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Cost of Living in Ecuador: A Guide for Expat Budgeting (Updated for 2021)

One of the main reasons expats leave home is to save money while also being able to afford a higher quality of life. The low cost of living in Ecuador and other popular expat destinations makes that possible. Back in the roaring twenties, American expats migrated to Paris and other parts of Europe for the same reason. In this article, we’ll let you know how much you can expect to pay for necessities in Ecuador, like rent, utilities, healthcare, transportation, food, appliances, and more.

Download our updated Ecuador Cost of Moving and Living Calculator here so you can plan for yourself based on our expenses.

This is Part 6 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Cost of Housing in Ecuador

If you’re moving from the United States, Canada, or Europe–the cost of living in Ecuador for housing may prove to be your most significant savings. Short-term lodging, long-term rentals, and purchase prices are all much lower in Ecuador, even for premium locations like beachfront property and panoramic mountain views.

Short Term Cost of Living in Ecuador

When expats first move to Ecuador, some prefer to find somewhere to stay for only a few weeks or months while they find the best neighborhood and location for their long term investment.

When you arrive, you might find you’d like to stay in a larger city while finalizing your temporary resident visa process before moving outward to a smaller town or rural area. Whatever your circumstances, Ecuador has countless short-term lodging options for you.

AirBnB.com Ecuador Stays

Cost of living in Ecuador, AirBnB Ecuador Stays

You have a variety of options for short term lodging and rentals throughout Ecuador, and the best place to start is AirBnB.com. Less than ten years ago, booking a place to stay in another country was a hassle. But with Airbnb, whether you want a high rise condo in the city center, beachfront property with ocean views, or a remote mountain villa or cabin, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your needs.

The key to saving the most money on Airbnb is booking longer-term stays with a minimum of 7 nights, but ideally a month or more. Monthly rates for AirBnB offer steep discounts, sometimes as much as 40%!

You can also contact the host before booking to negotiate an even lower rate (politely, of course). If the booking is more than a month out and not during a busy travel season for the area, you can ask for an additional discount after establishing some rapport with the host.

Prices vary from $300 to $1,200/month depending on the city, the neighborhood, the location, the size of the property, and additional amenities. Some luxury beachfront condos in Salinas can be $2,500/month or more!

In general, real estate or rental agents won’t help you find short-term rentals for anything less than 6 months unless you’re looking at one of the high end luxury rentals.

This is because the rental agent’s fee is based on the lease amount and duration. For 6 month leases, they get 1/2 the first month’s rent as their finder’s fee. For 12 month leases, they get the first month’s rent. But for anything less than 6 months, they only get 10% of the rental amount so if you’re looking for a 1 month stay at a $500/month condo, their fee will only be $50 so it’s just not worth their time.

Apartment Hotels in Ecuador (aka Short Term Stay Residences)

You may be familiar with short-term stay hotels such as Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites, but the price for a month or more in the United States or Europe is very expensive. They’re geared more to business travelers with corporate credit cards than tourists on a budget.

However, you’ll find very affordable Apartment Hotels or ApartSuites in Ecuador with nicely equipped kitchenettes, comfortable beds, and security guards/concierges who can help you learn your way around town.

The cost of living in Cuenca

For example, Gran Colombia Suites (pictured above) and Apartamentos Otorongo in Cuenca are two examples of short-term stay hotels that range in price from $700 to $1,200 for monthly rates depending on the room size and location. (If you book through them directly, tell them Amelia And JP sent you and you’ll receive an additional discount.)

Most short-term hotel stays in Ecuador are listed on AirBnB.com, Expedia.com, and other online booking websites, but you’ll get the best deal by booking directly through their website. You’ll lose the travel protection offered by the big travel websites, but the cost savings may be worth it to you. And we’ve vetted our recommendations so you’re less likely to experience problems.

These types of short-term stay hotels focus on tourists from the US, Canada, and Europe. And they’re great places to meet other current and future Ecuador expats.

Long-Term Rental Costs in Ecuador

If you’re planning to stay in Ecuador for more than a year, a long-term rental lease will be your most cost-effective option. Depending on your desires and budget, you can rent anything from a single bedroom in someone’s house to a luxury hacienda in the country.

Types of Housing Rentals in Ecuador

There are three types of rental options that affect the price and availability of long-term rentals: fully furnished, semi-furnished, and unfurnished.

A fully furnished home includes all furniture, such as beds, dressers, tables, chairs, kitchen appliances, dishes, basic linens, etc. Most will even offer bedding and pillows, but some may not.

A semi-furnished home includes furniture such as tables, chairs and beds, but won’t include any kitchen appliances. There will be no stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer or dryer.

An unfurnished home does not include any furniture or appliances. Most will not include window coverings, and some may not include light fixtures or ceiling fans. You will need to supply everything yourselves, which is ideal if you’re shipping a container with your household items because these are the most affordable rental options.

Best Way to Find a Long Term Rental in Ecuador

For low budget rooms or apartments, your best option is to check websites such as GringoPost.com for locals or expats who are advertising a room or apartment with very few or no amenities.

If your budget is over $500/month, GringoPost.com is still a good option. Nevertheless, you may find additional and better options on websites such as EcuadorProperties.com or Ecuador-Realty.com, and Facebook groups such as Real Estate and Rentals in Ecuador or House Hunting in Ecuador.

If you have a higher budget, you may want to work with a real estate agent who can help you find properties as well as negotiate the lease terms. Most leases in Ecuador are very basic, but they are in Spanish, so if you’re not fluent you may want to have someone there to represent your interests and act as a translator.

Low Budget Rental Options and Costs in Ecuador

The lowest budget long-term rental option is to rent a room in an Ecuadorian home. You can often find places in the $100 to $200/month range, but they may not have a private bathroom, and you’ll need to share the kitchen and refrigerator. If your goal is to learn Spanish quickly, full immersion in a Spanish speaking household is a great way to do it!

House and Condo Rentals in Ecuador

Cost of Living in Ecuador, Cuenca Ecuador House

Condo and house rental costs vary widely based on the size, location, amenities, and age of the building. At the low end, you’ll find an older studio or 1-bedroom/1-bathroom condo with minimal facilities in the $250 to $500 per month range.

For $500 to $1,500 per month, you’ll find better condos, townhomes, and free-standing houses with 2 to 4 bedrooms and bathrooms like the one pictured above. This 1,800 square foot fully furnished rental home in a popular Cuenca neighborhood was $800/month for 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms as of January 2020.

We now live in a condo about 3 blocks from the beautiful and popular beach in Olón Ecuador. It’s a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom ground floor condo with a nice covered patio and backyard for $700/month including Internet and tap water. We pay for electricity and bottled water. Since the tap water isn’t chlorinated, it’s not safe to drink. You can watch our condo tour in this video:

Depending on the location, some rental houses and condos may even have fantastic views of the city, ocean, or mountains.

Luxury Rentals in Ecuador

Bahia Chipipe Beach Salinas Ecuador

If your budget is over $1,500 per month, you’ll be able to live in a luxury home that would easily cost 3 or 4 times more in the United States or Europe. Condos will have all the bells and whistles, amazing views, and 24/7 security guards. Houses will be vast and luxurious. Comparable beachfront property that may have been a pipe dream in Miami or San Diego is affordable in Ecuador.

Buying a House or Condo in Ecuador

As it is with rentals, purchase prices for houses and condos are much lower in Ecuador. You can expect to pay one third or less for a comparable property compared to the United States, depending on the location.

For example, this newly built, modern condo in the heart of Cuenca’s El Centro district lists for $105,000.

Cuenca Ecuador Condo

While this 2,153 square feet beachfront house in Olón Ecuador with three bedrooms and three bathrooms recently sold for $425,000.

Olon Ecuador Beach House

There is also a lot of land for sale in Ecuador, so if your dream is to own a farm or part of the Amazon jungle, that’s a real option here. You can buy pristine land in many areas with lakes, rivers, and waterfalls for less than $1,000 per acre.

However, as with many developing nations, purchasing a property in Ecuador can be risky due to their lack of clear title rules and regulations. Some people have lost their property due to outstanding liens or fraudulent titles. When it comes to land purchases, you may find that the government has issued mining rights to major international corporations who have the option to set up shop on your property whenever they choose.

It’s less risky to buy a condo or house in a gated community, especially if you are working directly with the developer. And you will minimize your risk by working with a real estate agent and a lawyer to help you navigate the nuances of buying a property in a foreign country.

Whatever your housing requirements are, you’re sure to find something you like in Ecuador.

Cost of Food in Ecuador

Overall, the cost of living in Ecuador with respect to food is much lower than the US, Canada, and Europe, especially for fruits and vegetables. However, some specialty foods, such as non-dairy milk and gluten-free products, as well as meat and dairy are the same price or even more expensive.

Your cost of food will vary depending on the diet you choose to eat and whether you choose to buy most of it at the traditional Ecuadorian mercados, or in modern grocery stores such as Supermaxi, Mi Comisariato or Tía. Mercados tend to be much less expensive than grocery stores.

Farming isn’t heavily subsidized in Ecuador like it is in the US and Europe so the cost of food is more inline with the cost of producing it. That means food like meat and dairy that are expensive to produce are more costly in Ecuador because tax dollars aren’t used to artificially deflate the market price.

Since most plant foods are grown by local farmers inside Ecuador, and since GMO (technically, Genetically Engineered) crops are banned by the Ecuadorian constitution, things like beans, lentils, rice, grains, fruits and vegetables are very fresh and affordable.

Because most plant foods are grown in Ecuador, they don’t need to be treated with chemicals or specially packaged for expensive long distance transportation. Farmers are also allowed to save their own seeds for next year’s crops so they aren’t forced to buy expensive seeds every year from GMO monopolies. Additionally, the cost of farm labor is far less in Ecuador compared to the US and Europe. All of these factors mean the cost of plant-based foods are far cheaper in Ecuador.

