Belize is known as the jewel in the heart of the Caribbean basin.
This small English speaking country in Central America has gorgeous nature, a slow pace of living, and locals who welcome expats with open arms.
With its laid back lifestyle, Belize is indeed an appealing relocation destination for expats. But is expat life in Belize really that perfect?
Before moving to Belize (or any other country), our high-net-worth clients usually have a complete set of concerns. And for a fair reason. Here are the ones that worry them the most.
Will I be able to grow my business and reduce taxes?
Is it worth opening an offshore bank account in a new country?
How can I benefit from a second residency?
Does it sound familiar to you?
So, today we’re here to answer all these questions to help you decide whether Belize could be your happy place.
Our Nomad Capitalist team conducted research to make a complete guide, highlighting benefits but also drawing your attention to the pitfalls of moving to Belize.
This expat guide has everything you need to know about life in Belize and even more.
So, if you’re considering moving to Belize, we are here to prepare you for all ups and downs. Forewarned is forearmed, right?
Why Moving to Belize?
First, let’s talk about the advantages of moving to Belize and why expats are eager to settle in this country.
English Speaking Country
Moving to another country is always stressful. And not knowing the language of the country you intend to relocate to can be a decisive factor that would stop you from buying a one-way ticket.
Well, in Belize, you’ll feel at home. Whether you need to go to the bank, buy some food in a grocery, or want to invest in a real estate, you don’t need to worry about the language barrier at all.
Belize is an English speaking country where the official language is English. Real estate agents, bank officials, cashiers – everybody speaks it fluently.
You’ll also feel at home in Belize because of the friendly locals. Belize was a British colony in the past, but like other Central American countries, its population is diverse.
Despite multiple ethnicities living in one territory, Belizean people maintain harmony in the society with respect towards others, including foreigners.
Any time somebody asks you how it is going, they do it with a genuine intention because they care. Something that we’re lacking in the Western hemisphere.
If you’ve been in a rush all your life, then you will instantly notice that people in Belize take everything easy. And we don’t perceive it as a bad thing.
When you’re surrounded by people who are constantly running to make money in a big city, it can be daunting. You instinctively do the same because you don’t want to lag behind. But sometimes, slowing down is exactly what you need.
You can still efficiently generate a seven-figure income (or higher) in Belize. Just at your own pace.
As Belize is a tiny country on the Caribbean sea, it’s easy to move around. All signs are in English, which is great if you want to explore the country by car.
Besides, Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize has direct flights to the U.S., Australia, and Europe. With this mobility, you can travel whenever necessary for business or family purposes.
Belize is also a great destination for those having business in Mexico, as it is located right on the Mexican border.
Who doesn’t want to retire in or relocate to a place where the weather is warm all year round?
Belize is a tropical country that has two seasons. The dry season lasts from January to May and is the best time to enjoy sunny days. That’s also when the tourist season is at its peak.
However, when from June to November, the wet season hits, you should expect heavy rainfall and occasional hurricanes. Also, the humidity level in Belize is above 85%.
And, of course, we can’t leave out the countless leisure opportunities that Belize offers expats.
Warm weather combined with sweeping views, natural biodiversity, wildlife parks, beautiful beaches, and coral reef turn Belize into a place where every day can be an exciting adventure.
Quality of Living in Belize
However, despite all the benefits we highlighted, Belize is far from being a Caribbean paradise.
According to a Prosperity Index, Belize ranks 95th out of 167 countries. And there are multiple things that the Belizean government needs to fix.
Belize is a democratic country with a stable political environment, but its financial system is quite fragile. Bureaucratic inefficiency, as well as poor infrastructure conditions, make it more challenging to run a business in Belize.
But there are good sides too. The Belizean government is keen on attracting foreign investors and has no restrictions on foreign ownership.
Belizean banks are obliged to maintain a 24% liquidity rate, which is higher than in many other countries. Besides, the currency in Belize is stable because it is pledged to the U.S. dollar.
Low taxes for foreign investors and the possibility to gather information and carry out legal matters in English makes Belize appealing to foreign entrepreneurs.
At Nomad Capitalist, we believe that nothing is black and white. And what may work for one high-net-worth individual doesn’t necessarily benefit another.
Before investing overseas, always seek legal advice. And if you’re wondering whether investing in Belize would be a smart decision for you, contact us, and we’ll answer this question.
