Retired expats living in Belize have spoken about why they have chosen to live in the English speaking Caribbean country which they say offers a comfortable lifestyle on a reasonable budget.

They enjoy the beaches and the mountains and claim they can live on between US$2,000 and US$3,000 per month. Many are Americans who also say they still feel close to home.

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Belize has a population of 330,000, is located below Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and has a rich heritage including Maya temples, seaside condos, jungle lodges, and colonial mansions.

The main settlement, San Pedro, is described as a bustling town with lots of tourists and expats. But Ambergris Caye is the most established of the expat communities in Belize and has seen considerable growth in the last 10 years.

Linda Miller, from Sarnia, Ontario, has been in Ambergris for seven years. ‘I used to go to Florida as a kid and I got used to being at the beach or the pool. I thought I would like to live like that someday,’ she said.

After first visiting Belize in March 2007, Linda was so smitten with the tropical paradise that she moved that November. ‘There always seems to be something going on. I visit with friends, we go out to dinner, the food here is great,’ she explained.

‘In Ambergris, prices are higher because everything has to come over by barge, but there are ways to cut costs. I follow the local people around, go where they go, and buy local products. It’s cheaper for me to live here than in Canada,’ she added.

Jason Holland, editor of International Living, said it is not surprising that Belize is popular with expats as it has a lot to offer those seeking a new life abroad. ‘There’s a feeling of opportunity and possibility, of a place being shaped right now, a country where retirees can find a comfortable place or someone with an idea can start a business,’ he explained.

‘It’s not as established as some of the other tourist destinations in the region, so there’s still lots of room for new businesses that fill a gap in the market. There are genuine, helpful, and friendly local people from a myriad of backgrounds and cultures and a huge variety of landscapes and lifestyles from beach-bar hopping on Caribbean beaches to off-the-grid jungle living,’ he pointed out.

He also believes it is an ideal retirement destination. For example, expats in search of a little piece of land to call their own for an income-producing or hobby farm can do so on a reasonable budget.

‘For $169,000, you could have 25 acres of land, ready for a farm or just your home, with 1,000 feet of frontage on the Mopan River. On the rental side, there is a two bedroom cottage in San Ignacio, with mountain and rain forest views, for $500 a month,’ he said.

On the far northern border of the country, Corozal is a haven for retirees looking for an affordable place to live, a friendly expat community, and the convenience of being on the mainland. Unlike some other parts of Belize, it’s virtually free of tourists. Unique in the country, Corozal is just down the road from Mexico, making trips for shopping and good, close by medical care easy.

‘In general, you can live comfortably in Belize for much less than you’d spend in North America. But the cost of living depends a lot on your lifestyle and location. Imported foods and other products can be pricey. Shop and eat like a local with a focus on fresh, natural foods from the market and you’ll cut your costs,’ he added.