Ecuador Mercado Itemized Food Cost

The cost of fruits and vegetables in Ecuador varies by location and season. Most of the products you’ll find in mercados are grown in Ecuador and much of it comes from local farms.

However, if you live in the mountains, you’ll pay more for tropical fruits grown at lower altitudes and shipped into the mountain cities. Conversely, many of the root vegetables like potatoes and beets, are grown at high elevations, so you may pay more for those if you live on the coast. Because of the pandemic, this is slowly changing and more things are being grown locally when possible.

Regardless of where you live, you’ll find the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables to be far less than you’re probably used to paying, and the quality is much higher.

In September 2020, we spent $41 at mercados, which is where we buy the majority of our produce and enough to feed two people for the entire month.

Here is an itemized list from a Mercado in Cuenca, Ecuador as of June 2019. Prices have not changed substantially since then.

Cost of living in Ecuador, groceries, Cuenca Ecuador

Item Oz  Cost
Choclo 16  $         1.00
Peas 48  $         3.00
Beans 16  $         1.00
Blueberries 4  $         2.50
Strawberries 16  $         1.50
Apples 40  $         2.00
Peaches 12  $         1.00
Dragon Fruit 32  $         3.00
Chirimoya 16  $         2.00
Limes 16  $         1.00
Bananas 64  $         1.00
Papayas 32  $         1.00
Tomatoes 32  $         1.00
Mellocos 16  $         0.50
Carrots 48  $         1.00
Sweet Potatoes 64  $         2.00
Yellow Potatoes 32  $         1.00
Beets 24  $         1.00
Broccoli 24  $         0.50
Cauliflower 32  $         0.50
Total 584  $       27.50
Pounds 36.5  $         0.75/lb

Ecuador Grocery Store Cost

The mercados have some packaged items, but they mostly carry fresh, unpackaged foods. Most expats choose to purchase packaged or specialty items at one of Ecuador’s major grocery stores, such as Supermaxi, Tía, Akí, Mi Comisariato, Coral, etc.

We spent $254 in September 2020 at grocery stores on things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, chocolate, almond milk, oats, mushrooms, popcorn, raisins and condiments. We also went to Mi Comisariato in Ballenita and El Pueblo in Montañita and bought some specialty items like whole grain pasta, flax seeds, tofu and bulk spices so September was a bit more expensive than normal.

Here is an itemized list from Supermaxi El Vergel in Cuenca, Ecuador (June 2019):

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living Supermaxi

Item Qty  Cost 
Rolls of Toilet Paper 12 rolls  $         2.06
Almond Milk 946 ml  $         3.13
Oats 850 g  $         3.14
Raisins 400 g  $         1.93
Organic Chocolate 3 bars @ 50 g  $         5.81
Brown Rice 2 kg  $         5.40
Lentils 2 kg  $         3.61
Pasta Sauce 2 jars @ 500 g  $         5.04
Garlic Salt 140 g  $         1.65
Garlic Powder 100 g  $         2.63
Mustard Powder 28 g  $         1.40
Vanilla Extract 120 ml  $         0.96
Ketchup 1200 g  $         2.85
All-Purpose Cleaner 900 ml  $         1.60
Dish Soap 1 L  $         2.41
Organic Spinach 250 g  $         1.23
Organic Chard 450 g  $         1.16
Asparagus 250 g  $         1.31
Total  $       47.32

Total: $47.32 + $4.25 Tax = $51.57 – $2.06 Loyalty Discount = $49.51

The prices in Cuenca are nearly identical to the prices in the Salinas Supermaxi and the Guayaquil Megamaxi, so you can expect the costs to be similar throughout Ecuador.

Ecuador Restaurant Costs

Dining at restaurants in Ecuador is so affordable that many expats choose to eat out more than cooking at home. In major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, you’ll have a variety of international cuisines to choose from in addition to more traditional Ecuadorian fare.

Breakfast Restaurants in Ecuador

If you’re moving from the United States, you may be surprised to learn that breakfast isn’t a popular meal in Ecuador. Most Ecuadorians eat a VERY late dinner, typically after 8 PM. That may explain the low importance they put on breakfast, which is often a fresh piece of bread or fruit that they eat on their way to work or school.

Most Ecuadorian restaurants are not open for breakfast. Still, you’ll find some restaurants open for breakfast in areas that are more popular with expats such as Sunrise Café in Cuenca. You can expect to pay between $5 and $10 per person for a typical American-style breakfast at these types of restaurants.

El Almuerzo in Ecuador

Most restaurants in Ecuador have a traditional lunch special that ranges from $1.50 to $3.50. It’s called El Almuerzo (the lunch) and usually comes with 3 to 5 courses. The amount of food at El Almuerzo is smaller than a typical dinner, but it’s still very filling, especially for the price.

Dinner Restaurants in Ecuador

Dinner is the biggest meal of the day for Ecuadorians, so that’s when most of the restaurants are open. There are lots of Ecuadorian restaurants in every neighborhood. In the larger cities, you’ll also find a variety of international cuisines, such as American, Indian, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.

You can expect to pay around $10 per person for dinner without alcoholic drinks at expat-oriented restaurants. A glass of wine costs around $5 with a bottle running $20. A bottle of domestic beer such as Club or Pilsener costs around $3 while craft or imported beers cost around $5.

Pizza is also trendy in Ecuador. In addition to the American pizza places like Pizza Hut and Dominoes, you’ll also find a large variety of smaller mom-and-pop pizza restaurants. You can expect to pay around $15 for a large pizza at places like Fabiano’s in Cuenca.

Restaurants in Olón Ecuador

Here in Olón, we have several delicious restaurants to choose from, such as South Indian Restaurant, MOMO Restaurant & Deli, Nettuno Pizza, and many more. Dinner at South Indian typically costs $19, including a $2 tip, for rice, two entrees and 2 pieces of naan bread. A bottle of wine costs $15 and a glass costs $5.

MOMO is the most expensive place in Olón, but it’s also the most gourmet restaurant with food that would have people lined up around the corner in an major US city. We typically spend about $50 for dinner there which includes an appetizer, two entrees, dessert and a $5 tip.

A large square thin-crust pizza at Nettuno runs $12 and is one of the best pizzas we’ve had. The owners have family connections in Italy so it’s very authentic Italian pizza.

In September 2020, we spent $193 at restaurants and ate out 9 times for dinner. That’s an average of $21 per visit for 2 people.

Restaurants in Manta Ecuador

In addition to the malecón and other traditional Ecuadorian restaurants found throughout Manta, you’ll also find a variety of international cuisines along restaurant row on the western side of town near the beachfront condo buildings.

Our favorite restaurants are South India Restaurant, which is owned by our friend Ravi from Tamil Nadu in Southern India. He also owns the original restaurant in Olón that we’ve featured in our videos. You can expect to pay roughly $20 for dinner for two.

Martinica is a delicious Italian restaurant and arguably Manta’s best (non-Indian) restaurant. We also enjoy Mamma Rosa, which has great pizza and other Italian dishes.

Mall del Pacifíco has a food court with a Kobe Sushi, the express version of Noe, and several other restaurants. And Hotel Oro Verde has a really nice restaurant with outdoor seating and views of Playa Murciélago.

You can expect to pay $5 to $10 per person for lunch, and $10 to $15 per person for dinner at most places in Manta.

Health Insurance Costs in Ecuador

You’ll need private health insurance before you apply for your Temporary Residency Visa. Once you have your visa and cedula (government-issued ID card), you can get the cheaper IESS public health insurance.

Private Health Insurance in Ecuador

Just like in the United States, there are several different health insurance companies. You may want to use a health insurance broker to help you pick the best plan for your circumstances. A private health insurance plan allows you to go to the doctors and hospitals that you choose.

Depending on your age and smoking habits, you can expect to pay $50 to $150/month per person with a private health insurance company such as Confiamed.

Private insurance companies are required to cover pre-existing conditions after two years of paying into the plan. However, the maximum coverage is typically meager, so if you have an expensive pre-existing condition that requires medication or frequent trips to the doctor, you may prefer Ecuador’s public (universal) healthcare option.

If you would like us to connect you with our insurance agent, we can send an email introduction…

Ecuador IESS Public Health Insurance

IESS is Ecuador’s single-payer social security and (universal) healthcare system. Once you have your temporary or permanent residency visa and your cedula, you can sign up for this health insurance.

IESS health insurance is cheaper than private insurance, but you have to go to the IESS hospital and doctors. Since it’s their version of social security, it also means you’ll get some of it back when you retire if you’re still living in Ecuador. The IESS plan is around $70 to $80 per month per person and covers pre-existing conditions after a three month waiting period.

Other Common Costs of Living in Ecuador

Startup Costs Following Your Move to Ecuador

After we moved into our rental house, we spent about $700 on startup costs. Even though it came fully furnished, it lacked a few essential things such as sheets, blankets, a quality set of pots & pans, a pressure cooker, coat rack, knives, heaters, etc.

We bought most of these items at Coral and Sukasa. Coral is like a Super Walmart and Home Depot combined while Sukasa is like a Crate & Barrel or Bed Bath & Beyond.

For all the costs associated with moving to Ecuador, check out our article covering the Real Costs of Moving to Ecuador from the United States.

Prescription Costs

Most prescription and OTC drugs are available in Ecuador, but they may be sold under different brand names than back home. The prices may also be different (usually much lower than the US).

If you would like help researching the cost and availability of your medications in Ecuador, we know someone who can help…

Transportation Costs

In Cuenca Ecuador

In Cuenca, a bus ride costs 31 cents and the Tranvia costs 35 cents per trip.

Taxies have a minimum fare of $1.50. It usually costs $2 to $3 to go most places in Cuenca.

You can also book private drivers with nicer cars or trucks that can help you move things for $10 per trip.

