Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hints and Tips for Driving in Belize

About a year and a half ago I blogged about what an adventure it is to drive in Belize.

To underscore what it's like on the roads here, I am sharing a recent Facebook post by a fellow expat, Damon Russell, on his hints and tips for what to expect. Take it away Damon...

Having no towing, roadside assistance, or much by way of service stations in Belize, driving a car here requires a slight rethink of what to bring and how to determine if you should or shouldn’t go on. Here’s a few tips:

In addition to a spare tire and jack and lug wrench, I’d suggest you also carry basic tools, a recovery strap to get you out of the drains, a heavy hammer to bang the bent rims back to stop the tires from leaking after potholes. A tire pump is another must-have accessory, as well as bungee cords, zip ties, steel wire, etc. A machete is also a good thing to have. The smaller one works good for the car. If you wander deep in the bush, a chainsaw might be a good idea as well.

If your battery goes dead, a “jump start” in Belize usually involves the helper removing the battery from his car and either turning it upside down over yours while you start your car, OR they’ll remove your battery, install theirs, let you start your car, then switch them back.

If you have a pickup with NOBODY in the back (pan), they’ll look at you funny. Stop and give them a ride. 10-15 people is about the limit for passengers, although at the checkpoints they may balk at 5 to 7, depending on who’s driving, and who’s in the pan.

Seat belts are to be worn at all times, when proceeding through police checkpoints. Put them on at least 100 feet before the policeman and put down your beer, or hand it to the passenger, unless they’re a small child.

If you have a large hole in your windshield, clear shipping tape may be used to reduce wiper wear and rain entry into the vehicle during the rainy season. Otherwise, remove the glass until the first rains come, or if required to renew your registration.

If your wheels are bolted on with 5 lugs, you can break at least three off before you need to concern yourself with getting it repaired.

If you stop for tacos during your travels, do NOT forget to toss the garbage out afterwards. If you don’t, you’ll be infested with ants or TacoCats the next day.

Baygon or Fish [local bug spray] is an acceptable starting fluid for gasoline or diesel engines.

Tires have wear indicators at 2/32” tread depth as required by the USDOT. You’re not in the US, so if the tire holds air, keep going. If the belts are exposed, cut off anything that might stick out and scratch the paint.

If your car has every exterior panel the same color, it’s considered rare and increases resale value. If it also has no broken windows, it’s probably new here in Belize. Give it time to acclimate. It’ll happen soon.

Gauges, speedometers, warning lights, etc. are distractions. Pay no mind to glowing “Check engine”, “ABS”, “SRS/Airbag” warning systems and the like. Nobody cares about that stuff. Pay attention to the road, why are you looking down?

If you brought in a car with navigation and cruise control, that’s cute. If it’s a hybrid, that’s even cuter. We need them here, all we can get. Thanks!

Exterior illumination is a luxury that even government agencies can’t afford. Don’t expect that single red or white light up ahead to be a motorcycle, it’s likely another car.

In the US and Canada, they drive on the right side of the road. In England and much of the EU, they drive on the left. In Belize, we drive on both.

The first time I read this, I literally laughed out loud and almost snorted coffee out my nose. The tips on this list may sound like wild exaggerations, but I'm here to tell ya', they are not, which is why I guess I found the piece so funny. 

Thanks Damon for allowing me to share this and letting our blog readers gain some greater insights to just what kind of driving adventures we have here.

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