its Caribbean shores to its jungle interior, Belize has great natural beauty—blue
water, deserted beaches, and inland retreats where you can explore Mayan
ruins, tall waterfalls, rainforests, and rivers.
Bird watching in Belize’s interior is also a treat; you’ll be able to spot
parrots, toucans, flycatchers, and herons in their natural habitat or visit
a jaguar preserve where you can venture into the jungle in search of the
elusive cats. It’s no wonder Belize’s tourism industry is booming.
If recent figures are any indication; this tiny tropical paradise could
be on its way to becoming the next hot destination for explorers, expats,
retirees, and investors. Between 2003 and 2004, cruise visits to this country
increased by a full 55.1%—as opposed to just 13.1%, for example, for the
same period in the Bahamas.
cruise industry is impressed with what Belize has to offer, and the Carnival
Corporation has just finalized an agreement to build a new cruise port
in the Port Loyola area of Belize City. Costing $50 million, it will be
the largest cruise port Carnival has built anywhere in the world.
It is expected
to generate more than a billion Belize dollars ($500 million) in revenue
over the first 20 years of the agreement. Belize’s far-thinking banking
laws have given the nation a distinct advantage when it comes to banking
privacy. In an age when the accounts in other jurisdictions are under attack,
those in Belize remain secure…no mean feat. And Belize’s retiree program
offers attractive incentives to foreigners looking to relocate here—particularly
those who are already planning to declare their permanent residency outside
the United States.
But what really
sets Belize apart from its neighboring countries is that its population
speaks English. If you feel you are at the stage in your life when you
don’t really want to learn a new language, put Belize at the top of you
list as a potential destination for business, retirement, or a new home.
pirates of the Caribbean
In the 16th
and 17th centuries Europeans sailors arrived in Belize and many lived as
pirates, raiding the Spanish ships of their Mayan gold and other treasures.
They then returned to Europe to sell these riches. Belize was a favorite
location for pirates because of its lawlessness at that time and because
it’s coral reef made its coastal waters shallow enough to protect the smaller
pirate’s boats from the larger navy ships that could not sail in the shallow
waters. The English sailors soon learned that there was more money to be
made in the logging industry and established a colony.
and the expatriates their country has attracted over the centuries are
fiercely independent. In Belize, people solve their own problems. They
avoid taking their petty disputes to court. In a few cases where court
action was threatened, the two parties suddenly found a way to settle things
themselves. They couldn’t stand the thought of the government (or anyone
else) making a decision for them.
Thanks to the
Trusts Act of 1992, Belize has become a premier jurisdiction for asset-protection
trusts. Today, Belize is a haven offering rock-solid protection of assets
that are transferred into a Belizean Trust.
It’s also one
of the few trust jurisdictions in the world that offers protection from
court action initiated by creditors that might challenge your transfer
of property into a trust.
In the absence
of actual fraud in the creation of a trust, the assets of a Belizean trust
cannot be attached to satisfy the judgment of a foreign court. Belizean
trust laws have been tested and proved solid.
with easy incorporation laws
A trust is
not the only way to keep your assets intact in Belize. The International
Business Companies Act of 1990 gives foreigners an opportunity to incorporate
in Belize and enjoy huge advantages.
IBCs are exempt
from taxes on all income. There are no Belizean citizenship or residency
requirements for directors, officers or shareholders of IBCs. Meetings
of shareholders and directors can be held in any country and may be attended
IBC requires only one shareholder and one director, each of which can be
either an individual or a corporation. Your IBC is not required to have
staff members or to establish an office in Belize. And IBCs are not subject
to any foreign-exchange controls.
IBCs can be
used for financial management, investment holding, ship or property ownership,
shared ownership of other companies, leasing of assets,
licensing, and general commercial trade.
however, significant restrictions on IBCs. They’re not allowed to do business
with Belizean residents, own real estate in Belize, engage in a banking
or insurance business in Belize or act as an agent for another Belizean
laws are among the easiest in the world to use, and incorporation fees
are low. For an IBC with authorized capital of $50,000 or less, the incorporation
fee is usually $700, plus registered office/agent fees of $300 a year.
Fees typically include the arrangement of the incorporation of the company,
the certificate of incorporation and preparation of the minutes of the
first meeting of the director(s). To register an IBC, a memorandum and
articles of association must be submitted to the Registrar via a registered
agent. Contact information for registered agents can be obtained by viewing
the list of agents at www.ibcbelize.com.
90 miles north of Belize City, easily accessed by the Northern Highway,
is the Corozal District, an adventurer’s paradise with rainforests, coastal
lagoons, and miles of untouched beaches. Peaceful and pristine, the Corozal
District beckons swimmers and divers to its crystal waters, sunbathers
to its shores, and hikers and homesteaders to its tracts of tropical wilderness.
