Belmopan, Belize Report of what it's like to live there

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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Belmopan, Belize 06/09/15

Background:

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

We lived in Kathmandu, Nepal before coming to Belize.

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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?

Our home base is the East Coast of the U.S. Direct flights to Miami, Houston and Atlanta are quick but expensive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We've been living here for 16 months of a two year tour.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing compound is absolutely beautiful. The houses are spacious and nicely designed - some say this is the best housing in the Foreign Service. Most people are on the compound, which can sometimes feel small but is great for young kids.

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

Groceries are cheap if you buy local brands, expensive if you buy imported American brands (and everything is Kraft).

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

My favorite sunscreen and bug repellent.

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

No restaurants are fast - call ahead to order or order and then go do an errand if you want to be efficient. The food in Belmopan is not great but there are decent tacos, wings, pizza, hummus, and Belizean barbecue. For great food you need to go to Placencia or another tourist spot.

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

There are lots of mosquitoes and noseeums; occasional scorpions and tarantulas keep it interesting. Bring your insect repellant and you'll be fine.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO

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

It is inexpensive (US$3/hour) but there aren't a huge number of great helpers.

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

There is a decent little gym at the Embassy, a gorgeous 25m pool at the compound, yoga and group dance workout classes available in Belmopan.

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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?

Not a big deal at the grocery store, but you can get cash at the embassy or the bank for use in the market. We haven't had any trouble.

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

I don't know. There sure are a lot of churches!

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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?

Everyone speaks English. Most also speak Spanish and Belizean Creole, which can be helpful.

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

It would be challenging. Only a few roads are even paved. There are almost no sidewalks in all of Belize. But Belmopan is a quiet place so getting around would likely be less difficult than other places.

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Transportation:

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

No trains. Get the telephone number of a reliable taxi and keep him on call. Plenty of tourists ride the inter-city buses but I haven't tried them.

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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?

A car with some decent clearance is useful during the rainy season but any car will do most of the year. Just make sure it is reliable because you will want to get out of Belmopan and explore Belize every other weekend!!

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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?

Available, pretty reliable. US$70 for about 2mbps unlimited, so fairly expensive for what you get.

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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?

Bring your unlocked phone from the States and buy a SIM card here.

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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?

Not really.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots, with animals, kids, etc.

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

Business casual at work. Belize is very relaxed so pretty much anything works.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is a high homicide rate but those appear to be targeted attacks. And the usual security concerns in the developing world but nothing too serious.

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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 poor. If you get ill here, you must be medevac'd. If you get seriously ill here, you're in trouble. Even Kathmandu has far better medical services.

But no real post-specific health concerns. The bends, perhaps? Diver's might want to look into DAN membership.

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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?

Beautiful. A bit smokey during the burning season but nothing compared to real pollution in a big city.

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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?

Long gorgeous dry season, intermittent daily rains from June - Thanksgiving.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is a relatively new QSI here. We had a short, and very good experience with them when we first arrived and they had a nursery school program. That was discontinued this year. Unfortunately there have been many reported problems this year. There will be a new head of school arriving in August and hopefully that will improve things. Because the school is so very small (unaffordable for most Belizeans and non-embassy expats) the makeup of the embassy families largely determines the size and morale of the school.

For teens/high schoolers we've heard that self starters do well but their experience is diminished by the absence of peers and organized extracurricular activities like team sports or a school play.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. KLIC is a decent, inexpensive daycare/playschool option walking distance from the Embassy housing compound. It offers half day play space and social interaction for a very low fee.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There is an excellent tennis pro who comes to the compound. An okay swim instructor who comes to the compound. Older kids can do soccer in Belmopan.

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Expat Life:

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

The embassy community is small. Some people love it and some hate it. You need to protect your happiness and make friends in the wider expat community.

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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?

Leave town. House parties. Go to the beach/cayes.

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

This is a good city for introverts and people who can make their own fun. There is really almost nothing going on in Belmopan so extroverts may suffer from a lack of social interaction. There are a very few okay restaurants in town. Pretty much the only activity you can count on is grocery shopping. There is a nice, small expat community who you should definitely befriend. From my observation, anyone can have a great time here but it is easiest for families with small children. We say we are 90 minutes from paradise!

