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Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye?

Posted By: Katerina

Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/08/13 07:21 PM

For those of you who may have lived both on Ambergris Caye and on Caye Caulker, can you compare the cost of living on these two islands, in particular?

First question is what is a reasonable range to cover the cost of groceries for a couple (expats)who primarily eat at home, excluding liquor?

Can you get dark green, leafy lettuce, and other diverse veggies (other than traditional Mayan squashes, cabbages, and chaya, etc.)? For instance, does any grocery or stand offer dark green veggies like arugula, kale, and green beans? What about whole grain breads and diverse cheeses (goat, feta, sharp cheddar, etc.)?

These days many vegetarians are interested in Belize. I'm wondering if vegetarians here need to grow their own gardens to get the kind of diverse veggies we could easily get in North America?

I'd assume that the BTL, BWS and phone services are very similar on the two islands, but that the cost of rentals and homes are quite a bit less on Caye Caulker. Any comments and info on cost of living comparisons would be appreciated.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/08/13 10:35 PM

Ambergris Caye has a more diverse selection when it comes to good foods. The Greenhouse is a good example. They sell a Pesto to die for, several varieties of local yogurt, hummus, local honey,lots of greens also more specialties like whole wheat pastas and 10 or more choices of coffee bean. We have several bakeries and whole wheat and grain breads are popular.Vegetable stands galore and boats arrive regularly with a wide variety of vegetables from the mainland.
My partner and I enjoy cooking and eating well. We live on Ambergris Caye.
I'm sure Caye Caulker has a lower cost of living but thats not a complaint.
Posted By: ron

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/09/13 12:07 AM

I live 6 months a year on Caye Caulker. The availability of anything on Caye Caulker is for the most part less then on Ambergris. There are no higher end groceries here on CC. Fresh vegetables are the same in all the stores. I doubt you will find any stocking Kale or the like. The grocery stores here to have a variety of cheeses. They are expensive. There is a much larger population in San Pedro then on CC so availability will be greater. Housing on San Pedro has a greater breadth in cost. You can rent a very nice condo or villa there that you will not find in CC. Both are islands so everything is more expensive. Larger population in Ambergris Caye means greater availability of more things. You can be a vegetarian in both places without having your own garden. You just have to adjust you diet requirements to what is available.
Posted By: Katerina

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/09/13 10:59 PM

Is anyone willing to venture a guess on what a couple would spend on CC during a week if they eat three meals a day at home, and eat protein (fish, chicken and meat), veggies, bread, rice, beans, eggs, cheese, some cereals, fruits, milk and basic food items?

My estimate of what we spend in San Pedro is $150US/week. Is that a good guess for CC? OR would it be more or less, to eat pretty well. No liquor included. Anyone willing to throw out a cost range?
Posted By: Cybercayecaulker.com

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 11:32 AM

Rice, beans, sugar and several other staples are price controlled by the GOB, so they (should) remain the same no matter where you buy them. Meat is pretty expensive and interestingly enough, so is fish, even though its caught right here, you will pay 8-10 bzd a lb for fish fillet. Eggs are 3 for 1 bzd, milk is 9 bzd for a 1/2 gallon, breakfast cereals are 2-3x more expensive than in the U.S., so if cereal something you like, bring it with you. Coffee is 20 bzd a lb. Local fruits on Caye Caulker are around 5 bzd for a pineapple, or papaya. Watermelon is sold by the pound and is about 1.50 bzd a lb. bananas are 5 for 1 bzd, limes are 3-4 for 1 bzd, a little bunch of cilantro is 1 bzd, cucumber is 2 bzd a lb, tommatos are 4.50 bzd a lb. If youa re here for any length of time, like a month, its worth it to take a shopping trip to Belize City and go to the central market and stock up on meat and other things that you can put in the freezer. If you are only here for a week, I would budget $200 U.S.
Posted By: MikeD

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 05:54 PM

I would say the above estimate is very accurate. My wife and I stayed for one month a year or two back to test the cost of living on CC (among other things). Not including our housing and eating at home most of the time, we spent about $1,000 US for all expenses unrelated to housing during that month. This included a few water taxi trips etc.. Our goal was to live as we would if we were there as long term residents.
Posted By: joey2angels

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 06:48 PM

I would have to ask first...what do you spend a week at home?
Second: Do you eat fish?
Third: Do you fish?

