After having the chance to visit Belize for a few days, I have now gained a new appreciation for my expat life in Guatemala.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun in Belize. In fact, TOO much fun, and I have the (ouch!) sunburns to prove it.
But… After almost a week, I was ready to head back to Guatemala. And boy, I’m I glad to be home.
I’ve written about Belize in the past (see here). It is a fine destination if you’re a digital nomad who is into diving and other sea-dependent pursuits.
But for me, Guatemala is where I’d be if I had to choose between the two. Here’s why:
#1 – Way Better for Your Budget
After growing accustomed to Guatemala’s prices, Belize’s “island” prices blew me away. Everything’s more expensive there. Gas, groceries, clothing… you name it, the cost would be more and in some cases almost double than in Guatemala.
For example, our family of three could eat a decent meal in Guatemala, with drinks, for about $15 USD. The same meal in Belize would be about the equivalent of $25 USD.
Belize is definitely a budget-buster.
#2 – Variety of Climate and Landscapes
While I enjoyed Belize, it is a a really small country compared to Guatemala. You can drive the country from end to end (North/South, East/West) in a couple of days if you wanted to. Or one day if you started driving really early.
While it packs a bunch of cool places in a small area, it can’t even begin to touch Guatemala for diversity. Whichever climate you prefer (cold, hot, humid, dry)or landscape (mountains, lakes, seas, valleys) Guatemala has a place for you.
#3 – Big-City Conveniences
While I’m not a huge fan of Guatemala City, I do appreciate it has a lot to offer by the way of modern conveniences (malls, bigger hospitals, IMAX screens, restaurants offering any type of cuisine you can fancy, etc…).
Belize City and the capital, Belmopan, even though they are the largest cities in Belize, are nowhere the metropolis Guatemala City is. To be fair, neither are any of the other capitals in Central America, of which Guatemala City is the largest.
Belize is a small country that relies on tourism for revenue. They don’t seem to attract big investors that want to build larger, better facilities.
I’m thankful those options are available in Guatemala, should I ever wish to visit them.
#4 – The Internet Provider Sucks
UPDATE: I’m happy to take this one of the list! As pointed out by readers Matt and Jason below (thanks guys!), as of earlier this year, BTL no longer blocks Skype. Hooray!
Belize Telecom (BTL) has a virtual monopoly on Belizean Internet service. Since they also offer telephone service, BTL has taken the extra step of blocking Skype and Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) access to all customers!
There are ways around BTL’s blocks, such as using VPN services, but this only serves to further slow down an already slow Internet connection. Guatemala? No such silly restrictions.
These are the things I was able to gather from my admittedly short visit to Belize.
Don’t think that all I have are negative impression of Belize. The people, for one, are much friendlier and open to conversation than the typically reserved Guatemalan, or so it was in my case. Also, and this is key for many people, there is a lessened feeling of insecurity in most of Belize than there is in Guatemala (Belize City being the exception).
I thoroughly enjoyed Belize’s natural attractions, which I’ll detail on my trip report this Friday. But for the reasons I mentioned above, Guatemala gets my nod as a better place to live long-term, with this warning:
No place is a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for our family may not work for you and vice versa. The point of seeking freedom to slow travel is to find the place that speaks to you.
Have you visited either country?
I’d love to hear your opinion!