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7 BIG Expat Mistakes to Avoid When You Move from the United States to Ecuador

Here are 7 BIG expat mistakes to avoid when you move from the United States to Ecuador. Being prepared for these cultural differences will improve your experience and help you make a smooth transition to your new life abroad.

#1 Don’t Believe The Negative Stereotypes

Movies, TV shows and the news media in the United States do not portray Latin America in the best light. The entire region south of the border is often the butt of jokes or used to draw a contrast between the “civilized” north and the “UNcivilized” south.

When the news media features Latin America, it’s usually about national protests or an attempted coup by some ruthless dictator. Rarely do we see what normal, daily life is like for the millions of people who live and work here.

We’re taught from very early that Latin America is dangerous. Lawless. Run by drug lords and corrupt dictators. Why? It’s financially beneficial to foster a fear of the unknown: If we’re too afraid to leave home, we won’t spend our money elsewhere.

However, very few of the negative stereotypes are actually true, and those that are true, are often exaggerated. While there are dangerous places in Latin America, just like there are dangerous places in the United States, most places are very safe. And Ecuador is one of the safest countries in Latin America.

You may also be concerned about the quality of Internet access outside the United States. Internet access in Ecuador’s major cities and along the coast is very fast and reliable. In fact, our service with NetLife is twice as fast for 1/3 the cost compared to our Comcast service back in Denver. We pay $45/month for 75Mbps up and down.

Our Claro mobile phone service is also very fast and reliable. The more populated areas in Ecuador have 4G coverage while the less populated areas have 3G. We were visiting Salinas last year during a planned power outage for maintenance and Amelia was able to run her Zoom conference call over the mobile hotspot without any lag or technical issues.

Our belief in the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media kept us from moving abroad sooner, but after more than 3 years of living in Ecuador, we realize that it’s not much different than the United States.

It’s civilized and has all the modern technological necessities. The vast majority of people are really nice, they spend time with friends and family, and they work hard to put food on the table, just like the rest of us.

#2 Be Patient

When we first arrived in Ecuador, we stayed at a short-term apartment hotel in Cuenca called Apartamentos Otorongo. For one monthly rate, they take care of everything (Internet, utilities, daily housekeeping) so our time was freed up to find a rental house, setup our Ecuador mobile phone, work on our temporary resident visas, sightsee, etc.

We were thankful to have the freedom and flexibility that provided because we needed all the patience we could muster to get everything setup in our new home abroad.

In Ecuador, as in most Latin American countries, there is a concept called “mañana.” This word literally translates to “tomorrow,” but in reality, it means, “not today.” It might mean tomorrow, next week, next year or maybe never. It took us awhile to learn this cultural difference and it still tries our patience after 3 years.

Our first experience with “mañana” came soon after our arrival in Ecuador when we rented our house in Cuenca. We looked at several houses before we found one that we liked, and Amelia wanted it before we even saw the second floor!

We told the landlord that we wanted to rent his house and asked about putting down a deposit and signing the lease. He said he would be in touch “mañana” to discuss next steps.

Several days went by, but we had not heard from him so we sent a WhatsApp message reiterating our desire to rent the house as soon as the current renters moved out (in less than 2 weeks). He responded immediately and told us the house was ours and he would be in touch “mañana” about signing the lease.

Several more days went by without a peep so we messaged him again. This time, we were able to set a date to go sign the lease and put down the deposit. We moved into the house a couple days later. Cutting it so close to the move-in date caused us a lot of stress, but didn’t seem to concern him at all.

Another cultural aspect that is different in Latin America compared to the United States, is the concept of 3’s. It takes at least 3 times to do anything, such as sign a lease, get a mobile phone, repair the washing machine, open a bank account, pay the utilities, etc. Rarely is a job done right the first time, and according to our Ecuadorian Spanish teacher, this is not limited to expats; it happens to everyone.

Living in Ecuador or any Latin American country requires a level of patience that you may not be used to.

#3 Ask a LOT of Questions

As a general rule, Ecuadorians do NOT volunteer information. If you don’t ask a specific question, they won’t volunteer the answer even if you think, or later find out, it’s a critical detail.

That means it’s really important to ask a LOT of questions when you’re engaging with Ecuadorians about the services they provide. Don’t make any assumptions based on the lack of communication, other than to assume they’re omitting something that you might think is very important.

Also, follow up regularly via email, WhatsApp, text message or phone, whichever is their preferred method of contact. And don’t be afraid to ask for a regular status update.

#4 Don’t Have a Scarcity Mentality

A lot of people struggle with the scarcity mentality. It’s easy to become trapped by the mindset that you’ll never find anything as good as this, whatever “this” is. And it’s even easier to fall into this trap when you move abroad to a new country due to the constant uncertainty.

