Belize was a British colony known as British Honduras for more than a century. It became a self-governing colony in January, 1964 and it was renamed Belize on June 1, 1973. It became fully independent in 1981. Belize considers itself to be culturally both Caribbean and Central American. Belize has a parliamentary form of government, like England, with a prime minister at the helm and it operates under the English common law legal system.
BELIZE IS POLITICALLY STABLE - CERTAINLY AN ANOMALY FOR A CENTRAL AMERICA NATION!
Belize is much like a Central American Switzerland. It doesn't go to war and doesn't get involved with the problems its neighbors have suffered over the years. There has never been a war in Belize; even its currency has never been devaluated. While civil wars raged in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, Belize remained untouched. Belize is politically stable - certainly an anomaly for a Central America nation!
With a population of about 300,000 Belize has the lowest population density in the Central American region, and one of the lowest in the world.
...........WITH THE NOTABLE EXAMPLE OF HAVING THE ONLY JAGUAR RESERVE IN THE WORLD AMONG ITS PROTECTED AREAS.
According to the most recent vegetation surveys, about sixty percent (60%) of Belize's land mass is forested, with only about twenty percent (20%) of the country's land subject to human uses (i.e. agricultural land and human settlements). Savannas, scrublands and wetlands constitute extensive parts of the nation's land cover. As a result, Belize's biodiversity is rich, both marine and terrestrial, with a host of flora and fauna.
About thirty-seven percent (37%) of Belize's land territory falls under some form of official protected status. As such, conservation activities remain an important priority in government policy with the notable example of having the only jaguar reserve in the world among its protected areas. Belize is best known for its marine environment, in particular, for having the longest living barrier reef in the western hemisphere and the second longest contiguous reef in the world, after Australia.
Divers flock to Belize to enjoy its underwater attractions. Belize, as a consequence of its medley of cultural attractions, unique marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and conservation efforts, is fast becoming a hotspot for travelers seeking eco-tourism and adventure vacation experiences.
Agriculture and tourism are the back bone of Belize's economy. Sugar cane exported to the US is the biggest crop, with bananas to the UK a close second and citrus following that. Seafood is also a big export, with Belize supplying the Red Lobster chain in the US with their succulent Caribbean Spiny Lobster.
The gross domestic product of Belize was US$2.3 billion in 2006. The Belize dollar is pegged to the US dollar at BZ$2=US$1, the currency has never been devaluated.
Public education in Belize is compulsory to age 14.The Belize school system is based on British education, which is broken into three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Rather than use the US grade system Belizean children begin their eight years of primary education with two years of "Infant" classes, followed by six "Standards." High school is divided into four "Forms". After that Sixth Form called "College" in Belize is a two-year course, where a student can earn an Associate of Arts degree sanctioned by the United States Association of Junior Colleges.
Schools in Belize are more strict than the US; students adhere to a dress and grooming code and wear uniforms daily. Most of the public schools in Belize have a religious affiliation and charge a monthly fee of around $15. Some private schools are also available at varying costs, the Island Academy in San Pedro, for example, charges about $300 a month. A number of ex-pat families home school their children.
The University of Belize has satellite campuses around the country and offers various 4 year degree programs.
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT BELIZE IS THAT IT IS AN ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRY, THE ONLY ONE IN CENTRAL AMERICA.
THE REASONS WE FIND BELIZE TO BE ENCHANTING, UNIQUE & INEXPENSIVE!
An important aspect to many of us when relocating to another country is travel time back and forth to our home country. Face it, there are always family emergencies, kids graduating from college and Christmas visits. So who wants to spend 15 hours traveling at holiday time, or worse yet, in times of emergency. One of the great things about Belize is its ease in travel - getting to and from Belize is lot easier than one may think. There are several major international airlines serving Belize, specifically American Airlines, Continental, Delta and US Air. These airlines operate to and from several US gateways in Dallas, Houston, Miami, Charlotte and Atlanta. Flights are direct, nonstop and take under 3 hours. For the more adventurous, Belize is accessible by road and is approximately 1,350 miles from Brownsville Texas.
Exotic locations are great to visit, but not to live, if no one understands you or you them! One of the best things about Belize is that it is an English speaking country, the only one in Central America. This is because Belize was once a British colony, so naturally the national language became English. So all the schools teach in English, the banks use English, all government forms, as well as road signs are in English.
Spanish, Garifuna and Maya are secondary languages spoken in various parts of the country, as well as Low German which is spoken in the Mennonite communities. Many Belizeans are multi lingual, but all speak English.
This makes Belize a perfect match, language wise, for a gringo; you can get along just fine with English alone, but you'll have opportunity to learn another language if you want to.
Commonality with North America
Another great thing about Belize is that it is not that foreign of a foreign country! Because Belize shares common roots with the US, Canada and the UK, there are many things that are the same. For example, Belize's legal system is based on English Common Law, not the Napoleonic Code like Mexico and other Latin American and European countries. And, thankfully to many of us, Belize is not on the metric system like almost everywhere else in the world, but is still measuring in pounds, ounces and miles rather than liters, grams and kilometers. All of these factors help to make Belize seem not so foreign and certainly make it easier to adapt to as a second or new home.
