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.
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 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”.

I would Love to hear from you,
let me know if you enjoyed this post.

Leave a comment or ask your questions to help
me to make this site your go to resource on Belize.

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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.

I would Love to hear from you,
let me know if you enjoyed this post.

Leave a comment or ask your questions to help
me to make this site your go to resource on Belize.

And
Please subscribe

in the right column to be among the first to receive future updates.
Don’t worry I won’t share your email address.
I hate spam too.

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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Feb 162015
 

Pineapples on display at Maria's fruit and vegetable stand in San Pedro Belize. For more information on how to pick a pineapple to purchase, where the pineapple gets it's name, how to grow a pine apple and a tip for a juicier pineapple get more information at https://billdoesbelize.com/pineapples-maybe-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/Pineapples, Fruit or Vegetable?

Pineapples are strange, they don’t follow the rules normally used to determine if something is a fruit or a vegetable. Unlike most fruits by definition, it is developed from the flower of the plant, it does not grow on a tree and does not contain seeds. However it is classified as a fruit and when ripe will turn a golden orange like the pineapple on the top of the pile, at the left side of the table pictured.


How to pick pineapples to buy.

When you pick a pineapple, the first thing to determine is when you will want to eat the pineapple. If you will eat it that day you will want the golden orange one from the top left of the pile. The ones on the bottom of the pile in the center are from two days to a week away.

A little tip: For juicier pineapples, Turn them upside down for 24 hours before slicing.

Why are they called Pineapples?

As we have already discovered pineapples do not grow on a tree like a typical fruit (other than a berry), so it does not grow on a pine tree or on an apple tree. Where did it get it’s name? Well, when the Spanish first saw one it reminded them of a pine cone and they named it Pina, later the English added apple because of it’s sweet taste and the pineapples name stuck.

Where do pineapples come from?

“Pineapple have no seeds”, you may say, so where do they come from? In order to grow a pineapple, you need a pineapple. You will remove the top bushy part, plant in loose soil with aggregate to aid in draining, keep moist, not soaked (it will rot) for two weeks to help the rooting process, but then only add water when it gets dry. After about 18 months the plant should be about 4 ft. high and 4 ft. around with a flower in the center, the flower will become a pineapple over the next six months. Yes, if you do the math a pineapples take almost two years to grow.

Usually one pineapple will yield one pineapple (some people say a second is possible the next year, but never a third). Once you harvest your fruit you will start again with it’s top and can repeat this process up to nine times before the pineapples produced become bitter.

Pineapples are easy to grow.

Anyone can grow pineapples, and don’t worry about the shape the top is in, it will grow. Even in colder climates like that of Canada it will grow inside, just use a good size pot to avoid transplanting later. If you would like to try and grow your own, I have provided this video link.

Since moving to Belize I have eaten a lot of pineapples and love the tangy but sweet taste. I particularly enjoy pineapple pieces with banana slices, for me it’s an unbeatable combination. So grow your own and try it, then let me know how you made out.

Feb 062015
 
Garbage disposal sites pop up as an answer to a temporary Island problem.

Garbage Disposal, A temporary Isla Bonita Ugly.

Garbage Disposal, the ugly truth

As I have stated before, it is my goal based on my experiences to provide an unbiased view of life in Belize. To that end I feel I must present “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. One of the ugly things is the random roads and several vacant lots used for garbage disposal around San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. There is garbage pick up once per week at our house, but the garbage truck (as in most areas of the world) does not remove larger metal garbage like old fridges, stoves, washers and the like. This is a homeowner responsibility. So as an islander, where do you put your garbage? It would appear that most people just find an abandoned road or a vacant lot, and once one person does it, then everyone else will follow suit until one piece at a time, well,  you see get the picture. I have not noticed this on the mainland so in all fairness this is an island problem.

You might ask. Why do people do this?

