Many people assume it’s a good idea to rent a car in Belize, but in many cases, it’s not that great of an idea. It depends on several factors such as where you intend to go and what you want to do.
I rarely recommend renting a car in Belize and this is for a myriad of reasons. First of all, Belize is a small country, so it will be easy and relatively inexpensive to get to almost all locations in Belize without having to rent a car. Then, once you are there, you will likely be taking organized tours to the ruins, wildlife preserves, etc. and those tours will include transportation. Therefore, the only time you will likely use the car you rented during the week will be to go out to dinner.
So for example, let’s say you plan to fly into Belize City on a Friday, and plan to transfer to the Cayo area for a 5 night stay, and then return to Belize City to fly home on Wednesday. If you rent with Hertz and pick up and drop off at the International Airport, their smallest, least expensive vehicle will be $495 US, including taxes and fees but not including gas, which is currently about $6.00 US per gallon.
If you took a tour for the four days you are there, and spent one half-day walking around town (which you would drive to) and also drove each night to a different restaurant in town, we can safely assume you would use about 25 gallons of gas, costing an additional $150, for a total of $650.
By comparison, if you took cabs everywhere (the most expensive way to go, next to the car rental option) it would cost about $125 each way between Belize City and San Ignacio, and approximately an additional $30 each time you went from your hotel to town and back. For the same hypothetical itinerary listed above, the total would be about $430. If you instead took shuttles or buses at least some of the time, the total would be much less.
There are at least 12 rental car agencies in the country. Most of them only offer pick up and drop off at one place. Basically almost any car rental agency you can think of has a representative. On my last trip to Belize I made a definitive list of the booths at the international airport: Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Alamo, Thrifty, National, Enterprise, A-Class, Tour Belize, Jabiru, Budget, and Crystal.
If you plan to pick up and drop off at the airport, you should use one of these. However, I recommend a local agency because they are walking distance from the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel, where we stay the first and last night of our trip. This Belize car rental agency is called Car One Rental.
Because all of our guests are advised to arrive one day early to avoid missing a flight and therefore missing the shuttle boat to our island, many of our guests wish to rent a car for just a day or possibly two. The location of Car One Rental makes it an ideal way to extend your stay in Belize when you are traveling with us, because if you used the international airport agencies, you would have to return the car to the airport before meeting us.
So, if doing one of our island trips, you would take a cab from the airport to the Biltmore, drop off your stuff either in your reserved room and use the vehicle just for the day, or drop most of your stuff in the Biltmore’s locked closet where it will be safe while you are gone for the night. Then walk one block to the car rental place with your reduced luggage, and drive to an alternate hotel out of town for the night, returning your vehicle the next day in time to check into your room and be on time for our 5:30 pm orientation meeting. One great half day tour you can do on your own is Altun Ha Mayan ruin. Visit our Belize Mayan ruins map to see where it is located. Another option is a one day Belize driving tour that I detail in another blog post, which includes the Community Baboon Sanctuary, the Belize Zoo, and lunch at my favorite restaurant.