Belize Retirement News

January 12, 2016 - The Best Places to Retire in Belize (and Everywhere Else, Too)

Happy New Year to your and yours!

Belize is an amazing country, with something for everybody considering retiring in Belize. (Except first world headaches, of course.)  

As we embark upon 2016, our Belize law office presents the information below to those who want to retire in Belize, buy real estate in Belize, invest in Belize, or otherwise take a leap to paradise.

Corozal District

Corozal Town is the northernmost large town of Belize, located closest to the Mexican border.  From some places in Corozal Town, you can be at the Mexican border in less than 20 minutes.

There is a lot of agriculture in the Corozal District.  Most of the local people who live in Corozal are Mesitzo, a mixed of the descendants from the Mayans and European-Spanish blood.

There is an expat community in Corozal, not necessarily in Corozal Town but in some of the small villages surrounding it.  A lot of those expats like Corozal because of its close proximity to Mexico.  Chetumal is the border city in Mexico, with a population about the same as half the population of the entire country of Belize, around 150,000, and which makes it a smaller to medium-sized city for Mexico.  Because of the large population in Chetumal, it has a lot of American franchises and American products.  For example, there is a Sam’s Club and a Walmart.  There are many supermarkets. There is a shopping mall with a 6-screen movie theatre.  These are some of the amenities that Belize doesn’t have because of its smaller population.  Belize City, for instance, has only 95,000 people, so we don’t have any American fast-food franchises, because there’s not a large enough population to justify it.  If you cross the border into Chetumal, however, you could go to McDonald’s. You could purchase a Domino’s pizza.

Expats who choose to come to Belize don’t usually want that North American flavor at their fingertips, but every now and then they like to be able to drive 20 to 25 minutes and access it.  This is an advantage to some that Corozal has.  In addition, there is high-quality medical service in Mexico, something that a lot of the expats that live in Corozal like easy and quick access to.

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Belize City

South of Corozal District is Belize District and Belize City.  Belize City is the major city in the country, located on the beautiful coast off the Caribbean Sea.  Our law firm is located here (although we also have a satellite office in San Pedro).  Belize City is the most populous city, but compared to many countries, it's still quite small, with around 95,000 people living here.

Belize City is the center of the court system of Belize and of the media - the newspapers and television stations - are based here.  It is also the transportation hub.  The international airport is located outside of Belize City.  Belize City is not necessarily a tourist center, but it certainly is the pulse of the country.

Belize City does have expats, but it is a very small expat community as compared to some other more touristy, retirement centers in the country.  Typically, the expats who live in Belize City are working, as opposed to being retirees.  Many expats work for some of the larger international companies and provide consulting and professional services within this general area.

Even though Belize City would hardly be considered large enough to be a city in North America, for instance, it is somewhat like a city in that it has a concentrated populace.  The physical area is very small, so its population is dense.  However, skyscrapers do not exist in Belize City (or elsewhere in the country, for that matter). 

There are a few different reasons why Belize City does not have a good reputation. Certainly it is a city, so there are some rough neighborhoods in Belize City as exist in other cities around the world.  That being said, there are some really great neighborhoods and upscale areas as exist in other cities around the world.  Cities are always a mix.

There are lots of people with families living in Belize City, there are some fantastic neighborhoods, there are some fantastic homes, and great people. The country's best schools are located in Belize City.  Colleges and universities are located in Belize City, as are the biggest hospitals.

The positives of living in Belize City outweigh the negative media coverage that someone sitting at a desk overseas might read about.  The media tends towards sensational news, not only in Belize but also in Central America and the Caribbean.  Because Belize is a smaller country and Belize City is a very small city, sensationalist news, or what we would call tabloid news, sells newspapers and makes people tune in to the news on television.  If there is a murder or if there is a robbery or another type of crime, it leads the newscast. And, unfortunately, when you search Belize news on the internet, you’ll probably come across some the negative stories rather than the positive stories about how great the Belize Museum is or the fantastic latest restaurant or nightclub that opened in Belize City.

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San Pedro

The town of San Pedro is on the island Ambergris Caye, which is also in the Belize District. San Pedro is very important as it relates to tourism and retirement in Belize and expats living in Belize.  Ambergris Caye is by far the number one tourist destination in Belize, and it is by far the number one place for expats to reside.  The town of San Pedro is located in Ambergris Caye.  Being an island, it’s very close to the famous coral reef and a center for scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing expeditions, all types of sea life and sea activities.

There are a tremendous amount of expat-owned businesses on Ambergris Caye including all types of tourist accommodations, restaurants, bars, clubs, and all other types of businesses.  There are quite a few condominium developments in San Pedro town and there are a tremendous amount of high-end, great resorts.

