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Are you looking for somewhere to live or retire that’s a little off the tourist track? Well Belize is a stunningly beautiful country on the east coast of Central America with Caribbean waters to the east and a dense jungle to the west. It may not instantly spring to mind when thinking of retirement or digital nomad destinations, especially in comparison to other countries like Panama and Costa Rica, but this former British colony it’s well worth investigating. Spend enough time researching this central america paradise and you’ll be ready to retire to the tropic air and Caribbean Sea in no time.
Ever imagine yourself relaxing in a hammock, under the thick shadow of a coconut palm, while sipping a cold local Belikin beer, or a pina colada…then Belize offers that last chance for those looking to find a semi-affordable Caribbean paradise retirement.
An enticing retirement destination because it’s cultural, rich in history and an outdoor lover’s delight. Belize has yet to see a myriad of expats and retirees flock to its shores, however, people are beginning to see the benefits of a simpler life. Near perfect weather, English spoken locals, tropic air, almost unbelievably clear waters and reefs and tons of caves, no wonder this is a top destination for retirees.
This small country played a fundamental part in the Maya Empire as a trading point and major urban hub. Today you can feel the maya island air in sites like Cahel Pech and the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins are prime examples of the archaeological legacy of the Maya Empire. After the fall of the Maya Empire, Belize became a base for pirates. Because of the shallow and rocky waters, pirates (who were familiar with the shores) were able to navigate the waters and ambush merchant ships.
From the times of the Maya Empire, Belize has evolved into an attractive tropical destination. Visitors and retirees find the country’s coastline, rainforest, and history fascinatingly seductive. Whether you are exploring the Barrier Reef, beautiful fishing towns like Punta Gorda or some of the country’s 450 cayes, Belize offers sublime sun-kissed beaches and refreshing turquoise waters. Places like Ambergris Caye and Placencia are well-known beach spots but there are a myriad of other destinations that are practically uninhabited. If you are a keen scuba diver or fly fisher, then perhaps retiring to this world-renowned saltwater fly fishing spot and scuba diving paradise will be a no brainer. The Great Blue Hole offers another opportunity to explore one of the best dive sites in the world.
If you’re searching for a relaxed lifestyle, filled with adventure, history, activities and welcoming and friendly and english and spanish spoken locals, Belize is well worth considering.
The Maya island air makes for a very comfortable subtropical climate. Generally speaking, temperatures throughout the country are around 80°F (26°C). This may not sound as warm as expected, but the humidity of around 80% and the tropic air intensifies the heat. If you are staying by the coast, then temperatures feel a lot cooler because of the ocean breeze. Rainy season is between June and November and the dry season from December to May. Usually, the rains present themselves as downpours or thunderstorms in the late afternoon. It’s this tropic air and climate that is the reason much of the country is covered in stunning tropical forest.
Can you already picture yourself strolling around town before heading to the beach for a mid-morning swim? Belize offers a laid-back island style lifestyle that really is unparalleled when considering the cost of living. You will encounter a ton of “SLOW DOWN” signs on the roads, mostly for those who like to ride their little golf carts (yes, many use them as actual transportation) at breakneck speed. However, the phrase slow down can also refer to the lifestyle and local way of life. Belize isn’t like the States, life is about reducing stress, having fun, and being relaxed.
As a retiree choosing to live abroad you will understandably be concerned about safety and security. Now, let this not entirely put you off from moving to Belize, but the country does have one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world! Now I know what you are thinking, “no, no, definitely not”. But there’s more to it than this scary statistic. Most of the crimes that happen are in Belize City and knowing where to go and more importantly where not to go is super important. The City accounts for the majority of the murders and thefts reported in the country, of which most are gang related.
Having your wits about you is really important. Not wearing luxury jewelry or flaunting your belongings is a very good idea. Also taking taxis at night instead of walking is highly advisable. There are still so many incredible places that are safe in Belize, so don’t be put off too much. Caye Caulker is a tiny island with a population of just 1,300 people and is considered to be a safe destination. Back to the mainland areas like Corozal and San Pedro are safer destinations with more expatriates.
For English speakers one of the best things about Belize is there is no language barrier. English is the official language of the nation as the country was a former British colony. You will encounter friendly and welcoming locals that speak creole as their first language, but they will quickly and helpfully switch to English as the vast majority of the population is bilingual with both languages spoken. Spanish is the second most spoken language. Yucatec, Mopan and German dialects are other languages spoken.
Good news! The cost of living in Belize is around 35% lower than that in the U.S. A budget of around $2,000/month for a couple in places like Corozal and San Ignacio guarantees a very comfortable lifestyle. This is why the Qualified Retired Person Program (more on that later) allows you to retire if you can prove you have $24,000 a year. The main way you can keep costs down in Belize is by shopping local. If you utilize “local” and avoid imported products and resources, it is achievable to live a good lifestyle on $1,400 a month. You can find 1 bedroom apartments in the city for around $320 and on the outskirts of cities for around $225.
