Belize overland travel guide

Though Belize is geographically part of Central America, being there feels more like being in the Caribbean than Latin America. Yet it’s easy to overland there from neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala, or (if you’re feeling brave) there are speedboats for Honduras:

How to travel to, from, and around Belize overland

Beach sunset in Belize

Caye Caulker

There aren’t any train services in Belize, so overland travel is by road and sea. Buses run between Belize City and towns across the northern border in Mexico, and water taxis run between Caye Caulker & Ambergris Caye and the Mexican border town of Chetumal.

For the western border with Guatemala, buses run between Belize City and Flores. The southern border with Guatemala isn’t crossed by road, but there are boats between Punta Gorda (Belize) and Puerto Barrios & Livingston (Guatemala).

For getting around within Belize, there are public buses between all the towns, and water taxis from Belize City to the cayes.

Boats to Honduras

You can also cross directly to Honduras by boat from southern Belize, skipping Guatemala. This is useful if you’ve already been to Guatemala and Mexico, though it’s definitely a bit of an adventure (think small and very fast boats blasting through tropical storms in the open water of the Caribbean – it’s a pretty mental way to cross a border!) and you can’t make it to the Bay Islands in the same day.

Calm seas in the morning before the boat crossing to Honduras

Early morning; calm sea, stormy sky

Flying from Belize City is definitely easier, but for overlanders the route is a bus to Dangriga or Placencia, overnight (or longer, to explore southern Belize) there, and then a morning boat departure to the Honduran port of Puerta Cortes. From there it’s a bus (or shared taxi) to San Pedro Sula, and another bus from SPS to La Ceiba. SPS and La Ceiba are both rough towns, but SPS has the highest murder rate in the world (the pizza place we went to there had two armed guards) and it’s definitely better to push on to La Ceiba even if you don’t feel like another five hours on a bus. From there, you can take the morning ferry to Utila or Roatan.

Wind-blasted hair on arrival in Honduras

Wind-blasted hair on arrival in Honduras

In our case we boarded the boat in Dangriga, which was good as we had it all to ourselves for the initial ride down the coast to Placencia, a pleasant start on a sheet-of-glass sea. The boat completely filled with passengers in Placencia, but we had the best seats in the house on the bench just in front of the captain. Everyone else was jammed down in the floor of the boat, and when the heavens opened they were covered up under a blue tarp; must have been pretty unpleasant sweating away under the tarp and feeling the boat smashing around in the waves and not being able to see out! I was glad to be sat on a bench with a backrest, tarp covering my body but able to peak out over the top and see the crazy shit we were driving through and feel the wind blasting over my face. It was nuts, but I don’t usually get seasick and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Belizean immigration officials boarded the boat after we left Placencia to stamp everyone out; upon arrival in Puerto Cortes we weren’t checked or stamped in immediately and had to actually go ourselves to the immigration office some distance from the port (cue lots of nonsense with taxi drivers insisting there was no bus so they would have to take us to SPS directly from immigration, etc. Those of us who took the bus actually got there faster, for a fraction of the price). It seems this has since been changed, with immigration now being done at the port itself – this is good as it means less messing around and you can get to La Ceiba faster.

In the other direction, you’ll need to be in Puerto Cortes around 9 in the morning for check-in, so you’d need to leave the Bay Islands the day before and spend the night in SPS (leave on the first ferry to arrive in SPS good and early – it’s sketchy at night) or in Puerto Cortes itself.

The schedules for the Belize – Honduras boats are hard to pin down and subject to change so check locally for exact departure points and times.

Things to do in Belize

Take it easy!

Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye; chill out, dine on lobster and sip on rum, listen to the tapping of the crabs running across the corrugated iron roofs, and try to follow the creole as you listen along to an amusing story about this guy’s friend crashing his golf buggy into the steps over there.

Do some diving or snorkelling – coral reefs are found all along the Belizean coast, and the Blue Hole is a world famous dive site.

Whale sharks; if you visit Belize from March to June, you can dive or snorkel with whale sharks near Placencia (we were there at the wrong time unfortunately, but I did once swim with these amazing creatures in the Philippines)

Explore the jungles and Mayan ruins of the interior (we didn’t… too busy taking it easy!)

Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Belize

Flexible travel insurance from World Nomads, especially useful if you’re already overseas (this can be a crucial point, as I once found out the hard way in Bangkok). If you’re planning on doing some diving, check out their scuba cover.

Lonely Planet: Central America on a Shoestring

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