The “Key” to successful Real Real Estate Transactions in Belize is… Patience !

How many times have I heard a “Buyer or Seller” complaining that they can’t believe it’s taking so long for their property to “close”, or “where’s My Money”!

Anyone that buys land or a house in Belize and decides to sell it and move away, should know…

Belize is not the United States or Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. Things don’t happen quickly here in Belize. Contracts and moneys are held up by the Tax Departments, Banks and Central Bank Authority. Where it used to take a couple months, things can now take 3-6 months to finish and close.

One of the main reasons is because of people like the “developers” of Sanctuary Belize / The Reserve. They being the largest “scam” in U.S. History, involved the Belizean “system”, and actually caused the demise of the Atlantic International Bank ! Belize is looked at under serious microscopes, and a “money laundering country”, a “Real Estate Scammers paradise”.

Before any moneys can leave the Belize banking system, necessary “checks and balances” have to be done. You as a Seller or Buyer can do nothing to speed things up. It’s out of your control. As a Seller, if a good professional Attorney is involved for you and or your buyer, they will do whatever they can to move things along. However, the Belize “Powers that be” can be very trying on your patience.

Another problem comes when a Seller has put his holdings/Real Estate in a LLC. This just adds another problem to moving moneys up North out of Belize.

Blaming your Belize Bank for delays is nonsense, as they are restricted on time and money transfers by Central Bank. Blaming Central Bank will get you nowhere, because they control everything, and if you bother them to much. you file could somehow end up on the bottom of the pile.

Blaming your Realtor or Real Estate Office is one of the dumbest thing you can do in Belize, or anywhere else in the world for that mater. After a contract if signed off, inspections done and monies deposited, they have nothing to do with your receiving funds. If they did, don’t you think they would do it ??? After all, they don’t get paid until after the deal closes.

You just need patience, pretty much with anything in Belize. Whether it’s licensing a vehicle, getting a license plate, QRP, Residency or anything else.

I read people on Social Media complaining about “the wait”, and “can someone help me or tell me who to contact ?”. In some cases, yes they can give advise, lord knows everyone on Facebook is an “expert”.

But in all things Real Estate, unless they are an Attorney, or work in Lands Dept., Central Bank, they don’t know crap.

Anyone that complains that Real Estate transaction were better in the states, and why is it so bad here should know, that in the states, Realtors turned over the contracts ti a “Title Company”, who did everything from Titles, legal paperwork, money transfers, and finally the closing of escrow.

There are no “Title Companies” in Belize. Remember, your selling or buying in the “Wild West of Real Estate” here in Belize.

So, sit back, pop open a cold one, and have patience Grasshopper, everything will happen in its own time. After all, our “motto” in Belize is “Go Slow”, “No Worries”.

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Real Estate Confusion & Understanding “how things really work” in Belize

I can clearly remember seven years ago, when I was seriously looking at the Real Estate Market here on the Placencia Peninsula. When I heard it was the “Wild Wild West of Real Estate”, I wasn’t clear what that meant, but quickly learned, and over the years, it appears to be even worse.

Vitamin “Sea” cures everything 🙂

You might remember that I came from a Real Estate Background, many years as a Realtor with top agencies, and then as a Real Estate Broker / Owner with my own business. In Oregon, I constantly took classes, and learned everything in “Contract Law”. In fact, I took the same courses as Attorneys, as well as the same “final exam” in Real Estate law.

Then came Belize, where they have no “Real Estate Agency”, no “overseeing” the conduct, integrity, legality or “right/wrong” of agents. While a couple Belize Real Estate companies are “International” established agencies, with offices here in Belize, where their are certain “standards”, many agents are still “cowboys and cowgirls” so to speak.

In the U.S. you have to go to a Real Estate School, take tests, pass an intense Real Estate Exam to work as a Realtor. Here in Belize, you don’t need any kind of training, or have worked in sales, or have an education, or any customer service. Heck, most Realtors here have no clue how to write a sales contract, or understand their offices contracts.

And then there is the fact that there is no “MLS”, Multiple Listing Agency, where all listing have to be entered, so Realtors have access and info on “listed properties”. In Belize there is no such thing. While there are very few that will only advertise their actual “contracted” “Exclusive Listings” on their office websites, many offices copy / paste info of the actual Listing Agents “exclusive listings” and put them on their pages, even though not theirs.

Thus the confusion of buyers searching online for homes and land. Different Real Estate Offices have those other agents listings on their pages, but don’t “update” them when the actual listing agent makes changes. You can find a property advertised on different Realty sites, all with different info / Listing Prices. The only way you find out that it’s not their listing, is when you arrive here to look at the property, and the agent says “Let me contact the listing Realtor to see if we can view it”!

You will also find a lot of “listings” on Real Estate Office websites that either already sold, or are off the market, again, because they don’t “update” like the Listing Agent will do.

Surprise ???!