It’s not just the sun and sea that lures people to Belize, it’s also known as a bit of a tax haven. Foreigners residing in Belize do not have to pay tax on non-Belize income. For residents of Belize, tax is at 25% with exception on the first $14,500. What’s more, for retirees, pension income is also tax exempt.
Let’s talk visas and residency. It’s a very important part of retiring abroad and Belize has a great program to help you make the move. Belize has a Qualified Retired Person Program (QRP). This program creates incentives for those looking to permanently live or retire in the country. Once you see whether you match the criteria you can make your application through the Belize Board of Tourism. Some of the criteria include:
Once you’ve been a permanent resident for at least 5 years you can then apply to become a Belizean citizen.
You’ll be pleased to know that health care in Belize is commensurately well-developed. Whilst hospitals are not to the same standards as those in Europe or America, there are both good public and private options.
Most Belizean residents receive low-cost health care through the public system. Most expats though choose to enjoy the freedom of not having to have health insurance and paying as they go all the doctor visits that are needed that usually cost between $20 to $55. Dental care in Belize is also very satisfactory, and a lot cheaper than the U.S.. English and Spanish are languages spoken by almost all doctors, so no need to teach yourself any creole.
Finding the right area and property in Belize is fundamental for a happy retirement. Many retirees choose to rent for a couple of months first before looking for a permanent property to purchase.
You may be wondering whether it makes economic sense to invest in real estate in Belize? In recent years property prices have increased and developments accelerated. The Belize property market is growing exponentially, with prices inland and in the popular Ambergris Caye rising. Tourism is believed to be the most significant factor in property market changes. Despite price increases, Belize is still considered to be an affordable place to buy property. It’s more affordable than places like Costa Rica or Mexico. If you want to buy undeveloped land this is a really good money saving option.
One of the first things you need to do when looking for real estate in Belize, is hire an attorney. They can ensure that the property has the proper title, and the seller is legit. Though the country is small there really are a ton of different choices in terms of properties. Many opt for a dreamy beach condo and with a long coastline and many cayes there are countless places to rent. You might feel safest in one of the many planned communities. They offer privacy, security, and most are built to North American standards.
The best places to live in Belize really depend on your requirements and the type of lifestyle you want.
If you are searching for a place where you will be with your fellow expats, then Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, the Corozal district, the Cayo region, and Placencia peninsula are all good bets.
If you are staying on Ambergris Caye your daily life will involve walking along the beach, swimming in the sea, riding your bike into town and if you’ve got shopping to do, driving your golf cart. Yes, this is such a sleepy island that people ride around on golf carts! On Sunday’s head to San Pedro, the main town, and you’ll find that the local restaurants set up BBQ’s. It’s a sociable affair, with fun live music and entertainment too. If you are wanting a slow pace of life that’s even more affordable than Ambergris Caye, then Caye Caulker is ideal.
Belize City municipal airport or international airport should be used as your point of entry in the country, but Belize City is best avoided due to crime rate and the abundance of other beautiful destinations.
A two-hour flight from Miami and Cancun, three hours from Dallas, a seven hour flight from New York City, Chicago, Denver and Houston and a nine hour flight from Canada is the trip you need to make. There are daily scheduled flights from many international airports in the US and Canada.
There are several airports in Belize, but most international flights land in Philip Goldson International airport in Belize City. Caye Caulker and Belmopan airports are also popular airports with tourists. Sir Barry Bowen municipal airport is another alternative to Philip Goldson International airport. Guatemala city airport in Guatemala city and the international airport of El Salvador are a short flight from Philip Goldson International airport. You can see a full list of airports in belize – international airport, and belize city municipal airport- here
Simply traveling to Belize for a vacation is a good idea, but can you imagine actually getting to live there? The activities you can partake in whilst living in Belize are vast for such a small country.
One thing you must do when you move here is to visit the caves. These caves are regularly featured in National Geographic and for good reason. With stalagmites and stalactites, glistening waters, and century old Maya pottery, these caves are spectacularly intriguing. Among the most popular are Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave and Barton Creek Cave.
Head to the Cayo District and you’ll be able to discover the pyramid shaped Caracol Maya Ruins. Located in the depths of the Chiquibul Reserve this fascinating historic site symbolizes much of what Belize was built on and is definitely worth the trip.
Belize is a top destination for nature lovers featuring some of the best ecolodges in the world. Home to some lovely waterfalls that are surrounded by dense forest and rich fiona and flora. Big Rock Falls in Mountain Pine Ridge and the Thousand Foot Fall are excellent destinations to visit. Thousand Foot Falls is actually1600 feet tall…perhaps “1600 Foot Falls” doesn’t have the same ring to it!
A top retirement destination in Central America, this central American country is south of Mexico. It’s around the size of New Jersey but packed with a ton of things to see and do and a population of only 400,000 people. It may not be top of everyone’s retirement list but there are a ton of reasons why making a move here could be right for you. Yes, it has to be acknowledged that crime rates are a little scary in Belize City but choosing the best and safest retirement destination isn’t hard if you know where to look. The bad reputation of primarily one city, cannot taint the reputation of the entire country. An exciting, less frequented alternative to places like Panama and Costa Rica.