Belize lags behind in infrastructure, which can be a serious challenge if you invest in a business project in Belize.
Roads in Belize are not in the best condition, and you must be extra careful if you want to drive a car.
There surely are highways that connect major cities, but once you turn to a side street, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the mud. So, be ready for that.
Unfortunately, Belize is also among the countries with high crime rates. And even though expats and tourists rarely become the targets of violent crime, the fact that it exists can be a deal breaker.
Of course, none of the countries in the world are 100% safe. But in Belize, with its petty crime, it’s important to follow extra precautions.
Don’t walk alone at night. Settle in the area where most expats live. Beware of pickpockets on the street. Forget about wearing luxury jewelry and watches to avoid petty theft.
If you move to Belize, fewer the better should become your new way of living.
How Safe Is Belize for Expats?
It is worth noting, however, that despite the violent crime incidents, in general, expats feel comfortable in Belize.
They highlight that even though the south part of Belize City has a bad reputation, they feel very secure on the north side of the city. Everything should be fine if you are cautious and take root in a safe area.
According to UNICEF, almost 42% of people in Belize live below the poverty line. The good news, however, is that the Belizean government puts a lot of effort into solving this problem.
In collaboration with international organizations, UN Development Fund, and the U.S., the Belizean government aims to reduce poverty and stimulate the economy.
Belize is also short on high-quality healthcare options. For simple things, you can go to a local hospital. But to treat serious sickness or to get dental care, you should go to Mexico or the U.S.
Belize has both public and private hospitals in major cities like Belize City, but medical care standards are far from U.S. and European ones.
Digital nomads and expats residing in Belize have international health insurance, including repatriation and air ambulance services.
Cost of Living in Belize
Belize may not be the cheapest place to live in Central America, but it surely is way more affordable than the U.S. And to put it in perspective, let’s compare Belize City and New York.
In New York, consumer prices (including rent) are 191% higher than in Belize City. You would pay 142% more in a New York restaurant than in Belize City. Utilities in New York are also double the cost.
Even though living in Belize is more expensive than living in Costa Rica, for instance. Consumer prices, restaurants, and groceries may indeed be higher. But overall, Belize has a low cost of living than you are probably used to. You may spend up to $1,500 per month with accommodation and food included.
Accommodation prices vary depending on your preferences and where you want to stay. You can expect a cost of $500 for a two-bedroom apartment in Belize City. But if you prefer to have a luxury home, you can find options starting from $2,000 per month.
When it comes to food, keep in mind that many imported items have import taxes up to 45%. This means that if you’re craving your favorite pepper sauce from the U.S., you’ll pay an additional 45% tax. So, opt for local fresh products that are low cost.
Best Places to Live in Belize for Expats
Alright, Belize is popular among digital nomads and expats. But where do they live?
Let’s find out.
Ambergris Caye is the most popular place in Belize, where most expats reside. It’s a little island full of colorful houses where the main transport is a golf cart.
All adventurous souls move to Ambergis Caye because it has ample leisure activities. Snorkeling, fishing, diving. And the famous Great Blue Hole is just ten minutes away by boat.
Ambergris Caye is quite an expensive destination compared to other places in Belize. But that could be a wonderful place to retire or relocate because you can easily meet other expats.
If Ambergris Caye is a buzzing place full of foreigners, then Cayo is where you can experience an authentic lifestyle and meet many locals. It’s calm and close to nature, and other towns are within easy reach.
Unlike Ambergis Caye, Cayo District has a lower cost of living. San Ignacio is one of the cities where you can reside.
It may sound surprising, but Cayo District has a high speed internet and cell phone coverage. So, if you have a location independent business and need to be available all the time, you know where to move.
Caye Caulker is another Caribbean island that has a big expat community. It’s not cheap but still affordable for digital nomads and entrepreneurs.
Alike other islands, it has multiple water and outdoor activities. There are no cars on the island, and you can peacefully move around with your bicycle.
It’s a great destination to escape the hustle and have a splendid time in your hammock. But once you feel that it’s too quiet, just hop in a boat and head to the nearby islands to have an eventful day.
Taxes in Belize
Alright, we discovered that Belize has multiple advantages but also some drawbacks. But what about taxes?
Yes, Belize is a tax haven where you can legally reduce your taxes.
