Friday, February 13, 2009

Belmopan, Belize, Punta Gorda, Belize, and transferring to the Guatemalan coast

Belmopan perhaps symbolizes classic Belize; the smallest capital in the world (population 16,000), it has persons of all ethnicities and races. Admittedly, however, there is not much to do – there is a Central Market for food, two banks with ATMs, and a pretty easily navigated bus station for transferring to all destinations Belize. I was unable to discern the exact schedule, but it looked like destinations south departed every 1 ½ hours, with 1:30 PM being a departure time.

Punta Gorda can be reached 5 hours later on a modified chicken bus. On James Bus Lines, the local bus cost BZ$19 for the trip. The trip takes one through orange groves, national parks, and relaxed costal towns. The bus is fascinating in itself for the ethnic diversity one finds – Garifuna, Chinese, German Memmonite, Indian, Creole, Europeans, Mayans, and Ladinos to name a few. The town of Punta Gorda itself does not feature many attractions (nor a very pretty beach), but is a good place to see the melting pot of Belize.

Punta Gorda is also good for transferring to Livingston, Guatemala and Puerto Barritos, Guatemala. However, the schedule is notoriously difficult to find. As of January 2009, there are definite daily departures operated by Belizean boats for Puerto Barritos at 9:30AM and 2PM; arrive 30 minutes earlier to buy the ticket at the customs dock. Livingston departs at 2PM, but if there are five or more passengers the captain will make a stop at Livingston on the 9:30AM boat. It costs between BZ$35 to BZ$50 depending on the amount of people in your group; the boat drivers have a bit of a cartel. There may also be departures from Guatemalan-owned Transportes El Chato and Belizean-owned Requena’s Charter Services but I am unsure of the schedule. Like all travel in C. America, take it for granted that the schedule is flexible and put in time in your schedule, keeping in mind hotels in Punta Gorda can be expensive (upwards of BZ$36/room). Pay a BZ$7.50 fee upon exit to customs.

Stew beans and rice with chicken - a cheap Belizean staple (BZ$5)

Sunday Market in Punta Gorda, worth a visit

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