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

I don't really know. There is unfortunately significant overt homophobia among Belizeans.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have found Belize to be the least racist place I have ever been. I didn't even realize how racist everywhere else in the world is until I came to Belize where the color of your skin really seems not to matter so much.

There is a strong evangelical Christian feeling in Belize and people are not afraid to tell you about it or ask your beliefs.

Women running in Belmopan can expect the police and soldiers doing their morning exercise to cat call. It is very intimidating. Other than that I haven't experienced prejudice against me for being a woman.

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

Scuba diving, snorkeling, quick relatively inexpensive beach trips, magical jungle lodges, learning about ancient Maya culture and visiting the Maya sites. The End of the World/Placencia Half Marathon and Marathon. Great cycling with a fun local club.

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

There are an amazing number of different ways to experience all the natural beauty that Belize has to offer. Two years is the perfect amount of time to see it all! Really, it's too much to list here but there are great hikes, birding, jungle exploring, and swimming just a very short drive from Belmopan - and the rest is easily accessible on the weekends. It's a very small country but there is so much to do here.

I love buying a pound of fresh tortillas for a dollar from little houses!

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

Beautiful wooden furniture and bowls.

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

World class scuba diving, gorgeous jungle lodges, excellent birding, lovely weather and wonderful people.

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10. Can you save money?

Only if your spouse doesn't book you into a hotel every other weekend.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Just how sleepy it is.

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

Yes.

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

Stuffy suits.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suits!

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5. 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: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird,

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,
and
"Your Man in Belize" (a little harsh on the Belizeans - and, in fairness, on the State Department, too - but very funny, nonetheless)

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Belmopan, Belize 06/09/15

Background:

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

No. Third expat experience.

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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?

There are direct flights from Belize City to Miami that are short (two hours) but expensive.

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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.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are large with nothing taking more than 10 minutes to drive in Belmopan.

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

Anything imported will be expensive. The grocery stores are hit and miss. Sometimes they run out of something important (like peanut butter) for weeks but will have three shelves of mouth wash.

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

We ordered most things we needed from Amazon.

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

No fast food...but a couple pizza places and a Chinese restaurant deliver. There are a few decent restaurants, some local and some run by expats.

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

Tons of bugs. Little biting flies, mosquitos, tarantulas, scorpions, poisonous snakes.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO through the Embassy.

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

Very reasonable. The local minimum wage is extremely low, so our nanny/housekeeper charged US$3 per hour.

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

No.

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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?

We knew of several cases of credit card fraud while we were there. I avoided using mine unless it was a trusted establishment. ATMs inside the banks seemed to be safe enough.

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5. 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.

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

Yes. Roads are barely paved and sidewalks are nonexistent.

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Transportation:

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

No trains. Buses and taxis are not recommended.

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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?

SUVs are good as roads off the few main roads are not paved.

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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, but it's espensive. We paid about US$125 per month. And the local cable company seemed to be pirating the signal from the States.

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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?

Our cellphone was provided by our employer.

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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?

No quarantine required, just an import certificate from the agricultural health authority. Vet service is awful. We used the local vet a couple times and left wondering if he'd had any formal training at all.

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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?

No. Wages are low and unemployment is high.

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

Tropical business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Belize has one of the top five highest murder rates in the world. The culture is very revenge-based with high poverty, so there is a lot of violent crime both for locals and tourists (muggings, rapes, pirate attacks on boat charters). Belize City is extremely dangerous.

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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 sub-par. Anything serious should be treated in Miami.

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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?

In winter it's not bad, but in the summer they do a lot of slash and burn farming, so the air is filled with smoke. The smell even gets into the houses.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lots of tropical plants and allergies.

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

Tropical. Very pleasasant in the winter, but hot and humid with thunderstorms in the summer and the occasional hurricane.

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Schools & Children:

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

We did not have experience with the international school. But there is one, QSI. And people seemed to like it.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No preschools/daycares available. There is a playgroup that meets for a few hours in the morning. Otherwise everyone uses nannies.

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Expat Life:

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

Very small. Some like it, some hate it.

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

It's a very small town. Single people could easily get bored unless they make an effort to do a lot of exploring and diving. I imagine the bar scene would probably be rather dangerous. Families and couples would have to be creative as well.

