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Belize, Ecuador, or Panama—Questions about Belize

We are looking for REAL information about the possibility of retiring in Belize. We now live in the USA just outside a town of 25,000 people, counting part of the university population. Very livable, quiet, and nice, and surrounded by mountains. We are looking into Ecuador, Panama, and Belize as possibilities. We are looking into beach towns we’ve heard about (but know little about the reality of these places) such as Coronado, San Carlos, San Pedro, Placencia , Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, San Ignacio but want to know if there are other beach towns with good climate (not too hot, humid, buggy, or huricaines) a hospital/GOOD healthcare, and close to an airport. We are also looking for safety, vitality, quiet, plenty of inexpensive cafés/restaurants/coffee houses that serve espresso, high speed Internet, good retirement packages, etc.

We would be looking to rent a furnished apartment or condo with high speed Internet, hot water for showers and washing machine, drinkable water (can be alternatives we are willing to live with though), peace and quiet, beautiful views of the beach (and mountains?), good weather (see above), enough places to eat or go to so that there are enough good places to go that we don’t get bored with the same places over and over and might as well be home instead when they get to be boring.

So, we would like to know if there actually are furnished apartment rentals fairly available, what draws people to Belize over Ecuador or Panama—what good, bad, or ugly aspects? We anticipate slower resolutions to everyday life experiences such as banking, electricity, Internet, tech support, being without a car if possible, and whether the savings of living there for 4-6 months at a time (or full time) would still offset the roughly $3,000 airfare for each back and forth visit to the US to see family.
Also, is English truly the language spoken in Belize?

Could you tell us more about exactly what drew you to Belize and let us know when/where expats meet so we can meet and ask our questions once we’ve been there, how to find a reliable rental realtor or contact who helps with this, how to avoid being misled or ripped off, etc. Did you consider other countries such as Ecuado, Panama, or Mexico (which we hear is laden with crime and expensive)?

We live in very rural mountains now, a 20-minute car ride to town, even for groceries. There is nothing where we live but some other houses that are quite far apart, so we have a great deal of privacy. We would love to have the beauty and quiet, PLUS good food and scenery, good weather, and new sights and people, and a bit of privacy. We are mostly homebodies and amuse ourselves at home. We are not consumers or shoppers, but do so like our Netflix capabilities to watch excellent TV series. Also we are not nightlife people or bar hoppers. What is the weather like year round in mountain towns or beach towns? If there a reason to choose one over the other in regards to weather, humidity, storms, insects, safe food, etc.?

We would like to know the closest airport and hospital. Which gets to the question of beach towns. My husband and I both grew up near the beach but usually prefer the mountains. Can you recommend beach towns that have more than two restaurants, but a village type of setting with more to do? Also, weather, insects, crime, and other considerations are questions we ponder. Are mountail towns nearby with better living conditions than the beach towns? If there is anything else you could tell us about the reality of living in Belize in general, we would really appreciate it. We want to make sure we are not off in fantasyland. We are looking for Paris, Switzerland or Aspen at one-quarter of the price. Is this what we will find in Belize, or is this just how Belize is represented by people selling things? Are there bugs or other menaces we should know about? Crime? Healthcare? Language issues?

We are thinking of visiting in May/June and aren’t sure how long to stay, since we’ve come to realize that we only want a beautiful mountain town or beach area that has the amenities we want, without poor weather, crime or lack of health care. Would we really need a car? Just how far is a good place to live from an airport, and which airport/s is/are there?, hospital, or places to find furnishings and grocery stores? Are there specific “neighborhoods” to look at that are quieter, newer, more modern conveniences with up to date plumbing/electricity, but still in walking distance of cafes and coffee houses? Can one get good espresso or just plain coffee? What things are surprises as far as costs or differences in what you expected? Are the significant downsides to moving there permanently versus half of the year? Is there a good travel route for exploring even the places we are thinking of visiting?  Where do we fly into to begin our exploration? We thought we should use our exploratory trip as a vacation also and see other areas Belize or neighboring countries of Ecuador or Panama once we have spent the airfare to get to Ecuador and/or Panama and Belize. We now live just outside a town of 25,000 people, counting part of the university population. Very livable, quiet, and nice, and surrounded by mountains.

We would be looking to rent a furnished apartment or condo with high speed Internet, hot water for showers and washing machine, drinkable water (can be alternatives we are willing to live with though), peace and quiet, beautiful views of the mountains (or beach), good weather, enough places to eat or go to so that there are enough good places to go that we don’t get bored with the same places over and over and might as well be home instead when they get to be boring.

So, we would like to know if there actually are furnished apartment rentals fairly available, how much they cost, what drew you to where you are in Belize—what good, bad, or ugly aspects? We anticipate slower resolutions to everyday life experiences such as banking, electricity, Internet, tech support, being without a car, and whether the savings of living there for 4-6 months at a time (or full time) would still offset the roughly $3,000 airfare for each back and forth visit to the US to see family.

