Belize: English-speaking Caribbean With a Tiny Price Tag
From its Caribbean shores to its jungle interior, Belize has great natural beauty—blue water, deserted beaches, and inland retreats where you can explore Maya ruins, tall waterfalls, rainforests, and rivers.
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- Capital City: Belmopan
- Population: 334,297 (July 2013 est.)
- Climate: Tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
- Time Zone: GMT 6
- Language: English, Spanish, Creole, Mayan dialects
- Country Code: 501
- Coastline: 386km
I discovered the potential of ecommerce 14 years ago when I started my online maternity store…from my kitchen table. At the time, I was searching for a business that offered me the freedom to work from anywhere and the flexibility I needed to care for my young children after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I found it in ecommerce. In its first month, my first site brought in $7,000. I was ecstatic. And it grew from there. I turned my online business into a multi-million-dollar business in a short amount of time.
A relatively small town (about 10,000 people) set on a grid, Corozal is mostly a collection of small shops, restaurants, and simple homes. But this is a bustling burg, with walkways and parks lining the vast, turquoise Corozal Bay. The bay gives it that Caribbean feel. Locals lounge in the shade of the town square, and in the small farmers’ market you’ll find oranges, potatoes, carrots, and succulent mangoes. You can walk away with a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables, plus dry goods and any imported must-haves available at local grocery stores, for under $50.
Unlike the more popular beach towns in Belize, Punta Gorda—in the Toledo District—is seldom crawling with tourists. And you’ll find few expats in Punta Gorda, compared to towns like Corozal, San Pedro, Placencia or San Ignacio. Upon visiting earlier this year, I learned that a growing number of expats are visiting and trying out the region to see if it’s a fit for them.
In the 2014 Fast-Track Your Retirement Overseas Package we’ll introduce you to more than a dozen beautiful places in the world where you can live a caviar lifestyle on a hot dog budget.
Perhaps you long for your own cottage on a quiet beach… a grand apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and cafes… a mountain villa where the air is crisp… or even your own vineyard amid gently rolling hills…
Corozal, on the northern edge of Belize, might just be the perfect retirement destination. It’s certainly captured the hearts of the 1,000 or so North American expats who call it home.
When Anke and David Doehm, both 53, were looking for a place to open their clothing boutique, they had a few requirements. It had to be in a spot with good tourist traffic, be a safe location, and be a nice place for their four kids to grow up. And as residents of Hawaii for seven years, they figured a beachside location wouldn’t hurt, either.
The spread of the British Empire through trade, colonization, and conquest brought the English language to far-flung corners of the globe. But even as that empire declined and shrank, the language was left behind. And with English becoming the language of business and diplomacy, that influence is in no danger of going away.
It’s been over 30 years since my first Caribbean vacation. I spent an unforgettable week in the Virgin Islands at a posh resort on a tranquil bay. Back home in the U.S. I often revisited my memories of that trip, fantasizing about what it would be like to live on the Caribbean Sea.
Every visit I make to the Toledo region of Belize brings unexpected discoveries. Some folks call it the country’s “forgotten district,” and it’s true that Toledo is a bit of an enigma. On the surface it appears peaceful and serene. But look closer and you’ll find a contrasting alter ego. This Toledo is wild, untamed, enticing…
Belize is well-known for its aquamarine Caribbean waters, Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, idyllic cayes and miles of coastland. But not all expats opt for a coastal lifestyle. An increasing number have been captivated by the Cayo District’s charms. They’re drawn to the verdant broadleaf jungles…lush Maya Mountains…meandering rivers…and mystical Mayan ruins… Some come to stake out a piece of fertile land… Others yearn to live off the grid…
Rounding a bend in the road, you catch your first glimpse of the bay of Honduras. The stunning silhouette of Guatemala’s mountains to the south provides the perfect backdrop as the light scatters off the sparkling Caribbean water. The skies are a cloudless blue and a series of houses painted different colors, here white, there yellow, another green—and all with neatly-groomed yards—greets you along the coast road into the town of Punta Gorda.
Imagine making money online, doing what you love to do, in your spare time. That’s exactly what I am doing now. I take photographs of everyday things while on vacation. I upload them to a stock agency and advertisers, graphic artists, and other people buy them. Some of my photos are selling repeatedly on a stock agency that I work with…like the ones I took of a few tropical drinks we were about to start sipping while watching the sun set upon the Caribbean Sea in Belize.