In the past two years, in spite of “The Pandemic”, the Real Estate market has been on fire ! The house and land inventory for sale has dwindled, especially waterfront properties. Average price of land and homes is up about $100,000 U.S. in most cases, at least, with some offices raising list price even more than that. Because of the decline in available properties, more a more “exclusive listings” are showing up on other offices websites, because they have very few “exclusive listings” or any that are in popular locations.

Homes selling like crazy

So, I highly suggest that if looking for a property, when you contact any office, ask them if all the properties listed on their webpage are their “exclusive listings” or not. If they are honest, they will check with the Listing Agent for any update, and get back to you. Most will not tell you that they only advertise their own “exclusive listings”, although there is at least one that does in Belize. If interested to know who…..just comment 🙂

Although things are getting pretty “slim” here on the Placencia Peninsula, it appears that Ambergris Caye is getting busy expanding their market and land/homes. The Northern “Secret Beach” is growing and offering pretty cheap building lots, small, but for a “vacation rental”, perfect. Their beaches are fantastic, beach bars and restaurants growing. Regretfully, some National Chain Hotels are popping up there in San Pedro, but for now, we are keeping them away from our peninsula. Even Caye Caulker is now getting “hi rise condo’s” on the northern split, sad but true.

So, there’s still deals to be had here in Belize. With a little extra “due diligence”, you can have a good experience buying or building a home here in Belize.

Something like this can be in your future

Good Luck and remember

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Has Belize become the “New Great Escape” ?

The past five years I have watched as the Placencia Peninsula and North have “been found”! Yes, North Americans from Canada and the United States have been purchasing properties here for years, and the majority of them utilized those properties as “Snowbirds”, coming down up to six months a year. Some would only come down for a couple weeks a year, and rent their homes the rest of the year as an investment.

However, for the past two years that has changed dramatically. As “conditions” in North America have morphed, more and more people started coming to Belize on vacations, but also to look for deals on houses and buildable property, especially beach properties.

Luckily for those people, at the same time, the aging population of home owners here decided it was time to sell their properties, and lifestyle. As they put their homes on the market, they were told by the qualified and knowledgable Realtors, that it could take 2-5 years to sell their homes.

And then the flood gates opened up, and we started seeing beachfront homes and building lots sell in some cases within months.

Yup…That’s my Harley Davidson 🙂

The fact is, the large majority of people looking to relocate here are seeking Caribbean beachfront property, because….why wouldn’t they ? Very quickly the numbers of homes on the market declined as they were being sold. Expats living here started complaining about all the Real Estate signs on the main road of the peninsula. These quickly changed to “under contract”, then “Sold”.

At the same time the many buildable lots for sale on the beach side as well as Lagoon-front started selling, and very quickly local builders started building homes on them. In fact, at this time, all the quality builders on the Peninsula are not even accepting new builds for 2-3 years, because they are that busy building. As one of those builders told me recently, up to two years ago he would be building one house, and have an order to build his next”on the back burner”. Today he is actively building 10+ houses, and not accepting new clients.

I think I found an “affordable home” honey 🙂

This past year has also introduced a new situation for the Real Estate market here, buyers buying homes and land “unseen” other than “virtually”. Yes, it’s true, and I personally know someone that saw a beach home online, then viewed an Aerial Drone Video, the wired $1,000,000 U.S. to belize to purchase it !

So, the past year has seen the virtual depletion of beach houses for sale, as well a building lots on the sea. Yes there are a couple houses on the market, and a handful of building lots, but, owners and Realtors are smart, and realize that as the available properties become few, the few are worth more. Case in point, a year ago the average building lot sold at about $225-240,000 U.S. The remaining beachfront building lots here in Maya Beach are now listed between $325-400,000 U.S.

You may ask, is “the rush” subsiding? The answer is a big “NO”. Not only are buyers and investors from the Americas still making appointments with Realtors, but we are seeing more arriving rom other countries as well, because Belize has been found. Recent expat/investors are seen buying 3-6 or more properties, because they know its a smart investment.

If you have been “sitting on the fence” waiting for a good time to find a “good deal” here in Belize, you may have missed the boat. Can you still find a good deal? Yes in some cases, but not on the beach. Buyers even today are out looking at “internal lots and homes”. Those are the properties not on the sea, not on the lagoon, but in between, and still “walkable” to beach access

I will tell you, as someone who had his own Real Estate Brokerage in Oregon, is “retired sort of” here, and has a wife who decided a couple years ago to open a Real Estate Office here in Maya Beach, it has been crazy! The past two years Marsha has become so busy that I need an appointment to see her. When she finally gets home at night, she is toast. As one of the top and busiest and most knowledgable Realtors here on the mainland, if you have any questions I suggest you contact her. I would if I was looking to buy here in Belize.

We recently visited San Pedro and “Secret Beach”, on business and pleasure…Appointment needed 🙂

But…you know I already did 🙂

I hope I didn’t totally depress you, but fear not, there is still time and properties.