Belize Time means Laid Back Time
In Belize things are laid back-way back. It is a fabulous place to just relax. No one is in a hurry to do anything-ever. It's called "Belize Time" and everything in the country runs on it. Many find that the slow pace in Belize is just their speed. They, possibly for the first time in their lives, completely unwind and enjoy life.
My idea of great weather is no winter, no snow and no heating bills. The average year round temperature in Belize is a balmy 79 degrees. Homes in Belize do not have insulation or heating systems, because it never gets cold. The sun shines virtually everyday of the year. On the other hand, there's really no need to cool your home with air-conditioning either, for if your house is built right, the breeze coming off the Caribbean will do that for you.
II'S GENERALLY SAID THAT BELIZE HAS THE LOWEST COST OF LIVING IN THE CARIBBEAN.
Apart from having unbelievably clean air and water, it is very easy to have a healthy lifestyle in Belize. Increased exercise and activity come naturally when one walks or rides a bicycle to most of the places they need to go. Year-round ocean swimming will be such a pleasure you won't think of it as a prescription from the doctor. And, nothing loosens up arthritic joints quite like paddling around in 85 degree water, especially in the middle of January.
Eating the simpler, healthier, unprocessed foods that are abundant in Belize, fresh fish and tropical fruits, for example, help many people lose weight without even trying when they move to Belize. We have seen many a gringo drop 30 pounds quite effortlessly after moving to Belize.
A real necessity to those considering moving anywhere is high quality, low cost private medical and dental care. In Belize, all medical and dental treatment is first world (facilities and trained medical personnel), highly affordable and always accessible. Even free medical care is available to you as a foreigner through Belize's socialized medicine system. Medical insurance is available and very reasonably priced.
Child Friendly Nation
Children are everywhere in Belize as it is truly a kid friendly country. Families are traditionally very large with 6 to 10 children being the norm. Belizeans are accustomed to a bunch of kids running around and so the nation maintains a ‘welcome mat' attitude toward children......and, speaking from experience, Belize is a great place to raise kids. They can enjoy a care-free, truly fun childhood like something out of Tom Sawyer. And best yet, it is a safe country for children!
A Very Inexpensive Place to Live
It's generally said that Belize has the lowest cost of living in the Caribbean. You can enjoy a high standard of living on a small amount of money, something you can't do in much of the world anymore. If you've got to get by on a small fixed income, Belize is a great place to do it. A couple can still get by living on $1000 a month in Belize, that's for the basics, and if you've got more of course, you can live higher on the hog! However, you'll enjoy the same sea and sun even on the lesser amount.
Prices in Belize are very stable. In recent years, the annual rate of inflation has been around 2.8%. Many prices on goods and services have stayed the same and some are even going down because Belize is less isolated than it once was.
For example, living on or very near the ocean does not have to be expensive in Belize, likewise with having a maid and/or a gardener. The same goes for personal services and even medical and dental care. Insurance of all types and taxes are very low. US cable TV, up to 85 channels is about $15-$20 a month in Belize. Some foods considered high priced gourmet items back in the State are inexpensive in Belize, like lobster, for example.
Communications and Services
It is easy to stay in touch in Belize as it has an excellent telephone system. It's a state-of-the-art fiber-optic phone system that was a going away present from England when Belize got independence. You can call Belize from anywhere in the world and vice versa and have an excellent connection. And, you can get high speed internet in Belize.
Belize has an excellent postal service, based on the English postal system. There are daily mail shipments from Belize to Miami and vice versa. You can usually expect to get mail from the U.S. in about a week to a week and a half after it's mailed. This is phenomenal considering the track record of Latin America countries on a whole, where sending and receiving mail is akin to dropping it into an inter-galactic black hole.
BELIZE OFFERS PERMANENT RESIDENCY STATUS TO FOREIGNERS FROM ALMOST ANY COUNTRY. THE COST IS $1,200 FOR A COUPLE, AND IT TAKES JUST ONE YEAR OF LIVING IN BELIZE TO QUALIFY.
In Belize you can enjoy true personal freedom....the kind that is evaporating back ‘home'. In a time when many living in developed countries feel they are losing freedoms and rights, a country like Belize may be just what they are looking for. For example, in Belize there are no bans on smoking (which may or may not appeal to you), there are no restrictions on what you can or cannot build, and you only need a permit to build if you are within city limits, and then the permit is free.
You don't need a fishing license, unless you plan to fish commercially, and you can light a bonfire anytime you like. You can also buy medication without a prescription. Gringos living in Belize feel a sense of freedom they didn't have back home, and describe the government as unobtrusive.
.....THE GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE WILL GIVE YOU LAND PRACTICALLY FREE! ONCE YOU RECEIVE PERMANENT RESIDENCY........
Ease in obtaining Permanent Residency and Citizenship
Belize offers Permanent Residency status to foreigners from almost any country.
