The Placencia peninsula road is now fully paved!!!!. It has cut travel time down by 20 minutes when driving to the Southern Highway. You will never know what you missed and we will never miss it! Essentially now, the only offroad driving occurs on the side roads from the highways, when going to some of the 'land tours' - such as The Jaguar Preserve, and the off-roads to Redbank, Lubantuun, Barton Caves, Caves Branch, etc. These roads are extremely rough, very hard on vehicles - a four-wheel drive is an asset - and may be impassible when it has rained heavily! Also expect large rocks, deep ruts, washouts, and mud.
Driving is generally an adventure. Remember that you drive on the right side of the road - just like in Canada and the USA. On the paved roads, be aware of 'sleeping policemen', large speed bumps that are present in most villages and towns the road passes through. Most are well-marked with signs but occasionally we have gotten caught and gone over one at higher speed! As well, be aware that many bridges, especially on the Hummingbird Highway are single lane. Remember to watch out for oncoming traffic. Right-of-way goes to whoever is there first, but we wouldn't recommend getting into a game of 'chicken' with an on-coming truck! In addition, there are occaisional 'temporary bridges' due to washouts that seem to be more permanent than temporary, in the last few years! As well, be aware that there are always pedestrians on the road, especially in the villages in the late afternoon. The people use the roads as sidewalks and bike-paths and often aren't dressed in brightly colored clothing. Finally, be aware that there are often VERY slow moving tractors and trucks on the roads, and as well, an occasional horse-drawn Mennonite wagon, not unlike the Amish in the States.
As noted above, driving side and rules are generally the same as in North America. However, there are some particular idiosyncracies which require mention. If you are making a left turn, the practice is to pull over to the RIGHT, allow all traffic in both directions to clear, and then make the turn. If you stay in the main lane with your left-turn signal flashing, you will be at fault if someone hits you from behind or the front, for that matter) or tries to pass on your left from behind and hits you as you turn, and several tourists have run into trouble with this unusual (and I would add, ridiculous, rule)! As well, it is generally accepted, that any vehicle that hits a bicycle or pedestrian, is at fault, even if the other person did something stupid. That potentially could also be applied to motorcycles.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are on holidays and should never be in a hurry to get anywhere. Enjoy the fantastic scenery, especially on the Hummingbird Highway, and drive slowly, defensively, and carefully!
Gas is available (reliably) only at 2 places on the peninsula. All are south of us. A service station further north in the village beside M&M Hardware (a Texaco) near the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi stop, and gas is also available at Roberts Grove Marina (on the lagoon side just south of Seine Bight but north of the airstrip). The only place we know to get compressed air to fill a tire is at the Texaco, at THE ROADKILL TIRE SHOP (by the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi). There is also a gas station on the Southern Highway just about a mile south of the Placencia Road traffic circle turnoff. There is also a gas station just north of the turnoff from the Southern Highway to Hummingbird Highway, if you are planning a day trip in that direction. If you are heading farther south for a day trip, there are alos gas stations in Independence Village.
All the major car rental agencies (AVIS, Budget, Thrifty) are available at the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City and can be accessed through their websites. There are also local, private agencies. Placencia airport has a Hertz agency with vehicles for rent. We have never used either as we have generally driven in from Belize City. We have had difficulties with Budget, who force you to buy CDW insurance, even if your credit card covers it! We are currently using Crystal Car Rental as our preferred agency.