In Olón Ecuador

You can catch a bus every few minutes on the main highway, la Ruta del Sol, for 50 cents. If you’re going a longer distance to La Libertad or to Puerto Lopez, expect to pay $1.50.

Most taxies are based in Montañita, Olón or Manglaralto. Fares between these towns cost $1.50, but if you live further away from these towns, you can expect to pay $5 and you’ll need to call one to come get you.

In Manta Ecuador

We haven’t taken a bus in Manta due to the pandemic so we can’t speak to that. The minimum cab fare is $2.00, which covers most 10 minute cab rides in Manta.

Clothing and Shoes

These new boots made with synthetic materials at Emily Shoes in El Centro cost $29.

Cuenca Ecuador Emily Shoes Cost

The price of clothes in stores is about the same as the US. However, you can have clothes made for you by local tailors for about 1/3 the cost of off-the-rack clothing.

Fitness Costs in Ecuador

It seems like there’s a gym on every corner in Ecuador. They’re very popular with Ecuadorians, who seem to be very active. We’ve seen both traditional indoor, as well as outdoor Crossfit-type gyms. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $40/month for memberships without long-term commitments.

Yoga at RumiSol in Cuenca Ecuador

You can find yoga classes on a variety of different websites, like Gaia.com if you prefer to do your yoga at home, but you can also go to yoga studios like RumiSol Yoga. The monthly rates range from $30 to $50, and a drop-in class is $5.

Appliances and Electronics

You can find most appliances in Ecuador, even 4K TV’s, but you’ll likely spend more on them here. The cost of living is tremendously affordable in Ecuador, but the price of “things” is very high. Anything with a plug will cost more than it would in the United States, sometimes double.

TV Cost in Cuenca Ecuador

This 65″ 4K LG costs $1,200 when you pay with cash. Similar TV’s are available on Amazon for $800, so this one is about 50% more here.

Cuenca Ecuador 65 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

This 75″ 4K LG TV costs $1,900 when you pay with cash. A similar TV on Amazon was listed for $1,300, so again, it’s about 50% more in Ecuador.

Cuenca Ecuador 75 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

Cost of a Dishwasher in Cuenca, Ecuador

This portable stainless-insert dishwasher costs $590 if you pay in cash. You can also use it as a built-in dishwasher. The main difference between an integrated dishwasher, and this one is that an integrated unit is fully encased in the home’s interior design.

Cuenca Ecuador Dishwasher Cost

Refrigerator at Marc’s Consignments

This small used refrigerator was listed for $680 at Marc’s Consignments in San Sebas.

Cuenca Ecuador Refrigerator Cost

Monthly Cost of Living Comparison: Cuenca June 2019 vs. Olón Sept 2020

Here is our June 2019 cost of living in Cuenca Ecuador. This list does not include medical fees or travel costs. These fees can vary a lot, so we opted to leave them out.

Itemized Expenses

Non-Discretionary  Cuenca Jun 2019  Olón Sep 2020  Manta Jun 2021
Water Jugs  $                        –  $                   14  $                       –
Propane  $                       10  $                     2  $                       –
Transportation  $                       20  $                   71  $                      10
Claro  $                       17  $                   21  $                      20
Mercado  $                     120  $                   41  $                      32
Internet  $                       56  $                   45  $                      45
Utilities  $                       80  $                   64  $                      84
Health Insurance  $                     158  $                 158  $                    174
Grocery Stores  $                     200  $                 254  $                    543
Rent  $                     800  $                 655  $                 1,300
Total  $                  1,461  $              1,325  $                 2,208
Discretionary  Cuenca Jun 2019  Olón Sep 2020  Manta Jun 2021
Wine/Drinks  $                        –  $                   85  $                       –
Entertainment  $                        –  $                   18  $                       –
Translations  $                        –  $                   20  $                       –
Massage  $                     150  $                    –  $                       –
Amelia’s Hair  $                       10  $                    –  $                       –
Yoga  $                       40  $                   80  $                       –
Belly Dancing  $                       40  $                    –  $                       –
Housekeeper  $                       40  $                   90  $                       –
Traveling Mailbox  $                       20  $                   20  $                      20
Spanish Lessons  $                        –  $                   50  $                      50
Restaurants  $                     150  $                 193  $                      85
Total  $                     450  $                 556  $                    155
Grand Total  $                  1,911  $              1,881  $                 2,363

Ecuador Inflation: What it Means for the Cost of Living in Ecuador

Often, people ask if we’ve noticed a price increase since we moved here over 3 years ago. Several other bloggers and YouTubers complain about how the cost of things has gone up in recent years, but we haven’t noticed much of a change. Most necessities have stayed at the same price, but some things are more expensive, and some are less expensive.

Unchanged prices

The previous renters of our house in Cuenca lived there almost a year and a half, and we lived there over 2 years. Combined, we lived in that house for over three years, and the rent didn’t change.

Our Mercado and Supermaxi food costs didn’t change while we lived in Cuenca. We consistently spent $30/week at the Mercado on produce, coffee, nuts, and seeds. That’s when we didn’t buy specialty or out-of-season items like cherimoyas or pitahayas. And we consistently spent $50/week at Supermaxi.

We spend much less at the mercados in Olón than we did in Cuenca mainly because we buy coffee, nuts, seeds and beans at the grocery story rather than the mercado. We consistently spend about $10/week in Olón for our fresh fruits and vegetables, and about $60/week at the Tía or El Pueblo in Montañita for packaged items.

The cost of water and electricity in Cuenca decreased while we lived there. Our utilities averaged $80/month for the first year in Cuenca, but dropped to $60/month for the year before we left. We still aren’t sure why they decreased.

Taxi rates and doctors visits have also remained unchanged.

Price Decreases

In 2018, Ecuador started rolling back its massive import tariff of 100% that applied to cars and electronics. Subsequently, the price of those items fell dramatically.

Ecuador also repealed the “goodwill law” that taxed real estate development almost out of existence. That meant developers weren’t building things because they couldn’t sell them for enough to cover the cost of the taxes. The lack of supply drove up the value of existing properties as the demand grew from both gringos and more affluent Ecuadorians.

Since then, lawmakers repealed the statute and as a result, developers were once again building at a faster rate (pre-pandemic), which has increased the housing supply. In the coming years, we expect this will drive down the overall cost of housing.

The cost of internet access is lower on the coast with Netlife than it was in Cuenca with Puntonet. This doesn’t have anything to do with the economy; it’s just a different service provider charging different rates.

Amelia is letting her hair grow out and she’s not coloring it anymore so we no longer have hair expenses.

Price Increases

Our private health insurance increased from $117/month when we arrived in Cuenca to $174/month now. The original company that provided our insurance went out of business (without notifying us). Our new plan is through a more reputable insurance company and offers better coverage.

A propane tank increased from $2.50 to $3.00. In Cuenca, we had to replace the tank attached to our hot water heater about once every two weeks. The tank connected to our stove/oven lasted about six months.

In Olón, we had a tank connected to our gas stove that we replaced twice in 15 months. We replaced the tank connected to the hot water heater about every 2 months. We’re not sure why a tank lasts so much longer in Olón, except that water boils at a lower temperature due to being at sea level, and the outside air is warmer so the pipes aren’t as cold for the hot water transit.

In Cuenca, the cost of a bus ride increased from 25 cents to 31 cents in 2018 to cover the cost of replacing the blue puffer buses with low-emission diesel buses.

Our mobile phone plan with Claro has increased from $17/month when we signed up in October 2017 to $20/month in September 2020.

Amelia’s yoga was more expensive in Olón because she took private lessons on the beach twice per week rather than the group classes she took in Cuenca.

Our housekeeper in Cuenca came once every 2 weeks for 4 hours and we paid her $5/hour. In Olón, we had a housekeeper come 3 days per week for a total of 5 hours per week. She came on Monday and Wednesday for an hour to clean the kitchen, and on Friday’s for 3 hours to clean the whole condo. We paid her $5/hour or $25/week.

Cost of Living in Ecuador: A Comfortable Life for MUCH Less

We live a very comfortable middle class life here in Ecuador. As you can see, it’s easy for a couple to live on less than $2,000 per month. For a single person, the cost of living in Ecuador is often $1,200 per month or less.

The major deciding factor is how much you want to pay for rent. You can rent rooms for less than $200/month, smaller condos for less than $400/month, nice condos and houses off the beach for less than $800/month, and true luxury resort-style condos and homes for less than $1,500/month.

This is a great place expats given the affordable cost of living in Ecuador. Visiting the city sights in Cuenca and Quito gives a unique perspective on this rich culture, while the diverse wildlife makes long hikes a great way to enjoy the beauty of Ecuador.

For more information about what it’s really like to be an expat in Ecuador, check out our YouTube channel here. Beyond just the cost of living in Ecuador, we give a unique glimpse into the amazing life adventure many expats have chosen for themselves.


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Ecuador President Lasso Inauguration Speech (Translated to English)

This is the full text of the speech by Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso translated to English from the inauguration ceremony:

“Today is May 24, 2021. Exactly one year from the bicentennial of the Battle of Pichincha, the last of several deeds that consecrated the independence of our nation, and that began our journey towards our life as a republic.

It is a day of remembrance, but above all of, renewal. Because the government that is born today has before it the responsibility of leading us towards a new century of the Ecuadorian republic.

Today we must examine whether throughout these 200 years we have lived up to those republican ideals that saw us born. If we have done honor to those patriots who, by dying on the slopes of Pichincha, gave life to this country.

Heroes who fought for enlightened ideas such as the rule of law, individual freedom, and brotherhood among human beings.

I ask: does the country we receive today respond to the greatness of that sacrifice?

Especially in recent years, have you enjoyed freedom in Ecuador? Have the law and the independence of powers prevailed? Has equal opportunity reigned?

Ecuadorians know me as a man of action. They know that I measure everything based on the results that reality shows. Because only this reveals whether we have had the courage to put into practice that task entrusted to us by the founders of our State.

