Jul 042016
 
Belize's Low cost living

Low cost living can be realized with the help of economical appliances. Our clothes dryer which is usually one of the worst energy guzzlers has been replaced with this Solar/Wind powered unit. It does require a bit planning around the weather, but It will run for 24hrs a day (or until the cows come home) if needed for $0.00. So, we have two.

Finding Belize’s Low Cost Living.

We now enjoy low cost living compared to that of Canada. After almost two years in Belize, there has been a bit of a learning curve, and in our case an attitude adjustment as well. Here are just a few of the tips we have learned.

Five Tips To Low Cost Living In Belize.

  • Our Motto ~ “Live on what you need, not on what you want.”
    Back in Canada we didn’t give much thought to  low cost living. With two good paying jobs and savings building, we would just go out and buy whatever we wanted whether we really needed it or not. The latest shiney items, sometimes on sale, but most times not, were just purchased on a whim at one of the many “Big Box” stores, Electronics outlets, or our choice of several shopping malls. Usually without much price comparison, we learned that they were all usually within $20. or $30. of each other, so it wasn’t even worth the time to price check. What’s $20. Right? (We’ll talk a bit more about that later).
    In Belize there is certainly not the selection, or the number of outlets to purchase many things, but we have learned that it does pay to shop around, or if it’s a want item, to wait for it to go on sale.But always now, we ask each other, “do we want it, or do we need it?” and you might be surprised at how often we leave empty handed.
  • Shop Wisely
    Shopping wisely, or like the Belizean’s do will also help to guard your low cost living. Convenience can be a budget killer. If you want to purchase everything at the grocery store because it is one stop, then you can expect to pay more, while sacrificing some quality in the process. Get fresh vegetables on delivery day at the local markets. Get fresh meat cut to your specifications at the local Carnicero(Butcher). Fresh fish can be bought directly from the fisherman if you are by the sea. (A little myth buster here though, we found fish are actually cheaper per pound inland then they were on the islands).
    Also know that it is generally assumed that we gringos are just visiting. We are charged more just because it is assumed that we are all rich (another myth), and therefore able to pay more.We have found, that if at first we shop around to find a vendor that has what we need, and that they are friendly and cordial with us, then we will keep going back.It only takes a few trips, and maybe a subtle hint, and they will soon realize that you are not a visitor but living here and you will see prices go down.Also, we avoid grocery stores that don’t put prices their merchandise.
  • Forget US Dollar Comparisons.
    One of the things that we did when we first moved was to convert everything to US dollars in our heads. It helped us to justify making some purchases. For example, that box of chocolates (my favorite, Ferrero Roche to be specific) was BZ$42.50, “hey, that’s only US$21.25, what’s $20.00” you might ask yourself as we did. Well, (I told you I would get back to this) at the local market we spend BZ$18.00 (US$9.00) for a whole week’s supply of fresh vegetables. US$20.00 (BZ$40.00) will purchase 160 oranges at 4/BZ$1.00 or 400 fresh bananas at 10/BZ$1.00. So if keeping up a low cost living is important to you, forget US$ and compare prices of “want” items to what can be purchased in “need” items for those same dollars.
  • Location
    The right location will also be a factor to consider if low cost living is one of the reasons you chose Belize. We had our personal reasons to select the cayes as our place to land initially, so it wasn’t something that I look back on as a mistake, but rather part of our education.  However hindsight being 20/20, one thing that we would probably have done differently, was to move to the mainland rather than the Cayes (islands). Our budget was literally cut in half when we moved from the island to Cayo District just outside of San Ignacio.
    Rent for a two bedroom apartment in San Pedro was BZ$2000.00/Mo. whereas our rent for a comparable two Bedroom house here on the mainland is BZ$1000.00/Mo.Fruits and Vegetables were typically about BZ$45.00/week on the island at the docks where the mennonite boats would deliver on Tuesday mornings. You had to get there early (like 5:00AM) to get a good selection. As I mentioned earlier on the mainland at the San Ignacio Market we pay about BZ$18.00 for the same quantity and get a better selection of fresher product.
  • Economical Appliances Keep The Cost of Living Low.
    One of the other things that I have learned is that your appliances are also important in maintaining a low cost living. This is something you may not have much control over when you are looking for places to rent, but is good to know when you are building, or when trying to estimate what your monthly rental expense might be. In San Pedro we paid anywhere from about BZ$140-180.00/Mo. For electricity. That covered an electric range, washer, dryer, hot water tank, and the difference in monthly cost was probably the A/C unit which was only used during really hot months.
    In Bullet Tree the house we rent has all economical appliances, and the experience has convinced me that when we build our own home to lay out a bit more initially to keep the monthly utility bill down.It has been hot the last few months requiring the AC unit and the electric bill last month was BZ$68.00. That’s half to a third of the island, and here are some of the reasons why.Our Range is gas (butane in Belize), and yes that is an expense, but the tank lasted for three months, then was picked up and returned full for BZ$40.00.Our Hot water is produced with a heat on demand hot water tank that is also gas, but after almost four months of use, I still can’t lift the tank, so I expect it is still good for at least another six months, and it’s controls are powered by 2 “D” batteries.
    Finally we do have a washing machine, but our clothes dryer which is usually the energy guzzler of the two is pictured above. It does require a bit planning around the weather, but this Solar/Wind powered unit will run 24hrs a day (or until the cows come home) for BZ$ or US$0.00, so we have two.

