"THE NUMBER 1 MAGAZINE ON TRAVEL, LIFE, AND RETIREMENT ON THE CARIBBEAN COAST"
VOLUME II, NUMBER 2
ON-LINE TEXT EDITION
COPYRIGHT 1995 BY LAN SLUDER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Traditional magazine edition with maps and photos also available. Contact Belize First for details.
VOLUME II, NUMBER 2
FOCUS ON RETIREMENT AND LIFE IN BELIZE
Copyright by Lan Sluder/Equator Travel Publications. Reproduction or distribution by any means, including electronic distribution, in whole or in part is prohibited.
BELIZE FIRST is published five times a year in Asheville, North Carolina, by Equator Travel Publications, Inc., 280 Beaverdam Road, Candler, NC 28715 USA. E-mail address: BZEFIRST@aol.com.
Mail subscription rates US$29 or BZ$58 a year in the U.S., Belize, Canada and Mexico, US$39 a year in other countries.
To maintain its independence, BELIZE FIRST does not accept advertising. BELIZE FIRST has no connection with any government, political party or business.
BELIZE FIRST welcomes contributions from readers, travel writers and correspondents. We value writers and photographers and pay competitive rates for contributions.
Copyright 1994, 1995. All rights reserved under international and Pan- American copyright conventions.
* * * WELCOME TO THE NEW ISSUE OF BELIZE FIRST!* * *
* * * RETIRE IN BELIZE? * * *
Mexico and Costa Rica have been the traditional choices for those seeking retirement in a country with a low cost of living and a high quality of life. But Costa Rica has changed its laws for pensionados, eliminating the tax breaks. And prices in Ticolandia have tripled in the past several years. Mexico, with its overvalued peso and increasing political instability, doesn't look as good as it once did, either.
Is Belize the new retirement choice for North Americans and Europeans seeking safety, stability, value and quality of life? This issue of BELIZE FIRST focuses on the pros and cons of expat living in Belize. Due to reader interest, our next issue also will include features on life in Belize.
This edition also features the usual candid reports and straight information from some of the best travel journos writing today. Hope you enjoy it!
Lan Sluder, Editor and Publisher
IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. II, No. 2 Focus on Life and Retirement in Belize
Opinion, by Lan Sluder: Belize Time
Letters to the Editor
Special Section on Life & Retirement in Belize
Why Choose Belize? by Bill and Claire Gray
What Things Cost in Belize
The Rules Are Different, by Lan Sluder
Live Inexpensively in Belize
Rules for Residency
Business Practices in Belize
How to Buy Real Estate
Real Estate for Sale
The Roads of Belize, by Lan Sluder
Belize by Canoe, by John A. Kumiski
When 'Lindy' Came to Belize, by Neil Fraser
In Case You Missed It: News of Belize
WHAT'S IN UPCOMING ISSUES?
Vol. II, No. 3: Beautiful Islands on the Caribbean Coast
Vol. II, No. 4: Ambergris Caye
Vol. III, No. 1 Southern Belize
* * * BELIZE TIME * * *
Editorial Opinion by LAN SLUDER
Belizeans, by and large, are not slaves to clocks and calendars. Not, at least, to the kinds of clocks and calendars by which many of us live our lives, the ones that try to pinpoint a particular instant when a job must be done, or a meeting held.
The Mayan view of time, infinitely complex, is one of cycles and circles. Modern Belizeans, of all backgrounds, look at a perhaps broader and more profound picture of time than that circumscribed by the face of a watch. Dinner is when it's ready, not 6:45 on the dot. Friends come and go when it's right to do so, not according to a watch. Planes and boats leave when they're full.
As Emory King writes, there are three time zones in Belize. On Belize City Time, you are on time if you arrive within an hour of your appointment. On Belmopan Time, you're okay if if you arrive within two hours. On Belize Country Time, you're on time if you get there the same day.
The Creole saying goes, "Too much hurry, get dey tomorrow, tek time get dey today."
