LIVING in Belize

Updated 2014-06-11 15:04

1: Getting TO Belize: Was not easy, but we made it. We flew to Houston & spent the night, so we could get the earliest flight to Belize, that we could. We got into Phillip Goldson Airport at 10:30 AM. It was quit the experience. When we touched down, we slammed on the brakes of the airplane, got to the end of the runway, did a flip, taxied back to the terminal. Was the funniest thing I'd ever done on an airplane. So, we got out of the plane & I began to take some pictures, of the airport, ect. A security guard waved his finger at me, telling me I could not do that. So, lesson learned. Don't take photos of the airport, from the runway side of the airport. We then, were all ushered into the terminal, where it was very hot, stinky (from the bodies) & got all checked in. They rifled thru all our baggage & sent us out the door. We were lucky, because our realtor was there to pick us up. He had a business deal to tend to, in Belize City, so we rode along, with hi

2: Transportation: We did not take a car with us, nor did we purchase an auto, while in Belize. We rode the "chicken buses", everywhere we went. We did not see any animals on any of the busses we rode, & we were there for 1 year. It's a very cheap ride. $.75 US, per person, for most local trips. We enjoyed riding the bus. It will pick you up & drop you off, anywhere you want, pretty much. Were we lived, we were 6 miles from San Ignacio, & a block from the main highway. We just stood out by the road & waved a bus down, when we saw it come into view. There is a brand new bus stop in San Ignacio, now, at the Welcome center. It's very convenient & we got the opportunity to meet so many people. Both local & travelers'. The taxi service is everywhere, in Belize. They will take you anywhere you want to go. Be sure to ask the driver if he will take you there & how much, BEFORE you get into the cab. You are not committed, at all. The cars are very old, torn up, broken, but they run the wheels off of them, for a few bucks. Worth it, tho! Especially, if you are going to Cahal Pech Resort. It's in San Ignacio, but atop a very steep hill. The taxi will take the paved road around the hill, but be sure to take a good look at the dirt ruts, on the hill. It's a little tricky coming down that hill, as well. My husband fell, and rolled about 10 feet, before he could stop. It's steep! If you get to know people, from your area, they may even stop & pick you up, while they are on their way. We got a lot of free rides, while in Belize.

3: Food: The grocery markets, are all run by Chinese. They are about 1/2 the size of any Circle K store in the US. But, if you want to live in Belize, DO as they do! Some items we take for granted, in the US, are a luxury, in Belize. Peanut butter, was one item, that we found, although, it's 1/2 the size of any jars in the US, it costs double. That's even when you factor in the 2 to 1 economy. Expensive, but we like peanut butter. We, also, were able to prepare the national food of Belize, rice and beans. It's very good, goes a very long way, & cheap to prepare. It's cheap to purchase, also, because, it's a commodity. We chose different meats, every time we made it. Belizeans eat mostly, chicken. We found, we didn't care for it, that much. We did purchase some, once in a while. The meat we purchased, was frozen. We bought it at the open market, on Fridays or Saturdays. One cubical, will have frozen sides of pork & slice what you want & how you want it cut. It will even stay frozen until you get home. One cubical sells beef. Although, we did not get ANY cuts of beef, such as we are used to in the US. We could purchase it, frozen, in the freezers at the grocery markets. We bought all of our bread at the New French Bakery. They bake the bread, right there at the store. It's awesome! Different types, also. We, also purchased other pastries, there. The market across from the Belize bank, has the freshest flour tortillas, for $1 US. A lady drops them off at noon, most days. You get 5 large ones. We found a little tortilla factory, on a side street. They make corn tortillas, while you are waiting. We bought them by they pound, at $2. That's a lot, really. And they are very good! Flour tortillas, are very easy to make, if you choose to do that. I never did, because, we didn't have any place to store the flour, ect. We purchased fruit snacks at the many street vendors. The fruit is fresh, cleaned & cut into bite size pieces. Whatever the season, is what you get. Also, the street vendors, at the old bus stop, next to the open air market, have snow cones, cheap.