Summary

A simpler, healthy lifestyle with a low cost living, is easily obtainable in Belize. Certainly for far less than that of Canada and the United States. If you watch your habits. Shop wisely. Compare BZ prices to the buying power in Belize rather than to the US dollar. Choose your location knowing that a premium will be payed on the Cayes. Try to follow our motto of, “live on what you need, not what you want”.

To give you an idea of what US$ 800.00/Mo. will rent you, Check out this house that we rented when we first arrived in Belize.

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Jun 062016
 
Hurricane Season In Belize.

June 1st to November 30th Is Hurricane Season In Belize. While Belize has only suffered five major direct hits (Cat. II or above) since 1900, history tells us to prepare each year for the inevitable. With due diligence, the knowledge of this article, and of course proper preparation, you should easily weather the storm.

 Hurricane Season In Belize.

Hurricane season in Belize is from June 1st to November 30th. While the most severe weather is typically in the later half of the season, June is the time when residents prepare and vigilantly watch the weather patterns forming in and around the Caribbean. Belize has only experienced direct hits from 5 major hurricanes (Category 2 or above) and one category 1 since 1900. However, history reminds us to be prepared for what seems to be the inevitable. This is not to say visitors shouldn’t come during this time, weather prediction has become much better in Belize meaning surviving these tropical storms is simply a matter of due diligence, knowledge, and of course proper preparation which I will go into a bit more later in this post.

History of Hurricane season in Belize.

On September 10, 1931 Belize was hit by a Category 4 hurricane which remains the worst in documented history. 2500 were killed and about half of the homes in the Yarborough settlement near Belize City were destroyed. The main reasons that this was the worst was due to a few contributing factors. First there were no weather prediction services in Belize at that time, secondly little was known by the public at that time of the dangers of these tropical storms. As the sea receded many ran to witness the phenomenon not realizing that the sea would surge back, which it did killing several hundred that day. These factors combined with the timing of the storm that hit during St. George’s Caye Day celebrations, people received little warning of the impending disaster.

On September 28, 1955 Hurricane season in Belize brought more death and destruction. Janet struck near Corozal destroying that town, leaving only about ten homes in her wake as she moved on to destroy the neighboring town of Chetumal in Mexico. Janet a category 5 recorded winds in excess of 175 mph. Janet also brought excessive rain, many places in Belize recorded more than 24 inches of rainfall in 72 hours causing severe flooding. Janet was responsible for as many as 3000 deaths.

On October 31, 1961 Hurricane Hattie another Category 5 recorded winds of 160 mph with gusts up to 200 mph. Hattie made a direct hit on the then capital bringing with her a storm surge 13 – 15 feet higher than normal tide levels that totally destroyed Belize City. Hattie was responsible for about 400 deaths and left 1000’s homeless. Many of the residents of Belize City were evacuated and rebuilt in what is now known as Hattieville. Also after Hurricane Hattie Belize’s capital was moved inland and rebuilt on the higher grounds of Belmopan.

On September 19, 1978 Hurricane Greta just made Category 4 status with sustained winds of 130 mph. While her winds downed many trees along the coast, her high storm surge resulted in very little flooding inland. Greta hit the land in Dangriga where it quickly became a tropical depression but not before destroying or damaging just over 100 homes in that town, as well as, the town’s main hospital. All in all Greta caused about BZ$ 50 million in damages. But as a result of better public knowledge and awareness of hurricanes, and also as a result of much better weather forecasting within Belize only four deaths were recorded.

On October 8, 2001 Hurricane season in Belize saw Iris as she ripped ashore on the southern coast of Belize between Monkey River Town and Independance, just southwest of Belize City. Iris was a category 4 with recorded winds of 140 mph. Iris is considered the most destructive of Belize’s hurricanes as she reportedly left more than 13,000 people homeless. In some areas 90% of the buildings including schools and community centers had sustained significant damage. Most of the food stocks and all of the countries standing crops of rice, cacao, coffee, bananas, corn, and papaya had been destroyed. In addition the downed power lines interrupted power creating a significant health risk as pump delivered water supplies ceased to flow. In addition, if the mass devastation was not enough, what made Iris particularly devastating was that she hit while Belize was still rebuilding  just one year after Hurricane Keith had caused $200 million dollars in damages throughout the country.

On October 27, 2010 Hurricane Richard was the last hurricane to hit Belize. Richard only a category 1 with sustained winds of 90 mph came ashore about 20 miles south of Belize City. It proceeded to travel through the City and then continued through the center of Belize impacting Belize, Cayo, and Orange Walk districts. Richard included in it’s path the new capital Belmopan which had generally been considered the safest haven from hurricanes. When the storm cleared Richard had left most of the country without power and damages amounting to almost BZ$ 50 million.

Four other hurricanes should be noted, and although they did not hit Belize directly, they caused significant damage as they ripped along the coast. Mitch in 1998, Keith in 2000,  Chantal in 2001, and Dean in 2007.

