Considering moving to Ambergriss Caye

My husband and I are considering moving to Ambergris Caye. We are retired. Trying to gather information on cost of living. My husband is retired and I am self employed as a longarm quilter running a successful business. That income would not be available if we moved and not sure what it would cost to live there. We are not fancy people. Just kind of scary.  We live in Wisconsin now and the winters are brutal. I am just wondering coming from that going to the heat and humidity there how much of an adjustment that would be. Any ways to help that transition? So much unknown. Any suggestions would be very helpful.
Thanks for your time, Marge

you know that one week period in late august when it is really hot and humid in wisconsin?   Imagine that for 4 months, AC is expensive on AC.   Have you been there?  at least look at it on gmaps and youtube.  Anything coastal is pricier.  Some rent for 6 months and live back north for 6 months.   Some "homestead" on the mainland and build a house and plant tropical fruit.  why cant you quilt down there?   go back and read previous posts.  basic Health care is fine but fancy stuff like bypass isnt gonna happen in belize.  I love belize but you need to get past a few negatives first.

Thi is one persons experience on AC from the forum, about 1 yr old info.

"Hey there -

I live on Ambergris Caye, 5 miles or so north of San Pedro town

-Monthly rent for my private casita is $300us (not typical, I got an amazing deal here)
Water, electricity, cable (if I wanted it, which I don't) are all included in the rent.

-I usually ride my bike to town, but the water taxi only cost me $4us each way (for non-residents, the price would be $8us each way)

-I spend, roughly, $250-$350us/month on food - that includes grocery shopping and take-out at least 4 times a week

-I don't have health insurance - and when I needed stitches in my toe last year, my total bill from the private doctor (there is a free clinic here, as well) for the visit, the stitches, and the tetanus shot was $25us

-I spend $45us/month for internet service and roughly $20us/month for phone credit

-You can get a gigantic plate of stewed chicken with rice and beans and potato salad for $5us.

-A cheap cup of coffee would be about $1.50us, but there are places to splurge on $5 flavored, fancy coffees

-There is a movie theater on the island, but I've never been there so I can't tell you the price of a ticket. (Cheaper than in the States, though, for sure)

The only other things i really spend money on are drinks (beer is $2.50us at most places; $1.75 if you buy from the Chinese bodegas - local rum drinks are also $2.50us at most places) and weed..."

Don't know how much that will help you, but overall, you should be able to live fairly well in Belize for about $1500 US monthly.
Visit the southern US for about a month in July-Aug  and you will get an idea of the heat and humidity in Belize - might even be worse than Belize.
Do your research, read previous forum posts. Good luck.

Thanks so much. We are going for a visit first full week of September. Your info was very helpful! Definitely have to do my homework!!!!

How about the water and food. Safe in the populated areas?

Do you know if quilting is a hobby in AC? Or how I can find out? I have googled it any which way and come up with nothing each time.

Okay now you need to get yourself under control. San Pedros water is reverse osmosiss and UV'd but it is a little brackish so people usually drink bottled water out of town it's catch-as-catch-can mostly cistern. The food is obviously fine because there are people still alive there

I don't know about the quilting but one option might be to start a club when it's really hot outside

You really make me laugh. I have heard nightmare stories about tropical places and Montezuma's revenge. I would like to eat food from local vendors off the street and enjoy the food native to AC. You have a great sense of humor! I roared in laughter at your reply. Maybe I should stop listening to people and just go and have a good time! Thanks again!

San Pedro is also building a new 60 million dollar sewage treatment plant but don't get me wrong  the place is definitely not first world.  The rule of thumb for Street vendors is you need to have watched the food cooked in front of you

Hi Marge West,

My husband and I live on Ambergris Caye also and our cost of living is much higher than the other response you received.  She is on the budget plan.  I think it would be more like $3K a month.  We have expact insurance (mostly for air evacuation in an emergency) at a cost of about $880 monthly not counting deductibles.  Riding a bike is a great way to get around but if you have heavy things you need a golf cart which can be rented or bought for the price of a car in the US.  Import duties on anything you bring are high unless one of you do the QRP Program.  It is really worth it if you are bringing a lot of stuff or simply want to save the 3,000 usd on a golf cart the program will save you money.  You can own a business but cannot work on that program.  Although to work here it takes being here a year and getting working papers which takes time and usually means you have to pay someone to help. Which is one of the things that really irks me being here.  You need to pay off people to get things done and this means government people too.  It doesn't work like in the US.  There is a lot more corruption.
I think it is a good idea to live here for a few months to decide if it is right for you as well as what you want to bring with you.  We have found that things are very expensive on the Island compared to the mainland.  You will get really tired of stew chicken, rice and beans which is cheap. Other cheap foods are really not very healthy.  If you like organic, it is hard to find.  Say goodbye to mixed spring greens, berries and winter squashes. You will need to learn to make your own salad dressings, yogurt, ice cream, etc if you like natural stuff.  On the other hand there is fresh fruits and vegetables, coconut water and wonderful fresh squeezed juices.  Wine and spirits are very expensive and run and local vodka are cheap.
Keep in mind too that you are in a vacation community and things are a bit wilder than you might be use to although there are quieter parts of the Island.  We have had trouble finding like minded friends here.  Turns out the last two couples we met that we liked were swingers.  We are not.
I think the quilting club is a great idea if you have air conditioning and sewing machines.  Which reminds me that everything here has a shorter life than you will be use to. Things rush, mold, and just break down way faster.
One last thing is that opening a bank account is way more complicated than in the US and I can give you more information about that if you are interested.
I don't want to sound discouraging as we love living her.  The ocean breeze, beautiful sea life, great diversity, and the fact most everyone speaks English does make up for any of the negatives.  People here are very friendly and helpful.
Good luck in your decision,  Let me know if you decide on doing the QRP as I am very familiar with it.