Be safe and make good decisions,

Gary

Just in case 🙂

Marsha Peterson…. Keller Williams Real Estate, Placencia, Maya Beach, North and Cayes.

Email- Marsha@KellerWilliamsBelize.com

WhatsApp- 1-501-610-5608

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Is Belize experiencing a “Turn of the Worm”

During years and times past, Belize has always been considered a great place to vacation, from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the world. After all, english speaking country, U.S. dollar, lots of sunshine and beaches. Not only are there awesome resorts, but since the boom of AirBnB, and other sites, tones of rental homes purchased and owned by Expats, who visited a few weeks a year, and gained rental income the rest of the year.

What most are looking for, beach property

It just seemed the thing to do as an Expat “Investor”.

Well, as I have watched the Placencia peninsula over the past eight years or so, I have seen a change. Some may say it’s the “8 year cycle”, time to move on by many Expats who are putting their houses on the market. If you have seen the Realty Sign’s go up, and “SOLD” signs quickly follow, there were just as many people coming down to buy homes, then ones selling here to move elsewhere.

One very interesting thing I have watched, is many of those homes that were owned as investment rentals by “absentee owners”, and owners who just came down 2-4 weeks per year, are now being purchased by North Americans that are selling homes up North, packing everything, and moving here full time. Established houses in the Maya Beach and North locations are being purchased and moved into permanently.

This “trend” appears to be continuing, and we are quickly running out of established homes for sale.

When I came down to the peninsula some 9 years ago looking for a building lot on the sea, between Placencia Village and Plantation, I had a list of over 35 buildable lots to choose from on the beach. As of today, just in Maya Beach, there are only two available, for now for sale. Drive up or down the peninsula, and you will see almost every lot has a “under contact or SOLD” sign on it. Many are already being built on.

And I suspect many of these are being built by new homeowners, to live in.

I also suspect that days ahead will be occupied by the resorts upgrading and preparing for the comeback of the tourist industry, in many cases replacing the AirBnB’s and such. Although the Condo’s, especially on the Placencia Peninsula have not been a major influence, or in buyers “scopes” very often, they may soon become an important part of the vacation rental pool.

Condo’s be coming 🙂

All I can say, is that over the past six years or so, I have watched the Maya Beach Community change from a “part time” neighborhood, to a full-time residential neighborhood. Everybody and I mean everybody knows everybody. The new “kids on the block” to the “old timers”. And as far as “new kids”, that’s another interesting trend. The average age of couples and singles moving here has changed, fro the 60+ down to the late 40’s-early 50’s. They all say they are “looking for something better”, and as those of us that already moved here know,

Belize Cane Be That Place.

Of course, I will say, this is all my opinion, based on my observation. Of course, looking “over the shoulder” of one of the busiest Realtors on the Placencia peninsula influenced me a bit, I do keep my eyes and ears open from time to time.

Cheers my friends,

Gary”The Pirate”

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Making the decision to Re-locate to Belize, Central America

Buy an existing home or by land and build your new home

Todays world, no matter where in the world you live is becoming more challenging by the day. It doesn’t matter if you live in Europe, South Africa, the United States or elsewhere, you are probably thinking it’s time for something else.

The Caribbean and Central American Countries offer in most cases an attractive alternative, with better weather, sandy beaches and a more relaxed lifestyle. Depending on what your “New Lifestyle” will be, generally based on your source of income, your choices may vary.

Listing # 6451, listed at only $645,000 U.S.

If you choose to purchase a existing home it is generally a “target rich environment” becasue over the past years new home starts have jumped. With the turnover of people who built homes say 7-10 years ago or more are selling and moving on. “Snow birds” too are deciding as they progress in years, it’s time to move “home” to be near family.

The problem with many of these homes is the amount of money that has been put into them, and expected to be gotten from the sale. Prices can range from $400,000 to $1,000,000 or more U.S. If you have that much available to you, you probably will find something that works. However, if your plan is to think smaller, more moderate in your build, to match your budget, you need to be looking more at land and building something.

Here on the mainland in Southern Belize, Placencia Peninsula, you can still find reasonable building lots for sale. There are still Caribbean Sea front building lots reasonably priced from $230,000 to $400,000 to build your home. Building lots on or near the Placencia Lagoon can range from $20,000 to $100,000, many with Sea Access.

Many visitors from other countries, especially the U.S. and Canada come to Belize to look at buying land or a home, and are under the impression that they can get a home or building loan. This is a misconception, because there really isn’t a bank that offers foreigners loans. However, many times, building lot owners will offer owner terms with a substantial down payment.

Lot # L6456 Lusted at only $220,000 U.S.

So, that being said, it may be a good idea to invest in a building lot, and build a home of your choice now, or at some time in the future.