Cuenca Ecuador House

We looked at 10 different houses before we found one we liked in Cuenca. Two different rental agents showed us houses and condos, but we either didn’t like them or they didn’t allow dogs.

Each time we looked at (and ruled out) a potential rental, our scarcity mentality gained a little more control over us. We became convinced that if we did find someplace we liked, we needed to jump on it immediately or risk losing it!

It wasn’t until several months later that we realized there are LOTS of different places to rent in Cuenca and throughout Ecuador that would work just fine for us. Several of our friends rented houses or condos that were equally as nice, or nicer than ours. And they allowed dogs!

For some reason, the two rental agents who showed us rentals did not show us anything that would work for us. Perhaps this ties back to the last mistake to avoid: Ask a LOT of Questions! They didn’t seem to understand what we wanted even though they both spoke fluent English.

We were also concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find the speciality items that we wanted or needed. The United States is a very consumer-minded country, so it’s easy to find even the most obscure items at nearby stores, or have them delivered to your door by Amazon.

However, shopping in Ecuador is quite a bit different. Home delivery isn’t a thing here, and it often takes several trips to multiple different stores to find something that’s close enough to work, but may not be ideal.

We’ve learned to embrace the scavenger hunt and accept that we might have to go without some things.

#5 Don’t Make These Timing Mistakes

If you’re selling a house or car, or bringing your pets to Ecuador, be sure to give yourself enough time to get everything done. Things always take longer than you anticipate, so build a nice buffer into your plan.

Our house was in a highly desirable suburb of Denver in the best school district in Colorado so we assumed it would sell very quickly. Even though it was a seller’s market at the time, it still took 5 months to close. We hired an estate sale company to sell nearly everything in the house, but that took more than 2 months to schedule, prepare and execute.

We sold my car several months before we moved to Ecuador, but we needed Amelia’s car until closer to our departure date. That meant we only had a couple of weeks to list it and sell it outright. In the end, we sold it to the Audi dealership for significantly less than we would have made by selling it to a private buyer.

If you’re bringing your dogs or cats to Ecuador, there are a lot of rigid timelines to follow for exams and shots. We made a timing mistake with one of the booster shots for Alicia and had to reschedule our trip.

If you make a timing mistake with your pets, the airline won’t allow them on the plane so it’s really important to work with an APHIS accredited veterinarian and create a calendar so you don’t miss any important dates.

Since Daisy is not a service dog and she’s too big to fit under the seat in-cabin, she had to fly in the temperature and pressure controlled cargo area.

However, the outdoor temperature must be within a certain range that’s not too hot and not too cold for the airlines to check a dog into cargo.

We moved to Ecuador at the end of September, but it was too hot to fly her then so we made plans to go back in November to get her. She stayed at grandma and grandpa’s house in the Atlanta area while we got settled into our new home in Ecuador.

Upon our return, the Atlanta area had a freak blizzard and the temperature plummeted to record lows. Instead of being too hot, it was too COLD to fly her out of the Atlanta airport, so we rented a car and drove to Miami. We had to change our flights and pay for an expensive one-way car rental.

It’s impossible to plan for every contingency, but there are a few timing mistakes that you should be able to avoid with sufficient awareness and planning.

#6 Don’t Make This Banking Mistake

Ecuador is a cash society. Only big stores and nicer restaurants accept credit cards so you’ll need to regularly withdraw money from the ATM to fund your living expenses.

We made a huge mistake by not planning ahead to minimize our ATM fees. Our Colorado-based banks charge a 5% international ATM withdrawal fee, and most of the local banks in Ecuador also charge a fee ranging from $1.50 to $5 per transaction with $300 to $500 withdrawal limits.

Including our $800/month rent in Cuenca and our $800+/month living expenses, we were spending more than $80/month just on ATM fees!

After complaining to some expat friends, they told us about Charles Schwab, which doesn’t charge international ATM fees and refunds all fees charged by the dispensing bank.

We attempted to open our account remotely from Ecuador, but they required us to visit a branch in the United States to show proof of ID so we couldn’t finish the setup process until our next trip back to the US.

If you would like to setup an account with Charles Schwab, here’s our affiliate link, which will give us a credit on our account and helps fund these types of articles and videos. Note that you will need to setup a brokerage account first, but you don’t need to use it. Once the brokerage account is funded, you can open a checking account, which comes with an ATM card.

You can also open an Ecuadorian bank or coop account and fund it with a wire transfer for a one-time fee in the $30 to $50 range. While most Ecuadorian banks charge an ATM fee, it is still less than most US banks charge for international transaction fees. You can also pay some of your bills online if you have an Ecuadorian bank account.

