Belize is a small country, about the size of the state of New Hampshire, with a population of around 400,000. New Hampshire’s population? 1.4 million. Take its small size and low population density, add English as the official language, with an easy-to-use exchange rate and easy access in and out of the country, and you’ll start to see why Belize has become an expat hotspot.
If you’re considering a move to Belize, here are a few places you need to consider:
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Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”) is a 1.5-hour ferry ride, or 15-minute flight, from Belize City. Also known as Ilsa Bonita (beautiful island), it has become Belize’s top tourist destination. Its close proximity (less than a mile) to Belize’s Barrier Reef provides world-class fishing, diving, and snorkeling. When not out on the water, there are plenty of beaches, restaurants, bars, and clubs to enjoy dotted around the island. With so much going on, it’s no wonder why many visitors return year after year.
With Ambergris Caye being such a hot tourist destination, it’s also one of the more expensive places to live in Belize. Like anywhere else in the world, rising tourism numbers lead to increased property values, as well as the cost of living. It also means that locals must learn to live with the busyness that “tourism season” brings each year.
Caye Caulker is located a 30-minute ferry ride from Ambergris Caye. (A 45-minute ferry ride or a 10-minute flight from Belize City are other options available for getting there.) Many consider Caye Caulker to be the laid-back, smaller version of Ambergris Caye. Be prepared to walk everywhere as the streets are unpaved and there are no cars on the island—just a few golf carts. Thanks to a strong tourism market, there are plenty of options for things to do, including frequent tours destined for the famed Blue Hole.
Measuring just five miles long by one mile wide, Caye Caulker packs a lot into a small footprint. While available, real estate will not be as varied as in other parts of the country, such as Placencia. But if you’re looking to escape to a more quaint lifestyle that still has some frills, Caye Caulker may be worth exploring.
Placencia is a 16-mile-long peninsula located in southern Belize. It’s a 30-minute flight or a 3.5-hour drive from Belize City. It has been called “The Island You Can Drive To” as it has the island feel, but is connected to mainland Belize by an isthmus that, at its narrowest, is only about ten yards wide. Although Placencia continues to grow as one of the top tourist destinations in Belize, it’s retained much of the laid-back charm of the little fishing village it once was. The one-mile-long Placencia Sidewalk (once the main road through the town) makes everything in the village easily accessible by foot, and many expats don’t even own a car.
Following Covid, there was a flurry of real estate sales in Placencia, which has driven up rental and property costs. This does not mean there are not still great bargains available; it just means you may have to search a little more complicated and be willing to compromise with a lot near the beach rather than on the beach or the house without the pool.
Corozal is situated on Chetumal Bay in northern Belize. The best way to travel from Belize City is by car – the drive up Belize’s Northern Highway takes just a little over 2 hours. Corozal is not a tourist hot spot, making it a less expensive living space than Ambergris Caye, with affordable options both along the coast and inland.
One of the advantages to Corozal is that it’s a short, 30-minute drive to Chetumal, Mexico. You can find Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, and other contemporary shopping options there. The fact that you can leave home in the morning to shop in Chetumal and be back for dinner makes Corozal an excellent choice for the would-be expat who wants to live the small-town life, but still have “big city” convenience as an option.
Spanish Lookout, Cayo District
Spanish Lookout is a conservative Mennonite community in western Belize, near the Guatemalan border. It is a 1.5-hour drive from Belize City along the Western Highway. Rumored to be the largest Mennonite community outside of Pennsylvania, they practice traditional Mennonite theology, wear plain clothes, but embrace modern conveniences. This means that while you may see plenty of horse-drawn buggies, they also drive trucks and use computers.
Spanish Lookout deserves consideration by future expats due to the local amenities it provides. Whether you need windows for your house, new tires for your car, or a chicken for dinner – these are available, and possibly manufactured, locally. If rural, small-town living is what you are looking for, but would love to be close to the things you may need, Spanish Lookout may be the place that suits you best.
With all that Belize has to offer, there are a few places that expats may choose to avoid.
Nearly everyone that comes to Belize visits Belize City, at least casually. It’s the home to the only International airport in the country – Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (airport code: BZE). As the biggest city in Belize (population: 60,000), it’s also the crime center of the country. Through the GSU (Gang Suppression Unit), the government has been actively working to clean up gang-related violence, but they have a long road ahead.
Most expats see Belize City as a day trip; an opportunity for visiting doctors, picking up tough-to-find items, or browsing the larger, more modern stores. Unless you have a specific reason to set down roots in “The City” there are better, safer options elsewhere.
If you spend time exploring Belize you can easily get lost in the country’s beauty. Dirt roads seem to lead to endless adventures, and you can quickly start to think that living off by yourself, with no neighbors for miles, next to a waterfall would be amazing– and you might be right. Yet the reality is that off-grid, remote living in Belize is a tough lifestyle, and should only be recommended for seasoned Belize expats who’ve spent considerable time in-country.
Video: Where to Live in Belize?
