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From beautiful beaches and diving opportunities, to friendly and diverse local culture, expats who have already made the leap to start a new life in Belize report plenty of benefits. Throw in the cost of living in Belize vs the US and it’s easy to see why many people fall in love with the country and want to explore settling down there.
There’s no hiding from the fact that some areas in Belize pose some safety issues. Like most countries, tourist areas attract petty crime, and there are some places you would probably choose to avoid after dark. Doing your research is key to make sure you have a trouble free move to Belize and hit the ground running. That’s what this guide is for.
We’ll cover the average cost of living in Belize, popular expat destination cities, and also highlight ways to cut the costs of life as an expat with Wise. Wise offers low cost international payments, and the Wise Multi-currency Account and card — both great ways to save when you live an international lifestyle.
|Convert money automatically at your preferred rate using the auto conversion feature. All you have to do is pick the rate you want and Wise will take care of the rest!
|📑 Table of Contents
The official currency in Belize is the Belize dollar. You’ll see this written simply as $ or BZ$ for clarity — and in currency exchanges you may also see the currency code BZD.
The value of BZD against the US dollar changes all the time due to market fluctuations. That can make it tricky to keep up with how far your money will go when you move to Belize. At the time of writing*, the mid-market USD-BZD exchange rate is:
1 USD → 2.01570 BZD
To find the live exchange rate for BZD — or any other currency — grab yourself an online currency converter tool. You can see the real time conversion rate, as well as setting an alarm to be notified when the rate changes in your favor.
Don’t forget though, that a currency converter tool will show you the mid-market exchange rate — which is not always available through your bank or currency conversion provider. Instead you may be offered a rate which includes a markup — an extra fee, which means you pay more than you need to. More on this, and how to avoid it, coming right up.
*July 8th 2021
Opening a bank account is one way to feel settled in a new country. However, due to tight regulations imposed by the US to stop tax evasion, opening your local account in the country may take a while.
The process for opening a bank account in Belize may be unfamiliar if you’re new to the country. As well as the usual documents to prove your identity and residence, you’re likely to need references from your home banks in the US, or from local friends who already bank with your chosen institution.
Ask in advance about the eligibility criteria for any account you’re interested in, and double check you can access all the paperwork needed. Good places to start your hunt include:
- Atlantic Bank¹
- Belize Bank²
It’s also worth noting that deposit insurance is not the norm in Belize, so expats often choose to keep the majority of their funds in the US and only transfer what they need for day to day life to their local account.
If you’re sending money to Belize, you need an international payment provider which offers the real mid-market exchange rate with fast, secure transfers. Check out Wise if you’re sending USD payments to a Belize account — or if you need to get paid or make payments in dozens of other global currencies.
Depending on how you like to travel and arrange your finances you may also benefit from the Wise Multi-currency Account and card. You’ll be able to hold your money in 50+ different currencies, and switch between them using the Wise app whenever you want to. Get yourself a linked Wise card for ease of spending, and you’re done.
Let’s move — onto one of the key considerations for many people considering relocating the cost of living in Belize vs US.
There’s lots of helpful data about the average cost of living in Belize on data comparison site Numbeo. Here users around the world enter live cost data from their location, allowing the site to aggregate and average the prices of everything from a beer in a Belize bar through to buying a new home there.
Let’s take a look at some key costs of life in 3 US cities compared to some popular expat destinations in Belize:
|One bed city centre apartment - rent/month
|Mid-range, 3 course meal out for 2
|One month’s public transport ticket
|500g loaf of bread
|Belize City, BZ³
|Ambergris Caye, BZ⁴
|New York, USA⁶
|San Francisco, USA⁷
Note: data throughout this article is drawn from sites using live costs. That means the information is dynamic and can change over time. Numbeo data is correct at time of research — 8 July 2021. Check out the most up to date details before you plan your move.
If you’re planning your retirement in Belize, cost of living will be important. Belize is a popular retirement destination thanks to the relatively low cost of daily life, and the availability of visas specially created for expat retirees — the Qualified Retirement Program.
The amount you’ll need to budget for life in Belize after retirement will depend a lot on your lifestyle. It’s worth noting that there are financial requirements if you want to get the Qualified Retirement Program visa — we’ll cover these in just a moment. Beyond that, the cost of living will depend on where you choose to call home, and your personal lifestyle preferences.
Numbeo has a helpful cost estimator tool you can use when building a budget. This estimates that a single person living in Belize City would need in the region of 635 USD a month after rent⁹. However, you can also tailor this estimate to suit your lifestyle choices¹⁰. For example, if you prefer to eat out more, or you know you’ll not be joining a fitness club when you arrive in Belize, you can enter this information to get a personalized cost estimate based on Numbeo data. Check out the tool online to help you build your retirement budget.
US citizens can travel to Belize without a visa and are usually entitled to remain for a month. If you want to stay longer you may choose to establish residency by paying for monthly residency stamps for a year. These cost around 25 USD for the first 6 months, then 50 USD for the following 6 months. After this you can apply for permanent residency in Belize¹¹.
Another option is to look to retire in Belize under the Qualified Retirement Program¹². This program is set up by the Belize Tourism Board and allows people aged 45 or older, with an income of at least 24,000 USD from outside of Belize, to remain there. You’ll need to agree to deposit savings into a Belize bank or other institution, and will then have to remain in Belize for at least 30 days a year to stay on the program.
Belize City is the capital of Belize — and as such, working expats may well choose this location as home. However, for retirees in Belize, there are many other popular places to live such as Ambergris Caye or Corozal.
In terms of costs, the average rental price in Belize city is relatively low. However, it’s worth knowing that there are some areas of the city which are less safe than others — so it’s important to choose your new home carefully.