Could you tell us more about exactly what drew you to where you live and let us know when/where expats meet so we can meet and ask our questions once we’ve been there, how to find a reliable rental realtor or contact who helps with this, how to avoid being misled or ripped off, etc.

We like the sound of prices for almost anything there. Are there issues about tainted food or water? We also want to make sure we get hot water, and have reliable Internet service and reasonable phone or Skype ability. We are mostly homebodies and amuse ourselves. We are not consumers or shoppers, but do so like our Netflix capabilities to watch excellent TV series. Also we are NOT nightlife people or bar hoppers. Grocery stores or open air markets are needed.

My husband and I both grew up near the beach but usually prefer the mountains. Have you been to Salinas or other beach towns that have more than two restaurants, but a village type of setting with more to do? Please list any beach towns and if there are weather issues, storms, bugs, humidity, etc.

We are thinking of visiting in May/June and aren’t sure how long to stay. Are there specific “neighborhoods” to look at that are quieter, newer, more modern conveniences with up to date plumbing/electricity, but still in walking distance of cafes and coffee houses? Can one get good espresso or just plain coffee? What things are surprises as far as costs or differences in what you expected? Is it better for just a couple of weeks to stay in a “hotel”? If so, is there a nice quiet one that is near enough the beach to walk to safely? Can one walk in the dark?

Since we live in the western US in the Rocky Mountains, so travel is expensive,. We will be going to Florida first to visit family, then on to Quito to explore Ecuador, then Panama. Any inexpensive routes or airlines that you know of for getting to Belize directly from the US West? It’s a long haul, but hopefully worth it. My husband may have another year left teaching at the university before we would be able to do even a partial year in abroad if we feel comfortable there. Since we have to go to Florida anyway, we thought this would be a good time to explore Ecuador, Panama, and Belize.. So, you can see, there are many issues to consider, as most of you well know. Also, we have winter at least 7 months of the year, like the snow, but could see that perpetual spring could be very nice as we age (we are in our mid 60s) as far as walking and even having a garden or flower pots! However, where we live now is truly beautiful, so I should say the bottom line for us is that we are looking for the same quality/beauty of life at a quarter of the price and without third world problems. Also, summers are warm and dry, with cool nights. If retiring to Belize is more hype than reality, you would be saving us a great deal of heart ache and money by letting us know now. The other issue is that we have children living all over the US who soon will have families. Are we going to spend most of what we save living in Belize buying airfares back to the states to visit family?

Since we plan to visit in May/June, we would like to meet some people who did what we are thinking of doing by retiring abroad.

We thank any of you in advance who take the time to answer our questions. Also, let us know if we should consider somewhere else altogether! We are looking for good, clean, safe, affordable living in a beautiful place.

Nancy and Gary

Hi Nancy, Just wanted to let you know we are in the same position you are...do you suscribe to International Living? I am hoping this site will be more one on one help!
We're hoping to check out Belize in a couple months and also Salinas, Ecuador. Could you let me know if you get good info? Here's my email...good luck with your search. Who knows, maybe we'll all end up in the same place...8-)
kate21677[at]comcast.net

Uff, it is difficult to answer all of your questions, so  I can try to answer some, perhaps crucial. I am afraid that NOWHERE in central America ANY beach places would have what you call "acceptable" climate.

Basically all beach places here are lowlands and the tropic make them hot and humid. In some places, like Costa Rica pacific coast or Puerto Rico, where the mountains are high, you can live in the mountains, say 10-20 miles from the beach, in a fairly comfortable tropical mountainous climate, yet could visit a beach daily if you so desire. In Belize this is not an option. All the coast are low lying lands, hot and humid and full of bugs during the summer.

Health care in most of Central America is practically nonexistent, except Mexico (which usually is not counted as Central America but as north America) and Belize is particularly bad considering healthcare.
There has been a lengthy discussion on Belize Forums of what attracts people to Belize despite the country's obvious shortcomings, and the general consensus seems to be that the major draw is  the English language for Americans and for Canadians in addition it is the English-like laws, similar to what they have in Canada.

No, I am afraid you do not get hot water in most of Belize: what passes for "hot" is mostly lukewarm - at least, except first class hotels i never was lucky enough to find it.
Belize is a very poor country with a vast divide between turist + some expats and the general populations, so variety of food establishments exists only in touristy places, which are not cheap - and largely seasonal.

Considering your concern about cost of frequent travel back to US and  your list of wants and needs I would venture a guess that the best option for you would be none of the countries you are thinking of, but Maxico's Bahia California or Mexico's pacific coast.

