Aviation geeks aside, the majority of travellers look forward to internal flights with the same enthusiasm as a dental trip. It may well be quick, but it’s hardly enjoyable – bland airports, tedious security, the same old aircraft and you can’t see anything of the land or sea you are flying over.
Flying in Belize couldn’t be more different, surely one of the most relaxed enjoyable countries in which to fly internally.
In the first instance, many people are surprised that flying in Belize is even necessary; it is, after all, a very small country. However, roads in the country used to be poor and slow while many visitors are heading to the country’s beautiful islands, typically Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker, which can be reached quicker and more comfortably by air than by sea.
There are 2 airlines in Belize, Tropic Air & Maya Air, and both operate near identical routes and aircraft – nothing bigger than a 14 seater – and would appear to charge pretty much identical fares. What they do do differently, one of the oddities of flying in Belize, is operate their own, exclusive terminals at each of the country’s airports. In many instances, these ‘terminals’ are no more than a glorified shack with, if you’re lucky, some seating, a loo and a vending machine. Changi Airport it is not.
Booking flights on either Tropic Air or Maya Air is very simple; they can be booked through your tour operator, via the airline’s website or once you get to Belize (many local hotels and travel agencies act as agents). Generally speaking, you only need to turn up at the airport 30 minutes before departure, bags are seldom weighed, check-in normally takes 30 seconds and there is no security to worry about.
As the aircraft used are so small, they simply land, unload existing passengers and bags, take on new passengers and head off again. Average turn-around time is probably no more than 5 minutes. I’ve been on more complicated bus trips.
Once in the air, flights barely fly at more than a few thousand feet (well below the clouds generally) so you can clearly see where you are flying. Take your pick of views – unspoiled jungle or the aquamarine sea. Nor do you have to worry about what seat you are in (no seat assignment) as you can easily see out of both windows. If you want a quick flying lesson, no problem, just nab the seat behind the pilot and watch what he does. Who knew flying was so easy?
The most popular routes for tourists flying in Belize are from Belize City to the islands of Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker as well as from Belize City to Placencia and Dangriga on the south coast. Another handy route, especially for those who make the land crossing from Mexico to Belize, is from Corozal to Caye Ambergris and Belize City.