Things to know and Expect during Hurricane Season in Belize.

  • Be aware of the strength of impending hurricanes as described by the “Saffir-Simpson Hurricane” Scale.
    Tropical Storm (39-73 mph)
    Category 1 (74-95 mph)
    Category 2 (96-110 mph)
    Category 3 (111-129 mph)
    Category 4 (130-156 mph)
    Category 5 (157> mph)

    Hurricane Season In Belize

    During Hurricane Season In Belize, A Four Stage Flag Warning System is Used To Warn Of Impending Danger.

  • Flag Signals (Belize has a four-flag warning system)
    Preliminary Alert (red flag) – Hurricane may threaten within 72 hours.
    Red I Watch (1 red flag with dot) – Hurricane may threaten within 36 hours.
    Red II Warning (2 red flags with dots) – Hurricane may threaten within 24 hours.
    All Clear (green flag) – Hurricane has passed.
  • Expect Evacuation of Island, Coastal, and Flood Prone Areas will Occur.
    As people move from these areas to the inland mountainous areas like Cayo and Belmopan City, highways may become congested, so leave early and be near the front of the line.
  • Expect Flooding.
    Belize is noted for it’s many flood prone areas, talk to the locals about your area and expect that as the rains intensify, many streets may/will be flooded.
  • Expect Supermarkets To Be Crowded Until They Run Out Of Stock.
    Grocery stores will be filled with residents trying to stock up on last minute items such as food, protection equipment in the form of shutters, plywood, tie down materials, etc. The practice of price gouging is illegal but still common and should be expected as vendors take advantage of the law of supply and demand.
  • Expect Businesses & Schools To Be Closed.
    Expect most businesses to close shop 24 hours before the hurricane hits as workers prepare their homes or evacuate some areas. Schools and other large institutions require more time to prepare and can be expected to close 48 hours before an impending strike.
  • Expect Evacuation Shelters To Be Open.
    Shelters are public, but expect that most will require ID and documentation with your address to enter. If you fear that your lodging may not be adequate to withstand the impact of the impending hurricane and it’s winds, rains, and related flooding, you will want to locate your shelter(s). Each area should have one or several hurricane shelters. know where yours is and be prepared to go.
  • Expect Increased Military & Police Presence.
    Expect to see an increase in Activity by local police departments and the Belize Military (Belize Defence Force – BDF) as officers are dispatched to ensure smooth evacuation procedures, as well as, to prevent looting and other illegal activities that often occur during these times of distress.
  • Expect Flights To Be Cancelled.
    Expect most international flights and many domestic flights to be grounded or cancelled on the day of the expected hurricane. As a result expect other forms of tranportation such as water taxis to become crowded with people who have waited until the last minute to evacuate. Again, leave as early as resonably possible. It is better to be waiting in safety a little longer rather than still fleeing for your life when the storm does hit.

Tips to help in preparing for the hurricane season in Belize:

These tips should not be left until the last minute. I recommend a cupboard for non perishable food supplies to be stocked immediately so that last minute shopping may be avoided (just be sure to watch those expiry dates). Have a mini check list and I recommend a backpack(s) that can be quickly filled with items you will want to take with you in case of evacuation, items such as important documents, clothing, communication equipment, etc.

According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), here are some tips to help you prepare for the hurricane season in Belize:

  1. Have stock of non-perishable food and drinking water (enough for at least 5 days), including special foods needed for young children and animals.
  2. Make arrangements for pets & livestock.
  3. Have a flashlight with extra batteries, or candles.
  4. Have portable battery operated radio with extra batteries to keep in touch with the outside world should power be lost.
  5. Have your first aid kit stocked and ready and keep extra stock of required medications (again, watch those expiry dates).
  6. Find out ahead of time which is your emergency shelter along with it’s exact location.
  7. Have good quality shoes ready in case you need to get out and walk.
  8. Have cash on hand. ATM’s may not work, and banks may not open if the power is interrupted.
  9. Protect your windows, doors. and other glass structures from flying debris.
  10. Trim branches (or coconuts) that might break free, also remove all objects from your yard that are likely to become flying hazards. including if possible, communication equipment such as TV and radio antennas, as well as, satellite dishes.
  11. Develop & have available an emergency communication plan.
  12. Fuel up your car and stock extra fuel if you have a generator, gas (Kerosene) lamps, or gas powered tools for clean up after the storm.
  13. Store all valuable documents/papers in waterproof bags high off the ground.
  14. Check your home and auto insurance.
May 182016
 
Working in Belize, what you need to know

Working in Belize is not as easy as showing up and looking at the classifieds. There are procedures to follow as Belize rightfully protects it’s jobs for Belizeans.

Working in Belize is not easy, but not impossible.

Working in Belize is not as easy as just showing up and looking at the classifieds. There are procedures to follow as Belize rightfully protects it’s jobs for Belizeans. Belize is a small, generally poor country with high unemployment. It is practically impossible to just move here and get a work permit for any job that can be done by a Belizean. If you have a rare skill or one not common in Belize then it becomes easier. For example, maybe a French restaurant might hire you if you spoke French and no French speaking Belizean could be found.

Jobs You may find difficult to land.