“Plenty of everyday people are choosing to live on the water full-time—in their retirement,” says InternationalLiving.com editor Jason Holland, author of the publication’s new report. “After a bit of training and hands-on experience at home, they’re tying up beside mega-yachts in the Mediterranean, finding large floating communities of like-minded expat sailors in the Caribbean, and island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand, heading wherever their fancy takes them.”
My husband and I just returned from a trip back to the USA, to spend quality time with our family. After such a trip it’s natural to reflect upon why we relish our lifestyle in Belize…and there are many good reasons. We first visited Belize in 1999; almost a decade later, in 2008, I moved permanently to Ambergris Caye.
If you’ve ever yearned for your own Indiana Jones-style adventure, be sure to add Belize’s most infamous cave to your bucket list. ATM—full name Actun Tunichil Muknal—is your ticket to the ancient Maya underworld, or Xibalba. Also known as the “cave of the stone sepulcher,” it’s near san Ignacio in the Cayo District, and it’s where the Mayas of old performed their sacred rituals long before Europeans came.
We’re both 50 years old, we live on a Caribbean island, and we love running our restaurant,” says Jackie Feldman, who—along with her husband, Adam— moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, three years ago. “We have great friends and our family regularly visits to share our experiences. Isn’t that what so many folks dream about?”
As luck would have it, Judy’s sister and her family had moved to Ambergris Caye before “Temptation Island” put it on the map… Judy notes, “We chose San Pedro because we had been visiting my sister and her husband since they moved to Belize about 23 years ago. We fell in love with the island through those many visits.”
Chicago natives Brad and Christine Schofield have always loved the beach and the water. As their children were growing up, family vacations always seemed to be centered on the sand and sea. As time marched on, their dream to own an inn on the beach headed toward reality. Brad (56) was a manager in the restaurant industry, and most recently general manager of a Chicago environmental company that processes waste cooking oil for the restaurant and hotel industries. Chris (53) owned her own interior design and room renovation business.
From bond trading in New York to running a bar in Belize, Rebecca Coutant made the overseas move. But it was only when she started blogging that she found something she really loved…and now it’s her income as well as her passion. “Five years ago if someone had suggested that I’d be a professional blogger, I would have laughed,” says Rebecca. “I wasn’t much of a writer or photographer. I just look at it as sharing my experiences with friends. That’s always fun. And now I love the freedom of being self-employed.”
Before moving to Belize, the Cordts lived quite a different lifestyle in New York and New Jersey. They owned several successful clothing boutiques in New York and were involved in the local Greenwich Village scene. Their historic home, in nearby New Jersey, was a 15-minute commute from work. They were engrossed in the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan lifestyle, surrounded by 9 million others.
If you like easy-going people…a chilled environment…a warm climate…and an income of up to $5,000 a month, then owning a beach bar might be just the lifestyle career for you. After all, if your customers are predominantly tourists, they are at their most relaxed and happy when they come into your place. And the profits from serving them can be considerable.
There are few things that can motivate me to rise before the sun. But on a calm, hazy April morning I arrived at Garbutt Marine’s dock before 6 a.m., as the sun was rising… I was joining a ReefCI day trip to the Sapodilla Cayes, in search of Belize’s most beautiful beach. The other participants had fishing on their minds…
Atlantic beach towns that take you back in time…a foodie’s paradise in Southeast Asia where dim sum stalls beckon…an arts-rich bohemian haven in South America full of cafés and concerts… All over the planet you’ll find hidden gems like these—spots that rarely, if ever, earn even a passing mention in the popular press. It’s not surprising. Almost no publications bother to keep outposts abroad anymore. The quality and scope of international news coverage—and our understanding of and empathy for the world—has suffered for it.
Two years ago Duane and Judy Allen moved full-time from Tampa, Florida, to Ambergris Caye, Belize. “I always wanted to live right on the beach, but not in a condo,” says Duane. “I wanted a home, and space around me to roam. For years I scoured Florida’s coasts, looking for an affordable property. But everything was out of reach.”
Belize is a small country, with only 330,000+ residents. Ninety percent of businesses here are small or microbusinesses, making it a good place for an overseas venture. I’ve lived here full-time for six years now, and I know expats running all types of businesses. It’s surprisingly easy. For example, Frik De Meyere, owner of Belize Wind Energy and a real estate agent with Mannsfeld and Associates, says he spent 80% of his time on paperwork back in Europe. But in Belize, paperwork only takes 10% of his time.
