Cost of Living – Ambergris Caye – Our budget

One thing that makes me laugh is a question we get asked fairly often:

“Are you independently wealthy?”

People think that because we live a relaxed lifestyle in a location that is considered paradise, that it must cost a lot. Sometimes we reply “yes, we are rich” and then laugh out loud and tell them that we still have to work, but we sure feel fortunate.

Vacationing vs Living Here

The cost of living on a beautiful island like Ambergris Caye in Belize can be variable. What vacationers don’t know is that we live on less per month than what they spend to be here for a few days. Are you curious? I’ll let you peek into our spending in this post.

Cost of living in San Pedro - Ambergris Caye - Belize

Cost of living in San Pedro - Ambergris Caye - Belize

Here’s the breakdown in US dollars for a family of four:

VACATION for 1 WEEK

Housing
Rental Condo $1,200 or Rental Home $3,000

Food
Restaurants $1000-$1500
Groceries, snacks, drinks: $400

Activities
$1,000 – $1500 you’re here to do stuff, so you splurge

Plane Tickets $2,000 – $3,200 depending

Souvenirs $100 – $400

____________________
TOTAL for the WEEK:

$5,595 – $9,800

LIVE here for the MONTH:

Housing
Monthly Condo rental: $1,200

Food
Restaurants: $200-300
Groceries: $400

Activities $600-800
Our monthly vacations, scuba, snorkeling and fishing excursions and my yoga addiction.

Incidentals & Play
$100

Utilities $200

____________________
TOTAL for the MONTH:

$3,000 – $3,300

 

Living like a King

As you can see, we live like a King for one month for half to one third of what vacationers spend to be here for one week. Actually, we could live here comfortably for half of that if we gave up our beach front condo and our vacations, but we choose not to.

I understand that vacation is an excursion from the everyday life and that most people would not be spending over $1,000 per month on going out to eat perhaps, or $1,000 on activities for the month. I am sharing these numbers with you to let you know what is possible.

You may be quite surprised that we live very comfortable on less than $40k per year in such a beautiful, tropical location. A family living on $40k per year in the US tends to struggle. But anyone can do this, even in the US. You just need to change your state of mind and adjust your priorities. We do not go shopping, or buy stuff that we do not need. We spend our time and money on experiences. We do not own a house or car. We rent the places we stay and ride bikes or take public transportation. All of our belongings fit into four suitcases. You might think that we have given up a lot but the truth is we have gained the freedom to have the world at our finger tips.

What do you think?

Could you live with views like this….

My front yard on Ambergris Caye

My front yard on Ambergris Caye

With activities like this right outside your door….

Sailing and Snorkeling in the Caribbean

Sailing and Snorkeling in the Caribbean

And sunrises like this nearly every morning…

Sunrise from my patio

Sunrise from my patio

Are you surprised at our cost of living? We’d love to know your reactions.

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41 Responses to “Cost of Living – Ambergris Caye – Our budget”

  1. Mary May 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Great insight! It always amazes me how often we get asked the same question. As a family of 5 we live for far less being nomadic than we did or could in the US living a stationary life. And the experiences and adventure is just icing on the cake!

  2. Jodi May 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Ok – We are 2 decisions away from joining the nomadic lifers… ok maybe a few more than 2 but we sure are having fun reading the blogs and saying ” What if…” A couple of questions – talk to me about some other costs – life insurance, health care, and your retirement plans.

    Thanks,
    Jodi

    • S King May 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Jodi, we do have life insurance, but do not carry medical insurance. Medical visits in the countries we are in is inexpensive, plus medical doctors are my last resort anyway. We have a more naturalistic approach to health as it is.
      Retirement plans? Hmmmm…we already feel like we live a retired lifestyle.

  3. Andy May 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Just what I was looking for! Do you think your expenses are typical for a person living in Ambergris Caye? Is your condo expense average for the island? Good luck on your move to Asia. My wife is actually from Hong Kong, so feel free to contact me if you need any advice about traveling there.

    • S King May 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

      Hi Andy,
      Our condo expense is for one of the nicer condos on the island and it is right on the beach with an awesome pool. There is plenty of accommodations that are much less expensive. also, we insist on taking monthly vacations ($600-800), so that expense could be eliminated, but we like the variety and it allows us to see the rest of the country.

