Where to Retire: Belize

Retire to Belize for a range of benefits. (Creative Commons / Anoldent)Belize, a small nation on the eastern coast of Central America, has become popular with retirees for a number of reasons. Rimming the Caribbean Basin, it's been called a tropical paradise thanks to its amazing scenery, warm weather, coral reefs and low cost of living. English is the official language and is widely spoken, along with Creole. And the country's government has introduced a range of incentives to snare retirees. In this article we'll outline the basics of retiring in Belize.


It is possible to retire to Belize on a tourist visa. On entry you a granted a tourist visa for up to 30 days. This can be periodically reviewed at a fee of between US$25 and US$50 per month.

But for most retirees with a moderate income, it makes sense to get hold of one of Belize's retiree visas. Anyone over 45 years of age can qualify for the visa, provided that they meet certain income requirements. You'll need proof that you've been granted a pension or annuity of US$2000 per month, generated outside of Belize.

If you meet those requirements, the application process is reportedly largely free of hassle and red tape, with visas generally granted within six months. Retirees coming to Belize are allowed to bring in their household goods, a motor vehicle, a boat and even a light plane without paying import duties or fees. An even bigger incentive is that income from outside of Belize isn't taxed.

Upon applying for the visa, you'll need to pay a US$150 fee to the Belize Tourism Board, which administers the program (rather than the immigration bureau). If you're accepted into the program, you'll need to pay an additional US$1000 placement fee, plus US$200 for issuance of a residency card and US$750 for each dependent coming with you.

Health Care

Belize has decent hospitals and a standard of health care that's considered above average for Caribbean countries. But it's not of the standard you'll find in the US, or even neighbouring Mexico. So while local services will be fine for treating regular injuries and ailments, more serious problems are probably best dealt with at home (or in Mexico, which offers high quality, yet cheap, hospitals). 

You can take out insurance in the US before coming to Belize, but a cheaper option is to utilize one of the local health insurance companies in Belize, which are mostly British-backed.

Cost of Living

Unless you're stocking up on imported brands and driving a gas-guzzling monster, your cost of living in Belize will be considerably cheaper than what you're used to. You can get by on a very modest amount indeed if you live like the locals do. Spend the full US$2000 a month and you'll be living high on the hog, with help around the house and plenty of money for eating out and entertaining.

Belize's dollar is pegged to the US dollar and both currencies are accepted throughout the country. This makes the currency very stable and has obvious benefits for US retirees.

Buying Land and Houses

The fact that Belize has English as its official language makes purchasing property much easier than in many other Central and South American countries. Belize allows foreigners to own land with full property title and rights. If you want to purchase a significant tract of land, you'll need to get a permit from the government. There are some duties and fees involved, but all in all purchasing land in Belize is relatively straightforward.

Housing is very reasonably priced. Outside of major cities you can purchase a nice, modern home for as little as US$50,000 to US$100,000, and prices inside major cities are still much less than what you're used to paying in your home country.

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