Cheapest Caribbean Island to Live

Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney


If you've ever dreamed of living on an island in the Caribbean but thought that it was only possible for the very rich, think again. While there are some places there that are too expensive for most people, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, and that tax haven for the ultra-rich, the Cayman Islands, there are plenty of other islands where people of modest means can live quite comfortably, even luxuriously. What's more, many governments among the island nations make it very easy to immigrate.

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The Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic is a beautiful tropical country that occupies most of the island of Hispaniola. It's warm all year round, and the people are friendly and laid-back as is typical of places in the Caribbean. After all, why do you need to rush when the sun is shining, and the beach is calling? Of course, the sea is the biggest draw for activities, which include windsurfing, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, sailing and more.

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Cost of living: The cost of living is lower than in Europe, the United States or Canada.

Language: Spanish

Taxes: The first $10,000 of income is exempt from taxes, and anything above that is taxed as much as 25 percent. Pensions are exempt from taxation.

Buying real estate: There is a real estate transfer tax of 3 percent of the property's value, determined by the government, which may be different from the purchase price.

Residency requirements: There are several options for people who wish to live in the Dominican Republic, but the main one aside from the program for retirees is to apply for temporary residency, which must be renewed every year. After five years, you may apply for permanent residency. You can also come as a tourist and pay an overstay fee if you stay longer than 30 days. The fee is paid when you leave the Dominican Republic.

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Special Programs for Retirees: If you have a retirement income of $1,500 per month or more, you will skip the 5-year temporary residency requirement and be granted permanent residency if your application for residency is approved.

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Ambergris Caye, Belize

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A warm, tropical climate and laid-back lifestyle await you on Ambergris Caye, Belize. You might believe that you've landed in paradise as you stroll along the white sand beaches shaded by majestic palm trees. Waterfalls spill into ponds with water so clear you can see the sandy bottom and surrounding the island is the second largest coral reef in the world.

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Cost of living: Lower than the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Electricity and food are high

Language: English, Spanish, and Creole are the official languages of Belize

Taxes: Income is taxed at a flat rate of 25 percent. Qualified Retired Persons pay no income tax on income from outside Belize

Buying real estate: There are no restrictions on foreigners buying real estate. There is a 5 percent transfer tax paid by the buyer. Real Estate fees of 6 percent are paid by the seller, and attorney fees are usually 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price

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Residency requirements: Residency requirements to live in Belize are quite easy. All you need to do to apply for residency is to reside continuously in Belize for one year and then apply for residency

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Special Programs for Retirees: Belize has a program for people who are 45 years or older and have an income of $2,000 per month from a pension, investment or annuity. Under this program, you can move to Belize without paying any tax on your effects, including your car

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Corn Islands, Nigaragua

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The Corn Islands are comprised of two small islands about 50 miles off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Anything that's not locally sourced must be shipped in, but if you can handle that, beachfront real estate can be had for a steal, and the locals are as friendly as can be. Many expatriates who have moved there say that what seduced them was the people's charm.

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Cost of living: Very low compared to other countries

Language: Spanish

Taxes: None of the money made outside of Nicaragua

Buying real estate: Anyone may buy real estate, and the transfer tax is 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price

Residency requirements: You must have an income of $750 a month to apply for residency

Special Programs for Retirees: If you have an income of at least $600 a month, and are retired you can apply for residency.

Roatan, Honduras

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If you want to live the life of a laid back Castaway, but with modern luxuries, then Roatan is the place for you. Beautiful white sand beaches that are largely unspoiled by tourist traffic, no large resorts to get in the way of your views of the surrounding Caribbean Sea, it's a quiet haven for the many expatriates that call it home.

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Cost of living: The cost of living is lower than in the U.S., Europe, or Canada

Language: Spanish

Taxes: None as long as all your income comes from foreign sources

Buying real estate: To purchase property larger than ..72 acres, you must be a resident. You do not need to be a resident for smaller parcels.

Residency requirements: Aside from retired people, if you want to reside in Honduras, you must have an income from a source outside of Honduras of at least $2,500 a month. Of course, you must make an application for residency, but you can do so from within Honduras.

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Special Programs for Retirees: Retired people need to have $1,500 in retirement income to become a resident.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

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Warm weather, white sand beaches, clear light green water that deepens to purest turquoise as it deepens, and gigantic palm trees to lie beneath when the warm tropical sun gets too hot. Life proceeds at a slower pace there, and while you may have to do without malls and supermarkets, the views and the ability to go for a walk on the beach without encountering another soul more than makes up for it for the people who live there.

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Cost of living: The cost of living is lower than in the United States of Canada. You can even have a maid that lives with you for just $250 a month!

Language: Spanish and English

Taxes: None on foreign sources of income

Buying real estate: Transfer taxes are paid by the seller and are 2 percent of the property value or the sales price, depending on which is higher

Residency requirements: Aside from the retiree program, if you're from the U.S. or Canada, you can apply to become a resident by opening a bank account with at least $5,000, purchase real estate valued at $10,000, open a business, or get a job in Panama.

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Special Programs for Retirees: Unlike other countries that require that retirees be of a certain age, anyone can come to Panama as a retiree. All you need is a pension income of $1,000 a month.


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Curacao is a Dutch Protectorate located in the southern Caribbean Sea. With its mostly dry and warm climate, charming towns and villages, and high standard of living, Curacao is a popular place for expatriates from Europe, the United States, and Canada to live. With its incentive program for retirees, many well-to-do (and not so well-to-do) baby boomer retirees are relocating there. Being an island, water sports, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sailing are popular activities there.

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'Cost of living: Lower than on other Caribbean Islands

Language: English, Dutch, and Papiamentu are the official languages

Taxes: Worldwide income is taxed at 10 percent if you are a pensioner aged 50 or older. Otherwise, you pay up to 38 percent, based on your income as well as an additional island surcharge of 30 percent

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Buying real estate: There are no restrictions on purchasing real estate, and you don't need to be a resident to buy property

Residency requirements: Visitors may stay 14 days and then apply for extensions up to three months. To apply for a residency permit, you must be living outside of Curacao, show that you have the means to support yourself and pay a security deposit

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Special Programs for Retirees: If you're retired, get a pension, and are aged 50 or older, your tax rate is just 10 percent.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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Do you want to live on the beach in a house with a rooftop jacuzzi, with just $2,000 in monthly income? At Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, you can do just that. Isla Mujeres is surrounded by beautiful beaches lined with stately palm trees and rests about 18 miles of the coast from Cancun. The waters of the Caribbean that surround it are crystal clear and that deep aqua color that only exists in the tropics.

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Cost of living: Low compared to other islands in the Caribbean and the United States and Canada

Language: Spanish

Taxes: None for income earned outside of Mexico

Buying real estate: Anyone may buy property in Mexico

Residency requirements: Mexico grants foreigners temporary residency so long as they can prove they can support themselves while living in Mexico. You must live in Mexico for the maximum length of the temporary resident visa, which is four years, after which you can apply for permanent residence.

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Special Programs for Retirees: Retirees can live in Mexico as a resident provided they have at least $1,500 of monthly income. There are no age requirements, and basically, anyone with this much income can live in Mexico under this program.

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Questions and Answers

As a couple, do we both need the minimum income levels shown for permanent residency?

My partner does not receive her pension yet. How does the income threshold work for couples. Minimum income levels for couples are not shown. How much does a non working retired couple need for income to live in the islands? Does it need to be x 2 of the amounts shown?

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Categories : Travel & Leisure

Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw

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