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Talk about squeezing a ton of information on one page, here we have Visa Requirements, Utilities, Clothing, Food & Drink, Tipping, Crime, National Holidays, Entertainment & Night Life, Religion, Real Estate, Belize City, The Cayes, and Foreign Ownership...
 

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Visa Requirements for U.S. Citizens to Enter Belize...

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourist or business travel to this country. Any U.S. citizen who wishes to travel to Belize for any purpose other than tourism or business negotiations (e.g. work, study, adoption, immigration, or stays longer than stipulated in the entry requirements) should contact directly, the embassy or nearest consulate.

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR NON-U.S. CITIZENS TO ENTER BELIZE:

  • 1 Application form
  • 1 Passport-type photograph
  • Valid passport, must have 6 months remaining validity
  • Evidence of legal residence in U.S.A. (ie: valid multiple entry visa with I-94 attached, copy of alien registration card)
  • Copy of return/onward airline tickets or itinerary

Fees:

  • TDS Handling Fee:
    $30.00 per visa
  • Consular Fee:
    $25.00 per visa
  • Processing Time:
    Approx. 48 Hours

  • Include check or money order payable to:
    Travel Document Systems, Inc." for TDS Handling Fee, Embassy Consular Fee, and return postage or Federal Express. Return Postage
      $ 8.50 Registered Mail or Fedex 2nd day
      $12.00 Fedex Letter (Standard - Next business afternoon)
      $15.50 Fedex Letter (Priority Overnight - up to three passports)
      $21.50 Fedex Envelope (Priority Overnight - overweight package)
      $25.50 Fedex Letter (Saturday Delivery)
  • Note: Visas for some nationals require approval from Belize. Please contact the Belize Embassy for information.

    Information and fees subject to change. (8/2000)

  • Download Visa Application Form

Utilities...

Electricity is 110/220 volts, single phase, 60 cycles for domestic supply. Some hotels use 12 volt generators.

Power is provided to the country of Belize by Belize Electricity Limited. A Hydro system will soon be running. The electrical system is the same as in the United States, 110 Volts A.C. Electricity is supplied to both households and businesses in the country. Service is fair and it is necessary for hotels wanting to deliver luxury class service to install backup generators. Continuity of electricity is between 90% and 95%. The electricity rate is approximately US $0.19 per KWH.

Clothing...

The hot climate requires light weight clothing for all occasions. Business dress for men includes short sleeved cotton or poplin shirts, or the popular pleated and pocketed guayabera, worn outside the pants. Ties are not worn. Business women are most comfortable in light weight, sleeveless dresses or skirts. Shorts are unacceptable business attire.

Tipping...

Restaurant patrons generally leave a tip equal to 10 percent on the bill. Porters are tipped $2.00 and chambermaids, 50 cents per day. Taxi drivers are not tipped. Many establishments figure a five percent government hotel tax to the bill, as well as an up to 15 percent service charge on top of that. When inquiring about prices, make sure you are quoted the final price, after all taxes have been added and make certain you are aware if the price is Belizean dollars or U.S. dollars.

Food & Drink...

The staple of the Belizean diet is rice and beans, often supplemented with chicken, fish, beef, or pork. The people are rightfully proud of their delicious seafood, particularly lobster, which is also a principal export. More exotic fare includes "gibnut" or "paca", which is similar to guinea pig. Armadillo and venison are other local delicacies. Blended tropical fruit drinks are cool and refreshing, but be careful of the water and ice. The most unusual tropical drink is an overly sweet concoction seaweed, milk, and cinnamon.

Only one national beer, Belikin, is brewed in Belize. Belikin export is a more upscale version of the original brew and is worth the extra cost. Larger hotels also serve overpriced import beers from the U.S..

Crime...


Crime, including robbery and mugging, continues to be a problem. Belize City is the site of more reported incidents than other areas of the country. Crimes against tourists at resorts, while not unheard of, are rare. The incidence of such crimes as theft, burglary and pick pocketing rises around the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Travelers who keep valuables out of sight, do not wear jewelry, and who travel in groups during daylight hours, minimize the risk of being targeted. Individuals may contact the Belizean tourist police as well as regular law enforcement officials for assistance.

