Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Consider Living Or Retiring In Belize

Belize beach southern Belize winter
Winter in southern Belize – cool but no snow or ice.

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 in other Latin American or Asian countries. In fact living on a North American or European lifestyle here will cost as much or more. But 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 basic 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 electricity and gasoline are more expensive. Mobile, house telephone and Internet access have been vastly improved. DIGI (Belize Telemedia Ltd.) has of January 2023 Fibre To The Home (FTTH) to about 75% of the population. A 3 in 1 package that includes mobile, mobile data, home phone and Internet access at up to 150 Mbps is available for U.S. $99.99 Belize reasonable and reliable Internet service almost as good as neighbouring Guatemala and Mexico. Its 4G LTE mobile network is one of the fastest in Central America.

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 made from pressure treated lumber, local hardwood or industrial galvalum metal. For about U.S. $20,000. to $30,000. you can get a modest North American design three bedroom cottage pre-wired and complete with plumbing and polished hardwood flooring, transported and set up on your site.

Sample Budget For Expatriates Living In Belize On $1,600. 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: $400. Car expenses: $200. Electricity, cable TV, water, mobile, telephone, and Internet: $400.

Groceries: $400. Health insurance: $50. Entertainment: $100.

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. All official documents, street signs, menus and so on are in English. Our non-empirical studies show that most wealthy immigrants settle in Belize primarily because it is English-speaking. You can get better living conditions and services at a much lower cost in Mexico and Guatemala, but language is often the clincher in the case of Belize.

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, sour sop, 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-spoon Chinese fried chicken, watch TV all day, binge drinking and not exercising. And the cost of medical care is reasonable.

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 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.

Canoe racing Macal River
Canoe racing on the Macal River in western Belize

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 rich flora and fauna of the country. The culture and history of the Maya dates back thousands of years.

Spaniards 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, Lebanese,  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 links the south with Guatemala.

5. The U.S. Dollar Is Accepted Belize Currency

The Belize 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 services or for 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, insurance company, medical doctor, your local grocery or supermarket and of course Belize Attorney At Law, 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 people 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 and so 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 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 practically a five 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 or Police Station, 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.

Just a flight away. The French Riviera sounds lovely to spend the rest of your days, but thinking about the 10-hour flight is already making our legs cramp up. Belize is only a 2 hour flight away from most major airports in North America, with amazing beaches and islands waiting for you.

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. Lawyers in Belize have to go abroad to earn their degree and are not cheap. Like any country, there are many crooked Belize lawyers eager to prey on foreigners. See our list of recommended Belize Attorneys.

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 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

Belize beach girl
The allure of the beaches in Belize is hard to resist.

Prices are going up like everywhere but , you can live on the beach for about one third the cost of doing this in North America. You can buy a beachfront lot in Belize for between U.S. $60,000. to $200,000. and up – 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. Best deals are residential lots three to four streets from the sea. Safer, higher elevation, sea view from your penthouse, and the same pure saltwater prevailing breeze that some medical doctors recommend for staying younger and healthy.

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 of your home in Belize. The professional fee may save you lots of money and time.

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. New in 2023 Belize’s Qualified Retired Person program is being seriously upgraded to model the country into a Permanent Tourist mecca for retirees like the much lauded retiree programs in Panama and Costa Rica. Better yet the program is offering residency via investment features for retirees wanting to open a business in Belize.

You don’t have to wait till you’re 65 or older to retire in Belize. The QRP (Qualified Retirement Person) Program in Belize now requires you to be just 40 years old, so you don’t have to wait until you’re 65. Actually, there are a number of reasons why the QRP program is called one of the best in the world. Taxes. Speaking of how great the QRP program is, all retirees who are accepted into the program are exempt from taxes on all income earned from outside Belize. You can also import personal belongings such as a car, boat and a light aircraft without paying import duties.

lemon crush bikini
Lemon Crush Bikinis

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.