Questions about Moving to the Carribean

Jun 25th, 2013, 06:20 AM
Original Poster
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Questions about Moving to the Carribean

Have been contemplating a move to Belize (or any other Caribbean area) for my "retirement" in a few years. Currently I'm 55 and soon-to-be single so I have no one to move with me should I actually go there.

Looking for insight from others.... SAFEST areas (particularly for senior women), lowest taxes, prices, living expenses, etc. Would really be quite happy in a grass hut under some trees looking out over the ocean. Nothing expensive or fancy. Just me and my cats. Wooded in the mountains or with a view of the sea are all great possibilities for me. I'm quite flexible that way and more than willing to be quite self-sufficient for my basic living requirements if needed (gardening, etc).

How does one MOVE there from the US? Is it possible to drive a uhaul for example or would that be insane to attempt? I don't have a lot of stuff but I'd need something bigger than my car cause my 5 cats would take up all that room by themselves in their expansive travel kennels. Can I bring my car or would I have to sell it here and buy new there?

I've never been out of the US and am not familiar with how to travel to some of them (unless it's very obvious you'd need a plane or boat like Europe or Australia or something).

I am open to all ideas and suggestions. Money IS an issue at this time so the cheapest options would be the only options for me.

Favorite things to do are: be home, gardening, any outside work, actually. Would love to be where I could access open street markets, food or other festivals, etc... free entertainment when and where available.

DO NOT like large crowds, (can take in small doses if necessary), not interested in arts, crafts, shopping other than food, movies or restaurants/bars, etc.. Would like to work if i can - currently a tractor trailer driver (new profession so no money has been accumulated yet and I have no pension or other retirement funds coming from anyplace) have quite a bit of office experience, customer service, etc but can't be on my feet long. Extensive medial office training as well. Don't know any other languages other than English but willing to learn.

Again, safety and employment options and cost of living would be key....


PS, I have NO IDEA where most of the places are that I have tagged as possibilities. Very "geographically challenged". LOL!
MichelleMarie1955 is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 08:16 AM
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Since you have never been out of the US, I highly recommend you do some traveling first. I can't imagine trying to move somewhere you've never even seen. That would be some culture shock!!!

You can drive to Mexico or Central America. You can't drive to the Caribbean islands you tagged in this post.

I have hopes to retire in Mexico, but I've been there 25 times to several different locations on various trips and vacation. So I know I like it and have a very good idea what my life would be like there. And I would not be seeking work.

Realistically, with no savings, needing to find employment in a foreign country, and speaking only English... this is going to be quite a challenge for you to pull off.
suze is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 08:36 AM
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What I would start with first is the immigration policies of the various countries you are interested in. Most places would not give a residency permit to someone coming in without a certain amount of money they could prove they have in the bank. And at the same time looking into what it takes to get a legal work permit there.

Doesn't matter about moving your furniture, etc. until you know you can actually be granted the paperwork.
suze is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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I'm a US Ex-Pat living in the Caribbean so perhaps I can shed some light on what your are contemplating. Living/working in the Caribbean is doable but it is not necessarily easy or inexpensive.

First and foremost you'd be wise to do a lot of "first hand" research and not rely solely on responses you get on a travel forum.

Second, go to - it's a website geared toward living/working in the US Virgin Islands but much of the information you find there will apply to almost any Caribbean location. Use the drop down menus at the top of the page and "READ EVERYTHING" - there's so much information there it will take you weeks to digest it all. Then, browse through the discussion forum archives - there are literally thousands of posts covering evey possible topic you can think of and many, many more you haven't thought about yet.

Third, in most Caribbean countries you CANNOT just show up one day and expect to live/work - you usually have to apply for residency (to live) and obtain a Work Permit (in order to work). These are often difficult to obtain. Usually you must possess a "unique skill" and your potential employer must prove to the local government that there are no "locals" qualified to fill the position. Do google searches using such topics as "Moving to NAME OF COUNTRY", "Working in "NAME OF COUNTRY" and visit the official government websites for the countries that interest you to find out what the immigration and working requirements are for that country.

Fourth, in most Caribbean countries you are going to find living expenses will probably be higher than they are "back home" while wages for comparable jobs will be lower. That's the Catch-22 of living/working in the Caribbean. DO NOT make the move if you have lots of debt, the Caribbean is no place to escape from paying bills and you'll end up owing more. Instead, make sure you save up enough money to support yourself for at least six months - a year's savings would be even better. The larger your nest egg the easier you'll find it to make the transition. Simply put, living on a budget in the Caribbean is very difficult.

