Cheap and Off the Grid in Belize


On a recent visit to Belize’s Cayo District, near the border with Guatemala, I found something interesting happening…

It wasn’t the low prices—I expected those. The Cayo has long been popular with expats for its low cost of living, and it lived up to its reputation. In and around the town of San Ignacio, where most expats live, I saw a number of small homes renting for $400 to $600 a month—a very affordable price if you’re on a budget. A few houses even had sales prices below $100,000—and plenty were $150,000 or less.

No, what interested me was what’s happening outside town….

Outside town, you’ll find real jungle in the Cayo. Not the scrubby, low-to-the-ground stuff you see closer to the Caribbean, but rather the kind I remember from old Tarzan movies as a kid—tall trees, with thick lianas twining up them, and masses of greenery. The Cayo is green and mountainous, tending toward savannas as you head east. Much of it is uninhabited and off the grid.

And that’s what a number of adventurous, North American expats these days are seeking. They’re harking back to their pioneer ancestors and heading for the frontier… the Belizean frontier…to live off the land—and off the grid.

In the Cayo, they’re looking for 15 to 40 acres. In these parts, that’s more than enough for a proper farm to support a family. More “pioneers” have bought land east of the Cayo, along the lush, green Hummingbird Highway that runs east-west across Belize.

Though you may be off the grid out here, you’ll still have amenities close by. San Ignacio, with its gaily-painted buildings, has cute restaurants and a newly-restored town square.

Nearby Santa Elena has supermarkets, hardware stores, and other needs. And Spanish Lookout, just 12 miles from San Ignacio, has a big supermarket and dairy, run by Belize’s industrious Mennonite community. (One incongruous moment to savor: At these stores, you can watch a bonneted young teller, in a long, gingham dress straight out of Pioneer Days, run your purchases past the 21st-century bar-code scanner.) Belmopan, the capital, is also a short hop away.

So if you feel tied down by your current regimented, humdrum life at home and dream of lighting out for the frontier, consider picking up stakes and heading—not West, young man, but South… to Belize.

Wherever you are in the world today, everyone at International Living wishes you and your family a happy and prosperous Thanksgiving.

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