Expat in Belize: Moving to Belize and Working Remotely
I receive a bunch of questions each day…some about booking a trip, many about where to eat or what to see, some about moving to Belize but my #1 question? Can I get a job in Belize? Obviously lots of people dream of moving to a tropical location…
but the working and making money part is the biggest hurdle.
Jason Southwell is an expat who has been living and working in San Pedro for a few years now. You might also remember him from his afternoon of galavanting with 70 odd naked British soldiers. (View at your own risk.)
Here he is with the rare clothed one.
Who knew Jason had a website? I was under the impression that I thought of that! He describes his job as entrepeneur, Bitcoin enthusiast and poker player (among other things…). He has always helped me with my rudimentary internet questions so I asked him to help you with ones a bit more technical…
Thanks very much Jason aka TechnoScoop. And the pictures that don’t really seem to fit with the post? Those are mine. I did my best.
It is easy to make a life of Belize, it’s hard to make a living in Belize. For the pre-expat, figuring out how to make your Belizean dream a reality can be a chore. Some come to Belize with loads of cash, buy a business and work 90 hours a week to see it succeed. Others come with nothing, think they can find some local bartending job or waitress gig and end up returning much sooner than they would like.
The harsh reality is that making a living in Belize is very difficult. As an expat, you cannot work locally for a Belizean company without first getting a work permit. And getting a work permit that allows you to do a job that Belizeans do (bartending, waitressing, mechanic, etc) is nearly impossible.
For me, I was fortunate to come to Belize working for an American company that allowed me to telecommute from anywhere. I am able to make an American paycheck, get paid in US dollars and use those US dollars to provide a comfortable Belizean life for my wife and child.
While telecommuting is becoming more common, it isn’t yet in the comfort zone for a lot of employers. Even so, if you are seriously considering a move to Belize, the first thing I would do is approach your boss about the idea of telecommuting as part of your job. If they are supportive, then you will have a very easy life here in Belize. If not, then it will be time to start looking for another gig.
Finding jobs that are telecommuting friendly is a lot of work but thankfully there is a great resource to help you in your search. If you haven’t checked out Flex Jobs, you should do so immediately. The people behind this site scour the web looking specifically for jobs that provide either part-time or telecommuting opportunities. Set your filter to Telecommuting only and start browsing the industries that best fit your qualifications.
I highly recommend getting set up in your new job before you actually make the move. Finding new work from Belize is much harder and getting that stream of income going before you get on the flight will help you a ton once you get here.
If you do manage to set up a good telecommuting job, there are some things you should know about working it from Belize. The quality of internet here will be your biggest hurdle. But the good news is that it’s getting significantly better as time passes. Since April 2013 when BTL stopped blocking VPNs, Skype and VOIP services, the quality of the connection overall has improved significantly. And not having to deal with complex workarounds to get basic communications out with your employer is a huge stress reliever.
Here are a few quick hints to help get you through any internet issues that you will encounter:
- Use BTL internet. It’s expensive and sucks, but it’s faster than anyone else and you’ll need the speed.
- Internet is expensive, but buy the fastest connection you can afford, and nothing less than 2Mbps (everything 2Mbps and up have the same 1Mbps upstream).
- Get backup service from SMART. It will cost you an additional $90bzd every three months, but will save your hide when BTL is on the fritz.
- Sign up for a VPS server to use as a backup workstation. Load it with the apps you need to work on a daily basis and remote in whenever the connection here isn’t stable enough to do what you need to do. This is especially useful when working with huge files that can often get cut off mid transfer here.
I personally use two VPS providers, Digital Ocean for linux ($5 a month) and Cytanium for Windows ($20 a month).
This should give you a good idea of how to make a living here without having to make your living here. I’ve found that trying to work from Belize can be a bit more stressful at times due to the infrastructure, but in the end, it’s completely worth it. And when you feel yourself getting a bit stressed out, just look out over the beautiful blue-greens of the ocean and out to the white caps on the reef.
That view cures a whole lot of ills.
(For a FEEL for the prices of the internet, here is a picture that I took at the recent 2013 Belize Market Expo. These prices are for Belize City and are in Belize dollars.)