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Now, healthcare options in this country are improving, and the government has made this a priority. Specifically, the government has set medical tourism as an agenda, recognizing this as an important potential source of visitors and revenues and understanding that real world-standard medical care is a top priority for retirees.

Step one in the related efforts to developing medical tourism in Belize has been to task the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (Beltraide) to make a plan. Beltraide has brought in a consultant from Costa Rica to help create a blueprint based on the successful development of medical tourism in that country.

healthcare in Ambergris Caye Belize

The basics of a program have been outlined:

  • Belizean medical hospitals and clinics will be upgraded to meet accredited international healthcare standards...
  • Medical tourism facilities will be established throughout the country so that a patient anywhere in the country could be delivered to a critical care facility within 30 minutes. This will necessitate improvements in road and air infrastructure...
  • 24-hour critical care hospitals will be established on Ambergris Caye and in Placencia...
  • International medical specialists will be allowed to practice in Belize but will be required to work jointly with and to train Belizean doctors...
  • International doctors who elect to come to the country to work with new medical tourism facilities will enjoy special income tax and import duty breaks. The timing is perfect to attract disenchanted American doctors to come and open facilities in Belize...
  • A new medical school will be opened, probably near Belmopan...
  • Hotels/resorts catering to medical tourists will be required to have trained nurses on staff...
  • Belizean doctors will be incentivized to return to Belize and practice here...

Meantime, progress is being made on the ground already:

  • The Belize government has identified and secured rights to purchase property on Ambergris Caye for the location of the planned future 24-hour critical care hospital. Services at the San Pedro Polyclinic have been upgraded. Doctors are on call at all hours.
  • The first open-heart surgery ever to be performed in Belize took place last year. Several heart surgeries were performed by a Belizean physician, Dr. Adrian Coye, who moved back to Belize to initiate such services about two years ago. Dr. Coye worked with an integrated team of international heart surgeons and Belizeans doctors at Karl Huesner Medical Hospital in Belize City.
  • The first ever complex scoliosis surgery was performed in Belize in the summer of 2012. That surgery was performed by Dr. Joel Cervantes, Chief of the Spine and Neurosurgery Center at Karl Huesner Medical Hospital, where the surgery took place, and President of Belize's Medical and Dental Association. Dr. Cervantes and his team worked with a team of peers from Canada and the United States.

Separate from medical tourism, there are a number of advantages related to healthcare in Belize that expats should consider, in looking at the big picture:

The price is reasonable, and doctors are accessible.

Doctors in Belize treat patients with compassion and spend whatever time is needed to understand your healthcare issue. A doctor in Belize will give his patient his personal cell phone number. Most of the doctors are general practitioners, meaning they are well versed in a broad range of healthcare problems. They are similar to the American doctors of 50 years ago, when doctors regularly visited sick patients at their home.

You can visit a clinic here in the morning for X-rays or blood tests and have the results by that afternoon. Similarly, dentists often perform much of the necessary services at their offices. And my optometrist makes my new prescription glasses on-site within a few hours. We're used to same-day service in Belize.

Many drugs are available to purchase over the counter, without a prescription.

My personal experience with healthcare as an expat in this country for more than five years? Frankly, it has far exceeded my expectations. I had to have emergency hip surgery two years ago. To be honest, I was nervous, even scared. But I had no choice. The surgery had to be done immediately.

And it was, in Belize City. The care I received was, frankly, outstanding, and the outcome of the surgery was everything I could have hoped for. I'm as mobile as ever!

Ann Kuffner
Live and Invest in Belize Conference Insider

Editor's Note: A representative from Beltraide made a presentation to the group at last week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference in Belize City, detailing the plan for improving healthcare in this country and for developing medical tourism facilities here. This presentation, along with all other presentations of the two-and-a-half-day event, was recorded and is being included as part of the all-new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit, available for 24 hours more only for the pre-release price of more than 50% off. Details on the Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit are here.Continue Reading:

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Cayo District in Belize

One thing that appealed greatly to Monty about Belize during that first visit years ago was how rugged and rural the country was. Belize is still rugged and rural, but today it also offers many more of the conveniences we take for granted and that most retirees considering international living don't want to give up.

Monty returned to Belize last week to see for himself the differences between Belize today and Belize of 18 years ago. He came to the country this time to participate in last week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. In fact, though, I met Monty before the conference began, by accident. Monty and I both had appointments with the same dentist last Monday! Our dentist, Dr. Huesner, alternated between working on Monty's bridge and fitting me for a new crown.

At the conference later in the week, Monty explained that the major dental work he was having taken care of while in Belize was paying for his entire trip. Monty had done his homework. He'd found that the three bridges he needed would have cost him US$12,000 in the United States. Dr. Huesner did the work for only US$4,000, saving Monty US$8,000. That was enough to cover the cost of the conference and the two-week vacation in Belize, with money left over.