To purchase my newly released book, just click on “Buy on Amazon. You will be able to choose between downloading the eBook to your computer, iPad, Tablet or Smartphone,

or Buy the paperback book and it will be delivered to your door in a few days.

Lot # 6462 Maya Beach, on Main Road, backed by Canal with access to lagoon and open Sea. $89,000 U.S.-3 lots available

Is it time to start taking action, for you and your family? Probably a good idea to start looking at possibilities seriously. You don’t want to be caught saying,

If only I 🙂

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My long awaited book, “Building your new in Belize, the Good, Bad and Ugly” is Published!

It took 2+ years down the bumpy road to get our house here in Belize built to completion. It seems like it took that long to get this book published!

The editing on this book was quite a challenge, as I wasn’t writing from scratch, rather taking an existing blog and converting it to a book form. In addition to that, I was adding more info and photo’s. In order to do this, I had to buy a new software program called “Pressbooks”, learn it, and by “trial and error”, convert it to Amazon/Kindle format so I could publish it! Not as easy as they said.

Spending weeks just getting it together, converted and now published, resulted in a good book, i believe. The program wasn’t absolutely perfect, as somehow, even after multiple edits and “reviews”, a couple sections were repeated, and one “deleted” found its way back into the finished product. But, that being said, I believe the book will accomplish what I started out to do,

Help people make the decision to build, choose wisely, and not make all the mistakes and bad decisions I did.

Its available on Amazon, both in a “download” instantly to your smartphone, iPad, or computer, or to purchase as a hard copy. Once you order the hard copy you should recieve it at your door in 2-3 days.

As It’s a new release, having reviews is important for position on Amazon. Therefore, I make you this “special offer”. If you order my book, please post a honest “good” review, and bang me off a email that you did (to: storiesbygary@me.com), and I will send you a suprise ro your email “inbox”.

Also, if you have any questions, send them the same.

I hope my book can help some people out during their process, as it could have helped me 🙂

Good Luck,

Cheers,

Gary

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Belize Real Estate, In My Opinion :)

meridingcowboy

Back when I was a Cowboy, Riding my horse “Cowboy”, and a Realtor selling Ranches in Oregon.

 

Everyone knows that I am a Travel Writer, have been traveling to Belize for many years, finally purchased a piece of property and built a beach home. When we finally decided to purchase our property, I spend a good amount of time researching Real Estate Offices, their Broker/Owner, and their Real Estate agents. I talked to locals who used different companies and agents and kept a “running file” in my head, and on paper about the reviews, I had gotten. I believe I made a well-informed decision when I picked 1st Choice RE/MAX in Placencia Village.

What I had been told over and over, was that the Broker, David was an upstanding and honest Real Estate Broker, was proficient in Real Estate Law and Contracts, and worked for his clients, professionally, honestly, and with integrity.

Now let me just say that after hearing and reading about how Real Estate in Belize is like the “wild west”, where anyone can be a gunfighter and sell property and houses, I was wary. Yes, as I soon found out, just about anyone can sell Real Estate, but not everyone is attached to an Internationally recognized Real Estate Group. Here in Belize, we do have Real Estate Offices owned/ operated and sometimes in the Brokers name. However, we also have “named brands, like Cauldwell Bankers, C-21, RE/MAX, Engel & Volkers, etc. These International Realties do seem to walk a tighter drum, keeping to the standards of their main home corporations, in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. I’m not saying you should only look at these offices because another office might do you right, but just be careful.

Now, let me interrupt your train of thought here, by interjecting a fact that not many people I know here in Belize are aware of.

I was a Real Estate Broker for many years back in the United States. I was associated with a few of the top International Brokerages as well, Better Homes and Gardens Realty, Prudential Realty and Century 21. In my final years in Real Estate, I was a Broker/Owner on my own.

When I really got serious in my search for the best of the best in Real Estate Offices, then agent, after hearing many recommendations, I then turned to my criteria. How many years had the office been open, how long had the Broker been the owner, how qualified were the Real Estate Agents in his office, and how long had they all worked there. How much clerical staff did the office employ, how long had they worked there?

Other very important questions for myself, which should be for you too. Do they show buyers only their own “in-house” listings, or do they show buyers all available listing that matches what they are looking for?

This is a very important question for you to ask, and track while you are looking at properties. There are offices and Realtors that will only show their own listings because they will make more commission if they have both buyers and sellers. But, keep in mind that you might have to make a decision on a property when there were actually other agencies listing that you would have liked better, and bought! So, as you are being shown properties by your chosen agent, if you have noticed or drive by a property that you like, ask to see it. Before you even come to Belize, print listing you found online that look interesting, and give to the Realtor for viewing. If he or she says “it’s not available”, or “you won’t like it”, tell them you still want to see it. You will know if they are trying to “steer you” around it, and your answer should be…

“Your Fired”!

