Belize is a captivating country. The comfortably toasty year-round climate, the lush landscapes, friendly people, and the laid-back lifestyle entice an increasing number of visitors to move here. With relatively relaxed immigration requirements, English as the official national language, and an overall stable and evolving government and economy, it is an appealing option for both retirees and young foreign families looking for a change in latitude.
While the cost of living here is the highest in Central America, if you think of Belize in Caribbean terms- it is one of the least expensive places to live. The cute and quirky Placencia Peninsula can be a much more affordable option to reside than Barbados, the Bahamas, or the Florida Keys. Boasting that easygoing, barefoot and carefree lifestyle, Placencia might just fit the ticket for paradise on a pauper’s budget. Here are some top tips and must-knows before moving to Belize and how to apportion appropriately.
1. Visas and Requirements
There are different visa types for foreigners to enter and remain in Belize. The most common is the Visitor’s Visa which allows you to stay in the country legally for up to 30 days. It can be renewed each month at a cost of $200bzd per person.
Placencia’s well-traveled path to the local Immigration Office is an easy, breezy, quick little jaunt across the lagoon on the water taxi to nearby Mango Creek. You’ll meet other transplants on your monthly trips. And, after renewing your stamp for one year you can apply for permanent residency. You should be prepared to prove financial self-sufficiency, complete a health exam, and criminal background check to be considered for residency.
2. Rent and Building Costs
Rent and building costs in Placencia are difficult to average. There is a broad spectrum of dwellings on the market from humble wooden cabanas to ultra-modern steel and glass villas with all the bells and whistles. In general, you can expect to pay North American prices for North American amenities. For example, glass windows instead of wooden louvers, hot water throughout all your taps, or the option of air conditioning.
Regardless of your preference in abode, if you are renting a home or apartment while living in Placencia on a temporary visitor’s visa, you are meant to stay in a licensed accommodation and pay the 9% Hotel Tax. Most Placencia rentals come fully furnished and inclusive of utilities. Still, double-check your lease and budget for any extras such as electricity which can be pricier than you’re likely expecting. If you purchase your own home, you will be downright delighted with the extremely low annual property taxes- usually only a dozen or so dollars!
3. Education and Medical Services
Placencia has several primary schools, both public and private, but no high school on the peninsula. There are a few simple medical clinics offering standard services and are available for minor illnesses or injuries at a very low cost. For any specialized care, however, you’d likely need to make a trip to a larger town or perhaps even the capital city, Belmopan.
The local pharmacies are wonderfully well-stocked with a wide array of prescription and non-prescription medication. They are never open 24 hours, though, and may be closed completely on Sundays. So, it is always advisable to keep your medicine cabinet at home provisioned with essentials. Doctors’ visits and meds are typically so affordable that many people choose to simply pay out of pocket for them as needed instead of carrying an insurance plan.
Belize’s national identity is built around migration; it is a global melting pot. On the Peninsula, you will find “new Belizeans” of every imaginable background. Considering a move abroad can be intimidating at best but if you pick Placencia, you’ll have plenty of company on your expat journey.