1. Your Money Goes Further In Belize
Belize is definitely not the cheapest place to live in – a tropical paradise with so many advantages does not come as cheap as other retirement areas such as certain Latin American or Asian countries. In fact living on a North American or European lifestyle here will cost as much or more. But in resident expats here say they live more comfortably than back home. Retirement cheques, stocks and investment income, just appear to go further in Belize.
Services that are significantly more economical in this country include medical care, cable TV, household help, insurance, farm produce, seafood, property taxes, and yes, wine, song and so on. This tropical paradise produces and exports high quality rum made from locally produced molasses and cane sugar. In fact sugar is so cheap it is one of the rare local products smuggled out of the country into the neighboring republics. The other side of the coin is that gasoline, electricity, telephone, mobile phone and Internet access are more expensive. But you can always setup your own satellite dish and enjoy Internet access at near U.S. prices. And new wireless internet access services keep popping up offering reasonable Internet access giving the government owned Belize Telemedia Ltd, a run for its money.
Housing, depending on your taste can be significantly cheap compared to back home. Belize has a thriving Mennonite community that provides many services including pre-fabricated homes out of pressure treated lumber, local hardwood or industrial galvalum metal. For about U.S. $15,000. to $20,000. you can get a modest North American design three bedroom cottage pre-wired and complete with plumbing, transported and set up on your site.
If you prefer to rent, you can get a modest house for US$200-$400 a month, or build a new home for US$50,000 to $250,000. depending on size. Waterfront lots run from US $40,000 to $100,000. depending on location.
If your taste is more upscale Belize has condos on the beach ranging from U.S. $99,000. to the multi-million dollar range.
Sample Budget For Expatriates Living In Belize On $1,500. Or Less
Spending needs are different for most anyone but here is a sample monthly budget in U.S. dollars for a couple living in comfort as expatriates in Belize:
* Rent or mortgage payment: $300. * Car expenses: $250. * Electricity, water, telephone, and Internet: $500.
* Groceries: $300. * Health insurance: $50. * Entertainment: $100.
For more detailed information you can read at your leisure, consider getting our ebook Living In Belize: How To Live, Work or Retire In a Tropical Paradise.
2. You Speak English
If you are North American or from the U.K. there is no need to learn a new language because, as a former British colony, the country is English speaking. Spanish is widely spoken and unofficially it is believed it is the more popular language as Latinos are now the largest single ethnic group in Belize. But most Belizeans are bilingual and many trilingual. All official documents, street signs, menus and so on are in English and most of the media, newspapers, radio and television stations are primarily in English
From the day you first set foot in here you can dine, chat, shop, and ask for directions without having to look up a foreign language app on your laptop or smart phone. For expats with kids, the Belize education system is in English and well regarded.
3. It Is Good For My Health
Its true. Living in Belize can make you feel and look better and actually improve your health. There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally ranging from bananas, oranges, grapefruit, soursop, pineapple, papayas, mangoes, noni, many grains and nuts not to forget fresh coconut water, free range chicken and eggs, natural grass fed beef – the list would fill a farming newsletter. Fresh fruit and unprocessed food are found aplenty in the local shops or at better prices on markets days. Check out our Top Ten Things To Taste In Belize article.
Most towns have special market days – Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday are the most popular. Wide open spaces mean that you can ride the car less and walk more.
You can spend much more time outdoors in the crisp, clean , unpolluted air rather than in an artificial climate-controlled office or residence.
You go home for lunch or take a siesta at mid-day. Arthritis, rheumatism and and other aches and pains seem to melt away. Many folks who move to Belize report feeling better within a couple of weeks, perhaps due to a better diet, sunny clime or less stress. But of course you can easily have an unhealthy lifestyle in Belize — staying indoors, eating greasy Chinese fried chicken which unfortunately is cheap and plentiful, watch TV all day, binge drinking and not exercising.
