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My Cost of Living on Ambergris Caye, Belize

How much does it REALLY cost to live in Belize?

A friend of mine just forwarded me an article:  8 Countries Where $200K Will Last 30 Years of Retirement.  The list includes all the budget retiree hot spots:  Panama, Ecuador, Thailand but then also includes Belize.

parasail view

Nerd that I am, I plugged that amount into an annuity calculator.  6% growth (aggressive), inflation, $200,000, 30 years…it comes out to $1,187US per month.  Ouch.  So…in actuality, the only country listed in this article that MIGHT work is Ecuador.

Can you live in Belize on that “salary”?  Probably.  I would think about rural Belize – perhaps Benque in the West or small villages where rent is low.

Sunset in Benque Viejo, Belize on the Western border with Guatemala

On Ambergris Caye, I would argue that you would have a lifestyle VERY different from what you are used to.  Depending on the choices you make, you are not going to have transportation or air conditioning, you are not going to get to fly home to see the kids or grandkids, you are going to be scrimping and saving.

Easiest just to tell you my expenses on the island and you can gauge from there.  All information is in USD for an apples to apples comparision.  BZD = 2x USD:

Monthly rent:  $850US per month.  I have a 2 bathroom, 1 bedroom, 1 loft condominium (with washer/dryer) at an older but nice, well maintained seaside complex.  There is a great pool.

Could I find cheaper?  Yes but not that easily.  The rental market is hot.  There is a medical school in town (renters) and many are deciding to rent before buying in a very tight market.

For an American style condo, expect to pay $800 (1 bedroom off the beach) to $1200US (or more).

My choice:  I like the distance from town (about 2 miles south) – it’s nice and quiet.  And I like that there is night time security.  No.  Nothing has ever happened but when living alone, it is a priority to me.

My spot.  Though I am about 4 buildings back from the ocean.

royal palms

For the best classifieds for rentals on the island see:   San Pedro Sun.

Electric Bill (BEL):  $100 to $150US per month.   I have an electric stove and don’t use the central air-conditioning.

If I do turn on the older central air conditioning, the price can skyrocket to $1000bzd a month.  Personally?  I’d rather sweat.

Some people choose to leave the AC on all the time.  At a higher setting since the open windows and sea air is corrosive (to say the very least).  It eventually eats everything – your computer, your refrigerator, your pots and pans, your leather belts everything.  Obviously, it’s a personal choice.

Water Bill (BWS):  $25-40US per month

Cable Bill (Coral Cable):  $22US per month and I get more channels than I did in New York.    From Showtime to Encore.   Unless you have some fancy Satellite dish, this option, Coral Cable, is your only option.

The hardest thing I found was getting used to NO DVR.  A life without my US boyfriend, TIVO is a whole new life…

Cats:   Getting your animals down here is relatively easy.  Keeping them here is expensive.    I have 3 cats (one I brought down, 2 adopted here).  They need flea/tick meds & heartworm pills each month.  NEED.  Those things kill down here.  $60US.

3 bags of Kitty Litter.  $25US.  3 bags of dry food.  $30US.   30 cans of wet food.  $30US.  Total (not including vet bills):  $145US.

Clearly not worried about the bills
Clearly not worried about the bills

Here’s some detail on my cats.  If you are at all interested…

Mobile Phone:  The phone system here is pre-pay for the most part.  I spend about $20 per month for my phone credits to use the telephone locally and to text message.   Skype, Facetime, all the internet options have been opened up over the last few years – they were previously blocked by the phone company.

And that makes things MUCH cheaper.

Internet:  $75USD.  There are a few internet options – from two different companies.  Currently, I have a 4G Mi-Fi from SMART and I love it.  I can travel with it, I can use it at home but I have a certain amount of credit.  I buy the 25MB package for $112.50US and it lasts me for about 2 months.

Since it is a certain amount of credit, I don’t watch Netflix or do much livestreaming…it’s too expensive.

Gym:  Currently,  I am not going to the gym.  But when I get back on track (WHEN!), Crossfit costs about $55-60US a month.  A private gym membership or yoga classes would be about the same or a bit more.  Running up to $100US.

The view outside the Crossfit gym.
The view outside the Crossfit gym.

Those are the FIXED costs.

My FIXED Cost of Living on Ambergris Caye, Belize

  • $850US  (Rent)
  • $150US  (Electricity)
  • $  22US  (Cable)
  • $  35US  (Water)
  • $145US  (Pets)
  • $  20US  (Phone)
  • $  75US (Internet)
  • $  55US (Gym)

TOTAL:  $1352US

This does not include the monthly visa stamp for those without Belize work permits or residency/citizenship.  $25US for the first 6 months and then $50US beyond that.