If you are planning on working in Belize, normally jobs for waiters/waitresses, cleaners, driver jobs, gardeners, general laborer, etc. are the ones that will be hardest to acquire as any Belizean can do those. Even what I consider skilled trades like plumbing, electrical, mechanics, etc. are often done here by locals that an aptitude for it, or have been trained down through the generations by other locals. It will also be very difficult to convince someone to hire you under the table or off the books for cash. Belize is a small country and little goes unnoticed, so even if you were hired for a cash in hand job it would probably not be very long before you were discovered by a local that wanted that job and were reported. If caught, the fines would probably be more than you made at the job and may well lead to you being deported. The fines to the business are also so high that it is usually not worth their effort or reputation to get involved with this practice. In Canada I know this happens all of the time, wages are much higher there and foreigners can often be hired much cheaper than local trades people for cash. The wage savings for some small companies make the risk worthwhile. In Belize however, the wages are already rock bottom, the average Belizean (and probably so will you) makes about BZ$5.00/hr. or BZ$40.00/ day (US$20.00/day) which is about what I made in a half hour as an electrician back in Canada, so there is no advantage for a business in Belize to hire an expat for cash.

Your unique skills may help you qualify.

Highly skilled jobs if you are qualified may be easier to acquire, like a Doctor, Nurse, Architect, engineer etc. as not many Belizeans can just come off of the street to do these jobs, now that been said it is not a guarantee, there are not a lot of these jobs available and many Belizeans do go to the US, Canada, and throughout the Caribbean to get quality training and degrees, and then return to take those jobs as well.

Expats Working in Belize Have a Few Options.

The main options expats working in Belize tend to exercise are firstly, to work online for a business outside of Belize, or to open their own business. Also permanent residency is an option that if you can wait for up to three years will allow you to do any job and solve your problem of working in Belize.

  • An Online Business.

    An acceptable online business is one that can be done from Belize for a foreign company. You would probably want to be paid in the currency of that country, and have your cheques deposited in an account in that same country. You would then bring your money into Belize as required maybe using an ATM machine for daily expenses, or wire transfers for large purchases. For expats with that ability to do their jobs online, this scenario is a perfectly acceptable opportunity for you to be working in Belize because you are not taking a job from a Belizean.

  • Open Your Own Business.

    Belize welcomes expats that open businesses and then hire locals. Sometimes this is the way to go and the cheap labor here often makes it feasible. That being said, IMHO it is important to find a niche that provides a needed service and does not compete with another local business, otherwise growing your business may be difficult. That is not to say that a motivated individual could not be working in Belize for themselves, hire local labour, and find customers that might pay for gardening or other labor services. Again building a client list, and reputation will require spending time here, and getting to know people. You will also be competing against every local that has a machete and a rake and is calling himself a gardener, and likewise every local that owns a hammer and is calling himself a carpenter, and so on.

    As I mentioned earlier, many of the what I consider to be skilled trades are performed by locals that have the practical knowledge of their trade passed on, usually on a need to know bases and with less and less theoretical knowledge passed on through the process. As a result the quality of workmanship is often below the standards we are used to in other countries. This is where some expats may see an opportunity to open a competing business but are successful because of their superior training, customer service, and overall work ethic.

  •  Permanant Residency.

    Another option for working in Belize if you have the time and patience is to become a Permanent Resident. This can be a long process that can take between two and three years. In order to qualify for Permanent Residency you must live in Belize for one full year and not leave for more than 14 days total in that year. After that time you may apply to become a Permanent Resident. It will usually take another year to be accepted but can be up to two years depending on your country of origin and how fast information is shared during the investigation process. In reality to be safe, you should have enough savings to sustain yourself for up to three years. Once you have been granted residency, you will have all of the same rights as a Belizean except for the right to vote (unless you are from a commonwealth country), and although you would still not be considered a citizen, you would be entitled to work any job you might find. Here is a link to my post on Residency Options.

 

Conclusion.

Belize is not a country that makes processes easy for expats (or for locals for that matter), but it is not impossible either as long as you have time and patience and “go slow” with a positive attitude. I have found that most things in Belize including jobs, home rentals, etc. are not generally advertised in the classifieds but are made known by word of mouth. Having that down time while we wait for our Permanent Residency to be approved, has allowed us to get to know people, explore the country, and ultimately has put us in a position to find better opportunities for working in Belize, as they present themselves.

Mar 282016
 
Easter Celebrations in Belize

While Belize has many festivals and holidays that celebrate it’s many cultures, and that recognize the individuals that have made significant contributions to the history of Belize. No celebration is more important than the five days of Easter Celebrations.

Easter Celebrations in Belize

Easter celebrations or Pasch (Pascha) for many begins at noon on Thursday when government offices and many other businesses close for preparations and remain closed until Tuesday morning. While this is a Holy Holiday that celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ, this is also a weekend when many Belizeans will travel from their home area to other areas of the country to visit family, or to take part in the many different events and activities held throughout the country.

While Belize has many festivals and holidays that celebrate it’s many cultures, and that recognize the individuals that have made significant contributions to the history of Belize. No celebration is greater than Easter Celebrations.

