Central America

How to Rent A Car in Belize (Without Getting Scammed)

When I started planning our trip to Belize I was surprised to find that there isn’t much advice online about renting a car in Belize without getting ripped off. We planned to go to Caye Caulker for 4 days, where cars are not allowed, so we only needed a car for part of our trip.

After Caye, we planned to go to San Ignacio, where we would need a car to get around to the Hummingbird Highway, the Xunantunich and Caracal ruins, and other points of interest. After way too much research, we decided to rent from Crystal Auto Rental Belize.

Car Rental Scams in Central America

After hearing from a friend that she was bamboozled in Costa Rica when renting a car, I started doing some research. Apparently, it’s common when visiting Central American countries to see an advertisement for a cheap car rental (like $10 a day) and then go there only to discover there’s $60/day worth of fees and extra insurance that wasn’t posted anywhere.

Pro tip: Avoid scams by prepping for your international trip!

Hopefully not you!

Do I Need to Rent a 4×4 or SUV?

For the purposes of this, a 4×4 vehicle is defined as anything with 4-wheel drive (4WD) that can go over steep terrain. Some SUVs have this feature but not all of them!

There are so many speed bumps in Belize that they call them “sleeping policemen”. In addition, there are a ton of dirt roads with steep clearances. We decided to get a 4×4 in Belize since we planned to drive on dirt roads to places like the Caracol ruins.

If you’re just driving around the city, you’re probably okay with a sedan rental. Just make sure you know your plans before you pick a car! Note that 4×4 vehicles are always more expensive.

Caracol Mayan Ruins – 4×4 vehicle needed!

Where in Belize is a 4×4 Required?

From the Crystal Belize website:

When driving in Belize there are only a few places where a 4WD Vehicle is required. Below is the list of places: Caracol Mayan Site (Mountain Pineridge, Cayo District). Mystic River Resort (Mountain Pineridge, Cayo District). Monkey River Resort (Toledo District). Better in Belize (Benque Viejo del Carmen, Cayo District). Toucan House (Cayo District)Martz Farm (Cayo District). HideAway Camp (Cayo District). Casa Santa Maria (Cayo District). Going to any destination on the Hydro Road (Cayo District).

TripAdvisor Forums on renting a car

Car Rental Issues

It seems like the easiest place to rent a car is in Belize City, near the international airport. Knowing that scams were common, I started my car rental search on TripAdvisor to see other travelers’ reviews.

Some common issues I saw:

  • Renting a car online and arriving at an empty or closed car rental facility
  • Renting a car online and then being informed they didn’t have your reservation or car when you arrived
  • Rental car desks closing at odd/early hours such as 5 PM on a weekday
  • Renting a specific car and getting a totally different one instead (For example renting an SUV vs. sedan)

These issues seemed common whether renting from a local Belize chain or an international company like Enterprise. I recommend reading TripAdvisor reviews on your potential car rental company before picking one!

Do I Need Insurance?

Dirt roads in Belize mean that you are likely to get a rock in the windshield at some point. For this reason, I recommend getting the full coverage car insurance, booking it on a credit card which helps travelers like the Southwest card.

Note that most domestic car insurance providers (your current car insurance) do not cover international travel.

Crystal Car Rental

Our Pick in Belize City

After checking out dozens of reviews, we picked Crystal Auto Rental because they seem to be the most trusted in Belize City. Their website isn’t the prettiest, but it gets the job done. You can reserve online or call to get one of 160 cars. A bonus is they loan everyone a free cooler, perfect for those sweaty days at the beach! They have 2 offices – one at the International Airport and one 5 miles away.

Do I Need to Book Ahead of Time?

If you’re going during Belize’s dry/busy/high season (December-May) you will want to book ahead of time. If headed over there during the low/rainy months, you might not need to book it ahead of time.

Note that if you plan to travel to Mexico with the car, you will need a permit from the car insurance company to cross the border.

How to Save Money on Car Rentals

Renting a car in Belize can be as costly as renting in the United States and Canada. Our 4×4 rental costs about $60 a day during high season in 2019. Here are some tips on how to save money:

  • Go during low season – less demand = lower prices. This will save you $10-$40 a week.
  • Only rent a 4×4/4WD car if you REALLY need it. See tips above.
  • Decline the extra insurance – do this at your own risk, of course.
  • Decline extras such as GPS, wi-fi hot spot, surf racks, etc. Expect to pay around $10-$15 a day for each of these.

Have An Un-Belizable Time!

Wherever you decide to rent your car, I hope you have a magical time in Belize and don’t forget to “Go Slow”!

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