Monty is a special education teacher planning to retire in June. He grew up on a West Texas ranch, so he appreciates solitude and wide open spaces. He thinks he's going to find the lifestyle he's looking for in the Cayo District, in or around San Ignacio. When the conference concluded on Friday, that's where he headed.

Monty has a lot of experience building and remodeling homes, and he did a lot of research related to building in Belize before this trip. He has a grand scheme. He's going to buy a piece of land and then design a simple Mennonite house. Once that's built, he'll live in it and design a larger home. He'll supervise the construction of both homes and hopes to do much of the work himself. Once he moves into the larger home, he'll convert the small Mennonite house into a stained-glass studio.

Then he'll spend time pursuing his hobby, creating stained-glass art.

Sounds like a great plan to me.

Ann Kuffner
Live and Invest in Belize Conference InsiderContinue Reading:

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Belize City is referred to as the Calcutta of the Caribbean...a hell hole...a slum town. Those descriptions aren't undeserved, but they refer not to Belize but Belize City and not to the heart and soul of this country but to the face of the town where, unfortunately, its international airport happens to be located.

Smitten as I was by the experience of being in Belize, even I, young and naïve as I was, recognized that Belize City wasn't a nice place to be 28 years ago. This hasn't changed, but it didn't matter to me then and isn't the point now. What won me over from that first visit was the simple, sweet charm of this country, which, somehow, I sensed straightaway.

On that first visit, I met a handful of Belize expats with whom, over the years, I've developed friendships I treasure. Visit by visit, in the years to follow, they showed me Belize, a country founded by pirates and where independence and free thinking are prized above all else. These are qualities that I, too, value a great deal. Instinctively, I guess, putting my feet on the ground in this country for the first time, I sensed that Belize and I were made for each other.

I tend to wax poetic whenever the subject of Belize comes up, and I apologize. My point today is that, boy, do I wish I were there now.

For, in Belize City as I write, all my Belize friends are convened in the meeting rooms of the Ft. George Hotel with the 100 attendees of this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. I would have been there, too, had young Jackson not taken ill. Besides, somebody's got to mind the store, so this week's sell-out crowd in Belize City is in Lief Simon's capital hands. Lief has been updating me each morning and evening.

As has Ann Kuffner, full-time Belize expat and our Belize Correspondent, who I've enlisted to be my eyes and ears on the ground. Ann is sending dispatches from the scene that I'll share with you starting tomorrow.

If you couldn't be in Belize yourself this week...well, I couldn't either. But I'll do my best to help us both benefit as much as possible from all the ideas, recommendations, insights, and discoveries being shared and discussed by all those who are there.

I couldn't be in Belize this week, but I am bound and determined to be there in March. When this week's event sold out but interest in attending continued strong, we scrambled to add a second Live and Invest in Belize Conference to this year's calendar. If you couldn't make it for this show, maybe you'll be able to meet me for the new event we've scheduled for mid-March. I believe that, as of this writing, a handful of VIP places remain available for this new Belize conference, which looks like it, too, is going to sell out.

Ann's first report from the scene tomorrow...

Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:

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First and foremost, Christmas in Belize is about spending quality time with family and friends. Government offices, banks, and most non-tourism-oriented businesses shut down for the week surrounding Christmas Day. Festivities and family time continue through Boxing Day (Dec. 26) at least, a throwback to Belize's days as a British colony.

One important Christmas tradition, remembered throughout Belize, is to spiff up the interior of your home. This is a Belizean's way of inviting the Christmas spirit. One Belizean friend told me not to judge a local's home by the exterior this time of year. It's what's inside that counts come holiday time. She explained that everyone brings out their gold, red, and green curtains, tablecloths, etc.

And, in preparation for all the holiday visiting, Belizeans don't just decorate the insides of their homes this time of year; they give them a facelift, too. They repaint the walls, hang new drapes, even replace the linoleum! This is the Belizean version of spring cleaning, and the entire family pitches in.

Many Belizeans put up Christmas trees, but typically the synthetic version. Those who can afford it decorate the outsides of their homes, too, with elaborate lights. Blow-up Santas, reindeer, lobsters, and manger scenes are especially popular. In San Pedro Town, where we live, the San Pedro Sun leads an annual tour to vote for the best-decorated house.

Local traditional foods like rice and beans, potato salad, white relleno (soup with pork-stuffed chicken and raisins), pebre (roast pork) or ham with pickled onions and jalapeños, and tamales are typically part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts. But these dishes are modified for the holidays to include unusual meats or fowl. Rumpopo is the Belizean version of eggnog.

Here in San Pedro Town, the Christmas season kicks off with the San Pedro Christmas Boat Parade. Local businesses, schools, and volunteers all contribute ideas, time, and energy. Each team decks out its boat with twinkling Christmas creations. Some are fun Caribbean take-offs on traditional Christmas themes. I'm always baffled, watching the boats from shore. How did they do that, I can't help but wonder about the elaborate light displays floating by.

