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About Katerina

Status:

Expatriate  

Gender:

Female

Currently Lives:

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, Belize

Citizen Of:

United States

Dual Citizen Of:

Belize

About Katerina

After years as a VP for Fortune 500 companies in marketing and management, it was time to escape the politics and pressure of the rat race. I escaped to Belize and have lived here fulltime for over seven years. For the last few years I shifted my career path and now write travel and lifestyle articles about Belize, and other countries.

Advice for New Expats

Do your homework. Check out multiple countries. Evaluate what you want to do with the rest of your life. Determine how much you need to live on, and what you will do with your time. Then live your dream! Don't come to a new country expecting to recreate the life you had where you came from. Don't expect perfection. Every country has strengths and weaknesses. So, come with an open mind and be open to change and growth. Moving overseas is an adventure...

I would love to live in...

Split time between Belize, Argentina, the USA and France...

HR/Relo
Professional:

Provider of Expat-Related Services & Products

Favorite Assignment:

Lifestyle Writing

Favorite Cuisine:

All types

Some Forum Posts:

Belize: Banking services:

I live in Belize fulltime and have lived on Ambergris Caye for over five years. We received a notice that the BofA had cut their correspondent bank status with Atlantic, but that Atlantic is working on getting a new correspondent bank. This is what is on their website today: " Rest assured we are working on several options at the moment and we are very confident that we will have both a temporary and permanent solution to the correspondent banking issue very shortly." There are a variety of articles out there explaining that it is the BofA that is de-risking and getting out of being a correspondent bank in the Caribbean and Central America. Belize is the first to be impacted, but it appears that other nations will see the same thing happen in the future. If you have a USA article or other reliable source That states all bank ties between the USA and Belize are being cut, could you please include that on this forum. I've read a lot of articles, but all of them specifically said that this is a BofA issue. I've done quite a bit of research and have not seen any article that states that all US banks have cut ties to Belize. . It is possible to deposit checks at both Atlantic banks. It take longer for funds to clear, but still allows one to have US dollars in Belize. This week I did transfer US dollars from my Atlantic International Bank US dollar account to my BZ dollar account, on line, without any problem. So I plan to keep my US dollar account at Atlantic and just deposit checks into it, in the future. So the main issue here is the speed of movement. But there is a growing trend in the world to make it hard for US citizens to keep US dollar accounts overseas.

Argentina: Help Harvest Grapes in Argentina:

David English, a consultant who lives full-time in Mendoza, coordinates university groups who come to Argentina to complement their education. He's written a book about expat entrepreneurs in Argentina, most of whom are in the wine district. It would be worth talking to him since he connects winery businesses with universities. In reference to the other comments, it is actually very common for people to volunteer time as part of a vacation, in exchange for room and board. From what I've seen on line, a good number of vacationers pay quite a bit for planned vacations where they work doing something they want to experience, such as archaeology, or wine making. So your approach is logical. But given the physical demands it makes sense that you will need to rely mainly on younger tourists or university students.

Belize: Visiting Ambergris Caye from Mexico:

Yes, the water ferry runs daily from Chetumal to San Pedro. There are two water ferry companies that offer daily trips. They leave in the afternoon. I think one leaves around 2:30 PM and the other at 3:30 PM. But you should drop by there office earlier to buy your ticket and go through the process. The two offices are next to one another, close to where the main dock starts.

Argentina: Securing a Credit Card In Argentina:

The US only withholds 30% on transfers that are being made to banks that are not FATCA compliant. Most countries decided to comply with FATCA. But some banks don't want to deal with the paperwork, so refuse to open an account for Americans. It sounds like that is part of the issue in Argentina, which has more than enough money problems of their own. Unfortunately, many Americans have moved outside of the USA thinking they can evade paying their income taxes. I have lived overseas for years and regularly meet expats who are pretty open about not paying their US income taxes. This is one of the reasons that FATCA was implemented...

