Belize may be small, but what it lacks in square miles, it makes up for in personality. One of the only pockets of the region where English is spoken (albeit with an indecipherable tropical lilt), working in Belize is not for the faint-hearted. The colorful characters that inhabit these shores can be somewhat overbearing, and the chaotic din of Belize City is best handled with a calm attitude and a cold beer. That said, if turquoise waters, white sand, and some of the best scuba diving in the world sound good to you, why not find work in Belize?
From dense jungle and deep caves, to gritty cities and laidback beaches, you’ll find what you’re looking for here (and a few things you aren’t, besides!). While you can never really be sure if a Belizean is trying to help you, scam you, or sell you something, their creative interpretation of the English language and hilarious facial expressions will put a smile on your face. If you’re looking to work in Belize, here are three of the top spots:
Belize City. A people-watcher’s paradise, creaking and bumping into Belize City by bus is a feast for the eyes. Bustling with activity, shrill voices cry out selling pineapples, cigarettes, textiles, and electronics. Most adventurers looking for jobs abroad in Belize will start their journeys here, although they probably won’t stay for long. As the jumping off point for the Cayes, unless you want to teach, Belize City’s main attraction is how easily you can get out of it.
Belmopan. It might surprise you to know that Belmopan is the capital of Belize, and not Belize City as you may have thought. After one savage hurricane too many, the nation’s capital was moved inland and away from nature’s unpredictable wrath. Despite being the capital, Belmopan’s beauty lies in the surrounding jungle, national parks, and opportunities for whitewater rafting, hiking, and wildlife watching. If you’re looking to work abroad in Belize as a tour guide, this could be your place.
Caye Caulker. Packed with bars and restaurants, dive shops and hostels, Caye Caulker is a haven for all good things. A stone’s throw from the Great Blue Hole, a UNESCO World Heritage site, diving here is unrivaled, and you can even swim with nurse sharks in (the appropriately named) Shark Ray Alley. Want to stay on dry land? Soak up some sun while listening to chilled Reggae beats playing from morning till night.
Popular Job Types
Unless you’re comfortable working for cash in hand, you’ll need to get a work permit, even for international jobs in Belize. If you have your own business idea and want to work with tourists, try seeking a self-employment work permit, as these are easier to come by.
Education. If you want to teach in Belize, remember that English is the national language here. You won’t find an abundance of work in institutions in this postage-sized paradise, although there are plenty of public and private schools. You will need a degree to teach in Belize as it’s a government prerequisite.
Sports or Scuba Dive Instructor. With some of the world’s best diving, the most obvious choice when considering Belize jobs for foreigners is as a scuba dive instructor, but there’s a fair bit of red tape to cut through. You could try setting up your own small business if you’re PADI qualified.
Tourism. Wherever there’s a tourist there's a tour guide, and that means work in this area, either in cash-in-hand, or running your own operation. From Belize’s interior to its tropical Cayes, this Caribbean country attracts visitors from far and wide, and is relatively safe compared to its restless neighbors. Be sure to get certified in rappelling, rock climbing, or another adventure sport, as there’s ton of action here.
The cost of living in Belize is higher than neighboring countries, yet the salaries can be equally meager. Teaching pays reasonably well at between US$1,600-2,200 a month, but you’ll spend almost all of that on the cost of living (depending on how much living you do!). Tour guides and scuba instructors may cover their costs and make up a few Belizean dollars on tips.
Accommodations & Visas
As a fairly well-traveled destination, Belize has a decent assortment of accommodations, particularly in the touristy areas. If you’re on a tight budget, bunk down in a dorm from between $5-10 a night, or rent a cabin or beach house with friends. You’ll probably be given accommodation if you come to Belize with a program, or at least assistance finding housing.
Citizens from most countries don’t need a visa to enter Belize, just a passport with at least three months left on it before it expires. In theory, you should also have a return ticket and sufficient funds to stay, but in practice you’re unlikely to be asked for these. If you want to stay longer, you can renew your visa every month, or apply for a resident visa. For more information, be sure to check with the GoAbroad embassy directory.
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop
Top tip? Starting your own business is easier than finding work abroad in Belize. You’ll get a permit quicker that way. Avoid costly places like Ambergris Caye and stick to the backpacker friendly Caulker. Also, hurricane season is at its height from August to October, so unless you want to get blown off your boat, think about going when it’s over.
Working abroad is challenging but empowering. Not only do you have to learn the ropes of a new job, but you have to wrap your head around a foreign culture. Between the Garifuna people’s relentless dancing, music, and spicy food, and the scam artists loitering on the streets of the cities, you’ll have plenty of learning to do. And a great conversation starter when you get back!
Let’s face it, there’s not really anything to lose from working abroad in Belize. Even if you don’t earn a fortune, you're certain to make a ton of friends, forge unforgettable memories, and a pick up a golden tan from lazing around in the tropics. Belize is far-flung and exotic, yet familiar, with plenty of expats, tourists, and a common language. It’s a great place to start your central american adventure, or even set up camp for good. Stop waiting around, and work abroad in Belize!