4. There Are So Many Things To See Or Do In Belize
There are so many things going on in Belize it is very hard to get bored. If you’re bored here, it’s your own fault. The country may be small but its rich diversity of landscapes, cultures and as it is rapidly developing this makes for almost no end of things to do, places to explore, projects to plan and maybe even start a new business.
If you are on a budget, you will find and be able to take advantage of specials that are offered on the off season. For example the two local airlines often offer half price airfare deals for cash only customers and these are often only announced locally.
Belize is a natural wonderland. It is home to thousands of species of trees and flowers, orchids, animals, birds exotic tropical fish and butterflies.
The cultural diversity of Belize is what attracts some many visitors again and again. If you are so inclined you can spend the rest of your life studying and learning the the rich flora and fauna of the country. The culture and history of the Maya dates back thousands of years.
Latinos were the first Europeans to venture into the area and in fact the Father of the Mestizos Gonzalo Guerrero was the first European to make Belize his home. Later immigrants were the Scots, Irish and British, Africans, Garifuna, and more modern immigrants such as the Mennonites, Central Americans Chinese and other Europeans. Every local ethnic group has a colorful history to explore, cuisine to enjoy and cultural events, festivals and fairs to enjoy.
Outdoor activities include the gorgeous beaches and the majestic Barrier Reef, the wide open savannahs and mountains, countless caves – many yet undiscovered, the tropical rainforest, the many rivers and waterfalls, the Maya ruins and of course you can easily hop across the border into Mexico or Guatemala for entirely new horizons and things to do, see and explore.
Travel links to Mexico and Central America, once neglected, have been recently come under attention for development. The Mexican bus company ADO now does twice daily runs between Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula with destinations in Cancun, Tulum and Merida. These first class air conditioned buses are a great alternative to travel deep into southern Mexico for a change of scenery.
In the west, the highway on the Guatemala side is now completely paved and a new bridge is now open. This makes a once bumpy trip to Tikal, Rio Dulce in Guatemala and Guatemala City a more enjoyable journey. In the south, a new highway is under construction to link the south with Guatemala.
5. The U.S. Dollar Is Accepted Belize Currency
The BZ Dollar still bears the image of the Head of State – Queen Elizabeth II. With independence the Belize Dollar has sprouted some indigenous symbols such as various local flora and fauna as well as nationalistic symbols and landmarks. But the U.S. Dollar is accepted everywhere – coins are not.
You can pay for most anything in Belize with your U.S. Dollars except, and we are not making this up, government offices or any government transaction. A government that is perennially short of foreign exchange does not accept U.S. dollars at any government cashier, for e.g. the courts, the post office and so on – that is unless the clerk on duty wants the foreign exchange and accepts it and then pays in the Belize Dollar equivalent out of his or her pocket.
But apart from this, any other business establishment, be it the gas station, your local grocery or supermarket will welcome your U.S. Dollars. The BZ Dollar has been pegged at the rate of two BZ Dollars for One U.S. Dollar for decades. Thus for those who bank in U.S. dollars prices remain stable as the value of the Belize Dollar does not float.
6. You Like Belizeans
As a general rule Belizeans like North Americans and Europeans and folks from all over the world. It is estimated that the equivalent of Belize’s entire population lives in North America. Because Belizeans speak English, hundreds of thousands live in the U.S.A. and Canada. Thus most any Belizean has a relative in North America.
Many Belizeans work and live in the North America then retire back home thus it will not be strange to run into a Belizean who lived and worked in your hometown for a few decades before moving up here just like you! Some locals refer to these returned Belizeans as BelAmers – short for Belizean Americans. Folks here are of fun loving and like to party and celebrate. Belize has fifteen official holidays including the very long Easter Holiday that begins at midday on Holy Thursday and runs through Easter Monday – that’s a four day weekend holiday.
7. I Love Belize Time
Belize is on a different time clock – much more relaxed and easy going. Maybe not the most efficient but the idea is to take it easy. Government offices are supposed to be opened for business at 8 a.m. sharp but apart from the Post Office you will not get much attention until 8:30 – that is the essence of “Belize Time”.