And reality clearly says no. We have not been up to the task.

Today we receive a country with historical levels of unemployment. A country that has been dazzled by its inability to face a brutal pandemic, but which countries in similar conditions faced in a more orderly, efficient, and corruption-free manner.

A country where the culprits fatten their pockets while the most innocent – newborn Ecuadorians – cannot even fill their stomachs. Where the indicators of chronic child malnutrition are among the highest in the region.

A country with lacerating inequalities between the rural and urban world. A country that has failed its youth in education and creating opportunities. That keeps its retirees in the most humiliating oblivion. Where being a woman is not only a factor of disadvantage, but of existential danger.

Today that we are at the gates of a new centennial of republican life, I invite you to ask yourself: why?

Why do we have such a rich land, but such poor citizens?

Why do we have such abundant natural resources, but live in the midst of scarcity?

Why, having such fertile soil, does our economy not produce well-being for those who need it most?

The questions can be thousands. But the answer is only one. It is always the same.

And it is that our rulers have failed us.

They have not been able to live up to the sacrifice of our people, a true example of work. Nor have they known how to take advantage of the vast resources that nature has given us.

They have failed us for the simple reason that they betrayed our founding principles. In the midst of so much quarrel and internal struggle, they yielded to the worst of political weaknesses: the authoritarian temptation.

They dedicated themselves to the obscene cult of the caudillo [leader], that “messiah” who supposedly knows everything: what is right and what is wrong, what is good for us and what hurts us. An enlightened person who acts and thinks for everyone, who has all the questions and all the answers.

They have never been able to accept that this country was born as a democratic republic, and that its destiny is to live forever as a democratic republic.

But all that changes this May 24. In this government that is being born today, in this new century of republicanism that we are about to start, the era of the caudillos ends. Today we claim this glorious day and begin the fight to recover the democratic soul of our country.

And that starts with the most basic and even obvious things, but what we are obliged to say. It begins by not accumulating more power in the figure of the president. Because experience tells us that those who seek all power later end up seeking mercy for the crimes that occur when that power gets out of hand.

We will remain faithful to the strict margins dictated by law. We will have the humility, but above all the strength to say: I will be president. And only president.

We will not chase anyone. We will not silence anyone. We will rule for all. This means not governing in favor of a privileged sector, but also not against anyone. Whatever opinion you have, whatever criticism you make.

Someone must say “this ends here.” Even knowing the political dangers that it entails; even knowing that others would already be exhibiting here, on this stage, a macabre list of enemies and persecuted.

Someone must have the courage to take the risk and break the vicious cycle. And at this point in history that can only be done by this new government.

Therefore, so be it. The political persecution in Ecuador is over. I have not come to satisfy the hatred of a few, but the hunger of many.

I will be the democratic head of a democratic state. My strength will not come from how high I raise my voice to shout, but from how much I will listen to the people before speaking.

Behind the ruins of the caudillo cult, a democracy is beginning to be built that uses the power limited by the laws to make the dreams of its citizens bigger.

A democracy where no one is singled out as a peddler or enemy of the homeland, and whose only enemies are disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, and gender violence. That is the April 11 mandate [April 11th was the date of the runoff election to decide the president of Ecuador].

Many ask me how we managed to bring about that day the great peaceful change that has amazed the continent and the world.

The answer is very simple. What happened was democracy itself. After more than ten years of authoritarianism, aggression, and attempts to establish a perpetual regime, Ecuadorians assimilate the greatest democratic lesson: that there is no democracy without participation.

Today, we citizens want to give. We want to contribute without asking for anything more than the hope of making a better country. We want our vote to mean a more just country with women, a more responsible country with nature, more equitable with those most in need.

That all the politicians of this country get used to the fact that politics is this: a fundamental desire of citizens to contribute to the common good, to the collective good.

May this democracy that we recover today be forever a torrent where people bring together their ideals, each one more admirable and valuable than the other. And that, together, these ideals serve to build a diverse country where we will all have a place.

Thus, more than fourteen years later, and at the gates of a new century of republican life, in Ecuador we learned that there is only one possible response to authoritarianism: democracy, democracy and more democracy. Together we all decided to drown evil in abundance of good.

That is the way, Ecuadorians. The correct road. We know that we are not wrong because developed democracies have not been wrong. Their great advances in economic well-being, in health, in education, show that they have not been wrong. And no matter how great the pressure will be to replace our still weak institutions with the violence of the screams, we will not deviate one millimeter from the path we have set out. We will not give in. Because that would be doing more damage.

That vicious cycle ends today. And today the path to the Ecuador of the encounter begins.

We carry the spirit of the encounter in the name of our country: Ecuador.

We are a land where hemispheres, regions, climates, and cultures come together. We are the heirs of a meeting of civilizations that forever changed the course of humanity. We are depositories of ancestral knowledge of this land, and that in time have merged with the cultures that came from the old world seeking freedom.

But all that history must become a more just future. Ecuador must also mean a promise of balance in common life. Balance between the causes of its people. Balance between economic growth and social justice, two cornerstones that will be the foundations of a more prosperous and equitable country.

A country where all children can cultivate their minds regardless of their conditions of origin. Where young people will have the freedom to reflect and seek the vocation that best develops their spirits, without pressure and without fear of failure. Where material prosperity also means cleaning our air, our forests and seas.

And it is that the encounter is not an abstract concept. It is, above all, the certainty that the causes of this Government will be the causes of the people. That the will of the Government will be the will of the people, moved by the same objectives and the same hopes.

More than a dream, they will be actions directed by an efficient State to eradicate hunger, disease, lack of education, and abandonment. Let there be no doubt: our intention is not to minimize the State, but to maximize its capacity to serve the poorest.

A little over 40 years ago, President Jaime Roldós Aguilera already demanded it of us: “The people want water. The people want water. ” Time has passed, various governments have come and gone, but the problems remain. The first point where we must find ourselves is in our rural areas, where our brothers in the countryside still suffer from a shortage of services such as drinking water and sewerage. Today, as we recall one more year of his premature departure, we make our own the words of President Roldós. We take back his promise: water for the people. And not only water, but also essential infrastructure such as roads, lighting, schools, and hospitals.

Another encounter point is to recognize that the fight for gender equality is not just a women’s problem. It is a national problem. An Ecuadorian problem that must be addressed by the Ecuadorian Government.

When unemployment affects women more than men; When an Ecuadorian woman earns less for the same job, an inequity is produced that tears the social fabric, starting with the families. And when an Ecuadorian woman is attacked, we all suffer the wounds. It makes us a less free, less just and morally tainted country. Women’s rights are human rights. And we will put in place all the necessary policies to guarantee them.

Another encounter point is the eradication of hunger, especially child malnutrition. This is perhaps the worst of the inequalities because its consequences last over time, in the growth problems suffered by thousands of children who currently do not receive adequate food. Today’s unforgivable inaction is costing us tomorrow. But the time has come to act. This country of encounter will protect all its children equally, no matter where they are born.

The encounter is also built with the trust that we are generating in the world. After many years, the planet turns its eyes back to Ecuador. Just when the news of our election was released, the country risk was reduced by more than 500 points. Even before taking office, one of the first tasks of any government was accomplished: creating a positive atmosphere for work and growth.

But that renewed confidence must commit all of us, especially those in Ecuador who have the capacity to undertake and create jobs. From now on we call on you to start the economic reactivation without fear. Here is the expected opportunity. Show that without harassment, without persecution, you are ready to put your resources at the service of the country, and not the country at the service of its resources. Show your national commitment. To paraphrase a few words from President Kennedy: as long as, as a country, we cannot help the poorest, this Government will not be able to help the richest.

There is another meeting point that has been eluded for too long. And it is beyond our borders. The last two decades have been a time of wonderful technological change. We are going through a fascinating era of invention that has rendered many notions of the past obsolete. And while the modern world was getting smaller, advancing in connectivity, in commerce and digital education, in Ecuador they told us that we should lock ourselves in, that we should make it more difficult for our talent to go out and compete in the world.

But the reality is that no country can live in isolation. We are all connected. In the same way that no human being can live without being part of a family and a society, likewise a country cannot turn its back on the family of nations that make up the world. Isolation, confinement, only leads to decadence.

As a country, we cover a relatively small territory. But the talent of our people is infinite. It is time for a leadership with a big vision as the capabilities of its citizens. Today Ecuador declares that it opens its doors to world trade. To the Pacific Alliance. To free trade agreements with our greatest allies. We will fully insert ourselves in the world to seek free and fair trade.

Let the world also know that we are committed to the main international consensus to achieve sustainable development. In 2015, the Declaration “Transforming our world: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” was adopted, an agreement that agrees that all people need health, education, housing, employment, energy, equality, peace and healthy ecosystems to live with dignity. The principle is “not leaving anyone behind,” which puts the inclusion of citizens equal to the priority of our work. All are objectives that this Government shares and will actively promote.

Sustainable development starts from the eradication of poverty in all its forms: the fight against inequality, the preservation of the planet, sustained economic growth, and the promotion of social inclusion. We must include the marginalized from progress, the poorest of the poor. For this we need to change the orientation of public policies in order to control climate change, build sustainable cities, change consumption patterns and protect our oceans.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will mean decades of delay in human development. It is urgent to take action to reverse them. The 2030 Agenda is a roadmap that requires the meeting of all humanity.

This brings us perhaps to the most critical point in which we must find ourselves: our health. We have difficult months ahead that will test our national resolve. Today, while we are here at this ceremony, we cannot forget that there are families suffering. Ecuadorians desperate to get a bed in a hospital. Ecuadorians suffering. Ecuadorians dying.

The country has to mobilize. Ministries, public and private hospitals, doctors, nurses, municipalities, parish boards, medical dispensaries, anyone who has the strength and knowledge to give the vaccine, or to help someone else provide it.

