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Expat Advice: Retiring in Hopkins Village, Belize

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Hopkins Village, Belize

An expat in Hopkins Village, Belize talks about deciding to retire part time in Belize. He and his wife enjoy teaching local kids how to play baseball, attending a church and meeting other expats in their neighborhood.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Hopkins Village

Why did you choose to retire abroad?

We have visited Belize a number of times for vacations, and we truly loved the environment and the culture. My wife and I have lived in both California, where we grew up, and in Pennsylvania, as well as travelled many places in the U.S. I have visited Europe, and my wife has visited in Japan. Consequently, we have some diverse experiences. We decided to go where we would be most comfortable--Belize!

Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?

We are part-timers, living in Belize most of the year (nine months), and in Pennsylvania for the rest. We prefer to miss the winter and the ice storms!

Why did you choose the country you retired to?

We both grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and loved going to the beach every summer. Therefore, living along the coast in Hopkins Village was attractive, especially since we were able to purchase a lot right on the sea and have a home built.

Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?

No, we only took extended vacations. There is quite a difference between merely visiting a country and actually living there, however.

How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?

We lived in Belize for four months before returning home to see our grandsons playing Little League baseball.

How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?

None.

What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?

The most challenging difficulties to overcome or get used to include the unpaved roads and the slower paces of the various offices that service automobile registrations, immigration reports, and even paying our bills in person. No worries!

What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?

We have most enjoyed the people. We are devoted to teaching baseball to some of the Hopkins boys and girls, and seeing them enjoy the donated equipment and playing together is especially edifying. We also enjoy attending worship services with Pastor Herdie's church in Hopkins Village.

What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?

We would probably try to live in the area while our home was being built. We were kept up-to-date regularly, but seeing the process would have helped with our settling in.

What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)

We have met many expats who live in our area at Sittee Point. They are all exceptionally friendly and helpful. We are not ones to engage in nightlife, but there are many options for those so inclined. We love the Garifuna culture, and we appreciate knowing them. We have gotten to know many people through the baseball players and the church we attend.

What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)

My wife is the travel agent in the family, and she has handled all of this very well, including purchasing airline tickets. We have had U.S. Passports for a number of years, so we just keep them updated. We have had to get documents to bring our dog along with us, just to get him through the airports and immigration checkpoints. We travel to Dangriga Town once a month to update our residency in Belize at the Immigration Office. We find other opportunities to shop and sightsee on these visits, so we are not frustrated at all.

Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)

We purchased a seaside lot at Sittee Point and had a home built through a local builder. Rolando Gonzalez kept us informed regularly with emails and pictures, so we never felt isolated from the process.

Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?

We sold our home in Pennsylvania, which gave us the funds needed to purchase our lot and home. Now we are debt free in Belize. Consequently, we are fully able to live off of our Social Security, and occasional deductions from IRA's, etc. We are very comfortable on the whole, and do not feel that any of the prices in Belize are too high.

What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?

Since obtaining employment in Belize is not usually possible, at least easily, it's important to be financially secure, with options for obtaining funds for unexpected expenses.

How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?

Since we are debt free, and the property taxes are unbelievably low, we are primarily able to live just on our Social Security (about $3,000 U.S. per month). Again, however, we do not spend excessively on sightseeing or dining out. We love living a quiet life at a slow pace.

Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)

Since we are in the U.S. for some of the year, we have had no difficulty keeping our healthcare up-to-date. We subsist primarily on Medicare.

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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)

We have heard rumors of stealing, but have had no problems personally. I did pay a man to purchase a coconut palm tree for our property, but it was never delivered. I've learned to be wise!

Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?

We purchased a used Toyota Corolla when we first came to Belize, and it has served us well. While gasoline seems high, we remind ourselves that the Belize dollar is not equivalent to U.S. dollars, so it's like half the posted price to buy gasoline. There are many buses along the routes we take around Southern Belize, but we either rented a golf cart or rode with friends., We don't recommend carts, especially in the dry season due to the dust!

Is there high-speed internet access where you live?

Yes, we have internet access, and it is pretty fast (not considering the slowdowns during storms).

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?

We are nearing the end of our stint in the U.S. and cannot wait to get back to Belize!

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