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Living in Belize

Taking the Plunge

Since you clicked on this page, the idea of living in Belize has probably crossed your mind. Once that happens, the questions begin. Not only have I been where you are right now, but because I have decided to live in Belize full time I probably have been asked all the questions you’re thinking of. So, this page is dedicated to answering all your questions about living in Belize. If I missed something, just shoot me an email at tacogirlbelize[at]gmail.com and ask.

The Visa/Work Permit/Residency/QRP/Citizenship Questions

Everyone who comes to visit Belize is given a 30-day visa which is simply a stamp in your passport. This visa is renewable every 30 days as long as you are well behaved and not breaking any laws. For the first 6 months, it costs $25 USD or $50 BZD each month to renew and then it jumps to $50 USD or $100 BZD per month forever after, unless you leave the country for a week or two, in which case it starts over again at $25 USD. The process itself is simple. Walk into the immigration office with your passport and tell them you need to renew your visa. They will determine whether it is $25 or $50 USD and give you a slip of paper, which you take to the Treasury Department (which is at the opposite end of the building) and pay. They will give you a receipt, which you take back to the immigration and they then stamp your passport and you’re good to go for another 30 days. Don’t be late, they will often give you a little leeway of a day or two, but you don’t want to push it. The penalty for being late, you can be fined, kicked out or both. Please note it will seem as though you lose a day each month, but because there are 31 days in some months, to average it out they always make the renewal one day “sooner” than you might think.

If you want to work in Belize, you must obtain a work permit. It costs $1,000US per year. Many people get around this by working online in some capacity but this is still considered gray area.  It is required that you reside in Belize for 6 months before applying for a work permit.

Belize residency may be filed for after living in Belize for a year without leaving the country for a total of 14 days. It costs $1,000 US once you are approved. You must also have a clean police record in Belize, take a couple medical tests, proof of income or a bank statement that you can sustain yourself. There are no official procedures on the Labour/Immigration section of Belize Government website so the best thing to do is check at your local immigration office, which is where you also can pick up an application. Be sure to make a file folder with copies of everything before you turn it in. Once you have your residency, you are no longer required to have a work permit or obtain the monthly visa stamp.

QRP (Qualified Retired Person) is a nice program for those who qualify and want to retire and live in Belize. It is administered by the Belize Tourism Board and the fees of $1350 USD is payable to the board.  While it doesn’t give you permanent residency, citizenship or allow you to work in the country; it does give you the freedom to come and go as you please without the need for an additional visa. You may also bring in a vehicle and all your personal effects tax exempt. To qualify you must be at least 45 years old and have proof of income of $2,000 USD per month.

Citizenship may be obtained if you live here for 5 continuous years after getting residency or marry a Belizean and live here for one year. The application process is similar to the residency. There are no fees associated with the citizenship application.

So now that you are living in Belize legally, how do you earn money?

This is definitely one of the top questions I get. Some people buy a business, however, you need a work permit to physically work at it. Many people work on the internet. It might be running a blog like this one or working for a company in your home country that allows you to work offsite. The Belize government is very protective of its workforce and so if you are applying for a job that most Belizeans can do, such as bartender, you won’t get it. Starting your own business is always welcome of course and there are many niches that can be filled. Your best bet is to bring enough to live on for a few months to a year and chances are you can find something once you get here and become part of the community.

Okay so now onto some of the basic type questions.

Where is Belize? Belize is just south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean and is part of Central America. It takes about 2 hours to fly here from Houston or Miami. It is often compared to the size of the state of New Hampshire. Belize has a population of only about 370,000 but now receives over 1 million tourists each year.

How’s the Weather? The climate is considered sub-tropical. The average annual temperature is 82° F. I’ve never experienced it get colder than 65° F or hotter than 100° F. Humidity can be a bit much at times which makes it feel even hotter. The rainy season that directly coincides with hurricane season; June 1st to November 30th.

Time Zone? Belize does not observe daylight savings so March to October it is equivalent to Mountain time and October to March, comparable to Central time; also known as GMT-6.

Money? Pretty much everywhere you go will take US dollars. The Belize dollar is pegged at 2 to 1, which means if something costs $5 USD, it is $10 BZD. This makes it really easy and has been this way for over a decade. US money is pretty widely accepted here though you will likely get local currency back as change. ATM’s are readily available and will only give you Belize dollars. Not all businesses here take credit cards so be sure and check first if you are planning to pay with plastic.