Fifth, DO NOT move to a country sight unseen. Make Pre-Move Visits (PMV) to the countries you are considering. It's the only way you will get a feel for what life is really like. Living/working in the Caribbean is far different from being on vacation and certainly very different than daily life back in the US. These PMV's should last anywhere from 2 weeks to a couple of months for each location. DO NOT come as a tourist and stay at a resort but rather rent a small efficiency unit or condo and do everyday chore like grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning,, banking, etc. as you'll be doing those types of things when you finally relocate. If you can't afford to make the PMV's you won't be able to afford living in the Caribbean - I know that may sound harsh but it's the reality.

All Caribbean countries have safe areas as well as less desirable areas. No place is going to be crime free. The Caribbean may seem like paradise but it is not heaven. Thorough research will be the only way you'll be able to determine what areas of any given country will meet your definition of safe.

Sixth, forget the notion that you'll be able to live a "simpler life" in the Caribbean - life is not simple in the Caribbean, it has it's own set of challenges.

As for taking your car, well that depends. Do you own it outright or is there a lien on the vehicle. If there's a lien most likely your lender will not allow you to take the car out of the US. If you own it free and clear there's no reason why you couldn't bring it with you. However, you may find the cost to ship your car is higher than the car is worth. You'll have to research this on your own.

Lastly, the islands you mentioned in your "tag" are some of the most expensive destinations in the Caribbean so you'd be wise to look at other options. I agree with size, if you've never been out of the US I suggest you do a little international travel BEFORE you even consider relocating to another country. Determine WHY you want to leave the US - relocate because it's the right move for you not because you are trying to escape from something.

Good luck following your dream.
RoamsAround is online now  
Jun 25th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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first off, you need money. Old saying, "How do you make $1 million in Caribbean? Invest $2 million!"

Central America is the cheapest area. Islands require importing everything, including food, so even just basics are 2-3 times what they would be in States.

You won't find a hut anywhere with ocean views, just the lots with ocean views go for $600,000 plus an acre! (any island) Most that can afford it won't built a hut, they will build decent luxury houses.

To work in Central America and Caribbean, you need work permits (even as a bartender) they are usually anywhere from $3000-$9000 depending on the island you pick.

Catch 22, the islands with low or no taxes have high standards of living.

Water and utilities, again extremely high. Water maybe $150 monthly for a small place (including the months you can supplement with cistern, or rain water) Utilities, thing at least $600 plus a month.

Gardening is extremely hard. Unless you can water frequently, the heat evaporates water quickly, so there goes your water bill up again. Can't garden in heat of day, too hot, unless you have A/C, which will increase your utilities.

If you get a job, not only do you have to renew it at a cost every year, sometimes they don't get around to renewing it on time, so you might have times of no work. If a native wants your job, they get it first.

Unemployment rate is much higher in these countries.

Living the simple lifestyle is really not simple. Everything rusts quickly (salt and heat) Nothing is fixed quickly (waiting for parts for weeks to fix a fridge for example) everyone moves at a snail pace so nothing ever gets finished. It is not what you think it is!

Unless you get residency, (which can cost $1000-$3000 a year depending where) you have to leave every couple of months and come back. Of course, airfare is costly!)

As for physically moving, there are many boat companies that take cargo to all islands, etc. including cars. You have to pay import duties on everything, usually around 40%, for cars even more.

Never even consider it without visiting first. Stay for a month, not as vacationer, but as a trial run. Live off the beach with no A/C, learn your way.

If after that you still want to move, you'll have the info you need.

It sounds daunting. It can be rewarding. But you need at least 6 months of living expenses just in case before even considering it.

You can't just pack up and go.

As for your cats, make sure you do everything right by immigration. There are so many animals running loose in these places that bringing them in does require a process.
blamona is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 09:26 AM
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I keep coming back to the fact that you have never been outside the United States. How do you know you will even like it in the Caribbean?

Plus some screaming reality checks, like if you are living in a hut out in the countryside or mountain top... where are you going to work (if you are able to secure a working permit)?