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize, home to beautiful diving spots and beaches, and a lively and diverse group of locals and expats. Tourism is the main industry here, with some expats working as guides and in other related roles — and others choosing this idyllic location as a place to retire. As a popular expat destination, Ambergris Caye is more expensive than Belize City in terms of rent and day to day costs — but still represents great value compared to the US.
Another popular choice for expats, Corozal, is in the north of the country, close to the Mexican border. The climate here tends to be drier, which is a big draw — and the laid back lifestyle has attracted expat retirees in particular. Being so close to the Mexican border gives the opportunity to buy duty free bargains, and visit familiar stores and malls when you want to — as well as having access to fishing, sailing, and socializing locally.
Costs of living can vary widely depending on lifestyle — however on average, life in Belize is significantly cheaper than in the US. Here’s an illustration:
|Cost of living, family of 4 excluding rent
|Cost of living, single person, excluding rent
When you’re building your budget for Belize, you’ll want to take into account the types of items you’ll buy more often, as well as bigger potential costs like transport, education and rent. You’ll be able to find up to date estimates for key expenses from a site like Numbeo which can help you work out how far your money may go in your new life in Belize.
Here are some average costs to get you started.
|Average cost in Belize
|330ml bottle of Coke/Pepsi
|Liter of milk
|Utilities for 85m² apartment
|Fitness club membership
|International primary school
Many people move to Belize to retire, but of course there are also expats who choose to settle in the country to work. If you’re thinking of working in Belize you can take a look at how the average salaries in your profession compare between Belize and the US, using the live data from Teleport. Here are a few examples to get you started¹³.
|Average Salary - Belize City
Note: data correct at time of research (6 July 2021).
In broad terms the cost of living in Belize is significantly lower than in much of the US. Of course, you can set your budget according to your preferences — and the amount of money you need to live comfortably will depend entirely on how you like to live, eat and entertain yourself. Here are some more details on the key costs you’ll need to budget for.
Housing is always going to be a large chunk of your monthly budget, in Belize or anywhere else in the world. While rental costs tend to be lower in Belize than in the US, you’ll find that there’s a wide range of options — with a wide range of price tags — out there.
Here are some average rent and utilities costs to get your research started:
|Average monthly cost in Belize
|1 bed apartment - city centre
|3 bed apartment - city centre
|1 bed apartment - outside city centre
|3 bed apartment - outside city centre
|Utilities for 85m² apartment
If you’re staying in Belize permanently, buying a home may also be an option. While there is a range of prices depending on where exactly you want to buy, some inner city locations can be far cheaper than homes in popular tourist resorts outside of the main cities. Here’s how far your money may go.
- Price per m² in city centre — 988.55 USD
- Price per m² outside city centre — 2,583.34 USD
Another important consideration is how you’ll get around in Belize. Depending on your preferred location that may mean buying a car, or taking public transport. Here are some average costs to help you budget.
|Average cost in Belize
|1 way public transport ticket
|1 month public transport ticket
|1 liter gasoline
|New car - Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline or equivalent
We’ve covered the costs of some basic food items in Belize already — but the overall cost of eating and drinking there will depend very much on your lifestyle and preferences. If you’re on a fixed budget it pays to eat seasonally and locally to get the freshest produce for less. Although being in a country where a 3 course meal out for 2 may come in at around 33 USD may also make getting to know your local restaurateurs an attractive option, too.
When it comes to entertainment you’ll have plenty to do in Belize’s beautiful nature. But if the city is more your thing, you can still see an international movie at the cinema for around 7.50 USD, or hire a tennis court over the weekend for under 9 USD/hour.
One potential downside to life in Belize is that access to medical infrastructure may be limited, depending on where you choose to live, and your insurance cover. It is essential to hold, and understand your medical and dental cover so that you don’t suffer any nasty surprises.
Belize City is home to the most advanced medical and dental clinics and hospitals. If you live elsewhere in the country you’ll want to check out the options locally, and also consider how you may travel to a more comprehensive medical facility if the need should arise.
If you’re travelling to Belize with your family you’ll want to research education facilities in good time. There are private and international high school options available, but competition for places is stiff. Both expat and affluent local families may choose these schools, so checking availability of places for your school aged children in advance is a good idea.
Homeschooling is an option if you’d rather — and if you’re headed to Belize to study at a higher level, check out the University of Belize, which is the national university of the country¹⁴.
Personal tax in Belize is set at a flat 25%, which you’ll pay on all income if you’re a Belize tax resident¹⁵. However, there is a lower threshold under which you may gain tax exemptions — this can change from time to time so you’ll need to check the most up to date information when you plan your budget.
There is no capital gains tax in Belize, and GST (Goods and Services Tax, similar to VAT) is 12.5%.
Starting a new stage in life as an expat is an exciting time. And Belize is certainly an exciting place to settle.
Doing your research in advance is the smartest way to make sure your move is successful and stress free. Use this guide as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to draw on the other resources out there, from government websites to expat blogs.
And no matter what life you build for yourself in Belize, use Wise to cut the costs of sending and receiving money internationally. With fast and secure low cost payments from Wise — plus the Wise Multi-currency Account and card to manage your money as you travel, you can save on currency conversion fees, and have more to spend on yourself.
- Atla Bank
- Belize Bank
- Numbeo - Cost of living in Belize City
- Numbeo - Cost of living in Ambergris Caye
- Numbeo - Cost of living in Corozal
- Numbeo - Cost of living in New York
- Numbeo - Cost of living in San Francisco
- Numbeo - Cost of living in Chicago
- Numbeo - Cost of living in Belize
- Numbeo - City estimator in Belize City
- US Embassy - Belize
- Belize Tourism Board
- Teleport - Belize City salaries
Sources checked on 07.13.2021
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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