Belize

My Belize Bus Adventure: San Ignacio to Placencia

Bus from San Ignacio to Belmopan
A typical Belizean bus

Getting around Belize can be quite expensive.  For a 3 hour shuttle ride from San Ignacio to Placencia, we were quoted $200 USD ($400 BZD, but in Belize, expensive items are almost always quoted in US dollars.)  However, the bus can be taken for a small fraction of that and barely takes more time.  We were able to get from San Ignacio to Placencia in 3.5 hours, and it cost $18 BZD, or $9 USD per person.  Not bad for a route that covers half of the country.  While it is 3 separate buses, Belizean buses run often and are more efficient than they may look.  Here’s how you can do it.

How to: San Ignacio to Placencia

Inside the bus going from San Ignacio to Placencia
Interior of a bus in Belize

You’ll have to start by catching a bus to Belmopan.  You can either catch this by waving a Belmopan-bound bus down on the main road or by going to the bus stop in town – all of the locals know where it is.  The San Ignacio to Belmopan route is $4 BZD ($2 USD), leaves every 20-30 minutes, and takes around 50 minutes.  As with all buses in Belize, you pay on board.

Pulling into Belmopan, a place that looks like a small town but is the capital of Belize, we saw a bus with a sign for Dangriga.  We got off the bus as quickly as possible to catch it and got on a minute before departure.  Belmopan to Dangriga costs $7 BZD ($3.50 USD), takes around 1.5 hours, and has some excellent views.   Make sure you tell the fare collector that you are connecting to Placencia, as they will stop before arriving in Dangriga so you can save some time.

Dangriga to Placencia bus
Somewhere near Dangriga, waiting for the third and final bus

We arrived at a random intersection and the guy told us that the bus stop for Placencia was here.  A bunch of people also got off, which was definitely reassuring.  While we waited, buses pulled up every few minutes heading to various parts of Southern Belize such as Punta Gorda.  After 20 minutes or so of waiting along the side of the road (we were told it comes once every 30 minutes), the bus for Placencia arrived.  Dangriga (or really, a random spot on the road near Dangriga) to Placencia costs $7 BZD ($3.50 USD) and is around 75 minutes if you’re going to the Placencia town center.  This bus also bumped some awesome reggae music, which greatly enhanced the experience.

In Belize, similar to some neighboring countries, you can just call out when you want to get off the bus.  We saw our hotel off the side of the road, called it out, and got off.  The whole trip ended up taking 3.5 hours, which was quicker than we expected.  It was just like having the school bus drop you off at your house.  This bus, after all, could have been used to drop kids off from school in the US 20 years ago.

Belize bus: things to know

One of the buses we took
  1. The bus gets most crowded when people are going to and leaving work.  This applies most heavily to buses before 8 AM and after 4 PM, where you might not be guaranteed a seat.  Our first bus left at 8:45 AM and there were plenty of seats.
  2. Big bags go in the way back, although some buses have racks to store your stuff on top.  To be safe, I’d keep all valuables close, although I don’t think theft is common on these buses.
  3. I doubt there’s an AC.  Our bus ride was in January so it wasn’t super hot, but if you’re there in the summer, the bus could be a lot hotter.
  4. It is a converted schoolbus, and the comfort is…..like a schoolbus.  The legroom is decent but not amazing.
  5. You can find bus schedules in Belize here.  The information is from a few years ago, however, and I’m not sure how reliable the schedules are.

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