Starting a Business in Belize

Ambergris Caye Beaches
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Whether it’s large or small, starting a business in Belize is a great idea.  The type and size of your business will depend on your target market. If you’re catering to local Belizeans, bear in mind that the country has a small population of around 350,000. However, the country is a major tourist destination, thus if that’s your primary interest, the market will be much larger.

Belize is near the USA, which means it’s easy to get to, having direct flights from, New York, California, Georgia, Florida, and Texas. The main language in Belize is English/ Kriol, however, most locals speak English and/or Spanish, two of the most common languages in the world. The country has links to both Central America and the Caribbean, which allows Belize to benefit from trade agreements within both regions.

Belize has many opportunities for tapping into new industries as it’s still fairly young and is considered a developing nation. Real Estate Property is relatively inexpensive for rental or purchase.  The minimum wage in Belize is one of the highest in the region, however, it is still low when compared to rates in developed nations.

The Belize government provides many incentives to businesses that plan to contribute to the betterment of the economy, by providing jobs to Belizeans. These include tax holidays and import/export duty exemptions.

There is also a lot of undeveloped land in the country which provides many opportunities for those who want to venture into manufacturing or agriculture. This means that you will be further away from a city or town but the land will be much, much cheaper.

Legal Requirements

Anyone wishing to generate income in Belize must receive some type of work permit. The costs of this vary greatly so our best advice would be to consult with one of the local lawyers to learn the different types, prices, and steps to attain the type of permit that will suit your needs. According to BELTRAIDE, non-nationals of Belize are not permitted to own a business that is not registered under the Companies Act and/or the Business Name Act.

All the legal processes to start operating your business can take an average of 44 days to complete. Thus we recommend that you use this time to explore the country, do some market research and make sure you network with expats and locals.

The process of starting a business in Belize:

  1. Find a physical location for your business
  2. Register your local company or an existing overseas company
  3. Apply for a trade license
  4. Apply for a work permit
  5. Register with Social Security
  6. Register with General Sales Tax (GST)
  7. Register for Business Tax to receive your Tax Identification Number (TIN)

These individual steps can take anywhere from 2 days to 3 weeks (Trade License). Depending on the type of business you wish to open, you may be required to obtain additional permits, so be sure to discuss this with your lawyer.

Industries and Business Types

The two largest industries in Belize are tourism and agriculture. The fishing and sugar cane industries are generally reserved for Belizeans. Most of the larger, more luxurious businesses in the tourism industry are owned by non-nationals. All other industries are basically undeveloped or under-utilized thus many opportunities exist to enter and capture these markets.

The call center and entertainment industries are starting to emerge and are rapidly growing, however, they are still relatively small industries. With so much land available, Belize is ideal for tapping into new crop markets which do not exist in Belize. Some of our greater crop products are Citrus, Banana, and Rice, and we’ve recently started to export more crops such as papaya and chocolate.

Small and Micro Businesses account for at least 90% of all businesses in Belize. This is another great area for small investors, including retirees, to venture into. It is not uncommon for businesses to be owned by one family or two close friends. Family matters a lot in Belize compared to some other countries.  It’s also very common, in tourist destinations, to find small businesses owned and managed by non-national couples.

Business Culture and Workforce

Belize has a very laid back culture, everyone is said to operate “on Belize time”. This generally means that it’s common to wait a little longer than average for things to get done. Belizeans also have a more casual approach to business, so leave your suits at home. The country is too hot for suits anyway.

The workforce in Belize is about one-third of the population which amounts to approximately 100,000 Belizeans.  Jobs in Belize are few.  Thus many skilled Belizeans have moved overseas to find work because it’s been difficult for many new graduates, and even older experienced workers to find employment.  The minimum wage is pretty low and ranges between $3.00 and $3.50 although the average graduate, with at least an Associates’ Degree, would expect to be paid a minimum of between $4.44 and $6.25 an hour.

The cost of living, however, is much less than in the US and many other countries. The average family pays less than $600 for rent even in Belize City – the most populated area. The greatest expense a family would incur would be related to transportation, groceries (if mostly imported items are bought), and medical and educational (if private facilities are preferred).


Starting a new life in a different country can be very challenging and a bit expensive at the beginning.  However, Belize has five local banks and five international banks ready and willing to assist you.

As a non-national, you will have to be residing in the country for at least 6 months to a year or apply for permission from the Central Bank of Belize to be able to open an account at a local bank. Therefore it’s wise to start by setting up an account with an International Bank.

The main benefit of opening an account at an international bank is the fact that you can maintain your account in US dollars. While you can also maintain an account in US dollars at a local bank, eventually, you would need to prove that your business is generating most of its income in USD.  Additionally, you would need to prove that your business will be using a lot of USD to pay for goods and services to be able to maintain a USD account with a local bank. Thus as mentioned before, it’s advisable that you open an account with an international bank to be able to maintain your account in USD.

Belizean international banks offer various types of credit facilities, such as loans, overdraft drafts, lines of credit and credit cards which you can take advantage of to help you finance and operate your business. The interest rates are at around 9% per annum which may seem steep when compared to US banks, but these are fairly average in Belize. You should discuss the options and requirements for each type of facility with your perspective/current international banker.

The other side of the investment coin

There are too many things to tell you in one article, however, the best advice to offer anyone wishing to invest in Belize is to visit the country and explore it as a local would instead of viewing it from a tourist perspective.  You will come to realize that life is very different in tourist destinations as opposed to the cities and other towns.  Although you can get access to a lot of “American” products, it’s important to note that the availability of these products is not always reliable. However, many Belizeans travel to the nearby city of Chetumal, right across the Mexico-Belize border, where there’s a wider variety of products at around the same prices, sometimes a little better, than in Belize.

