“Belize has a lot to offer those seeking a new life abroad. There’s a feeling of opportunity and possibility, of a place being shaped right now…a country where retirees can find a comfortable place or someone with an idea can start a business,” reports InternationalLiving.com editor Jason Holland.
“It’s not as established as some of the other tourist destinations in the region, so there’s still lots of room for new businesses that fill a gap in the market.”
With a population of 330,000, Belize offers plenty of empty, wide-open spaces. Located below Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, this is picture-postcard Caribbean. It’s a country of Maya temples, seaside condos, jungle lodges, and colonial mansions.
The low cost of living means a couple can live well on $2,000 to $3,000 or less a month. Established expat communities make for a ready supply of new friends. It’s English-speaking and with daily flights, it’s easy to get to from North America.
“Add in the genuine, helpful, and friendly local people—from a myriad of backgrounds and cultures and a huge variety of landscapes and lifestyles—from beach-bar hopping on Caribbean beaches to off-the-grid jungle living—and you have an ideal retirement destination,” reports Holland.
Ambergris Caye is the most established of the expat communities in Belize and has experienced tremendous growth in the last 10 years. Foreigners have been coming to Ambergris for decades, both for the world-class scuba diving at the Mesoamerican Reef just offshore, and for the laidback, island lifestyle.
The main settlement, San Pedro, is a bustling town. Plenty of foreigners—tourists and expats—stroll the streets or cruise by on bikes or in golf carts. But there are plenty of locals, too, so it definitely feels like a “real” place, not a sanitized enclave.
Linda Miller, from Sarnia, Ontario, has been in Ambergris for seven years. “I used to go to Florida as a kid, to Clearwater Beach, and I got used to being at the beach or the pool,” she says. “I thought I would like to live like that someday.”
After first visiting Belize in March 2007, Linda was so smitten with the tropical paradise that she moved that November.
“There always seems to be something going on. I visit with friends, we go out to dinner—the food here is great,” says Miller.
In Ambergris, prices are higher because everything has to come over by barge, but there are ways to cut costs.
“I follow the local people around, go where they go, and buy local products,” Miller says. “It’s cheaper for me to live here than in Canada.”
Placencia, a 17-mile narrow peninsula, is located in the far southern region of Belize. Resorts, vacation rentals, homes, and condos line the coast. And there is a lot of new development, much of it driven by the retirement market as well as by part-time residents and the vacation-home crowd.
The popularity of Placencia is reflected in real estate prices. But there are still deals to be had. A three-bedroom home in the Village, a quick walk to the amenities and the beach, lists for $199,000.
“Expats in search of a little piece of land to call their own—for an income-producing or hobby farm—go to the Cayo District, as do those who enjoy the mountains more than the beach. It’s a great place to get off the grid,” says Holland.
The Cayo District is well known for its thick jungle and vast farmlands, as well as for the rolling hills and low-slung peaks of the Maya Mountains.
“For $169,000 you could have 25 acres of land, ready for a farm or just your home, with 1,000 feet of frontage on the Mopan River. On the rental side, there is a two-bedroom cottage in San Ignacio, with mountain and rain-forest views, for $500 a month,” reports Holland.
Set on the far northern border of the country, Corozal is a haven for retirees looking for an affordable place to live, a friendly expat community, and the convenience of being on the mainland. Unlike some other parts of Belize, it’s virtually free of tourists. Unique in the country, Corozal is just down the road from Mexico, making trips for First World shopping and good, close-by medical care easy.
“In general, you can live comfortably in Belize for much less than you’d spend in North America. But the cost of living depends a lot on your lifestyle and location. Imported foods and other products can be pricey. Shop and eat like a local—with a focus on fresh, natural foods from the market—and you’ll cut your costs,” reports Holland.
The full report on living in Belize, including a breakdown of the most popular areas for expats, as well as cost of living and property prices, can be read here: Laidback Belize: Live Well In The Caribbean For Less Than $2,000 a Month.
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