The soft, white
sand and unsullied beaches of the Corozal District shoreline appeal to
a certain type of pioneer. The turquoise waters of the conjoining Corozal
and Chetumal bays provide a perfect setting for snorkeling, scuba diving,
swimming, and sunbathing. Out in the flats, sports fishermen need only
cast a line to catch their fill of ladyfish, permit, bonefish, and barracuda...while,
out on the nearby reefs, kingfish, grouper, snapper, and jack crevalle
make the twin bays a sportsman’s dream.
Belize is not
the most affordable place to settle in Central America. You’ll likely find
prices for some items to be more than what you’re used to paying in the
United States…but then discover that many services actually cost less.
Also, your cost of living will depend largely on where and how you choose
If you settle
on Ambergris Caye, the island that attracts the vast majority of Belize’s
tourists (and investors) for example, you’ll likely find living a bit more
expensive than back home in the States. Being an island, everything is
imported so you’ll pay extra for that transport cost. On the other hand,
if you decide to live in the north of Belize in Corozal and can take advantage
of easy shopping trips to nearby Mexico, you can enjoy all the benefits
of English-speaking Belize…but buy your goods for less just across the
Dining in Belize
can be an adventure if you want it to be. You can find dishes made of native
game, which Belizeans often prepare with a spicy red sauce. Fresh fish
and lobster are delicious and readily available, straight from the coastal
waters. Beef and chicken are standard main courses and are often served
with fried potatoes. More traditional foods include rice and beans mixed
with pork, beef, and vegetables. And you’ll find the Gibnut, or paca, (half
rabbit and half rat) on exhibit at the Belize Zoo and on dinner tables
throughout the country.
include iguana, brocket deer, and turtle. Some restaurants add a service
charge of up to 20% to your bill; in that case, no tip is necessary. Otherwise,
a tip of 10% to 15% is acceptable.
care in Belize is adequate, you’d be well advised to take out evacuation
insurance if you choose to live here. Though you could certainly have a
broken bone set or a cold attended to at a local clinic in Ambergris or
at a hospital in Belize City, for anything more serious you’d be better
off in Mexico or the States. There are state-of-the-art facilities over
the border, and health care in Mexico is inexpensive. If you’re prone to
health problems, you should consider this option.
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facilities and personnel in Belize are sparse. However, doctors who do
practice here are first-rate, and many have been trained outside the country,
often in the United States. Also, Belize City boasts a relatively new,
benefits for retirees
15, 1999, Belize enacted some of the most attractive “retiree” legislation
available anywhere in the world today. The program is aimed squarely at
North American and UK nationals already planning to live full time outside
their native counties. And it comes with almost no fine print or red tape.
you need to be 45 years and older and be able to show only that you have
a monthly income of at least $2,000. In many other countries offering these
kinds of foreign retiree programs, you must make a significant financial
contribution before you can take advantage of the program’s benefits.
To keep your
“Qualified Retired Person” (QRP) status, you must spend just one month
of the year in Belize.
To entice you
to come to Belize, the law allows you to import your car as well as personal
and household effects duty-free. (Thereafter, you may import another vehicle
duty-free into Belize every five years, as long as your previous vehicle
is sold, re-exported, or disposed of in an approved manner.)
will also allow you to import motor vehicles, light aircraft, boats, and
other modes of transportation without duty. As for household effects, there
are no specifications or limitations as to what constitutes such personal
property. Only in cases of abuse, such as when an individual tries to import
six refrigerators or 10 air conditioners, would the exempt status be denied.
Persons (QRPs) also receive certain tax advantages. For more information
on the benefits of the QRP program, visit: www.belizeretirement.org.
is a country of contrasts. From the Caribbean coast to the Mayan hills,
this nation is unique. Sparsely populated, it remains untouched, for the
most part...a feast for the traveler. Whether you’re looking for a place
to bank in absolute privacy…own a second home you can visit a few months
a year…retire full-time on the beach…or simply travel in style…Belize is
a hot destination right now.
Peddicord - has been the editor and publisher of International Living
since 1985. For more than two decades, she has spoken and been interviewed
on radio and television on the topics of retiring overseas and investing
in real estate around the world. She has also edited several books on these
and related subjects, including The World's Top Retirement Havens and The
World's Best. - She has traveled extensively investigating real estate
and retirement overseas, both for International Living and for personal
interest. Seven years ago, she moved with her family to the southeast coast
of Ireland to open the offices of Agora Ireland Publishing, out of which
she continues to publish International Living. She now divides her time
between Ireland, France, Nicaragua, and Panama. -