The country also has a very ethnically and culturally diverse population who live “in perfect harmony”. The Belizean way of life is very different from that of the US and the region. If you’ve been to other post-English colonies and other Caribbean countries, the way of life is very similar. This laid-back lifestyle makes for a good way to avoid or decrease your level of stress.



Reader Interactions


  1. Michelle says

    Hello , I am a Canadian citizen who is planning on buying property in the next couple of months, my question for you is that we are currently working as a Construction and Maintenance company for Agriculture working with all types of mills and farmers . Is there a way to relocate our business to belize ?

    • Julie Woodward says

      Hi Michelle,
      I just stumbled upon your comment and thought I would try and respond. We are also Canadians but we already have land that is ideal for Agriculture and Aquaculture. The only item we are firm about on the property is that everythin is done environmentally.
      We have 17 – 1.1 acre ponds with infrastructure already in place, power on site, roads and fibre optic. If you would like to speak with us, please contact us via our email address.

      • Kris says

        I am a Canadian looking to buy property in Belize, and start a business. I am wondering if anyone can direct me to a phone number or email of someone I can ask about the licensing process.
        I am wondering if I can open a Belizean business, as a Canadian, or buy an existing Belize company, and what the process would be for that. And if anyone knows the tax switches associated in having a company in Belize, as a Canadian citizen.

        Any help would be appreciated!


  2. Sean Murphy says

    I own a crane & cartage business in Vancouver BC.

    I would be interested to find out if such a business would work there and if their is a need for transportation of goods to and from Canada.
    If we could set up a regular scheduled service that was profitable enough to survive with a couple trips a month

    I would also be interested in hiring a crane operator who could work two or three weeks on and off in Canada to split time

  3. Maggie says

    What is the coffee scene like in Belize? I would love to move my family of four away from the United States for several years to give my children a broader understanding of the world and we have been looking a lot at Belize. Is there a market for an upscale, modern coffee roaster/bar?

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

      There’s a really cool coffee bar in San Pedro called Rum and Bean, and its had great success. I’m sure that could be replicated in Caye Caulker or Placencia. Cheers.

  4. Christy says

    I’m looking to move to Belize in the near future. I have been a market training manager for Yum brands Inc for 22 years. I am in seek of a business partner to start a bar in Belize. Serious minded individuals only.

  5. Salina says

    Are food trucks allowed in Belize? Would love to open a food truck specializing in Trinidadian and West Indian food.

  6. Rob says

    I am a Canadian interested in starting a small business in Belieze. Any people with suggestions on what businesses Are needed and are somewhat easy starts. Or a partner looking to also invest . Some input would be great .. Thanks

  7. Lacey Aycock says

    Looking to open a restaurant, not large and fancy but more casual. Brother is a chef at one of the top restaurants in San Pedro. Looking for open minded investors.

  8. Sanjeeb Debnath says


    I would like to open an Indian theme restaurant selling Indian Spices in Belize serving Curries, Biryanis and tandoori ( tikkas & kebabs) city or garden theme venues for Tourists & locals. Any one interested to join me or anyone can guide me .. is it productive venture?

  9. Dennis Lamotte says

    Looking to start an exporting business in Belize. Products will be Mayan pottery and plants for cosmetic research. Who in Belize would be interested in meeting to discuss the opportunity?

    • anthony says

      I am from Belize and I am interested in your offer oh I had one more we could make a butterfly house I have the start.

  10. Lisa Franklin-Taylor says

    We have a heating/air conditioning/refrigeration company in Canada and are looking to sell here and move south. Both service and install. What is the demand for such services in Belize?

  11. jeff says

    Hi I am a Canadian and am interested in owning a small business in belize . I’m looking for something that I can do a few hours a day that is not a bar business . I am in the home renovation business so anything that’s hands on would be great. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have.

    • Garry Helm says

      Hi Jeff, my name is Garry Helm and I’m Canadian also, and am making my first visit to Belize in December (2015) I have a very unique business here in Canada and did a little test marketing effort in Costa Rica a few years ago and had a good response and I think the product would have an application in all of the Central American countries.

      Are you still interested in getting into something down there or have you already started? The brief summary of your background and what your looking for would be an ideal fit and I need a partner because I can only spend about 3 months of the year in Belize due to other commitments.

      Anyway, if your interested in continuing the conversation you have my e.mail address.

      Best regards….Garry

      • jeff says

        Hi Garry i’m still looking for the right business to start in Belize. Where in Canada do you live? What type of business do you have? I’m not sure when you sent me this message but did you get to belize?

        • Garry Helm says

          Yes, I have been and gone. My daughter and I are on a tour of Central America. From Belize we went to Guatemala then to Panama and finishing off here in Costa Rica. I will be back in Canada on the 25th January and give me a few days to open my mail and I will get you some details.


          • Debi says

            Hi Garry,

            Looking ot relocate to Ambergris Caye and looking for a position. I am interested in talking with you about the possibilities of a position. Would like to have details. My email is

  12. Jasmin says


    Just a quick question, most information given is targeted to either U.S or Canadian citizens wanting to invest. I’m from the U.K how would banking work for me as I don’t have a USD account?

  13. Leita says

    Need a new adventure in life. Wanting to move to Belize and start a business of some type. Even if its a tiki bar, lol. If anyone has any interest in doing something like this, give me a shout.

  14. Belize Blog says

    Don’t think that you are going to revolutionize the bar business! Check out the scene for at least 6 months before you make any decision! Don’t just believe the previous owners’ books…check, check and double check. I could go on…

  15. Anita Mac says

    Interesting. Would love to start a business in a country such as Belize…although my wandering soul has me visiting so many different destinations…one would not be enough!

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