Buses are the primary mode of transportation for Belizeans and routes run on regular schedules throughout the country, with most buses stopping to pick up and drop off passengers at most any location along the way. Every bus has a driver and a “conductor” who collects fares and sometimes assists passengers load their baggage which often includes vegetables and chickens destined for the nearest market. On work days buses start runs at 5am and go up to 8pm.
The bus system equipment in Belize is based on derelict American school buses with the most popular brand being the Blue Bird Bus. With a wild system of issuing licenses based on political patronage, there is little organization and structure and bus schedules have a way of shifting by the month.
Your best bet on up to date information is your local taxi driver, and the bus terminals. Belmopan and Belize City are the two largest bus stations in Belize and serve as hubs for western and central destinations respectively. The terminal in Dangriga serves as the hub for all runs in the south including Placencia and Punta Gorda with the Maya villages in between.
There are two types of buses. The regular and the express. The regular is your chicken bus with the most broken down equipment you will find south of the border, Mexican border that is, as Mexican buses are considered luxury buses in Belize. The regular is cheap and makes frequent stops to pick up and let off anyone anywhere on the route. It is the most likely bus to be robbed.
The express bus is the top-of-the-line bus in Belize and is usually an old school bus that has not yet been relegated to the chicken bus fleet. These buses have an Express sign and do not normally stop to pick up passengers on the road. These are favored by employees who commute and need to get to their job spot on time. Service is acceptable and generally reliable and if you are lucky the air conditioning may actually work.
Buses tend to be crowded. The best advice is to arrive an hour before your intended departure. Some buses sell tickets. Most do not. The practice is to arrive early and just get on the bus that is about to leave. After the journey has begun the conductor will start to walk the aisle to collect the fare. If you are stopping between points, tell the conductor, or simply shout Bus Stop as you approach where you want to be let off.
Always keep your luggage on you or within view. Belize buses have little space for luggage. Do not allow anyone to put your luggage away as that may be the last you will ever see of it. Passengers and conductors tend to use the emergency back door to enter and leave the bus, so never ever put your luggage at the back of the bus.