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

No. Homosexuality is illegal in Belize and it is a very macho culture.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I would say yes. We had some strangers who were overtly rude to us because we were white and not local, especially in the Garifuna (Caribbean-African) villages.

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

Mayan ruins, diving, snorkeling, zip lining, cave tubing, visiting the iguana farm, visiting the Mennonite settlement (Spanish Lookout), resort hopping.

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

Slate carvings, handmade jewelry, diving.

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

Mayan ruins, diving on the reef.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Romantic Caribbean illusions.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and bug repellent.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Dogs of War with Christopher Walken was filmed in Belize City.

The Mosquito Coast with River Phoenix and Harrison Ford gives a good picture of rural Central America.

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

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Belmopan, Belize 01/15/11

Background:

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

I have lived abroad a good deal, primarily in Europe and the Middle East.

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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?

There are daily non-stop flights to Belize City from Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas. Almost all flights out of Belize go to the US. The flights are short but costly. Round trips usually cost $700 and up.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Several months in the summer of 2010.

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

Temporary work with the US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Belmopan is a new capital city, and there is limited western-quality housing. There is barely a rush hour, and many folks can walk to work. In fact, you can walk to most places in Belmopan from most residential neighborhoods.

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

The grocery situation is getting better all the time in Belmopan. There are several "supermarkets" that sell a range of US and Mexican products. The local Mennonite community operates an excellent dairy products company. There were only a few items we could not find in Belmopan. Many folks make an occasional all-day trip across the border to Mexico where there is a WalMart and some other US-brand stores. There is a twice-weekly farmers' market with excellent fresh produce available.

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

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

There is good pizza (a few outlets deliver), and a few modest restaurants in Belmopan that are OK, but that's about it. There are no world-brand (McDonald's, Burger King, etc.) fast-food establishments in Belize. Some of the jungle resorts provide a weekend getaway and fine-dining option, but they are hours away over bad roads. Coppola Enterprises has two excellent resorts with world-class cuisine, and there are a few others as well. We enjoyed some of the local restaurants for what they are.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

My wife is a vegetarian, and she got along pretty well. There are few specialized products for vegetarians, but there are plenty of excellent vegetables available (seasonally).

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

There are all sorts of tropical bugs, but mosquitoes seem pretty well controlled in Belmopan. There are lots of poisonous snakes.

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Daily Life:

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

I used US Government facilities that are relatively fast. I have no experience with the Belizean and international mail, but heard no particular complaints.

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

It's widely available and cheap.

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

Limited.

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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?

There are some ATMs, particularly at the banks, and they appear to work well. Credit cards are accepted in the larger establishments (including supermarkets).

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

Yes - several Christian denominations - Roman Catholics predominate, but there are several Protestant denominations. About 20% of the population is Hindu or Moslem, or belongs to a local faith.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Available, but considered largely content-free. There is an expensive cable service with lots of US programming (also largely content-free).

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

English is the official and most prevalent language, although Spanish is spoken at home in the north and west of the country. Kriol is the language of the streets and it can be a challenge to understand, but it's fun to learn.

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

Maybe a tad fewer than average for the third-world country.

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Transportation:

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

No trains. Buses are frequent, cheap, and not very safe. (They are all used US school buses and a few 1950s Greyhounds.) Only the tourist sector has modern vehicles. Taxis are ok but expensive, particularly for out-of-city rides (US $ 150 for a round-trip to Belize City from Belmopan).

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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?

Absolutely bring a four-wheel drive SUV-type vehicle. Only the main roads are paved, and trips to the ruins and other sites are over pretty rough back roads. US brands predominate. Oddly, there are not many Asian vehicles in Belize. Note -- the roads in Belize are not very safe, particularly at night, when there will be many inebriated drivers out there with you. While the few paved roads are in fair condition, they are narrow, and passing on curves appears to be a national sport. Fatal accidents are a weekly occurrence in this small country.

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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?

Available, but relatively expensive. It is priced by bandwidth (speed). A connection running at 512K can cost over a hundred US dollars per month.

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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?

They are widely used and available, if a bit more expensive than in the US. Everybody has one.

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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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Many folks have dogs and cats, but the quality of vet care is something we did not investigate.

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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?

Maybe - inquire in advance.

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

Tropical and casual. Ties are rarely seen, even among the resident ambassadors. As everywhere, women always dress better than the men.