While Mexico has its own set of challeges, and it would be unlikely you can find work there, it is less expensive than the Caribbean islands. Why not go to Mexico for 3 months on a tourist visa (that's how long you can stay, 90-days) and see if this really makes sense for you.
suze is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 03:16 PM
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I live part of the year on Ambergris Caye in Belize. I realize Ambergris has its own set of issues, since it's such a heavily touristed area, but, living in Belize is not easy.

I have friends who have been working on establishing residency for months. Endless hassles. Their paperwork has been lost at least once.

Belize does have the advantage of being English speaking. It's also very protective of its population. It would be tough to get a job there.

It costs us US$25.00 a month just to get our passport stamped every month that we're there. If we stay more than six months, that amount doubles.

I simply can't imagine trying to move somewhere I've never been, let alone if I've never left the US.
JeanH is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 06:22 PM
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If you have US citizenship, the US Virgin Islands is the easiest place to consider. Listen to RoamsAround, who gives excellent advice. Do some traveling in preparation for your retirement.
eastenderusvi is online now  
Jun 28th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Would you consider Hawaii? While it's not cheap to live there, you could much more easily find legal better paying employment.
suze is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 07:49 AM
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I agree with the above comment about Hawaii. It has more employment options.

If you're set on the Caribbean. I would recommend Rincon in Puerto Rico. If you're a United States Citizen you can move there without a passport. There is a large Expat community in that area so everyone speaks English. The cost of living is very low. (You can get a 1 bedroom with a small backyard for 400$ a month) the beaches are beautiful and the people are warm. I spoke to a lot of locals during my last trip there and they said it's very safe there too. Most of the crime in Puerto Rico occurs in major cities like San Juan and is 95% drug related. Just something to consider.

I would move to Rincon tomorrow if I could!!
Daisyjane82 is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2013, 09:49 PM
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Just before asking this, the OP asked about where to get a truck driving job in Florida, and has not been back to either thread. Either a pipe dream or a troll (or she forgot how to get back to Fodors).
janisj is online now  
Jul 5th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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Great observation Janisj. A troll would be my bet. Any senior at that age to move someplace sight unseen is not very "real" to me. I do wonder though pertaining to some of the answers I watch Househunters frequently. There was a couple who just moved to Belize and were opening up a coffee shop. I see americans moving there and seem to have no problems working in areas. I have seen it a lot--also other caribbean islands. Just wondering why it sounds so difficult on here.
diann24 is offline  
Jul 5th, 2013, 09:15 AM
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Because people are being more realistic than a TV show?
suze is offline  
Jul 5th, 2013, 09:20 AM
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>>I do wonder though pertaining to some of the answers I watch Househunters frequently.<<

They don't give you any of the back story. Just like they often showing Americans moving to Europe or the UK and it ain't that simple. Either family lineage that allows them to get a foreign passport, or they've received a work permit sponsored by an employer (very hard to obtain) or a long stay visa - also difficult.

I enjoy House Hunters as well - but they are totally set up scenarios. Each 'buyer' has already done all the leg work/visas/work permits/whatever and selected a property they want/plan to buy or rent - and the producers find two more to show them. Once in a while they do change their minds and get one of the new offerings.
janisj is online now  
Jul 5th, 2013, 01:19 PM
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Agree, shows like House Hunter international don't give you the "back story".

For instance, you can sometimes relocate to a Caribbean destination and get residency IF YOU INVEST a large sum in property (anywhere from $300,000US to $750,000US) but that only provides "residency" and doesn't allow one to work. Even after purchasing the property it still can take a year or more to get the official OK for residency (and in many Caribbean countries there are additional "fees" to be paid.

You can also get residency in some Caribbean countries if you invest similar amounts in a business that provides jobs for locals. Again the process is not easy and can be very time consuming (I suspect the couple that diana24 saw on HHI opening up the coffee shop in Belize went through similar bureaucratic red tape before they appeared on the show.

Suffice to say, a foreigner trying to get residency in the Caribbean MUST PROVE to the local government that they have the financial wherewithal to support themselves without working. As I said in my original reply, getting residency is doable but it is not easy nor is it in any way something you can do inexpensively.

By the way, OP wanted to move somewhere on the cheap so she wouldn't be able get residency "by investment" or opening up a business.

