The cost of living in Belize is high on the list of questions immigrants and retirees considering Belize as a retirement home send to us. This is not an easy, one size fits all, type question. Bank on most everything in Belize being about twice as expensive as it is back home in North America or Europe, with the exception of rotgut rum, domestic help, cable TV, bananas, seafood, vegetables and fruits, and beans and tortillas. By offsetting cheap goods and services, versus exorbitantly priced items, the immigrant worker or retiree can learn to survive, thrive and enjoy living in the tropics.
Here is our curated list covering the costs of basic living necessities in Belize. All prices in Belize dollars unless otherwise noted. One U.S. dollar is equivalent to two Belize dollars. This is the accepted Belize currency exchange rate that you will get everywhere in 99% of local business establishments.
Rent: $500. to $1,000. a month This is for a comfortable American or European class standard 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment. This is the price you can expect to pay in population centers that have sizable North American immigrant communities or workers such as Belize City or the City of Belmopan. Costs are roughly 50% cheaper in towns and villages. The costs cited for a gated community with 24 hour armed security guard are higher. Renting in rural areas is roughly 50% cheaper but expect to always be on your guard, have good fences, bad dogs and be home early as criminals are increasingly targeting foreigners in these areas.
Cable TV: $45. There is practically every channel under the sun. HBO, Showtime, Starz, and you do not have to pay to watch major events such as pay per view boxing matches, NFL, NBA finals, World Cup Football, or WWE special events. There is great diversity apart from western media. You can watch most channels from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, English language Russian Television, and way too much channels from the Indian subcontinent and Asia.
Electricity: Electricity will run you .52 cents per KWH. This is outrageous compared to .10 cents in North America and Europe. An itsy bity apartment can get by on under $200. electricity consumption a month. Figure a must-have washer/dryer, LPG stove, 32″ flat screen TV, tablet, 2 fans and a tiny air conditioner. And this is for an employee tenant that spends 12 hours on average every day out of the house. If you are a true retiree and spend more time at home than at work or traveling about the country, double this to a $400. monthly electricity bill.
Water: $60.00 Water is abundant and cheap in Belize, but the government owns the water company and it appears that it pads the system in order to milk it. Two showers a day and three loads of laundry a week and there goes your $60. Poor Belizeans and smart immigrants use water tanks to catch rain water and lower their water bill. The very poor wash their clothes in the nearest creek or river.
Purified water in Belize costs BZ$5.00 per 5 gallon bottle refill. You bring in your empty 5 gallon bottle to the store and exchange it for a full 5 gallon bottle. A half liter bottle of purified water costs BZ$1.00 – handy but terribly expensive. To save money get a bottle cooler dispenser for your home and buy 5 gallon purified water bottles and refill your half or one liter water bottles from there. The cost of a new and empty 5 gallon purified gallon water bottle is BZ $25.
Telephone: Get a flat rate plan Belize Cellular Phone from Belize Telemedia. Yes it is a government owned monopoly but this is as good as you can get. The cheapest Gold Plan for $50. a month gives you a whopping 250 minutes of talk time and a 30 SMS per month. You can also use prepaid credit. It is supposed to be cheap and you only pay for what you use. On paydays, you can double and triple up your credit. But for you to benefit from these plans you need a degree in math. The telephone company has myriad rules and restrictions to make your purchased credit disappear in a jiffy.
Internet: Most people would die without internet. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with family and friends. The cheapest is WiFi at home at $140.00/month which can also be sent to your smart phone for an extra 49.00/month. There are several WIFI providers in Belize and they advertise on TV and radio. The phone companies offer 3G and 4G service which is a tad faster and has country-wide coverage compared to spotty WIFI coverage. But they bill by the byte and are terribly expensive. For more detailed information check out our Internet Access in Belize article.
Food: Figure about $150-$200 a week minimum. This is for people who do not mind cooking and packing lunch to work. All cities, towns and villages in Belize have markets or street side vendors where you can get fruits, veggies and tacos for cheap. The Belize version of fast food consists of an eclectic offering of tacos, garnachas, tamales and other local favorites. Eight bananas for $1.00, that’s U.S. $.50 US. Big avocados for $.50. Pineapples for $1.00. Watermelons for $2.00. The variety is fantastic and going to the market to buy fruits and veggies is a social event. Local eggs (from free range chicken) will cost you $5.00 a dozen. Eggs from the factory farms are $4.00 a dozen. The ready access and low prices for tropical vegetables and fruits is one of the main redeeming factors when considering the cost of living in Belize. Tip: Go to the market day when it is winding down at around 5:30pm and you can drive a hard bargain with vendors who have not sold out their stock.
Labor: Domestic help and the gardener is one of the other few pluses Belize offers. As a Third World country with 45% of the population living in poverty, labor is cheap. Figure $30. to $50. a day depending on location. BZ $3.50 is the minimum hourly labour wage.
Medications: Pharmacies in Belize are not as rigidly regulated as they are in the U.S.A. As a very poor country, many people simply cannot afford to see a private physician or travel for hours on a chicken bus and wait a half-day to see an overworked medical student in a public hospital. Pharmacies are like the old times in the U.S. They serve as a center for basic medical advice, education and provider of medications. All pharmacies are staffed by licensed pharmacists, and in some cases, owned and supervised by a licensed physician as part of his or her medical practice.