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What Things Cost in Belize

Belize doesn’t have a cost of living. It has several costs of living.  The traditional view is that Belize is the most expensive country in Central America, yet one of the least expensive in the Caribbean. While there’s truth to that, it really doesn’t take into account that the actual cost of living in Belize can vary from almost nothing to very high. You can live in a luxury four-bedroom house on Ambergris Caye, with air conditioning, telephones and faxes, a dishwasher, microwave and cable TV, U.S. food in your pantry and imported vodka in your glass, and you can spend thousands a month. Or you can live in a small house in Cayo, or around Corozal Town, with no phone or internet, eat beans and rice and rice and beans, and drink local rum for US$600 a month or less. Most expats in Belize choose somewhere in between.  Some condos in Belize go for more than US$750,000, but I know one expat who built and equipped his small house, using his own labor, with thatch from nature and timbers from a lagoon, for US$4,000, and that includes furniture and kitchen equipment.  

 

After all, per capita income in Belize is a fraction of that in the U.S. A weekly wage of US$125 to $150 for six days of work is considered pretty good. Tens of thousands of Belizeans live, and in many cases live comfortably, on a few thousand dollars a year.  You can, too. Or you can compromise, forsaking those high-cost icons of civilization such as 80,000 BTU air conditioners, while keeping the family car, boat or other toys that you enjoy. Live partly on the Belizean style, partly in the U.S. style, and enjoy the benefits of both, and you’ll get more, for less.  One American expat, who returned to Colorado after living in Belize for five years, said he was surprised at how the cost of living in the U.S. had increased since he left.  “Compared to Colorado Springs, ANYTHING in Belize is cheap. And I can’t wait to get back — I just don’t have enough money to live here in anything but poverty!”  

 

Price Sampler: What Things Costs in Belize

Here’s a sampler of costs for common items in Belize, as of 2009. All prices are shown here in U.S. dollars. As in other countries, prices for many items vary depending on where and when you buy them.  

 

Transportation

Gallon of regular unleaded gas: $4.65 (the pump price varies slightly by area, and fluctuates frequently reflecting the international price of oil – in 2008 and 2009 the price ranged from around US$2.50 to over $5)  

Gallon of diesel fuel: $4.25

Bus fare from Belize City to San Ignacio: $2.50 regular, $3 express  

Water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye: $10

One-way adult airfare from Belize City municipal airport to Placencia: $84

One-way adult airfare from Belize City municipal airport to San Pedro: $35 

Taxi fare within Belize City: $3-$5  

 

Utilities/Telecommunications  

1-kilowatt hour of current (electricity): $0.21

“Current” (electrical service) for 1000 KW monthly: $210

Installation of residential telephone: $50 plus $100 deposit ($500 if you are not a Belizean citizen or permanent resident)  

Monthly charge for residential telephone: $10  

10-minute call from Corozal to Belize City: $1  

10-minute daytime call to U.S.: $8  

DSL Internet access: $50 to $200 a month  

Digital cellular service: $50 for 250 anytime minutes (incoming calls are free) plus 30 text messages

Water and sewer service: $10-$30+ (varies by area)  

Butane, 100-pound tank, delivered: $47.50 (varies by area)  

Bottled water, delivered: $2.50/gallon  

“Dirt” (trash) pick-up: Free to $10 a month (varies by area)  

Staples in Grocery Stores (Prices Vary by Store) 

Red beans: $0.90 per pound  

Coffee (Belizean, Gallon Jug): $8 per pound  

Milk: $2.25 1/2 gallon  

Ground steak (lean ground beef): $1.50 per pound  

Pork chops: $2 per pound  

Chicken: $1.25 per pound

Loaf of white bread: $1 (whole wheat $2.50-$3)

Corn tortillas, freshly made: $0.02-$0.04 each  

Bananas: 10 to 20 for $1  

Avocados (pears): 6 for $1 (varies seasonally)  

Flour, bulk, 1 lb.: $1  

Onions: $0.60 per pound (varies seasonally)  

Soft drink, Coca-Cola, 12 oz.: $0.50 - 0.75 each  

Local rum, liter: $7 - $12  

Sugar: $0.27 per pound  

Crackers (Premium Saltines): $3.32  

Cigarettes, Independence local brand: $3 a pack  

Canned soup (Campbell’s Chicken Noodle): $1.80  

Cereal (Raisin Bran): $5  

Cooking oil (1-2-3 brand from Mexico), 1/2 liter: $1.75  

Household Items  

Mennonite-made wood dining table: $175  

Music CD (pirated): $5  

Whirlpool 12,000 BTU air-conditioner: $700  

Panasonic 1350-watt microwave: $165  

Mabe (Mexican) frost-free 16 cubic foot refridgerator: $675  

Small home appliances at Mirab, Courts, Brodies, Hofius or other stores: about 25% to 50% more than prices in the U.S.