Food:  My guide to grocery shopping in Belize.  The general rule, to save money, is eat local.  Rice, beans, chicken, local veggies.  For a single person, often eating out at local delis is cheaper than preparing your own meal.  A huge plate of stew chicken, rice and beans is about $4 to $6US.

rice and beans

“American” food is going to be expensive – anything imported will be.  And sometimes you are going to crave frozen bagels with cream cheese or cereal or Oreos.   You just are.

I am going to estimate my food budget at $300 to $400US a month – and though I’ve never written it all down, I’m going to guess that is on the low side.  Food ain’t cheap in Belize.


Travel:   I travel more than the average expat/immigrant but I travel relatively cheap.  I use the water taxi, the bus and stay at low priced hotels.  But I LOVE to travel.  And if I go on a trip or two a month, I can easily spend $500US.

Make sure to add in the cost of trips to the states to visit family.  I visit once MAYBE twice a year.

Lamanai Maya site in Orange Walk district, Belize
Lamanai Maya site in Orange Walk district, Belize

Transportation:  I travel by foot, hitching a ride with someone on golf cart or taxi.  In the hot summer months or when it is raining, I can easily spend $100US a month on taxis.  Some people use bikes.

If you buy a golf cart, it is EXPENSIVE.  Used, around $3000US to $8000.  New, $10,000 to $15,000US.

Yes, a golf cart.  And this does not include maintenance.  And gas is $4 to $5US a gallon.

Entertainment:  This, obviously, varies for what YOU want to do on the island.  Do you dive? ($50US per tank dive) Do you like eating out?  Watching DVDs?  Buying books on Kindle?  Meeting friends at bars?  Sailing?

rum punch

Make sure to add this to you budget.

So there we go, I’ve just added Food ($350US), Travel ($500US) and Transporation ($100US) to my budget bringing me to just over $2300US.

I am not including medical costs (for both me and/or the pet)…

Oh jeez.  SO there it is.

Here are, hopefully, two other posts that will help you make decisions.

15 Things No One Told You About Moving to Belize

Ashley’s Cost of Living in Belize City

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My Cost of Living in Belize on Ambergris Caye




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14 thoughts on “My Cost of Living on Ambergris Caye, Belize

  1. Ed Selby

    This couldn’t have been more timely! My wife and I are making our first trip to Belze (Caye Caulker) as part of our retirement planning this week. Even looking at your costs, it is still less expensive than living in the US, especially taking into account the proximity to the ocean. If we were to retire to Florida {{shudder}}, we’d have to add in car, lots of gas, expensive groceries and medical care…

    The more we explore being ex-pats, the more appealing it sounds.

  2. Josh

    Completely agree… Living on the island is expensive. I lived there with my wife and 2 kids for over a year. Our largest expense was food. feeding 2 teenagers aint cheap. You got to eat local and adjust your “American” diet. I actually found it to be much healthier. However, all in all a GREAT place to live.

  3. TarheelBornGal

    We found living in Mexico (even in the touristy town of Playa del Carmen) to be less expensive than Ambergris Caye. Food is much less expensive, the buses are cheap and VERY nice (we didn’t own a car in either place, rode bicycles most places), but since we were not living on an island, no water taxi expenses, rent was about the same (dirt cheap to stratosphere high), electricity a little cheaper but still high, cable TV about the same (but not as good, almost all stations Spanish only), Internet cheaper (and much faster, a plus). Vet care very reasonable (though good food and Heartworm pricey as well). Really, I guess food was the main difference. Much more selection and cheaper in Mexico. Oh, and the flights to/from the US — Cancun is much cheaper to fly in and out of than Belize City. We love both places, though!

  4. Randy Clark

    Shame. Like the song says “call something paradise and – kiss it goodbye…” Now it’s just another place for the rich.

  5. kasia

    thank you for sharing this, as a recent lan buyer in Belize, this gives me so much to think about and prepare for 🙂

  6. Amy Hansen

    I am moving to belize with my 16 yer old son. Please recommend high schools and citys with good schools as well aas safer neighborhoods.

  7. Nancy Nuce

    Hi – we will be visiting Ambergris Caye the first two weeks of December and would like to know where we can go to meet expats and learn more about living there. Can you advise us?

  8. Paul Chaney

    Thank you for your honest and realistic appraisal of the cost of living in Belize. Some estimates I see are fanciful at best.

    My wife and I are planning to move to Belize part-time in a few years and are looking at either Ambergris Caye or Corazol. It’s been a couple of years since you wrote this, so have prices gone up? Would you estimate your COL to be higher now? If so, by how much?

    Again, thanks for giving us the real story on expenses there.

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