Belmopan, Belize Report of what it's like to live there - 02/06/19

Personal Experiences from Belmopan, Belize

Belmopan, Belize 02/06/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was our first post overseas.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home city is Portland, Oregon. It is a day of travel comprised of 90 minute car ride to BZE airport and then connecting through Houston or Dallas. You are looking at about 12 hours door to door.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are two housing compounds utilized. The older housing compound has a fantastic swimming pool, tennis court, playground, running track and large area for dogs to run. The houses and gardens are well maintained.

The newer housing compound is fewer than 2 years old. All houses are spacious with at least 3 bedrooms, screened in patios, carports.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most items have reasonable availability and there are enough options for various budgets. Sometimes you may not find exactly what you want when you want it but wait a week or order it on Amazon through DPO

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Flour, craft beer, and party supplies.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Good Restaurants in Belmopan are limited and most deliver. Drive 20 minutes to resorts to Treys Barn & Grill and the food is very very good. Drive 40 minutes to San Ignacio and there is more to choose from. Driving out of town at night is not considered safe so a lot of entertaining is done at home.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

It is not unusual to have lots of bugs in the general surrounds and some of these do find there way inside from time to time. Houses are well-kept and the gardeners monitor the pest situation actively to minimize incursions. Out and about you can expect to be pestered by mosquitos at dawn and dusk

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO is the way to go. Local postal facilities are inadequate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most homes have a housekeeper who can cook. Cost range from $8 BZE an hour to $100 USD a week depending on duties. On top of this is BZE social security if your housekeeper works more than 8 hours.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a well equipped gym at the Embassy which is free. There is also “muscle hut” in town which is an affordable location with a good range of equipment, but it’s not a 24 hour fitness.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit card are safe to use at resorts and major restaurants (in a building). Otherwise local BZE dollars or USD are an accepted form of payment. I have heard troubling things about local ATM use. I have never had to use these as the embassy is able to cash checks.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A wide variety are available.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the official language and I never had any difficulty.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes- there is a lack of infrastructure to cater for people with physical disabilities around town. It’s not impossible as there would be challenges.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable yes. Safe NO! You need a car here.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring an SUV. Repairs and parts are generally affordable and available.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Typically takes a week to install. You can package with cable and you can get something reasonable for $125 USD a month. There are also two cell phone providers and you can use a pay as you go system for local calls. Use VPN for international calling.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

To keep and use you US plan you will be on international roaming which costs $$. I suggest VPN for internetional calls and local pay as you go for local calls.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are one or two reliable vets that can handle regular pet issues. For more complex issues you could be out of luck. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most EFM have remote employment with their US-based company or they are able to secure work at the Embassy. Local salary scales are low. No one at post worked on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some but you would have to do your own research.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It ranges - office workers are usually very smart casual. No suits for men.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is a lot of petty crime throughout the country and if you don’t put yourself in a compromising position you are unlikely to find trouble. For this reason most Embassy employees do not go out to bars or restaurants after 9 pm.

Stay out of Belize City - lots of drug-related crime.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is very very poor. It’s so bad that we made it mandatory for our visitors to get medevac insurance. The Embassy has a health clinic which can handle the regular ailments. If you have specialized medicinal needs I would suggesting checking with the MED unit at post.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally very good - can get smoky at times when the locals are biting fields.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot during summer, moderately warm during winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI is where the US kids go. There is no choice. We don’t have kids so I can’t add much detail here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are about 30 expat families. Overall morale is really good. Lots of dinners, sharing of activities, pet minding, doing favors, etc., etc.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dinners at home or lunches out, weekends away, day trips to Belize City, San Ignacio, Placencia, tourist attractions, horse riding, zoo, butterfly farm, bird watching, fishing, golfing, yoga, tennis the beach. The Audubon Society, golf club and tennis club are some of the clubs worth joining.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Not great for single people as there are only a limited number of venues one can frequent. but not terrible as everyone is included in all activities.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It can be difficult for the LGBT community.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Making friends at post that will last a lifetime.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The top ten on trip advisor will get you off to a good start. Tikal, Tulum, Bachalar are some great destinations for long weekend get aways. Snorkeling the reef is just as good as diving the reef.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

To some degree, yes - check out local artist Walter Castillo.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weather, minuscule commute, good local meat, and post morale.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bug spray, sense of adventure, sense of humor.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The last flight of the scarlet Macaw
My man in Belize

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5. Do you have any other comments?

All in all this is a great post. There are many hardships associates with schooling, medical care, but the benefits associated with the local activities, morale at post, the well kept housing compound and the weather make this a post to strongly consider.

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