Moral: If you're a Type A personality, if you've got to have things done exactly on schedule, if it drives you crazy for people to relax and take it easy, or if you write us nasty letters because your issue of BELIZE FIRST is a few weeks late, don't come to Belize. Don't even think about living there. You'll be very, very unhappy. Or, better yet, try a new approach. Try Belize time.
* * * LETTERS TO THE EDITOR * * *
BELIZE FIRST welcomes Letters to the Editor. They should be mailed to Editor, BELIZE First, Equator Travel Publications, Inc., 280 Beaverdam Road, Candler, NC 28715 USA, or sent by e-mail on BZEFIRST@aol.com. Correspondence may be edited for readability and length.
^^Glover's Atoll Resort For People Who Do NOT Want to Be Pampered^^
To the Editor:
We are trying to figure out what kind of magazine you are.
We would be glad to have you come and visit us so you could get a first- hand account of our place. Some information on Glover's Atoll Resort. We offer:
¥ Diving, snorkeling, fishing ... all from shore or boat.
¥ Marine science courses for individuals and groups. Note that Glover's is now a marine park.
¥ Low cost -- US$95 per week for transportation out and back and cabin with a cooking corner -- camping $70.
¥ Boat from Sittee River (near Dangriga) leaves Sunday morning, returns next Saturday.
¥ No commissions to travel agents.
¥ We depend on word of mouth. We are recommended by Woods Hole and lots of happy backpackers and regular guests from the U.S. and Europe.
¥ We are mainly for people do not want to be pampered.
We also have a second island which we lease or rent. It is available by week, month or year. Preferably year. It is 9 acres with four large and four small cabins. At the moment a kayaking outfit is using it winter by month, but I would like to see it used the rest of the year. We can provide transportation and support and help to interested parties.
I have just finished a hectic season and can maybe sit down and read your magazine and get some more ideas.
Marsha-Jo Lomont, Glover's Atoll Resort
Editor's reply: Sometimes we, too, have a hard time figuring out what kind of magazine we are! For any readers who are interested in visiting this inexpensive and unusual destination in Belize, the Glover's Atoll Resort address is Box 563, Belize City. Tel 011-501- 8-23505, fax 011- 501-8-23235.
^^Cubola Publishes Belize Materials^^
To the Editor:
Upon reading Vol. II, No. 1 of BELIZE FIRST, I was troubled at finding no mention of our publications. In our 22 years of business in Belize, we have published many historical and cultural materials. We are also responsible for the distribution of all of the guide books you mentioned in your review.
Montserrat Duran, Director, Cubola Productions
Benque Viejo Del Carmen, Belize
Editor's reply: Cubola Productions is well known as a publisher and distributor of excellent Belize books, such as Bryan Foster's The Baymen's Legacy and Zoila Ellis' On Heroes, Lizards and Passion.
THE GOOD LIFE IN BELIZE:
SPECIAL SECTION ON RETIREMENT AND LIFE IN BELIZE
* Why Choose Belize
* What Things Cost in Belize
* The Rules Are Different
* Business Primer
* Real Estate for Sale
* And More!
* * * WHY CHOOSE BELIZE FOR RETIREMENT? * * *
By BILL GRAY and CLAIRE GRAY
Authors of Belize Retirement Guide
A myriad of reasons make Belize a delightful place to retire.
Belize is an English-speaking country: If you have traveled much in foreign countries where you didn't know the language, you'll recognize this as a tremendous plus. Especially when you are going to be living there, rather than vacationing for a few weeks. So many problems are eliminated. Can you imagine going to the hospital with chest pains at 3 a.m. and not being able to communicate with the doctor?
Remember, Belize used to be a British colony, so the national language became English. The schools teach in English. All the signs are in English, as well as government forms.
Belize is a great place to relax: In Belize things are laid back, way back. No one is in a hurry to do anything, ever. That includes the clerk waiting on you in the store and the postal service delivering your mail.
That makes some people frustrated and very nervous. But many retirees find that the slow pace in Belize is just their speed. They (possibly for the first time in their lives) completely unwind and enjoy life. Isn't that what retirement is all about?
