USVI vs. Belize (or...
 
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USVI vs. Belize (or other central american countries)

(@olorin)
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First post to this forum but have been following it for some time. Have been looking into places to retire and have been looking hard at USVI (St Thomas) and Belize (Placencia specifically) in particular, and have visited both. Some comparisons based on my limited due diligence are below, but would appreciate thoughts and opinions from anyone. Some of the reasons I've looked in particular at these two places are (a) english is the official language, (b) relatively close and easy access to US, (c) same time zone relatively speaking to US, (d) nice beaches with access to various water sports, (e) not too off the beaten track/third world. I realize these are 2 different places, but some thoughts on how I would compare each:

1) Immigration--USVI obviously easy for US citizen, Belize somewhat of an issue (although they have a program to enter). Give the nod to USVI here
2) Infrastructure (roads, hospitals, stores, utilities, etc). Belize overall not so great, but Placencia in particular was pretty good, but would have to give the nod to USVI here
3) Cost of real estate--cheaper in Belize, but surprisingly seems like many homes in the $1M or so range in USVI with great views which are cheaper than I would have expected (coming from big city in US). Taxes are relatively cheap on real estate in both places (again compared to big city US)
4) Health care--would assume USVI has advantage since US based hospitals covered by insurance, and eventually medicare in US territory, so advantage over Belize
5) Access to fresh foods locally grown--Belize wins, although I wouldn't say food and restaurants in Belize are necessarily "cheap" (unless you are just wanting to go to hole in the wall places)
6) Internet and cell phone coverage--didn't find any material differences (and in USVI somewhat of a plus since US plans cover USVI automatically)
7) Sales tax--none in USVI, but there is in Belize.
8) Sailing--good in both places but way more infrastructure in USVI
9) Diving--good in both places but Belize wins
10) Other activities like golf, tennis, social clubs, etc--pretty limited (or non existent) in Belize, more of these in USVI

I'm sure there are various other pros and cons and points of comparison that folks can throw out so everyone please fire away.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 2:23 am
(@speee1dy)
Posts: 8868
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i think you really need to visit each for a couple of weeks to see for yourself.

just an fyi-some things are cheaper on stx

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 9:54 am
(@the-oldtart)
Posts: 6523
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You said you've already visited both but have you spent some time in both, living more as a local than as a tourist? If this is a retirement move you should ideally live in both places for about a month, doing a serious PMV (pre move visit) as mentioned many times on this forum as well as in the general information on the drop-down menus top of this page.

There are also several forums for Belize ex-pats which would likely give you a lot of insight into living there.

The points you've raised are very superficial and "real life" tends to minimize them when you get down to the frustrations of daily living and it's the little things that seem to irritate most. Like power outages, poor roads, petty bureaucracy, etc. 😀

Read this site carefully, and absorb what's pointed out on the Belize forums - and then do those serious PMVs so you have a more rounded personal experience. Good luck in your adventure!

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 10:52 am
(@ca-dreamers)
Posts: 445
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We looked at several including Belize.

We bought and live here in STX since 2012.

WOULDN"T CHANGE A THANG!

CD

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 11:04 am
(@alana33)
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If you wish to live in a 3rd world country, the USVI is a great choice.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 11:53 am
(@STXBob)
Posts: 2138
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4) Health care--would assume USVI has advantage since US based hospitals covered by insurance, and eventually medicare in US territory, so advantage over Belize
...
7) Sales tax--none in USVI, but there is in Belize.

Health care is not that good in the USVI, and individual health insurance is hard to get. Obamacare does not apply here.

USVI has a hidden sales tax called the Gross Receipts Tax. It's 5% and can be added several times over as goods move through the supply chain.

But many people live in the USVI happily, so don't reject it just by what you see on paper.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 12:18 pm
(@east-ender)
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...Health care is not that good in the USVI,...

I am assuming you are talking about St Croix, Bob...St Thomas has pretty good health care and a Joint Commission accredited hospital....;)

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 3:40 pm
(@olorin)
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Topic starter
 

Yes doing more on the ground visiting is good (more than the few weeks we have spent on each). Yes doing more research on line is good. Yes visiting the Belize forums is good (already doing that). Yes living and experiencing real life there is good before making a decision. Know all that and working on all that.

What I was trying to see is (a) if anyone actually living in St Thomas had different thoughts/experiences on the points I raised (because they actually live there and know my initial views are either right or wrong), and (b) if anyone else has gone through similar "comparisons" of St Thomas vs. Belize (or any other similar central american country) and what they found after going through the same thought process.

