Retire in Belize - Part I

Cost of Living * Climate * Infrastructure

How to retire in Belize, the only English speaking country in Central America: learn about cost of living, infrastructure, Internet access and the Belize climate.


Cost of Living

Lan Sluder, probably THE authority on the net when it comes to living, working and retiring in Belize, describes the cost of living in Belize this way:

Belize doesn’t have a cost of living. It has several costs of living.  The traditional view is that Belize is the most expensive country in Central America, yet one of the least expensive in the Caribbean. While there’s truth to that, it really doesn’t take into account that the actual cost of living in Belize can vary from almost nothing to very high. -- Lan Sluder, Belize First Magazine, 2009

When checking prices in Belize, make sure you know if the price is quoted in U.S. dollar or Belize dollar. As one US$ equals two BZ$, this makes quite a difference!*
*All prices on this page are in US$.

Perhaps more than in any other retirement haven, your choice of lifestyle and location determine whether our benchline budget of $1,200 will cover your costs for a month. A couple living in a spacious, American style house on Ambergris Caye, with all mod cons, a golf cart (the main form of transportation on this island) and private health insurance, will need about 3 to 4 times that amount.

But if you rent a simple two bedroom house in Corozal Town or San Ignacio, use public transport, buy local rather than imported food and take advantage of the public health care system, your expenses will be well below $1,200.

Some home appliances are about 25% to 50% more expensive than in the U.S. or Europe. Good thing if you'd qualify for Belize's Retirement Program, as you could import up to $15,000 of household goods duty free.

Climate

The Belize climate is classified as subtropical, which means that - contrary to tropical regions - it does have winter months with slightly cooler average temperatures than during the summer months. November to January are the coolest months with average temperatures around 24°C (75°F), whilst May to September are the warmest, with average temperatures of 27°C (81°F).

Location is a big factor both for temperature and rainfall. Cayo to the west, for example, can be several degrees colder than the coast, and during November night temperatures can fall to 8°C (46°F) - so take your good old sweater when traveling inland!

Much bigger than the differences in temperature are the differences in how much and how often it rains. Generally speaking, the more south you go, the more it rains. The annual rainfall in Belize varies from 127cm (50 inches) in the North to over 400cm (160 inches) in the far South.

Geez, and I thought it rains a lot in Ireland! But even the wettest parts on the "Emerald Isle" can only just level with the dryest parts in Belize.  Still, I'd much rather have a good tropical shower, that is over in one hour, than an all day-long drizzle - which soaks your soal rather than your skin!

Speaking of rain - flooding does frequently occur in the lower areas of Belize. Plus, Belize lies within the hurricane belt. According to the Belize National Meteorological Service, the likelihood of a hurricane hitting Belize in any given year is 17%, compared to 68% in Florida. Since weather records started in 1889, 21 hurricanes have brought more or less devastation to Belize, most of them occurring during the months of September and October.

Infrastructure & Belize Internet

Compared to the U.S., Europe and other Central American countries, Internet services in Belize are - due to the lack of competing providers - expensive. Although 'Belize TeleMedia Limited' (BTL) is by law no longer the monopolist in telecommunications, it kept much of its monopoly status in the market. Only one competitor, Speednet / Smart, currently offers wireless phone and Internet services with good coverage in Belize.

Neither BTL nor Smart display charges for their Internet services on their web sites. According to Lan Sluder's Belize First Magazine, monthly costs for BTL's high-speed DSL services start at $50 for 128k and go up to $250 for a 2MB connection. I've also heard that BTL tends to block voice over IP providers like Skype, making it difficult and expensive to stay in close contact with family and friends back home.

Seems that data highways in Belize are full of potholes and require expensive four weel drives! How about the highways for cars?

Apart from the four major paved two-lane highways and the streets within the bigger cities, all roads in Belize are unpaved, filled with gravel, sand or plain dirt. So be prepared for lots of dust during the dry season and lots of mud during the rainy season. Luckily, both road conditions and signage have improved significantly over the past few years.

Most Belizeans use buses as their main form of transportation, operated by numerous bus lines, some only equipped with a single bus! Fares are inexpensive. For the journey across the country from the Mexican border in the North to Punta Gorda in the far South you'll pay about $20.

Taxis are unmetered, so remember to agree the fare before you get in. Within Belize City, fares are typically between $2.50 and $5.

For destinations within Belize it's much cheaper to fly from Belize City Municipal Airport than from Philip Goldson Int. Airport.

A convenient alternative to driving within Belize would be traveling by plane. There are two domestic Belize airlines: Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. Both serve all major mainland destinations and Cayes in Belize. Tropic Air also offers flights to two destinations in Guatemala.

Although prices are similar its worth comparing, as you might get different discounts for kids and luggage depending on your destination. Maya Island Air's website seems to be undergoing some changes. Several of their links don't work any more. It's also hard to tell if their prizes are shown in US$ or BZ$. Tropic Air clearly states that all prices are in US$.

Retire in Belize - Part II

Retire in Belize: Learn about Education & Schools * Safety  * Real Estate

Belize Retirement - Part III

Retire in Belize: Get the facts about Visa & Benefits * Health Care * Culture & People

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