Belize: Advise for Best Locations to Live:

You are right about Island Academy. It is an outstanding school, owned and operated by Lady Bowen, the late Lord Barry Bowen's wife. The challenge will be when your grandson reaches high school age. But by that time Island Academy will very likely have set up a quality high school since there are an increasing number of expats willing to pay for it on the island. There is no need to "buy" a home in Belize when you can rent. Why lock yourself in? More expats are wising up and renting longterm so that they have more options. If you live off beach on Ambergris Caye, you will find much better rental deals. And if you are here in the off season, you will get the best deals. But expect to pay around $1000/month, or more, for rent for the four of you. If you want to be on the beach, it will be more costly. A major difference between Belize and St. Lucia is that we are linked to the mainland, as part of Central American. That makes it easier to reach other countries, or the mainland. It only takes 15 minutes to fly from Ambergris Caye to the mainland. That makes life much easier. We can get off the island whenever we want a change of pace. We can choose between local planes that fly hourly, or the less expensive water taxis. It's not a big deal. And many airlines fly to Belize daily. It only takes 2 hours to fly from Belize to Miami or Houston. So check the flights carefully and factor in how often you will go back to North America to visit family. Another factor is that we are not in the direct hurricane zone. Belize's gets about 1/10th the hurricanes of the other Caribbean islands that are in the eastern Caribbean. We are also protected by the reef here on Ambergris Caye. That really does make a difference.

Belize: Attorney Starting a business in Belize:

Since your law degree is in the USA you are not qualified to practice law in Belize, and they do watch that closely... So you need to be careful. That being said, you could give advice to Americans on US based legal issues, but would be best to do that as an offshore service. Either way, you need advice from a Belizean attorney on what you can and can't do. Several other American attorneys who have lived in Belize for years do provide Americans with legal advice related more to the USA requirements for them as expats. Ryan Wrobel is an American attorney who also became a Belizean attorney. He has focused on real estate and corporations in Belize. Contact him directly for advice. He is an independent attorney but works with others who have complimentary expertise.

Argentina: Banking Concerns:

Tom, Please check your private message. I met you and your wife at an IL or LIO conference years ago. Isn't your wife's name Yvonne or something similar? My husband and I are planning a trip from Belize to Argentina next March and it would be fun to hook up and see your vineyard. I remember when you had just started and were telling us about it. We moved from California to Belize, so were already missing the selection of wines... Must have been around 2009 or 2010 when we met.

Argentina: Tango classes in Buenos Aires:

I am planning a trip to Argentina for March of 2014. We plan to focus our time in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Uguazu Falls. My husband and I are dancers. We took tango classes years ago, but are rusty. I'd like to spend some time in Buenos Aires taking tango classes during one of the weeks we visit, but just for a few hours a day. Then would like to go to milongas with a group. Can anyone suggest a good Tango workshop/business that holds such tango workshops for English speaking visitors? My husband and I get along in Spanish, but are not fluent, so prefer to take classes in English, if possible.

Belize: Building loan from Belize Bank:

Phill, My husband and I did obtain a mortgage from Atlantic Bank International years ago, with our Belize business property as the collateral. At that time they charged us 9.5%, for a 10 year loan with a balloon payment. I checked with a realtor friend recently and she said that most banks in Belize do now give mortgage loans out, for up to 60% of the value of the property. Interest rates can vary between banks, but are in the range of 8-11%, typically, with a ten year balloon payment. Check all local banks, as they tend to have different deals going on. But the realtor said it has been pretty easy to get a mortgage recently. You asked about tips related to building your home and managing the contractor. Expats who are not on site during construction are more apte to have problems. If you can't closely scrutinize the quality of work, or the funds being spent, don't be surprised if the cost of your construction project goes up. In our 15 years of experience in Belize, the best home/construction results have come to those who were on site during construction, and who were able to control, on a day to day basis, how their money was being spent. We have had the experience of having the funds we gave our contractor, whom we trusted, be used on another of his projects. That occurred when my husband was back in the USA for surgery. and could not closely watch what was going on.

Belize: Ambergris Caye:

Daisy, I'd recommend that you actually rent for a month in the regions that appeal to you before you buy. You won't learn many details about a region in 3 days. And once you stay in a place for at least a month, you have time to ask a variety of expats questions so that you don't make a mistake and invest before you have all of the facts. Knowing the neighborhoods is important, especially since break ins are common in some neighborhoods, especially on Ambergris Caye. If you spend a month here, you will quickly find out where the safest neighborhoods are. In general, expats don't live in gated communities in Belize. But there are a number of nice condo developments on the beaches, (A.C., Caye Caulker and Placencia) where expats live primarily, since locals can't afford them. The cost of property is more in these beach oriented areas, so there are more condos.