So anyone that wants to poke holes in my summary (or tell me I'm wrong on my initial due diligence) that is exactly what I would love to hear. Just trying to tap some real life experiences that folks truly on the ground and living there have, so we can continue to do our due diligence before making any real decisions.

Thanks.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 5:11 pm
(@the-oldtart)
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I will throw out one thing and that's in general about retiring here. I'm a 30 year resident and over the years have seen many, many old friends leave a couple of years into retirement. The combination of the very high COL as well as the paucity of medical care compared to what's available in many stateside areas is pretty much a no-brainer for many. We have a very high attrition rate of newcomers here for many different reasons but this is the primary reason for older people leaving, many of whom have lived here for decades and also many who were born here and lived their whole life here.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 5:27 pm
(@east-ender)
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O: I can't compare Belize, because I would not want to be an expatriate in Central America. My choice was between the USVI and Hawaii as I wanted to stay in America, kind of.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 6:14 pm
(@robert.hamic)
Posts: 26
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I was settled on moving to the USVI after a lot of research and visits. I started looking at Belize recently as an alternative. In STX- I love the people, first and foremost and the location doesn't suck. I fell in love with the rural feel and actually like seeing chickens walking around on the streets because it is quaint. I love Christiansted but not F'sted so much. I don't think I wold consider moving to STT. The government is corrupt and I've really learned a lot by watching the news for six months each day. We are considering opening a art gallery and maybe a bar if we moved to STX so the issues with government were somewhat of a concern. It seems like everything I read about the establishment of the VI is bad. I think the territory is headed for bankruptcy in the future and that will likely influence all things there. The fact that the public employees aren't getting a retirement check and or payments to their pension effects all parts of the structure. Policing feels inept. The Governor seems more concerned with external issues than territorial ones. The large hospitals are out of compliance and apt to lose federal funding. The major employers are not there and there doesn't seem to be anything working to bring them back. Education is either really expensive privately or not that good in public schools. Unemployment is high. The government is robbing peter to pay Paul in so many aspects of its operation and it hasn't paid tax returns for over payment regularly since 2012. It is really hard for us to sign up consciously to enter into a location choice with so much going wrong. For us to make the commitment to move, there would have to be significant signs of change.

I saw that a number of people on this forum had a negative view of many aspects of life in the VI and I was skeptical at first. Now I see that these folks are well versed on the BS that occurs on a daily basis and just giving people an honest opinion. So many people come on here like I did with their mind half made up to move.

The US dollar goes a lot farther in Belize for certain. The government doesn't seem to have rampant corruption and the economy is growing. Unemployment is really low and to me that means that the population is more content with conditions, generally. No US health insurance but the cost of services and medication is really low. Insurance can be purchased that is widely accepted and inexpensive. Land costs are low, even in the pricey areas. Placentia isn't the most pricey by a long shot. Crime is comparable to the USVI and seems to be more centered on bad locations. There don't seem to be as much random crime. Tourism is growing at a high rate.

Belize has a QRP program for retirees that allows for permanent residency without a lot of hassle or money. Imports are free for an amount and period of time.

We are definitely going to check things out down there and spend a month or so this summer. It is defiantly worth exploring. I am also a diver and the grounds around the country look amazing. I have also considered opening a dive service. Good luck.

I definitely recommend that you watch the news daily for an extended period of time for any place you are considering. It was a real eye opener for me.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 6:41 pm
(@east-ender)
Posts: 5404
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"The large hospitals are out of compliance and apt to lose federal funding."

I am sorry, my friend, but you are wrong. Juan Luis Hospital on St. Croix is having trouble. Schneider Regional on St Thomas is Joint Commission accredited and just this past week had a not-so-surprise visit and an excellent review from the surveyors. Please do not place both health care systems in one category. They definitely are not.