      I’d say our expenses are typical and reasonable for a family of four.

      We are looking forward to Asia…we’ll be flying through Hong Kong. Thanks for the offer…we’ll be in touch when we are ready to travel there.

  4. Isabelle May 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    This is such a great post, and You are so right, just You imagine these costs in Paris, but we may not compare.
    All the very best for you in Asia, looking forward to read you, always ever so good, not to forget your splendi pics Bon voyage mes Amis, prenez spin de vous besos Belle

  5. Living Outside of the Box May 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I agree that it is cheaper to travel than to be stationary, simply because you don’t acquire all of the extra “stuff” and habits that cost a lot of money! If everyone knew they could live on a beautiful island for $3000 a month, they’d be busting a move!!

  6. Lisa Wood May 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I love how you are able to live in a country with such a low budget! And still live with experiences! I reckon that living overseas is way cheaper than travelling/living in Australia :)
    Especially with the views that you wake up to every morning!
    Cheers
    Lisa

    • S King May 7, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Lisa, yes we love the views…but I think this can be accomplished in the US or Australia (except for the US and the medical insurance part…that is another issue).

      Imagine if you didn’t run to the store or mall every time you thought you ‘needed’ something, but you just made do with what you have. This is what immigrants do, this is what my parents did.

      Most people are spoiled with the conveniences in western civilizations that they tend to take them for granted and utilize them far too often.

      The primary way for us to not spend money is to not shop. Easy as that.

  7. Jena May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Thanks for the awesome info! Every lifestyle involves some type of trade off, all depending on your priorities. What do you do for work? What type of visitor VISA/citizenship situation do you have?

    • S King May 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      We have an online business http://www.veppocig.com and our visa is just the normal 30 day visa, extendable forever for a fee every month.

  8. Michelle R. May 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    well am glad to see this..cause i am seriously considering moving to the island . i love the island and yes would love to wake up to that, but a big consideration is cost of living, versus vacationing its a whole lot less indeed, but now it versus living elsewhere in the country..say Belmopan!!!

  9. tacogirl May 10, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Fantastic post, loved it.

  10. Martin Pietrzak May 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    I totally agree that living expenses as a tourist do not equal to those of an expat. I’m curious…do you ship your product from Belize or do you have an arrangement back at home with the manufacturer(s). We are looking to open an online business and be location independent when we get back to Canada in a month. Please let us know if you can of course.
    Thanks a bunch!

  11. Brandon Pearce May 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    It’s amazing what variety of lifestyles can be had for the same amount of money depending on where you go. Even within the same country the contrast can be severe (compare New York City to rural Texas or something). And living can be cheap just about anywhere if you’re willing to just stick with less. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side of the world!

  12. Jim Roth May 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Surprised at the comparison to a vacation. We keep wanting to explore Belize as a place to live but too expensive to even get there. We have a 2yr old and we would love for him to live in a less stressful environment and more nature oriented and less play station influences. Can’t beat the views either.

    • S King May 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

      Hi Jim…one of reasons we love living abroad is the vast experiences that my children have. They are more content to play with sand, sticks and leaves outside than stay inside. I love that!
      If you have the drive, just get there and stay :)

  13. Doug Robinson May 31, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Healthcare? Dentist? etc? How much is that comparatively speaking. I have hereditary high BP and am curious about meds.

    • S King June 1, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Hi Doug, We didn’t utilize the healthcare or dentistry system in Belize. So I don’t know about costs.

  14. Paulette June 24, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    Thank you so very much for your blog and your insights. To hear you describe my own feelings is so validating. I believe I can answer a few of the technical questions about health and dental care and life & health insurance if someone has specific issues.

    I am a US trained, Board certified Family Practitioner with children ages 12,9,&6. My husband (and former office manager) and I sold my private practice of 17 years for less than $8000 and moved to Ambergris Caye. I teach at the local Medical school and commute 7 days per month to the US where I earn a living and take care of all of our expenses for our home in the US and our lives in Belize.

