Living in Belize is an adventure! The majority of the roads are dirt, the traffic laws are lax, there are few police, the borders are porous, corruption by government officials is rampant and overt, there are scary tropical diseases, deadly snakes and health care is relatively primitive. Heck, those are the things I like! On the flip side the violent crime rate is astronomical, the justice system is a joke and violent offenders regularly walk free. It’s like anything goes and I try not to be surprised or outraged at the most recent inexplicable thing. Competent and responsible people are generally left to themselves but if you draw the attention of the police they might just beat the crap out of you, well, maybe probably not you. Life here can have an edge to it and it is not for everyone.
There is a common expression in parts of Africa that could apply to Belize, ”A.W.A.” Africa Wins Again. It does not mean that anyone actually wins, quite the opposite. The phrase is uttered as things perceived as reasonable to accomplish are not because it seems that people and forces beyond our control are inexplicably working against us. It could easily be a popular expression here in Belize, “B.W.A.” Belize Wins Again!
So, why live in Belize? A friend and I were recently kicking around ideas about how we would sell “Life in Belize” without the slick, glossy effect of the tourist brochures or the schmoozy realtor blowing sunshine up your shorts. We thought there should be a little more realism than the “Living in Paradise” angle and sought to boil it down to what we love about this country. The answers were freedom, adventure, cultural diversity, untouched land and the incredible value you can get for your dollar. We never agreed on what might be a good tag line but thought “Land of the Free” was pretty accurate.
Belize is a free land and I feel free as I go about my daily life. If I want to build a deck on my house I don’t need a government official to approve it. If you own property you can generally do with it what you want. While I think this country needs more police officers I also find it refreshing that every time I look in my rear view mirror there is not a cop deciding if they should pull me over. I like that I am able to make my own decisions regarding how I drive, if I want to make a U-turn, for example, it’s ok. People can still ride in the back of pick-up trucks. You can ride a bicycle without a helmet. I just don’t think I need the government making day to day choices for me, I see where their choices have landed them and I’m not impressed. Some of my friends have said that the lack of government involvement in our lives is similar to the way the US was in the 1950’s. In Belize the government simply does not have the resources to be intimately involved in our lives, although I suspect they would if they could.
A major draw for foreigners considering moving to Belize (or buying property here) is the value they get for their dollar. Taxes, for example, are ridiculously low. On the 165 acres that our Barton Creek Outpost is on the annual taxes are a whopping $500US a year. My friend owns a million dollar resort on the beach in Placencia and his property taxes are $75US a year. He pre-pays multiple years at a time. Hello!! My in-laws are trying to downsize from their 10 acres on an island golf course in southwest Florida because their property taxes are a burden. The Income Tax in Belize is about 30% but there are plenty of ex-pats living here who will say, “There’s an income tax?” Sales tax on most items is 12% and there is no Capital Gains tax.
The cost of property in Belize can still very reasonable as well and there are great deals everywhere. I often hear, “I wish we bought land here 20 years ago…” well, 20 years from now this will be 20 years ago and they’ll be saying the same thing. Here are a few examples:
- A 245 acre Mennonite farm for sale for $300,000. It has multiple buildings, 2 creeks and year round, drinkable, fresh water spring.
- 13 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to Chaa Creek Resort for $17,000.
- A simple home on 8 acres with a teak farm for $89,000.
- Seakunga Beachside Resort for just over a million and the property taxes are only $75 a year!
Here are some common living expenses…
- Annual vehicle insurance is about $250US. Annual registration, $100.
- Loaf of bread, $1.50
- Pound of ground beef, $2.00
- Gallon of milk, $8.00
- Dozen eggs, $1.50
- 5 Gallon jug of bottled water, $2
- Bottle of good rum, $10
- Bottle of beer in the grocery store, $1.50. Beer in a bar, $2.00. Downside….there are only a few types of beer available
- Good dinner in a restaurant, $15.00 (alcohol not included)
- Gallon of gas, $5.30
- Electronics here are twice the price they are in the US.
- Beautiful hardwood furniture and custom kitchens are inexpensive.
- I had my appendix removed here for about $2,000.
I also appreciate Belize because I have found it educational living in a place where less than 5% of the population has the same skin color as me. Here is a rough breakdown of the ethnic makeup of Belize according to the 2010 Census:
Latino: 50% Creole: 20% Maya: 10% Caucasian (including Mennonites): 5% Garifuna(black): 5% East Indian: 2% Asian: 1% Other: 7%
That kind of ethnic diversity lends itself to a wide range of art and music although I admit to being disappointed in the variety of food. The local food is excellent but it is all pretty similar. There, I said it.
It is not the average North American that travels to Central America, much less moves here. The people that come here and stick are, well, different. They have been able to recalibrate their lives and thought processes and often have done so late in life. They have developed working relationships with other cultures and, if not blend in then at least learn to live alongside. Coming here from the United States has brought challenges for me that I did not anticipate and with the help of friends, family and faith we have been able to meet those challenges. I’ve only been here since 2004 and who knows, Belize may yet chew me up and spit me out but I’ll always be thankful for my time here. It is a land full of beauty, opportunity and hard lessons. We came to an exotic land looking for an adventure and found one. If you are you looking for something different then maybe Belize is for you. If you want to talk about it feel free to contact me.For Photos and comments CLICK HERE.