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Can you afford to live beside the glorious Caribbean Sea, where the sun is always hot and the water as clear as the gin or tonic in your glass? Where your nightly lullaby is the whisper of waves against the sand and palm leaves rustling in the cool evening breeze? Where the hue is brilliant blue….sky and water blending into one…but the mood is definitely not. Because everyone is happy here.

But can you really afford this warm and glorious, carefree happiness? Oh yes, you can.

Grab your bathing suit and flip flops (that’s all you’ll need) and head for Belize—the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Expats here report that the monthly cost of living in Belize, on average, is about $1,800 (about $60/day). That depends on your personal comfort levels and lifestyle needs, of course. But in Belize you don’t need much…

Still, just like at home, there are destinations in Belize that are less expensive than others. Where you choose to live will impact your daily living costs. But remember, Belize is a tiny country—only about the size of Massachusetts. It has 240 miles of coastline, not counting its islands, of which there are more than 1,000, mostly small and romantically deserted. No matter where you live in Belize, you’ll never be far from those idyllic white-sand beaches and swaying palms just begging for a hammock.

The least expensive places to live in Belize are its small rural towns, of course. But if you’re looking for a locale with a built-in expat community, you’ll do best from a cost-of-living standpoint to settle in the lush, rolling hills of Cayo district or in northern Belize, beside the big and beautiful bay in the Corozal district.

Can you live here on a Social Security budget? Yes. I have expat friends in Belize who are doing just that. (In 2011, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retiree is $1,177.) One is a single retired female friend who owns her own home in Corozal town and has two apartments she occasionally rents for additional income. Another is a single retiree who rents a home in San Ignacio, Cayo, where she handily supports herself and her disabled daughter.

Another retired friend lives on Belize’s popular tourist island of Ambergris Caye— arguably the country’s most expensive address. She lives quite contentedly there on about $2,000/month. She owns her two-bedroom home—modest, yes, but comfortable and safe, in a very nice location close to town and just three blocks from the beach.

Depending on your lifestyle needs, you can live just about anywhere in Belize for $2,000/month or less. On a recent trip, I visited the four areas of the country that are most appealing to expats: Corozal, Cayo, the islands (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker) and Placencia.

I went on real estate tours, visited hospitals, and expat hangouts. I spoke with expats living in each of these places, and with attorneys, bankers, business owners, and those with in-depth knowledge of how things work (and how much things cost) in Belize.

Not a single person I met complained about the high cost of living. Instead, they explained how affordable it is to live in Belize. But even more, they shared tales of how much their lives have improved since moving to Belize.

They’re happier and healthier…and part of that comes from eating locally produced food…fish, tropical fruits, rice and beans. Fresh and plentiful, these cost far less in Belize than they do at home.

But you need to figure out what you need in your life and what you can do without—that will help guide your cost of living costs. In Cayo and Corozal, for instance, it is easy to find an apartment to rent for $300/month. Even in popular Placencia town, I found an apartment for $350/month. On the tourist island of Ambergris Caye, there are beachfront apartments (with swimming pool) renting for $750/month.

Most expats here have decided to do without health insurance. There are free public clinics as well as private hospitals in Belize where prices are very low, making “pay as you go” an affordable option. Depending where you live, you may not need a car.

And the cost of entertainment? That’s up to you, too… a mask and a snorkel is a small one-time investment. And those beautiful beaches and Caribbean views? Although you can’t attach a price tag, they’re absolutely free…

International Living