Belize is a healthy place to live: Industry is almost non-existent in Belize. And so few people live there, and have so few cars, that the air is unbelievably clean. I think Belize is as pollution-free as any place can be, in this day and age.
The life style in Belize is so healthy -- fresh food, fresh air, lots of sunshine, lots of walking, no stress. Sounds like a prescription from the doctor, doesn't it?
Belize is an inexpensive place to live: Belize has one of the lowest costs of living in the world. Which may seem hard to believe, when you see a box of corn flakes selling for US$7. In fact, Belize can be very expensive, especially for vacationers with their reckless attitude toward finances. And for we Americans, who may insist on having exactly what we were used to at home. Take the corn flakes, for example. In the States, they are an inexpensive breakfast. In Belize, they are imported and exorbitantly priced. Sweet, juicy mangoes, on the other hand, a real delicacy in the U.S., sell for up to $2 each. But in Belize they go for about 15 cents.
So, with some adapting on your part, you can eat meals that are both delicious and inexpensive.
Remember that your lifestyle is going to be different there, and you may not need the things you have in the States. After all, Belizeans live without them. For example, a washing machine, which most Americans consider as necessary to life as oxygen, is seldom seen in Belize. Laundromats do not exist. Women wash by hand on a scrub board and clothes are hung out in the sun to dry. The clothes come out spotless. Some retired Americans have found it's not bad to do the same for themselves. Others pay wash women to do it for them. It's very cheap. (It is kind of hard on your clothes, though.) Life without a washing machine is possible.
So what is rent like in Belize? Here are some specific examples to give you an idea. I know a couple who rented a very large three bedroom house right on Corozal Bay for US$150 a month. It had been rented previously to an American man for US$250, but they got it in the off season and a Belizean negotiated the deal for them. Also in Corozal I know a retired couple who rent a very nice three bedroom house with a hot water heater (rare in Belize) a detached wash room/work shop. The fenced-in yard has fruit trees and is so large it is like a small park. They pay US$125.
Those are both pretty luxurious houses by Belizean standards. And you could certainly live well in smaller, less fancy places. Belize is politically stable: Yes, it's true. Despite all you hear about the political problems in Central America, Belize remains untouched. It always has. Think of Belize as kind of a Central American Switzerland, politically speaking.
Frankly, no one cares enough about Belize to invade her. Guatemala talks about it, but never does anything.
As for a coup being staged and the government overthrown? If you'd ever been to Belize you would laugh at the very thought. No one has the motivation. Belizeans are too mellow for anything like that. Why go to all that trouble when you can just lay in a hammock, feel the tropical breeze, and drink the sweet water of a young coconut?
Belize has great weather: The average year-round temperature in Belize is a balmy 79 degrees F. There is no winter. No snow. No heating bills. The ocean water is around 85 F. all the time. Because the reef makes the sea water calm and shallow, it's like stepping into an enormous bathtub.
Belize isn't that far away: For a foreign country, that is. It's not as far as Argentina. Or Guam. From Brownsville, Texas, going south down the east coast of Mexico, it's 1,350 miles to Belize by road, about the distance from New York City to Miami. You can drive it in a few days. There are daily flights out of Belize City. So it's possible to travel back and forth quickly.
==This article is excerpted from sections of Belize Retirement Guide, How to Live in a Tropical Paradise on $350 a Month, by Bill and Claire Gray, and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Preview Publishing. A review of the new 1994 edition of Belize Retirement Guide will appear in the next issue of BELIZE FIRST.==
* * * WHAT THINGS COST IN BELIZE * * *
All figures are in US dollars.
