Moving to Belize
Expats moving to Belize will find an unspoiled country with a sub-tropical climate, surrounded by crystal clear waters. It's also home to the world’s largest concentration of Mayan ruins. This Central American paradise boasts a stable economy, a long history of democratic government and a strong respect for human rights and the environment.
Belize has a tiny but culturally diverse population of just over 370,000 residents. The mix of Caribbean and Latin cultures is evident throughout the country. The population includes Creole, Chinese, Lebanese, Indian, Taiwanese, Korean and Syrian expats. Furthermore, being the only country in Central America where English is the official language has made it a popular destination amongst expats from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
Belize is the perfect expat destination for those wanting a simple life, surrounded by beautiful natural attractions and friendly locals. It's a particularly suitable spot for expats of retirement age. The Belizean government’s positive attitude towards business and its implementation of tax breaks, as well as the country’s favourable property prices, have also served to attract expats looking for investment opportunities and starting their own businesses. Those used to fast-paced city life are warned that very few things run on time in Belize and they’ll have to make some adjustments to operate on ‘Island Time’.
While opportunities for tertiary education are limited in Belize, the compulsory free education offered to all residents is of a good standard. There is also a growing number of international schools in Belize, which have been established to serve the needs of the growing expat population. Medical facilities are readily available in all but the most remote locations. While Belizean private hospitals are equipped to deal with most minor ailments, expats often prefer to travel to neighbouring Mexico or the USA for more serious medical treatment.
Public transport infrastructure in Belize is minimal, but the small size of the country allows people to get around easily by foot or by bicycle. Investing in a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a good idea for expats who are keen to explore the more rugged rural areas of the country. Crime can be an issue, especially in urban areas of Belize, but it tends to be limited to petty theft and drug dealing.
While Belizean infrastructure does require improvement in some areas, expats continue to head to the country in search of their piece of paradise for retirement or investment opportunities.
Population: Just over 370,000
Capital city: Belmopan
Neighbouring countries: Belize shares its northern border with Mexico and its southern border with Guatemala.
Geography: The geography in Belize consists mainly of coastal plains, with a small mountain range to the south.
Political system: Parliamentary democracy
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: English, Creole and Spanish
Currency: The Belize dollar (BZD) is divided into 100 cents. There are ATMs available in all major cities and towns. Expats should be aware that not all banks will allow foreigners to withdraw with a foreign debit card.
Tipping: A small gratuity is expected for most services. These aren't generally included in the bill, and expats should use their discretion when determining how much to tip.
Time: GMT -6
Electricity: 110/220 volts and 60 Hz. Plugs with two or three flat blades are generally used across the country.
Internet domain: .bz
International dialling code: +501
Emergency numbers: 911
Driving: Cars in Belize drive on the right-hand side of the road. There are buses available in most urban centres, but these don't often run to schedule and can be less comfortable than expats are accustomed to.