Get where I'm heading??????

Fourth: How are you getting to the island? If you cut back on travel expenses you'll have more money for food and entertainment.
Posted By: Dane

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 07:07 PM

We own a home on CC don't try to save and spent about $1000 month average for many years for everything no rent.
We rarely shop in the city.
Posted By: Katerina

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 08:59 PM

Thanks, Dane. Your response was very helpful, since it is more budget oriented. I've sent you a separate PM.

Other Commenters,

I live on Ambergris Caye, so know how to cut corners. But what I'm trying to do is develop a comparable general cost of living budget for expats to be able to compare the cost of living between Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and Placencia, all being beach towns. Of course, once someone moves here, they learn ways to cut corners. But for expats who are considering moving here, they want to get a general idea of the difference in the cost of living between specific areas. So I try to be conservative, so that they aren't surprised when they get here. I'd rather over-estimate the cost of groceries in a given region than under-estimate them.

I appreciate everyone's personal input. The cost of groceries vary quite a bit between regions. So it's hard to do this type of estimate without getting input from those who live in a particular region.

Posted By: ckocian

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 10:35 PM

"cost of groceries VARIES a bit" Lifestyle expectations of expats can be difficult to analyze without knowing who they are and something about them. Lots of misleading information is available about living in Belize no matter where. Lan Sluder has the best, most honest information about day-to-day living because he's spent 20-some years observing the expat population, talking to them and writing about their experiences without the usual window dressing in print
Posted By: collyk

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/10/13 10:54 PM

Keep in mind that fluctuations are enormous depending on the season, weather, shipments and inflation. Items can triple in price overnight. Just recently a pound of cilantro was going for over 25BZD as it was difficult to source.
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/11/13 03:06 AM

The longer you stay anywhere the cheaper it becomes. Dane has much more life experience in the country then Lan Sluder although I dont think that takes away from either of them. We live here way under the $1,000 a month if you exclude our business expenses,but thats us and we may not be normal. We have only been here 10 yrs.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/11/13 10:33 PM

There are some very intersting aspects to shopping here. First I had to learn how the weather affects our food. Ideally we would shop like they do in Europe, buy today only what you will eat today and got to the store again tomorrow. But with the roads being the way they are – and me being the way I am – I do tend to stock up. Costco was my dream store!

The first time I asked for celery the lady held up a slightly limp half a clump of celery and asked me "how many?" I said one, thinking I would have to settle for this scrawny thing and she proceeded to break of one stalk. I laughed, paid for it and realized how smart this was. How much celery has rotted in your refrigerator because you really only needed one or two stalks? So I get to buy just what I need.

Likewise with cabbage, papaya or watermelon; they will cut off whatever amount you ask for. Cigarettes can also be purchased one smoke at a time! Weird?

Apples tend to be expensive; $1.25 to $1.50 BZ each but some of them are very fresh and crispy. You have to learn which ones. Some are so heavily coated with wax it is impossible to eat the peel.

Ugly carrots. We call them that because they are not all the same size, shape and color like the pretty (we call them plastic carrots) you get in the US. Ours are sometimes short, often fat and have knobs – but by jumping Jehosophet do they taste great! - My grown daughter would NEVER eat a cooked carrot. I asked her just to taste one. OMG it is now one of her favorite foods here. She said I had ruined her as she could no longer buy anything but organic vegetable in Southern California.

Some stores open the big bags of dog food and rebag them into one pound plastic bags. You will never know what you are getting. I've had to stop buying the 50 lb bags because of the humidity here. Before it is all gone sometimes it has molded.

