The Reality of Belize

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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. Yes I can help you buy property and move to Belize.

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!

Check out www.ForSaleByOwnerinBelize.com for these and other great properties.

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.

About BelizeBritts

Jim and Jacquelyn moved to Belize in 2004 after spending much of their adult lives as US Navy Deep Sea Divers. Jacquelyn specialized in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program handling sea lions and dolphins with the US Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) as well as conducting underwater repairs on navy ships. Jim was a Navy Chief specializing in underwater repairs to ships and submarines as well as operating a recompression chamber for the treatment of injured divers. They moved to Belize in 2004 from Pine Island, Florida where Jacquelyn is a 4th generation native. Jim is from all over but calls Nashville, Tennessee home. In March 2013 they moved back to Pine Island, FL to spend more time with their family.
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16 Responses to The Reality of Belize

  1. Love these posts Jim! I have been working on a project that is world changing. Now if you have the internet and can set up wi-fi towers using a bamboo structure you can offer a world first class education program. See the Kahn Academy. It’s Free. Bill Gates kids used it to learn math taught by Salman Kahn (IQ 160). My adopted haitian daughter (15 year old) Is quickly learning her math using it (she is in the ninth grade and missed her 6 and 7th school years and spoke little english two years ago). One of the things lacking in places considered 2nd or third world has always been the quality of education, you fix that (with acceptable certification) and you have made a giant leap forward in promoting quality of life. MIT also is offering free online courses. The idea is finding brilliant subject teachers, rock stars of education and complete not only an online school but one that is using some of the most brilliant teaching minds of the world. I like genius minds teaching my kids Salman Kahns Academy only needs to add a complete curriculum to teach kids in remote places giving them a chance to leap forward.

    I find it funny when talking about driving laws as I have been on a distracted driving soap-box lately. I understand what you are saying. Yet so many recent deaths here in the states where dumbass fools are killing and being killed by people who think it is ok to text whilst driving on 70 mph highways. Several incidents where crashes occurred at high speeds and the brakes from the texter vehicle were not applied. This includes professional truckers driving 80,000 lbs of unstoppable force while texting some bullshit to someone who does not care they are jeopardizing lives. Technology is going to move past this idiocy but for now I hope to see it banned and a ticketable offense. I just do not know how to stop stupid other than to make it burn the pockets of these people who think they have something important to say while driving. Semi drivers should be arrested.

    So you see this is the other side. I was born in 1955 but lived on a small farm in the UP of Michigan it stayed 1950 ish well into the late 60’s so I know that feeling of freedom. Sensible men need no one to tell them how to live. You still live in a place where it is your word and your handshake others value (or others do not trust) it is your actions that give both weight. Anyway I always enjoy your posts and they are honest insights and I love that too.

  2. Linda Hunter Kimble says:

    At last an honest and direct representation of life here in Belize. I came to Belize in 2002, about three years before you and had no intention of really LIVING here, just bought a business and hoped to be here from time to time. That didn’t work so I moved here permanently about two years ago and found that my “intermittent visit opinion” and my “now I live here” opinion are polar opposites.

    I’m going to offer an additional view from a female perspective on of course female things. First off, even after eight years coming here and two living here….the taxi cab drivers still offer me a cab. I’m going to take that as a compliment at 60 because I know …they know….. I live here.

    Just a comment on the lack of “Highway Patrolmen”……interesting that the number of SERIOUS car collisions is nearly nill in comparasion to two things. #1. There are virtually NO interstate highways with you traveling only with vehicles going your direction……almost all roads are two way. This kinda makes the stat on the accidents pretty darn remarkable. I’m not saying that I don’t have the you know what scared out of me from time to time but it is more related to night driving and hoping I’m really on my HALF of the road (painted highway side lines and center lines are not on anybodys “A” list in most of the country)….I think you can see the problem here. #2. I still have a few heart palpations when I look in the rear view mirror and see a police truck behind me (I’m doing well lets just say….big numbers) but have to kind of smile when he passes me and I realize I was just really in his way because has to be doing much bigger numbers to be able to pass me. He waves as he goes by. No harm, no foul!

    As a woman, in business, and in basically what might be looked at as a man’s business …..I have found that the first months and even year were a little strange. People will always query what you do….you tell them….they say oh….and you think…they are thinking I won’t be around long….they smile as you leave…and you think……they must know something I don’t know? Two years later I realize what I felt back then…..the’ve have seen em come and go….a lot. And they were just being nice during the time you thought you were going to make it and they didn’t. Now they treat you with some kind of earned respect as if to say…hey…your still here…your one of us…..welcome. Most Belizian people are very kind and caring.

    There are lessons that you learn as a female here. I of course learned the hard way to not react to the spoken word and ….now realize that “Peyton Place” wasn’t just a show on TV back in the 60’s. It exists! The concept of “sound bite” is oh so alive and well. Open your mouth…..have an opinion….and I personally guarantee you that it will come back to you with a complete surrounding dialog that you absolutely did NOT say. Sometimes, you don’t even have to say the sound bite. Thus the idea of “no comment” or responses to someone else volunteering information should be really, or oh…..works very well here.