P.S. You can read much doom and gloom here by some residents. There are many others who are very optimistic- in spite of the problems that face us. And if you think the USVI is corrupt, try a banana republic.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 8:04 pm
(@olorin)
Posts: 5
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Topic starter
 

Thanks so much for this reply. Sounds like you are already in St Croix (how long have you been there?). I haven't been there, but did visit St Thomas, and tried to talk to locals and do some research and the sense I got (just from talking to expats in STT, and looking at forums) is that seems like some of the differences between them (so I could be totally off base here, so just repeating what I have heard, so open to any counter responses)

1) STX--more rural and less developed. So could be good or bad depending on what you want.
2) STX--i got the sense that the "locals" in STX viewed "outsiders" from US (expats) more negatively and didn't appreciate them coming in and buying nice homes (etc). Again I am just repeating what I heard from several sources while in STT and on various forums
3) STX--more isolated and hard to connect with other places (since island is a bit remote) vs. being close to St John and BVI. Again this could be good or bad depending on what you want.
The whole corruption/bankrupt system would seem to be equally applicable to both places, although it would seem that maybe this hits STX harder, because more dependant on the refinery (now closed) and maybe STT has more to fall back on with more tourism?

Our perspective is that (a) we don't need to work or find jobs there, or (b) don't need health care (yet--would probably look to relocate somewhere at age 50 so assuming likely don't need "heavy" health care for say 10 years, and then can always move back to the mainland if health is an issue). But I'm definately interested in posts that seem to indicate the whole VI is on a downhill slide (assuming folks think that is true). So would love any opinions there.

Robert, don't know how much you have been doing research in Belize and how interested you may be there, but I have researched it heavily for at least 6 months, visited a couple of times. I think everything you say on your post I would tend to agree with. Was just trying to get a sense of whether USVI might have some advantages having the US connection.

I would say that in Belize, at least the places we looked at like Placencia, I wouldn't say anything was really cheaper than the US. Of course, it always depends on your lifestyle. If you want to live "cheap" there are ways to do that on the mainland US, and Belize also. But being realistic, and not wanting to retire and be a frugal hermit, seems to me that you probably just consider the cost of living a wash between US and Belize. Some things cheaper, some more expensive.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 8:07 pm
(@the-oldtart)
Posts: 6523
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1. ... just from talking to expats in STT ... viewed "outsiders" from US (expats)But

2. I'm definately interested in posts that seem to indicate the whole VI is on a downhill slide (assuming folks think that is true). So would love any opinions there.

1. There are no "US expats" here as all Virgin Islanders are US citizens just as are those US citizens who moved here. Technically speaking, I'm an expat (a British expat) since I'm a citizen of the UK.

2. In 30 years here I've seen many economic ups and downs so come from a rather different perspective then someone who moved here just a few years ago or more recently. It goes up and it goes down and we're usually a couple of years behind the states in the waxing and waning. It took a good couple of years before the recent US depression ("recession" if you like to play with words!) really affected the USVI and likewise our recovery will lag behind some.

Cheers!

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 8:21 pm
(@denvertired)
Posts: 113
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East,

The joint commission has the biggest influence over medicare payments. If hospitals fail JCOH inspections they receive a lower percentage on medicare payments.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 8:27 pm
(@speee1dy)
Posts: 8868
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st croixs economy is a bit worse/worst ( which one is it ) off than stt due to hovensa closing. hovensa was a major employer. those employees spent a lot of money here. a lot of them moved off island to get jobs or were from the mainland and just went back. downtown has a lot of vacant stores. two long time restaurants are closing. of course you have a couple more opening up.

stt seems to not be as bothered by the economical downturn that stx is, most likely due to the fact they are more tourist geared.

stx is a bit more laid back and rural than stt.

 
Posted : February 21, 2015 11:32 pm
(@AandA2VI)
Posts: 2294
Noble Member
 

Belieze scared the hell out of me. Personally I'll never go back and no we weren't in belieze city. Maybe there are nice parts but I felt totally unsafe.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 2:11 am
(@alana33)
Posts: 12366
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I rather liked Costa Rica, especially since they protect their natural resources and have extensive parks. Very friendly but they drive like maniacs. Worse than here! Diving is pretty spectacular.

The Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras are nice but they're islands with different logistics in getting back and forth and getting supplies, traveling by boat or ferry to mainland, etc. Also great diving.
Venezuela has great sport fishing but wouldn't want to live there.
Too much turmoil.

