Now that you know what the weather’s like in Belize, you’re probably wondering whether or not you can afford to live there.
So let's look at the cost of living in Belize. As always, we'll attempt to answer the question “can I make it work on US$1,300/month or less?”
There are some pretty fancy homes, restaurants, hotels and stores in places like Ambergris Caye and the town of San Pedro.
That doesn’t mean the prices are outrageous; in fact Belize has worked hard to prevent the "Cancunization" of the Island. It is very laid back and relaxed. Nevertheless, you’d be hard pressed to get by on $1,300/month.
Speaking of Ambergris Caye, that spit of land’s end is the terminal portion of the peninsula extending from the Mexican province of Quintana Roo.
The Belizean part of the peninsula became an island when the Maya dug a channel at the north end to help protect themselves. The consequence of this action is that it’s now part of Belize!
But be not feint of heart; there’s lots of places that are just a beautiful, just as pleasant and less expensive than Ambergris Caye. On the mainland, close to the border of Mexico, for example, is the town of Corozal, along with towns like Little Belize and Progresso.
Although you may like a city with more hustle and bustle such as Belize City, it’s probably going to cost more than our target budget. While things like restaurants and internet are less expensive than in Corozal, the cost for rent is three times as much!
Reports are that 3 bedroom apartments in town command rents of $1,000 per month compared to $300 per month if out of town. $200 - $300 is the range I would use for a house or apartment in the country or in smaller towns.
According to Numbeo, the median monthly income in Belize City is around $2,600 while it’s only $995 in Corozal. This factor becomes a pretty good indicator of prices no matter where you are in the world, by the way. The more disposable income people have, the more they spend.
The Belizean dollar is worth about 50 cents U.S. as a rule of thumb. While many businesses catering to potentially international clientele (like expats) will post goods with a dollar sign before and BZ after, if you’re in a local store you’ll just see the $ sign.
Just because Belize is relatively close and English is widely spoken doesn’t mean the basic rules of economics are any different when it comes to food costs!
If it’s imported, it’s going to be expensive compared to what you might pay at home. If it’s processed, then chances are it’s imported (see rule #1 !!). If your lifestyle works around macaroni and cheese or Fruit Loops then you’ll likely spend more than you did at home.
Often people take shopping trips to Chetumal, Mexico for bargains on all sorts of things, from small appliances to canned or processed food. Chetumal has a population higher than all of Belize!
Guatemala is another destination for shoppers and tourists alike, where most goods are 25% cheaper than in Belize. A note of caution...don’t try to bring the excellent beer back to Belize...it is prohibited. Instead most visitors do their shopping and then drink their fill before returning to Belize!
Local markets will provide you with fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy products and locally produced handicrafts at the best prices attainable. Below are some food prices.
As you get to know the vendors they will select the best for you when you visit. The relative cost of food is quite low compared to the U.S. but there are variables depending on the commodity and location. Milk, for example, is expensive everywhere in Belize.
Restaurants are reported to be much cheaper in Belize City than in Corozal or Punta Gorda, for example. The price of a dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant averages about $10 in Belize City but $15 - $25 in smaller centers.
Wine is about $10 a bottle wherever you are, and beer from $1.75 to $2.25.
Domestic help will cost about $20 per day for an 8 hour day with lunch provided. As you may have guessed by the average income data mentioned earlier, wages are rather low in Belize.
Perhaps more than in any other retirement haven, your choice of lifestyle and location determine whether our bench line budget of $1,300 will cover your costs for a month.
A couple living in a spacious, American style house on Ambergris Caye, with all modern amenities, 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 within your target budget.