    The feeling of freedom thing Jim mentions is really something you can’t hardly describe and you don’t even realize it until your here for a while and then go back to say…..the states. I vividly remember saying on my first return to the US after being here three solid months… I miss Belize. I hate the stress of life here. I hate looking in my rear view mirror and thinking was I speeding or did I do something wrong. I hate feeling like you can’t make a move without getting some permit, license, or authorization from someone and then pay some inappropriate fee for the ok to do something. I nearly choaked at the $80 US grocery sack and found I had so little and even more realize how many sprays, perservatives, and dyes it had been soaked in so I could enjoy it now that it was weeks old.

    In Belize, you quickly get used to going to the market on Saturday and buying fruits and vegatables that were virtually PICKED a day or so ago and actually taste like the fruit or vegatible they are. MSG and other perservatives are not in your diet unless you want to buy that R0meanne (see I can’t even spell it anymore) that someone imported just cuz it tastes so good. There are no Taco Bell’s, Burger Kings, or McDonalds…..food is not fast here it is fresh and made today. There aren’t any movie theaters to speak of….no ballet…or symphony…..and the concept of getting to know your friends and actually take the time to barbeque together or just hang out is real and so fulfilling. We learn to care about our friends again and what’s going on in their life. That matters more than shopping for a new car or a new debt.

    It is difficult because there is no HOME DEPOT or one stop shopping for the most part. A couple of stores in Belize City qualify for OSSing but we are not in Belize City, therefore that requires a two hour trip and a bunch of petrol. You might have to search for what you need, but it is here…..it just requires a little more effort. Nearly EVERY store closes on Saturday through Sunday with the exception of some resturants and limited hours for food stores on Sunday. People are busy taking time out with their families and friends and relaxing….what a novel concept.

    In my opinion, the person who moves to Belize is seeking refuge from the over taxed, over monitored, over regulated, over managed, and choaking existance that has become our beloved United States and other countries. They seek the freedom of movement and a life that isn’t spinning out of control with continually increasing demands on their lives, which equates to less time with those that they are working so hard for. You get your life back here, but you have to give up a few amenities and conveniences for it. You can become a permanent resident and start up virtually any business you want. You can loose it all here…..make it all here….or just live here for the beauty of the country and having the absolute ability to say nah….not today. We haven’t checked out here…..we checked back in to honest to goodness living.

  3. Rod Allen says:

    J & J ,

    Hits the nail on the head in one word!….Freedom….The ability to live your life as YOU want……freedom to succeed or to fail…and as you well know there are no social safety nets….you are on your own!…Regardless of the up and downs, our family has survived and gotten stronger over the years…we Love it here, and always have!!

    Rod & Rae

  4. Ha! Love these type of responses!. Hey I spent two years in Panama, four years in Haiti, Two years in the Dominican Republic, and am now considering a few months in Belize because of the honesty I have found in the ex-pats I have found here. You all make me smile as I understand third and second world living. I have no intention of settling down ever but i will say I love good people and I find a few here…ok well, maybe more than a few..

  5. Linda,
    Loved your take on the conditions there!

  6. Thank you for a brilliant blog. Live here on Ambergris Caye is somewhat different, but everything you describe so well about Belize keeps us here.

  7. aj baxter says:

    Great site. Enjoyed reading your article on Belize living and have now added a link to Belizebritts on my site.

  8. Steven Clark says:

    Hey Jim, you write a fantastic blog, its full of detail and heart. My wife and I would love to retire in Belize maybe start a little business, have been considering up around Ambergris Caye but really don’t know for sure, many plus’s and neg. to everywhere. Our biggest fear is the fear of snakes (you can start laughing anytime) but I’d been nearly bitten by a rattle snake many, many years ago and have NEVER been able to come to grips with snakes and my wife….will they just scare the hell outta her. That being said, I believe we would be able to withstand the culture shock of moving from Texas to there. Its such a beautiful place and we both like the pace as to how life moves there since we are getting older we don’t move very fast any more in any case. lol

    • belizebritts says:

      LOL, If you biggest fear is fear if snakes then you fret needlessly, especially on the islands. Most people that live here never see a snake.

    • Linda Hunter Kimble says:

      Just wanted to respond to the snakes comment. Ditto on that times 100. I also don’t like things that crawl or leave a trail behind them. The good news is that honestly, in ten years I have never actually seen a snake in Belize. Guaranteed…..I don’t spend a lot of time IN the jungle, which is possibly the answer to the “no snakes here for me” situation. Like everything else in life…..if you go where your enemies are…..you probably gonna have to fight em off.

  9. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you will
    be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and
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    encourage you to continue your great posts, have a nice evening!

  10. Janine Forbes says:

    I see a lot of money being made: by the book you should write of your adventure.

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