After living on an island for decades and growing up on one, I'll be looking stateside/FL for a change of pace. While I might miss my views, there'll be other things I won't miss.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 2:50 am
(@speee1dy)
Posts: 8868
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alana33, i am with you in the florida thing

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 10:19 am
(@robert.hamic)
Posts: 26
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I read that a police officer was ambushed by multiple people with machine guns in STT last night. Apparently, they waited until he drove by and opened up on him with the guns. http://viconsortium.com/featured/gunmen-ambush-police-near-federal-building-on-st-thomas/

Haven't there been 8 murders in the USVI since January? I think the murder rate is up there with Detroit, during the same timeframe. I am pretty sure the USVI average is about 33 murders per 100,000 people (FBI crime data), which makes the territory's violent crime rates as high as many huge US cities.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 2:42 pm
(@IslandMon)
Posts: 6
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They are both nice tropical looking destinations until you make the move... AS far as crime, Belize has some of the worst violence in the world (2nd most deadly/violent gangs and 6th most dangerous country in the world) yes as in every case there are safer places than others. We lived in Belize for a while, on a few different islands most of the people are nice and wave etc. but there is about 1 horrible murder per day/night on the small islands, Including the major tourist destination San Pedro Town. Such a small island with major major crime. It didn't used to be like that years back. Things got very dangerous and especially at night, very sketch with feds and swat dressed in all black carrying huge automatics every night. (obviously for a reason) Gun shots almost every night to wake up to someone new is dead. The gov / police would NEVER find out who made the crimes, which would make them keep doing more and more, and then they just jump on a boat to Mexico or Honduras etc. Major drug trafficking on the nice beaches, and if you get in there way they will chop off your head with a machete and keep on going like nothing happened. Things changed a lot down there over the past years, but this doesn't stop the tourist and people from moving there. as far as $ Belize is great and the $Dollar $ goes very very far. Have a great day everyone-

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 2:58 pm
(@the-oldtart)
Posts: 6523
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I read that a police officer was ambushed by multiple people with machine guns in STT last night. Apparently, they waited until he drove by and opened up on him with the guns.

Not that there's any excuse but the officer in question has an extensive negative record as a police officer and the bigger surprise is that he remains in service. I saw him in action once on a simple traffic stop and his total over-reaction was so seriously troubling that I sincerely hoped never to cross his path.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 3:25 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Posts: 2460
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Hamic posted "For us to make the commitment to move, there would have to be significant signs of change."
That would be a very optimistic viewpoint and a likely dealbreaker for moving here.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 3:42 pm
(@robert.hamic)
Posts: 26
Eminent Member
 

That can often be the case with police officers. If they treat people poorly and with disrespect there can be consequences. I was a police officer in a rough city and I tried, even in the worst circumstances, give out as much respect as I received. It is important not to take people's dignity away in a contact. It seems like the police really need to get to the root of community policing and being in the community. It is hard for a force that is down 250 officers to do anything but chase calls for service all day long. I'm sure it is a big challenge to run the VIPD and I hope the leaders lead by example. Gang crime has always been senseless, stupid and random from a normal person's perspective. Active gangs always spike crime in areas that have high drug traffic. Of course, crime spreads out form there. Hopefully, VIPD is going to address the gang issue in a very strong and aggressive manner. It can be as simple as the courts assessing penalties for crimes already charged to members of a gang (theft, burglary and crimes unrelated to gang activity). The Feds have resources that can help and I'd like to see a bigger presence of a regional task force to combat the problem. My heart goes out to the people who are at risk because of this ever present danger.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 6:01 pm
(@gators_mom)
Posts: 1300
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We made the retirement tour of Central America.

Belize has become increasingly influenced by gangs and the illegal drug business, particularly in Placencia. You have to hire security for your property even if you're gone overnight if you're not in town. I have a friend whose elderly father (a US citizen) is in Belize and his treatment and care has been - well criminal. Also Belize has a massive trash problem - debris everywhere unless you're in the tourist areas. In my time spent in Belize, I found groceries to be comparable to the US.

We looked at Panama as well. Real estate system very iffy if you plan to purchase. Very cloudy and rainy on the coast as would be expected that far in the tropics. Also it IS literally a banana republic though the infrastructure is surprisingly modern and efficient. I found it to be a country inhabited mostly by indigenous people connected to a major Latin American city. Not necessarily bad but strange.

I have lived in FL for many years and it is home to many retirees. Coastal FL is expensive. Real estate taxes can exceed $5,000 per year on a $300K property.
Insurance - particularly with flood insurance - can range $3-6,000 per year on $$300K property. Sales tax approached 8 percent on all goods except food. I find groceries to be the same in the VI as in FL - though in FL you get better qualify for the money.

Yes, the VI has its problems. But the connectivity to the US is comforting and it's not at all third world compared to Belize or Panama. All things considered, I can afford to retire in the VI but not in FL unless I were to seriously downgrade my standard of living. However, I won't be looking for a job.

 
Posted : February 22, 2015 7:00 pm
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