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Retire in San Pedro, Belize?
Compact, colorful and tucked into Belize's largest island, Ambergris Caye, mellow San Pedro is rapidly becoming the country's top tourist destination. It is the only population center on the island and dates from the mid-1800s.
Divers and snorkelers are attracted to the longest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere and the Great Blue Hole. Sun worshippers are drawn by the gorgeous white beaches and swaying palm trees. Sunset, moonlight, and fishing charters are readily available. Grocery stores, souvenir shops, bars, a cinema, and open air restaurants in colorful wooden buildings line the unpaved, sandy streets. Few buildings are taller than three stories. Docks stretch out into the warm clear water, and locals still earn a living from the sea. San Pedro has its own airstrip, and boats from Belize City arrive daily. Golf carts and bicycles are the primary mode of transportation.
Magnificent Mayan ruins, a museum, and animal sanctuaries are within easy reach.
Population: 17,000 (city proper)
Expatriate Community: No estimates but large enough to be visible
Living Costs: Because this is a tourist area, costs are higher than in other parts of Belize. Electricity is expensive, starting at around $150 to $200 per month. Water is about $2.50 per five gallon jug (tap water is not safe to drink). Food is approximately $275 to $350 per month per person if cooking and not going out too much. A McDonalds' meal is $5; a nice dinner out is about $20 to $25 per person. Internet is about $150 per month. Most estimates say a comfortable, not lavish, lifestyle for two people costs about $2,500 per month.
Home Prices: If renting, condos and apartments by the beach start at around $1,000 per month and can go higher if they have air conditioning, lots of appliances, etc. Condos for sale start in the high-$100,000s to low-$200,000s, less if outside of town.
Climate: Belize has a sub-tropical climate, with winds from the Caribbean Sea. The temperature is about 80 degrees year round. The area receives an average of 70 inches of rain per year.
Public Transit: Yes, a public bus
Local Medical Clinic or Hospital: San Pedro has a medical clinic and several pharmacies. A doctor's visit is about $35, and house calls are common. Expats often travel to Belize City, two hours to the south, for more extensive medical care if needed.
Crime Rate: Below the U.S. national average, although petty crime does occur.
Relocation: People age 45 or better may apply to become a Qualified Retired Person (QRP). The program requires that QRPs deposit at least $2,000 into a Belize bank account each month, and this revenue must be generated outside of the country. QRPs do not have to pay Belize tax on income received from a source outside of Belize. QRPs must be in the country at least 30 consecutive days per year. They may be self-employed - permit needed - but generally otherwise cannot work since they are in a retirement program.
Nearest Airport: San Pedro's 3,000 foot long airstrip accommodates private planes, but the closest international airport is in Belize City, two hours away.
Cons: None, although culture shock is usually intense at first.
Notes: Both Spanish and English are spoken.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Belize: Belize is on the northeastern coast of Central America and became an independent commonwealth realm, separating from Britain, in 1981. Queen Elizabeth II remains its monarch.
Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Monetary Unit: Belize dollar
Languages: English, Spanish
Ethnicities: Mestizo, Creole, Ketchi, Yucatec and Mopan Mayas, Garifunas and East Indians
Literacy Rate: 84%
Air Travel Time from Belize to Miami: Two hours
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