    Working these 2 jobs,I have more time with my family, eat lunch with my children at school every day, play games, walk on the beach, cook, snorkel and scuba and ACTUALLY exercise and have time for myself. We live on 1/10 of what it cost us to live in the US with a simpler, more wonderful lifestyle.

    There are no words to describe the freedom. Your writings open the door to these opportunities and you are a gift.

    • Tara July 17, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Paulette,
      We are a family of four, just arrived on Ambergris Caye. Our plan was to stay here for one year. But we are shocked about the high prices for groceries. And usually we dont buy “luxury” products. Could you help us with some information ?
      We also miss some nice beaches -esprcially for our kids. We were thinking of visiting Placencia for that reason.
      We are staying at the Grand Caribe (we did a home exchange). Maybe we could meet?

      Thank you very much!

      With best regards,

      Tara and Jordi

  15. Sharon July 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Thanks for the informative blog. Now I am wondering a few things…how much the flights cost from the Orlando Florida area to Belize…Can we bring our dog…Is it worth the cost and what the cost is to bring sparce bits of furniture…What are the import fees for bringing our essential items such as bed, couch, lamps, etc.? I want to come…love the tropics, swimming, sailing, snorkeling, relaxing. My income is only $1200 a month. Can my husband and I live on that? He is a welder, any kind of work there like that? So many questions I am trying to find answers to…Again thank you, I love your blog!

    • Misty July 30, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      Hi Sharon

      I was just checking to see if you made your move to Belize? We live in the Orlando area also and have looked into moving to Belize before. At the moment are plans are to move to Spain but Belize is our backup plan. I know there is a big difference between the two.

      S King,
      Great Blog! Where do you rent your condo? I was wondering what a 3 bedroom 2 bath would cost? Are there any private schools there, I have a 1st grader and 8th grader? Do you feel safe there? My husband travels for work and we will be home alone just about 1/2 the year. I also have the same questions as Sharon about the dog and some furnishings.

      Thanks for all your info…

      • S King August 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

        Misty,
        Our condo was located just north of San Pedro, within walking distance to downtown. Caye Management managed the unit and were wonderful to work with. Yes, we felt EXTREMELY safe there. I had no issues or worries walking along the beach at night by myself.

        Condo costs are so varied depending on location and amenities. If you want to be right on the ocean, you’ll pay more of course.
        Yes you can bring your dog with the proper paperwork…there is no quarantine period.
        It is very possible to live on $1200/month. Many expat families with children live on about $1500/month. We could have to if we didn’t use part of our budget for traveling to explore the rest of Belize.

        My advice: Go. You won’t regret it!

      • Mike and Pritika October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

        Hello,

        Mike and I are thinking of spending a month in San Pedro. We will be two broke and indebted students. Are there any apartments or condos or other living arrangements we could rent for cheap there? Or would you mind giving us a couple of contacts to email or call to get more information on this? How did you find your condo? As long as the beach is close enough, we do not need to live ON the sands, so to speak. I mean, we would LOVE to, but we cannot afford it (being broke students and all).

        Thank you so much for any help you may be able to provide.

        • S King October 5, 2012 at 7:24 am #

          The beach is close everywhere…it’s a narrow island! Check out SanPedroScoop.com…Rebecca is an awesome resource!

  16. Sonja Brown August 13, 2012 at 3:24 am #

    Hi,
    I always enjoy reading about other families that travel as we do. We are a family of 5 3 children ages 3 4 and 6 and we travel a lot, we homeschool right now.
    We are planning on making Belize our next “home”, for a while.
    We are really keen to understand if there are a lot of families with young children around the island, are the schools OK?
    I hope that we can get some insight from you. We are currently back in the UK until December, then will travel to the USA then onto Belize. Can you recommend the best way of doing this. I am not sure if you are British or American?
    Hope to hear from you.
    Sonja

  17. Minh-An August 15, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi,
    My family of 3 (we have an almost 3 year old) will be living in Central America from Feb until May of next year. We haven’t chosen a country (and we have friends who are living in Honduras for the next two years) so I love reading your posts on Belize (a little dismayed on the corruption, but oh well).
    Two questions, I’m assuming you had reliable internet access, correct? Was it fast? How did it work with FaceTime or Skype? Also, about how much did it cost?
    Any other advice as it pertains to working a business while in Belize?

