Articles Related to Belize


One thing that attracted Jim and Kathy to Belize was its tradition of banking privacy. FATCA has diminished the opportunity for "private banking" anywhere, but Belize is still one of the best options for where to have an offshore account.

Jim and Kathy also liked that the language in Belize is English. "Learning Spanish wasn't something we wanted to deal with," Jim admits.

"Another thing we really appreciate about this country is the people," Kathy adds. "We've lived all around the world with the military, and we find the people in Belize to be wonderful and friendly. Belize is one of the top 10 happiest countries in the world. When they say 'good morning,' they actually mean it."

"On the other hand," Jim adds, "living here, you need patience. Belize moves at its own pace, and Belizeans are on mañana time. Monday may mean Monday, but not next Monday."

Here are six more tips Jim and Kathy offered for attendees at this week's conference, things they wish someone had told them before they made their move:
  • Birds are noisy. "They wake us at the crack of dawn most mornings," Jim says...
  • Bugs are a part of life here. This is the tropics, after all. "Ants came into the house," Kathy explained, "and they found something in our storage area they liked. We had a sea of ants. 'Cleaner ants,' as they're called, migrate through every four or five years. They clean out spider webs, mites, etc. When they come to your place, just go out for a few hours. When you get back, they'll be gone..."
  • Belize has no big department stores. "You must look for what you want in small shops, and you'll find things in unusual places," Kathy explains. "The best place to find electrical parts in San Ignacio is the Esso station in Spanish Lookout. You can buy Victoria's Secret-style underwear at the bakery. They have some drawers off to one side. We bought our car insurance at the auto-parts store and our phones at the local hotel..."
  • Check your canned goods before purchase. "I bought three cans of beans," Kathy told the group, "and two cans out of the three had no beans. So now I shake my bean cans to make sure they have beans in them and not just bean juice. A friend bought a can labeled green beans but opened it to find corn. These are U.S. brands coming from the United States..."
  • Don't ask if a price is in U.S. dollars or Belize dollars. "Assume that everything is priced in Belize dollars. If you ask, they may tell you U.S. dollars and you just paid twice as much as you should have," Jim says...
  • Which side of the road do Belizeans drive on? The side with the fewest pot holes...
Lief reports that Jim and Kathy had everyone in the room laughing out loud with tales of the trials and tribulations they're facing as they work to build their new lives and a home of their own in Cayo, Belize.

"Would you do it again?" one attendee asked.

"Absolutely," Jim and Kathy replied in unison.

"This is a beautiful country with beautiful people."

"If we could offer you one final word of advice," Jim continued for those assembled in the meeting rooms of the Ft. George Hotel this week, "it would be this: When you come here, embrace what Belize has to offer. Embrace the country and the way of life it offers. And adapt. Don't bring the United States with you. Come here to discover Belize. Come with an open mind and an open heart. Belize will reward you with the adventure of your lifetime."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. I've got much more to share from this week's event in Belize City, including opportunities for volunteering in this country and business suggestions for the would-be entrepreneur.

As usual, we've recorded all the goings-on so that if you, like me, weren't able to join the group, you don't have to miss out. And, as always, we're making this bundle of conference resources available for 50% off pre-release while the recordings are being edited.

Go here now for full details. Continue reading: 

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You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader, 

Where is the best place in the world to retire?

That's a tricky question to answer, so I suggest coming at this from a different angle. Rather than trying to identify the world's top retirement haven, consider instead who's best suited to retire where.

A short list of top retirement options in the Americas right now would include:
  • Cayo, Belize
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • El Cangrejo, Panama

Which one of these places is the best choice? It depends on who you are.

Who Should Retire To Cayo, Belize?

Belize is a retirement, a tax, and an offshore haven. This is a sunny country where the folks speak English and value their freedom and privacy. Belize is easy to get to from the States, and the people living here are welcoming and hospitable once you've arrived.

On the other hand, this is a small country where the infrastructure is most kindly described as "developing."

The cost of living can be affordable, even low, but not if you want to live a more developed-world lifestyle that would mean buying lots of things not produced locally. Anything imported comes at an inflated price.

My favorite part of Belize is its Cayo District. No infrastructure, limited services and amenities, and little market demand could be interpreted as negatives, but, in Cayo, these things are a big part of the appeal. Once you get to Cayo, you don't mind that there's no infrastructure. You don't mind that the culture is more concerned with country living than consumerism.

You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord
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These friends I've made in Belize have come from all over the world, and all have fascinating stories. Some are adventurers, others educators or entrepreneurs, some salt-of-the-earth folks looking to make new lives. 

Most people you meet in this country have two common characteristics. They are hospitable, and they are fiercely independent. The average Belizean--including those who've adopted this country as their homeland--would choose to live in a humble home and off the land and sea rather than be beholding to someone. This country operates according to an old school mentality that many of the world's more developed nations have forgotten. 