Another thing as a buyer you should be aware of is, you should never use multiple Real Estate Agents at the same time. Research and find the best  Belize Realtor you can, one with experience, a good personality, and with experience in sales. That being said, if you do find you made a mistake, you can always tell the agent you are not happy and will be working with another agent. This is a prime example of the above paragraph, where the agent was not showing you all Realty listings in the area.

Also, beware of newly opened Real Estate Offices without a “track record”. It’s also easy in Belize for someone to get some experience as a Realtor and decide to go out on their own, starting a business in Realty/Property Management, etc. There is a major difference between being a Realtor, and becoming a Real Estate Broker. In the U.S., I had to take formal classes for a year and pass a three hour monitored Real Estate Agency Exam to become a Broker. That’s not the case here in Belize, at all, in fact, many will work out of their homes.

Finally, I will say a word or two about “Scams”, yes they do happen here in Belize, often.

I actually was involved with a very infamous one in my first couple of years looking at relocating to Belize. Does the name “Sanctuary Belize” or “The Reserve” sound familiar? It should, because the FCC investigated it, and shut it down after naming it the largest Real Estate Scam they had ever investigated. We were very lucky to only lose the price of a new SUV on the property we had invested in, with plans to move.

If you are looking at any new development, houses, condo’s, etc., I highly suggest that you don’t invest a dime, until the entire infrastructure is done, and building actually happening. Talk to anyone you can about the development, like Expats who live there, anyone who has already bought into the development, and your attorney before signing anything. Of course, your attorney from outside Belize can’t perform here in Belize, but a contract is a contract, and paying $1000 for attorney opinion, is better than losing everything.

Lastly, I will just use a term I have been aware of for many years, “location, location, location”! Be sure to research locations before you purchase anything. Ask your Realtor specific questions about the different areas you are looking at. Sign up for local Facebook pages about community “Neighborhood Watches”, Crime Pages, Belize on-line news Facebook Pages, etc. Visit local Expat hangouts, and ask about the area you are interested in purchasing in.

Be an informed buyer. Then, if everything looks and feels right, buy and enjoy.

I do hope this post helps anyone looking to move to Belize. Actually, it is a great guide no matter where in the world you are looking to move to.

 

Cheers,

Gary……The Pirate

 

 

 

 

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Building your New Home in Belize, the Good, Bad and Ugly…Final Chapter

capt

The voyage has been long, but the end is in sight.

Hello, my friends and followers, who have taken the exciting (sometimes not) voyage with me, building our new home in Belize. Although it’s been a long one, starting in November 2016, and here it is September 2019, the journey is ending. When they gave estimates on how long it takes to start and complete a home build, I kept hearing a year, maybe a year and a half. I decided for me, it was the time the process started, actually on the ground, until everything in our certified house plans was completed.

That has finally happened this week.

bl1

The right window installed after 2 years of bullshit!

Just to refresh your minds on that one thing that kept us from completion, the multi-panel opening kitchen window. The first “builder” who in actuality was just a “general contractor”, ordered and had installed the wrong window. That one folded open inward and we have never been able to open it because it hit the lights and faucet. That one as well as the 2nd that was ordered to “correctly replace it” were ordered from foreign countries, expensive and took a very long time. The second that was ordered from Bennies in Belize City finally arrived, and they built us a special door instead of a window. That was sent back and we searched options with our actual builder, Nelson Montalvo.

badwindow

The old window that “other guy” ordered and had installed, so wrong! 

Finally, we discovered on our own, that Peter’s Glass in Spanish Lookout was now making the hurricane folding windows. Yipppppppeeeee! We had their install guy measure for the kitchen window at the same time he measured for our new hurricane shutters, for that window and the two large doors facing the sea.

And then the day came this week, and Franz from Peterson Glass showed up with our new window, installed it and everything was peachy keen, finally. Well, almost. You see, for a year, the matching granite countertop that was cut as a counter for outside the window laid on the back deck. Not such a big deal, but every time I looked at it I saw the $1000 U.S. it cost and we had never used it. My site foreman building the house, Rigo who is now on his own as a Contractor/Builder, had his guys build the structures under to support the heavy counter under the window.

rigoguys

Rigo’s “detail guys” installing the new most awesome “Purple Heart” wood counter.

As they were picking it up to install it, it slipped from their grips and shattered on the tile floor.

Can you say “OH FU%K !!!!! I know they did.

So, what to do? Should I have Rigo spent $1000 of his money to replace it? Nope, first of all, the granite store had no more of that stone. So, Rigo suggested maybe putting in a custom Belize hardwood counter that he and his guys would create. He traveled to the Mayan Mountains with his father and found a beautiful Purple Heart Tree. Long story short, I am more thrilled with that creation and counter than the originally planned granite counter.

gotwood

Pictures just don’t do this counter justice. What an awesome end to the story.

Rigo would not take a dime for the new wood counter.

