Living In Belize As An Expat: The Pros & Cons

Belize offers a mix of benefits, a low cost of living, a tropical climate, friendly locals, make it an attractive destination for expats. What about you?

Picture yourself sipping a cool margarita, the salty sea breeze playing with your hair, and a breathtaking sunset sinking into the Caribbean Sea as your panoramic evening view.

Such idyllic scenes could be your new reality if you choose to retire in Belize.

But like every paradise, Belize has its pros and cons that every potential expat retiree should consider. 

While Belize is undoubtedly beautiful and welcoming, it is a developing country with infrastructure and services that may not always meet the standards you’re accustomed to back home.

This adjustment can be a con for some, but it adds to the charm and adventure of living in Belize for others. 

Throughout this article, we’ll carefully weigh the pros and cons of expat life in Belize, giving you an honest, comprehensive look at what to expect.

So, please pull up a comfy chair, put on your reading glasses, and let’s take a virtual journey through Belize.

The pros of living in Belize

Imagine sipping your morning coffee in the comfort of your tropical garden.

Ah, paradise!

A sunset at the sea reflecting in the water in Belize
Scenic beaches of Placencia in the Stann Creek District of southern Belize

But before we start grinding those coffee beans, let’s take a look at the realities of living in Belize to see if it’s right for you.

We’ll start with the pros:

The lower cost of living

The affordability of Belize is a major draw for expats, especially those on a retirement budget. This is exactly why Belize is featured in our Cheapest Countries To Retire list.

Dining out, grocery shopping, and maintaining a home in Belize can be significantly cheaper compared to the U.S. or U.K.

For instance, a dinner at a nice restaurant might set you back only $15-20. Meanwhile, a week’s worth of groceries could cost as little as $50 for two people. 

Property prices, both for rental and purchase, are also much lower in Belize.

Renting a comfortable, two-bedroom home for under $500 per month is possible. 

And if you’re looking to buy, you might be surprised to find that a beachfront home could be within your reach financially. 

Utility costs, such as electricity and water, can be higher than what you’re used to back home.

However, Belize’s overall reduced cost of living often offsets these expenses. 

Plus, the tropical climate allows for natural, cost-saving measures like air-drying laundry and reducing heater use. 

Remember: While Belize offers a lower cost of living, setting a realistic budget and understanding local prices is crucial.

Doing your homework and getting a clear picture of how far your money will stretch in this tropical haven before making the leap is essential.

Cost of living in Belize 

Expense CategoryCost (BZD)Cost (USD)
Housing (monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center)1,000500
Utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage)200100
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)18090
Transportation (monthly pass)5025
Healthcare (private insurance)300150
Entertainment (dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant once a month)12060
Costs last updated July 2023

Note: The above cost estimates are approximate and may vary depending on lifestyle and specific location within Belize. It’s also important to consider currency exchange rates and fluctuations. As of writing, 1 BZD (Belize Dollar) equals approximately 0.50 USD.

The climate and weather

Belize, located just south of the tropic of Cancer, boasts a climate that could be described as nothing less than a retiree’s dream.

Beautiful buildings coming right up to the water and the boats being mored along the embankment in Belize City

Houses and yachts at Haulover Creek in Belize City

You’re in for a treat with an average temperature cruising at a comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26C). 

The dry season 

Primarily running from February to May, this season is marked by clear blue skies and cool ocean breezes. It’s a great time to explore the stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and ancient Mayan ruins. 

The wet season 

From June to November, expect showers – typically short afternoon bursts followed by welcoming sunshine. This season paints Belize in countless shades of green, providing a breathtaking backdrop for wildlife spotting. 

Do note that while Belize doesn’t experience the harsh winters of the north, it does fall within the Hurricane Belt. Storms can occur, especially during hurricane season, from June to November.

But don’t let this deter you – the country is well-prepared, with efficient alert systems in place. 