It doesn’t have a corporate tax, capital gains tax, and property taxes. This means that if you buy real estate and decide to lease it, you won’t pay taxes from your income.
You can easily open a bank account, the liquidity rates are 24%, the national currency is pledged to the US dollar and is stable – all that makes a perfect package.
But don’t be blinded by that. Before moving your business, investing in real estate, or opening an offshore bank account in Belize, you should ask yourself one and only question.
What is my goal?
In theory, tax haven like Belize is appealing. But in practice, it may not be suitable for your case.
Let’s say your goal is to retire and put some money in the Belizean bank account. Great. Belize has a retirement program, and keeping a bank account is easy.
But if you want to use Belize for offshore banking, we would recommend you think twice.
Residency in Belize
There are several ways to obtain a residency in Belize. Through the investment or Belize Retired Persons Incentive Program (QRP). Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
Belize Retired Persons Incentive Program (QRP)
Belize Retired Persons Incentive Program (QRP) is a program that grants residence visa to people who are 45 or older.
If you have a family or spouse, you can also include them in the QRP.
To qualify for the program, you must prove that you have a pension or that your savings and investments are generating $24,000 annually. In addition, you must also move $2,000 a month, or $24,000 per year into a Belizean bank account.
Once you get the QRP card, you don’t have to stay in the country all year round. But to maintain the legal status, you should spend one month in Belize.
The program has several benefits. First, you can still apply if you’re not a retiree. Second, the program prohibits you from working in Belize, but you can still work online or conduct business abroad.
Besides, you can enjoy some tax benefits in the first year of a program. You can bring in household goods, cars, planes, or a boat without paying the import tax.
In one year of the program, you’ll be able to get a permanent residence. And in five more years, permanent residents can apply for a Belizean passport.
Documents Needed for QRP
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate- If married and the spouse is a dependent
- Authentic Police Report-
- Proof of Income.
- An official statement from a bank or financial institution certifying that the applicant is the recipient of a pension or annuity of a minimum of $2,000 per month.
- A Financial Statement from a financial institution, bank, credit union, or building society in Belize certifying that the applicant’s investment or deposit will generate the sum of a minimum of $2,000) per month or the equivalent of $24,000 per year.
- Medical Examination
- Passport photos
Temporary Investor’s Residence Program
If you want to buy real estate or a piece of land in Belize, you can apply for the Temporary Investor’s Residence Program.
Your investment must be at least $250,000.
With this program, you can get a temporary residence but without the possibility of a permanent residence or citizenship in the future.
Belize doesn’t have a fixed sector where you should invest..
Documents Needed for Temporary Investor’s Residence Program
- Police Records issued by the last country of residence
- Letter explaining the applicant’s reason for requesting temporary residence
- Evidence of a primary place of residence in Belize:
- rental/lease agreement and a utility bill, or
- property title and property tax statement
- Details and evidence of investments in Belize valued at not less than $250.000
After five years of being a permanent resident, you can apply for Belizean citizenship.
With a Belizean passport, you can travel to 95 countries in the world. It also grants you the right to live and work in Belize.
Belize allows dual citizenship. So, if you don’t want to revoke your first citizenship, you don’t have to.
Living in Belize: FAQs
Is Belize a Good Place to Live?
Belize has a warm climate, friendly people, endless leisure activities, and low costs. It could be your happy place if you’re looking for a tropical country to enjoy a peaceful lifestyle.
What we would recommend is to try staying in Belize for a few months to understand if what Belize offers is exactly what you’re looking for.
Is Belize Safe for Foreigners?
Yes, even though you should take extra precautions. Avoid walking alone in the evening, settle down close to other expats living in Belize, and don’t wear expensive things that can attract attention.
What Is the Cost of Living in Belize?
If you’re an American expat, you will enjoy a low cost of living. Belize is way cheaper than most U.S. cities but is quite expensive compared to other Central American countries.
The total cost of living depends on your priorities. Normally, you can live in Belize for $1,500 monthly. But you can surely spend more.
Is Belize a Tax Haven?
Yes, but it doesn’t mean that it suits everybody. To understand whether Belize could serve your needs, you first need to understand your main goal.
To Sum Up
Expats love Belize for a reason. It’s gorgeous, warm, affordable, and has open doors for foreign investors.
At Nomad Capitalist, we are always saying that you need a plan B. A plan that takes into consideration every aspect of your business life, family, and personal needs.