How to Retire in Belize – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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If lounging on a beachfront, eating healthier food, and living a high-quality life, or looking for your ideal place of retirement, then Central America’s Belize might be the place to be.
Belize is a Caribbean country located in Central America. It is home to some of the most exotic islands and beaches in the world, a stable and democratic government, and an abundance of recreational activities.
Over the years, thousands of Americans, Canadians, Asians, etc., have retired and relocated to Belize for the great experience it promises. If that’s your dream, then this article is tailor-made for you. Here’s everything you need to know about how to retire in Belize.
Why You Should Retire in Belize
Retiring in a foreign country is more than just a lifestyle change. It could be downright scary and filled with so many doubts. But then, retiring in Belize does come with its perks, and some of them include the following.
1. Great Program for Retirees
The Belize government runs a Qualified Retirement Persons (QRP) Program that helps those who qualify retire and live in Belize permanently.
Some of the perks of this program are that you can bring your household and other personal goods into the country duty-free. Also, any income you earn outside Belize will not be taxed. Not many countries run such programs.
2. The Cost of Living is Affordable
The U.S Dollar is accepted in Belize, and two of it equals one Belize Dollar. This means that if you can afford to live comfortably outside Belize, you should be able to do so in Belize.
3. Fewer Language Barriers
English is considered a global lingua franca, and that’s an excellent plus for retirees. The law, documents, and regular day-to-day correspondence are written in English, so there’s no need to learn a new language.
4. The Weather and Great Food
Belize has just two seasons – the dry and rainy seasons. So, it’s goodbye to harsh winters and short-lived summers. Given this weather, growing fresh food becomes easier. This combination of great weather and healthy food is the recipe for a great retirement.
5. It’s Peaceful
The point of retirement is to be able to rest peacefully. This is why the community you choose to retire to has to be, at least, accommodating. The great news is that Belizeans are peaceful and community-loving people, so you’ll feel right at home.
Few Cons to Retiring in Belize
Although Belize can be likened to a paradise, there are some factors that might make it not-so-suitable for certain persons. These are some of the cons you should keep in mind;
1. Less Developed Than Most Places
Belize is bordered by Central American countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, and even the United States of America, but Belize pales in comparison when it comes to development.
The roads are not so great, so it might take you a little longer to get to your destination. There are no large fast-food companies or department stores. If it’s not essential, you might not find it in Belize.
2. The Health Care is Not That Great
If you need to treat something minor like a cut, a migraine, or a mild concussion, there’ll be doctors to attend to you in Belize. But several health problems might necessitate a trip across the border to Mexico.
The medical facilities in Belize are not as advanced as those in the neighboring countries, so before retiring fully to Belize, you might want to make sure your next doctor’s appointment is booked.
3. The Parties Can Get Very Loud
One feature of the Belizeans is that they love to live life to the fullest at every opportunity. This might be a problem for retirees who appreciate a secluded, private and quiet lifestyle.
It is normal for beach parties and festival weekends to begin in the early hours of the day and not stop till the next day. Of course, you could escape to a quieter place with a silent prayer that your neighbors love stillness as much as you do.
How Much Would Living in Belize Cost?
First, it is important that you understand that Belize is not a cheap place to live in. Yes, it’s affordable, but it’s not cheap. Since you’ll be living mainly on your savings, you might need to cut off certain non-essential items from your budget.
You can buy land and build on it for under $100,000 in places like Cayo. Even in the most expensive areas like Ambergris Caye, Placencia, etc., you can find luxurious homes starting from $200,000. If you want to rent, anything from $500 to $2000 a month is obtainable.
Say goodbye to overpriced, imported American food once you move to Belize. Food is mainly homegrown and available at low prices. Eating out doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either. You’ll not only eat healthier, but you’ll also save a lot of money.
The electricity bill is the same as in the US, but you can still keep your bills around $100 if you know your way around it.
Furthermore, note that Belize is not as materialistic as many parts of the world. You might find that a car is not necessary, much less two. A bike will take you anywhere you need to go just fine. Also, most people won’t care what brand of shirts or boots you have on.
As long as they cover all the right places, you’ll be great. Since there’s no pressure to look or be better than the next person, living costs do not become outrageous. In addition to your other expenses, you might end up spending anything between $1500 to $3000 a month (if you live in a rented apartment).
Best (and Worst) Places to Retire in Belize
Belize is a great place all-round, but as a foreigner, it’ll be better if you take extra steps to guarantee your safety and optimal living conditions.
On that note, these are some of the best and worst places to live in Belize as a retiree. -round, but as a foreigner, it’ll be better if you take extra steps to guarantee your safety and optimal living conditions.