So whether you’re a sun-seeker, a wildlife enthusiast, or a cultural explorer, the climate in Belize offers a unique blend of tropical glory that caters to every taste.

After all, there’s a reason why so many expats have chosen to call this place home.

The relaxed lifestyle

The lifestyle in Belize is as relaxed and laid-back as it gets. Here, the focus is on enjoying life, not rushing through it. 

A typical day might involve a leisurely breakfast, a stroll on the beach, or perhaps a dip in the sea. You could while away the afternoons with a good book or indulge in a siesta in a hammock.

And in the evenings, there’s nothing better than enjoying a meal under the stars, with the sound of the waves as your soundtrack. 

The pace of life in Belize is slow, but that’s exactly how the locals and expats like it.

This relaxed rhythm helps create a sense of peace and tranquility that’s hard to find elsewhere.

It’s no wonder that many expats report feeling healthier and happier after moving to Belize. 

However, it’s worth noting that this slow pace can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

While it’s excellent for reducing stress, it can also lead to frustration if you’re used to getting things done quickly.

Things in Belize often operate on ‘island time,’ which means they happen when they happen, not necessarily when they’re scheduled to. 

But, if you can adjust your expectations and embrace the relaxed Belizean lifestyle, you’ll likely find it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of living here.

It’s a reminder that life doesn’t always have to be a race. Sometimes, it’s more about enjoying the journey.

The cons of living in Belize

Every country and destination has its negatives. The secret to a successful retirement is knowing what those negatives are before committing and whether you can live with them.

Let’s dig into the cons of living in Belize.

Less developed infrastructure

Relocating to Belize comes with a taste of rustic living. 

Belize city harbor with boats and yachts
Belize City

While improving, the infrastructure isn’t on par with what you may be accustomed to in the U.S. or U.K. This can present challenges and charming discoveries. 

Transportation is one area where you may face some bumps. The road system is somewhat rudimentary, and public transportation, while inexpensive, is not always reliable.

However, for the adventurous, this provides an opportunity to navigate and discover Belize in its raw beauty. 

Communication services, including internet and mobile networks, may not always be as consistent or as high-speed as back home.

This can prove to be a slight hindrance for those wanting to stay connected to family and friends abroad.

On the bright side, it’s a great excuse to disconnect and indulge in the serene Belizean lifestyle. 

If you’re a stickler for reliable utilities, be prepared for occasional hiccups.

Power outages, although not frequent, do happen. The water supply can also be irregular in certain areas.

However, most expats find these inconveniences minimal compared to the benefits of living in this tropical paradise. 

Despite these challenges, Belize’s government is committed to improving infrastructure, and strides are being made.

If you can embrace the rustic charm of Belize, you’ll discover a life of simplicity and tranquility seldom found elsewhere.

The healthcare system

When discussing healthcare in Belize, it’s a mixed bag.

On one hand, you have affordable services; on the other, you’ll find a less developed system than you’re used to back home. 

For minor health issues, Belize does a commendable job. The larger towns have clinics and hospitals with English-speaking doctors who offer good basic care.

However, for severe or specific conditions, the options can be limited. 

One remarkable upside is the cost.

Medical services in Belize come at a fraction of what they would in the U.S. 

This makes routine check-ups and minor treatments quite manageable for a retiree’s budget. 

But what about quality?

Well, it’s important to set realistic expectations. While doctors and nurses are often well-trained, the country’s medical facilities might not be on par with those in developed nations.

Equipment may be outdated, and not all medicines are always readily available. 

If you have a severe health condition, it’s recommended to maintain your health insurance coverage back home via international health insurance that covers multiple countries.

International health insurance can be quite expensive. To ensure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

For emergencies, expats often choose to seek treatment in neighboring Mexico or even fly back to their home country.

Therefore, it’s crucial to factor in health insurance and potential travel costs into your retirement budget. 

So, is Belize’s healthcare system a pro or a con?

That depends on your personal health needs and financial situation.