You’ve just weighed anchor on another night of bliss, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of your sailboat in the calm sea. Before you is a small cove lined by craggy cliffs. Clear blue waters end at a white-sand beach. You’ve had it all to yourself for the last week. It was supposed to be just an overnight stop. But it was so beautiful, you decided to stick around. After a quick dip, you’re enjoying a cup of coffee and a light breakfast on deck as you contemplate which island paradise you’ll go to next.
Once you stroll Belize’s unspoiled beaches and explore the flora and fauna of its rainforests, you may become afflicted with what’s known as the “Belize Factor.” Simply put: you find that once you return home, you have an uncontrollable compulsion to return. Time and again …Perhaps even to stay.
The attributes of a life of ease in Belize have been well documented: beautiful warm weather, friendly people who speak English, and lovely sand beaches with the Caribbean Sea lapping at the shoreline. Those are just some of the reasons my wife Char and I are considering Belize as our retirement destination.
Nadege Thomas lived in Toronto, Canada for 22 years where she was a successful financial planner. But as the pressures on her sector mounted and the cold weather wore her down, she began to yearn for an easy life in a balmy, tropical environment. “After 22 Canadian winters, I had had enough of the cold and was looking for a warm place,” she says.
Ann Kuffner first started dreaming of living in Belize full-time when she was in her 20s…but it wasn’t until six years ago, at the age of 57, that she finally left behind the corporate life in the U.S. to enjoy all that the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye has to offer.
In the popular imagination, it’s the great capitals of Europe that get the most attention. Tourists flock to Paris, Rome, Madrid, and London for the big-city flair, museums, and monuments. It’s the thing to do. And granted, you should seize any opportunity to stroll the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful spring evening or explore London’s international cuisine and regal parks.
Meeting people is often as simple as taking a trip into town. Ambergris Caye is an active community. People get involved, and they enjoy the outdoors. Any day of the week you’ll run into people walking or running on the beach, riding their bikes into town—to run errands, work in their businesses, donate time at the Saga Humane Society, or meet friends at a favorite hotspot for lunch…
If you’re planning your first trip to Belize, here’s a list of the top 10 activities you should consider. 1. Experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. To truly experience Belize you must see the reef. If you’re not a water person you don’t need to get into, or onto, the sea to appreciate the reef’s beauty. Just hop a local flight to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.
Those of us who live on Ambergris Caye in Belize head to the north island for our beach escape days… We frequent the hidden gems few tourists find–even though it’s fairly easy to reach them. Just hop on a Coastal Express water taxi. The boat trip itself is a thrill…and you’ll get an entirely different view of the island from the water. Water taxis run about every two hours.
In exchange for looking after the house, garden, pets, and pool, my husband Michael and I have saved around $24,000 in accommodation costs. Whether you want a dream vacation or to sample a retirement destination, the trick to being successful is to stand out from the crowd. Competition is fierce, with many homeowners receiving 20 to 60 responses to their “housesitter needed” advertisements. Here’s how you can join this group of savvy travelers and score the best housesitting gigs around the world.
Nadege Thomas lived in Toronto, Canada for 22 years. She was a successful financial planner whose business was thriving in the 1980s and 1990s. But things began to change. “I didn’t like the direction the financial planning business was taking,” she says. “Overnight people expected 125% returns.”
Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula. Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats… Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms.
The Santa Catalina arch is one of the most famous landmarks of Antigua, Guatemala. And for a compact town of 40,000 people, there are a lot of them. Antigua was once the capital of Spanish Central America, and its cobbled streets are lined with the grand mansions and ornate churches of the colonial golden age.
Do you want to travel and sample different retirement lifestyles, but have a limited budget? Housesitting may be your answer. Our first housesit was 20 months ago. Since then we have lived rent-free in Tuscan farmhouses, French vineyards, Spanish casitas, English heritage homes, luxury Costa Rican villas, and a jungle retreat in Belize.
Belize is well-known for its famous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. For decades adventurous scuba divers and anglers have vacationed in Belize, in pursuit of their favorite marine sports. But this tiny country also has some fine beaches. But they aren’t always obvious to the first-time tourist. Fortunately, the majority of Belize’s beaches are public and accessible. The 60-foot strip of beachfront adjoining the Caribbean Sea is usually public property.