Because Belize is not such a common retirement or relocation destination choice for Britons, we have already produced the first part of a guide to Belize covering everything from the weather to the currency used, and today we’re going to finish off our a – z with an even closer look at what it’s like living in Belize.
Belize is a former British colony – and to this day it remains a member of the British Commonwealth, so it really does make sense for us Brits to consider it as an alternative home country. After all, there are ways you can legitimately live in Belize 100% income tax-free, what’s more because of the sub tropical nature of the climate there, it never gets cold! Well, not by British standards anyway!
So if you’re looking for an alternative relocation destination where the cost of living is affordable and the way of life is fantastically laid back, where you can enjoy the sophistication of a big city or the beach-bum lifestyle of an island hopper, Belize offers it all.
B - Belize City - despite what most people think, Belize City is not the capital of the nation, Belmopan is…what’s more, Belize City is more of a large town than a city! Landing up and basing yourself here for the duration of a visit to the country will see you pretty bored and missing out on everything Belize really has to offer. Yes there is a good vibe in the city and there are restaurants and a fairly happening arts community, but there is much more to Belize than its largest town. Having said that, it’s a fantastic place to visit when you’re living in Belize as it will offer you some of the sophistication you perhaps lack when you move to a country like Belize from a nation such as America or the UK.
B – Belmopan - as mentioned, Belmopan is the capital of Belize and where the majority of government offices are located. The small city is home to a golf course, a zoo, Herman’s cave and a fabulous market on Tuesdays and Fridays.
E – Education - Belize has such a young population that some local schools really suffer from overcrowding! The school system follows the old British standard with children moving through the ‘form’ system until they reach sixth form. This is being updated and the ‘year’ system used in America and now the UK is becoming standard. Most of the schools are run by the Catholic Church, with Catholicism the main religion in Belize. State schools are free, although parents have to pay for uniforms books and some materials for their student children. There are some fee paying schools available and very limited university and college places.
G – Geography - Belize is in Central America, it is on the Caribbean Coast with the Caribbean Sea being its border to the east, Mexico its border to the north and Guatemala its border to the west and the south. Belize has about 400 islands as well – but most of them are tiny and unpopulated. In terms of its size it is similar to Wales and it’s 200 miles long from north to south.
H – Healthcare - the idealised line is that healthcare facilities are widely available across Belize with most doctors who practice there having trained in the US or the UK. The reality is that the few hospitals and clinics that exist in Belize are massively underfunded to a degree that you will probably not have experienced, and they are also hugely understaffed. You will pay for care and treatment – not a great deal compared to what you would pay if you went privately in the UK or America for example – but you won’t be able to guarantee that you’ll have the care you need because quite simply it may not be available.
If you have a mild condition and need basic care then you will get it in Belize and you will probably have a positive experience with the doctors, nurses and care professionals you meet. If however you develop a complex or chronic, critical or even terminal condition you will really want medical insurance that will ensure you get treatment wherever it’s available in the world. You can travel to Mexico or America for care for example – but note, you will have to pay. So if you’re thinking about moving to live in Belize it would be very wise to factor in paying for and affording a very good health insurance policy.
L – Language - perhaps the best news for Britons is that the official language in Belize is English! You will get by if you don’t speak any other languages, but because Spanish and Creole are also very widely spoken it can be a good idea to make an effort and get some phrases down!
P – People - it’s always difficult to generalise about an entire nation of people and sum them up, but when it comes to Belize it is actually impossible as it’s such a cultural melting pot! You have the Mestizos who account for almost half the population, these are people who have a mixture of a European and Mayan heritage and who speak Spanish as their first language. The next largest population group are the Creoles who account for about a quarter of people living in Belize. Most are of African heritage who speak a mixture of Creole and English – then you have the Maya people making up 10% of the population or there abouts, leaving people from almost everywhere else in the world accounting for the final 15% or so!
P – Public Holidays - New Year’s Day, (January 1st): Baron Bliss Day, (March 9th although the date of celebration varies annually): Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Labour Day (May 1st): Commonwealth Day (May 24th): St. George’s Caye Day (September 10th), Independence (from Britain! Day (September 21st): Columbus Day (October 12th): Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19th): Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
T - Telecommunications - you can get mobile phones, landlines and internet access in Belize. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you should expect to pay at least a bit more for all services than you do in the UK. Digicell is probably the leading provider of GSM in Belize and when it comes to getting internet access you can either go the satellite route or opt for DSL from the local phone company.
T – Time Zone - Belize is 6 hours behind GMT but it does not observe daylight saving.
Z – In Conclusion! - we hope we’ve managed to cover all the basics about Belize that you might need to ask before you consider it as a serious destination on your relocation list. But one final word has to go to Lan Sluder of Belize First magazine – this man is the expatriate expert when it comes to Belize. His online resource may be a little clunky and difficult to navigate, but Lan has the knowledge you need to access if you want to relocate to this very beautiful and fascinating country. We recommend you take a look at his resource as well.
Wed, November 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM
What a thorough guide! I’ll be checking out part one for sure. I think, as the healthcare debate rolls on here in the United States, that we forget how good we have it healthcare wise sometimes. I cannot imagine having to go to another country and pay a ton of money if something really was wrong. I think maybe we take for granted the access we have to really great healthcare. Now, I’m not at all saying our healthcare system is perfect..but reading about other countries healthcare sometimes does make me thankful.
-Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner
Thu, March 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Well done for this free information. We are Brits living and running a business in Florida and we are tired of the way working tax paying Brits are treated regarding obtaing a green card or even a good value visa so the information on Berlize was good to read having overcome many of the ex pats issues when moviny to the USA. WE ARE TAKING A GOOD HARD LOOK at Berlize over the next 12 months so as to get it well understood before we sell up. Great information keep it up.
What about buying land up front while it is still affordable, anyone?