These days most people have heard of Belize. They’ve seen the TV ads and online videos of its gorgeous offshore islands, lush inland jungles, and ancient Mayan archaeological ruins. But when someone starts to plan their first trip to Belize they often ask, “Where is it?”
When Tracy Ginger first visited Belize on vacation in 2015, she knew that she’d found her new home. She had grown tired of the seemingly never-ending Canadian winters and the hectic pace of city life. The laidback island vibe of Ambergris Caye—the largest of the islands off the coast of mainland Belize—was the perfect remedy.
"I really like the people of Belize," says Ginny Ophof, who started visiting Belize after her mother moved to the Cayo District in 1977. "They have innate wisdom and empathy. They are tolerant and calm. Americans are better educated. But there's a lot they can learn from Belizeans." In 2007, Ginny moved to the Cayo, determined to spend quality time with her aging mom, who had just turned 85.
People often ask why I chose Placencia, Belize, to live and work, instead of all the other places in the Caribbean and Central America. When you first start to look at all the options, it can be overwhelming to find the right fit for you, or even to know how to start looking.
For years, I dreamed about moving overseas to a tropical climate. I was drawn to the Caribbean beaches of Mexico, Panama, and Brazil...but every time I read an article about Belize, something inside me lit up. It reminded me of my childhood in south Florida. I imagined myself swinging idly in a hammock and taking long walks along the shore.
David Diffendal is one of the many expats who came to the tropical peninsula of Placencia, Belize as a vacationer...but quickly recognized the business opportunities and quality of life on offer here...and stayed. "When I visited Placencia in 2014, I saw that there was a wealth of upscale restaurants, activities, and excursions in the village," says David.
I’ve lived on Ambergris Caye in Belize for nearly nine years, but have never tired of watching the Caribbean’s powerful waves crash on the offshore barrier reef, creating a continuous fanfare of exploding sea spray. After their tumultuous encounter with the reef line, the waves flow serenely towards the shoreline and eventually roll onto the soft sand beach.
My husband, Marcos, and I moved to the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize four years ago with considerable knowledge of the country since we had made 12 trips here and were able to watch the country grow and change. Even so, being a tourist is quite different to actually living and working in a foreign country…we’ve learned many things since our arrival.
Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. The government’s expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered this growth. Exploration efforts have continued and production has increased a small amount.
With only about 330,000 residents in Belize it’s not hard to believe that 90% of businesses here are small or microbusinesses, making it a good place for an overseas venture. Expats are running all types of businesses here and making a living.