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Like most activities in Belize, driving can be an adventure. Road conditions vary widely between regions, and tourists' reports describe local drivers as "brave" and "oblivious." But travelers who value the independence of driving themselves should be familiar with a few basic rules of the road.
Drivers stay to the right side of roadways in Belize, just as they do in the United States. Unless a visitor holds an international license, a temporary driver's license will be issued to permit driving for up to 90 days. Although many local drivers may completely disregard them, travelers should note speed limits, which are set at 55 mph on the major highways and 25 mph on the smaller rural roads.
Highways are generally paved and in fair condition, though the majority of the smaller roads that traverse Belize are either unpaved or only partially paved and neglected. Many vacationers will find that most of the sights and attractions are located close to the main highways and that the poor conditions and erratic drivers found on rural roads are rarely an issue.
Driving private cars is often discouraged because road conditions may cause damage. Renting more durable vehicles, such as Jeeps, may prove a more pleasant alternative. Additionally, unleaded gasoline is not available in Belize, and local mechanics may be unable to replace parts on automobiles that are not popular in the area. If you aren't sure which type of vehicle is best for you to rent, have a chat with someone at the rental car agency. Let them know what your plans are, and they should be able to pair you with the best automobile for your needs.
Being aware of traffic safety laws are important before you get behind the wheel in any foreign country. For example, passengers in the front of the car are required to wear seat belts, but those in the back are not, and children are not required by law to sit in car or booster seats.
Visitors may not be accustomed to some of the local driving procedures and should keep an eye out for drivers who tailgate, pass on the right-hand side of the road, carry passengers in the open bed of pickup trucks, or swerve right before making turns on the left-hand side. Because of the high incidence of intoxicated drivers, travelers are also warned against driving on small, rural roads at night.
If you aren't comfortable driving on your own, or will only be driving for a portion of your trip, know that there are plenty of other transportation options in Belize, especially when you are staying in big cities. Taxis are available in Placencia, Belize City, Corozal, and Dangria for sure and you may happen upon one in a smaller town. Anywhere you find taxis to be popular, buses are available as well.
Driving can be a fantastic way to explore the nooks and crannies of a particular region of Belize, but travelers should be extremely cautious when attempting to navigate unfamiliar areas. While the convenience of charting one's own course is undeniably enticing, visitors should drive themselves only if the vehicle and the circumstances are ideally suited to their Belize vacation.
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