The humidity also affects baked goods; moist stuff molds. If you buy Belizean baked goods you will find them very dry. It took me years to figure out the mold thing which they obviously got generations ago.

I used to like Kashi cereals but learned I had to open the cardboard box, pull up the cellophane and check the bottom for bugs. Bugs seem to love Kashi.

Pancake mix needs to be kept in the refrigerator. One of the stores even keeps their supply in the chest with meat. I have always kept my flour in the freezer but never considered other flour products.

There are foods that we have only seen in refrigerators that are stored in the open air here. It does take some getting used to. For instance eggs. Here they are fresh and the inventory moves fast. In the US they have been kept in cold storage for who knows how long?
Bananas range between 4 or 5 for $1 BZ. Unlike the ones shipped green to the US, these are pretty ripe when you buy them. You MUST take then out of the plastic bag as soon as you get home or by the next day they are mush. I put mine in the refrigerator. In the US we were told to never put bananas in the frig. I don't know why.

Here’s my favorite trick. I buy a bunch of apple bananas anytime they are available. At home I peel them all and put 4 each in a snack bag and zip it closed and put them in the freezer. Anytime I want a treat I get out a bag of bananas, a tablespoon of peanut butter and a couple of Casa Pan Dulce shortbread cookies. I cut the bananas into bit sized pieces and put a dollop of peanut butter and a slice of banana on a cookie and bite in. The different textures, temperatures and flavors give my mouth a party.
Posted By: Loansum-Al K

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/12/13 04:11 PM

Harriette, you need a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. We have one at our place and use it all the time. It keeps stuff that is susceptible to humidity fresh for months. Our favorite appliance for the tropical weather.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/12/13 10:37 PM

Al - I do have one but no room in this tiny apartment to even turn around. When I get moved up to my grand kitchen it will have a permanent place.
I have lots of stuff I am just dying to use. Come up for a visit.
Posted By: sarafloat

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/18/13 12:56 AM

Caye Caulker now has more options. Paradiso Sandwich Shop proprietors make natural yogurt, granola and hummus and sell it retail in local stores like Chan's Mini-Mart and Chinatown Supermarket. Chan's carries a variety of cheeses including several different feta cheeses, brie, mozzarella, mascarpone, blue cheese, etc. On occasion they have portabella mushrooms, sugar snap peas, green beans, etc. There is an ex-pat here who makes gourmet lunch fare and delivers to your home. She takes orders once a week for fresh spring greens, basil, parsley, homemade hummus and wheat bread. We have several restaurants that feature vegetarian items. So we are movin' on up!!
Posted By: CayeMarie

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/18/13 09:25 PM

who is doing lunches, how do you get in touch?
Posted By: artb

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/18/13 09:52 PM

Originally Posted by CayeMarie
who is doing lunches, how do you get in touch?

Just opened up by the split, had a good veggie plate today.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aladdins-Middle-Eastern-American-Cuisine/222478971258407
651-6324 She says food to go also.
Posted By: Ernie B

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/18/13 11:32 PM

Try it !
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/19/13 12:58 AM

Your funny Ernie B. You are actually supporting a place you have not been to. See how we got you going. Still would love to meet you.
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/19/13 12:59 AM

The 8 weeks of rain have cut living expenses way down.
Posted By: CayeMarie

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/19/13 01:24 AM

artb nice to know Aladdin's delivers hadn't heard that
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/19/13 01:46 AM

Do you really think anyone will deliver in this weather????
Posted By: artisan

Re: Cost of living on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye? - 12/19/13 11:45 AM

Originally Posted by CayeMarie
artb nice to know Aladdin's delivers hadn't heard that


Hi Marie,
Aladdins has meals packaged to go, but technically not delivered everywhere.
We have been dropping stuff for near-by customers but due to location at the corner by the Split there it would be impractical to deliver everywhere on the caye at all times.
If you call we may be able to accommodate, depending on how busy we are at the given moment.
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