The short answer is that there is not much choice for garbage disposal for many residents. The first thing to remember is that a majority of families don’t have a vehicle or the finances to pay someone to haul it away. And, even if they could get it hauled away, there is no safe place to haul it to on an island. Ambergris Caye has two dumps for garbage disposal, one at the far north end and a second at the far south end of the island. And while both are getting rid of burnable garbage at night, this  has its own obvious effect on the environment. We are also now realizing through studies that the burial of metals for landfill  is a major source of the ecological problems. Of course it is not that much of a stretch for the imagination that on a sandy island with a six month rain season, as things deteriorate below the ground, the contaminants will quickly leach into the sea.

What can be done to educate and facilitate proper Garbage disposal?

The San Pedro Town Council is beginning to take action and the San Pedro Sun newspaper has been reporting lately on the bad effects of this garbage disposal problem, and have outlined the potential health risks to residents as well as the ecosystem and in particular the marine life on the coral reef from which the island’s economy is derived.

Recognizing this problem The Government of Belize several years ago allocated nearly 1 million borrowed dollars to the construction of a solid waste facility. This transfer station would see to the island waste being removed to the mainland for proper garbage disposal. This facility is now expected to be completed by March 2015, almost two years after the originally expected completion date. Once it is complete one could expect that the problem should not get worse, but I suspect it will take several more years before someone takes responsibility for cleaning up the existing garbage disposal sites and then several years after that before it actually gets cleaned up.

If visiting or moving to Belize

One should not expect to see mounds of garbage disposal everywhere, and these sites are generally out of the sight of tourists (visitors), however they do exist and as a resident or expat I expect you will see them for a few more years to come. I don’t mention this to complain but rather to inform.  And again, although I do find things from time to time that make me scratch my head, I have yet to experience anything that would make me pack up my bags and head back to Canada.

Updated September 28, 2015

Since writing this post on February 06, 2015, I am pleased to announce that the Transfer Station built to facilitate garbage disposal here on Ambergris Caye opened and was inaugurated on July 03, 2015 as reported in this article by The San Pedro Sun

 

Feb 032015
 
The National flag is just one of several National symbols of Belize.

Belize’s national flag was created in preparation of the country receiving independence from Great Britain in 1981.

The National Flag of Belize

Belize’s national flag is the only flag in the world to illustrate people in its design. The flags colors are a blue body with a red horizontal stripe at the top and bottom and a white circle in the center. The red, blue, and white colors are the colors of the two major political parties of that time and still remain so today. The Peoples United Party (PUP) and The United Democratic Party (UDP). The use of the colors of the two political parties on the new national flag was to signify “The Unity of the Nation.”

The Coat of Arms of Belize

In the white circle of the national flag was placed the nations coat of arms. A symbol that in itself reflects much of the history of the new independent nation. The shield in the center is divided in three by an up side down or inverted Y, in the bottom section is a ship under full sail on the waves of the sea representing the arrival of the first settlers. The two upper sections depict the tools of the timber industry a paddle and squaring ax in the left section and a saw and a beating ax in the right section. The shield is held up by two woodcutters with different skin colors to represent the different ethnicity that have built the nation. The one woodcutter on the left holds a beating ax in his right hand and resting on his shoulder while the second woodcutter on the right holds a paddle in his left hand and resting on his shoulder. Above the shield a Mahogany tree grows representing the foundation and basis of the economy in Belize dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Under the shield is the motto scroll containing the National Motto and the Latin words “Sub Umbra Floreo” which in English mean “Under The Shade I Flourish”. Finally a wreath of leaves circles the Coat of Arms.

In addition to a National Flag, Belize has several National Symbols;

The National Flag and Symbols of Belize were selected In preparation of Belize gaining it’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The founding fathers with the support of the two prominent political parties of the time. In addition to these National Symbols Belize also has a National Anthem as well as a National Prayer.

 

-The Keel Billed Toucan is the National Bird of Belize and my website logo.
-The Black Orchid is the National Flower of Belize.
-The Mahogany Tree is the National Tree of Belize.
-The Tapir (Mountain Cow) is the National Animal of Belize. ( Mountain Cow the local name given to the Tapir may be misleading as it is more related to the horse and is a cousin of the rhinoceros)

 

For more information and pictures of the National Flag and Symbols of Belize visit this link.

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