We paid several hundred dollars in ATM fees by moving to Ecuador without a Charles Schwab account, making this one of the BIG expat mistakes to avoid.

#7 Study Spanish. A LOT of Spanish!

According to the 2020 English Proficiency Index for Latin America released by Education First, Ecuador ranks dead last for English proficiency among the Latin American countries they studied. You won’t find a lot of English-speaking Ecuadorians, which means at least some Spanish proficiency will greatly improve your quality of life in Ecuador.

Ecuador English Proficiency

We both took Spanish classes in high school and college, but that was a long time ago so we used language apps like Duolingo and Fluenz as a refresher before we moved abroad to Ecuador. We studied a LOT using those apps, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

If we had it to do over, we would take official Spanish classes and attended language exchanges to practice conversational Spanish in the year leading up to our move to Ecuador.

Drop us a note through our contact form if you would like us to connect you with our Spanish teacher in Cuenca. Christina started Walking Spanish Lessons before the pandemic, but now she offers remote learning via Zoom. She is a native Cuencana with a linguistics degree from La Universidad de Cuenca so you’ll learn both proper Spanish and some of the unique phrases you’ll hear in Cuenca and elsewhere in Ecuador.

While Spanish fluency is not a necessity, your quality of life will be greatly improved and your stress level significantly reduced with at least some Spanish proficiency.

Conclusion

These are the 7 BIG expat mistakes to avoid when you move from the United States to Ecuador. By preparing ahead of time and knowing the pitfalls to avoid, your transition to life in a new culture will be smoother, less stressful, and more enjoyable.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

Follow Us on Social Media

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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 Shipping Company Costs and Process: Relocation Services of Ecuador Interview Highlights

We interviewed Ecuador shipping company owner, Paul Wilches, founder of Relocation Services of Ecuador, to learn about shipping household goods to Ecuador. He discussed the logistics, process, import regulations, timeframes and costs to pack up your house and move everything to Ecuador from anywhere in the world.

We can send an email introduction to you and Paul: Ecuador Container Shipping Agent Referral.

Relocation Services of Ecuador Container Options

The container size you’ll need varies by the number and size of household items you’re planning to bring to Ecuador. For entire houses, you may need a 20 or 40 foot express container.

20 Foot Shipping Container

20 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

You can also ship a pallet or a lift van for smaller loads. A pallet is a wood base stacked with boxes and shrink wrapped. It’s the least secure option.

Wood Pallet

Wood Pallet

A lift van is a wood box that can be sealed shut.

Lift Van

Lift Van

Ecuador Shipping Company Process

It takes 3 to 4 weeks from the date of order for a container to be delivered to your house or storage unit for loading. If you live in a congested area, such as downtown in a big city, you may need to move your household items to a storage unit outside the city because there may not be enough room to park a large container on the street near your house or apartment.

You will need to pack your household items and keep a VERY detailed inventory of what is in each box. It needs to be VERY specific. For example, it needs to list the number of mens shirts, womens shoes, neckties, underwear, number of DVDs, number of kitchen utensils, etc. Simply stating that it contains clothes is not specific enough. EVERYTHING needs to be on the inventory list.

It currently takes 32 to 35 days from the time the container, pallet or lift van is picked up in the United States to deliver it to your new home in Ecuador. If you are unable to be in Ecuador when the container is set to be delivered, it will need to be stored in the United States and shipped once you’re able to come to Ecuador and sign the customs paperwork to accept your shipment.

You have 180 days from the date of your last immigration stamp in your passport to bring your container into Ecuador duty free. If you have been in Ecuador longer than 180 days when your container is scheduled to arrive, you will need to leave Ecuador and return to Ecuador to get a fresh stamp in your passport or be subject to the import taxes on your entire container.

Express Containers

Paul’s Ecuador shipping company offers a home-to-door service for express containers. This means the container will be delivered to your house or storage unit in the origin city, and you’ll be responsible for loading it or hiring a loading crew. You’ll have about 4 hours to load it so you may want to hire a few guys or invite your friends over to help.

Once the container is loaded, it’ll be driven to the nearest port city and shipped to Ecuador. Once it clears customs in Ecuador, it will be driven to your house and unloaded into your house. You’ll be able to tell the crew where to put things, but they won’t unpack boxes or setup furniture.

Pallets and Lift Vans

For pallets and lift vans, Relocation Services of Ecuador offers a door-to-door service. This means a crew will deliver the pallet or lift van to your house, load it, secure it and take it away.