If your health is generally good and you’re prepared for the occasional trip for primary medical care, Belize’s low-cost healthcare could be seen as a benefit. But if you frequently need specialized treatment, it might be more of a challenge.

The language barrier (or not)

When it comes to language, Belize offers a unique advantage for English-speaking expats. Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language.

A tropical beach with palms and golden snd in Belize
Caye Caulker Island

This means you won’t need to struggle with a language barrier while settling in. 

However, it’s also worth noting that Belize is a melting pot of cultures. Kriol (Creole), Garifuna, Spanish, Mayan, and even German dialects are widely spoken.

You might hear a mix of languages in daily life, especially in rural areas or local markets. But don’t worry. Most Belizeans are bilingual, and English is widely understood. 

Knowing a bit of Spanish can be helpful, too, particularly if you plan to travel to neighboring countries like Mexico or Guatemala.

It’s an opportunity to embrace the diverse culture, freely explore other popular expat hotspots in South America, and make your life even richer in Belize!

Is Belize a popular retirement destination?

Indeed, Belize is becoming one of the increasingly popular retirement destinations in the world!

The country’s relaxed lifestyle, beautiful beaches, and friendly locals are attracting more retirees from the U.S. and the U.K. every year. 

The attraction of living in a beautiful climate with a much lower cost of living, with English as the primary language, is too much for many potential expat retirees to resist.

The culture & people of Belize

If you’re contemplating retiring in Belize, the first thing to consider is the local culture and people.

Belize is a melting pot of different cultures, including Mestizo, Creole, Maya, and Garifuna, resulting in a rich and diverse way of life that is truly fascinating. 

English is the official language here, a legacy of Belize’s British colonial past, while Spanish is a close second. 

You’ll find most locals are bilingual, often switching seamlessly between English and Spanish or one of the indigenous languages. 

Belizians are known for their warm-hearted and friendly nature. You’ll find it easy to strike up a conversation with the locals, who are always ready to help.

Their laid-back lifestyle is contagious and may make you feel more relaxed right from the day you arrive. 

  • Festivals and celebrations: Belizeans love to celebrate. The calendar has festivities, from the vibrant Carnival in September to the Lobster Fest in June and July. Many of these celebrations highlight the country’s diverse cultural heritage.
  • Food and cuisine: Belize’s cultural diversity shines through in its cuisine. Try the traditional Rice and Beans or the Mayan-influenced Pibil (pork marinated in citrus and achiote, then slow-cooked in banana leaves).
  • Arts and music: Belize has a rich tradition of music and arts, heavily influenced by the Garifuna culture. Punta Rock, a fusion of traditional Punta music with modern influences, is especially popular.

However, it’s important to remember that cultural practices can vary between different parts of Belize.

It’s best to approach your new lifestyle with an open mind and a readiness to adapt. An understanding and appreciation of the local culture can go a long way in making your expat life enjoyable.

Choosing the right place to live in Belize

Choosing the right place to live in Belize can be a delightful adventure.

Colorful bungalows on a sandy tropical beach in Belize
Plage de Placencia in Belize

This enchanting country offers a myriad of options, from charming seaside towns to serene inland retreats.

Let’s explore some of these options together. 

Coastal living 

Expats who fancy the idea of waking up to the sound of waves and the smell of the sea will fall in love with places like Ambergris Caye and Placencia.

These coastal towns offer a laid-back lifestyle, perfect for those seeking peace post-retirement. 

Inland retreats 

For those who prefer the tranquility of the countryside over the bustling beaches, the Cayo District and Belmopan, the capital city of Belize, are excellent choices.

These areas offer lush landscapes, rich biodiversity, and a slower pace of life, ideal for nature lovers. 

City life 

If a more urban lifestyle is more your thing, then Belize City, the country’s largest city, once the capital of former British Honduras, could be the right fit. 

It offers an amalgamation of cultures and a diverse food scene, although it’s worth mentioning that it doesn’t have the polished infrastructure of more developed countries. 

