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Planning to rent a car in Belize? Having your own wheels is a great way to explore this Central American country's breathtaking beaches, Mayan ruins and caves. But here are a few things you need to know before heading out on the open road.

 

Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Belize

 

Book from home. Waiting to book your reservation until you're in Belize will not only add more stress to your trip, but you are almost guaranteed to pay more. Most major car rental companies allow free cancellations, so go ahead and book your trip from the U.S. ahead of time. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.

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You do not need an International Driving Permit. Obtaining an International Driving Permit is not necessary in this former British colony where English remains the official language. Your regular driver's license will do just fine.

Prepare for unpaved roads. While Belize does have a few paved highways, it is also full of dirt roads. If you want to check out places like the Caracol Mayan Site or Mystic River Resort, you'll be going off the paved roads.

Choose the right car. Not every car can handle the variety of terrain in Belize. For serious exploration, a 4WD vehicle can be invaluable and give you peace of mind.

Strongly consider opting for the collision waiver. It's possible that your credit card offers collision insurance on rental cars as a benefit. But before you decline the CDW, be sure to read the fine print. Many policies will void insurance on rental cars in certain circumstances, such as driving on unpaved roads.

Liability insurance is included in the rate. Liability insurance is mandatory in Belize, and liability coverage is almost always included in the rental rate.

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Pay for the rental in Belize dollars. You may have the option to pay for the rental in U.S. dollars, but this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.

Inspect the car carefully before you drive away. While it's tempting to head straight for the beach upon picking up your vehicle, make sure to inspect the car extra carefully for any dings, dents or scratches on the surface. Take photos of every inch of the car. Otherwise, you could end up paying for those imperfections if you don't document them before you leave.

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