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Belize Is A Small, Underdeveloped Country

A Sober Look At The Challenges Of Life In Belize

Yesterday, I waxed sentimental about the little country of Belize and why we continue to recommend it so enthusiastically.

Today, let’s take a more sober look.

I couldn’t be in Belize City for this week’s Live and Invest in Belize Conference, but Lief and our daughter Kaitlin are there, running the show and providing me with from-the-scene updates.

Kaitlin reports that Belize expat Amma Carey opened yesterday’s sessions with a presentation on “logistics and practicalities.” As Amma explained…

  • Belize has four highways—one that goes north, one that goes south, one that goes west, and the Hummingbird Highway. You can assume that all other roads are dirt or gravel…
  • Any vehicle you buy or rent should be four-wheel-drive, because, again, most of the roads are dirt. As well, though, you don’t want a vehicle that’s too big. The in-town roads are narrow!…
  • Buses are safe, cheap, and colorful…but not for everyone. You never know what might be in the seat next to you—could be a box of puppies or a crate of chickens…

  • An exception are the buses that travel from Belize City to and from Cancun. These take you through the Mexican Maya Riviera and are not Belizean buses but Mexican ones. They’re big and modern with bathrooms and televisions. This can be a great way to travel up to Cancun…
  • Why would you want to travel to Cancun? Because from there you’ll have more and often cheaper flight options for travel to and from the States…
  • Taxis are not metered, and fares are highly negotiable. Drivers can quote prices that are double the going rate, so don’t be shy when negotiating a fare and always negotiate before getting in the cab. The fare for a ride between Belize City and the airport is set, though—at US$25…
  • Police in this country don’t really patrol, so you don’t have to worry about them pulling you over for speeding on the highway. However, they do set up checkpoints. The main thing they’re checking for is car insurance…so make sure you have it…
  • Living in the country, you can drive on your foreign license for one year. Then you’ll need to get a local Belize driver’s license. On it will be a picture of a short little old man. This is Tata Duende, who lives in the woods and taunts people passing through, trying to lead them astray. That’s the local legend. Why is Tata Duende on every Belize driver’s license? The Belizean sense of humor, I guess…
  • To get your local driver’s license, you’ll have to take both a written and a driving test. Fortunately, the language here is English, so this isn’t a big deal. The cost is US$30…
  • A lack of infrastructure is probably the biggest challenge of living in Belize. You have to be prepared to lose your cell signal regularly, for example, and to struggle with less than high-speed Internet. If the thought of that makes you crazy, Belize is not for you…

The key is to understand the trade-off you’re making. Belize is a small, poor country with a small, under-funded government. Thus the lack of development and infrastructure.

On the other hand, a small, under-funded government also means less intervention in your day-to-day life. Less regulation. Less restriction.

It’s a matter of priorities.

Kathleen Peddicord

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