Retire in Belize
Live a Better Life for Less
Most people looking to retire in Belize are on a fixed budget and therefore, very interested in how much things cost. Island living is a little more expensive than the mainland, but well within the budget of most retirees moving here from the US or Canada.
General Monthly Budget Example (USD)
Total Budget: $1,500-2,500 per month
Comparisons on Cost of Living in Belize
Belize compares very well to most US retirement spots and many International destinations as well. According to a crowd-sourced database called Numbeo, Belize is 41% less than Phoenix, Arizona and 83% less than St. Petersberg, Florida in cost of living. Only two countries ranked ahead of Belize in International Living Magazine’s 2015 survey of best places to retire: Vietnam and Nicaragua.
Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program
Belize provides incentives to retiring in Belize with their Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program. It was introduced almost two decades ago with much fanfare, but although the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) does not release statistics, it is rumored that less than 1,000 people have signed up for it.
So why sign up for the QRP program?
Well, the benefits are that you get to bring in a shipment of household and personal type items duty free. You also get to import a vessel and light aircraft one time and a vehicle every three years, duty free. This can add up as customs taxes can approach 100% on some items. You also pay no taxes on income derived outside the country so no worries about being taxed twice on pensions, IRAs or other investments.
To qualify for QRP is relatively simple. You need to be 45 or over and prove at least $2,000 USD per month in income or equivalent. There is a little paperwork and fees total $2,100 USD per couple.
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There are a couple thousand cheerful Expats now living part or full time on Ambergris Caye and growing. Many of them have decided to retire in Belize. Everyone readily waves at each other as they get around the island in their golf carts. Many business owners are Expats and they often work together for local celebrations or charity events. There is a ball hockey team, tennis club, diving club, a walking club and a poker run.
The Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program as explained above is a good program for many who choose to retire in Belize
Belize is not the cheapest place in the world to retire to, but your dollars will stretch quite a bit with an almost certain increase in your style of living. Things that will likely cost you less here are most health care needs, cable TV, insurance, gardeners or maids, seafood, produce and property taxes.
Businesses in Belize accept the U.S. Dollar for goods and services at a 2-to-1 exchange rate. The U.S. Dollar has been pegged at 2 Belize Dollars ($1USD = $2BZD) since 1982 and has never varied.
Retirees have zero tax liability on their income, and property taxes are extremely low.
There are no recessions in Belize and inflation is non-existent. The currency is pegged to the U.S. Dollar. Tourism is the country’s main income and has grown every year for the last 12 years.
Belize is still relatively inexpensive when compared to other Caribbean countries. Belize is still widely unknown publicly (ask any of your friends where Belize is!) but the country is becoming more and more popular each year as a tourist destination. This increase in popularity is causing prices of local businesses and real estate to increase each year.
Oceanfront property is relatively inexpensive when compared to similar properties in the US or other Caribbean countries. Inland properties are very well priced, especially raw land.
Living on the beach in Belize is about a third of the average cost than in North America. Beachfront lots can still be purchased for less than $50,000, and one lot behind can be had for half the price. Construction costs range from $40-$80 per square foot.
Under the Belize Constitution, Belizeans and foreigners alike enjoy the same property rights. There are no restrictions on foreigners owning land or property in any part of the country, including oceanfront real estate.
Just like the legal systems in the US and Canada, Belize law is based on British Common Law. However, the legal system is far from perfect — like back home — and lawyers in Belize can be expensive.
Routine medical procedures are very affordable and often free. Paperwork is minimal and wait times are usually quite low. Even prescription drugs are usually provided at a discount or even free, when available.
You will eat better in Belize. Most produce is grown locally and organically. Most chickens are free range and cows are grass-fed. There is plenty of fresh seafood, especially on the islands. People in Belize tend to walk and ride bikes as transportation, swim, hike, ride horses and participate in many other naturally healthy activities.
Life in Belize also moves a little slower than North America, and with a lot less stress! There is also plenty of fresh air, whether you live in the jungle, mountains or by the water.
Houston and Miami are a mere 2 ½ hour flights away from Belize’s international airport, Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE).
There are now direct flights from 10 different cities in the US and Canada:
- Miami, Florida (MIA)
- Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT)
- Dallas, Texas (DFW)
- Los Angeles, California (LAX)
- Houston, Texas (HIA)
- Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
- Chicago, Illinois (ORD)
- Atlanta, Georgia (ATL)
- Denver, Colorado (DEN) (seasonal)
- Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) (seasonal)
Belize is a former British colony and as such, the official language was set as English. Many Belizeans also speak Creole and/or Spanish. This is one of the best reasons for retiring in Belize as you can speak to everyone you meet from day one.
The Belizean people are fun-loving and enjoy their festivals and celebrations. It is estimated that more Belizeans live in the US, Canada and England than live in the country of Belize itself. Because of this, Belizeans have embraced these other cultures and bring home their experiences.
Part of the joy of retiring in Belize is being “forced” to take it easy. When a Belizean tells you they will meet you at 2, they will most likely show up a bit late. Adapting to this “Belize Time”, you will eventually adjust to a more leisurely lifestyle.
Retiring to Belize means you will never be bored. There is so much to do in Belize, we had to break it down into three categories.
First, there are the ocean activities of scuba diving, snorkeling, SNUBA, fishing, sailing, private charters, sunset dinner cruises, swimming with manatees, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking to name a few.
Second, there are the mainland activities of cave tubing, zip-lining, exploring Mayan ruins, horseback riding, the Belize Zoo, the Jaguar Preserve and helicopter tours to name a few more.
Third, there are the extreme sport activities of sky diving, jet skiing, kite boarding, windsurfing, and parasailing.
When you retire in Belize, you can choose to reinvent yourself here. Chances are that almost no one will know you when you arrive. You can go fishing every day, learn to paint, take up philanthropy, open a bar or restaurant, start a tour company or sell and/or develop real estate. You are only constrained by your own imagination.
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Doctor visits are either inexpensive or free for everything except surgery. Most prescribed drugs are also free or sold at significant discounts, unless it’s a specialized pharmaceutical drug for serious conditions and ailments. However, serious medical conditions will require you to travel to nearby Mexico or back to the US or Canada.
There are no real noise ordinances in Belize and music may be played loudly and into the night on holidays or other festive occasions in most cities, towns, and villages in Belize, with the exception of a small handful of destinations.
Play houses and opera houses don’t exist. Even movie theaters are very scarce and hard to find in Belize, and may require travel to get to.
If you decide to retire in Belize, it will mean you will need to get used to the heat and humidity. During the summer and fall months, the heat and humidity are both usually above 90… it can take some getting used to. The fix? A good air conditioning unit.
Unless you’re an avid birdwatcher or bicyclist, there are no hobby or collector stores in Belize… not even a Walmart!
Life in Belize revolves around the sea, mountains, jungle and sun. Some locals and business take care of tourists as a priority, but most people live very simple lives.
Most of Belize is landscaped by natural tropical jungles that are habitat to thousands of birds. They often awake at sunrise and like to sing to start the new day.
If you decide in retire in Belize, you will need to get used to mosquitos and learn how to best repel them. Because Belize is a tropical environment, it is home to millions of bugs. During the rainy season, mosquitoes are prevalent but easily avoided with good bug spray.
Most things can be found in small stores and shops around town. You can also request someone coming down from the US to bring you small items.
Belize does not have a single franchised fast food restaurant or store. I find this actually quite refreshing, but some people really miss their McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmarts.
Because Belize is a host to only 350,000 residents, stores often sit with expired goods when they don’t turnover like they do in North America. You’re going to need to learn to check the expiration date on imported canned goods and items.