4: Restaurants: We tried to eat at a different restaurant, every trip to town. Which was 2 times a week. We like these: Pops', for breakfast, a/c & coffee all day; Hode's, for lunch & dinner; Hana's, for lunch; Erva's, for breakfast, lunch or dinner; Mayawalk, breakfast, lunch, dinner; Mr. Greedy's, breakfast, lunch, dinner; Serendib's, breakfast, lunch, dinner; Fuego's, breakfast, lunch, dinner; Cahal Pech, breakfast, lunch, dinner; San Ignacio resort, breakfast, lunch, dinner (Iguana breeding farm). There are some new restaurants, that have opened, since we left, last summer, so try them all out. Talk to the people, there & get to know them. They will treat you like family, if you come back!

5: Housing: We went thru a realtor to get the rental, we had. We were very lucky, because it was 3 bedroom, 2 bath, screened porch, full size washer & dryer, fenced yard, the owner maintained the property. We had excellent neighbors. The cable was cheap $33 BZ, for every channel you can ask for. We paid for the gas bottles, catchment water & drinking water. Our rent was $750 US. per month. Some of the rentals, that we found online, before going to Belize, were still available, when we got there & we passed them by, we thanked our lucky stars, we didn't choose those. There are rentals all over the place, that don't use a realtor. I think, if I had to do it again, I would still use a realtor. Safer, & you know pretty much, that it won't be a total dump. Be safe & do the research.

6: Our purpose to visit Belize, was to tour as many of the Mayan ruins as we could. We did visit 4. Xunantunich was only a mile from our cottage, so we visited that one, several times. We took two tours, to see some others. One was in Guatemala, Takal. That was the largest, and if I were to do it again, I would book an excursion for a week. Stay at one of the local lodges & take my time looking around. In 3 hours, we just about ran thru the better part of it. Not enough time, at all. The other was Caracol. That one, is a trip just to get there. The road was washed out in many areas,. But, over all, it was the most fun. Getting there, seeing it, getting back. We had 5, plus the guide. The local one, Cahal Pech, was my personal favorite, only because, I could actually climb on all of it. The tunnel mazes are wonderful. It's across the street from the Cahal Pech resort, so it was very convenient. Just be sure to take a taxi, or if you are driving, take the first left & follow it around the homes, on the hill. You won't regret it. IF you have a Belize driver's license, the cost of admission to Cahal Pech is half. Get a license.

7: Belize driver's license: We both decided we would get one, just for a souvenir, if not anything else. It is really a joke. There is no test, except for you will. Get the paperwork, at their office, take it to any doctor, give him $25-$30 BZ, go back to the office, stand in line, go to the little room, take your photo, get your license. It costs $60 BZ, for one year, I believe. Comes in handy, sometimes.

8: QRP: Qualified Retired Persons' program. We got accepted into the QRP, after we paid, I think, $1,500 US, each. $3K! Yep. But, we got a lot of perks for that. We could ship anything, to Belize & not pay duty. We didn't have to get our passports stamped every month, & pay $50 US. I hear, the Belize Tourism Board has gone thru a total makeover, because of some corruption, so it may or may not be easier, these days, to get into the program. You only have to be 55 or older, have $2K to deposit in a local bank, every month, an be retired. You are not allowed to work for pay, on this program. There are others, you can work, if you choose. The QRP card is good for one year. January to December.

9: Weather: The weather is mostly hot & humid. Very tropical. We tried to whatever we needed done, early in the morning. Even at that, it was still shower time, when we got home. We lived in the rain forest, however, we really didn't get that much rain. On some of the days, we got over 8". (we found a rain gauge). When it does rain, it's the most refreshing sound, smell & sights! Just don't try to hide from it. Enjoy it & get wet! It's not a bit cold! We did have some nights, the temperatures dropped into the 50's, tho. We had some blankets, that came in very handy!

