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Retire in Placencia Village, Belize?
Overview: On Belize's southern coast, laid back Placencia Village sits on the southern tip of a long peninsula. It is best known for its 16 miles of powder white beaches and crystal clear blue waters.
Placencia was first settled by the English in the 1600s and thrived as a rustic fishing village for years. Then, in the mid-2000s, this little tropical outpost was "discovered." A building boom ensued, and boutique hotels, upscale resorts and lavish condominiums popped up just outside of town. Some expatriates here have shied away from condo living and either own a single family home or rent from a landlord who caters to foreigners. Village buildings are colorful, mostly blue, yellow and pink, and simply constructed with tin and wood. They house barefoot bars, creole clubs, open air markets, trinket shops, spas, hardware stores and more. An annual arts festival and a lobsterfest bring in visitors from around the area.
Streets are covered in sand, and hand-painted signs call out to passersby. Little marinas are here and there, and Lilliputian beach cabanas line the shore. Sport fishing and SCUBA diving along the Belize Barrier Reef are popular endeavors.
Population: 1,500 (city proper estimate)
Expatriate Community: No one is sure, but estimates are about 350 (mostly Canadian, American and European).
Living Costs: Placencia is one of Belize's most expensive areas. Produce (avocados, mangoes, bananas) is inexpensive, but processed foods are pricey. Dinners out run about $5 to $10 per person. If renting, estimates are that a couple can live here comfortably for $18,000 to $27,000 USD per year, depending on lifestyle, travel to the States, etc.
Home Prices: Rentals start at around $400 per month. Condos and houses start in the mid-$200,000s.
Climate: Belize has a sub-tropical climate, with winds from the Caribbean Sea. The temperature is about 80 degrees year round. Placencia receives an average of 75 inches of rain per year.
Local Medical Clinic or Hospital: The village has a free health clinic. Placencia Hotel plans to build a state of the art medical center, but progress is slow. Belize Medical Associates, a small private hospital, is in Belize City, about an hour or two away by plane, and receives excellent reviews.
Medicare is not accepted outside of the United States, but Belize's Social Security Board provides public health insurance. Resident expats can apply for it and are then entitled to free or low cost health care from state-run facilities (for example, the cost of a day's stay in a public hospital is about $20). However, state-run facilities are usually crowded with long wait times. Equipment is often outdated, and patients have to share rooms, bathrooms and bring their own towels, et cetera.
To receive higher quality care, most expats opt for the private health care system and private health care insurance, which can be purchased upon arriving in Belize. Some expats purchase medical evacuation insurance to cover transport costs to the United States in case of an emergency.
Public Transit: There is a public bus.
Crime Rate: Below the U.S. national average, although property crime does occur.
Relocation: Belize encourages expat retirement. People age 45 or better may apply to become a Qualified Retired Person (QRP), but applicants must receive a monthly income of at least $2,000 USD (pension or annuity). This revenue must be generated outside of the country. Initial fees include a $150 application fee, $1,000 QRP fee, $750 per applicant fee and $200 per QRP card fee. There is also an annual $50 renewal fee.
Nearest Airport: Placencia Airport is just outside of town and is served by Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, both of which have daily flights to Belize City. Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport is just outside of Belize City, about 190 miles away.
Cons: Internet and electricity outages are common. Placencia was struck by Hurricane Iris in 2001 and 90% of the buildings were damaged. Other hurricanes have glanced the area since.
Notes: English is spoken, and the expat community is welcoming. The municipal water is clean. Some houses are on stilts just offshore. The road to the mainland is now paved.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Belize: Belize is on the northeastern coast of Central America and became an independent commonwealth realm, separating from Britain, in 1981. Queen Elizabeth II remains its monarch.
Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Monetary Unit: Belize dollar
Languages: English, Spanish
Ethnicities: Mestizo, Creole, Ketchi, Yucatec and Mopan Mayas, Garifunas and East Indians
Literacy Rate: 84%
Air Travel Time from Belize to Miami: Two hours
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