Getting To Belize
Know What Time It Is:
Most of Mexico follows Day Light Savings. However the Mexican State of Quintana Roo is no longer involved in this foolishness. As of February 1, 2015, Mexico has shifted the time zone of the State of Quintana Roo from Central time to Eastern Standard Time. This means that Quintana Roo, which includes Chetumal, Bacalar, Mahaual, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, etc. is now permanently 1 hour ahead of Belize, which has never recognized Daylight Savings Time. (The Mx State of Sonora also does not observed DST because of its important economic ties with the US State of Arizona which never has observed DST.)
Quintana Roo (Chetumal) Mexico
Mexican Departure Tax
The rules regarding the Mexican Departure Tax, called in Spanish “Derecho de No Inmigrante (DNI)” have changed. This fee has to be paid by each visitor traveling as tourist or in transit, before exiting Mexico. The amount in pesos is $294.00 (About US$25.00) You can confirm this rule by reading This Document at the Mexican Immigration authority's (INM) official website.
There is one exception regarding the payment of the DNI: Those visitors entering Mexico BY ROAD who stay less than 7 consecutive days DO NOT PAY the DNI. You can verify this rule by reading the last paragraph of the this This Web Page.
Traveling by Air
Most visitors travel to Belize by air, but you can also get here by road or boat. International flights to Belize are via Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Miami or Los Angeles.
An other option is to fly into Cancun on one of the many airlines that service that Mexican resort city. I personally always fly to the USA via Cancun. It is a lot cheaper. I drive my own vehicle, about a 4 hour drive, and leave it at the Cancun Airport. Tourist can catch an express bus south to Chetumal (New ADO Cancun/Belize busses now available). See below for details.
Driving From Cancun
Rental rates in Mexico are a little cheaper then in Belize, so if you were planning to rent a car in Belize, you might be better off renting one in Cancun and driving down to Belize. Several Mexican car rental companies allow their vehicles to be driven across the border. Weekly rentals start at about US$300 per week for a small car and go up to $1200 per week for a full size van.
We know people who have used Caribbean Rent A Car, also called American Rent A Car with good results. One person forgot to check that they had the cross-the-border permission in writing and were not allowed to bring their rental car into Belize. Everyone else had no problems.
You must also purchase Belize auto insurance before reaching the Immigration/Customs building on the Belize side. Atlantic Insurance has a shack in the Free Zone, across from the Princess Casino.
Be sure you have written permission to take the rental car into Belize!
By Road From The USA Through Mexico or Guatemala:
Driving to Belize from the USA can be a challenging experience. This is not the recommended method for a tourist to visit Belize. It is time consuming and can result in unfortunate and expensive misunderstandings. A well maintained vehicle (preferably diesel), insurance and positive attitude will make the trip less stressful. Speaking Spanish helps a lot.
After crossing the border into Belize from Mexico or Guatemala, you will be required to obtain a temporary importation permit for your vehicle at the border station. These permits are valid for 30 days but can be extended by applying to the Customs Department. To get a permit, you will need:
- Travel documents and identification
- Proof of ownership (vehicle registration)
- Proof of Belize insurance
- Rental documents (if a rented car)
There are many articles on the internet written by people who have made this trip. Most relate a pleasant, exciting journey. Some had a few problems along the way. Call Belize Customs for current requirements and do a lot of other research before you attempt this journey.
Mexican Road Signs: Translations of most of the road signs you will see when driving through Mexico
The Belize Border Complex is being extensively overhauled. We will provide information on the new layout and procedures as they become available. The construction phase should be complete sometime in the second quarter of 2015.
Notice about Belize Auto Insurance
Insurance is required to drive in Belize. Most people opt for the "Road Act" insurance. It runs about Bz$380 per year. This is the least expensive but remember, it is 3rd party only. It doesn't cover you, your passengers or your vehicle. You also should be aware that there are a lot of Private Roads in Belize. For example, all the roads in Consejo Shores are private. Regular "Act" insurance will not cover you on any private roads. "3rd Party Private" coverage is only about Bz$40 per year more and is probably a good investment.
ADO offers Belize/Cancun Bus Service
ADO Group of Mexico is now offering daily direct busses from Belize City to Merida and/or Cancun. One bus is on schedule to leave from the bus terminal in Belize City to Merida at eight every night, arriving in Marida at six fifteen the following morning. A second bus to Cancun leaves the bus terminal in Belize City at eight fifteen each night arriving at Cancun at seven the following morning.
The bus runs will not be affecting the services provided by local transport providers. People can board the busses from Belize City, Orange Walk and Corozal only if their final destinations are Merida or Cancun in Mexico. Anyone wishing to travel within Belize will not be able to take these busses. Pickup Times and locations for Orange Walk an Corozal were not announced.
The ADO bus company has designated five buses and a total of ten experienced drivers to make the runs. The buses are first class grade, air conditioned with forty-four seats and a toilet.
Cancún to Belize City
Departs from Cancún bus terminal daily at 10:15 pm with stops at Playa del Carmen (11:40 pm), Tulum (12:45 am), Corozal and Orange Walk. Arrives in Corozal about 4:00 am and Belize City about 6:30 am.
Fares to Belize (Jan 2013): MX$496 from Cancún; MX$460 from Playa; MX$400 from Tulum.
Belize City to Cancún
Departs from Belize City bus terminal daily at 7:30 pm with stops at Orange Walk (9:00 pm), Corozal (10:00 pm), Tulum (4:00 am), Playa del Carmen (5:00 am) and Cancún Airport (6:30 am). Arrives at Cancún bus terminal at 7:00 am.