10: Bugs & other critters: There are lots of bugs, in Belize. The ants are the most fascinating, if you should take the time to just watch them. Leaf cutters were our favorites & we watched them working, while waiting for the bus. Hard workers, they are. The red ants are the worst. They are fire ants, & called that for a reason. Just watch where you walk, don't walk on the dirt mounds, in the grassy areas. They'll get you in an instant. The large black ants, are a treat, too. They come in hoards, to your home, clean the whole thing, then leave. Amazing. Just don't kill them. They won't hurt you at all. There are several beetle breads, that are yucky, like the roaches, sizes of 4", then, some smaller. We only had a few, the whole year we were there, so wasn't bad. Keep your house clean & you won't see most of them. Scorpions, are there, but we only saw one. It's dead, by the way. Mice. What can I say? We put all of our underwear, shorts, shirts, in the dresser drawers. Like normal. The next day, we found, that we had lost most all of our underwear, some of our shirts, some of our lounging pants, had gone to the mouse factory. Wow... Try real hard to replace these items, in Belize. You will not. We take for granted, that we buy our underwear in large packages, for $10 US. They sell the items, one for that much money. Yep. I ordered mine online, thru Walmart, had the package sent to my daughter & she repacked, everything & more, sent it to us. Even the extra stuff we brought to Belize, was either too many or not enough. We had huge tarantulas' inside the house, several times. I smacked them, to knock them dizzy, then scooped them up & set them outside. They are beautiful, but why kill them? We had a lot of geckos, in the house. They eat the bugs, so keep them. We had a wishwilly & several iguanas, in the trees around our house. Migratory birds were the greatest! We had a hammock, so we could just lay outside, in the shade & soak in all the beautiful sites. I had never seen any of the birds, in the US, as I did, for the winter months, in Belize. SO many different types. It's for sure a bird watchers paradise! We did see several snakes. One climbed on the outside of our window. I think, it scared me as much as I scared it. Never saw it again. There are boas everywhere. There are even rattlesnakes. Beware! About the mice. We purchased traps & actually caught most of them. Termites are everywhere. Most houses are almost eaten to extinction from termites. You will see the trails on all the trees. They make huge nests in some of the trees, in case you notice something & don't know what it is, that's it. Wasps. There are teeny weeny ones & extra large & everything in between. The sand flies are the biggest nuisance. Bite without you noticing. Wear long pants, while hiking, or at the zoo, for instance. Sprays only feed them, I think. Mosquitos, are everywhere, too. They do carry different diseases, so watch how you feel, after the bite.

11: Tour guides: These kids are highly trained professionals. Treat them as such! They all go thru a rigorous 2 year training, before getting their card. Ask them anything! Tip them, when the tour is thru. You don't have to, but like I said, they are professional. We enjoyed all of our guides. We saw them, in town, from time to time, & they always remember your face & usually your name! 2' deep. concrete. Try not to drive into one. You won't get out, on your own. Some streets are marked one way, other one way streets are not marked at all. Follow the flow.

12: Entertainment: We attended many festivities, in San Ignacio, for different celebrations. It's fun, it's lively, and everyone comes! You can meet more people. These are held at the Cayo Welcome center. There are many bars, many too drunk, drunks. The music is loud, at the bars & so are the people. We didn't visit any, but they all seem to be having fun. There are two big races, that come thru San Ignacio. One is the annual bike race. It is a cross country race & all the roads are closed, for this event. The riders come from Belize City, to San Ignacio, then back. It's very exciting! EVERYone turns out for this event, all along the route. The other is the annual La Ruta Maya. It's a cross country canoe race. It begins in San Ignacio, follows the Belize river to the sea. It's 4 days & once again, everyone turns out along the route to cheer on the racers. Much fun!

