Costa Rica Vs. Belize 2021- Which is the better fit for you?

Costa Rica Vs. Belize 2021- Which is the better fit for you?

 It’s almost 2021 and with all the uncertainty and turmoil today you have been seriously thinking that becoming an “expat” would be a smart move. With great weather, growing communities and governments working to pass laws that make their countries friendly to foreign money and secure for your real estate investment in this new age, Central America is fast becoming the hottest expatriation destination.

 Cost of living, security, immigration requirements, the language barrier, real estate costs and more are elements that need to be carefully weighed. Two countries that are topping the list of places to expatriate or retire are Costa Rica and Belize. Let’s take a look at the two countries and compare what each has to offer. 

With a population of around 390,351 in 2019 and a landmass covering just 8,900 square miles (slightly smaller than Vermont), Belize is much smaller than Costa Rica, which is just over 5 million population and about the size of West Virginia, 19,730 square miles. The climate in general is similar in that they have two distinct seasons; rainy and dry. However, Costa Rica boasts “micro-climates” that give it an edge in variety of weather choices.

 Belize sits on the eastern coastline of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico, on the west and south by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from its neighbor to the southwest, Honduras. Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south and accesses both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea.

As a former British Colony, the people of Belize speak English. Though Spanish is the official language, there is no need for foreigners to pick up a second language. This makes for a much more comfortable transition for many. English is widely spoken in Costa Rica, but not nearly to the extent it is found in Belize. 

 Belize has an adequate health care system with several private clinics with the exception of the most remote areas. For minor incidents, these clinics are well-equipped to handle your immediate needs. For more complicated procedures, many expats choose to have their care provided from other countries such as Costa Rica because of their more modern facilities and doctors. Costa Rica is at the forefront of medical tourism, including dental treatment. Costa Rica also has both a private and social medical system.

 Belize is certainly not the least expensive country in Central America, but your dollar still goes quite far here. Costa Rica is slightly more expensive than Belize overall but offers much more modern conveniences. Living a North American or European lifestyle in either country will cost as much or more, however, quality of life and happiness more than make up for it. If you live more as the locals do, that is eating local food and limiting the number of imported goods you consume, you can join the many expats whose life is better overall than it was back home. I often ask people. Are you really moving to another country to live the same way you live in the US?

 Depending on your taste, you can get a house for $70,000 to $120,000 and an oceanfront lot can be found for $80,000 in Belize. Costa Rica’s rural prices are similar but more expensive at the beach. The past 25 years have seen a steady stream of expat and retirees buying up condos, properties and homes all over Costa Rica. This has not adversely affected the housing market to price real estate out of reach. Quite the opposite is that real estate prices have risen steadily with the country’s low inflation rate.

 Immigration requirements for either country are too cumbersome to go into here but there are many reasonable choices for both temporary and permanent residency in both locations. 

 Belize and Costa Rica are small countries with laid back attitudes and lifestyles. Many expats are not willing to go “all in” on this approach. Spending endless hours strolling the resorts, beaches, and sipping cocktails is a great week-long vacation, but can become boring after a few months for some who hold onto their old habits. Finding your peace and lifestyle in these locations can be the key to transforming your existence into something we all dream about. 

While Belize has many beautiful locations, culture and boasts some of the best scuba diving in the world – Costa Rica is widely considered the jewel of Central America. Its biodiversity and friendly culture make it a stunning and welcoming place to live. Statistically being ranked the as one of “the happiest places to live” for decades, Costa Ricans live a peaceful and nearly conflict-free lifestyle embodied in the local phrase “Pura Vida!” meaning Pure Life!  With a literacy rate of 96% (70% in Belize), universal health care, and a growing middle class, Costa Rica is has positioned itself as a Central American leader in societal growth.

 Overall, I think that for most people looking to make a move, Costa Rica is the easier transition and offers the best variety of options of any Central American country. I have found my paradise here. I hope that you can too.

 

 

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