From the many cayes to the Cayo district, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to live in Belize. In Belize, you’ll find the best and cheapest Caribbean beach living around. If lazy rivers and rolling hills are more your scene, don’t fret…you’ll find these as well. The cost of living can vary, depending on which area you decide on. Choosing where to start over in a foreign land can be difficult, but these few areas are a good place to start if you’re looking for a new life in Belize.
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Living in Belize
Cost of Living in Belize
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IL Belize Correspondent | Laura Diffendal
Laura Diffendal moved to Placencia, Belize in early 2014 to build a boutique hotel on the beach, and has recently opened a second hotel in Ambergris Caye, As such, Laura is a particularly good resource in terms of getting information and insight’s on starting and running a business in Belize.
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Ambergris Caye is the most popular place in Belize, where most expats reside. It's a little island full of colorful houses where the main transport is a golf cart. All adventurous souls move to Ambergis Caye because it has ample leisure activities. Snorkeling, fishing, diving.Where is the best place for Americans to move in Belize? ›
Ambergris Caye is the most popular place in Belize, where most expats reside. It's a little island full of colorful houses where the main transport is a golf cart. All adventurous souls move to Ambergis Caye because it has ample leisure activities. Snorkeling, fishing, diving.Where do most American expats live in Belize? ›
The most popular destinations for US expats in Belize are Ambergris Caye, Placencia, and Cayo.Where is the safest place to retire in Belize? ›
One of the best places to retire in Belize is Orchid Bay, this retirement community is located in Belize's scenic Corozal District and offers villas, land, and condominiums. For more information about Orchid Bay, please visit Orchid Bay.Where is the safest place to live in Belize? ›
The Caribbean coast (outside of hurricane season) is the safest part of Belize for tourists. Stick to places such as Placencia, San Pedro, and Caye Caulker and you will encounter plenty of fellow travelers and not a lot of crime.Why not to retire in Belize? ›
There's little opportunity for non-essential shopping in Belize, and there are no big chain stores. You won't be able to shop at Wal-Mart, Costco or Sam's Club. This is a small country where life is simple. You'll find everything you need, but probably not everything you might want.How long can a US citizen live in Belize? ›
As a US citizen you don't need a tourist visa to enter Belize, and can stay for up to a month. If you're staying longer you'll need to get a visa stamp every month to cover your extended stay, and can then switch your application to permanent residence after a year if you'd like to.Can you live in Belize on Social Security? ›
Benefits Of Retiring In Belize On Social Security
The Qualified Retired Persons Program in Belize is an exciting way to spend your retirement years soaking up the sun and enjoying beautiful beaches and local scenery. So, when you choose to retire in Belize on Social Security, you can enjoy a number of benefits.
Outside of high-cost tourist areas, you can build for US$30. – $60. per square foot or buy an attractive, modern home for US$75,000. – $200,000.Where not to stay in Belize? ›
U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to Belize City. Historically much of the violent crime in Belize occurs in the Southside of Belize City and is gang related. This area (south of Haulover Creek Canal and continuing south to Fabers Road) does not overlap the typical tourism areas.
In the US State Department's Belize Travel Advisory it states, "Belize is rated high for crime and has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. Gang members and other criminals use violent means to resolve disputes.Is Belize good for seniors? ›
Belize is diverse in more ways than one, from an eclectic mix of vibrant cultures to stunning attractions that span the gamut of reef and rainforest. Luckily, there are no maximum age requirements to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Belize.What should I be careful of in Belize? ›
Criminal activity, including murder, armed robbery, home invasions, mugging and sexual assault, is a significant problem throughout Belize.What is the friendliest village in Belize? ›
Hopkins was voted the Friendliest Village in Belize by Belize First Magazine and is the #1 Cultural Destination throughout the country of Belize.What is the poorest part of Belize? ›
Across the districts, the highest levels of multidimensional poverty were seen in the Toledo district, while the Belize district had the lowest.Can US citizens move to Belize? ›
U.S. citizens can become citizens of Belize. The waiting period varies; for those married to a Belizean citizen it is normally 1 year of residency, and for others it is normally 5 years of residency.Is Belize a good retirement place for Americans? ›
Belize is a beautiful country that has a lot to offer retirees. The cost of living is reasonable, the climate is pleasant and the culture is friendly. It's easy to get around and the services are very good. You will find plenty of things to do in Belize.Is Belize friendly to Americans? ›
Yes, Belize is safe to visit! We often get asked, “is Belize safe to visit” by prospective guests who haven't visited this remarkable country, and the answer is an easy and resounding yes. Belize has been growing in popularity as one of the top resort destinations in the Caribbean, especially for American tourists.How much money do you need to live comfortably in Belize? ›
A family of four estimated monthly costs are 2,513.6$ without rent. A single person estimated monthly costs are 707.9$ without rent. Cost of living in Belize is, on average, 32.6% lower than in United States. Rent in Belize is, on average, 78.0% lower than in United States.