Easter Celebrations and Superstitions on Good Friday

Good Friday is a traditional Holy day where many still predominantly catholic Belizeans will  meet at the local church to participate in the towns Stations of the Cross Procession. This procession with it’s 14 stops for prayers and hymns represents the final journey of Jesus to his ultimate death on earth and crucifixion.

This day is also filled with superstitions rooted in Belize’s folklore and legends. For example it said that if you swim in the rivers on Good Friday you will turn into a mermaid, it is also said that if you cut down a Physic Nut tree, blood will run from the tree. Another legend is that if you let your children climb in trees on this day they will turn into monkeys. As Good Friday is a somber day to to abstain from work and pleasurable activities, and to observe the death of Christ, it is believed that these legends were started to keep the kids from playing and the men from working.

 

Holy Saturday

Easter Celebrations in Belize would not be complete without the running of the now international "Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic" bicycle race.

Easter Celebrations in Belize would not be complete without the running of the now international “Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic” bicycle race. Many will line the streets to witness the event with many others in Belize tuning in to listen to the play by play on the radio.

Holy Saturday is a day when many activities are scheduled all across the country. The largest is The Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic. The now international bicycle race starts in the early morning in Belize City with participants pedaling across the country to San Ignacio and then returning to finish in Belize City at around noon. This is also the day for picnics and BBQ’s with family and friends. I recall last year on Holy Saturday morning returning home from our walk on the beach to find our landlords set up in our yard listening to the bicycle race on the radio and preparing the grill. Two grills made from recycled beer kegs were filled with chicken, beef ribs, pork, and even a taste of lobster and of course served with traditional rice & beans and potato salad.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday marks the end of lent and is a day when most Catholics will attend mass and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. After mass has been held, like many other cultures, Belizeans like their chocolate too, this is the day that the children (and many adults I’m sure) wait to get their candy and chocolate fix in Easter egg hunts and other like activities.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday marks the end of the Easter celebrations and is the day that those that have not already done so, return to their home areas. There are still events enjoyed on this day, the most notable being the afternoon running of the annual Horse Race held in Burrel Boom at the Castleton Race Track.

Jan 272016
 
Golf Carts are the Cars of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Life in Belize ~ Golf Carts are the Cars of San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, Belize

Golf Carts are San Pedro’s Car of Choice.

Golf carts are the choice of those that are not among the many people in Belize that either walk or ride bicycles in San Pedro, Belize. There are cars here on the island but they are usually used by service companies and as delivery vehicles (there are some exceptions). Taxi cabs account for a large number of these vehicles and can sometimes only be recognized as cabs by their green license plates.

When a motorized vehicle is needed, many people drive scooters and motorcycles and although they are not used much (if at all) on the mainland, golf carts are the car of choice for most on the Cayes (islands) like Ambergris Caye where San Pedro is located, golf carts far outnumber the traditional vehicles that we are used to driving on a daily basis back in Canada and the US.

Select your color, shape, and style.

Golf carts come in many colors, shapes, and styles that range from the typical cart with a bench seat in the front and a second in the back facing the rear. Sometimes the rear seat is removed and replaced with a cargo box converting it to a pickup truck, some even with ladder racks on top. Some are longer with three bench seats facing forward and a fourth facing backward to provide the equivalent to a limousine.

Safety Features of a golf cart.

Safety features are few other than brakes, a horn (that usually doesn’t work), and of course headlights are required for night driving and must be turned after 6:00 PM. Although some do, most do not have signal lights so keep an eye out for the sometimes very discreet hand signals that are used. I have noticed that there is no real rules pertaining to right of way, it is more of a first come, first served attitude, and I wouldn’t count on that golf cart entering your lane from the side street to stop (or even slow down) at the stop sign, if a sign even exists.

Golf Carts are available to rent.

Golf carts are readily available from one of the many rental companies to tourists (visitors) that have a valid driver’s license and credit card, but be sure to pay attention to the basic road rules orientation that will inform you of  things like;

  • Which roads are one ways (not much signage to let you know).
  • That you cannot park at a curb that is painted red.
  • Always lock up your golf cart when not in use and never leave personal belongs behind on the cart when you walk away from it, even for just a minute.

My tip of the Day.

Many people overlook the obvious, after all it is just a golf cart ………….. right?

Well, as you would anywhere when renting a vehicle, save yourself some grief and money later by doing a walk around and have any damage on the cart documented, and finally check under the seat to be sure that the gas tank is full of gas and remember that it must be returned that way.

If you would like to get an idea of how many people drive golf carts I have included this short video that can be found on the video post page of this site or at this link on my YouTube channel

Oct 212015
 
Checking Belize expiry dates is a must. Common practice when the “best before” date expires is to reduce the price rather than remove the product.

Checking Belize expiry dates is a must. Common practice when the “best before” date expires is to reduce the price rather than remove the product.

Checking Belize Expiry Dates.

I must preface this post regarding checking Belize expiry dates by saying that it is neither my intention to promote nor to criticize life in Belize. It is my intention to inform, and while life here is usually everything we expected and hoped for, as with anywhere you might go, from time to time I find myself shaking my head and with an inside voice asking “why”, while at the same time with an outside voice accepting the situation and   saying, “it is what it is”.