Penalties for possession of unlicensed firearms or unlicensed ammunition are strict, including high fines and mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders. Americans contemplating bringing firearms or ammunition into Belize should contact the Belizean Embassy for additional information on importation.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." This publication and others, such as "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America," are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

National Holidays...

Offices and local businesses are closed for all national holidays. Public transportation is usually still available. Main holidays are...

Jan. 1 ............................................................................... New Year's Day
March 9 ........................................................................... Baron Bliss Day
March or April ................................................................. Holy Week (Semana Santa)
May 1 .............................................................................. Labor Day
May 24 ............................................................................ Commonwealth Day
Sept. 10 ........................................................................... St. George's Caye Day
Sept. 21 ........................................................................... Independence Day
Oct. 12 ............................................................................ Columbus Day
Oct. 13 ............................................................................ Pan American Day
Nov. 19 ........................................................................... Garifuna Settlement Day
Dec. 25 ............................................................................ Christmas Day
Dec. 26 ............................................................................ Boxing Day

Entertainment & Night Life...

The country's principal nightlife is found in Belize City, where most activity doesn't really get started until around 11:00 p.m. and then continues until early morning. All the hotels have good bars.

Religion...

The Belize constitution provides for freedom of religion, and many are represented in this small nation.
About 60% of the population are Roman Catholic; the Anglican Church and Protestant Christian groups account for most of the remaining 40%. Mennonite settlers number about 7,400. There are also small groups of Baha'i and Muslims.

Real Estate...

Click to View Belize Real Estate Listings

North American middle income earners will find property prices higher in Belize than anticipated, especially when compared to the rest of Central America. In comparison to other Caribbean nations, however, Belize is quite economical and enjoys the crystal waters, white sand beaches and more than 200 tropical cayes associated with the tropical region.

High foreign demand and limited financing have sent real estate prices upward. Little money is available for street and housing construction, so offerings are limited.

Homes in foreign resident caliber neighborhoods average $100,000 to $300,000, with improved 100 sq. meter lots selling for around $15,000, off the beach or $30,000 plus for beach front.

Neighborhoods popular with retirees are Consejo, Placencia, San Narciso, and Hopkins. The small coastal town of Cosejo near the northern border has become a retirement haven for foreigners. A Canadian company is selling beach front lots for around $35,000 and homes for $80,000 to $250,000, depending on the proximity to the ocean. Other development projects are planned for the future, but currently developed lots and homes are hard to come by.

Placencia, is a newly developing residential area located at the tip of a peninsula. Lots sell for around $30,000 and homes from $75,000 to $150,000. Not much is available yet, because the area is still opening up, but opportunities exist for the real estate developer.

San Narciso, located inland no northern Belize, offers the best opportunities for people seeking off coast living. Eco-tourism is taking off in this pristine rain forest, where ancient Mayan ruins emerge from among the dense vegetation, fast moving rivers and old growth trees.

The farming and fishing village of Hopkins, in southern Belize offers nice beaches and lots of opportunity for the real estate developer to improve lots and build homes.

Warm Trade Winds , brought on by the sub-tropical climate, have been drawing people to the Cayes (islands) and mainland of Belize since the early Maya began the first reign by man in "The New World."

Several thousand years later the attraction has only gotten stronger. The present day explorers arrive mostly by jet aircraft not to conquer the land or its people but, to relax and wash away the tensions and stress of daily life in the "First World" countries, in the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Many of our visitors are reluctant to return to their past lives and wish to change their "attitude and latitude." Which leads us to the questions "How does one become a part of all of this?"

With about 4 persons per square mile, Belize does have ample room for "a few good folks." It is quite easy for foreigners to purchase a few karats of this "Jewel". Few government regulations restrict foreign investment and in fact special concessions, such as tax holidays and tax concessions encourage development from non- native investors.

An "ALIEN LICENCES" is required for the purchase of properties larger than 10 acres outside of cities, ½ acre or less within city limits, on the cayes and other restricted areas. Governmental approval is required before the purchase of any of Belize's more than 200 cayes, regardless of size.

It is advisable to locate a reputable real estate company to assist you in your pursuit for the perfect spot. This point should not be taken lightly. It seems like every bar-tender, boatman or taxi driver always knows of a "real steal." Problem is that much time and money can be exhausted trying to run these "loose leads" to ground. Often by the time your "Freelance Agent" has located his step uncles' twice removed third cousin to show you the property that he has promised was such a deal, old cuz can't produce a title document.

