This emerging nation, located a mere two-hour flight from major US gateways sits in a subtropical zone, which means mild weather in the winter and warm toasty summers, replete with a constant trade wind. The diversity of Belize is what makes it special. For nature lovers, foodies, and road trip junkies, this one of the best and most centrally located places in Central America where sand, sea, mountain, culture, language and nature converge in a beautiful, yet uncrowded kaleidoscope of life. For so many reasons, Belize should be on top of your list of places to stay, live work and play post-2020.
Language, laws and stability
Belize is a former colony of Great Britain, so the official language is English. Beyond that, it is a parliamentary democracy that still plays host to a British Military regiment that uses it for training and R&R. The legal system is based on British common law, which makes investing in Belize less of a mystery, and means that investors have domestic and international recourse in securing their transaction. The Belize dollar remains pegged to the US Dollar at 2:1 since it was first issued in 1974, 7 years before the country’s independence from Britain, and US currency is acceptable as legal tender. Stability has been this nation’s hallmark with no recorded instances of major civil unrest in its history, though some inner-city crime and violence in select areas have started to emerge more recently.
Diversity in nature and culture
Perhaps the most attractive feature of Belize is its diversity. With some of the most pristine protected reef systems, the coastal areas of Belize are a virtual playground for those seeking water adventure. Belize is one of the last places on Earth with such abundance in live coral reefs, boasting the second largest barrier reef system in the world, and three of the only four natural atolls in the Western Hemisphere. The coastline, dotted with hundreds of small coral islands, is a boater’s paradise. The abundance of mangrove habitats and estuaries provide breeding ground for a wide variety of light tackle sport fish, while steep offshore structure create the ideal environment for reef fishing or deep sea game.
The coastal zone of Belize is a wonder to behold, and creates great opportunities to stay, live, work and play in island or mainland coastal communities, like San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Corozal, Placencia, Hopkins or Punta Gorda. The extra bonus for Belize, though, is really the inland areas. Cool temperature at higher altitudes in areas with pristine rainforests, waterfalls, rivers and cave systems can be found in the gorgeous Cayo District. Many international citizens have found their best life nestled in the calm green hills of Cayo, and have established their residence either on their own homestead on multi-acre parcels of land, or have settled in the various small villages and towns in the Western part of Belize.
Options range from stays at high end luxury resorts like Chaa Creek, to living on small farms or estates, to upscale communities like Chial Reserve. The cost of living in Cayo is reasonable and access to fresh foods is abundant. While shopping for consumer goods is fairly limited, online shopping is possible, and who really wants to trudge through Walmart for so much crap that you really don’t need anyways!
Belize is a multi ethnic society where race, color or creed does not mean division. Religion is freely practiced (or not), and tolerance of diversity is a culture that is engrained in its DNA. Economic diversity is also less pronounced. Leave behind the Manolo Blahnik heels and the Lamborghini; they don’t work well off-road, or on the beach anyways! For those foodies, expect to find gems in the most unexpected and understated places. Spices and flavors from the Caribbean combine with Latin American and asian influences for some of the best cuisine created from local ingredients like fresh fish, lobster, and non-GMO grain raised livestock and vegetables.
Convenience in travel and connectivity
Despite the low density of Belize, the country has a very well-developed system of major and secondary roads, High speed 4G internet connectivity and cellular coverage is pretty much everywhere, except for really remote areas. This, perhaps is one of the features that makes it easy to live and work in Belize. There is no rush hour to speak of. In fact, in most places, the noisiest traffic sounds come from the cacophony of parrots flying home in the early evening hours. This unrushed environment makes for a peaceful reprieve from the bustling North American life. With the the now common practice for working at home, it makes no difference to most employers if you are in Belize either in the rainforest or on the beach, or in downtown Toronto in the heart of the winter!
Facilitation of Residency
While moving overseas is not an easy undertaking, Belize makes it just a bit easier than most places. The government has created the Qualified Retirement Program, which is ideal for those that desire a temporary form of residence, which helps in the facilitation of travel, banking etc., and which allows for tax free living, since you are not taxed in your foreign earnings.
For those that wish to invest, the immigration department can facilitate a Temporary Residence permit that allows investor to freely travel, live and work. Or for those wanting to go through the traditional channels, a non-resident can apply for a work permit, providing they have a sponsor, or if they are setting up their own business. After one year, work permit holders qualify for a permanent residence, and after five years, for citizenship. There are many routes toward legal residency in Belize, but it’s advisable to consult with either an attorney, or even your friendly real estate agent for advice.
Buying Real Estate
Buying real estate in Belize is not a complicated process, though sometimes the actual paperwork takes a bit long. It is advisable to work with a recognized real estate agent, a list of which can be found on the Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize. While there is no standard system of valuation, nor a broad MLS system in place, most brokers are very familiar with values and can guide you on pricing and negotiation to get the best price.
Before choosing a community, it’s strongly advisable to see the whole country, and to spend some time looking at the features of each place, and to check out the advice from others that have made the move. Staying, Living, Playing and working in Belize is no longer a dream, it is a reality. The only choice to make is whether to live on an island, on the beach, on the coast or in the mountains. No matter what the choice is, you can’t go wrong!