This year the Christmas Boat Parade started on the north side of town, at the Boca del Rio Park, then glided along the San Pedro Town coastline for several miles, turning at Caribbean Villas to head back to the town square. Hundreds of the island's residents lined the shores to watch.

Back at the town square, a panel of judges named the best-decorated boats and other winners, and awarded prizes. Then the party continued, in the square, with food, drink, music, dancing, and local artists selling their wares.

Another Christmas tradition here on Isla Bonita is the pageants put on by local schools. These feature singing and storytelling and are great fun. We attended the pageant at the Island Academy. This private school accepts children through 8th grade, and, this year, they presented their own updated version of the Christmas story. We don't have kids attending this school, but the pageant definitely helped to put us in the holiday spirit.

We always miss our family and friends this time of year, sure, but we have come to enjoy the Belizean celebrations and certainly appreciate that, here in this Caribbean outpost, the focus isn't on shopping or gift-giving but on spending plenty of quality time with those you love.

Ann Kuffner

Editor's Note: Ann took photos of the San Pedro Christmas Boat Parade, the Island Academy Christmas Pageant, her neighbors' houses lit up for the season, and the enormous Christmas tree erected in the San Pedro town square.

By all appearances, Christmas on Ambergris Caye is a delight.Continue Reading:


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The Cayo is Belize's most popular place for expats seeking a sustainable lifestyle. In this part of this country, you find rushing rivers, flowing waterfalls, and lush jungle landscapes. Colorful flowers and fruit-laden trees bloom year-round, and vibrant and diverse species of birds are everywhere.

In the Cayo you also find well-manicured productive Mennonite farmland. This region reminds me of the hills of Pennsylvania, where my father grew up on his family's farm. If not for the palm trees, you wouldn't know you were in Belize. The soil of this region is fertile and rich, and the Mennonite farmers who work it produce most of Belize's food supply.

The expats living in the Cayo are a diverse group, but most all of them are interested in pursuing a sustainable lifestyle and many are living off the grid. I spent 30-plus years working as an environmental engineer/manager prior to moving to Belize, so this option in the Cayo appeals to me.

The main agenda of this most recent Cayo visit was to check on progress at Carmelita, the sustainable community on the banks of the Belize River where Mike and I bought a lot about two years ago. The visionary behind this development, Phil Hahn, refers to it as "Agrarian Urbanism." For Mike and me, Carmelita represents escape. Our plan is to build a little place here where we could escape if ever we chose to long term and live off the grid. Meantime, our second home at Carmelita will be a great place to escape the next big hurricane out on Ambergris! We don't get hit often, but, living on a Caribbean island, you always know it's a possibility.

Before we discovered Carmelita, Mike and I had considered buying a piece of property in the Cayo and building on our own. We've successfully built several homes on Ambergris now and feel confident we could do it in the Cayo, too. But we've come to appreciate the benefits of living in a community of like-minded people. When we learned that Phil was designing a community that would fit our needs, it seemed a no-brainer to invest. It's easier and less costly to let the developer do the legwork.

On this return visit, we saw that Carmelita is ramping up. Three houses are currently under construction, two on the river. By year end, five homes will be under way. The designs and the quality of the workmanship are impressive, but perhaps the best part is how little capital you need to own here. The initial cost of building a sustainable property is higher than for a traditional home, but, in the Cayo, everything is relatively cheap. And, building sustainable means a reduced cost of living over time.

What does it mean to pursue a "sustainable lifestyle"? At Carmelita, it means solar energy for most power needs. Year-round, we have plenty of sunshine in Belize, and it's now possible to buy decent solar panels in this country. Most of the homes at Carmelita will have generators, but these are for back-up.

For cooking, residents at Carmelita will rely on propane. Note, though, that Belize is funding a variety of innovative bio-gas research projects. The country is determined to become energy independent.

Water isn't a problem, as there is an abundant supply. What you need is a strategy for treating the collected water. Each home at Carmelita will include a cistern to store rainwater. The rainwater then will be treated with an internal filtration system.

For wastewater treatment, residents at Carmelita have two options--a septic tank with discharge wastewater gardens or installing high-tech, low-discharge toilets.

Fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs will be grown on the property, and many fruit trees have already been planted. The community will have access to a local source of fresh chickens (and eggs) and other animals, and each owner is being encouraged to plant a garden and to co-op with his neighbors.

On this visit, we had a chance to meet with others who have also bought at Carmelita, the folks who will be our neighbors, including some who intend to live at Carmelita full-time. They, like us, are committed to reducing their environmental footprint. Some want to live off the grid for political reasons. Some are independent-minded survivalists. All this makes for interesting company.

Ann Kuffner

Editor's Note: Both Ann Kuffner and Phil Hahn will join us in Belize City for our next Live and Invest in Belize Conference, scheduled for Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2013. More details here.Continue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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