In today’s picture you will see some familiar products that are sitting on the shelf of our local grocery store. These packages of dry cereal are priced at $3.75 while down the shelf a little further is the brightly colored box with the famous Toucan priced at $8.75 for the exact same size package and product. So, Where’s the box? Has the box been crushed? Has the box been lost? Is the box actually worth $5.00? In all cases the answer is probably no.

What’s the date in Belize today?

In Belize it is common practice that when the “best before” date passes (expires) products are not necessarily removed from the shelves but rather are reduced in price. It is important to be aware to check expiry dates on all perishables carefully. Lorilee came across mayonnaise a few weeks ago marked down to less than half price, great deal. As always watching for deals she grabbed it. At this point because we have learned the hard way in the past, she is now checking Belize expiry dates, as a result she returned the bottle while informing the young lady that was building the display that the date had expired. The young lady replied “yes ma’am, that is why it is at a reduced price”.

Where did the $5.00 go?

Back to the original question of where did the $5.00 go? Well……………..the short answer is that it simply expired. The box containing the “best before date” was removed. Again I don’t mention this as a criticism but rather to inform. I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am just saying make sure you are checking Belize expiry dates. This is one of those times I find myself shaking my head and with an inside voice saying, “it is what it is”.

What do these terms mean?

This is not a new practice in Belize and although it is not condoned by public health officials, the practice continues.  It is important to know the meaning and the difference between the following terms;

  • Shelf Life
  • Best Before
  • Use by
  • Sell by/Display until
  • Expiration Date

For the definition of these terms and for guidelines on how long some products are good for, read this 2011 article that still remains relevant.

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Oct 142015
 
Due diligence will prevent your Belize dream home from becoming a nightmare.

Rent don’t Buy. Avoid your Belize dream home becoming a nightmare. The photo on the right courtesy of tacogirl.com

Belize Dream Home.

Looking for your Belize dream home? A picture is worth a 1000 words, that’s a mouth full and maybe why two pictures can sometimes take your breath away. The picture on the left is a picture of the street we lived on until we moved in August. I took that picture last December after a day with a few of my neighbors filling potholes and repairing the road. We loved the house on Brain Coral Street. Right on the lagoon with spectacular sunsets and water views. Our backyard was even mostly ponds fed from the lagoon that was home to all kinds of fish, a lobster, many different species of birds and even stingrays were regular visitors. We called it our “Belize dream home”, and sure it was a bit buggy (mosquitoes) from time to time, and sure sometimes the high tides would flood the lot across the street and even into our yard a little bit for a day or two every couple of months, but It was only a minor inconvenience compared to the many other benefits.

Go with the flow. “It is what it is”. Really?

The picture on the right is of the same road during the past few weeks. This water is not from rain, but rather exceptionally high tides. Now we realize that we are still learning about life in Belize and that we have to go with the flow, but when the flow becomes a daily flood, that can become a bit disheartening, especially if you are stuck on the deck of your Belize dream home because your yard is underwater. Wading in and out the road would have been a pain that would have started and ended every trip. I don’t know how long I could have said “it is what it is” before I would have snapped. Whatever that time would be for me, you can divide that by at least two for Lorilee.

Do you believe everything has a reason?

I know everything happens for a reason, and yes we were always looking for cheaper places to live in, but could this be the reason that we ran into our friend Joyce in late July. We mentioned we had seen a place for rent, but also that we were a little bit relieved that it was already rented because we really didn’t want to move from our dream house on the lagoon. Anyway she told us about a new building that was just being finished that she was moving into and that there was a vacancy with our name on it. Long story short we left our Belize dream home and live there now.

Belize Dream Home Becomes Nightmare.

This is the reason that all of the blogs and websites including this one tell you, “rent don’t buy for six months to a year”. I would now say definitely a year, this problem would have not have even come up until after nine months. Had that house been for sale, and had we been able to afford it, and had our need for a bit more space not changed, we might have bought that house. After six months we might have said, it’s our Belize dream home, what could go wrong”? And that may have been our first major disappointment in Belize.

Due Diligence is Your responsibility.

Do your due diligence, be patient, rent don’t buy. Please heed these warnings, It is very easy to purchase your Belize dream home, but if it becomes a nightmare, will selling be just as easy? Well, not so much.

Special thank you to tacogirl.com for the picture on the right and the courtesy of using it. Please follow her on Facebook for more information on daily life in Belize, and her Blog is another great source for “the unbelizeable truth”.

 

Oct 072015
 
Waving Good bye as more people leave Belize

It is not only important to ask yourself, why Belize? It is just as important to ask, why not Belize?

Many People Leave Belize?

People leave Belize? I have heard stats that say “more than 50% of expats leave after a year”, or other stats that indicate, “as many as 80% of the expats that come to Belize leave within two years”. While I guess either, or even both stats could be true, I admit I can’t find an official documented number, and I don’t truly know what that actual percentage is. What I can tell you from talking to the locals and those people who have stayed is this, they generally can remember more expats that have left than expats that have stayed.

Why do so many people leave Belize?

The answer to this question does not seem to be cut and dry. Especially since, the reasons that some people leave Belize, are the same reasons that other people want to stay. Surely people have read on the websites and blogs where we all advise people to;

  • Do your research
  • Visit for extended periods, not just short vacations.
  • Rent, don’t buy initially.
  • Curb your expectations

and so on, and so on. So why are so many people so surprised or sometimes even disappointed when life is not the same here in Belize as it was back in Canada or the US?

