Entry-level bidding is over, and assignments have all been made. But mid-level bidding is just getting under way. So I thought I’d put together a little list of pros and cons about Belmopan for anyone thinking of bidding on Belize (plus it’s the topic on this month’s FS Blog Round Up!).

Pros:

1. Diving

I love scuba diving. I was certified back in 2001 and had only been in the water for that purpose about half a dozen times since then. After we arrived here, the embassy held a certification course that my hubby participated in, and now we can dive together. 🙂 My goal is to dive at least 10 times while we’re here, and we’re about half way there. The diving here is phenomenal, and it’s also one of the dozen places in the world where you can see whale sharks, which we did back in May!

2. Weather

Belize is about half way between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, so it is by definition tropical! It’s hot and humid with lots of sun. If you’re lucky enough to get to one of the cayes over a weekend, and combine that with some sand and surf, it’s quite Caribbean.

3. Housing

Everyone keeps telling me that the housing compound here has some of the best housing in the Foreign Service. And I am inclined to believe them. For one thing, it’s very new. The embassy has only been in Belmopan for six years, and the compound is about the same age. So it’s nice and shiny and new with a lovely little pool, a playground for the kids and a walking path. The houses are also nicely laid out and very spacious.

4. Community

The embassy and diplomatic community in Belize is very small. There’s not a lot of privacy, but I’ve enjoyed it as we’ve been able to make some great friends within our own embassy and also from within neighboring missions. There’s not much of a social or rank-based hierarchy, and people tend to hang out with anyone they want to, which I hear is not always the case in much larger embassies.

5. Proximity to US

Probably the shortest international flight I have ever taken, the main airport in Belize City is barely two hours from Miami, and only six or seven hours from DC with a layover. So if you’re trying to stay close to home, it doesn’t get much closer…unless you’re stationed in Mexico or Canada.

Cons:

1. Weather

I’m actually listing this in both the pros and the cons because one man’s tropical paradise could be another man’s sweltering hell. 😉 I wouldn’t go quite that far for us, but we definitely prefer colder climates. Having spent seven years in Alaska and the better part of a decade in the Antarctic, I can confidently say that I miss the snow!!

2. Crime

As Caribbean as it might seem, Belize is still a Central American country. There’re lots of drugs, gangs, corruption and crime (particularly in Belize City). For a small country, Belize has an impressive murder rate, and many of them are pretty brutal, which is not surprising in a place where the main gardening tool is a machete.

3. Safety

The embassy and housing compounds are very safe both physically and structurally, of course. But there’s not much of an infrastructure in Belize and little to no safety awareness like in the States. The few paved roads are extremely dark at night and very slippery after rains. Public equipment is old. When we went on our whale shark dive, we used a less expensive dive company, and at least half of us had faulty or broken equipment…including fins and depth gauges…some of things that you’d consider very important when diving in open water with a decent current and no visible bottom. In the year that I’ve been here, there’ve been at least half a dozen tourist drownings while snorkeling or diving. So always go with a reputable company!

4. Rural

Belmopan is very, very, very quiet with very little to do and very few places to go.

5. Expensive

Even though Miami is only two hours away, a ticket to Miami will cost you over $500…elsewhere in the States will be in the $700 to $800 range. Regional travel to other C.A. countries is the same, and local travel is also ridiculously expensive. Belmopan to Placencia is a two-hour drive, but the 20-minute flight will cost you $120. To fly to the cayes, which is also less than 30 minutes is $180. Most of the food in the grocery stores is imported and expensive. GST is approximately 12.5%. And decent internet runs around $180 per month because there are only two companies. A comfortable hotel is at least $200 USD per night. My definition of comfortable is fairly basic: When it’s 95 degrees outside, it has air conditioning, a pool, few bugs inside the room; it’s fairly clean and fairly safe.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Happy bidding!

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