Best Places to Retire in Belize
1. Ambergris Caye
If living by clear waters and a lively beach scene is your cup of tea, then Ambergris Caye is a great pick. It is Belize’s largest island, popularly called Isla Bonita (beautiful Island). This island is safer, friendlier, and also more expensive than most neighborhoods.
Placencia is a beach village in Belize, popular for its palm-lined beaches and its amazing view of the Maya mountain chain. But, of course, it is one of the more expensive places to live in Belize.
Living in Corozal is relatively cheaper than most Belize neighborhoods, which is why it is more popular among expats and even native Belizeans. In fact, you’ll find a larger concentration of expats who wish to live on their savings in Corozal.
4. Caye Caulker
This is one of the most affordable places to retire in Belize. Some of its selling points include the friendly community, seascapes, eco-tours, and water sports. If retiring on a Caribbean Island is one of your dreams, then this place is a dream come true.
Worst Place to Retire in Belize
1. Belize City
Retiring to Belize City might not be a great option because it houses a significant portion of Belize’s population.
And Because if it’s over saturation, it is exposed to a lot more gang-related and criminal activities. You’ll not find a lot of foreigners or tourists there, and it’ll be harder to get by. To make matters worse, there are no beaches!
Visa and Citizenship Process in Belize
Belize is largely a tourist country and is welcoming to all foreigners. Therefore, gaining entry into the country is very straightforward, but it can also be time-consuming.
If you hold a US, Canadian, UK, Caribbean, Central American, or EU passport, you can enter Belize without a visa. With any of these passports, you’ll be granted a 30-day free entry into the country. If you decide to stay longer, you’ll need to renew the visa before the 30 days elapse.
A citizen of any other country will be required to visit the Belizean embassy closest to them for more information on how to acquire a tourist visa. With a tourist visa, you can stay in Belize for 30 days, but you cannot engage in any paid labour.
Should you decide to stay longer, you’ll need to pay $25 for renewal. If you stay longer than six months, the renewal charges become $50.
As a retiree, the Belizean government presents an irresistible offer – the QRP program.
Qualified Retired Persons Program
The Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program is an incentive of the Belizean government to give retirees a smooth transition into life in Belize. It is one of the reasons why Belize is a great retirement destination. The requirements to qualify for this program include the following.
- You must be at least 45 years old.
- You must be able to prove that you have a good source of income/pension that is worth at least $2,000 monthly or $24,000 annually.
- Once you have been awarded the QRP status, you must ensure that you spend at least 30 consecutive days per year in Belize.
Benefits of the QRP Program
Under the Belize Retired Persons Incentive Act, a person who has been accepted into the Qualified Retired Persons Program is entitled to these benefits.
● Resident Card
The retiree and their dependents are entitled to QRP resident cards that will guarantee their legal residence in the country and unrestricted entries into the country without a visa.
● Duty Exemptions
Within the first year of the approval of your QRP status, you are not required to pay duty for the following items; (a) personal and household effects, one personal boat (if applicable), 1 personal aircraft (if applicable), and 1 personal motor vehicle whose model must be no older than five years from the present year.
● Tax Exemptions
Any income from the QRPs from a non-Belizean source will not have taxes or duties imposed on it.
You might also want to note that;
- Once your QRP status has been signed and sealed, you have just one year to import your belongings duty-free.
- Before you ship your personal and household effects, you must submit a list itemizing each of them and wait for the approval.
- Once you qualify for the program, you are no longer eligible to seek Belize employment but can invest or participate in voluntary activities. However, your businesses that are outside Belize are secure.
- You are mandated to renew your retiree status every year.
- At the end of each year, you’re supposed to submit a bank statement that proves that you have continued to fulfill the financial demands of the program.
- Only items listed in Belize, Retired Persons Incentive Act can be imported duty-free. If you import anything resembling the tools of your trade or building/repair materials, you’ll have to pay the necessary duties.
- If you’re Belgian and you’ve only decided to return home to retire, you can also apply for the program.
- Once you qualify for this program, you can also include your dependents (your spouse and children under 18 years.
- You have to pass the security clearance conducted by the Ministry of National Security in Belize.
- Some supporting documents that will be required upon your application include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, authentic police record, medical examination, proof of income, and recent passport and profile pictures of the applicant and dependents.
- According to the Belize Tourism Board, the fees payable at application submission and application acceptance total $1,350 + a $750 Dependent Program Fee for each dependent.
Becoming a Legal Resident of Belize
The major complaint about the QRP program is that the Belizean government treats the retirees more like tourists and not citizens/residents. Therefore, becoming a legal resident of Belize might just be a great idea.
As a permanent resident, you’ll no longer need to renew your visa every month or work with a permit (in case working still interests you). Also, you will not be required to make cash deposits into your bank monthly (or annually).
