Editors' Pick: Originally published Dec. 31.
It sounds so perfect: a country with Caribbean islands where the principle mode of transportation is a golf cart, the people speak English and you are surrounded by crystal clear waters and gently swaying palm trees. But what is it really like to live in Belize?
On our Web site, Best Places in the World to Retire, more than 50 experts (most of them expats) provided more than 1,000 answers to the most often asked questions about living in Belize.
Belize (formerly British Honduras) is slightly smaller than the state of New Hampshire, but with a population of only about 350,000, which is about one-quarter of New Hampshire's. Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. By plane, Belize is about 2 ½ hours from Houston.
Where you choose to live in Belize will have a significant impact on how much it costs you. The most expensive areas would include the island of Ambergris Caye (winner of Trip Advisor Best Island in the World for 2014) and Placencia, which is a peninsula being developed with several high-end resorts and homes. Less-expensive expat areas include Corozal, which is on the Caribbean near the border with Mexico, and areas that are inland, such as the Cayo District.
Housing prices have a wide range and can wind up being as much as in many places in North America. Macarena Rose, who moved from the U.S. to Belize, provided some examples. "Inland, you could rent a home for $300 to $800 per month. On the ocean, that same house would rent for around $1,000. When you get to the island of Ambergris Caye," she said, "the rentals will start at $1,000 and will go upwards."
Other than housing, some prices can be ridiculously low, again, depending on where you're located. For example, in the Cayo district (where they grow much of the food in Belize), according to Englishman John Acott, "You get 10 bananas for 50 cents, and a sack of 100 oranges for $4 total."
Bentley Wildman, who was born in Canada but who has lived most of his life in Belize, provided another example. "Yearly property taxes are very, very low in Belize. In Consejo Shores (Corozal), they run about $25 a year, either for a house, a bare property, or a mansion."
Lisa McCorkle, daughter of the woman who opened the first hotel in Ambergris Caye, put the cost of living in Belize in context when she explained, "What causes us to live more inexpensively overall is that we don't have a lot of the costs you have in the US." McCorkle gave some examples in addition to how much cheaper it was to have a golf cart than a car and the almost non-existent property taxes. "We don't have any heating bills, and we don't have to pay to go on vacations to beautiful places. For many years I kept taking my kids to beaches in Mexico, until I asked myself, 'Why am I doing this? We live on the beach!'"