Government workers arrive by public transport at the town of their employment, then wonder around catching breakfast or doing errands before reporting for work. This can be irritating for some used to precision and deadlines but don’t let your pressure go up. Adjust to a slower more leisurely lifestyle. Be prepared for promises the job will be finished by Monday 8 a.m. Belize Time really means the job will be delivered Monday evening if you are lucky or more likely Tuesday morning.
8. I Feel Comfortable With Property Rights
As a former colony of the United Kingdom – Belize law is based on British Common Law – just like the legal systems in the U.S.A. and Canada. Certain countries in Latin America and Europe base their legal systems on the Napoleonic Code, a system difficult for North Americans to grasp. You will not have that problem here.
The country’s legal system is far from perfect and lawyers just like back home are not cheap. Caveat: beware of what you read in publications put out by foreign writers claiming to be Belize experts. Here like in most countries, squatters or the government can take your property – if you abandon it for a while. Squatters who settle unmolested on a property for 20 years can claim the land. And the government can take away your land if you are a scofflaw or forget to pay land tax. But these are rare cases and who would abandon their property for twenty years or fail to pay the ridiculously low property taxes?
Anyone, including foreigners, enjoys the same property rights under the Belize Constitution. And there are no restrictions on foreigners owning land in any part of Belize, and that includes water front properties. In fact one local newspaper did a non-empirical study and believes more than 60 per cent of Belize’s beach front property is owned by foreigners or absentee landlords.
9. I Can Afford To Live On The Beach In Belize
Prices are going up like everywhere but , you can live on the beach for about one third the cost of doing this in North American. You can buy a beach front lot in Belize for between U.S. $30,000. to $100,000. – depending of course on location and access to amenities. Lots one street or two behind the beach front can be had for about half the cost of beach front.
Construction costs for a strong concrete structure capable of withstanding most any storm range from between U.S. $40. to U.S. $80. a square foot – shop around. Your mileage may vary. You may consider using the services of an architect or engineer to supervise construction. The professional fee may save you lots of money and time. We even have a new company that gives you that nice hot mix asphalt driveway you may be accustomed to at your old digs.
A recent article in the AARP – American Association of Retired Persons Magazine – quotes from one of their members: After many visits to Belize, Atlantans Walter and Terri Fisher, 55 and 49, built a “concrete ranch house” with a water view for $125,000, including the lot. “The house was finished in 2007,” Walter reports. “Last year we sold our house in the U.S.A. got off the corporate treadmill, and moved here. I drove down in my truck on my own, and Terri and five cats flew down. We’re completely happy.”
10. I Can Make A Fresh Start In Belize
Or another way to put it, you can reinvent yourself in Belize. Moving to a different country where the first language is English can open up entirely new opportunities for the retiree. Many retirees mingle with the various ex pat communities and find or take inspiration about new things to do. Some retirees return to work part time – mainly self employed.
Retirees here can find many innovative and often rewarding ways to occupy their mind. A recent article in U.S. News and World Report cites the story of Lara Lennon who moved to Belize from Philadelphia in 2006 and developed a luxury swimwear line, Lemon Crush Belize:
“Sitting on a friend’s porch in San Pedro chatting about this and that in our tropical lives, I realized something: There existed nowhere in Belize a place to shop for dress bathing suits, the kind glamorous enough for a beach wedding or special enough for a honeymoon,” Lennon says. Lara’s swimwear is now featured in luxury boutiques in Belize and internationally. Starting a business takes drive and determination, Lara admits, but she has found the experience in Belize rewarding.
The ultimate American retiree Emory King explains why he retired in Belize. “Wide open spaces and opportunity everywhere. Opportunities for employment as real estate agent, accountant, bookkeeper, property or resort manager or assistant manager abound.” If you are Internet literate you can run an online business from the privacy of your home. Many retirees work the stock market and bank their income in U.S. dollar offshore accounts in Belize. Do consult your local accountant or attorney regarding work permits especially if you intend to work in a public establishment such as at a hotel or resort.