The cost is $1,200 for a couple and it takes just one year of living in Belize to qualify. Best yet, one can live in Belize full or part time without giving up their present citizenship.
With Belizean Permanent Residency you have all the rights of a Belizean citizen, except the right to vote or serve in the military. After 5 years of being a Permanent resident you have the right to become a citizen of Belize, and get a second passport, should you desire to, at a cost of only $150.
AS A FOREIGNER, YOU'LL BE EXEMPT FROM PAYING INCOME TAX IN BELIZE ON YOUR INCOME FROM ABROAD, REGARDLESS OF ITS SOURCE............
Unlike Mexico and several other countries, as a foreigner in Belize, you can buy land......and, yes, you can own it outright with fully marketable title! It's yours to do whatever you want to with it. It's in your name; you can pass it on to your heirs. Also, the government of Belize will give you land practically free! Once you receive Permanant Residency, you can apply for a piece of land from the government for as little as $17.50 a year, yes, that's seventeen dollars and fifty cents!
Taxes are low, and in some cases non-existent, in Belize. As a foreighner, you'll be exempt from paying income tax in Belize on your income from abroad, regardless of its source be it pension, Social Security, rental property investment income etc. In Belize there is no inheritance tax and no capital gains tax. Property taxes are low at 1% of the value of the undeveloped property.
Working or Starting a Business
Belize has been called an entrepreneur's paradise. There are very few restrictions on what you can do and how or where you can do it It's been said that you can be anything you want in Belize...its true especially in business. Starting a business can be very simple and inexpensive in Belize. There's a sense of freedom in Belize not found many places nowadays, where red tape can choke off your dreams.
While either permanent residency status or a work permit is required to work in Belize, both are far simpler and less expensive to get in Belize than many other places. Depending on what type of work you do a work permit can cost from $25-$500 a year.
Quality of Life & Things to Do!
Living in Belize is not only inexpensive, it is exciting and interesting! Why is that you ask? Well, there are thousands of reasons, most centering on Belize's rich, natural wonderland, replete with unspoiled scenery and an endless variety of fauna and flora, its numerous archeological sites, its lush rainforest, and its thousand foot waterfalls. Add all of that to the endless variety of year round water activities such as boating, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, jet skiing and world-class sports fishing.....all taking place in the crystal waters off the world's second longest barrier reef.....and you have an unrivaled world of land and sea activity.
BELIZE IS DEFINITELY A 'NO SHIRT, NO SHOES,NO PROBLEM' KIND OF PLACE. GONE IS THE OBSESSION WITH PHYSICAL APPEARANCE, FASHION AND WEIGHT.
The Friendliest of People
Another reason that living in Belize is so interesting is the Belizean people ....they connect with other cultures very easily. Belize is a society based on relationships, everyone knows their neighbors and it seems like everyone is each other's friend. People that ‘back home' would have been invisible to you, or isolated from you, become almost instant friends in Belize. After living in Belize, we became aware of how insolated people are in other parts of the world, which sadly makes for a very lonely existence. Not so in Belize, people are for the most part friendly and open, and you'll have as many friends as you want.
A key cultural and social factor in Belize is that you'll find acceptance...maybe even romance! Belize is definitely a 'no shirt, no shoes, no problem' kind of place. gone is the obsession with physical appearance, fashion and weight. Most women in Belize wear little or no makeup and laugh at the thought of cosmetic surgery. Belizeans accept everyone as is, warts and all, and everyone is accorded the personal dignity they deserve irrespective of shape, size or color. Disabilities of all sorts are just viewed as a part of life and are largely overlooked. This is truly one of the most delightful aspects of living in Belize. You can just be yourself, live as you please and enjoy life with others who are doing the same.
Been looking for love in all the wrong places? You may have to look no farther than Belize.There are a lot of lonely people out there and in Belize one never has to be alone. As a gringo in Belize you may be considered very cool....your former status as geek or nerd will be erased. A guy may be eking out an existence on a small pension back home, driving around in a clunker, but in Belize he may be considered quite a catch. There are many of these "recycled" guys walking around Belize. Ladies, instead of considering an extreme makeover, in Belize you may have to fend off male attention with a club...if you want to, that is.
This list is by no means complete but it gives you an idea of why we love living in Belize. This isn't to say that life in Belize is perfect, by no means, but it does offer more of the values and aspects of life that we and many others consider to be important ......things that are sadly vanishing from many places. Yes, sometimes it takes longer than we would like to get things done, and sometimes it's frustrating not to be able to get exactly what you want at the moment you want it, but we'll gladly accept those inconveniences in exchange to living anywhere else.
Authors: Bill and Claire Gray are the authors of Belize Retirement Guide: How to Live in a Tropical Paradise on $450 a Month as well as numerous special reports and articles on Belize. They host a radio talk show The Expat Hour and publish a free newsletter on relocating to Belize.They conduct an annual Belize Relocation Tour, for those interested in relocating to Belize and maintain a helpful website of information for those considering Belize.
For more information and to contact them: CLICK HERE