Belize is a safe, welcoming, unassuming little country where the population values personal privacy, self-determination, and freedom.
As well as a reef, ruins, rivers, and rain forest Belize offers easy residency and tax-free living. It’s an English-speaking safe haven for both you and your money.
With a population of just 350,000, Belize has a small-town ambiance. It is easy to become a part of the community. Both locals and expats are welcoming and willing to lend a hand or to make an effort for a neighbor.
Little Belize also offers a whole lot of what many tourists, retirees, and investors are looking for: sandy beachfront, both along its mainland coast and encircling its offshore cays. Prices for a bit of sand on quintessentially Caribbean Ambergris, are very affordable by Caribbean standards, and there is an active and vibrant community, trendy restaurants, expat-run cafes, and lively beach bars.
Alternatively the Cayo region, which boasts Mayan archaeological sites, caves, streams, waterfalls, and forests offers incredible opportunities for embracing a self-sufficient life.
For non-Americans, Belize offers tax-free living, with legal residency easy to obtain through the country’s Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program. Foreign residents pay no tax in Belize on non-Belize income. Thus, be you British, German, Australian, or Irish, for example, you could become a QRP and reduce your overall tax burden to virtually nothing.
Belize is also a banking haven, one of the few remaining in the world, a jurisdiction where every bank must maintain a minimum of 24% liquidity at all times and where bankers respect bank secrecy. It’s one of the easiest places in the world to open an offshore account.
For all of those reasons, Belize claims a spot every year at or near the top of our Best Retirement Havens in the World List.
Cost of Living in Belize
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets for some of our favorite destinations in Belize:
Infrastructure In Belize
Infrastructure in Belize is poor and extremely limited. This isn’t the place to come if you want things to work as they do back home.
For a long time Belize had some of the most expensive Internet service in the world, however things have improved and many users are now opting for wireless services. Satellite Internet is an option for expats running a business online. Still, while Internet is passable in Belize City, but poor in the rest of the country.
Belize has four major paved roadways: Phillip Godson Highway (formerly Northern Highway) from Corozal to Mexico, George Price Highway (formerly Western Highway) from Belize City to Guatemala, Hummingbird Highway from Belmopan to Dangriga, and Southern Highway from Dangriga to Punta Gorda. (It’s worth noting that while the official names of these roads have been changed, the change hasn’t trickled down into common speech. Most people still call them by their original—logical—names.) These two-lane highways are pretty much the only paved public roads in Belize, generally, other paved roads are privately owned and maintained. While the highways are in fairly good condition, expect the unexpected. It’s not uncommon to be delayed on a highway due to a downed tree, a flooded plain, or simply a reunion between two friendly drivers who met on the road and decided to stop for a chat.
Off the highways, roads in Belize are rough, and it is certainly a good idea to have the option of four-wheel drive. There are very few police vehicles in Belize, so, for safety reasons, “sleeping police” (speed bumps/pedestrian crossings) are common on the highways around villages. They are usually marked, but occasionally one will sneak up on you.
When driving on the Northern and Western Highways are of a higher standard, but don’t be alarmed when you come to a check point; they’ll slow you down only long enough to read the insurance sticker on your windshield, be sure it is always up to date. Also, hitchhiking is a common form of transport, don’t be surprised if you’re flagged down by a lady carrying groceries, men with toolboxes, or kids asking for a ride up the road. Feel free not to stop, but this is common practice here.
Bus is a common form of transport in Belize, both in the city and the rest of the country. You can buy tickets in advance, but flagging down is the most common way to catch a ride. Some bus routes may only run once a day, more populous areas may get more frequent service.
Five major airlines have regular flights to the international airport in Belize’s international airport, including Delta from Atlanta, American from Miami and Dallas, United from Houston, and U.S. Airways from Charlotte.
Climate In Belize
The climate in Belize is subtropical—balmy and comfortable.
The temperature in all areas of Belize typically hovers around 80°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 80%. Average annual rainfall in most parts of Belize is about 50 inches, but the Cayo District receives significantly less—fewer than 15 inches per year.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally Belize enjoys a warm, tropical climate.
Belizean Dry season: December to May
Belizean Rainy season: June to November
Residency In Belize
U.S. citizens may enter Belize without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 30 days per trip. If you wish to stay for longer than 30 days, you need to seek permission to remain in the country. Proof of an onward travel ticket and sufficient funds to cover the cost of your stay may be requested upon arrival.
Belize’s Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) residency program isn’t, strictly speaking, for retirees only. The only requirements to qualify for Belize’s QRP program are that you or your spouse be 45 years of age or older, that you consider yourself to be retired, and that you show that you have a minimum monthly income to support yourself in Belize. Program incentives include a permanent exemption from any Belizean taxes, including income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, and import tax on household goods, automobiles, boats, and even airplanes.
While pension income can be shown to meet the last requirement, the easiest way to prove financial means is simply to deposit the amount required per year into a Belizean bank account.
In practical terms, the “consider yourself to be retired” requirement means that, as a QRP, you can’t apply for a work visa. This is not to say that you can’t do international, Internet, or even local Belize business as an entrepreneur. You just can’t take a job working as an employee of someone else in Belize. And, indeed, Belize offers a world of opportunity for the would-be entrepreneur.
Even if you are not contemplating retiring for one, three, or even, say, five years, this is the time to apply and to lock in the benefits of the current QRP law. Once you’ve qualified, a one-month holiday in Belize each year will maintain your QRP residency status while you work toward your ultimate retirement plan.
Residency in Belize can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship in this country.
Health Care In Belize
Health care in Belize isn’t up to international standards and is behind the standard of even its neighboring countries, but day-to-day ailments can be adequately treated—and for a reasonable price. Generally speaking expats opt for private health care, which is still very affordable.
Some expats also head to Mexico or back to the United States for more complicated procedures. Remember to specify evacuation cover on your insurance policy if you see yourself needing to seek health care overseas once in Belize; helicopter ambulances are costly.
The bottom line is that if you need a high level of medical care or ongoing treatments and medical attention, Belize is not a good option for you.
Real Estate In Belize
Geographically, Belize is in Central America, yet its strongest ties are to the English-speaking Caribbean. Similarly, it is a developing country on the path of progress, but has a secure foundation with a history of stability. The combination of these unique qualities has created incredible real estate opportunities.
Clear title is conveyed through a Land Certificate and title insurance is available. Also, all contracts are in English and the country was founded on British Common Law tradition. For these reasons, Belize is a haven for those who want undisputed ownership of their land.
In fact, Belizeans are so adamant about maintaining control of their real estate that they vehemently oppose any increase in property tax. Understanding the people’s position, the Government of Belize (GOB) continues to keep these taxes low. Even though the highest tax is on waterfront property, it is still negligible.
Foreigners can own only up to 10 acres of land outside Belize City and one-half acre within Belize City. Purchase of multiple tracts of land on the cayes can be made with special permission.