Although I subscribe to Int Lvg, I take their info with a grain of salt and view them as a real estate marketing business. They portray lots of the pros of places and that's about it. Also check out
https://www.cia.gov/library/publication … index.html
My suggestion is to travel with wide eyes. Every place will have it's cons, which will be different for each person. For me, the place, climate etc is only part of the equation....the rest is the people. Start by considering whether you want to live amongst the locals or amongst a group of expats in a gated community? There are lots of options for both. Be clear on ownership. A born Panamanian friend just had her property absconded from her down there. If that can happen to the locals, who really knows what can happen to an expat? Renting is a great way to start.
That said, I have chosen Belize. In reality though my home on Vancouver Island offers beauty, safety and a lifestyle that is hard to beat.

Love this post. Could have written it myself! Except we're Canadian. My parents spent some time in the Corozal Area way back in the 60's and 70's and we are looking at Belize as a retirement location. Other than the cayes, which areas of Belize would you suggest? Which areas are there large expat communities? Any and all suggestions appreciated.

Hi. Did you get all your answers? I don't see replies to your thorough list of questions. I could have written the same letter except for living in or near mountains. We drive 20 minutes to get anything, gallon of milk or gallon of gas, further for doctors.
Anyway, if you got good information, please contact me at terry_mcquade[at]mac.com . My wife and I are definitely moving to one of the supposed best expat locations as soon as possible and so far seriously leaning towards Belize except for the Internet speed. We can never afford to retire but we are self-employed as freelancers for textbook publishers and all our work is via the internet from home computers which is why internet speed matters. We are frequently transferring large files that need to move fast.
Thank you for any info you can share. I am SO ready to move!

Please let me know what you found out at terry_mcquade[at]mac.com. My wife and I are seriously looking to move permanently to one of the Central American top expat countries and we need to know about EVERYTHING, especially internetspeed because we are self employed and will never be able to retire and our work is all online requiring frequent transfer of large files to textbook publishers we freelance with.
Thank you for any education you can share.

Two suggestions:
1 The post you  replied is old, last entry 22 February 2012, so the poster is not likely on here anymore.

2 Use the site search feature (little magnifying glass at  top right of page) to find answers to previous questions similar to yours.

Ambergris Caye is putting in all new internet. It is the largest island  of Belize.  My husband and I are moving there so we try to keep up to speed. I read it in the newspaper. It is supposed to be the newest and Very fast.

I read about the island getting fiber optics but the island might be too pricey for my wife and I. We are not retiring and will never be able to afford to. We are self-employed freelancers for textbook publishers. It is NOT a high paying job title but it would allow us to live more comfortably and not just slightly be able to pay the bills if we leave the states for one of the prime expat sites in central America. Healthcare has bankrupted us.
Back to fiber optics. I read that the lines are coming to the island from the mainland which would make me think the mainland has fiber optics somewhere too. But they don't say where.

Information post:
Ambergris Caye is not an island, it is a Caye, or in other places would be called a Key.
As far as I know, there are no islands in Belize, all off shore land formations surrounded by water are a Caye.  :D

ok. But can you tell me where in Belize besides the Caye there is access to fiber optics internet for high speed file transfer? I need fast reliable internet or I can't afford to live there. Thank you.

Not aware of anywhere such a service available  in Belize but am very willing to be informed if there is.

Do you know what download/upload speeds are available? Or which company is the one I'd most likely be dealing with for internet/phone/cable tv services so I can call them?
Thank you for any info you can share.

Hi!

Check with belizetelemedia.net and Smart Belize (make sure you're on the Belize one, as there is a Philippines one too). You will find speed and location info there. I know there used to be fast satellite, but that shut down.

One other thing, forum rules prohibit sharing email address for safety reasons. Just FYI.

I stand corrected. Everyone called it an island  when I was there. Did not know.

margewest :

I stand corrected. Everyone called it an island  when I was there. Did not know.

Don't be too hard on yourself Marge, the two words are interchangeble (in this case). A caye is an island although an island may not always be a be a caye.

From Wikipedia:
A cay (/ˈkiː/ or /ˈkeɪ/), also spelled caye or key, is a small, low-elevation, sandy island on the surface of a coral reef. Cays occur in tropical environments throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans (including in the Caribbean and on the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef).
Caye - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cay

For even more confusion, from Wikipedia :"An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water.[2] Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, e.g. the Philippines."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island

karenjoe :

For even more confusion, from Wikipedia :"An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water.[2] Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, e.g. the Philippines."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island

Wikipedia is a good reference tool edited by many volunteers, some are better in some areas than others.  ;)

I first went to Belize in 2006 sailing out of Ambergris Caye on one of my clubs 70' Catamarans. The very experienced Captain of this Yacht was from South Africa and the first mate from Belize. During dinner the first night out, they politely corrected me after overhearing me refer to several local Cays as Islands. They explained that in general Cays or Keys were formed from the top down, and Islands formed from the bottom up. Then went on to describe several ways the top down formations took place. They said if I did not want to sound like a tourist, just remember the chunk of land we had just left was properly named  Ambergris Caye, not Ambergris Island.  I simply try to pass that lesson on when I observe others sounding like I did before that lesson.  :D

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