So, our house is now, 100% complete and this blog is officially ending, and as I speak, being finally edited into my new book, Building Your New Home In Belize, The Good, Bad and Ugly.

bl2

The white above the door contains the rolled-up metal door that rolls down at the push of a remote control button. Seals house from hurricane and vandals.

A couple of extra notes on things we have done to the house, one you have already seen, the Hurricane Storm Roll Windows from Peters Glass. These are the same as I used for the garage under the house, which open and close with a mounted control, or hand remote. I also had Rigo make wood framed metal roofing covers for all the windows on the house and cabana. They are all identified, take 4 screws to install, and can be totally installed in an hour.

bl3

My new garage for “The Beast”, guarded by my crew member.

We have also found that living on the sea will rust everything, including brake calipers and ignition systems. Because I found out the hard way, I am replacing all on my UTV, and we had Rigo build a separate small garage for it under the house. It will also protect our water pump/tank and AC units from the sea air as well.

6x9_BW_400 Gary print cover Belize

Will be available hard copy and eBook, Amazon, Brookstone, and direct on Belize Expat Site.

 

I will close this chapter of my life with the hopes that some of this has helped at least one person. I also hope when I publish my book, it will help many. It will also include things like contracts, loans, utility companies, where and how to get building and household supplies and much more.

Thanks for taking the ride,

Your friend,

 

Gary …..The Pirate

 

 

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30 Days, 7 Countries, 80 Pubs- Scotland, My European​ Vacation

scot27

The Pirate enjoying a cold ale, dressed for the EU weather

After touring Ireland for six full days of pure pleasure, it was time to embark on the next leg of our month in Europe, Scotland. I was very excited, to say the least, because I had been looking forward to visiting Scotland ever since I was a “we bit o a lad”. You see, my Great Grandmother “Grandma Wallace” told me many stories about my heritage, which by the name would suggest I was lineage of the Clan Wallace, as in the “Braveheart” William Wallace. William lived and died in Scotland, and I was planning to visit his birthplace, and location of his death. Ok, so there are also a ton of historic castles in Scotland as well to visit.

melgibson

Ya just got to see the family resemblance 🙂

 

So here we are in Killarney, Ireland on the coast, and we initially looked at driving the rental car back to Dublin and taking the ferry over to Scotland. This was going to kill the whole day, and also there were hours of driving on the wrong side of the road! Or, we could drive an hour to Shannon Airport north of Killarney, catch a short hour flight directly to Edinburgh, Scotland instead. Was there really any decision there, we flew.

scot9

Another pub crawl ya sayin? I’l have a pint o that malt of the month

However, the story was not that simple you see. You see, the following day President Trump was landing in Shannon, Ireland for a visit. After multiple check stations, and inspections, we finally made it to the car return center, and terminal.

wallace execution site

My proud heritage, battle after battle, after a battle, for what is just and right!

 

I have to say that both flying out of Ireland and into Scotland, as well as our flight from Scotland to London, was very smooth, and there’s no “Immigration Check” because they are all in the EAU.

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View from the Edinburgh Castle

We arrived without any issues in Edinburgh, Scotland Airport. As we were “carry on only”, we breezed off the plane and out to the taxi stand for a short ride to our Air BNB in “Old Town Edinburgh”. Again, very excited because we were a short distance to Edinburgh Castle, so we were told.

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Our Air BnB was the top floor of one of these in a residential zone, near the “strip clubs”?

Hot Tip: They use Pound Sterling for currency, and when paying pub bills, the tip is usually already included as a 10-12% Service Charge. 

Let me just say here that although they ramp up excitement over this “Castle” it quickly became obvious that the “castle” was a fort built on top of a big rock hill, basically a fortress. Castles have high walls and towers, but this one has none of these because it sits high above the city. It was fun listening to the tour guide (yes we did take the tour), and to learn about the castle’s history. In my opinion, it was the least exciting of ll the castles I visited.

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Sipping a cold Scottish Ale at a pub, overlooking “Old Town” and the castle

That being said, there were a couple other exciting parts about visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, and the North of Scotland, other castles, Braveheart sites, Pubs, and of course, our “Outlander Tour”.

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The Edinburgh Castle, or as I call it “Fort Rock”. 

I’m just going to stop here for a minute and get something off my chest about Scotland, this country is not “user-friendly”. What I mean compared to Ireland, and I mean everywhere in Ireland, people were helpful and very friendly. They invited us to sit at their tables if the pub was full, and enjoyed friendly conversations. In Scotland, not! What a drastic difference in social ability here, and I will say I was surprised and disappointed.

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Looking down from the Edinburgh Castle walls, I found this “pet cemetery”. Every ruler of this castle buried their palace pets here.

We took a taxi from the airport to our Air BnB, which turned out to be just fine, except it was quite a hike to the castle and “Royal Mile”, uphill! I highly suggest that you ask questions directly when making reservations. The walk was only about 10-15 minutes up to the “Mile”, stores, pubs, and of course the castle. We opted not to do the castle on our own, instead of to take a guided tour with “City Tours” while there.