Belize: Survey about Healthcare in Belize:

My experience is very different than BobbyVee's. Almost all of our expat friends who live here, mainly on Ambergris Caye, mainly rely upon the medical system in Belize. It has improved immensely in the last ten years. Many doctors are qualified and caring. My husband and I have had two surgeries between us in Belize City. I have had two others in Merida, when I didn't feel comfortable with the available Belizean surgeon for a particular type of surgery. When I broke my hip, I spent five days in the hospital at Health Care Partners, in Belize City, after undergoing surgery. Dr. Sosa did a fine job and I have fully recovered. The care in the hospital a that time was very attentive. My main complaint was the food... But a friend who was in that hospital for four days recently told me the food was great. There is a major difference between the care at free public hospitals and the private hospitals. We only go to the private clinics and hospitals. The prices are very reasonable. And now several reputable specialists have opened focused clinics in Belize City. There is both a new cardiac center, and a gastro-enterology center. When in doubt, the expats I know head to Merida. The care there is outstanding and reasonably priced. That being said, once we have Medicare, we will consider going to the USA for those medical services that are not yet available in Belize.

Belize: Going to Belize soon:

Mtman, There has not been a war or conflict in Belize since this country gained democracy. It sounds like you are confusing it with another country. This is a democratic, peaceful country. Belize is the former British Honduras. It was a British colony before gaining independence in 1982. There have been terrible internal conflicts/wars in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, in Central America. But we seldom even have a demonstrations in Belize. People here prefer a good party...

Belize: pollen and other allergies in Bz:

Yes, there are plenty of trees that give off pollen in jungle and wooded areas. So it's possible to have allergies. I live on Ambergris Caye, several blocks off beach. Our home is surrounded by trees and I have seasonal allergies related to tree pollen. I used to leave the windows open at night, but now keep them closed and use AC at night, since my allergies have worsened over the years of living here. The thing to do, if you are sensitive to pollens, is to live on the water, where there is no pollen. The sea breeze on the water is clean. There are mainly some palm trees on the beaches of shores.

Belize: building a house in san pedro:

Do you have contracting/building background? Will you be on the site every day, to watch everything and control the process? Many people come to Belize, hire a contractor, come back and forth, and are then surprised when the cost doubles before their home is finished. If you are not detail oriented and very involved in the process and tracking the expenditures weekly, it could easily become a costly learning experience.

Belize: looking to teach Scuba in Belize:

Larry, You need to be a resident and to get a work permit to work in Belize. That requires a one year commitment, at a minimum. But keep in mind that employers are required to hire qualified Belizeans first, which makes sense, as the unemployment is high here. Unfortunately, there are plenty of qualified Belizean scuba instructors and dive masters. They know the reef like the back of their hand... So if you really want to work here as a scuba instructor you will need to open a new scuba business and hire Belizeans. Other expats have taken this approach. But it is getting harder to do, as more Belizeans have become dive masters and opened diving tour and teaching businesses. They are born on the Caribbean Sea. Many Belizeans have spent their lives on the sea, and in the water... So this particular area of employment is quite popular in this country.

Belize: Rental car and heading to Ambergris?:

I agree with Belize Gal's suggestion. Rental cars are expensive in Belize. Either start on the cayes at the beginning of your trip, or the end. Then rent the car for only the time you are on the mainland. Besides, if your rental car is vandalized while you are on the cayes, you will likely have to pay the rental car for it, depending on what "coverage" you purchase. for it. I would try to avoid leaving a car for a couple of days in an unmonitored area. But possibly if you stay at a hotel on the mainland they might let you leave the rental car there until you return...

Belize: Internet services:

Check BTL's Digicell services. We have a DSL line and upgraded to a faster speed. I work on line all the time and have taken many on line classes, and joined in GoToMeetings without very many problem. I live in San Pedro, so the internet may be better here than other areas... But you won't be able to use streaming video the way you do in the USA. The speeds here are to slow. At least VOIP is no longer blocked, so Skype and Vonage work. Many people are now using the Smart or Digicell MiFis and liking it, as well. I just ordered one. The Smart MiFi supposedly works almost everywhere in the country. So if you will be moving around, that's the preferred way to go, especially since it can link up to five devices at once. You can get "pay as you go" coverage. There isn't that much on line that explains this option, but the San Pedro Scoop blog has a good review of the MiFi technology and other internet conductivity issues. The blogger - Rebecca - had a guest blogger talk about how he has been able to work on line from Belize.