One of the best things about San Pedro at this point that makes it different from other places in the region such as Cancún is that the height of resort construction is limited. You’re not going to find many high-rises and therefore the area is not overdeveloped. Another thing that makes living in San Pedro interesting is that 90% of the vehicles on the road are golf carts, which gives the island quite a different feel that a lot of tourists love once they first experience it ... and often leads them to decide to stay.

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Orange Walk District

Heading further south is Orange Walk Town, located in the Orange Walk district. This area is part of the “Sugar Belt” and Orange Walk is known as “Sugar City.” This is where a lot of sugarcane is grown and processed.  Just outside of Orange Walk town is the facility that turns sugarcane into raw sugar product. There aren’t very many expats in Orange Walk, even though here is a river that runs through the area and there are quite a few nature lodges and resorts, a good amount of which are owned by expats.  Orange Walk has famous tourist destinations like the Lamanai, which is a Mayan site, located on a river in Orange Walk, which is quite popular.

Cayo District

Heading out west are the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena in the Cayo District. This area is more hilly, a higher elevation, and replete with jungles and rivers. The twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena are on either side of a river. The temperature tends to be a bit more mild because of the high elevation; a bit cooler than along the coast.

There are quite a few expats in San Ignacio and Santa Elena, those who like adventure living in the jungle or near the jungle with access to a lot of Mayan sites and a lot of nature. There’s a lot of wildlife in these areas, and our Belize retirement lawyers even know people who keep tucans in San Ignacio.  Many expats own businesses in the twin towns, including bed and breakfasts, small restaurants, and bars.  San Ignacio, Santa Elena and the entire Cayo District is proving to be a popular destination for North American and Europeans who want to retire in Belize

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Belmopan, the capital city of Belize, is located between Belize City and San Ignacio-Santa Elena.  Belmopan was carved out of a jungle in the early 1970s, located in the geographical center of the country.  It is the government center of our country.  All the ministries are located there, including the prime minister’s office.  Belmopan is very much the nerve center when it comes to the Belizean government.  The majority of foreign embassies are also located in Belmopan.

While there are a few expats and retirees located in Belmopan, the majority of expats in Belmopan belong to a diplomatic community.  The vast majority of expats living in Belmopan are there on a temporary basis until their work is done or until they are posted is elsewhere.  Belmopan is a small place with a small population.

Many people who live in Belize City commute to Belmopan on a daily basis, so during the day, the population of Belmopan swells.  In the evening or during the weekend, Belmopan becomes very quiet and slow-paced. When you need to do anything concerning government Belmopan is the place that you have to go.

Stann Creek District

South of Belmopan is Stann Creek District.  This is where the town of Dangriga is located along the coast, the most populous town in the district.  Dangriga is the center of the Garifuna culture of Belize.  It’s also known as the cultural capital of Belize.  Although not necessarily known as an expat destination, some tourism certainly exists.  The Garifuna people have their own language, their own culture, and their own way of life that is very interesting and appealing to many tourists.  There are a few restaurants and hotels located in Dangriga that are expat owned.

Heading further south from Dangriga, along the coast, there’s a large tourist center town called Placencia, which is on the end of the Placencia Peninsula.  Placencia is one of the more up-and-coming tourism destinations and development areas in Belize.  The town of Placencia started out as a small fishing village.  These days it is developing quite rapidly from a small fishing village to a major tourist center.  

There’s an extremely large expat community in the Placencia area and a lot of expat-owned businesses.  There are also many retirees living in Placencia.  It is a healthy community with beautiful beaches.  There are beautiful views of the Mayan mountains and a large Placencia lagoon behind the peninsula and the village.  The fishing and boating are excellent.  Placencia is the second most popular tourist destination and expat destination in Belize at present and it continues to grow.

Toledo District

Punta Gorda town is the largest town in the Toledo District, which is the southernmost district of Belize.  The district borders Guatemala to the south.  There are not too many expats living in the Toledo District, because it’s the least populated district and Punta Gorda is among the least populated towns in the country.  Punta Gorda is certainly an adventure town in an adventure district and especially good for environmentalists if they are interested in seeing wildlife.  It is about as far away from Belize City you can get, and you feel it.  It’s become quite popular for tourism although it’s not an expat destination yet.

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Our Belize attorneys invite you to learn more about Belize by clicking here. Or if you’d like to learn more about why Belize might be right for you, click here.

Whether you are interested in relocating to Belize, retiring in Belize, buying real estate in Belize, or exploring the offshore sector in Belize, it's imperative to understand what you're getting into.

To contact a Belize lawyer to assist you, please click here.

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