Rates vary depending on where you are: the 7-mile ride from Corozal to Consejo costs BZ$20, but the 6-mile trip from Maya Centre to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is BZ$36.

Bicycling is an enjoyable way of getting around local areas and bikes can be rented at around BZ$20 per day in many tourist haunts (and are free for guests at some accommodations). On the cayes, of course, you get around by boat if you're going anywhere offshore.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is never entirely safe in any country and in Belize, like anywhere, it's imperative that you listen to your instincts and travel smart. Travelers who decide to hitchhike should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. You're far better off traveling with another person, and never hitchhike at night. Also keep in mind that buses in Belize are cheap and fairly efficient; you might decide that a bus is a safer and more comfortable bet.

Hitchhiking is a fairly common way for Belizeans to get around. In a country where vehicle owners are a minority and public transportation is infrequent to places off the main roads, it's common to see people trying to catch a lift at bus stops or at speed bumps, where traffic slows down. If you too are trying to get some place where there's no bus for the next three hours, it's likely that you'll soon get a ride if you hold out your hand and look friendly. Offering to pay a share of the fuel costs at the end of your ride never goes amiss. But always be aware of the potential risks.

Hitchhiking in Belize Joshua Samuel Brown

Guidebook writers dread the day they get an email – perhaps months or years after the publication of a book – telling the ghastly story of a reader who's been hurt (or worse) doing something that the writer had ostensibly suggested was 'safe.' For that reason, Lonely Planet gives a boilerplate warning against hitchhiking. That said, it would be remiss of us not to mention the fact that hitchhiking is a common mode of transportation in Belize, especially down south, where buses between villages and towns are few and far between.

During my first research trip in Belize, I was lucky to have both pickup truck and driver (the amazing Christopher Nesbitt, who, behind the wheel of the green Maya Mountain Research Farm Toyota 4WD, proved nigh-unstoppable on even the worst roads), and giving lifts to hitchhikers was a regular part of our trip. During that journey – which ranged from the furthest southern villages and back roads of Toledo to the Mexican border with Corozal – the pan of the truck served as ad-hoc public transit for more people than I can recall. We gave rides to dozens of teenagers, university-aged students, Maya farmers, tourists, Mennonites, young mothers with babes-in-arms, and one rather gruff police constable (him we let ride up front; the baby-toting mother, too). Only once (a group of three teenagers with an air of trouble about them) did we fail to pick up anyone who needed a lift.

During my second Belize research trip I found myself without a vehicle and on the opposite side of the hitchhiking equation. This time I was the one humbly thumbing down rides throughout rural Belize, riding in the pan along with fellow travelers from all walks of Belize society. In many weeks of hitching, only once did I experience any trouble: on the road from Independence to the Southern Hwy a fellow hitcher misinterpreted a blue bandanna I'd unwisely chosen to wear as protection against the sun as a sign of membership in a gang. He seemed to feel great antipathy toward the gang in question, which resulted in his making several menacing comments as we both stood on the side of the road.

Ever the diplomat, I assured the gentleman that I was in no way affiliated with any gang, removing the offending bandanna as a gesture of goodwill. He responded by not murdering me, and soon we were both riding peacefully together in the back of a farmer's pickup truck.

Although this trip ended well, the incident serves as a reminder that hitchhiking is never 100% risk free. But the fact remains that hitchhiking is a common way that Belizeans get around themselves. If you do hitchhike in Belize, the best ways to minimize the risks are to travel in pairs if possible, ride in the backs of pickup trucks where possible, and never hitch at night. As for headgear, Mennonite straw hats work best. If you must wear a bandanna, blue or red are best avoided.

Joshua Samuel Brown

Golf Carts

If you're spending some time at the beach and you can't fathom being dependent on your own leg-power, you might consider renting a golf cart. It's relatively inexpensive (compared to a car) but it still gets you to the beach and back without causing you to break a sweat. The golf cart is a popular form of transportation in Placencia, San Pedro and – to a lesser degree – Caye Caulker. Both gas-powered and battery-powered golf carts are available: gas goes further and faster, but battery is better for the planet. Expect to pay about BZ$130 per day for a four-seater.