Language? As Belize was a former colony of the British, almost everyone in the country speaks English. Most also speak a local dialect of Creole/Kroil and many speak Spanish. Other local languages include Garifuna, Maya Ketchi and Maya Mopan.

People? Belize is quite the melting pot, comprised of the indigenous Mayan, Spanish, Mexican, Garifuna, British and the more recent immigrants from Lebanon and China. Sprinkle in the US, Canadian and European expats and you will see, there is a great deal of diversification.

Religion? With the melting pot of people, you get quite a variation in religion as well.

Food? The local favorite dish is stewed chicken with rice and beans. If you love your McDonald’s or Starbucks you will be in for quite a shock as for the most part. You will not find franchises in Belize. The local Chinese food shops have taken the roll of fast food provider and serve, burgers, fried chicken, pork shops as well as all the regular Chinese food choices. You can always find nice restaurants around town if you want to dine a bit more upscale.

Tipping? Tip like you do in your own country, and more if the service is good and you can afford it. Since wages are low tipping is very much appreciated in Belize. For things like tours I often do a head count of how many staff are there and tip $5 BZD a head which would buy each person a beer at a bar.

A few more things to consider

Belize is still considered a developing country so do not expect it to be like where you came from. As mentioned above, we there are no fast food chains and to get to a Walmart you have to go to Mexico. Get used to the idea things taking longer to get done. The electricity and sometimes water goes out occasionally, often seemingly for no reason or without warning. The internet is slow and expensive and it often goes out as well.  The government is very protective of business and imposes stiff import taxes on things like alcohol and electronics.

 Would I do it again?

Absolutely! Living in Belize has changed my life forever. I love living on an island in the Caribbean where you can still see children playing with marbles. I could never go back to 6 months of winter no matter where life takes me. Once you live here, there is a shift that happens that allows you to move from the tourist economy to the local economy. You figure out how to get things at a better price and how to get things done. Besides the weather and beaches, I love the community of people who live here. This island has a way of “weeding out” those who really don’t belong here and leaving behind those that do 🙂

Who wouldn’t want to spend their days in a place that looks like this?

27 comments

  1. Hello, your blog was referred to me as I’m seriously considering moving to Belize in six years if not sooner. I can fully retire at age 60 which is 6 years away for me. Did you move over there as a single female? That is what I’ll be doing. Do you feel safe there by yourself? Did you move into an expat community? Would you recommend renting or buying a house? Does land come with either so one could garden? I read that living inland is less costly than near the coastline. What would you recommend? Did you ship your personal items over? If so, how did you do that and was it costly? I live in Colorado and love it but I am ready for a change and know I will definitely be ready to make that change within the next six years. I have quite a few pets and within six years, some of them will have passed on. I will have to decide when it comes time to move over there whether I will bring my remaining pets with me or not, as to whether I would want to put them through the trip and customs and possibly quarantine. Did you bring any pets with you? What items would you recommend bringing with you? I did read on another blog to bring cotton clothing with you as it clothing over there is made of synthetic fibers and to bring a small TV and DVD with you as electronics are very expensive to purchase. Another blogger said they were glad they brought their favorite pots and pans as those were hard to get too. Thanks for reading my comment and answering my questions in advance.

  2. I started out here moving together as a common law couple and am now in process of divorce. I still feel safe living on my own and I live in a local neighborhood that has a sprinkling of expats in it. Rent first and see how you like it then that gives you tile to see if you want to buy and find the perfect place. Good thing about renting is someone else does the maintenance.

    We moved here on 2 trips with 4 suitcases each time, sold everything else off. Did not bring any pets. Shopping is much better than it was at the time of our move 10 years ago, I do agree with both bits of advice you read. I would also bring good cutlery and sheets. I did a dollar store run when we moved here and got all the utensils and cutting boards plastic plates, bowls and stuff to outfit a kitchen, as it turns out while our first apt was furnished the kitchen was bare aside from table and chairs. I would also bring good water proofing options for yourself and your electronics.