Entertainment  

Fish and beans and rice at local restaurant, Hopkins: $4  

Fish, French fries and cole slaw dinner, San Pedro: $12  

Lobster dinner at nice restaurant, Belize City: $30  

Movie theater ticket, Princess, Belize City: $8.50  

Rum drink at bar, Placencia: $3  

Belikin beer at bar in Cayo:  $2.50

Shelter Costs  

Rent for simple two-bedroom house in Corozal Town: $200 to $400  

Rent for modern two-bedroom apartment in San Pedro: $800 to $1,800  

Cost to build a reinforced concrete home: $40 to $100 per sq. ft., finished out moderately  

Small concrete house and lot in Belmopan or Cayo: $30,000 to $100,000

Modern three-bedroom house and beachview lot in Consejo: $145,000--$250,000  

Two-bedroom condo on Ambergris Caye: $200,000 to $750,000  

Medical Care  

Office visit, private physician: $25  

Teeth cleaning, private dentist: $40  

Root canal and crown, private dentist: $250 - $500  

Building Supplies  

50# bag of cement: $6 to $7  

“Prefab” Mennonite House, 800 sq. ft, set up on your lot, $16,000+

 

Family Budgets in Belize  

As noted, the cost of living varies greatly in Belize, depending on your lifestyle, preferences and place of residence. Here are several different budgets.  

Monthly Budget (in U.S. Dollars) for Affluent Couple in San Pedro

This budget reflects the cost of living for a 45-year-old affluent expat couple that rent a two-bedroom condo on Ambergris Caye. Assumption: The couple owns a golf cart for transportation, owns a small boat and spends freely for entertainment and personal expenses.  

Rent                                                                                           $1,250  

Electricity (1000 KW)                                                                   210 

Telephone (including long distance)                                        150  

Water                                                                                              100  

Bottled water                                                                                    80 

Butane                                                                                              50  

Groceries                                                                                       400 

DSL or Cable Internet                                                                   50 

Entertainment and dining out                                                     400

Cable TV                                                                                         25  

Golf cart maintenance                                                                  100  

Boat expenses                                                                              350

Health insurance                                                                          378

Out-of-pocket medical/dental care                                             150

Flights to Belize City (monthly)                                                   140

Other travel expenses                                                                  300

Clothing                                                                                          100  

Household help                                                                             350  

Other personal expenses                                                             250  

Total                                                                                          $4,833 

Monthly Budget (in U.S. Dollars) for Middle-Class Couple  

This budget reflects the cost of living for a 55-year-old expat couple that owns their own home in Placencia. It assumes that the couple has paid for their US$150,000 house and therefore do not have a house payment. Also assumed: their 2002 Ford Explorer is paid for and that they choose to purchase health insurance, which includes medevac coverage, from an international insurer.

Electricity (750KW a month)                                                      $158  

Telephone (including long distance)                                          110

Butane                                                                                               45 

Groceries                                                                                        320  

Cable TV                                                                                           25

Internet                                                                                              50  

Entertainment and dining out                                                      200

Property tax                                                                                      24

Auto insurance                                                                                20

Health insurance                                                                           300

Out-of-pocket medical expenses                                                150

Home insurance (at 2% of value)                                               300

Gasoline (40 gallons a month @ $3)                                         120

Auto maintenance                                                                          100

Clothing                                                                                             75  

Other personal expenses                                                              150  

Household help/care taker (part-time)                                         200

Other                                                                                                125  

Total                                                                                              $2,472 

Barebones Budget  

This budget is for a single 60-year-old permanent resident in a Belizean-style rented house near San Ignacio. Assumptions: The individual uses public transportation and takes advantage of local public health care system.  

Rent                                                                                            $250  

Transportation (bus and taxi)                                                      40  

Telephone                                                                                      40  

Groceries                                                                                      150  

Entertainment                                                                                75

Butane                                                                                             20 

Water, dirt (trash) pick-up                                                              25 

Electricity (400 KW)                                                                       84  

Local health care and medicines                                                95  

Cable TV                                                                                         20  

Clothing                                                                                           20 

Other personal expenses                                                              50  

Total                                                                                              $859  

 

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