I've read all the forum postings on transportation, but would like some update on this topic. Everyone I've contacted in Belize says driving there is relatively easy and OK (i.e. safe); even Fodors guide says it's ok. Friends drove in Belize a few years ago and said it was easy. Most postings I've read, however, indicate that people are using shuttles, taxis, or buses for transportation.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, the U.S. State Dept., in its most recent update on Belize (May 5, 2008), cautions travelers about driving in the country. I am concerned about safety - personally for my husband and myself, and the vehicle. The rental company I've contacted (Jabiru, thanks to recommendations on Trip Advisor) says they haven't had problems.
We are going on a Peter Hughes dive trip next June 27-July 4, and then want to spend a week on the mainland, with probably 5 nights (or 4) in the San Ignacio area, and 2 (or 3) in Orange Walk Town (specifically to go to Lamanai). We also want to go to Tikal, but are very leery about driving to Guatemala. (Yes, I know that Crystal is probably the only rental company that allows vehicles to be driven into Guatemala. Perhaps there's a good reason why others don't??)
We're trying to be economical, but also have flexibility. Taking shuttles/taxis to get from the boat dock to San Ignacio to Orange Walk Town to the airport requires hundreds of $$, and then would need to pay for tours too. Most of the tours of course do include transportation, so I've been trying to figure out what's possible to do on our own, and if that's even a good idea. Is it easier then to just leave the vehicle and pay extra for desired activities and tours??
I know ATM requires a tour, but Pacz said it's possible to drive to, say Barton Creek, and then rent a canoe, and a guide. Sounds like a bit of a hassle, though, and then I'd be concerned about the vehicle, and getting to it. Driving to Caracol is another concern, with the security issues.
I so appreciate the reviews on lodging choices too! I've changed my mind several times, based on the reviews I've read. Where we stay is dependent to some extent on if we have our own transportation.
We moderate-budget travelers want to prepare our own meals, and have AC in our accommodations (it will be July after all - hot and sticky!) The choices are therefore limited, but I'm finding that Martha's Inn in San Ignacio and Hotel de la Fuente in Orange Walk Town have units that meet those needs. I'm aware of the issues in SI - the dogs, noise, possible smells, etc., but it appears to be cheaper to stay in town and use Pacz Tours for any tour needs, than to stay out at a lodge (Cahal Pech had been my initial first choice, but, thanks to the reviews here, I changed my mind, and then found Martha's Inn, which has some kitchen facilities.) And due to the fabulous reviews for Hotel de La Fuente in Orange Walk Town, I wonder if it would be better to leave behind San Ignacio after 4 nights and stay 3 days up there in OW.
Any guidance on any of these issues would be most appreciated!