Which People Are Sure To Leave Belize?

You will recognize the people that are destined to fail in their pursuit of happiness in Belize. These are usually the people you hear complaining about things in general, or arguing with a clerk or official that the process is ridiculous, or saying things like “that’s not the way we do it back in Canada”. Those are usually the people that become a statistic and eventually those people leave Belize.

Principles of Paradise, IMHO.

How do you avoid becoming a statistic? Now let me say that we have only been in Belize for almost a year. So I am still in that under two year period, so I may not be the authority yet on what it takes to make it in Belize or why so many people leave Belize. I do think however that this question needs to be addressed. I don’t mean to over simplify this issue but I am betting that if you adopt these basic principles as we have, you will certainly increase your chances at being successful.

  • Adapt ~ Embrace the new culture including its differences. It is not reasonable to expect to have the best of both worlds. You cannot expect a slower more laid back lifestyle today, and then be upset tomorrow that something will take three weeks to get done. If you cannot accept this you might as well get in the line when people leave Belize.
  • Accept ~ Do not try to change the procedures to match what you left behind in Canada. Learn to accept the way things are done and find a way to comply, or find another solution to your problem. “That’s not the way we do it back home”, is a futile and an irrelevant argument in Belize or any other foreign country. You must be able to go with the flow, realize that you cannot change things and instead of asking why, say to yourself, as I sometimes do, “it is what it is”
  • Appreciate ~ If you can truly appreciate the simple life and give up your malls, creature comforts, and other material things like your front row seats at the theater, or your professional hockey, baseball, and football tickets, and appreciate that if you are lucky, things like brilliant sunsets, colorful flowers, a smiling child, walks on the beach, meeting a friend (new or old), or maybe an occasional boat ride to the reef will become the highlight of your days. If you can appreciate the little things in life, you will have a better chance of finding happiness in Belize.
  • Awareness ~ I believe awareness goes beyond doing your research or due diligence. I believe that it is important to do all of those things and to realize that the things you hear about like mañana time (island time) or gringo pricing are real and do exist.Or when you read that a construction project can cost much more than quoted, or can take much longer to complete then promised, or that the quality of healthcare, internet, and most products from appliances to toilet paper is not as good here as you may be used to, believe it and know that you are not the exception to the rule, and it is highly unlikely that you have some secret solution to absolve you of these facts.

In My Humble Opinion

IMHO the reason so many people leave Belize comes down to one common thing that encompasses all of the reasons above and many more. Yes, it is important to do all the research that is documented in the blogs and on the websites like this. It is not only important to ask yourself, why Belize? It is just as important to ask, why not Belize? But, the most important thing to research first, is yourself. Know yourself and be aware of who you are, know what you need to be happy while keeping in mind that happiness is found within who you are, and not where you go. If you will have a hard time with any or all of principles 1, 2, and/or 3, you may have a hard time finding happiness in Belize, and may eventually find yourself on that flight out when people leave Belize.

Here is another great article on this topic from Robert J. Hawkins on his blog Bound for Belize. Follow Robert too, he is another great source on day to day life in Belize and, the “unbelizeable truth”.

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Sep 222015
 
Belize bugs often look like they are on steroids and maintain a regular workout regimen but will typically try to avoid you.

Belize bugs often look like they are on steroids and maintain a regular workout regimen, however they will typically try to avoid you.

Belize Bugs and Spiders.

Belize bugs and spiders are larger than we are used to seeing back in Canada, and often look like they are on steroids and maintaining a regular daily workout regimen.  But typically unless you corner them, or stick your hand in a hole where it doesn’t belong, most Belize bugs and other critters will try to avoid you. We are in the tropics however. so you can count on mosquitoes and no-see-ums. How bad they are will depend on your setting, if you are next to a lagoon or other places where water can pocket you will notice a substantial increase in these pests especially just before dark.

On Ambergris Caye and the other Islands.

On the island, (other than pesky mosquitoes and no-see-ums) bugs have not been an issue for us. We have seen a few large 2” long cock roaches, large spiders (pictured), and while there have been several other strange looking bug like creatures that we could not identify, they have never been in our home, although from time to time we have had harmless little geckos or salamanders that needed to be scooted out the door.

Scary looking maybe, but usaually not deadly

It should be noted at this time that while some of the larger bugs are pretty scary looking, they usually are not deadly, although a scorpion or spider bite can cause some serious pain and discomfort, or as I have been told the spider in this picture scrunches up and shoots barbs that will cause a pretty nasty rash.

Snakes

On the island, the snakes are similar to Belize bugs and spiders in the sense that you know they are there, I know because on occasion I have seen dead ones that have tried to cross the road and didn’t make it. Now, maybe we don’t have any issues with critters because we don’t stray far off of the beaten path when walking, and we tend to keep to the more populated areas that Belize bugs and critters generally avoid.

