4 Reasons Expat Life in Guatemala is Better Than Expat Life in Belize

After having the chance to visit Belize for a few days, I have now gained a new appreciation for my expat life in Guatemala.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun in Belize. In fact, TOO much fun, and I have the (ouch!) sunburns to prove it.

But… After almost a week, I was ready to head back to Guatemala. And boy, I’m I glad to be home.

I’ve written about Belize in the past (see here). It’s a fine destination if you’re a digital nomad who is into diving and other sea-dependent pursuits.

But for me, Guatemala is where I’d be if I had to choose between the two.  Here’s why:

#1 – Way Easier On Your Budget

After growing accustomed to Guatemala’s prices, Belize’s “island” prices blew me away. Everything’s more expensive there. Gas, groceries, clothing… you name it, the cost would be more and in some cases almost double than in Guatemala.

For example, our family of three could eat a decent meal in Guatemala, with drinks, for about $15 USD. The same meal in Belize would be about the equivalent of $25 USD.

Belize is definitely a budget-buster.

#2 – Variety of Climate and Landscapes

While I enjoyed Belize, it is a really small country compared to Guatemala. You can drive the country from end to end (North/South, East/West) in a couple of days if you wanted to. Or one day if you started driving really early.

While it packs a bunch of cool places in a small area, it can’t even begin to touch Guatemala for diversity. Whichever climate you prefer (cold, hot, humid, dry)or landscape (mountains, lakes, seas, valleys) Guatemala has a place for you.

#3 – Big-City Conveniences

While I’m not a huge fan of Guatemala City, I do appreciate it has a lot to offer by the way of modern conveniences (malls, bigger hospitals, IMAX screens, restaurants offering any type of cuisine you can fancy, etc…).

Belize City and the capital, Belmopan, even though they are the largest cities in Belize, are nowhere the metropolis Guatemala City is. To be fair, neither are any of the other capitals in Central America, of which Guatemala City is the largest.

Belize is a small country that relies on tourism for revenue. They don’t seem to attract big investors that want to build larger, better facilities.

I’m thankful those options are available in Guatemala, should I ever wish to visit them.

#4 – The Internet Provider Sucks

UPDATE: I’m happy to take this one of this list! As pointed out by readers Matt and Jason below (thanks, guys!), as of earlier this year, BTL no longer blocks Skype. Hooray!

Belize Telecom (BTL) has a virtual monopoly on Belizean Internet service. Since they also offer telephone service, BTL has taken the extra step of blocking Skype and Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) access to all customers!

There are ways around BTL’s blocks, such as using VPN services, but this only serves to further slow down an already slow Internet connection. Guatemala? No such silly restrictions.

**************

These are the things I was able to gather from my admittedly short visit to Belize.

However, don’t think that all I have are a negative impression of Belize. The people, for one, are much friendlier and open to conversation than the typically reserved Guatemalan, or so it was in my case. Also, and this is key for many people, there is a lessened feeling of insecurity in most of Belize than there is in Guatemala (Belize City being the exception).

I thoroughly enjoyed Belize’s natural attractions, which I’ll detail on my trip report this Friday. But for the reasons I mentioned above, Guatemala gets my nod as a better place to live long-term, with this warning:

No place is a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for our family may not work for you and vice versa. The point of seeking freedom to slow travel is to find the place that speaks to you.

Photo @ Flickr by Uno Brick

*****

 Have you visited or lived in either country?

I’d love to hear your opinion! 

Related

12 comments

  1. Rich,
    I agree with you (but some people have called me crazy for saying something like that). I found difficult to move around Belize. Public transportation is not a good option in my opinion (unless you need to travel very short distances). I have taken those buses I would never do it again. I ended up paying high prices for some sorts of private transportation. That ate my budget quickly. Interesting but I felt safer in Guatemala than in Belize.

  2. As far as safety, I think it really depends on the area. By far the sketchiest part of Belize was Belize City itself. Kinda rundown and not much to see/do other than take the Water Taxi to the Cayes.

    Thankfully I was driving, which made things more comfortable on the transportation end, I did have to arrange vehicle storage with someone in Belize, at their house, since there are no public garages in Belize City. Weird.

    Driving was very comfortable, and there was hardly any traffic in the city or highways.

    -Rich

  3. Hey Rich! Just to be fair to Belize, you can get that $15 USD lunch, for two, in most every where else in Belize except for the island. The island is notoriously overpriced for sure.

    Also, up in Western Cayo, we have mountains, rainforest, and ruins, and nights do get much cooler here, and a lot less bugs.

    For those of us who need Skype, we get our internet through the cable providers who don’t block it.

    Most of us who moved to Belize did so because we don’t want to be surrounded by malls, huge theater complexes, or McDonalds. If we desire that stuff, we can always drive to either Chetumal, Mexico or Guatemala.

    I appreciate your initial observations, but one week does not allow for a fair assessment of this culturally rich and topographically diverse nation.

    • Hi Sharon! Thanks for stopping by and offering your insight as someone who lives in Belize.

      You’re correct. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend as much time in Belize as I would’ve liked to, and said as much on the post. One of thee highlights was the unscheduled stop in San Ignacio, which I really liked.

      As far as isolation, Guatemala is plenty big that one can get away from it all a relatively short distance from the capital. No need to cross countries if one fancies an odd visit to a mall or a big movie theater, which for some is a plus.

      The islands are way overpriced, but they’re the #1 destination for people looking into an expat life in Belize. I agree that the country has a lot more to offer than just the cayes. I believe I’d prefer to live on the Western side as well, based on my short visit.

      I hope to visit Belize again soon :)

      -Rich

  4. Rich,
    All I can say is this Belize is NOT for everybody. Only special people decide to retire to this tiny country, they chose Belize over any other country. Reasons? Many.
    You stay over Guate and I shall stay over here.
    By the way I lived in Guatemala for over 8 yrs. But found that Belize is my home.
    Enjoy a Gallo for me. Saludo!

    • Hi Bush! Thanks for visiting.

      Belize is not for everyone, that’s true. But neither is Guatemala, or any other country in the world.

      I suspect many people still haven’t found their ideal place in this world. They just don’t know it yet.

      I’m glad you’ve found your personal paradise. I’m still searching for mine, as Guatemala is definitely not it :)

      -Rich

  5. Hi Rich,

    Thanks for an interesting post. You make some valid points, and although BTL does indeed suck, they no longer block anything. BTL has been my ISP for about 3.5 months, we regularly use Skype to communicate with friends and relatives back home, and our telephone is Vonage VoIP. You might want to make a correction. :)

    -Matt

    • Corrected. Glad you’re now able to stay in touch with family inexpensively. Always a plus :)

      Thanks Matt!

      -Rich

  6. Not sure when you all visited but I was in San Pedro for two weeks and Caye Caulker for one this summer and I no problem at all Skyping and the Internet speeds were much faster than last year. do agree that San Pedro has gotten WAY EXPENSIVE and it doens’t need to be as Caye Caulker is much cheaper for everything – I’m afraid that San Pedro is too far removed from the sleepy fishing island it used to be and with the crime I’ve been reading about I don’t feel the need to move there anymore – but I feel in love with Caye Caulker and immediately felt safe and that will be my destination in the near future:-)

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