Beautiful Belize is located along the northeastern coast of Central America. It is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, and then on the south and west by Guatemala. The entire eastern portion of the country comes up to the Caribbean Sea. It may be one of the smaller nations in the region, but it also has the lowest population density in the region with a population under 400,000.
Despite its small size, Belize is notable for the diverse society thanks to the rich history of the region. English is the official language of the country, but Belizean Creole is a widely-spoken national language that over 30% of the population speaks. There is an abundance of marine life to find here, with key ecosystems contributing to the overall health of the planet.
What many people may not realize is that Belize is part of the Commonwealth realm, which means the ruling British monarch serves as the king or queen of the country and its head of state. The nation is also the only one to hold full membership in SICA, CELAC, and CARICOM.
The pros and cons of being able to retire in Belize are essential to review so that you can determine if this opportunity is something that works for you and your family.
List of the Pros of Retiring in Belize
1. You can retire here while having a tourist card.
If you are not sure about a full-time retirement to Belize, then consider taking advantage of the tourist card option for your travels. There is no commitment with this advantage. You won’t face any financial requirements either. It provides a high level of flexibility without causing you to navigate through a lot of red tape. You’ll need to renew it periodically at the cost of up to $50 per month to extend your stay and the rules can change at any time, but it can be a useful way to experiment. Just make sure that you aren’t working on the side from a local employer.
2. The age requirements for the retirement program are quite low.
If you decide to retire in Belize, then the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program is a definite option to consider. This option runs through the Belize Tourism Board instead of the country’s immigration department. You’ll have some residence rights, the tax-free entry of household effects, and that includes boars and cars. You only need to live in the country for one month per year to qualify.
You’ll need to deposit $24,000 per year in a local bank to take advantage of this program. Anyone can qualify at the age of 45 or over. You can also qualify with a monthly income of $2,000 per month.
3. It only takes a year of living in Belize to qualify for permanent residency.
If you want to retire to Belize full-time and decide to stay, then you can apply for permanent residency after 12 months of being in the country. This advantage gives you the opportunity to vote in municipal elections. You can also work for pay in the country without worrying about additional restrictions. There is no age requirement with this option either, although you only have a one-time, tax-free entry of household items. You cannot bring a boat or a car into the country with this program.
You can then apply for full citizenship if you have permanent residency status for five years.
4. The cost of living in Belize is relatively low.
All of the usual services that come with being a homeowner or a renter, like cable television, food, and utilities is very economical when retiring in Belize. If you have about $20,000 saved up, then you can purchase a three-bedroom home in this country that is ready for use upon your arrival. Renting is about $200 per month for a decent spot. If you want to build a new home on property you’ve purchased, then the final cost can be less than $50,000 in most situations.
5. You can get by with the English you already know.
If you want to retire as an expat in most places around the world, then there is a requirement that you learn the local language to navigate the culture. Although English isn’t spoken by everyone here, the media broadcasts are always in this language. Schools follow the language with their curriculum if you are bringing kids along for the retirement. That means you can communicate with most people right away, start building friendships, and turn this experience into a fun and wonderful adventure.
6. The monetary conversion is fairly simple in Belize.
Another advantage to consider when retiring in Belize is the fact that your money converts pretty easily when living here. The country does have its own currency, which is also called the dollar. The U.S. dollar is widely accepted for transactions in cash. If you do need the local currency for something, then two Belizean dollars equals $1. That means you can figure out how much to spend fast enough or know that you’re getting a pretty good deal.
7. You are still close enough for a visit.
When people announce that they are going to retire outside of the country, then one of the significant disadvantages they experience is the distance that is between them and their family or friends. Although you will still encounter this issue somewhat when retiring to Belize, it is not as significant of a problem because of its Central American location. There are regularly scheduled flights between the U.S. and the country that are convenient and inexpensive. If you have a nice location along the beach, you might have more visitors coming by for a vacation than you might want.