The pandemic does not care about our economy. It doesn’t care about our businesses or our jobs. But neither does it care who stops it, be it a pharmacy or a public hospital. That is why we will respond from multiple fronts, joining all our forces to maximize solutions that corner the virus. It will be the largest logistical deployment in our history to fulfill the most sacred duty of a Government: to save the lives of its citizens.

In undertaking this task we need to know that we are not alone. We need the goodwill of the entire international community, regardless of political leanings. We need to buy more vaccines. All that are possible. Health has no ideologies or colors. This global evil needs a global response. The people of Ecuador and its Government will know how to respond with the gratitude that has always characterized us.

As of today, the plan that will aim to vaccinate 9 million people in my first 100 days in office comes into force. The renewed Ministry of Public Health will have the direct support of the Vice President of the Republic and the Vaccination Coordination Unit. We will vaccinate without rest because the virus does not rest. We will do it seven days a week, in each province, in each town and parish and we will also call on the help of the National Electoral Council.

And when those first 100 days have passed, we will continue vaccinating until the task has been fully accomplished. And when the onslaught of the pandemic has subsided, and greater tranquility begins to breathe in our country, then an even greater task will begin. The real challenge. The struggle to lead Ecuador once and for all on the path of prosperity.

This is not a mere list of promises. Ours will not be a government that only promises; it will be a government that also commits us. As Ecuadorians we all share the same destiny. It is everyone’s obligation to take on the challenges that the future imposes on us, enormous challenges that cannot be faced in isolation by either the President of the Republic or this honorable National Assembly.

To realize the dream of a democratic government, of the people and for the people, an unprecedented democratic concurrence is necessary. Regardless of where we occupy, what role we play, let us act with the conviction that we all have a contribution to offer on this irreversible path to full democracy.

We need the best of this Government, of the citizens, and of each democratic party as well, especially those gathered here. Here, before the eyes of our constituents, I make a call for unity that must be addressed civically. Because our loyalty goes beyond a few acronyms, beyond the colors of some parties. Our loyalty is, above all, to the yellow, blue and red of Ecuador [the deeply symbolic colors of the flag].

Obviously, that does not mean that I seek the obsequiousness of recent years. Rather, what I expect from this assembly is passionate but loyal debate; vibrant but constructive, where the search for truth and good for the people always prevails. A debate that restores lost prestige to politics. Democracy is not the absence of differences or even conflicts. Democracy is the search for the peaceful and legal treatment of these differences. This is how the Ecuador of the encounter should be.

Beyond my exercise as president, my desire as a democrat is to witness the parliamentary recovery as the scene of popular sovereignty. The promise of full democracy requires that various State agencies, starting with this Assembly, regain their lost powers. No more concentration of functions in an organism dependent on the will of a person. Never again nationalization of citizen participation. Never again a poor organization in the fight against corruption. However, until the people decide otherwise, I will respect the current institutional framework.

The novelist Jorge Icaza said that in Spanish America there are no interior monologues, but interior dialogues. I said it because our identity is not “complete” yet. And this is because the Ecuadorian identity is born, grows, questions, reflects on itself yesterday, today and until the sun goes out. Because identity is not one. It is plural, it is about dialogues, encounters, disagreements and reunions. It is being in constant learning with the Other. Finding what we love about the other and giving the other what they need. The antagonistic exists and will exist, and our challenge is to find the center to reap a superior alliance. The difference is always enriching. Let’s be different, but let’s stay connected. “They are not clashes, it is complementarity and mutual help. It’s Minga [common term used in Ecuador to mean mobilization or working together to solve a problem or clean up a mess], Madam President of the National Assembly.

These are words that move me to meet my fellow citizens. To summon members of civil society to reactivate. To fill each space, each cause, with the goodness of their actions. In the last 42 years of our democracy, leading roles were granted to the State and the market. However, society has never been located in the center of that triangle, even when it has developed projects of social agreements, the State has given few signs of listening.

My Government will change that story. Today, in this transmission of command, it should not be the President alone who takes up the challenge. We must all be together. May all citizens feel that power returns to its true owners: you. This Government will encourage society in all its manifestations to adopt cooperation initiatives in the development of its State and its economy. That is why I have allowed myself to invite to this ceremony a sample of non-governmental organizations, which are not all that should have been, but they do embody the will of this Government to reactivate these segments of society.

In our country “there are opposite colors that become complementary: there are men and women, the past, present and future. The horizontal and the vertical are interwoven, the heavenly and the earthly, the earth and the air, the water and the fire. A center where we all have our reason for being and no one or nothing surpasses. There is a center in which we find ourselves and that is a seed of democracy. Beyond the photos and colors, the ballot, the ballpoint, the long lines and slips of paper, the ballot box, the percentages and statistics, winners and losers. It is about dialogue on the same level. It is about comprehending and understanding the person across the street. It is building and not imposing. ”

In this sense, I want to confirm once again that I will be the head of a secular state. However, that does not imply a country where our spiritual side is denied. Nor does it prevent us from promoting a great reconciliation between the State and all the religions that coexist in Ecuador. May our beliefs be bridges. May our convictions nurture a deeper and more humane encounter.

Although many young people may not believe it, there was a time when politics had the power to excite, because decency still shone in it. The following words of President Jaime Roldós Aguilera still echo in me. I quote: “National independence and social progress have never been the fruit of the isolated action of any government, but the result of the theoretical firmness, political honesty and the sacrificial perseverance of the entire community. Destiny is not done; it is worked every day, without hatred, without revenge, without renunciations. Together we must work to build a new historical time, where the people not only preserve their inalienable right to self-determination, but also to exercise their leading role in the exercise of an authentic democracy. ”

I have never stopped believing in our power to change destiny. One of my marks from a young age has been my total refusal to let myself be dominated by circumstances, or by what my life was supposed to be. And that same conviction has brought me here because political activity must also be a way of rebelling against fate, especially the one that some dark interests want to impose on us. Let politics be the collective instrument to dominate adversity. That together we change this present to make it the destination that we want, building that new historical time in which the Ecuadorian people will be, finally, the free protagonist of their own history.

That is our challenge. I, as President, can only hope that my actions speak as eloquently as the words of Roldós. May my decisions reflect your thoughts; May my conscience respond to your ideals, and thus awaken in young people the same civic fervor that sprouted in me forty years ago.

Finally, I can’t finish without thanking you. First to God, from whom I ask for the wisdom to guide my country on this path where many before me were lost. May he grant me the prudence to always discern between what is convenient and what is correct, between what is temporary and what is eternal.

To my parents. Whose legacy always reminds me that no matter how far one goes. What counts is never forgetting where you started from.

Thanks to my wife María de Lourdes, the love of my life, the beginning and the end of everything. This journey that we began forty years ago would not have been completed without the love with which you have filled it.

Thanks to my children, because despite their youth, I have learned much more from them than they have learned from me.

First of all, thanks to the Ecuadorian people for trusting me. Wonderful people, working people. The best people a president can aspire to. I am joined by the illusion that since I was a child for this country, for its ability to get up and work.

I know, Ecuadorians, that I was never the most conventional candidate. I am the first to be aware of my every flaw. And likewise I am the first to try to correct them every day.

I also know how unlikely this day seemed to many. That at one point all of this seemed like an impossible battle.

But the truth is that this was due – in part – to the fact that for many years our predecessors took it upon themselves to disfigure our reputation and life history. And they did the same with many of the legislators who are sitting here in this House, today appointed as honorable representatives of our people.

As for example you, Madam President of the Assembly. Who would have thought that, one day, a former banker and an indigenous leader from the Amazon would come to preside – at the same time – these two functions of the state? Who could have said it? Who would have even dared to mention it? Yet here we are both. Ready to serve and, above all, eager to work together for the good of the country.

That is the amazing power that democracy gives to those of us who do believe in it. The power to challenge the very notions of what can be possible. The power not to conform to reality, but to mold it with our will.

It is the power to achieve what until a few weeks ago no one would have dared to imagine.

Well, it’s time to dare. Today is a concrete reality that opens a new world of possibilities and opportunities for our people. Let’s hug them. Let’s take advantage of them. Let’s make this the moment we have all sought, the moment we are not wrong, the moment we truly change.

This is not an error. This is not ungovernability. This is, on the contrary, an invitation to continue discovering ourselves. To continue on a new path, open before us, ready to be explored. A path that others, clinging to fear and division, did not even dare to tread.

This is to conquer new territories of peace, coexistence, and prosperity. It is venturing into a new destination in a new time. It is shaking off the defects of the past, and in doing so, daring to be another country, here and now, from this very moment, from this very instant.

This is achieving the unimaginable. This is making history.

Let’s dare, Ecuadorians, to change.

Finally, invoking once more the words of Roldós, I conclude: My power in the Constitution, and my heart in the Ecuadorian people!

Long live the eternally democratic, eternally republican Ecuador.”

Our Review & How We Think Expats Will Be Affected

Additional Info

You can read the full speech in Spanish on El Comercio…

You can watch the inauguration on El Universo…

Image Attribution: Asamblea Nacional del Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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News & Current Events from Ecuador

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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

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While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

Bad Things About Living in Ecuador

Ecuador is a beautiful country with amazing people, but like most countries on the planet, there are also some bad things about living in Ecuador. Some of them are to be expected just like in any other country in the world, while others are specific to developing countries.

So, if you’re thinking about visiting or moving to Ecuador, there are several downsides that you need to take into account. From income inequality and pickpocketing to noise and litter, here are some of the main disadvantages of living in Ecuador.

Income Inequality 

Income Inequality 

Income inequality is one of the worst things about Ecuador. The wealth gap is quite significant in Ecuador, with approximately 26% of the population living in poverty. With a minimum wage of $400 per month, a large part of the population struggles to make ends meet.

While the minimum wage could be enough for one person with a minimalist lifestyle, lots of families have to live on the income provided by a sole earner, which translates into poverty for many of them.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things were looking better for people in Ecuador, with fewer of them living in poverty when compared to the numbers from 10 years ago. Prior to 2020, the middle and upper middle class accounted for about 72% of the population in Ecuador, but there has been a decline in the middle-class as a result of the pandemic.