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Health & Safety:

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

No serious concerns beyond the usual precautions. Except for some neighborhoods in Belize City (not often frequented by foreigners), crime, particularly violent crime, seems fairly low.

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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 limited. There are a few doctors in Belmopan that provide routine medical services, with some additional specialties available in Belize City. There is a very modest hospital in Belmopan, and a somewhat more competent one in Belize City, but most westerners and Belizeans alike go to the US or Mexico for any serious medical treatment. Local medical facilities are good (and experienced) at treating snakebites. Malaria is present in theory, but is rarely seen. Dengue Fever is present and is a concern, since there is no vaccine. (But then, Dengue is also prevalent in Key West, among other places in the tropical US.)

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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?

Air quality seems fine, at least during the rainy season.

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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?

The weather is tropical, with a rainy season lasting from summer to late fall. Tropical storms are always a threat in season, and Belize City has been heavily damaged several times by hurricanes. Belmopan is 50 miles inland and fares better. Flooding is the most serious problem all over the county.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is one faith-based school in Belmopan that some western students use. It is not currently accredited by any US accrediting body, although it has made a few unsuccessful attempts. Many parents consider it unacceptable beyond the first few grades, and they either home-school their children or send them back to the US. Inquire in advance if you are contemplating a move to Belmopan. Educational options in Belize City (50 miles distant) are better, but they are too far away for children in Belmopan.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Probably very little.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

It appears to be available, and many families have nannies, sometimes brought from previous posts.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

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

The entire population of Belmopan is only about 10,000 souls, and the expat community is probably 10-20 percent of that number.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale seems ok among those who have decided to make the most of the limited opportunities in Belize.

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

There is lots of entertaining among expats and educated Belizeans. Basically, social life is what you make of it. The British Embassy pub and some other expat organizations have weekly happy hours.

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

There really isn't much to do in tiny Belmopan, so making your own entertainment is essential, whatever your family status. Socializing within the small expat community and with Belizeans is prevalent and easy. Belizeans are naturally friendly, and there is little, if any, hostility to foreigners.

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

It's probably somewhere in the middle.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None were apparent. Belize is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic country, and at least publicly, most Belizeans celebrate that part of their national character. Belize is largely Christian, and there are a number of denominations present.

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

Standing atop a Mayan pyramid (a fantastic experience). Trying to find a good restaurant in Belmopan (not such a fantastic experience).

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

Touring the Mayan ruins in Belize and nearby Guatemala. The ruins are spectacular, particularly Tikal (Guatemala), and Caracol (Belize). If you're a beach, boat or diving person, you're in paradise (or at least 60 miles from paradise). If you're looking for sophisticated dining or entertainment, you are SOL. Visiting nearby countries in Central America (except southern Mexico and northern Guatemala) is difficult. Capital cities of other nearby countries are distant by road (Guatemala City is 8-10 hours), and there are only a few weekly flights to San Salvador, with connections to elsewhere in Central America.

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

Handicrafts, particularly things made from tropical woods.

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

Beach life, reef diving, and exploring Mayan ruins are the principal (and almost only) things to do.

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11. Can you save money?

Probably if you don't travel back and forth to the US too often.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Maybe, but a long tour could get a little boring.

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

Skis, boots, and poles; winter jackets; dressy clothes; appetite for fine dining; etc.

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3. But don't forget your:

Swim trunks, SCUBA gear, boat, hiking gear, a love of pizza, etc.

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

Our Man in Belize: A Memoir
by Richard Conroy, who was the US Vice Consul in Belize in the early 1960s at the time of Hurricane Hattie (which largely destroyed Belize City). It's hilarious.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Mosquito Coast (Zaentz)
was filmed in Belize, as were a number of other movies with tropical settings.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Belmopan is the smallest national capital in the world. At 10,000 people, it's really a small town. There are only a few foreign embassies (several haven't yet moved from the former capital, Belize City), and only a few foreign companies. The expat community is small, but active. Belmopan is absolutely without sophisticated dining and entertainment, and indeed, the few modest local restaurants get old fast. If pizza will suffice for your dining-out experiences, then you'll do ok. The local beer is great and is always served ice cold. If your expectations are modest, then you can have a good time in Belmopan. Otherwise, the departure lounge at the airport is likely to be your favorite local hangout.

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