I suspect OP is not a troll but rather someone who is having a difficult time making ends meet and was looking for a quick fix without knowing any real facts.
RoamsAround is online now  
Jul 5th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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I have actually seen a couple filmings of hhi.

These are either really rich people who can afford a retirement home, or have been on the island a long time and already have either established businesses or the means to create them, and already have been to the island tons of times and done all the back work.

I love the show, it does glamorize and simplify it.

Doesn't mean it can't happen, but it's not just, oh I pick an island I love find a place to live and it will all work out like you see on tv.

It is rewarding, it's amazing, but it's nothing like the movies.
blamona is offline  
Jul 6th, 2013, 06:50 AM
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I love watching Househunters International. But besides that fact that some parts of the show are a 'set up', I have never seen an episode where the people featured were trying to relocate with no money.

That to me is the big catch in this OP, basically not having the money to do what they are proposing. Even if you could eventually find employment somewhere, you'd need funds at the start to be allowed into the country, to rent a place to live, etc.
suze is offline  
Feb 17th, 2014, 12:23 PM
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The blue water, the ocean breezes, fresh fish for dinner - it all sounds great, but it comes at a price. Living on ANY island is expensive - just about everything has to be imported, which adds to the cost.

As a "first-time traveler", you may want to first research some areas nearer the U.S. (like Mexico or Costa Rica). My wife & I have been living & working in Ajijic, Mexico (30 miles south of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco) for the past 15 months. We love it here.

Ajijic is one of several small towns located along the north shore of Lake Chapala (Mexico's largest lake). Almost 40% of the 15,000 population here in the Lake Chapala area are Gringos (mostly Americans & Canadians, with some French & German). English is widely spoken here. The cost of living is very low as compared to the U.S. A 2-bed/2-bath home rents for $500-700/month (U.S.). Internet connection is adequate and reliable (both my wife & I have jobs we do exclusively over the Internet).

Ajijic is located in the Sierra Madre mountain range at 5,500 feet elevation. The weather is nearly perfect here year 'round (virtually 80-84 degrees every day except mid-Dec to mid-Jan when the daily highs are around 65-70 degrees). It is a 3-4 hour drive to Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo on the Pacific Coast.

My wife & I have been to over 50 different restaurants here in the area (all within a 15 minute drive from our house). The Lake Chapala Society ( is a very helpful organization for Gringos - they offer lots of classes, workshops, events, etc for Expats. A great way to make new friends and connections.

You can get American tv shows via satellite dish system.

You can enter Mexico from the U.S. with just a passport and stay for 6 months with just the Tourist Visa you'll get at the border. If you can prove (for example, with bank statements) that you have a monthly income of $1,200 for the past 6 months, you can apply for a Residente Temporal Visa that is good for 1 year (and can be renewed each year for another 4 years). Or, you can just return to the U.S. border before your original 6 month Tourist Visa has expired, then cross back into Mexico (even on the same day) and get a NEW 6-month Tourist Visa (some Gringos have been doing this for years).

Driving on the main highways in Mexico is not difficult (just stay on the toll roads and don't drive at night). It's an easy 2-day drive to Ajijic from the U.S. border at Laredo, TX. There is a nice hotel mid-way between Laredo and Ajijic, in Matehuala.

Do a search on YouTube for "Ajijic Mexico" and you'll find some helpful videos. Also check out for house rental info.

But, above all, be sure to visit any place for at least 1 week before you make the decision to move there full time. Good luck!
worldtraveler51 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 03:26 PM
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I have been many places in the past 20 years and for the carribean feel Ithink you want, you are btter off with Mexico. I think, and correct me if I am way off, You want white sands, clear blue waters, perhaps an American friendly attitude and the ability to live a somewhat bohemian lifestyle on the cheap. Not impossible, but the islands are not a match for you. Real estate is pricie and bought up by mostly/ not so bohemian types looking for air conditioned, luxurious summer homes. Mexico sounds like a wonderful idea that you can run back home from if TSHTF. Home being just across the border from TJ. Puerto rico requires a plane or boat ride but is equally beautiful and you will find that english is very popular. No passport needed! If you are a truck driver now, you can sell everything you own after a few months in your destination of choice and buy local furniture. Sounds like you dont have too many valuables to worry about so if you dont own your house here, rent a place in Mexico for a few months. Have at least $4000 toget you out of a jam and goooo!!!
DefenderOzzie is offline  

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