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The Royal Mile in Edinburgh at dusk, still busy. Notice the red “phone booths”? They had been converted into ATM’s.

 

We did enjoy each day a “special treat”, walking up from our apartment to the main section of “old town”, in fact, something you can only experience in Edinburg, in our neighborhood. Right up the road, we crossed each day at a 3-way intersection in our neighborhood, there was a strip bar on each corner. I felt so blessed!

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Nothing beats a great “Scotch Tasting” in Scotland.

The first afternoon we did have a bit of tasty fun, with a special “Scotch Whisky Tasting” at a local pub. Now that’s how you do Scotland! Of course, we just had to enjoy a Scotch Egg and a bit of “haggish” as well for dinner.

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 Scotch Whiski, Yum, Yum, Yum.

The next day we were off early in the morning aboard a beautiful “Rabbies Tour”  bus, on our Outlander Tour. I would highly suggest taking this tour if you enjoyed the Outlander TV series, or even just wanted to visit historic castles. We met the tour at their office/cafè on Waterloo Place on the main street down from the castle. The nice thing is they also serve breakfast there and also coffee drinks.

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Midhope Castle, scene of one of the Outlander whippings of Jamie inside the arch.

Our bus was actually a small new van that held no more than twenty people so it was a true “small bus tour”, exactly what I wanted. It proved to be a very long tour, leaving the cafè at about 9 AM and returning at about 8 PM that evening. They do suggest that you bring lunch with you and snacks, although we did have the opportunity of grabbing lunch at a pub along the way.

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This was Jamie and Claire’s country home, where he was beaten.

We visited five castles from the Outlander Series, along with other sites used in the series along the way. Among them were,

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Culrose Palace, Doune Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Blackness Castle, and Midhope Castle. We also got to visit the spot where Jamie was tied and whipped, as well as the country home from the last season. It was a long but full of adventure day.

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The “great hall” in one of the castles, with roof arches built by the Vikings.

Our final day in Edinburg we enjoyed a tour of the castle with “City Tours”. After breakfast at the “Treehouse Cafè”, we met our tour guide and headed up the hill to the castle entrance. Although we had many opportunities to view the castle from below in many different locations, it was very anti-climatic for me touring it. I would say that was probably because we had visited so any old castles, with towers and turrets, that we climbed, and this had none. Yes, it was called a castle on the big hill, but I would more likely call it a fort!

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Recognize that location from Outlander Series? Another “whipping location” of Jamie.

The views of Edinburgh were spectacular from the castle, and then there were always the cannons, which always get my attention. The bottom line for me is had I known then what I now know, I would have skipped the tour. Just saying.

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This is Claire’s Garden, that was located in a small village used by the Movie ProductionCrew.

 

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Me walking up the tall steep walkway to view Claire’s Garden Below. They used to let people into the garden but it got too popular on tours, and as it is actually private property, they gated it. 

 

I have to say, of all the tours, the Outlander was one of the best, although it did last all day. One thing I can tell you from experience, pay attention to time, especially when they tell you as you exit the tour bus, “be back to the bus at 1PM”.

At one of the destinations, we lost track of time, and arrived at the parking lot, to no bus It was a harrowing taxi experience to catch up with the bus at the next destination. 🙂

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Climbing one of the many castle towers steps.

Until we meet next time, in London, England, I leave you with this. Don’t wait until its to late to do a vacation in Europe. Very few handicap set-ups, lots of stairs, towers, slippery stone paths, etc. You really need to be in shape, or you’re going to hate it.

Cheers,

 

Gary ….The Pirate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Days, 7 Countries, 80 Pubs, ​Killarney / Southwest Ireland

Dublin was all I had hoped for an so much more, and nor just because of the awesome beer and food we enjoyed. Dublin was super friendly, and I mean everyone we met. In every pub we frequented, usually crowded, it seemed like there was always that Irish guy or gal that would jump up and offer us seats at their table. I actually thought I would be happy to get out of the big city and on to rural Ireland, however, I actually could have stayed a month!

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Yep! That was going to be me :), driving on the wrong side of the road

But the plans were in place, and my excitement was growing to rent my vehicle and head to the Southwest countryside of Ireland. Let me first explain about car rentals in Ireland and my final decision. My plans for many months included renting a Ferrari and driving the Autobahn for a few days on this Europe trip.  Those plans changed when we found it was better for us to ride the Euro train at that point of the vacation, so the “red firestick” was out. The fact is this was probably a good thing, because for years while living in San Diego, I owned a Porsche, and ended up selling because of all the speeding tickets.

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 This is what I should have rented!

