Back in early-December, 2005 I got on the internet to check out all the car rental agencies at the Phillip S W Goldson International airport outside Belize City for the three days that we would be free to roam on this segment of our trip. When I visit a country, I like to have a bit of freedom to just drive around and explore at my own pace, so I'm willing to fork out a bit of cash for a rental vehicle if need be. Even 2 months before our arrival, available choices of a small-sized 4WD vehicle were few, but I managed to book a small unlimited mileage Geo Tracker-type vehicle from Thrifty Car Rentals for a hefty 3-day price of US$281, taxes included.
When we turned up at the Thrifty booth outside the main airport building, our lone agent was very helpful and efficient. He did mention that there were no vehicles available in the size I had booked, so we were upgraded to a V6 Honda Passport at no extra cost (except for my fuel bills!). Not knowing the 'lay of the land' in Belize, I decided to take the very reasonable daily insurance as well, raising the total cost to US$323 for three days rental (the most expensive I have ever paid on any of my trips!).
In the end, the Passport worked very well and was quite comfortable to drive. We had virtually no rain during our entire trip and the main highways we used were in excellent condition anyway. In hindsight, we did not actually need a 4WD for what we did, but we also did not venture very far off-the-beaten track in the short amount of time we had. The large rear cargo space did come in handy for holding our combined four large backpacks when we met up with our friends from Caye Caulker! With the cheapest grade of gasoline costing US$4.66 per Imperial gallon (or US$3.91 per smaller US gallon), the 310 miles we put on the vehicle resulted in a total rental cost of US$409 (or US$1.32 per mile travelled). Ouch, thank goodness I don't do that too often!
In the course of our travels in Belize, we drove on parts of all of it's main Highways, including the Northern (Belize City-Mexico), Western (Belize City-Guatemala), Hummingbird (Belmopan-Dangriga) and Southern (Dangriga-Punta Gorda). These were all very good sealed highways with little or no pot-holes to worry about, but the pedestrian crossing speed bumps they use (and can crop up anywhere along the highway) are really effective - no choice but to slow down!! I was also surprised to learn from another traveller that the Southern Highway is now paved all the way to Punta Gorda (we never made it further than Hopkins) because my 2005 handbook did not indicate that.
Traffic was relatively light wherever we drove and the drivers were courteous. I find my mind is more relaxed if I drive with headlights on as is mandatory in Canada - always best to be seen by other drivers! It was quite a pleasure to just cruise along taking in the sights of this beautiful country, especially the Hummingbird Highway as it cut through the lush forests on the edge of the rugged limestone Maya Mountains. This highway also had a few single-lane bridges (second photo) on the ~50 mile stretch between Belmopan and the junction of the Southern Highway, but they were well sign-posted.