Island living 

For those dreaming of an island paradise, the small islands (or ‘cayes‘) scattered along Belize’s barrier reef might be the perfect fit. 

Life here is relaxed, the beaches are pristine, and the snorkeling is world-class. 

Whatever your preference, Belize offers diverse options to suit every lifestyle.

The key is to visit, explore, and connect with locals and other expats to get an authentic feel for the various locales.

Remember, each area has its own unique set of pros and cons, so take your time to find the perfect spot for you!

Popular expat destinations in Belize

So, you’re considering making Belize your new home?

Let’s dive into some of this tropical paradise’s most popular expat destinations. 

First on the list is San Pedro. This bustling beach town on Ambergris Caye is beloved by expats for its sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lively nightlife.

A haven for those who love the sea, San Pedro offers world-class scuba diving, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Next up is Placencia. This laid-back beach village is a favorite among retirees who appreciate its tranquil setting and slower pace of life.

Placencia truly is a slice of heaven on earth with its lovely beaches, delicious seafood, and friendly community. 

If you’re looking for a more urban vibe, Belize City might just tick your boxes.

As the country’s largest city, it offers a myriad of restaurants, shopping facilities, and cultural attractions.

However, it’s worth noting that urban living in Belize can be a little more challenging due to less developed infrastructure. 

Are you craving nature?

Look no further than Cayo District. This inland region teems with beautiful rainforests, rivers, and Mayan ruins. It’s an adventure-lover’s dream come true. 

Finally, there’s Corozal. Located near the Mexican border, this town offers a cost-effective lifestyle thanks to its lower cost of living.

Plus, with Mexico just a stone’s throw away, expats can easily access amenities that may not be readily available in Belize. 

Each destination in Belize has its unique charm and vibe. Your perfect spot will ultimately depend on your lifestyle, hobbies, and budget. Happy house hunting in Belize!

Housing & real estate

There’s a good variety of housing options, from simple bungalows if you’re seeking a more minimalist lifestyle to luxurious beach villas if you want to retire in style. 

Costs of real estate: Belize, compared to most North American or European countries, offers notably affordable real estate.

You can find a modest house for as low as $50,000 and a beachfront property for under $300,000.

Renting isn’t pricey either, giving you a great opportunity to try living in Belize before fully committing. 

Note: While real estate costs are cheaper, be aware that property taxes and home insurance can add to your monthly expenses. Always do your research! 

Buying property: Here’s some good news – there are no restrictions on foreigners owning property in Belize.

The buying process is straightforward, and property rights are well-established. However, working with a reputable real estate agent and a local attorney is always a smart move to ensure a smooth transaction. 

Before you fall in love with a property, bear in mind the state of infrastructure in Belize.

The country is less developed, meaning roads can be in poor condition and electricity can be unreliable. But with the relaxed lifestyle Belize offers, you might find these are small trade-offs. 

When it comes to housing and real estate in Belize, the overall picture is pretty bright. You can live in a tropical paradise, in a home you love, without breaking the bank.

Safety & security

When we talk about safety in any new place, it’s understandable to have some concerns. Is Belize safe? Well, like most places, it has its ups and downs. 

Pro: low crime rate in expat communities 

In general, expat communities in Belize have a pretty low crime rate. These areas are relatively secure, and residents tend to watch out for each other.

This sense of community and shared responsibility can certainly put your mind at ease. 

Con: higher crime rates elsewhere 

However, it’s important to note that not all areas of Belize can boast this peace of mind.

Some parts of the country, particularly Belize City, have high crime rates. As in any country, it’s crucial to research the safest places to live. 

Pro: responsive tourist police 

Belize understands that tourism is a significant part of their economy, and in response, they have assigned a special unit of police to protect tourists and expats.

These officers are generally very responsive and make a significant effort to maintain safety in Belize. 

Ultimately, your safety in Belize will largely depend on your actions and precautions.