  3. hi there , I have read some of your blogs before and like to hear how a person can transition to belize, I have been there twice and went to san Ignacio the first time and liked it there and also to san pedro and the second time went to Hopkins and san Ignacio griga and caye caulker I definitely like the islands the best but everything is more expensive especially real estate . I would like to make the move there someday and liked reading your blog. im coming again in two weeks and going to corozal ,caye caulker and placentia . im kinda feeling it out to see if and where I would like to possibly move to in the future . where are you located there and have you been to different locations there to check them out?? I liked san Ignacio and felt safe there as I came by myself . Hopkins I didn’t like and found out a girl was raped and killed on same road I had been going to town on a couple weeks before. and in dangriga was approached by a guy who said I was an attractive man and would like to get to know me better, a little scary for me at 5.00 am at bus stop. its beautiful on caye caulker and san pedro but don’t know if I could afford to live there or not . catch you later jay Erickson a Minnesota person ready for 75 degrees as its been 20 below zero here for the last three days ahhhh warm air

  4. Glad you reading your blog Jay. You are definitively doing a good job of location scouting in preparation for your move. Having top get all our goods brought over by air or sea makes for higher prices on the islands. I am on Ambergris Caye and have traveled to other areas but not with the thought of moving anytime soon. Sadly there are people and places to watch out for worldwide. I have good friends here from Minnesota – 20 below wow that is cold.

  5. Hey Taco Girl!!
    I have been reading your blogs for quite a while.
    LOVE THEM!!
    I even got my sister to start following you – and getting her to do anything is a mess.
    Finally, after a number of years, she and I are coming to Belize. I can hardly wait!! BUT, I have one or two questions about stupid paddle boarding for a 60 year old in San Pedro. Can you email me and give me a few ideas about “old people” stuff there in San Pedro? I have already used your coupons and booked other trips on many of the sites you recommended. Would LOVE to meet you THE FIRST WEEK OF MARCH???

  6. Hi Shawnee.

    Thanks for getting your sister to follow me too. Congrats on coming to Belize.

    There are 2 paddleboarding places in town. One at Belize sailing club at Caribbean Villas, they do a nice mangrove paddleboard tour around back side of the island ot you can just putter around at their beach/dock area on front side. There is another one Big SUP at Chick and Robbie’s Dive shop dock in town.

    Doing golf cart tour if island fun and sating a walk down sunrise strip (the Boca Del Rio Beach road) and checking out all the fun beach bars.

  7. Hi my name is Janine. I was recommended to check out your blog and that you may be able to help me. I am a high school teacher here in Toronto, Canada.
    I am taking a leave of absence from July 2016 to Feb 2017 (with the option to extend if I wish).
    I would like to find a job and place to live, preferably in Corozal, for this time period…and longer if possible.
    I saw that for a single woman cost of living is approximately $900 US/month. I would very much love being near the water and in a friendly environment.
    Could you please give me some advice on an apartment rental and job?
    I have 15 years teaching experience. I have taught ages from 12 years to 20. I have taught the elementary system (all subjects). I have also taught the high school system – English, Law, &Religion. I am also a professional dancer and dance teacher, as well as Yoga Instructor.
    I love people, animals, the outdoors, being active and creative.

    Please help me 🙂

    Janine xo

  8. Morning Janine

    Congrats on your leave of absence. Corozal it is likely doable at that price but really depends on hwo spendy you re as to how much it will cost you here. As for Job unless you are volunteering you would have to find someone willing to hire you and go through the work permit process first.

    The Belize forum on Expat.com is a great place to network with Corozal people. They can point you in the right direction for rentals and possible help on job info.
    http://www.expat.com/forum/viewforum.php?id=226

    Sending you an email as well.

  9. Hello. My husband and I are coming do live permanently within the year. I have read every blog and newspaper online to keep abreast of the goings on there. We are interested in volunteering opportunities after we get settled. I like how you promote that aspect of Belize. I have a couple of questions. In all of my readings between newspapers, multiple books, blogs, and my research there, can we go to the San Pedro Police Department to get our passports stamped every month for our permanent residency procedures or do we have to go to Belize City each month? Can we pay the fee on the island as well? Does it really cost $1000 per person after a year to apply for permanent residency? The book I read must have had old information. And, would you happen to have a link to a website to get the application early for permanent residency? Is there a way to pay all of the fees up front for the entire year to speed the process up? I don’t think it is possible on that last question (with all of my research), but I figured I would ask anyway.

    I appreciate your time and your blog Tacogirl.

    Regards
    The Engles

  10. Nancy, you would go to immigration (currently upstairs across from Tropic Air) on the island for monthly stamp. Price is still the same for residence $1000 US Dollars or $2000 Belize dollars. You cannot pay the fees in advance to speed things up. I have never seen the form online. When you are close to done your year, then you can go to Immigration and get the form – sometimes they want to verify you qualify before they will give you the form.

  11. This is my first time to read your blog..Loved it..was very interesting to learn some tings about Belize..Looks so beautiful..would love to visit and maybe live there one day..

  12. Thanks for the compliment Pamela. It is very beautiful here, hopefully you will be able to plan a visit soon and see the country first hand.