I appreciate your honesty. Kind of like you said. Everything is a tradeoff. What is QRP? My husband and I are going to be there for a week on AC staying at the Sunbreeze Hotel. I read your reply to my husband and he would like to maybe meet you and your husband while we are there. we will be arriving on September 1st and staying for 7 days. Just FYI, we are NOT swingers. We are just "normal" people who want to enjoy our retirement together in a place like AC.

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some info on QRP

Great info from LindaMarie. If you are really serious about AC, you should make the time to visit and discuss with her while there.
There are a number of reasons we didn't choose SanPedro/AC - in part is the tourist aspect, as well as the availability of goods and services, the logistics of getting elsewhere, and other considerations. But hey, we can visit easily, as well as other areas too.
Take your time in deciding and research well before you take the plunge.

Thanks for the info. Will read about it!

Did you get my email?

I did

Hi I too really appreciated all your info! I am planning on moving to AC in the near future although I haven't been yet either! I actually already have a realtor to purchase a home....I'm merely waiting for mine to sell here in CA.... I've been to 2 expat conferences this I'm a little more versed in what to expect and somewhat more knowledgeable however, I was led to believe (by said realtor) I could "easily" get both organic & berries!?! Omg! I have an extremely (!) ltd diet due to an illness & need the above! Ugh!
I was grateful to hear you mention breezes....some posts discuss at length the heat & humidity I feel they can be overcome if accompanied by a breeze.
I hope to meet you

You don't have breezes all the time when the breeze isn't there and you will definitely need AC

I'm sure....I hope to use fans more often than not though

I heard  actually is very expensive.  More than  on the states?

I meant air conditioning.  Darn  auto correct!

Hi Becky,

Realtors will tell you what you need to hear, after all it is their selling you on the Island that earns their living.  Can you substitute  the berries...what about fresh coconut water, papaya, mango, pineapple, and many other local fruits.  Also,  although the veggies aren't necessarily organic, I can assure you they will have less pesticides than in the states.  The last I heard they were still banning Monsanto.  The Mennonites and Amish grow a lot of the veggies and meat.    You can always haul in black dirt and grow your own veggies organically.  I have heard that lately the Mennonites  are mass farming chickens in less than Ideal conditions.
We have chickens and 4 ducks that eventually will give us all the eggs we need.  We eat lots of fresh fish, we grow moringa, tomatoes, herbs, etc.  We also bring in a lot of organic dry foods each time we return from the states.
You will not want to eat celery here as it comes from Mexico or Iceburg lettuce, which you probably don't eat anyway.  There is romaine, boston head, and some red and green spring greens.  You can buy frozen berries, but I don't think they are organic. 
Living on the Island will not be as cheap as they may present it unless you wish to live simply and eat locally, also not using a lot of utilities.
Be sure when looking at property you do not have a salted well..we did not know this and luckily we have a great well.
Also AC is very expensive, before we moved here the previous owner used it and 2-3 bedrooms ran over $880 usd in August.  We rarely use the AC, only in the office to keep the computer, printer and music equipment from dying.   You will be able to get a copy of the utilities of a property you might be interested in. 

I'm curious about these information meeting you have gone to, is it International Living and what are they like?

Good luck with your planning!

I have heard the term living simply twice now. Can you perhaps  explain that?

Sure living simply is eating local foods,  not imported things, giving up fancy dinners out, imported spirits, and nice wine.  Also a modest home that does not require a lot of upkeep.  If you are in a condo then there are those associated fees.  If you own a stand alone home and are on the water you will probably need a full time caretaker if you don't want to be working full time. It is good to have dogs to keep away petty theft. you should not wear any flashy jewelry and need a safe for your valuables.  Be prepared that the justice system is not what you are use to and that "gringos" can be treated very different from locals.   All and all it is still a great place to live if you love the ocean, diversity, friendly people, and a tropical climate

Hi Linda thank you so much for your reply! I was NOT familiar w/the "salted" well & look forward to checking this out & asking for utility bill as well! Can you get Spinach leaves? Can I get berries in Mexico? Bring them back? I went to one Int'l Living conference and one "Live & Invest Overseas" conference w/Kathleen Peddicord which was MUCH better! I highly recommend the latter!
I also so appreciate the tip re: the Mennonites and chicken!
I don't/won't eat it or beef unless organic. Can I get organic in the city of Belize? Anywhere?
Again, thank you for your very informative response!

Salted well refers to the fact that groundwater on ambergris Caye is brackish it does have some salt in it typically that's okay for showers and maybe cooking but drinking water usually bottled water

yes, but I don't think you can bring them across the border.  You can buy strawberries here but they cost up to $10 for a small container and are often not too fresh.  I have seen blueberries too but they are also 5 times the price of in the states. I have brought back freeze dried organic strawberries and blueberries, although not the same as fresh they may help your dietary needs.
Look up the Moringa Tree, mine are two stories high in only 6 months and it is a nutrition packed plant.
If you are retiring here, I might suggest one of you do the QRP (Qualified Persons Program) so you can import your things duty free as well as a vehicle....  right now they are being very stingy with permits as the street are getting overcrowded, but we were able (with help) to get a Honda Pioneer since we live far from town.  They may still be giving permits for golf carts, I just am not sure.

Your answers are fantastic thank you so much!!!

Thanks for the explanation! Just curious. If you live by the water why do you need a caretaker?

If you want to apply for QRP do both spouses have to have the minimum income or just one spouse? I forgot I think it is $2,000.00

I believe it is just the $2,000.  There is a good site to read more, it is

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