Retire To Belize

“Kathleen, just read your newsletter and Facebook post from Paris. and I am totally homesick now! Paris was my yearly vacation spot when we lived in Germany, and I miss it terribly. The cheese, the noise, the heat, the bloody bathing caps they make you wear at the pool…I miss it all!

“I completely agree that Paris doesn’t have to be expensive at all. There’s so much to do that doesn’t cost anything other than a Metro trip, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than in most cities. Maybe you’ll have a last-minute visitor…”

–Sharon H., Canada


“We just left Belize, after a year of living there, and we could not get out fast enough. We found it to be a poorly maintained country with lousy infrastructure, creeping crime, and a disorganized government. Belize City is a dump and full of crime. San Pedro is full of scam artists and mosquitos. San Ignacio/Santa Elena lacks charm and exciting restaurants. Placencia is nice but limited in its appeal. Dangriga and Hopkins are dirty and depressing.

“It is quite difficult to reach the attractions, except for the Xunatunich ruins, due to under-developed roads. Health care and police security are a joke. We don’t know what part of Belize you are promoting, but we feel you are misrepresenting the country to unsuspecting folks.

“The pensionado fee is quite a bit higher than in Panama and Costa Rica, while offering little in terms of incentives. Cost of living may be low, but quality of life is lacking. You should take Belize off your list of retirement havens. It does not stack up to places like Panama and Costa Rica.”

— Ellen W., United States

Right, Belize isn’t the place for you, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right place for others.

I know people who would write of Panama and Costa Rica the way you write of Belize. It’s a matter of perspective and priorities. No question, Belize isn’t the place to go for nightlife (or “exciting restaurants”). Belize is a place to go to escape the rest of the world and to enjoy a sweet and simple life. Its “disorganized” government is one of this country’s biggest charms. Give us a small, under-funded, ineffective government over a super-sized one any day.

You are correct that Belize City, Hopkins, and Dangriga aren’t among Belize’s highlights. On the other hand, I’m completely won over by the charms of San Ignacio and fully recognize the beach appeals of Placencia (mainland coast) and San Pedro (on Ambergris Caye).

You mention that the pensionado fee is greater in Belize than in Panama or Costa Rica, but I fear you may be confused on this point. The US$2,000 per month required to qualify for QRP status in Belize isn’t a fee…and neither is the US$1,000 per month required to qualify for pensionadostatus in Panama. These are minimum income requirements, not costs. Also note that you can qualify for regular retirement residency status in Belize with an income of less than US$2,000 per month. That amount is relevant to QRP status only.

If you think crime is a problem in Belize, I’d suggest you reconsider any interest in Costa Rica, where crime is generally a greater concern. As I remind you often, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all retirement haven, and no place is right for everyone. It’s a matter of recognizing what’s important to you and how you want to live your life.

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