Fares (Jan 2013): BZ$55.00 to Tulum; BZ$63.00 to Playa del Carmen; BZ$79.00 to Cancún.
Regular Buses Between Corozal and Chetumal
Several Belizean bus companies (BBOC, Chell, Gilharry, Russell, Tillett, T-Line, Venus) provide Regular bus service between Corozal and Chetumal. The buses are mostly used Bluebird school buses; not very comfortable, not air-conditioned and are not well equipped to handle luggage, but they are cheap! In Chetumal, buses wait at Nuevo Mercado (New Market), about 1 km from the ADO terminal.
Buses to Chetumal depart from Corozal bus terminal about every half hour beginning at 7:00 am; last departure at about 7:00 pm. Most of the buses that go to Chetumal originate from Belize City and Orange Walk. There are also small mini-buses and taxi vans that go from Corozal to the border.
Buses to Corozal depart from Chetumal about every half hour beginning at 4:00 am. The last bus from Nuevo Mercado departs between 5:45 and 6:30 pm (Belize time).
The Trip takes about 45 minutes (mainly due to the time it takes for a bus load of people to get through two immigration points), and costs about BZ$3.00.
Cancun Airport To Chetumal ADO Terminal
From Cancún airport, ADO Riviera airport shuttle buses depart approximately hourly to Playa del Carmen. Tickets are sold at an ADO counter in the airport just after exiting Customs, or from the ticket seller where the bus is parked. To get to the bus, go out of the airport terminal, turn right and keep going to the other end of the terminal. The bus trip is about 1 hour and costs MX$120 (as at January 2013).
The airport shuttle buses terminate in Playa del Carmen at the bus terminal at the corner of Quinta Avenida and Avenida Juarez (5th Avenue and Juarez Avenue). If continuing to Chetumal, get a taxi or walk to the other bus terminal (Terminal Alterna) at Avenida 20 and Calle 12. Sometimes the airport shuttle bus stops at Terminal Alterna on the way to the 5th Av. terminal.
Here’s a link to a map of Playa del Carmen showing the location of the two bus terminals:
BELIZEBUS is a very informative blog listing all bus schedules for Belize and much needed information on many other modes of travel within Belize.
Safe and regular bus connections from Guatemala City are another reasonable and exciting way to get to Belize. This option holds special appeal for travelers who want to tour the Petén Region before entering Belize via the Western border, near Benque Viejo del Carmen Town. From there, buses run to San Ignacio, the capital city of Belmopan, and Belize City.
With 175 miles of protected coastline along the North West Caribbean Sea, hundreds of off-shore cayes, and the Belize Barrier Reef, the waters of Belize are a unique treasure in the sailing world of today.
If you have a Garmin GPS, you can download the freely distribute GPS maps of Central America produced by the open source CenRut Project. The maps cover El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Panama. Visit The CenRut Project for more information and to download the map files. Whether or not you use this open source product (if you are sailing or flying in Central America you should defiantly give it a try), the developers would very much like to include any waypoints you may have collected in Belize. Send your waypoints or other feedback by email to David Krause at CenRut.
Private Vessels and Ports of Entry
Those coming on their own boat should have updated and detailed charts and GPS chips that clearly mark the conditions of the reef. Due to the shallow seas in some areas, it is advised that mono-hulls with a keel be equipped with a depth meter.
All boats coming to Belize must check in with the Belize Port Authority. The communications center monitors V.H.F. radio channel 16 and H.F. radio channel 2182 and will direct boats as necessary upon their arrival. There are two Belize Port Authority offices in the country--one in Belize City and one in southern port of Big Creek. Visitors arriving by boat to either Belize City or Big Creek will need to report directly to the Belize Port Authority office, located within close proximity to Immigration and Customs. Those arriving at any other port-of-entry can handle all necessary procedures with the Belize Port Authority through Immigration.
Immigration offices are located throughout the country, allowing for flexibility in planning one's port-of-entry. The following locations serve as ports-of-entry for boats coming to Belize: Belize City, Corozal, San Pedro, Dangriga, Big Creek, and Punta Gorda. It is required that all boats are cleared through immigration, customs, health, and currency upon arrival. To do this, visitors must have clearance from the country that they are coming from, a valid passport, and visitors coming from certain countries will need a visa. To learn more about the policies of customs and immigration in Belize, proceed to: www.customs.gov.bz/traveller_info.html
Fuel and Supplies
Fuel is available at all ports-of-entry. Fuel docks, however, are not accessible at all locations by keelboats. Jerry cans will come in handy when looking to refuel.
An up-to-date cruising guide will be a necessary trip-planning tool for boats coming to Belize. Do not expect to purchase boat parts, equipment or supplies for your sailing vessel. Such items are not readily available. Food and basic provisions, however, can to be found anywhere.
Sailing Conditions and Protected Areas
Clear waters average a comfortable 75° to 84° F while favorable winds blow February through June. During these months the trade winds run at 12 to 20 knots and above, 70 % of the time. Throughout the rest of the year, expect winds around 6 knots. The mean annual temperature of Belize is 80° F.
The country takes great measures to protect its environmental treasures and as such has many designated marine Reserves. While cruising Belizean waters, you should be aware of the location of these areas and that most charge a usage fee.
To maintain sustainable populations of marine life and to protect species that are at risk, the following regulations are strictly enforced:
Conch season is closed July 1 through September 31
Lobster season is closed between February 15 and June 14
No spear fishing is allowed
No turtles are to be captured
The capture of some fish, such as grouper, is allowed only in certain locations
Up-to-date information is available from the Immigration office upon arrival.