The process of becoming a legal and permanent resident of Belize is not complicated. You need to have;
- Lived in the country for a full year without leaving for more than 14 consecutive days.
- The required financial resources are necessary to sustain your residency.
- Conducted the required health tests.
- The application fees which could vary based on your Nationality. The fee is between $125 and $2000.
Instead of applying through the Belize Tourism Board, you apply through the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department. Your application could take 6 months to two years to be approved. If you’ve been a permanent resident for five consecutive years, you can then apply to be a citizen. This application could be processed from 6 months to one year.
Things You Could Do in Belize
As a retiree, finding engaging and interesting activities to fill your time with might be a chore. But the good thing about Belize is that there is so much to see, and there’s so much that has been left unexplored. So, these are some of the things you could do in Belize.
1. Go to the Beach
If there is one thing Belize has an abundance of, it’s their golden-sand, long, attractive, blue beaches. It’s perfect for days when you wish to swim, sunbathe or just enjoy a quiet stroll in nature.
2. Visit the Maya Ruins and Temples
Belize used to be the center of the Mundo Maya, and as such, you’ll find remnants of the Maya civilization here and there. Visiting these ruins and ancient temples will throw you back in time and help you appreciate the culture.
3. Visit the Belize Zoo
The Belize zoo is home to over 175 quirky animals native to Belize. It is nicknamed the best little zoo in the world because it provides a protected environment for near-extinct animals, orphaned, rescued, and even extremely shy.
4. See the Jaguars
You can visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve in Belize National Parks to catch a glimpse of the jaguars. The park is also an excellent place for bird watching, river tubing, and going on waterfall hikes.
5. Take a Cultural Tour
There are several ethnic groups that share the Belize territory, and you will have a field day discovering every one of them through the cuisine, the sites, their villages, and a host of other cultural experiences.
There are so many other experiences you can access by just being in Belize, and the great news is that as a retiree, you do not need to take it all in at once. You’ll find more than enough time to do these things.
Interesting Facts About Belize
There are a few peculiarly interesting things about Belize, and some of them might interest you. Check it out below.
- The capital city of Belize is called Belmopan, and it is the smallest capital city in the world, with just 12,000 inhabitants. It was also moved there when Hurricane Haiti destroyed the former capital, Belize City, in 1961.
- If you’re into fast food, Belize might not be a great place to be because there are absolutely no McDonald’s, KFCs, Burger Kings, or Starbucks in the entire country.
- One of the country’s greatest culinary delights is made from a nocturnal rodent, the Gibnut. It is also named Belize’s Royal Rat because it was served to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Belize on a Commonwealth tour in 1985. Another interesting fact about this cuisine is that it is illegal to hunt the Gibnut in Belize between the 1st of December and the 31st of May. This is, so they do not go extinct.
- The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the one and only Jaguar reserve in the world, and it is right in Belize. This reserve provides protection for over 200 jaguars, more than any wild-cat concentrated environment in the world.
- Belize is one of the world’s largest tourist sites welcoming over 1 million tourists every year, and a whopping 70% of those tourists are Americans.
- Most residents of Belize are proficient in reading and speaking these three languages – English, Spanish, and Creole.
- In Belize, swimming in the oceans or rivers on a Good Friday is considered bad luck.
Frequently Asked Questions About Retiring in Belize
Despite providing so many details about retiring in Belize, a lot of people may still have their reservations, and that’s understandable. On that note, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about retiring in Belize;
Is Belize a safe place to live?
Yes. Belize is a safe place to live in for expats. Although the crime rates are relatively high when compared to countries with higher population density, there are security checks that guarantee your safety throughout the country.
Can I visit Belize without a visa?
If you are the United States or Canadian citizen, you can visit Belize without a visa and even stay for up to one month. If you plan to stay longer, you’ll have to renew the visa after the 30 days elapse. You can also apply for various visas like the QRP program.
As a foreigner, can I buy a home or land in Belize?
Yes. Compared to anywhere else in the world, it is very easy for a foreigner to buy a home or land in Belize. This is because every foreigner has the same rights/access to property ownership as a citizen would.
Can I bring my pet?
Yes. Belize is an animal-living community, so of course, you can bring your pet. But first, you’ll need to get an Import Permit online and submit it to any Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA). Further instructions on how to ensure your pet is well vaccinated and fit for travel will be communicated by BAHA.
Retiring in a country that has all the necessary healthcare systems is crucial. As an expat, this should be the first thing to consider whenever you’re traveling to the country of your choice. That’s why retiring in this country could be one of your best decision this year. In other news, refer to this ultimate guide for more information.