There are a lot of conflicting reports about the cost of living in Belize, and for good reason. Belize is not the cheapest place in Central America to live. However, the vast majority of expats figure out with experience, how to live on much less than in the U.S., and with a higher quality of life.
Due to the fact Belize is not an overly materialistic country, means the biggest change that expats see when they move to Belize is huge savings. There are few stores to buy things and nobody asks what do you do for a living. It is not uncommon for people to bike or use a golf cart for transportation, you do not need a car, let alone two. And, dressed down, bare feet or flip flops are as dressy as you need to get.
Food and Drink in Belize
Food is a key area you can see big savings. Avoiding expensive, imported American foods and instead favoring local produce means fresh food at low prices. All over Belize, you’ll hear people talking about “my vegetable lady,” “my fruit guy,” or “my fish guy.” There are farmers’ markets and butchers where you can eat for about 60% of what you do in the U.S., and most of it is straight from the Mennonite farms in the country.
Everywhere in Belize, including the most expensive areas, you can easily find places to eat local, home cooked food for around $5. The national dish in Belize is stewed chicken, rice, and beans, usually with a plantain. Some people eat it every day and it is readily available at every food stand and restaurant for $5. Imported liquor and wine is expensive, but you will find local beer, rum, and vodka at bars for only $2 to $3 per drink.
Connectivity and Utilities in Belize
The connectivity is good in Belize, and internet can run you about $60 to $100 a month. That includes cable TV with hundreds of channels and even the premium movie channels you find in the U.S.
Cell service is much cheaper and most do a pay-as-you-go plan which can be about only $20 a month for just calling, or up to $50 to $100 if you are using it to have internet everywhere you go. Utilities such as water will cost you about $20 to $25 a month, and electricity is about the same as in the U.S.
Real Estate in Belize
The least expensive areas where expats live in Belize include the Cayo, Corozal, Sittee River/Hopkins, and Punta Gorda. You can find plenty of options to buy acres of land and build a house in the Cayo for under $100,000 and that can get you several acres and a house.
The most expensive area of Belize where expats reside are Ambergris Caye, Placencia, and Caye Caulker. At the top end of the real estate market in Ambergris Caye. Right now you can find several listings for resort-style living, pool, with sea view for well under $200,000.
If you prefer to rent, you can find a three-bedroom three-bathroom condo with sea view for $1,300 a month in Placencia, or you can easily find apartments in Corozol, Cayo, or Punta Gorda for up to half that price. Also household help such as cooks, cleaners, and gardeners are extremely affordable, and minimum wage is about $1.75 an hour.
Other Expenses in Belize
A doctor’s visit typically costs around $25, and most medications don’t require a prescription, and cost a fraction of what they would in the U.S. Although there isn’t cutting edge healthcare here, expats looking for more complicated medical procedures will go to Merida, Mexico, which is only a short flight away.
Importing goods into Belize can be very expensive and you can expect to pay 50% on top of their value for duty, but you can get around this with QRP Program, which allows you to bring in all your worldly goods duty free one time.
But many expats chose to leave their furniture at home and instead buy furniture made by the local Mennonites because it is accessible and less expensive. Or, there is also the option to cross the border into Chetumal for a shopping trip, or bring things in as you go back home to the U.S.
Some people say Belize is expensive, and for tourists certainly it can be at times. However, with time and experience, and if you enjoy a back-to-nature lifestyle, fresh food, and local culture and fun, Belize can be a significant savings in every area.
Here’s a sample monthly budget for two people living and renting on Ambergris Caye:
|Rent (one-bedroom, two-bathroom condo)||$850|
|Electricity||$100 to $250|
|Cellphone||$25 to $50|
|Internet and landline (use a SMART MiFi)||$35|
|Monthly food||$400 to $600|
|Monthly total||$1,619 to $1,994|
To show how prices can differ depending on where you are in Belize, here is a sample monthly budget of a couple living in Punta Gorda, who own their own home:
|Groceries||$400 to $600|
|Cellphone||$30 to $50|
|Internet and landline||$10|
|Butane gas (for cooking)||$25|
|Gas for car||$100|
|Household help (five hours a week)||$40|
|Monthly total||$898 to $1,118|