How Living In Belize Differs From Vacationing In Belize

If Belize has always been a vacation spot for you, the thought of moving to “the Jewel” probably crossed your mind at least once. But vacationing in Belize and living in Belize are two different things. As long as you can reconcile the dream from the reality you can make a good life for yourself.

Hundreds of thousands of people vacation in Belize every year.

Many stay in resorts with all their needs catered to. Places with fancy restaurants, infinity pools, and all the amenities they desire.

In keeping with those desires, many say they want to come back one day to live in Belize. It’s a natural reaction.

They envisage a life a life of snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, and cocktails on the beach. But is that how expats live when in Belize full-time? The answer may surprise you.

I’d like to share my experiences of the transition from tourist to an expat living in Belize.

The first shock comes when you realize there’s no room service to answer your every need. No housekeeper or on-site restaurants either. Where do you shop for groceries, you ask yourself?

I found the six stores in my area and discovered they also sold hardware, furniture, and appliances. As I scanned the shelves for items I knew, I saw there were similar local products that were cheaper. After trying them out, I found that they were just as good.

Mac’n’cheese, for example, in a local brand, was half the price of its US counterpart. So were many breakfast cereals.

With fresh fruit and vegetables, I found most items in the stores were beyond their prime. When I asked other expats about this, I got excellent advice on what not to buy in stores, and what to buy in local markets. There are fruit and vegetable stands where you can get most everything fresh.

I also learned many stores turn off their fridges and freezers while closed to save money. This answered my questions about how ice-cream is always soft and why milk spoils so fast.

After a few months, you learn where to buy your goods and how to work with local products and save money.

As far as the bar scene goes, there are expat favorites.

When I go into town and pass the bars, I always see certain expats sitting on “their stool” every afternoon. That’s the norm.

I firmly believe every expat needs a purpose, something to keep them active and busy. It’s too easy to build your group of friends around a bar which ends up becoming your entire life.

Another fun experience here in Placencia is paying the bills.

Like most places in Belize (and Central America), there are no addresses for your house. That means no postal delivery or mailboxes.

I have to go in person to pay my bills. The receipt usually says something like “Located just down from the mango tree on the right.” Bills get paid at the various utility offices–often a small shack – or at the post office.

I had to ask on Facebook to find out where the post office was–if there even was a post office – and I finally found it in town.

You can mail out to the States, Canada, and the world from this one little post office. You can also have your mail delivered there, and they will post on a Facebook page when it arrives.

There are many things that make living full time in Belize difficult and make you rethink your day-to-day chores.  

These little inconveniences are the way of life here.

What we take for granted where we come from, the average Belizean has never experienced.

I am learning to adapt to what they call the “Belizean Way”. No worries, if you can’t find it, you didn’t need it, anyway.

Gary Peterson lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he writes books about Central America and the Caribbean. Read more of Gary’s work on his blog.