    Also, I know you mentioned that you lived in a nicer condo community. We are hoping to find a place that costs more in the $500 to $700 range. A one bedroom is fine. Is this doable where you were?

    Thank you in advance!
    Minh-An

    • S King October 17, 2012 at 1:31 am #

      There is corruption in every country, so don’t be dismayed. I still LOVE Belize!
      Our internet was reliable, but I wouldn’t call it fast: 1 MB.
      It worked fine with Skype calls without video. If we tried using video it was very grainy and slow.

      1 bedrooms in the $500-700 range is totally doable. It just depends on how fancy you want to get.

      Good luck in Central America…one day we’ll be back there again.

  18. danielle August 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Just wondering if its possible to do this with 2 kids? Thinking of buying a little bed and breakfast and homeschooling my kids. We vacation 4 times a year but the cost of that we may as well enjoy everyday!

    • S King August 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Hi Danielle,
      I’ve emailed you a response as well, but YES…it’s possible, considering we had 2 kids while we were there. Also, there are several families that live on $1500 per month really comfortably. Enjoy…just do it…it’ll be something you NEVER regret!

  19. Autumn February 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Hello,
    I really love your blog and just have a question-
    We too are a digital nomadic family of 4 currently traveling around Mexico for my husbands work. We are going to be moving to Thailand in July- Bangkok for 6 months and then on to Chiang Mei and Phuket. I was wondering if you could tell me the sites you use to find your housing? I am currently using vrbo, airbnb and homeaway. Is there a better and cheaper way of finding a place to live? Especially if you are only staying less then 6 months in a place?
    Autumn

    • S King February 13, 2013 at 12:43 am #

      Hi Autumn….I’ve email you a reply as well. My advice is to get there, book yourself 1 week in a hotel/apartment and start looking via popular expat hangouts. You will get great advice from people that live there and won’t be limited to vacation rentals that tend to be overpriced.

  20. jim May 4, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Hello, we just came back from there and found the groceries outrageously priced… quart of milk $6? and produce from the road side stand was $15 for 1 lettuce, onion, a few carrots, 1 tomato and 2 avocado Isn’t that unreal?.

  21. Stacy September 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    I am interested in moving to Belize or almost any foreign country. I bring in 3,000 usd a month. How comfortable would I be? I also have two dogs that I must bring with me. I a a single female, how safe is it there?

  22. Amy September 22, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    My husband and I and of course our teenager will be visiting Ambergris Caye in January…Cant wait…If we love it, we absolutely plan to move…We are staying at the Exotic Caye resort…We cant wait to take in the culture and explore…I have priced some condo living and is very affordable…so incredibly affordable actually…My husband owns his own company out here drilling water wells…Any work like that needed over there? wooohoooo Here we come Belize….

  23. molly kiuchi October 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Hi, Would my significant other and i , needing a two bedroom, internet and cable phone etc. be able to rent something comfy to retire on 2000usd a month, near your view? pet friendly, small wiener dog and African parrot? Im a water nut and hes the fisherman. love your blog molly

  24. Stacy December 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I am a single female with one dog that brings in 3,000 usd a month. I’ve done some research on moving to Belize but couldn’t find rent for what you mentioned it could be. I am looking for a one bedroom. I am also concerned about the visa. How does that work? I need to make a move in the next few months so I really need to get things figured out. Please help! Thank you so much!

    • Jim December 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

      Hi Stacy, I’m also moving (driving) 2 Belize soon, & will B going to Ambergris caye. Are U a diver?? Hope we can communicate & maybe help each other out, as I too do NOT know where I will live there yet?? :(
      Thanx Jim :)

  25. Carl & Anntwanette April 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Hello Everyone. We are very excited about our upcoming move to Belize as well. We are truly learning a lot from everything that we see here. It is truly dispelling any unrealistic expectations that we may have. What area would you recommend that is a combination of beach and jungle intermix. we like living on the edge with that. Can some one give us straight forward feed back and good places for rent our budget is $2500 USD per month for ALL expenses

    thank you much

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