When it comes to the wealthy, they only account for 1.5% of the population in Ecuador, with the top 10% holding 50% of the country’s wealth. However, to put things into perspective, the top 10% of the United States population holds 68% of the country’s wealth, which translates into a greater wealth gap in the U.S. than in Ecuador.

Pickpocketing & Theft 

Pickpocketing & Theft 

Pickpocketing and theft are a rather common issue in Ecuador. From having your phone stolen to taxi robbery, travelers can encounter several safety concerns in Ecuador.

The good news is that with a little common sense and a few tips, it’s possible to prevent yourself from being a victim of theft.

Try always to pay attention to your surroundings and keep your belongings with you at all times. Keep your bags and pockets zipped at all times. You should also avoid putting your bags in the upper head bins or under the seat when you’re traveling by bus.

Keep your belongings close to you on public transport and never hand them to people who offer to stow them for you for “security.” They may be pretending to work for the bus company, but they’ll take your backpack, and you’ll never see it again. Another method employed by thieves is to slice open a bag placed underneath the seat to take valuables out, so it’s best to try and keep your bag on you at all times and invest in a cut-proof bag.

It’s also important to remember that there may be drug-related violence in some of the neighborhoods in major cities, so it’s always a good idea to know what to expect when you’re traveling to such neighborhoods. If you’re unsure about which neighborhoods are safe and which aren’t, either avoid unfamiliar areas or talk to the locals to find out where it’s safe to visit.

Price Gouging (Getting Gringoed)

Price Gouging (Gringoed)

If you’re wondering what “getting gringoed” means, it’s when you pay more than a local would for the same thing just because you’re an American (or any foreigner, for that matter). This typically happens in Ecuador because Americans are not used to negotiating, so they tend to pay the asking price, which is often higher than it should be.

Americans generally get gringoed in Ecuador in taxis, at the market, or when they hire a contractor to do some work on their home. To avoid it, make sure you ask what the price is upfront and remember that the culture in Ecuador is a negotiating one, so it’s ok to barter before you buy.

It’s NOISY!

Noise

Ecuador can be really noisy at times, which may be something you’re not used to, depending on what country you’re from. There’s music on the beach, people have loud parties, and there are lots of fireworks to deal with.

But it’s not just Ecuadorians having fun that causes the noise — there’s also construction, honking horns, and even roosters. You may also expect announcements over the loudspeakers, church bells, car alarms — you name it.

Living in Ecuador typically means that you have to learn how to live with a lot of noise. It’s just a fact of life, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to cope with it, Ecuador, or Latin America in general, might not be the right place for you.

Street Dogs & Cats

Street Dogs & Cats

Street dogs and cats are another thing that you need to get used to when you live in Ecuador. There are lots of dogs without collars on the streets, and it’s not always possible to tell whether they have a home or not. They’re generally friendly, but you can never tell for sure, so you may want to remain alert, especially if you notice large packs of dogs coming towards you.

Another issue with street cats and dogs in Ecuador is that people can’t always afford to take care of them properly, so many of the animals are underfed or have various health issues. Because people in Ecuador aren’t fans of neutering dogs, they end up with lots of puppies, which later become strays because they’re just too many of them to be kept as pets.

Some of the dogs you see on the streets in Ecuador are not strays and they go home at night. So even though they are in the street, they actually have a home and family somewhere. Most Ecuadorians have dogs for the purpose of property protection, so the relationship between dogs and humans is a bit different than what you might be used to.

​Litter

Litter

While litter is not such a big problem in large cities where the public administration has crews that sweep up the trash regularly, that is not the case in smaller rural communities. Expect to encounter lots of litter and trash, especially plastic. There’s also a lot of trash on the side of the road in smaller cities and the surrounding areas.

Several new laws that ban single-use plastic are rolling out over the next three years, so you can expect to see a significant reduction in single-use plastic around the country. Many of the provisions in these laws are due to come into effect in 2021, so hopefully the streets of Ecuador are on track to becoming much cleaner in the near future.

​Dark & Cloudy

​Dark & Cloudy

Ecuador has multiple microclimates, but you should expect lots of dark and cloudy days from June through November. It’s not all dark and cloudy in all parts of the country at the same time, as the clouds are related to the geography of the country.

The Amazon rainforest is located in the eastern part of the country. It releases lots of moisture that evaporates, then gets condensed by the Andes Mountain range, which results in clouds, mostly in the high cities such as Quito and Cuenca. The climate is typically drier and sunnier in Salinas and Manta.

Are there TOO MANY bad things about living in Ecuador?

These are the main bad things about living in Ecuador that you should be aware of if you’re planning a trip or even consider moving. The people of Ecuador are amazing and welcoming, the country is indeed a beautiful one, but like most places in the world, there are some dark sides to it.

From income inequalities to lots of noise, you should be prepared for a bit of culture shock when you land in Ecuador. But getting to know and love the Ecuadorian people and their beautiful country is definitely worth it if you have an open mind and are willing to adapt.


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

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Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

Condos for RENT in Manta Ecuador on the Beach (2021)

In our last video, we showed you condos for sale on or near the beach. In this video, we’ll show you a few condos for RENT in Manta Ecuador on or near the beach.

The first and most affordable condo in this video is in the Poseidon, the second two are in the new Mykonos development, and the fourth is in the Santorini near Mall del Pacífico.

We share a variety of rental price ranges; however, if you’re looking for truly low budget rentals, you’ll need to stay tuned until our next property tour. We already have plans to film both for sale and for rent properties that aren’t right by the beach, which means they’ll be much lower cost.

If you would like to get more information about this property or others that we didn’t show in this video, please submit our referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction to our preferred rental agent in Manta, Ecuador.


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

Buying a Home In Ecuador

The process for buying a home in Ecuador, whether it’s a piece of land, a house or a condo, is quite a bit different than the United States and other countries. Thankfully, we were able to sit down with Ryan Kelly from Ecuador Shores Realty in Manta, Ecuador to answer a long list of questions and walk us through the process of buying a home in Ecuador.

If you would like to get more information about buying a home in Ecuador, please submit our referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction to our preferred real estate agent in the area where you’re looking.


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

Raising Kids in Ecuador: Sports, Activities, Socializing and Cultural Differences (2021)

If you’re considering a move to Ecuador with your children, this interview with Jason and Michelle from ExpatsEcuador.com will help you prepare for the differences you’ll encounter.

Jason is an expat from Australia who met the love of his life in Ecuador. Michelle is an Ecuadorian born in Quito who has two children from a previous marriage. This makes them a blended family with a unique inside, as well as outside, perspective on raising children in Ecuador.

If you would like even more information on this topic, checkout this guide from Jason and Michelle on their amazing blog:https://expatsecuador.com/living/kids


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Exploratory Trip to Ecuador

If you’re considering a move abroad to join the expat ranks, use these 10 tips to get the most out of your exploratory trip to Ecuador. As you’re scheduling your visit, plan to spend as much time as possible in Ecuador to explore your future surroundings and make preparations for your move.

Tip #1 – Thoughtfully plan your trip

1. Thoughtfully plan your trip

Some careful initial planning will help you maximize your time in Ecuador so that you can see as much of the country as possible while identifying a place you might like to live.

If you have at least a month to travel in Ecuador, take a national bus tour. Buses are a popular way to travel in Ecuador. The private and public bus systems are safe and reliable. Three of the top tour companies you should consider are Ecuador Expat Journeys, Wander Bus and Ecuador Hop.

Ecuador Expat Journeys provides a guided tour across the country geared specifically towards expats. They do a great job of introducing you to towns and properties, giving you local insight into the areas where you may want to live.

Wander Bus and Ecuador Hop are hop-on/hop-off buses. When you depart, you have the option to stay in multiple places for a few days at a time or even longer than that.

Since they’re both self-guided tours, you’ll have more control over the itinerary, but you’ll also be responsible for your activities. Both companies will give you an excellent high-level tour of the main cities. The most popular routes start in Quito and stop in popular tourist cities, such as Cuenca, Montañita/Olón, Manta, Salinas, Guayaquil, Baños Ambato, etc.

Tip #2 – Don’t overbook your itinerary!

Manta Ecuador

If you’re only planning to stay for a week or two, choose just one or two cities to spend most of your time. It takes awhile to travel between the major cities so you’re better off focusing on just a couple. There will be plenty of time to explore more cities and areas after you move to Ecuador!

Check out our article, Best Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats for a detailed list and review of popular expat cities in Ecuador, but two of the best options are Cuenca and Manta.

Cuenca tends to feel more like home for many expats, and this is where you should start if you’re not an experienced world traveler. Though you may need a little bit of time to adjust to the high elevation, you shouldn’t experience too much culture shock. Consequently, Cuenca is full of expats and many English-speaking Ecuadorians, so you’ll fit right in.

Manta and the surrounding towns are great to visit if you want to live near the beach. It’s also an expat enclave with more expats than Salinas, Playas or Olón. Manta is also more developed than many other places in Ecuador, with more amenities and access to better hospitals, too. It’s also safer than Guayaquil if you’re concerned about security.

Tip #3 – Stay as long as you can!

The New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

If you’re planning a move abroad, stay as long as you can on your exploratory trip to Ecuador so you get a real feel for the country and its people. While you can always move back home if you don’t like living in Ecuador, moving abroad can be costly so you’ll want to make sure the place you choose is a good fit for you.

We visited Ecuador for 10 days on our exploratory trip back in 2017. We stayed 2 nights in Quito and the rest in Cuenca, which was the city we had chosen as the first choice for our move abroad. A week in Cuenca was enough to confirm our feeling that we could be happy living there.

However, if there are several potential cities on your wish list, you will need much longer than a week to not only visit each of them, but to get a good feel for what it’s like to live in each city.