750 ml bottle of Duurly's gold rum ....$4.45
Installation of residential phone .... $45
Monthly telephone charges, residential, with average of 100 local calls .... $14
10-minute call from Belize to U.S..... $16
Air mail letter postage to U.S...... 30 cents
Entrance to Belize Zoo (non-Belizeans) .... $5
Entrance to Belize Zoo (Belizeans) .... $1
8 oz. bottle of Hi-Taste hot sauce at Save-U Supermarket.... 82 cents
Lunch at Elvi's, San Pedro.... $9
Annual cost of private school for child.... $400 - $800
Flight from Belize City to San Pedro.... $35
Gasoline....$2.35 a gallon
Used 1987 Suzuki Samurai.... $3,600
New 30' Hotpoint stove ....$400
Loaf of white bread ....80 cents
Kodak 200 film, 24 exposures, at Santino's .... $5
Electricity .... 21 cents/kw
Issue of Amandala weekly newspaper.... 40 cents
Acre of accessible land in the Cayo, in a 20-acre tract.... $500-1,000
Paradise Villas Condominium, San Pedro.... $185,000
Ocean view lot on Ambergris.... $20,000
Two small houses on 28 acres near Belmopan ....$85,000
Bus from Belize City to San Ignacio.... $4.50
Rum drink at Victoria House bar ....$1.50
Taxi from Radisson Ft. George to the international airport.... $15
* * * RULES: THEY'RE DIFFERENT IN BELIZE. BOY, ARE THEY DIFFERENT! * * *
By LAN SLUDER
If you're looking for a place to live or to retire that's just like back home, only better, for the United States on the cheap, for Florida with ruins, reef and rum, you may get a rude awakening when you move to Belize.
Because Belize ain't just like the U.S.A. Or Canada. It does have cheap rum, awe-inspiring ruins, beautiful Caribbean seas and much more.
But the rules are different. The people who make and enforce the rules are different. Sometimes there are no rules. Sometimes there is a set of rules for you, and a different one for everyone else. In a June 19, 1994, letter to the editor of The Reporter, a weekly newspaper in Belize City, a U.S. citizen, John Zelenih, who bought land in Corozal, does 700 words on the trials and tribulations he faced trying to build a house. Zelenih writes about the delays, bribes, and political shenanigans of daily life in Belize. He and his wife, Zelenih says, spent 13 months in a "living hell instead of the paradise we thought it would be." Zelenih came to the country "to retire and live our lives in peace because we thought it was a beautiful and laid back place. We have since found out it's not what it looks like on the surface."Zelenih continues: "We've since sold our house and belongings at a great loss and are going back to the States. The last straw that broke the camel's back was last month, when 20 armed men made a gun & drug raid on our home. Nothing was found, but my wife could not sleep since it happened."
While the experiences of John Zelenih may not be typical, just about every ex-pat resident of Belize has some story to tell about problems he or she faced in adjusting to life in Belize -- or, in not adjusting. Let's look at some of the differences, and what they mean to you as a potential resident or retiree.
The Population of a Small City
First, Belize is a country with a population hardly bigger than a small city in the U.S. Even including recent illegal and uncounted immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the population of the entire country is hardly more than 230,000. My home town of Asheville, North Carolina, is about that size, with a county population of almost 200,000. The metro area population, at more than 325,000, is considerably higher than Belize.
Imagine the difficulties my home town, or yours, would have if it suddenly became a country. Belize has to maintain embassies, establish social, educational and medical systems, raise a little army, conduct affairs of state and international diplomacy, all with the resources of a small city.
You can see the difficulties Belize faces in just getting by in a world of megastates. It lacks the people resources, not to mention the tax base and financial resources, to get things done in the way North Americans expect. If you're a snap-to-it, get-it-done-right kind of guy, you're going to wrestle with a lot of alligators in Belize.
Best advice: Go with the flow. Don't worry. Don't sweat the small stuff, or the big stuff, either.
The Angst of Powerlessness
Most people seeking retirement or residency in Belize are white middle- class North Americans, from a society still run by white middle-class North Americans.
Belize, on the other hand, is a truly multi-cultural society, with Creoles, Mestizos, Maya, Garifuna, Asians, and what in the rest of Latin America would be called gringos, living together in complex and changing relationships, living together in probably more harmony than anyone has a right to expect. In several areas, Creoles dominate; increasingly, in other areas Spanish-speaking Belizeans and immigrants dominate.
One thing is for certain, though: In this mix, North Americans, Europeans and Asians have very limited power. The cover of this year's Belize