The little English-speaking country of Belize has long been discovered for its handful of Caribbean islands lying just offshore the mainland, especially Ambergris Caye of “Survivor” fame. However, now, in the current global climate, another face of Belize is also beginning to attract attention.
This country’s lush, mountainous interior, known as the Cayo District, is drawing the notice of retirees interested in a lifestyle that values self-sufficiency and independence more than Caribbean sand and seashores.
Cayo is the largest of Belize’s six districts and has quietly become the harbinger of this tiny country. From natural to manmade, the region is rich in resources. Cayo has more protected land than any other district; it is the top eco-tourism destination in the country; boasts the largest underground cave system in the western hemisphere; and, of course, its landscape is dominated by rivers and mountains.
Please note all prices are in Belizian Dollars. An exchange rate calculater can be found here.
|Mortgage||Not included here as too variable|
|HOA Fees||1,200 to 1,800||Average: only in serviced expat developments|
|Property Taxes||20 to 500||Rural: 20
In town: 500
|Transportation||300||Taxis in town: 7 to 10
Bus to Belize City: 8
Private vehicle: 300 (recommended if you live outside Corozal or Orange Walk)
Hot water: 25
|Electricity||150 to 500||No air conditioning: 150
Moderate air conditioning: 240
Lots of air conditioning: 500
|Water||30 to 200||Higher if you have a pool or water your lawns|
|Cell phone||30||Basic plan: 30
Unlimited talk and 8GB: 50
Pay as you go also available
|Cable TV & Internet||85.50||Bundle cable & 30Mbps internet|
|Household help||200||Monthly wage working one day per week
Minimum wage: 3.30 per hour (but consider paying 5 to 7 depending on the work)
|Entertainment||840||Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: 320 (20 per person eating out twice a week)
Drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole (5 per drink for two people)
Movie theater trip twice a month (15 per person)
|Groceries||440||Basic items for a couple|
|Gym membership||N/A||No proper gyms available|
|Medical appointment||50 to 100||General practitioner: 50
Specialist: 70 to 100
|TOTAL||3,395.50 to 5,045.50||Highly variable|
|Rent||$800 to $1,500||In a desirable part of town (city center, if applicable), unfurnished, two-bedroom, comfortable apartment.
|Transportation (bus, taxi, etc.)||$40 to $500||Bus fair: Cayo to Belize City = $10
|Gas (cooking/heating)||$20||For a 30-gallon tank used for cooking and hot water daily, refilled every two months for $40
|Electricity||$150||Average electric bill with air conditioning and washer/dryer use
|Telephone||$320||Land line installation $100
Non-resident deposit $200
Monthly bill $20
|Internet||$79||4 Mbps download and 4 Mbps upload
|Cable TV||–||Bundled with telephone fee.
|Household Help||$30||Total for 3 hours of cleaning help twice monthly, or $5 an hour.
|TOTAL||$2,424 to $3,584|
|Rent||$200||Cheapest part of town, most basic kind of rental
|Transportation (bus, taxi etc.)||$40||No transport needed within town.
|Telephone||$0||If you use Wi-Fi (WhatsApp)
|Internet||$0||If you use free Wi-Fi available at most restaurants and cafés
|Cable TV||$60||Bundled with telephone fee.
Paved roads are always a good indicator of where the path of progress is headed. The British left a great legal, educational, and governmental foundation in Belize, but not much in the way of physical infrastructure.
Over the last few years, however, considerable investment has been made in improving the roads and bridges of Belize. Still, though (to help put things into perspective for you), there are but three highways in this country. The most significant artery in the country is the Western Highway, which connects Belize City (the largest city), Belmopan (the capital), and San Ignacio (the largest town in Cayo).
Not only road infrastructure but infrastructure in general is limited in this country, including infrastructure for medical care. However, Cayo is home to the La Loma Luz Hospital and the San Ignacio Hospital. There are also clinics throughout. Recently, a portion of the main road in San Ignacio (Burns Avenue) was closed off, probably permanently. Mayan artifacts were discovered here, so the spot is now pedestrian-only.
Cayo can allow a very self-sufficient lifestyle that comes with lots of advantages. One is that “self-sufficient” infrastructure is relatively low-cost. Important to a sustainable lifestyle is solar energy, and Belize’s Cayo District enjoys plenty of sunshine year-round. Water, too, is in abundant supply, meaning it’s easy to grow fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. In the self-sufficient communities forming in this region, gardens and orchards are interwoven among the housing lots so that owners can grow their own food. You can participate directly by planting and harvesting, or you can simply take advantage of the fruits and vegetables grown onsite and made available for residents.
The temperatures range from 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit with an annual average of 79. November to January are traditionally the cooler months with a 75-degree average and May to September are the warmest at about 81 degrees on average.
Here in Cayo, colorful flowers and fruit-laden trees bloom year-round, and vibrant and diverse species of birds are everywhere. In Cayo, you also find well-manicured productive Mennonite farmland. The region is reminiscent of the hills of Pennsylvania. If not for the palm trees, you might not know you were in Belize. The soil in Cayo is fertile and rich, and the Mennonite farmers who work it produce most of Belize’s food supply.
As recently as a few years ago, the numbers of foreign retirees living in Belize’s Cayo District numbered but a few dozen. Today, small but ever-expanding communities of expats and retirees seeking a back-to-basics lifestyle have established themselves in this pristine land of rivers, waterfalls, and rain forests.
Many reaching this stage of life are reminded of what’s really important in this life. This realization is spurring a new generation of people looking for opportunities around the globe to embrace a self-sufficient, resilient lifestyle. In this context, Belize stands out.