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Postcards from San Pedro: living as an expat in Belize
I'm talking about Belize. My name is Cormac. After more than 40 successful years in the medical industry in Ireland, I was ready to retire with my beautiful wife.
But we knew we wanted something different. Even if Ireland is known as one of the freest economies in Europe and a relatively low tax jurisdiction, we wanted to optimize our taxation and go somewhere exotic. Moreover, pension taxation in Ireland is incredibly complex.
And where would we go? We had spent our honeymoon in San Pedro in CayeAmbergris, and back then, we said we'll go back to live there.
And that's what we did.
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America and probably the most stable country in the region. It is an ecological wonder, with unsplit beaches, organic farms, literal hundreds of rivers, and mysterious jungles filled with undiscovered wildlife.
Belize is a place to relax. The population density is a mere 17.2/km2, which means it's one of the less densely populated countries on the planet. You can literally have entire beaches and islands almost to yourself.
And I haven't even mentioned it's one of the least-known offshore tax havens in the entire planet. It's likely the last El Dorado for offshore investment, banking, and tax planning.
Why did we choose Belize? I must admit the main reason was its emotional appeal and its calm ambiance, but on a more objective viewpoint, Belize is an amazing place to live because:
- There's fantastic organic cheap food. Mennonites were one of the first European settlers in Belize; they are traditional Evangelical Christian communities that dedicate their lives to prayer and farming. You can easily find their products in the farmer's markets, and they are entirely organic, without GMOs, pesticides, or chemicals. The Mennonite tradition has settled in Belize, as most farmers also use these traditional organic farming techniques, which makes Belize one of the healthiest countries on the planet.
- Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, and one of the only two in Latin America, along with Guyana. But, unlike Guyana, it has a long history of being a stable democracy. Belize is a full member of the Commonwealth and has a legal and political system based on the Westminster system with an independent judiciary.
- You can actually live freely in Belize. We were surprised at first, but San Pedro has zero crime and little to none police presence. Tax authorities won’t bother you, and you can enjoy long walks at night by the beach.
- Aside from its Belize city (which is not the capital), the country is incredibly safe. Belize City is a no-go zone as it’s a hotspot of drug dealing with Mexico and the US. Still, San Pedro, Cayo, Corozal, and other popular zones among foreigners are as safe as the top touristic destinations in the Mediterranean.
- Belize is a fantastic offshore jurisdiction, with the best offshore banks in the Americas, solid trusts, a wonderful IBC regime, and some of the best tax optimization possibilities for foreigners, and especially for retirees.
Going to Belize
Belize has incredibly affordable and easily obtainable residency options. In fact, all you need to show is that you have a stable income of $2000 per month.
We sold one of our apartments in Dublin for about €600k while retained another, which we rented for €2.3k per month. This ensured we had a steady income to live comfortably in San Pedro aside from our pensions. The best? With less than half of the €600k, we bought an incredible beachside property in San Pedro and were able to open a small pub for tourists and expats.
Mundo has partnered with the biggest developer in Belize to offer an unparalleled package that includes:
- A seaside piece of land with financing;
- A company for the land and a trust for the company;
- A bank account;
- A residencepackage.
All for the best prices in the market. Contact us to know more about this offer.
And emigrating there is as simple as you imagine.
Belize has fantastic residence programs, which are among the most cost-effective in The Americas and even the planet. There are some well-known destinations for residence, such as Panama, the varied EU golden visa programs, and the US E-2 Visa, but Belize is somewhat overlooked. That makes it one of the most undervalued options in the market
We applied for the qualified retirement program. You can apply if you're over 45 years old and can demonstrate you have a monthly income over $2000 per month, which we easily had between our rented apartment in Dublin, our pension, and our tourist pub. This brought terrific benefits for us, such as:
- Zero tax on our worldwide income in Belize.
- Duty-free import of many products such as yachts and cars.
- We only need to live 30 days per year in Belize.
Thanks to the last benefit, we are planning a long trip through the Pacific Islands for more than half a year, and we won't have any migratory or tax residency issues in Belize. We'll relax in Bali, Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Australian Golden Coast without any problems.
Living in Belize
Belize is heaven on earth. We can enjoy long walks in the morning in San Pedro's beaches and,at the weekends,we can drink some exotic cocktails, get to know people from all over the world and snorkel in the kilometers of coral reef in Belize.
Sometimes we miss the fuzz of a larger city, so we take our boat and go to Chetumal on the Mexican side of the border. It's not a large city, but it has amazing malls and restaurants. We can enjoy having some shop-till-you-drop days for a fraction of the price than in Europe, full seafood dinners at incredible prices, and access to the cultural richness of the Mayan ruins in the city.
And if you want something even bigger, you can catch a plane and be in Miami or Panama City in less than two hours.
If you're wondering about safety, the main issue in Belize is drug trafficking. That means Belize City is a hotspot for organized crime, and we don't recommend you spend too much time there unless you're going to the airport or must solve an issue with a public institution. However, the rest of the country is incredibly safe. San Pedro is an island west of mainland Belize that isn't only physically separated from the continent, but also spiritually distinct from its unsafety, poverty, and many other issues. The island is a summer tourist destination, and there is a significant community of expats living there, which means there aren’t many safety concerns.
But the best of Belize is its freedom, especially in places such as San Pedro. You won't have the government and especially tax authorities bothering you, there's almost no police, and you won't suffer any restriction on your liberties. You come to Belize to chill, and the government won't change that. No currency controls, no taxes, no government interference, and no major business restrictions.
On top of that, you have some of the best offshore banks in Latin America that offer incredibly wealth management services for foreigners.
If you want to know more about our banking services in Belize, check out our article.
One of the things that will help you adjust to the pace of Belize is understanding that the lifestyle is more relaxed here. There is no need to plan every day or rush from one activity to another. People tend to slow down and take their time. That's perfect if you come to Belize to retire after a lifetime of hard work.
At first, this may be difficult for those with a more dynamic personality, but most visitors adapt relatively easily. Once you do, this slower pace will actually feel like a lot of fun.
As you go through your day, you will meet some of the friendliest locals wherever you go. It is usual for people to greet you from across the street, share a joke, or treat you as if they have known you for years. Let things flow. When someone smiles and says hello, return the gesture. Joke with them, and feel free to engage in conversation. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll pick up the habit.We're Irish, so we are somewhat used to people like that, and we felt at home incredibly quickly thanks to Belizeans.
Land transportation is not a problem. Many resorts and hotels offer transportation services to multiple points around the country.
Additionally, consider that, if you're in San Pedro or one of the other surrounding islands, you probably won't mind having your own transportation. Walking or cycling in certain areas will work well. Golf carts are a particularly popular option for getting around in many areas of the islands.
Still, if you came here to retire, there might be some days that you don't feel like walking or cycling. But taxis aren't expensive and are easy to find, and you always have the option of buying a car, which generally costs about the same they cost in Europe or the US.
You can take a water taxi from Ambergris to many of the neighboring islands. It is an excellent attraction for those who wish to experience authentic Belizean culture while having access to beautiful beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving, resorts, shopping, and lots of entertainment.
Overall, we spend about $2500 per month, including our health insurance, all bills, cellphone, internet, TV, transportation, food, gym subscriptions, and weekend travels to other islands, Chetumal, dining out, and other entertainments.
After 40 years of hard work, living in Belize seems like the perfect reward. I'd like to tell you more, but we're about to go to CayeCaulker to spend the weekend there swimming and drinking cocktails.
Belize is one of the most overlooked offshore jurisdictions. The best is that you don't need to be an ultra-multimillionaire to be able to live and invest there. Check out our Country Focus
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