8. Foreigners can hold property in their name in Belize.
The Alien Landholding Act of 2001 eliminated any requirements that foreigners faced with real estate ownership in Belize. There are no special permits or licenses that you must hold as a non-resident to own a home. That means it is much easier to purchase beachfront property here than it is with other retirement destinations in the Caribbean or Central America. You might even get a good investment with some properties if you can hold it for some time. Because it is so easy to retire here with the financial stipulations, you’ll want to start looking right away for a property that can meet your expectations.
9. Many people in Belize have connections to the U.S. and other nations in the region.
Most new arrivals in Belize are immediately welcomed as neighbors, new residents, and friends. There are several exploration opportunities available to you immediately upon arrival, such as the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. You can also visit Lamanai and Caracol to walk in the footsteps of ancient civilizations. There is also the Belize Barrier Reef to explore, which is the second-largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. You can even visit the mysteriously tantalizing Blue Hole. It provides you with a laidback experience, a relaxed vibe, and lots of opportunities to pursue an active lifestyle.
10. Almost everything is negotiable in Belize.
When you retire in Belize, then you will find that the taxis are not metered. Markets might not post prices. The first price someone quotes you is probably double what they’re willing to accept as a transaction. Make sure that you have insurance on your vehicle since that’s what police officers tend to check if they pull you over or you pass a control area. If you love to haggle, then you can get some pretty good deals when living here.
List of the Cons of Retiring in Belize
1. Life in Belize can be colorful and loud.
If you want to retire somewhere that offers rambunctious festivals, lots of parties, and loud music that can continue deep into the night, then Belize is not the place for you. Some of the events can go until the break of dawn. Even the churches love to crank the noise up to 11 and use amplifiers to create their joyful noise. There is a certain zest for life here that can be different than the expectations that some retirees have for this restful time. If you want some peace and quiet, you’ll want to search for a different home.
2. You may have limited health care resources.
Belize is a relatively small country. That means the health care resources available to you if you retire here are going to be limited. There are only 350,000 residents in the nation, so you will not find the same variety of specialists that you would have elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that you must go without the care of a dedicated and competent general practitioner. If you have a sensitive medical condition and you decide to retire here, then you’ll be traveling to the U.S., Costa Rica, or Mexico for your appointments.
3. The weather in Belize can be incredibly hot.
Belize exists in a subtropical climate, which means the weather is going to be hot and humid throughout the year. There are some exceptions to this disadvantage if you can find a place at a higher elevation. Even then, you will be dealing with the other issues that come along with warmer weather. There are spiders, scorpions, snakes, and other insects that can be harmful if you encounter them. Some can even spread disease. You will want to speak with your current doctor about proactive treatment options for Dengue fever before traveling to the country.
4. You will need to deal with a culture change upon retirement.
If you are a big fan of American or European cultural entertainment, then your options in Belize are going to be somewhat limited. There are not many options for theater, opera, or similar options. You can get outside to tour the history of the region and is beautiful archaeological sites, but that only applies if you enjoy being active. High schools in the country may put on plays, and that will be the extent of things for you. Dancing on the beach is still a welcome pastime that always has an open invitation.
5. The people of Belize take a lot of pride in their country and culture.
If you are the type of person who tends to complain when things don’t go your way, then you will want to be mindful of what you say when retiring in Belize. The people here are polite, but they are also very proud of who they are and what they can accomplish. If you are seen as being critical of what you encounter, then the perception your neighbors will have of you is that of an elitist. Whether intended or not, the outcome of this disadvantage is that things will become even more challenging for you because there can be passive-aggressive efforts to force you into moving away.
6. Services in Belize are not always available.
There is very little infrastructure available to you if you decide to retire to Belize. There are limited services and amenities that you can use as well. Those who have a successful experience adapting to this culture typically find this disadvantage to be more of a personal advantage for their situation. The goal is to be concerned with conservation more than the immediate gratification of consumerism.
Life is simple here. You’re going to find what you need to get through each day, but you might not have options to get supplies for a hobby or a side hustle.
7. There is no financial privacy available to you when retiring in Belize.
If you are a qualified retired person living in Belize, then the government requires that you submit an annual bank statement that shows you are in compliance with your financial requirements. Most retirees who use this program feel like it is an intrusive way to see how much money is available to them. Anyone who has family in the country is going to have an advantage here as well, especially since you can move several years of tax-free items into the country with this status. You could then apply for permanent residency later without paying the usual entry costs.