Belize: Fire and EMS:

Your skills would be very helpful in Belize, especially the medic part. You might not be able to be paid. But if you are open to volunteering, the various Red Cross chapters of Belize would welcome you with open arms. Send me a private message if you would like to be connected with a Red Cross volunteer in Belize who could give you some guidance about how to get involved if you move here. There is a need for skilled medics in this country, especially to train others. The Red Cross is doing a lot of basic first aid training at resorts right now...

Belize: I don't like Spiders and Snakes!:

Belize is a tropical country not that far from the equator. We have jungles here. So, no, you won't be able to totally avoid spiders, snakes, scorpions, mosquitoes, and other bugs. The same can be said for Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua and all Central American countries. Possibly if you consider living at a high altitude, some place like Ecuador, there may be less creepy crawlies. In truth, I doubt it, but it is worth checking. There actually aren't that many places in the world where you won't find spiders and snakes. They are an important part of the ecosystem. We had black widows in the California Bay Area, and snakes everywhere I've ever lived in the USA.

Belize: So much info,,,true??:

Steve and Lynn, The IL number of $2000/month refers to the amount required if you come in under the Qualified Retirement Program. You would be required to move $2000 US/month into Belize as a QRP retiree. You can comfortably live on that in areas such as Corozal, San Ignacio, and Punta Gorda. I know people who do live on that much or less on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, but they own their own homes and live quite frugally. If you chose to live in a "locals" neighborhood, you could live on less, but you might not feel comfortable there. The cost of living varies a lot according to your lifestyle and the region. Ambergris Caye and Placencia are the most expensive areas because they are in a stunningly gorgeous location on the sea and are very popular.. I used to assist expats to rent decent beach condos on Ambergris Caye. I know many people living in a nice condo for $1000/month or less. Once you actually live here you'll get connected and hear about the deals faster. As more expats come, the less expensive rentals are getting snapped up quicker. So if you come in the high season, you'll pay more. If you come after April/May, there will be better rental deals. I'm curious to know where you read that it's difficult to find a rental in Belize for less than $2000. That is ridiculous. I'd discount whatever that person or post stated... Similar to another responder, I know people paying $400/month in Corozal, and even on Caye Caulker. I've lived here for over five years, and have been coming here for over ten. I live here fulltime. But some of the Forums have "trolls" who didn't like it here, haven't lived here for years, but continue to post negative information that often is not current and limited. Once you live here, you'll learn how to keep your costs down. We expats always turn on friends to deals we've found. You can't really figure that out on a short vacation. For instance, many of us who live on Ambergris Caye make a trip, about once a month, to Belize City. We take the water taxi and then shop in bulk at Food and Beverage to get much lower prices for speciality foods. And we stop at one of the better meat shops and have meat sent over, at a lower cost than what we pay on the island. What I've noticed is that expats coming from low cost areas, like Florida, the south, and middle states, tend to think it is expensive here. Those of us coming from high cost areas, like the East and West Coasts, think it is reasonable. Some things are more, and some are less. Yes, food is more if you expect to eat American style. But we save many thousands per year on our transportation. We have a golfcart. It takes $20 US/month for gas. Insurance is $70 US/year. And our wardrobe is quite simple here so we spend very little on clothes these days. No coats, etc.... Our overall cost of living is about 1/3 of what it was in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Belize: First Steps to coming to Belize:

Allegheny, There is no need to bring a lot of cash. That is actually not wise, since you could become a target of theft if you are carrying a lot of cash. You can easily get money from ATM machines in most larger. That way you don't have to carry much cash and become a target. Another option is to open a BZ account when you first get here. You could then deposit your cash into it and get a BZ ATM card and use it. But it is a bit of a process to open an account these days, for Americans. But please don't think you need to carry a lot of cash around. That is not wise. In the past, you could pay for everything in US dollars. But now some businesses won't accept US bills that have marks or are torn. There has been counterfeit money going around. So it is safest to use your debit or credit card to take out cash from ATMs. Then you will get 2 BZ $s for each US $. It is safer to use credit/debit cards than most places I've traveled. I've had numerous problems in the Yucatan of Mexico, where my debit and credit cards have repeatedly been compromised. But we've never had a debit card copied here in Belize. I've heard that credit cards are sometimes double charged at some hotels. So it is worth checking in on your credit card accounts regularly, while here, to be sure that doesn't happen. If it does, you want to correct it quickly. But it isn't a common thing. There are a number of good property management companies throughout Belize. Once you now you will stay in a given area for more than a month you should be able to find a rental for over a month if you plan it far enough ahead of time. The regulations are different for longterm rentals, so they are less expensive. Areas such as Ambergris Caye, Placencia, and the Cayo have property managers who assist expats to find rentals, both short-term and long-term.