A truly professional real estate company dose not except listings until they have seen proper proof of ownership such as a TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE, MINISTER'S FIAT GRANT or REGISTERED LAND CERTIFICATE. There have been cases where unwary buyers have found out, the hard way, that they were not the only owners of a particular piece of paradise. Caveat Vendor!

When considering a particular parcel one of the first questions that should be "Has the land been surveyed?" If the vendor has a recorded plan of the property there will be a box on the plan labeled Registration within this Registration box there should be an Entry number and a Registration number. If the plan has been approved by the Government of Belize (GOB) there will be a number beside of both Reg. Entry (example Entry No. 2289 Reg. No. 4). The point of the above is that even if the GOB would allow the sale of unsurveyed land, time and money (not to mention patience) would be lost in pursuit of property that has not been surveyed.

Okay now you have found your piece of paradise. What next? Now it's time to play "Let's Make A Deal." Cash is certainly preferred by most vendors but, occasionally owner financing is available. Don't make any plans for borrowing money from the local lending institutions for the purchase of raw land.

Before you pull out your check book to write a check make sure that you and the vendor are speaking the same language i.e. "Are we talking US or Belize dollars?" Don't laugh, that has happened.

Now it's off to visit your legal counsel. It is not recommended to use the vendor's attorney, after all who does he represent? For around 2% of the selling price your attorney will draw up the AGREEMENT for Sale transfer documents and search the REGISTRY for any surprises that may be attached to the land certificate. Normally, closing costs and legal fees are divided 50/50 between the vendor and the buyer.

Another option for the transfer of land would be to purchase a title policy for 1% of the purchase price (up to 1 million US) and have your broker draw up AGREEMENT for Sale and Transfer of Land Documents.

No matter which of the above manners of purchasing property is chosen, a 10% (of selling price) stamp duty fee must be paid to the GOB. Stamp duty will be charged on every land transaction. Land taxes due in advance are levied at the rate of 1% on the unimproved market value of the property outside of cities. Land tax within city limits vary from district to district.

Belize, not unlike most places in the world experiences market highs and lows but, the over all trend seems to be a slight but constant rise in property values. The exception would be in the ocean front and island properties which have been "booming" for the last several years reaching the current high of US$800 to US$1000 per front foot. Inland properties, aside from developed or developing agricultural lands ( citrus, banana, shrimp farms etc…) have remained most affordable.

by John C. Burks

Belize City...

Click to View Belize Real Estate Listings

Not many foreign retirees call Belize City home, but the area is popular with international business owners due to its proximity to financial centers and the capital city, Belmopan.

With a population of over 80,000, the atmosphere in Belize City is more reminiscent of a Caribbean town than a major city. Built on a reclaimed swamp, many ramshackle homes stand on short, wooden stilts. Assaults and petty crimes are prevalent due to the increased drug trafficking.

Real estate in Belize City ranges from $100,000 to $150,000 for a middle class home, up to $350,000 or more for an upper-class, beach front residence. Building lots are hard to find and expensive.

The Cayes...

Click to View Belize Real Estate Listings

More than 200 islands crowd the Caribbean shore, scattered along the edge of the barrier reef. The largest caye, Ambergris, is the only island to boast a small town, San Pedro, which has a population of more than 2,000 and is the country's most visited tourist attraction. Residents of the town include foreign retirees and a lively mix of locals who work in the tourism industry. This area is the most expensive in the country, with condominiums ranging from $75,000 to $150,000. Homes sell from $150,000 up to $350,000.

Foreign Ownership...

Click to View Belize Real Estate Listings

Foreigners can own real estate in Belize, but with a few notable restrictions. No restrictions apply on purchases of less than 10 acres outside the city or half acre inside the city.

Foreigners who wish to purchase more than 10 acres outside the city or more than a half acre in the city may only do so with a Lien Landholders License, issued by the government. To acquire the license, the foreign must explain to the local authorities his/her intended use for the land. As a general rule, if the land will be developed to provide jobs in the future for Belizean's, the license is just a formality that will be granted in a matter on 1 to 2 months.

Any real estate purchase involving one of the island cayes must first be approved by the government authorities, regardless of the size of the lot.

Click to View Belize Real Estate Listings

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