13: Most of the banks, cell phone offices, cable offices, ect, have armed guards at the doors. They are very courteous & will lock you in, and let you out. It was a little intimated, at first, but we just got used to it. So will you. The post office, has po boxes for rent. $40 BZ per year. Not bad. You can buy stamps, mail letters, packages, ect. Note: the post office will open any packages, from the US & rifle thru them. It's okay, if you don't have any illegal drugs and such. You will pay duty on anything you receive. Be prepared. Usually $35 BZ. Stamps are cheap $.60 BZ... $.30 US. Can't beat it. Letters from Belize to US takes about 10 days.

14: Medical: There are two hospitals, in San Ignacio area. One is just west of San Ignacio towards Bullet Tree. The other is in Santa Elena, on the east side of the Hawksworth bridge. It is 7th Day Adventist. We did not use either, so we cannot comment. We did hear, that the hospital in San Ignacio, takes mostly indigent, for treatment. We did use a couple of the doctors, for treatment, while we were there. Our allergies went haywire, with all the new foliage & we got bronchitis. The doctors' office, you just walk in, tell them what you are there for & sit down. Eventually, you will see a doctor. Depends on how crowded they are. I thought it was much quicker than US. We paid $25 BZ, & the meds, total $150 BZ. The meds do not come in packages. You get however many the doctor says & they put them in a cute little tiny white envelope & you are on your way. Still better, than US. Over the counter meds, are not. If you want some Benadryl, you will ask the pharmacist, she'll count how ever many you want, put them into a teeny little white envelope, $10 BZ later, you're out the door. I ordered 10 bottles online, with Walmart, had them sipped to my daughter, she repacked them, so they wouldn't rattle, sent them to me, hidden in the new underwear. Was so worth it. Even going to Mexico, you cannot purchase ordinary items, such as baby asprin, over the counter. Chances are, they don't even have it in their stock. I sent for those, online, also.

15: The things you must prepare for, your trip to Belize. Take less clothes, more over the counter meds, some extra sheets, maybe a heavier blanket, than the thin, cotton ones we had, pillows, lots of zip lock bags. Good sturdy all terrain shoes, long sleeved shirts, long jeans,(horseback riding) socks, boots, umbrella, good camera, laptop computer, sun hat, towels. Leave your cell phone home. It won't do you any good, in Belize. We had to purchase one. $60 BZ. The monthly plan was cheap enough tho. $33 BZ per month. We didn't need all the extras, long distance, ect.

16: Water: There are issues with the water, in Belize. All something WE, as US natives, take for granted. We bought our drinking water, by 5 gallon jugs. It's $1.50 BZ, each. The household water, comes from a catchment system. If you need water, call the water man, he will go to the Macal river, draw it out, bring it to where you are, fill up your tank (ours was 1,500 gallons, each, we had 2), for $150 BZ. not bad. You just do not want to drink it. We used it for showers, toilet, boiled it for dishes. The drinking water, we used to brush our teeth, drinking, cooking, ect. Just be smart.

We spent one year living in Belize. We emerged ourselves in the culture, country & people. We would have stayed forever, however, the medical issues we needed to have tended to, we could have only done, in the states. We miss Belize, very much & are currently saving to get back. When we do, we will never leave. I hope some of this helps you with your Expat transfer. Do as much research as you possibly can. We purchased some paperback travel books, from Barnes & Noble, before we left. They were very helpful. We marked the things that we needed to know & keep in our minds, other things, were places we wanted to visit. One more thing. We visited Guatemala twice. Once was to Tikal, with a tour. The other, we went in a group of neighbors, to Guatemala City, for 4 days. We were in good hands, & very careful. Guatemala, is still unsafe, so check with the consulate, online. We visited Chetumal, Mexico, several times. It's a lovely small town. They have a Walmart & Sam's club, a nice mall, with 12 theaters. All the movies are in Spanish, but we had fun, just watching them anyway. Beware of your surroundings, like any place, in the world, & you will be okay. Good luck.

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