Belize: Working in Belize:

Bobby, The $2000/month requirement is for QRP retirees. Once an expat becomes a resident, they aren't required to prove that they can sustain moving $2000 US/month to Belize. Many expats are residents and live on less than $2000/month. They don't necessarily have businesses, either. Of course, it takes a serious commitment to become a resident. An expat must live in Belize for 51 out of 52 weeks in a row, without leaving the country, before they can apply for residency. Once an expat becomes a resident, though, they can come and go at will.

Belize: Planning on moving to Belize:

I'd suggest that you look in the Cayo and in the Punta Gorda area. There is quality, reasonably priced farm land in both areas. You could probably find farm land in Orange Walk as well. Anywhere where the Mennonites have communities there is probably quality farmland... I have friends who have horses in the Cayo and they seem to do find there. Assume that would be the case in the Toledo district as well. I was a bit surprised to hear one of the responders mention keeping horses on Ambergris Caye. That is not a fit. It's a very sandy island with no grass for grazing. I can't see keeping horses there... That doesn't mean horses won't do well elsewhere. A friend of mine goes to the Pine Ridge mountains to a horse camp to ride on a regular basis. Mortgages in Belize are expensive. Expect to pay around 11-12% interest for a 10 year loan with a balloon. I have heard of lower interest rate loans, but there are require you to jump through a lot of hoops. Most North America are used to low mortgage interest rates as compared to other parts of the world. Latin American doesn't extend that type of advantage.

Belize: Best Place to Live in Belize?:

Wizzy, There are scads of articles on the internet about the various regions of Belize that expats settle and what it's like to live in each. Most of the info is free. So the way to get started is to read the info out there first so that you can then ask focused questions about the regions. For instance, on this website there are articles written by expats in Belize for three or four regions in the country. Have you read those? There are also articles about the change in lifestyle, on this website... Spend some time doing your homework. Moving to a foreign country is a major deal that deserves quite a bit of independent research time, on your part. There are also multiple Forums in Belize. Just use Google and punch in words like "Belize and Ambergris Caye Forums" etc...International Living also has many free articles and posts you can review. Quite a few of them are about expats who already live here and what their lives are now like.

Belize: Advice on retiring and opening a small business:

The best advice I can give you is to learn a portable skill that you can practice on line, for income. That will allow you to work anywhere in the world. You can then work in Belize without a work permit, as long as the on line work you do is not for Belizean companies. . If you become a QRP in Belize, you can have a business here, but you can't work in it. QRPs is a retiree's residency program - you are supposed to be retired. If you want to work here, you should become a resident, which takes a year of living here fulltime, without any local income. You can only leave the country for two weeks during that first year. So you would need to be committed and have the savings to live on. Then you will need a obtain a work permit, after you become a resident. Also, to become a QRP, you need to be at least 45 and to prove that you can move $24,000 US to Belize every year after you move. The point is to move US dollars to Belize. Will your business in the USA continue on, without you there, and produce $24,000 US a year? If you can't prove that it will, that income won't qualify you for QRP status. Typically retirement/pension funds are used to qualify for QRP status. Once you become a QRP, each year you would have to go to the BTB and prove to them that you have moved $24,000 US into Belize, in order to renew your QRP status. If you can't prove it, you would lose this special residency status at that time. It is not easy to earn a living from a business based in Belize unless you have a successful business. And the income you receive as a worker here will be much less than what you are used to in the USA. This is a wonderful place to live. But understand that the average Belizean earns about $600 US/week. You won't be paid more as an expat. Actually Belizeans would almost always be hired first. That is a policy here, for obvious reasons. International LIving has a very good new on line magazine that covers how expats start businesses and succeed overseas. It includes a lot of info on portable careers. This is the way to go. Re-tool before you come. Get your portable business off the ground. Then you can earn money from anywhere in the world. Here is a link to the IL magazine: http://internationalliving.com/fund-your-life/incomes-abroad/.

 

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