By making smart decisions and staying informed, Belize can be a safe and welcoming place for expats to retire.

Activities & entertainment

If you’re considering making the move to Belize, you’re likely wondering what there is to do for fun.

Well, rest easy.

Belize is a wonderland of activities and entertainment, suited to a range of tastes and lifestyles. 

Outdoor adventures 

For those with a love of the great outdoors, Belize is a dream come true.

Boasting a plethora of stunning natural sites, this tropical paradise provides countless opportunities for exploration and adventure. 

  • Dive into the Great Blue Hole: This world-famous sinkhole is a must-visit for scuba divers and snorkelers.
  • Explore the Mayan Ruins: Belize is home to several well-preserved Mayan sites, offering a glimpse into an ancient civilization.
  • Soar through the Jungle: Adventure seekers can get a bird’s eye view of the jungle with a thrilling zip-line tour.

Cultural experiences 

Beyond the natural wonders, Belize offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. From the diverse local cuisine to the lively festivals, there’s always something to learn and enjoy. 

  • Sample Belizean cuisine: Belizean cuisine is a flavorful blend of various cultures, with dishes like rice and beans, ceviche, and tamales.
  • Attend a local festival: Festivals like the Lobster Fest and the Chocolate Festival are a fun way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
  • Explore art galleries: Belize’s lively arts scene provides a platform for local and international artists alike. Start with Belizian Arts in San Pedro or the small but charming Red Flower Gallery in Belize Caye Caulker. 

Relaxation & leisure 

Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed, Belize has plenty to offer as well. From tranquil beaches to luxury spas, this tropical paradise is the perfect place to wind down. 

  • Relax on the beach: Belize’s stunning coastline presents endless sunbathing, swimming, and beach-combing opportunities.
  • Visit a spa: For ultimate relaxation, indulge in a spa day and enjoy a range of treatments, from massages to facials.
  • Take a cooking class: Embrace the local culture by learning to prepare traditional Belizean dishes at a cooking class.

Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, a culture enthusiast, or simply looking to unwind, Belize has something for every expat retiree. 

Visa & residency

If you plan on making Belize your new home, you’ll probably wonder about the visa and residency process.

Let’s make it less of a puzzle for you. 

Firstly, Belize is expat-friendly when it comes to residency. The country offers a Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program, a golden ticket for those who want to enjoy their retirement in this tropical paradise. 

Under the QRP program, you can live in Belize without any hiccups, provided you’re over 45 and can show a monthly income of $2,000 from a pension or annuity (including Social Security). Not too shabby, right? 

But what if you’re still earning your bread and butter?

Well, then, a standard tourist visa might be your best bet. This visa allows you to stay in Belize for up to 30 days but can be extended for up to a year. 

Just bear in mind working in Belize on a tourist visa is a big no-no.

If you plan to work, you must secure a work permit from the Belize Department of Labor. 

Now, here’s the kicker.

Even though Belize is an English-speaking nation, all the paperwork is often in Spanish, so you might need to brush up on your language skills or hire a translator.

But don’t let this put you off. It’s just part of the Belize charm. 

One more thing to note, residency and citizenship are not the same.

If you want to become a citizen of Belize, you’ll need to reside in the country for five years. Once you achieve this, you can apply for citizenship. 

So, whether you’re set to enjoy retirement on a hammock or hustle in the world of work, Belize offers an approachable path. 

Final thoughts on living in Belize

Living in Belize offers a mix of benefits, such as a lower cost of living, a tropical environment, and friendly locals, making it an attractive destination for retirees.

However, as a developing nation, its infrastructure might not meet some expats’ expectations. 

Healthcare is accessible and affordable, although it may not meet Western standards.

Safety varies by location, so potential retirees should research and visit different areas to evaluate their comfort levels. 

While it’s not suited for everyone, Belize is a hidden gem for those desiring a peaceful, affordable retirement in a stunning tropical location.

Other popular countries in Central America to consider:

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