Amigo's is one of my favorite Belizean watering-holes. I walked in one day recently to find my friend Pete sitting in his usual spot at the end of the bar having a cold Belikin beer. I sat down with Pete and ordered a Belikin for myself and another for him. We started chatting. Pete mentioned that he's building a guesthouse near his home about a mile down the road. He invited me to go see it. We jumped in my truck and went to check out Pete's project. We walked around the jobsite, then went over to his house to say hello to his wife Glenda and to get a couple of mangos off the enormous mango tree in his backyard. 

On the way back to Amigo's, I was curious. "Pete," I said, '"I don't mean to pry, but, if you don't mind me asking, did you get a good deal at the bank, I mean for the money to build your new guesthouse?" 

Pete grinned as he replied, "No, mon, I didn't get a loan." 

I was really curious at this point, so I asked, "Pete, how about your home and truck?" 

"No, mon, no, mon." 

Now, Pete's home is not a McMansion, and his truck did not just roll off the showroom floor, but they are his, not the bank's. "You don't owe anybody, do you, Pete?" I said. 

Pete answered, in his Creole way, "No, Phil, I cyant lif like dat." 

And I realized why my Belizean friends don't have the same stressful lives as my American friends. Pete is a descendant of loggers and slaves, but today he is a truly free man. I explained to him that, back in the States, a lot of Americans right now feel like slaves to the banks and their jobs. 

"When you come to Amigo's as a free man, like me, Phil, I'll buy you a Belikin." That'll be the best beer ever. 

Sue, the proprietress of Amigo's, came to Belize in the early 1980s. She was dating a guy at the time who had decided to check out the opportunities in Costa Rica. He and his dad were at the Miami airport waiting for the flight. 

After several drinks, they realized they'd missed their plane. So they went to the ticket counter and told the agent to book them on the next flight headed south. A couple of hours later they were in Belize. Shortly after that, Sue was starting her first business in her new country (a sand, gravel, and concrete company). She has been an independent businesswoman ever since. After the concrete business, she ventured into agriculture, then into the restaurant/hotel supply business, then, in 2004, with Pete's help, she built Amigo's. 

Another friend in this country, Macarena Rose, moved to Belize in 2004 with her 15-year-old daughter, five dogs, and five cats. As an ordained minister, Macarena is a spiritual person and was fascinated by Belize's Mayan history. While living in Florida, she worked with the Mayan Studies program and became a Mayan Priestess so she could understand and be able to perform Shamanistic healing. While healing is a great passion of hers, Macarena is also a professional businesswoman who runs a successful real estate company called Rainforest Realty, in San Ignacio. 

With the energy that only a single mother of two who also raised six adopted children can have, Macarena stays involved in the community, performs weddings, and hosts a weekly biography show on Belize TV. Macarena was instrumental in attracting the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to Belize and is the immediate past president of the association. She describes coming to Belize from Florida as "a lateral move." As a fellow Floridian, I feel the same way. With its English language, common law tradition, private property rights, and abundant natural attractions, it's easy to see why people from the United States, Canada, and the UK feel so at home here. 

As a British Commonwealth country, Belize has always attracted expats from the UK. One such adventurous soul is Mick Fleming, the owner of Chaa Creek, which is a spectacular rainforest resort on the banks of the Macal River in the Cayo District. Mick and his wife Lucy were two eco-travelers who met picking apples in the UK On Feb. 11, 1977, well before eco-tourism was trendy. The couple arrived in Belize with the clothes on their backs and US$600. In Belize City, they hitched a ride in an old beat-up Land Rover out to the Cayo District, home of the Maya Mountains, rainforests, and fertile farmland. Mick and Lucy fell in love with the area and rented a place in San Ignacio. The money they'd brought with them ran out, so they went to work at a farm picking beans for US$40 a week. 

Then they met an Englishman who had retired from the R.A.F. and owned 137 acres on the outskirts of Cayo. They made a deal with the fellow Brit to rent the land with an option to buy it. They backpacked miles into the jungle and finally found the property, which had a little wooden cabin but otherwise was completely overgrown. Undeterred, they unloaded all of their worldly belongings, including a foam mattress, a cooker, a saddle, a rake, and a shovel. They cleared an area for a small farm and began growing vegetables that they transported to town by canoe via the Macal River. Mick remembers feeling like a rich man one day when he sold a load of squash pumpkins for US$90. 

In 1981, they purchased the land they'd been leasing, and, suddenly, visitors began arriving. Mick and Lucy's produce business made about US$30 per week, and, as more and more travelers passed through this part of the country, they realized they could earn more money by providing backpacker accommodation. They built a cabana with a thatched roof, tasiste walls (palm trunks), and a dirt floor. 

That was the beginning of Chaa Creek Lodge, which, today, includes a dozen luxury cabanas, a restaurant/bar, a spa, a cascading pool, an equestrian center, a campground, and organized activities. The day I went to talk to Mick about this article, he had just come from his farm. He greeted me with a big smile and a handshake that made me realize he is still that same adventurous soul who arrived in Belize in 1977 with US$600 in his pocket. 

Phil Hahn

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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.

Read more here.

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