San Pedro, located in Ambergris Caye, Belize, is a tropical paradise located a short flight away from the U.S. It is an excellent destination for those seeking to explore extended living abroad, but only a short distance from home.
San Pedro can quickly put a spell on visitors, many of whom decide to return to make Belize their permanent home. Belize offers a great advantage to the digital nomad in that only local income is taxed, leaving you exempt from it if your business is located overseas.
Check out Belize. You might fall for it too.
Location: Central America. Belize shares borders with Guatemala to the South and West, with Mexico to the North, and the Caribbean Sea to the East.
Official Language: English. Most people speak Spanish and Creole.
Currency: Belizean Dollar (BZD). Current rate is almost $2BZD for every $1 US Dollar (USD). All prices below refer to US Dollars unless indicated otherwise.
Overall Weather: Hot and humid, very tropical. Rainy season runs from May to November and a dry season from February to May.
Natural Hazards: Hurricane season from June to November.
Getting There: Ambergris Caye is accessible via a 15-20 minute flight from the Philip Godson International Airport in Belize City to the local San Pedro Airport. Alternatively, you can also reach via boat, which takes between 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the hops between islands your ferry will make.
What Is A Typical Day In Belize Like?
Because Belize is located in a tropical environment, it lends itself to a host of outdoor activities. If you like water-sports and beautiful beaches, then Belize has a lot to offer. For the divers and snorkelers out there, you can explore the Barrier Reef, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in size and competing for the top spot in beauty. Wind surfing is available most of the year, as is sailing.
Birdwatching is a popular attraction as are nature walks. Fishing is also a very popular sport.
The locals are renowned for their friendliness. There is also a good-sized expat crowd with plenty of ongoing activities. It will not be hard to make friends in this laid back town.
Cost of Living
Belize is highly regarded as a retirement destination, due to its affordable real estate opportunities. Tourism is also Belize’s main industry. Combine the two, and you have a real estate market that offers great opportunities for short and medium stays.
If you are thinking about a stay shorter than a year, you can take advantage of the off-season and find more affordable rent. You can also be creative and look for opportunities to house-sit for retirees that split time between two or more locations worldwide.
There is year-round housing available as well. Depending on how close you would like to live to the beach (which is never far away anyway), and whether you look for off-season opportunities, you’ll spend between $500 and a $1,000 for a furnished apartment. Word of mouth is usually the best way to find affordable deals.
Utilities and Internet
Infrastructure costs are higher in Belize than other Central American countries. This is, fortunately, manageable because of the lower cost of rent and food. Fortunately, Internet access is readily available, but electricity costs may be higher than expected. Electricity cost concerns aside, heating cost are non-existent.
An A/C really helps on those muggy nights if you don’t live on a beachfront home.
Rates for TV service are affordable, as are rates for water.
A car is not really needed in Ambergris Caye, especially if you live in San Pedro, the largest town. Most people get around on foot and via bike. Electric golf carts are also a popular option, although you have to factor in the cost of electricity to charge the cart. Most people make do without a car, since gas is expensive, and get around via taxi in the rare occasions they need to make that long distance trip.
To get to the mainland, you can choose to fly, although the cost effective option is to ride a water taxi, which will take 40-50 minutes if making a direct trip.
Depending on your palate, you can either eat cheap or very expensively, depending on your willingness to adjust. Keep in mind it is an island, so anything that has to be imported long distances will cost a bit more than back home. That $4 cereal you like so much can cost as much as $8 there. Eat local foods and your budget will stay low. Fresh seafood and veggies are the word here!
The monthly budget for one person that will be renting can run anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. It depends very much on how often you will go out to eat vs. eating in, and how much you watch your budget.
For more affordable experience, you can try nearby Caulker Caye. This is a much sleepier town and some things, such as rent, are easier to manage.
For the most affordable experience, go inland to the Cayo district, which is next to the Guatemalan border. San Ignacio, for example, is safe, nice, and super affordable. This is a popular town because of all the outdoor activities to do and its affordability. Note that this town is away from the beaches.
Staying in Belize
You can stay in Belize for up to 30 days without a visa. When the 30 days are up, you need to go to the nearest immigration office, there’s one on the island, then get another stamp, which will cost $50BZD. Do this every month, for 6 months, and the monthly rate jumps to $100BZD.
At a year’s time, most people who want to stay permanently choose to file for residency, having met the necessary one-year requirement. Here, the process gets a little convoluted, since the experience varies from person to person. Figure the process out after you have been there awhile to determine if Belize is a long term destination for you.
http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/lodge/longterm.html – Start your search here for long-term rentals here.
http://www.belizeforum.com/belize/ – Check the forums for the information about living in Ambergris Caye.