When it arrives at your new home in Ecuador, the Relocation Services of Ecuador crew will unload it into your house, but they won’t unpack boxes or setup furniture.

Items You CAN Bring to Ecuador (and Legal Limits)

You can bring most household items to Ecuador, but there are a few legal limits on the number of items you can bring. A household item is anything used to fill or maintain a house or apartment. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Major Appliances: Stove, Oven, Refrigerator, Dishwasher, Washer, Dryer (Limit 1 Each, New or Used)
  • Small Appliances: Blender, Microwave, Mixer, Coffee Maker, Toaster Oven, Toaster, Cooktop, etc. (Limit 2 to 3 Each)
  • TV, DVD Player, Stereo, Air Conditioners, etc. (Limit 1 Each per Person + 1 for the Family)
  • Computers (Limit 2 per Person)
  • Dishes, Silverware, Glasses, etc.
  • Tools: Hand Tools, Tablesaw, Electric Generator, etc.
  • Furniture: Beds, Sofas, Tables, Chairs, Patio Sets, etc.
  • Holiday Decorations, Paintings, Rocks, etc.
  • Lawn Mower (thoroughly cleaned of all grass and dirt)
  • Gas Grill (without the propane tank)
  • Clothing and Shoes (Limit 200 Kilos/440 Pounds per Person)
  • Empty Safe (without Money or other valuables)
  • Alcohol/Liquor (Limit 23 Liters per Family)
  • Commercially Packaged Food in Sealed Containers

Items You CANNOT Bring to Ecuador

You CANNOT bring the following items to Ecuador. It’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you don’t pack anything that might trigger an inspection. In the United States, port inspections cost $3,000 to $4,000.

  • NO Guns, Weapons or Ammunition
  • NO Flammable Items: Propane Tanks, Hair Spray, Gasoline, WD-40, Turpentine, Aerosol Cans, etc.
  • NO Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles, Golf Carts, etc. Nothing with a motor that’s used for transportation (unless you’re a returning Ecuadorian citizen, but then you need to apply for a special program and meet specific requirements)
  • NO Cash, Gold, Silver, Jewels, etc. (carry them on the plane and declare them at airport customs if the value exceeds $10,000)
  • NO Incandescent Light Bulbs (only CFL or LED light bulbs are allowed in Ecuador)
  • NO Agriculture Products: Seeds, Plants, Trees, Fruit, Herbs, etc.

Ecuador Shipping Company Cost

The cost varies by type and size of container; however, as a rough estimate, Relocation Services of Ecuador can ship a 20 foot container from the United States to Ecuador for $7,200 and $8,500.

Relocation Services of Ecuador charges include:

  • The Container, Pallet or Lift Van
  • Delivery of the Container, Pallet or Lift Van to the House or Storage Unit
  • Pickup and Loading of Boxes (for Pallets and Lift Vans)
  • Transportation to the US Port
  • Ocean Freight from US to Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • US and Guayaquil Port Fees
  • Guayaquil Inspection Fees
  • Legal Expenses to Legalize the Shipping Inventory
  • Inland Transportation from Guayaquil to Anywhere in Ecuador
  • Unloading Into your House or Apartment

If you would like us to connect you with Paul Wilches at Relocation Services of Ecuador, we can send an email introduction to you and Paul: Ecuador Container Shipping Agent Referral.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

Follow Us on Social Media

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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!

Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador

Here are the Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador during your visit to this beautiful and magical old-world city nestled high in the Andes Mountains. These are the activities we did with our friends and family when they visited and they LOVED them.

In 1999, Cuenca was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historic and cultural significance. Everywhere you look, there’s something beautiful and historic to see, and photograph!

Without further ado, here is the list of Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador:

#10 – Get an Aerial View of Cuenca from The New Cathedral Terrace

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

Number ten on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to tour The New Cathedral, both inside the cathedral and the terrace located high above the city between the two front towers.

The official name of The New Cathedral in Cuenca is Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), but most people just call it The New Cathedral or La Catedral Nueva in Spanish.

The groundbreaking for The New Cathedral was in 1885, but construction wasn’t completed until 1975. It was originally designed to have two additional domes with bells on the front two towers, but they were never added due to structural issues.

The inside of The New Cathedral is lined with several altars dedicated to various saints in the Catholic religion. Each altar is made of different materials, and each is a work of art and craftsmanship. The main altar is covered in gold leaf, which is common in Ecuador’s larger cathedrals.

New Cathedral Cuenca Altar in Cuenca Ecuador

New Cathedral Cuenca Altar in Cuenca Ecuador

If you want an amazing aerial view of Cuenca Ecuador, you’ll want to pay the $2 fee and climb the brick spiral staircase to The New Cathedral Terrace. From there, you can get a 360 degree view of Cuenca and the surrounding Andes Mountains.

