Retiring to Belize

Retirement-age Americans have been migrating south for decades.  If you had limited funds  you moved to Florida, but if you had money and a sense of adventure you might opt for south of the border— Mexico, Costa Rico, Panama, the island of Roatán north of Honduras, and, increasingly, Belize.  Land and houses are relatively still relatively cheap in all five countries.  (Considerably cheaper than Sarasota, FL for instances, although Sarasota now has so many medical facilities it’s become a very desirable place to spend your declining years—in stark contrast to Belize.)  Many Central American countries have well-established expatriate communities, so you have the advantage of neighbors who speak the same language you do.  Because the countries I mentioned are all third-world countries, if you want a little luxury in your life, many retired people can easily afford to hire a cook and a housekeeper (usually the same person) and a gardener.  But Belize has one advantage all the other countries lack:  your neighbors aren’t the only ones who speak English.

A bachelor's house in Toledo District.  He did the plumbing and electricity himself, but the washer and dryer, far left, come from Guatemala.  (Photo by Joan Fry)

A bachelor’s house in Toledo District. He did the plumbing and electricity himself, but the washer and dryer, far left, come from Guatemala. (Photo by Joan Fry)

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Making the Move to Belize

Three final tips about moving to Belize:  know where you’d like to live, be adaptable, and be a good neighbor.

The entrance to a Maya village in Toledo District.  Are you sure you want to retire to someplace that has no electricity or running water? (Photo by Joan Fry)

The entrance to a Maya village in Toledo District. Are you sure you want to live someplace that has no electricity or running water? (Photo by Joan Fry)

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People Who Successfully Move to Belize

People who move to Belize and stay there year after year, making friends and becoming part of their community, usually have very good social skills.  The most important are: acknowledge that you’re in a foreign country, and respect that country’s laws and customs instead of trying to superimpose your own values on existing laws and customs.

In popular tourist areas, feral dogs like this are routinely fed meat laced with strychnine before the season opens.  (Photo by www.wired.co.uk)

In popular tourist areas, feral dogs like this are routinely fed meat laced with strychnine before the season opens. (Photo by http://www.wired.co.uk)

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Ambergris Caye

The 1958 revised edition of Brief Sketch of British Honduras, by Hamilton Anderson—who was still the Archaeological Commissioner when I taught school in Rio Blanco—contains one of the most detailed maps of the country that I know of.  A few things have changed since then.  For one thing, British Honduras is no longer a colony and is now called Belize.  “Cay Corker” is now Caye Caulker, and its neighbor island to the north is spelled Ambergris “Cay,” likewise without the “e.”  But even in 1958, Ambergris Caye was large enough, and famous enough, and beautiful enough, that it had a town—or at least a settlement—on its southeastern edge:  San Pedro.  Today, the island is one of Belize’s main tourist attractions.

Street scene in San Pedro

Street scene in San Pedro

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