You get a 90-day tourist visa when you arrive at the airport—there’s no need to apply for one in advance. At the end of the initial 90 days, you can apply for a 90-day tourist visa extension.

Keep in mind that you can only request the tourist visa extension once every five years. If you want to stay longer, we recommend applying for a Temporary Residency Visa.

If you can stay for 6 months, that’s plenty of time to take a good look around the country!

Tip #4 – Focus on where you want to live in Ecuador

4. Focus on where you want to live in Ecuador

Don’t try to do too much on your exploratory trip by trying to squeeze in a trip to the Galapagos or the Amazon. Those are really cool places to visit, but it’s best to save them until after you move to Ecuador for two main reasons.

First, Ecuador residents get discounts on travel to the Galapagos, which will allow you to travel more conveniently and affordably after you move.

Second, going to these fantastic destinations won’t help decide where to live. Visiting them will detract from your focus, which is trying to determine where you want to live!

Tip #5 – Keep it authentic!

5. Keep it authentic!

The best way to explore Ecuador is to live like a local to get a real idea of what it will be like after you move.

To start, rent a place with a kitchen so that you can shop for fresh local foods at the mercados and grocery stores. You’ll experience some of the amazing local produce by making some meals instead of eating out all the time. Check out what’s on TV, visit some local museums, events or attractions to get a feel for how you might spend your free time.

Several housing options will serve as an excellent base for your in-country travels and let you connect to the cities you visit. Apartamentos Otorongo or Gran Colombia Suites are great places to stay in Cuenca. Short-term rentals listed on AirBnB, GringoPost.com (for Cuenca only), or OLX.com (like Craigslist for Ecuador) are also worth a look as you plan your trip.

Tip #6 – Get to know the neighborhood

Cuenca Ecuador from Turi

Once you’ve narrowed your desired destination down to a particular city, spend some time in the neighborhoods to investigate your new potential home. Different areas offer different experiences within the same city.

The best approach will be contacting rental agents in advance to arrange neighborhood tours for when you arrive. Xavier at Apartments Otorongo gives an incredibly informative Cuenca neighborhood tour.

There’s also an enjoyable Cuenca city bus tour that will take you around Cuenca, but it’s mainly for tourists so you’re better off exploring the neighborhoods with the help of local guides.

Tip #7 – Start the visa process before you leave

7. Start the visa process before you leave

If you’ve fallen in love with Ecuador and are ready to plan your move, start the visa process while you’re still in the country.

It’s best to meet with a visa agent in person before you head back home. Their fees can be as high as $1,000 or more so you might feel more comfortable transfering money to them if you meet in real life.

You’ll also have a better idea of what you need to do and what documents you need to collect when you go back to your home country. Here’s some more information about the types and requirements for Ecuador Temporary Residency Visas to help you prepare.

If you would like to meet with a qualified Visa Agent while you’re visiting Ecuador, please submit our Visa Agent referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction.

Tip #8 – Meet with a shipping company

8. Meet with a shipping company

Shipping household goods from abroad allows you to take your belongings with you to your new home. If you plan to do this, meet with a potential shipping agent while you’re in Ecuador.

Shipping a container can cost between $2,000-$10,000 so you’ll want to be sure that you’re comfortable with your agent before you wire the money. Here’s a complete guide to shipping a container to Ecuador so you’re better prepared for your meeting.

If you would like to discuss your container shipping options with a qualified shipping agent while you’re visiting Ecuador, please submit our referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction.

Tip #9 – Arrange to meet other expats

9. Arrange to meet other expats

Talking to other expats over coffee or a cerveza should be high on your list of priorities during your exploratory trip to Ecuador. Speaking with those who have already moved to your future home can be invaluable.

Reach out to expat groups on Facebook or the community of expats that we host on Patreon/Discord. More often than not, they’ll be happy to share their love of Ecuador and local insights with you.

Talking to expats who already live in Ecuador can give you a more accurate perspective of what it may be like to live in Ecuador while allowing you to ask some crucial questions. They can also provide you with input on optimal neighborhoods and advice on where to eat and what to do during your visit.

Tip #10 – Have fun in Ecuador!

10. Have fun in Ecuador!

Sure, you’re in Ecuador to take care of business on your exploratory trip, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t plan to take in some of the beautiful sights during your visit. Ecuador is full of unforgettable vistas and a wide variety of natural wonders.

If you’re heading to Cuenca, play tourist by taking a city bus tour or planning a day to relax in the hot springs in Baños Azuay.

If you’ll be primarily visiting the coast, head to Isla de la Plata or book a jungle hike to see some Howler Monkeys.

For those visiting Vilcabamba, plan a hike up Fandango or visit Podocarpus National Forest if you’ll be near Loja. You could easily pass an entire week in Quito traveling to the Baños Ambato or the Mindo cloud forest!

Get the MOST out of your exploratory trip to Ecuador!

Planning an exploratory trip to Ecuador can be challenging and exciting. A bit of initial planning with these tips in mind can help you maximize your stay to get a good survey of the landscape and facilitate your move.

The most important goal of your exploratory trip is to determine if you can comfortably live in Ecuador as an expat/immigrant. Visit Ecuador with an open mind, but be prepared for a little culture shock. And if you’re visiting the high mountain cities like Quito or Cuenca, give yourself a few days to adjust to the elevation.

Spend the majority of your time living like a local and laying the groundwork for your eventual move abroad, but take some time to smell the roses so you experience just how magical Ecuador can be.


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

New Ecuador Visa Changes and What They Mean for Expats (2021)

We featured Maité Duran from Gringo Visas in a recent video discussing the various Ecuador Residency Visa options available to expats.

While the visa types and most of the major details remain unchanged, Ecuador has revised several of the laws to make it EVEN EASIER for expats to move to Ecuador.

Maité and her team put together the following information to help explain the changes to Ecuador’s immigration laws.

Temporary Residency Visa Changes

The temporary residency visa is still valid for two years; however, it can now be renewed multiples times for all types of Visas: Retirement, Investment, Professional, Volunteer, Student, and visas for Dependents. Previously, it could only be renewed once.

Additionally, all temporary resident visa types no longer have travel restrictions. Previously, only the Investment visa had no travel restrictions while all other visa types were limited to 90 days outside of Ecuador per year.

Permanent Residency Visa Travel Restriction Changes

Permanent resident visas still have the same 180-day travel restrictions per year for the first two years of permanent residency (years 3 and 4 of living in Ecuador following the 2 year temporary residency).

After two years of being a permanent resident visa holder, you can leave the country for up to 2 years. If you are out of the country for more than 2 years, your visa will be cancelled.

The previous law stated that you could be out of Ecuador for up to 5 years as long as you return even for one day within the five-year period. That law no longer exists.

Ecuador Dependent Visa Changes

Dependent visas will NO LONGER be cancelled if the main visa holder dies, divorces, or applies for citizenship, or for any other reason not related to the dependent.

Previously, if the primary visa holder was no longer in the picture for any reason, the dependent visa holder either had to leave the country or apply for their own temporary visa and start the process over.

Can You Get a Visa with Felony or Misdemeanor Convictions?

If your background check has felony or misdemeanor convictions, you may still be eligible for a resident visa in Ecuador.

If your conviction was for murder, homicide, rape, kidnapping or similar violent crime that required more than 5 years imprisonment, your visa application will be denied.

If your conviction was a misdemeanor, or it was a non-violent felony that required you to serve less than 5 years in prison, your visa application may be approved following an interview with a visa officer at the ministry office.

The interview will be in Spanish, and the visa officer has complete discretion to deny your application. You can appeal the decision, but successful appeals are uncommon.

Unfortunately, the only way to know if your visa will be approved is to go through the entire visa application process, which means you will also need to pay all the associated fees.

Ecuador Tourist Visa Overstay Fines

If you enter Ecuador with a 90-day tourist visa and exceed the time limit without requesting an extension, or if you request an extension and exceed the 180 day limit, you will not be allowed to reenter the country for a period of 1 year starting from the date of departure from Ecuador unless you pay a fine of $400, or obtain a temporary resident visa at an Ecuadorian Consulate. The fine will be voided 12 months after leaving Ecuador.

Additional regulations about this law are still pending. Maité at Gringo Visas will keep us posted when these new regulations are released. In the meantime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be working to initiate this new law, and some Ministries may implement this law immediately.

If you would like to discuss your visa options with Maite, please submit our Visa Agent referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction.


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News & Current Events from Ecuador

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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

BREAKING NEWS: Ecuador Revises Covid Travel Guidelines

Yesterday, Juan Zapata, president of the National COE, revised the COVID travel guidelines relating to vaccines and testing for travelers who enter Ecuador.

Effective March 22, 2021, a negative PCR test will no longer be the only option for entering Ecuador as a foreign traveler. You will ALSO be allowed to enter Ecuador by presenting a vaccine card or certificate showing that you have received both doses of an approved vaccine.

The currently approved vaccines in Ecuador are: Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, Covax and AstraZeneca. These are the only vaccines currently available in Ecuador. We expect the government to clarify which vaccines will be approved for travel in the coming weeks or months.

Additionally, negative antigen tests will also be accepted, as well as negative PCR tests. However, both tests must now be less than 72 hours old upon arrival in Ecuador. Prior to March 22, only negative PCR tests were accepted and they needed to be less than 10 days old.

According to Ricardo Zambrano from the Ministry of Tourism, the objective of these changes is so Ecuador can reactivate the tourism sector for worldwide vaccinated travelers.

You can watch the full interview with Juan Zapata in Spanish here: Ecuador announces changes for the entry of passengers with a vaccination card against covid-19.

COVID Information for Ecuador

Here's a handy list of resources for COVID-related travel guidelines and status updates:

How to easily translate Spanish websites to English...


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Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

Get Even More Guidance!

