The Secret To Getting The Best Deals Even If You’re A Gringo
“Whether it’s to escape the cold, to get out of the rat race, or to find a new direction in life, you’ll find activities and adventures to last a lifetime in the Cayo District of Belize,” writes Correspondent from that country Phil Hahn.
“Some people come for a vacation, some for a second home, and others for a new life; Cayo welcomes them all.
“Belize is a schizophrenic little country, both Caribbean and Central American. Generally considered one of the best values in the Caribbean, it is, at the same time, relatively expensive by Central American standards. At least it can appear that way at first.
“However, like anywhere, the cost of living is highly dependent upon your lifestyle. The more time you spend here, the less expensive it can be. All too many expats fall into the trap of living overseas as if they are on vacation–living in a lavish resort-type setting and buying imported wine, food, and other products. After the first few months in their new home, they have blown their budgets and never get settled in.
“The key to maintaining a low cost of living is to get to know the local vendors, farmers, and suppliers. I have Belizean friends who enjoy higher standards of living than many ‘First World’ residents I know. They purchase locally grown foods, for example, which are far superior to the more expensive processed foods imported from abroad.
“They also enjoy more quality time with their family and friends because they can afford maids, cooks, and gardeners. They build their houses using readily available local materials and talent. If they need something that isn’t on hand, they go to the Mennonites in Spanish Lookout, who can fabricate just about anything for far less than the cost of importing it.
“The bottom line is that, in Cayo, you can enjoy a very fulfilling life for US$1,000 per month, if you buy locally and use the local resources.
“And you’ll find plenty of things to do that cost little or nothing. One of my family’s favorite pursuits is a visit to the Belize Zoo, which was established by an expat to rescue and rehabilitate indigenous animals. Now it has educational programs for children, research facilities, and conservation programs. The daily admission if you buy tickets at the gate the normal daily fees are US$15.00 for adults and US$5.00 for children (non-Belizean). Fees for Belizean adults and children are BZ$5.00 BZ and BZ$1.00 respectively; however, if you book the trip through a resort, the cost is typically about US$50 per person.
“To avoid getting ripped off like this (that is, paying gringo prices), start by focusing on getting to know the people you’ll be living among, your new neighbors. In my experience, Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town. Pretty soon, your neighbors go from being acquaintances to becoming friends, and, before you know it, they’re like family. At that point, they’ll help to make sure you know how to get around, how to find what you’re looking for, and where to go for the best deals.”