So, I needed to rent a vehicle in Dublin to drive for three days in the country. I decided to make an advance reservation for a BMW M3 6 speed, because why not? When we arrived at Dublin Airport on our departure day in Dublin,  to the car rental, they successfully talked me out of the BMW, and into a Renault SUV.  For so many reasons I was happy with this vehicle, brand new, 60 kilometers on it, and it was a 6-speed manual, oh boy. FYI, we used Eurocar Rentals, because the rates were not only good but full insurance fairly cheap. They also didn’t expect the $3000 “deposit: that they did for the Ferrari.

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If you think this is easy, try it sometime!

Now you need to understand two things when driving in most European countries, everything is backward. Nor only is the steering wheel on the right side of the car, and you shift with your left hand, but you drive on the left side of the road. They will tell you when you pick up your rental, that after a couple hours, you will drive like a native.

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When you pass another driver, and you are sure a collision is imminent! 

You will not!

I’m not going to go on about this, other than to say, whenever a car came at me on the right side, I prepared for a collision, and the entire time I drove, for three days, my wife had mini-heart attacks, constantly.

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 Who knew Vikings were a major part of Irish history?

So off we went onto the major highway to our ultimate destination of Killarney, Ireland. We had a three-day rental in a room above Murphy’s Pub, which is quite famous. On the way, we decided to stop and check out the town of Cork, which everyone said we should if possible.

 

Cork is a small waterfront town, with quite the history behind it. I had no idea that it was a Viking Settlement hundreds of years ago but quickly learned. There is an excellent Viking Museum in town which of course fascinated me, swords and all.

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The Vikings have landed they shouted!

While I was fascinated with the Vikings, Marsha was fascinated with another famous find, the Waterford Crystal Museum/Store. We could have done a guided tour, but opted for a self-guided stroll, without my ever taking out my wallet. How about that?

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Wife Marsha just had to drag me around this place 🙂

Of course, we did manage to find, yes, you guessed it, a fine pub, with awesome food and Guinness on tap.

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Unbelievable, there is a “Murphy’s Pub” in almost every town in Ireland!

 

Then we were on our way to Killarney and the object of my immediate dreams, Murphy’s Pub where we were staying. We arrived and after a bit found a place not far from Murphy’s to park in a large parking lot. Now, that lot was full but after driving around in circles for 15 minutes a spot did open. It was Saturday so I just figured everyone was shopping or something. We dragged our bags down the street to Murphy’s and entered the front door, directly into the pub.

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After checking in at the bar, a waiter helped us with our bags, up three flights of stairs to our room, The room was actually pretty nice, good comfy bed, nice bathroom, and a view of the back beer garden, which we never used because of all the rain.

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Our home for four nights, and soon to be an “Irish Biker Bar”!

 

We quickly found out why everything was so crowded, there was a multi-country bike rally coming to town that afternoon. We got to watch as hundreds of motorcycles drove into town, and later hung with some leather chaps and chappies in the pubs. Although they were a “rough-looking bunch”, the fact is they were very entertaining and fun. We actually talked U.S. politics and had a great discussion. In fact, I became such good friends with one of the bikers, he paid Marsha and my bar tab!

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Yep! Here come the 100’s of bikers, many of which I will be “tippin the pint” with.

The next day we decided to head out for another “exciting drive” on rural roads. After an hour or so of us both gasping and holding our breath, we pulled up in the parking lot of Dingle Distillery in Dingle, Ireland.

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Yes, banners advertising I will be spending days with leather biker hicks in bars.

No, it wasn’t a name brand like a Jamison, but rather a startup distillery, actually only about three years old. That being said, did we ever get an education about whiskey and gin! Of course, being in Ireland, they don’t call it Scotch Whisky, just Whisky. This new business struggled at first, not having the funds to get off the ground, and compete with the “big boys”. But, let me tell you how they not only accomplished that in short order, and then some. You can’t sell Scotch until it has aged in the barrel three years and one day. As they needed funds to pay employees and buy equipment, they came up with a novel idea.

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They sold “futures”, “Founder’s Barrels”, at $1000 per barrel, and that’s how they came up with the capital to start, with local Dingle investors. After the three years and one day, all investors with their names on the barrels can do whatever they want with the barrels of whiskey.

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This was one really cool distillery. We did shots of Dingle Gin!

Now, then there is the already well known and now famous Dingle Gin, after only a year. Gin it seems can be sold after only a year, and these guys produced an awesome and tasty gin. I know because we had a few “tastings”, straight and with a local tonic. As we progressed through Europe, we not only found Dingle Gin in stores but also on Europe airlines and trains. These guys broke the mold and came out swinging. If you love Gin and Tonic, I suggest you keep an eye out for Dingle.

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Of course, after sipping Dingle Gin, we needed to find a pub for lunch, and that we did.

Later that evening we dined in, of course, another pub, with our biker friends, and we’re extremely happy we were able to walk back to our room.

The next day it was off for another driving adventure into the countryside, in search of adventure.

 

Cheers till we maat agaib.

 

Gary …..the Pirate

 

 

 

 

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