The Jungle of Belize is a whole other world

Living in remote areas and the jungles of Belize is a whole other adventure. You will want to educate yourself on the dangers that surround you. Snakes like the deadly Fer de Lance viper recognized by its “yellow jaw” make Belize it’s home, and while rarely found indoors they are considered aggressive and if encountered by newbies should be avoided at all costs. Also, one of Belize bugs that you should know about and avoid is the Chinch known to spread Chagas Disease. There is a treatment, but it is important to recognize this bug as well as its bite and resulting rash. If undetected or left untreated it can remain dormant for many years (as many as 20) before causing serious organ problems and fatal illness. As a result the chinch boasts the tagline “one bug, one bite, one life”, and is probably the most dangerous of Belize bugs.

Problems with Belize bugs, spiders, and snakes are fairly rare outside of the jungle setting and should not deter you from exploring this beautiful country. Jungle life is quite safe too if you remember that common sense goes a long way here folks. If you are inexperienced with jungle life, hire an inexpensive local guide when you first explore. Your few dollars will be well invested to insure your safety as well as buy the valuable education you may otherwise only receive the hard way on your own.

Need more details on Caribbean Critters

Click on the blue links for more information on what else lurks in Belize. Caribbean Critters has a great site that covers many of the critters in Belize.

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Jul 082015
 
Know your residency options to remain in Belize legally

Know your residency options to remain in Belize legally

Residency Options.


Residency options may not be
on the top of your list when you first arrive in the country, but if staying in Belize is on your short list you may want to keep your options in mind. Upon arriving in Belize you will receive a “Visitor Visa” based on your expected time of stay. The maximum visa issued will be one month. If you need more time, or would like to stay permanently, you will need to renew your visitor visa and pursue one of these three residency options.

 

  • The QRP Program.
  • Permanent Residency.
  • Perpetual Tourist

 
 

Three unique Residency options. Which one is right for you?

 
 

Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program.

To qualify for the QRP Program, individuals must be at least 45 years of age. You will have to prove permanent income of at least US$2000.00/month from an investment, pension, or other retirement benefits. An individual who qualifies may also include a spouse and children under age 18.

Some advantages of this program are that it is administered by The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and can be applied for before even moving to Belize. In addition, once approved you will be permitted to import your personal items and an approved method of transportation duty free. This is a one shot deal and must be done within one year of entering the program. Finally a Qualified Retired Person will be free of income tax.

Some disadvantages of this program are that while you can operate a business. You can never work under this program. You can never become a citizen. Finally, if you choose this residency option, you will need to provide documentation annually proving income, status of dependents, as well as, other proof that you still qualify for this program. Also note if you leave this program in the future, no time is credited towards a Permanent Residency application and you will be required to pay back any benefits received from the program.

 
 

Permanent Residency.

The process to apply for Permanent Residency is similar to the QRP Program but with a few key differences. Firstly, after you have lived in Belize for one full year you will make your application to the Director of Immigration and Naturalization. During this first year you must maintain your visitor visa and may not leave the country for more than 14 days total or the clock will reset.

Permanent Residency is the most common of the residency options. Chosen by people who have not yet reached retirement age but have decided to stay and make a life in Belize.

This process can be more expensive and take a little longer. However, I believe the benefits will pay for themselves in the long run. As a Permanent Resident you will be permitted to work once approved and enjoy all the benefits of a Belizean except you will not have the right to vote. After being a permanent resident for 5 years you may apply to become a citizen of Belize.

Note: Citizens of commonwealth countries need not be approved for permanent Residence to apply for voter cards. You may apply after living in Belize for one year, and at least two months in the district that you apply in.

 
 

Perpetual Tourist

Perpetual Tourist technically should not be included as one of the residency options. It is an option that will allow you to remain in the country legally. A perpetual tourist is someone who continues to renew their visitor visa indefinitely. If you are still unsure about staying in Belize permanently, or if you will only spend a few months a year this may be an option for you.

You will remain a visitor and will not enjoy any of the benefits that the other two programs offer. For example, you can not work or engage in any business activity without the permission of the Director of Immigration and by purchasing expensive permits or work visas. Any belongings you bring to Belize may be subject to high import duties.

NOTE: If you take up full time residence in Belize, at some point the immigration department will insist upon your entering into one of the two residency programs.

 
 

Renewing Your Visitor Visa.

Regardless of the residency option you have chosen to legally stay in Belize. On the day that your initial Visitor Visa expires, your first duty will be to renew your visitor visa. This can be done at your local Belize Immigration and Nationality Department office. The fee is US$25.00/person or BZ$50.00/person and must be paid in Belize currency. After six months the fee doubles. By now you will probably have a good idea of your intentions, and what your residency options are. Here is a link to the visitor visa renewal process.

 
 

Which of the residency options is right for you?

Choosing which of the residency options is right for you, will depend on what your long term plans are. Each program has it’s own unique advantages and disadvantages. Knowing the answers to the following questions will often narrow the choice for you. Will you need to work? Do you want to open a business? Will you bring all of your belongings with you? Your answers to these questions will often eliminate all but one of your residency options.

For more information and to download the PDF on the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP)  Program visit this page of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB).

I regret that I cannot find any links to the Department of Immigration and Nationality. The information contained in this post is up to date at the time of publishing. My recommendation is to visit their office yourself, to get the most up to date information.

 
 

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