8. Some utilities cost more in Belize.
If you want to have good access to the Internet when you retire in Belize, then the costs are going to be significantly higher than what you pay at home. Fuel, mobile services, and your telephone expenses are going to be higher as well. If you want unlimited satellite Internet for your home, then you are going to pay $120 per month for 25 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. If there is a thunderstorm that pours rain on your home, then you’re going to lose your data connection.
You can opt for a fiber optic plan with 20 Mbps and free mobile and home phone services for about $100. The country is now at a first-world status with their connections, but you’ll want to budget this expense carefully.
9. You will need to be aware of which neighborhoods are safe.
There are some areas in Belize where the crime rate is very high. Your risk of becoming a victim of a property or violent crime rise exponentially if you were to find yourself in one of these regions. This country rates as one of the worst in the world for its murder rate, with 142 incidents occurring in 2017. That translates to an effective ratio of about 40 per 100,000 people. Gang violence is a significant contributor to this issue, and most of it occurs on the south side of Belize City. You should avoid that area at all costs.
There are violent crime regions that have spread to the north and west of the country as well where home invasions and violent crime were previously rare. This disadvantage includes places frequented by tourists. If someone robs you, the best advice is to follow their instructions instead of resisting. The U.S. issued a Level 2 travel advisory in 2018 for travelers to take extreme caution, avoid walking or driving at night, and to never display signs of wealth.
10. Hurricanes can be a problematic issue in Belize.
Since 1930, there have been 16 hurricanes that have struck Belize throughout the years. Half of them were major storms that either made landfall there or passed by close enough to cause damage, injuries, and fatalities. Another 17 storms arrived as tropical depressions, lacking the strength of a full hurricane.
Hurricane Earl was the most recent storm in 2016, striking as a Category 1 hurricane. It would cause over $100 million in agricultural and infrastructure damage.
11. Time is relative when you retire in Belize.
This key point can be an advantage just as much as it is a disadvantage. The importance of time is very different here compared to what you might be used to experiencing. You’ll want to budget a lot of extra time for any services that you need, including government functions, because of the “delays” that occur. This trait extends to the conversations that you’ll have with others too. Instead of telling you a firm “No,” most people will tell you either “possibly” or “maybe” when you have a request.
Until you get used to the quirks of this cultural difference, it can be a frustrating experience to retire in Belize.
12. Big ticket items are not readily accessible in Belize.
If you want to have a vehicle, an appliance, or various electronics for your retirement, then you’ll want to take advantage of the tax-free imports that are available through the various government programs. If you do find them, the cost tends to be much higher than what you would pay back in your home country. Even smaller items like clothing or Aspirin can be difficult to find at times.
This issue is due to the high import taxes that exist in Belize that are combined with limited or no domestic supplies. There is a lack of major retail centers throughout the country. It takes some time to get used to using locally-sourced items.
13. There is an overall lack of infrastructure in the country.
If you start living in Belize, then you will need to be prepared to lose your cell signal at any time. There might be lagging with your high-speed Internet – if it is even available. There are only four highways in the country, so you will need to assume that every other road is either gravel or dirt. That means driving is challenging at times in even the best of circumstances. You’ll want a four-wheel drive vehicle that is narrow because city streets tend to lack width. Then the public transportation system, which is generally safe, can surprise you because your seat partner might be a crate of chickens.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of Retiring in Belize
Everyone has their own idea of paradise. Belize can fit that definition if you are looking for an affordable way to retire that doesn’t compromise on your expected living standards. The financial requirements are low enough that some couples could come here with only their Social Security check coming in each month.
As with any international retirement opportunity, it is essential to visit Belize first before deciding to move here full-time. Many people fall in love with what they find here, but it is not always a pleasant experience.
The pros and cons of being able to retire in Belize involve common sense. Stay away from the dangerous areas, follow the advice of your home government, and proactively plan for what you need. Then you can choose one of the retirement options provided by the government to purchase a home and enjoy an active retirement.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.