Want to be an expat? You're not alone! We have a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

While we provide a lot of extra value for your membership, the real benefit is the support your contribution offers to us. Your generosity and reciprocity helps us continue creating more videos, articles and content about expats and Ecuador!

Ecuador Culture Shock 101: Things That are Strange to Expats, but Normal to Ecuadorians

Transitioning to Ecuadorian life comes with a few surprises that may leave you scratching your head as you adjust to the Ecuador culture shock.

Here are a few things that Ecuadorians do a bit differently than Americans. Some of these Ecuadorian quirks are fascinating, some are endearing, and a few of these strange customs are downright dangerous!

Voting in Ecuador

Voting

Voting in Ecuador is mandatory for adults between 18 and 65. If you’re 16 or 17, over 65, or a permanent resident who has lived in Ecuador for at least 5 years, you are also allowed to vote, but it’s optional.

Ecuador is currently in the midst of a democratic presidential election. Initially, there were a whopping 16 different candidates on the ballot!

In order to win the election, a candidate must either get 50% of the popular vote, or 40% of the popular vote while beating all other candidates by at least 10%.

Since there was no clear winner in the first round of elections, a runoff election is set to take place between the two leading candidates in April 2021, and again, everyone must vote.

Elections are held on Sunday’s so most people are available to vote without taking time off of work. However, employers are legally required to give workers time off to vote.

Things get a little stranger when you learn that there are no alcohol sales in Ecuador during the three days leading up to the elections. Apparently, this law is in place to ensure that everyone is sober when they walk up to the ballot box, as well as to prevent candidates from using free drinks as incentives for votes!

Driving in Ecuador

Driving

If you’re accustomed to turning right-on-red, as many do in the US, you might experience some Ecuador culture shock when you start driving.

Strangely enough, right-on-red really isn’t a thing in Ecuador. Instead, expect to see people turning LEFT-on-red and into oncoming traffic while dodging pedestrians!

ALWAYS look and NEVER assume you have the right-of-way!

Banking in Ecuador

Banking

Ecuador is Cash-based

Ecuador is a mostly a cash-based society thanks to a large number of mom-and-pop shops in the country. Consequently, you won’t use debit or credit cards nearly as often as you did back home.

Big stores and chain restaurants do accept them, but you’ll need cash to get through most of your daily interactions. Only a few small stores or restaurants accept cards, so you’ll need to pay with cash most of the time.

Bank Accounts in Ecuador

Since everyone uses cash, there are often really long lines at the bank and in front of ATMs when you go to withdraw money.

Additionally, banks hire armed guards to protect their customers. It’s common to see bank customers carrying bags of money into the bank, so the extra security is a necessity, but the show of force might cause a little Ecuador culture shock on your first few visits to the bank.

Opening a bank account in Ecuador is also different. Instead of opening an account online in just a few clicks, you have to physically visit at a local bank branch. You’ll also need to provide two letters of recommendation to the bank from people who are willing to vouch for you before you can open an account in Ecuador.

Check out our article Money and Banking in Ecuador for more on this topic.

Safety Concerns in Ecuador

Safety Concerns

Expats arriving in Ecuador will be astonished at the number of blatant safety violations that regularly occur. Over time, as you get more familiar with the country and your Ecuador culture shock diminishes, you’ll find these situations less shocking.

Lack of Safety Standards in Ecuador

In Ecuador, you’re pretty much responsible for your own safety since there are very few safety standards in place for workers or for the general public.

There is no OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration like in the US) to create and enforce safety regulations to protect workers from their companies (or from themselves).

Seriously, don’t be surprised to find sidewalks that aren’t blocked off when workers are throwing chunks of cinder blocks from two stories above you. That actually happened to us in Cuenca. You’ll come across similarly dangerous situations all the time.

Keep your eyes open to keep yourself safe. Since Ecuador is a relatively non-litigious society, you don’t have much recourse if something happens. Look out for open trenches, missing manhole covers, and flying cinder blocks.

Weak Building Codes in Ecuador

Like other parts of Latin America, there are plenty of unfinished homes. Unlike in the US, where the dwelling must be inspected and certified as safe before people are allowed to occupy it, many houses in Ecuador are in varying stages of completion.

You’ll see part of the house finished with exposed rebar sticking out of the top floor, waiting for the next addition. This practice is common for several reasons.

First, we’ve heard that homeowners aren’t required to pay taxes until the home is finished so they have a financial incentive to delay completion.

Second, many homeowners build what they can afford and add on as they can afford to build more. Others choose to leave room for potential expansion to accommodate a growing Catholic family.

Finally, some land agreements require construction to begin by a certain date, but there is no requirement to end by a certain date so builders rush to start the project, but then stop once the entry gate is built and a part of the foundation is poured.

No Postal System in Ecuador!

No postal system!

Expats often experience severe Ecuador culture shock when they learn that there’s no coordinated mail delivery system in Ecuador. There are no mail trucks or mail carriers to deliver letters and packages directly to your home or office on a daily basis.

If you need to send things inside Ecuador, there is a private courier service called Servientrega that you can use if necessary. They are affordable and reliable, but we had to go meet our delivery driver in the center of town to get our package. Since exact addresses aren’t common in Ecuador, he couldn’t find our condo building.

Limited Online Shopping in Ecuador

Since there’s no postal system to make regular deliveries, online shopping hasn’t quite caught on in Ecuador. Instead, you’ll need to visit markets and malls to get what you need. This may prompt you, as it has several expats, to adopt a more sustainable, minimalist lifestyle.

Though Amazon claims to deliver to Ecuador, it often takes several weeks or months to receive a package. Even worse, on occasion, packages have been intercepted and held for ransom by customs or shipping agents who require hundreds of dollars to release them!

One friend had a package shipped to Ecuador from Poland by her mother. The shipping costs were prepaid, but when our friend went to pick up the package at the shipping center, she was told that it would cost an additional $100 to get it. If she declined to pay, they would charge her or her mother $200 to to ship it back to Poland. She paid the $100 ransom to the shipping company, which shall remain nameless.

If you’re planning an expat life in Ecuador, it’s best to leave your online shopping habits back home.

Carrying Copies of Government ID Cards

In Ecuador, everyone has a cedula, which is a government-issued ID card. Many Ecuadorians don’t drive, but they must still obtain a cedula if they’re 18 or older.

Since pickpocketing is a common occurrence in Ecuador, and since it’s annoying and costly to go through the process of getting a new cedula, most Ecuadorians leave the original at home and carry a laminated copy or a photo on their mobile phone. However, if you need to conduct legal or financial transactions, you’ll need the original.

Strange Holiday Traditions in Ecuador

Holiday traditions

Christmas in Ecuador

Ecuadorians have a few Christmas traditions that expats will find strange. For Christmas, locals buy dolls that symbolize Baby Jesus, dress them up and carry them around. And there’s even a Baby Jesus parade that takes place every year in Cuenca!

New Years Eve in Ecuador

On New Years’ Eve, Ecuadorians create papier-mâché mannequins called monigotes that look like people they love, people they hate, sports figures, politicians, cartoon characters, animals, or anything else that has personal significance. Then, they tie these dolls to their cars or display them at their houses.

At midnight, to start the new year, they set these dolls on fire and jump over them. As a result, many people are sent to the hospital with severe burns each year. While we have enjoyed this tradition for several years, it still makes us feel a little Ecuador culture shock on occasion.

Carnaval in Ecuador

Like most other South American countries, Carnaval is a huge celebration in Ecuador. The youth have a great time partying, but most of the older Ecuadorians prefer to stay home and safely out of the way.

In a uniquely Ecuadorian twist, these celebrations usually include pelting participants (or complete strangers) with water balloons, water guns, buckets of water, muddy water, eggs, foam—really anything that will make a wet mess!

And you’ll often see young people throwing these things from moving cars so always stay alert when you’re walking around during the week leading up to Carnaval in Ecuador or you risk a wet, messy bout of Ecuador culture shock!

Prostitution is LEGAL in Ecuador

Prostitution

Most expats will find it pretty shocking that prostitution is legal and regulated in Ecuador, especially since Ecuadorians are thought to be very Catholic and conservative.

While it’s still generally frowned upon, it’s not uncommon for married men to frequent some out-of-the-way motels that essentially function as brothels.

There are plenty of motels on the outskirts of town that rent rooms by the hour for this purpose. Most are hidden behind high walls for discretion, but everyone knows what you’re doing if you’re spotted turning into one of these places.

These hourly motels aren’t just for debauchery, though. Since many Ecuadorians live under the same roof as their parents and grandparents, young couples visit these motels for privacy and alone time.

Larger cities like Cuenca and Quito have dedicated red-light districts where prostitutes can easily be found. We’ve been told that the cost is shockingly low for the various services that are provided, while the women are shockingly beautiful.

Ecuador may be a largely Catholic country, but Ecuadorians are very open-minded and liberal about some things. A short walk down any of the beaches in Ecuador will reveal a plethora of dental floss thong bikinis worn by all ages and sizes of women. You may even spot the occasional topless sunbather and speedos are popular with men. You’ll also see sex stores in regular shopping malls and suburban neighborhoods.

When it comes to sex, drugs and alcohol, Ecuador is more like a Mexican soap opera than a conservative 50’s sitcom, which might cause some culture shock for more traditional, conservative expats.

Ecuador Culture Shock Is REAL

Ecuador Culture Shock 101

Expats arriving in Ecuador may do a double-take at many of the strange things Ecuadorians do, but it’s an integral part of the country’s charm. Where else can you routinely see people causally carrying machetes to chop bamboo and perform other jobs? There truly is no place like Ecuador.

Be prepared for some culture shock since there are plenty of significant differences that you’ll encounter. Driving and banking will require some initial adjustment on your part, but you’ll find that these changes are pretty essential to getting along with an Ecuadorian way of life.

Assimilating these new traditions and experiences only adds to the uniqueness of living in Ecuador and getting to know and love the Ecuadorian people.


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