  13. Hey Taco Girl, love your posts here. I am considering moving to Belize. Looking to keep up on postings from this website.

  14. I retire soon and my 22 year old son would like to join me in Belize and get a job in a hospital as a surgical tech. He realizes he’ll need to volunteer for 6 mos-to a year so the hospital(s) can get to know him before he could start applying for jobs. Is this possible? I’m reading he needs to be at least 45 years old to apply for a work permit. I don’t need to work, and can support both of us with my pension for as long as needed (but want a “return” on my investment on that college education!)

  15. Sure thing Michele, glad you love my posts. Feel free to sign up for RRS feed upper right hand side if you want automatic post delivery.

  16. Hi Joyce

    Ministry of Health would be the ones to look to and find out correct procedures. He may have to do schooling here as well depending on exactly what he plans to do and their regulations.
    Guide to Hospitals in the country http://www.guidetobelize.info/en/yellow-pages/belize-health-care-medical-current-guide.shtml#health-hospitals

  17. Silly question, but……

    My better half and I visited Ambergris last year on our honeymoon and LOVED it! We’re captivated!

    We are planning on coming back in June 2017 and bringing our “accumulated children”, ages 21, 20, 17, 15. (We were both widows when we met.)

    The 20 year old loves fishing. Bringing fishing gear from Ohio may be challenging, so I was wondering if you might have any references or ideas for renting or borrowing fishing gear for him while we’re there?

    Thanks!
    Chip

  18. Moring Chip. I do not know of any rental places off hand. Fishing guides do have pols available for their tours and Captain Sharks in town does sell them. That is a good item to donate to a local if it is easy and cost effective for you to get one at home and bring it down. Not sure the luggage restrictions on items like that now days. A good friend always brought boxes of hooks for his favorite Ambergris Caye fishermen when he vacationed.

  19. OK, thanks! I never thought about the donation angle – interesting.

    We’re counting the day until we get back again!

    Chip

  20. Often there are more angles to consider Chip, glad you found that interesting. Enjoy your countdown to becoming repeat offenders 😉

  21. Thank you for putting this blog together, I really like the flow and ease of it!

    Do you have any suggestions on how to find a short term rental, other than AirBnB or VRBO. Nothing against them, it just seems that there isn’t that many choices for our price range.
    We are not looking for anything super extravagant. Safe area, 1 bedroom, 1 bath, close to the water and near the necessities like a market, and preferably under $1,000 for about four weeks. Is that a realistic request?
    We’re hoping to travel between January and March.
    We haven’t settled on any one specific spot, but we are looking at doing a vacation slash retirement home search.

    Thanks for any suggestions!

  22. Part of the trouble is long and short term rentals have different classifications tax wise. Short term rentals tend to all be hotel type places or the kind that get listed on AirBnB or VRBO. It is easier to find a deal on a long term rental which is 6 months or more. Check your email Angel, I will send you an option.

  23. Hi Tacogirl,

    My wife and I have visited Ambergris Caye twice in the last 9 months and we love it. We are considering buying a piece of waterfront land on the WEST side of the island, north of Secret Beach. I’m looking for reliable info sources that might be able to give me insight into the plans for GBE and the area around it with regards to roads, electricity, etc. Even if we buy now, we wouldn’t be looking to move for at least 5 years. But I’m still concerned that there will be little to no progress on development of the west side over that period of time.

    Any guidance you can provide will be much appreciated.

    -Eric

  24. The west side while remote is still a very cool area Eric. While development may be slower in that area, the popularity of Secret Beach is helping it move along. Got your email answering it now.

    This post has some video footage and pictures of the area north of Secret Beach. http://tacogirl.com/2-tickets-to-paradise-on-seas-d-day-boat-charter-belize/

  25. HI TACOGIRL.

    FIRST OF ALL, THANKS FOR YOUR VERY HELP FULL BLOG.

    ME AND MY WIFE WILL BE VISITING THE ISLAND FROM 22 APRIL TO 2 MAY THIS YEAR. WE WOULD LIKE TO MEET UP WITH YOU AS WE HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.
    WE ARE ACTUALLY COMING TO THE ISLAND TO SEE IF MY WIFE WILL BE HAPPY TO LIVE ON THE ISLAND PERMANENTLY.

    CHEERS LOUIS BRITZ

  26. Cheers Louis. Just shoot me an email closer to time.

  27. Hi Tacogirl,
    This is my first time to check out your blog. I was really impressed as you provide us with a lot of useful information for our trip! Keep on your great work!

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