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

#9 – Step Back In Time at The Old Cathedral

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

Number nine on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to visit The Old Cathedral Religious Art Museum.

The official name of The Old Cathedral is Iglesia del Sagrario (Church of the Shrine), but everyone calls it The Old Cathedral or La Catedral Vieja in Spanish. It’s one of the nicest museums in Cuenca.

The groundbreaking for the cathedral was in 1567 and it was finished six years later in 1573. It’s much smaller than The New Cathedral located on the other side of Parque Calderon.

While it does contain some of the graphic imagery used to put the fear of God in people back in the 16th century, most of the art is from the past hundred years so it’s not as gory. You’ll really enjoy seeing the original murals painted over 500 years ago!

The Old Cathedral Mural in Cuenca Ecuador

The Old Cathedral Mural in Cuenca Ecuador

#8 – Reward Your Tastebuds with Fine Ecuadorian Coffee and Chocolate

Fine Ecuadorian Coffee at Goza in Cuenca Ecuador

Fine Ecuadorian Coffee at Goza in Cuenca Ecuador

Number eight on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to reward your tastebuds with some delicious fine Ecuadorian coffee and chocolate.

If you enjoy coffee and chocolate like Amelia, then you’ll LOVE Ecuador! The best chocolate in the world is made here from the best cocoa beans in the world.

There are several major brands of Ecuadorian chocolate like Pacari and Leyenda, but you can also buy unpackaged chocolate at the mercados. However, most of the mercado chocolate contains leche (milk) so keep that in mind if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant.

#7 – Model a Panama Hat at the Hat Museum

Museo del Sombrero Hat Museum

Museo del Sombrero Hat Museum in Cuenca Ecuador

Number seven on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to visit Museo del Sombrero on Calle Larga y Padre Aguirre.

You’ll enjoy visiting the hat museum and the café on the deck above the Tomebamba River. You can try on some hats and then savor a coffee or tea while admiring the views of the river, Cuenca, Turi and the Andes mountains.

Museo del Sombrero Café View of Cuenca

Museo del Sombrero Café View of Cuenca

While these hats are commonly known as Panama Hats, they originated in Ecuador and the Cañari indigenous people who originally made this “paja toquilla” or “straw hat” still wear them today.

Paja Toquilla

Paja Toquilla (aka Panama Hat)

#6 – Soak in the Hot Springs at Baños

Novaqua Cuenca Hot Springs Pool

Novaqua Cuenca Hot Springs Pool

Number six on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to soak in the hot springs in Baños Azuay located about a 20 minute cab ride from El Centro.

NovaquaHostería Durán and Piedra de Agua are the most popular places with expats, but there are other places in Baños. They all have a hot springs swimming pool, as well as the thermal hot and cold pools. Novaqua and Piedra de Agua also have a sauna, mud pools, steam rooms and hot boxes.

Novaqua Cuenca Cold Pool

Novaqua Cuenca Cold Pool

If you prefer a child-free experience, you need to be at least 16 years old to enter Novaqua and it’s a little less expensive than Piedra de Agua.

Hostería Durán is the most affordable option, but sometimes there are lots of kids playing in the pool, which can tarnish a relaxing spa experience. Of all three, Piedra de Agua probably has the nicest pools, atmosphere and a full restaurant, but it’s more expensive and does allow small children.

#5 – Taste Exotic Fruit at a Mercado

Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Market Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado

Number five on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to go to a mercado and buy some exotic fruit to taste.

Buying your fresh produce at the mercado helps support local farmers and it’s very affordable. Plus, you’ll get to practice your Spanish and enjoy all the beautiful colors and culture.

There is a wide variety of delicious and affordable fruit, both familiar and exotic. We HIGHLY recommend trying a Pitahaya, or Dragon Fruit in English (shown below). They’re very sweet and juicy, but they’re also prescribed as a natural laxative so perhaps start with a half of one and see how it affects you before get too carried away!

Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya in Ecuador

Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya in Ecuador

This funky prehistoric looking fruit is called a Soursop in English, or Guanabana in Spanish.

Soursop or Guanabana in Cuenca Ecuador

Soursop or Guanabana in Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia loves the sourness of this Guanabana, but I prefer the sweetness of its cousin, the Sweetsop or Chirimoya as it’s called in Spanish.

Sweetsop or Chirimoya in Cuenca Ecuador

Sweetsop or Chirimoya in Cuenca Ecuador

You may like some more than others, but a trip to the mercado for some delicious exotic fruit is well worth your time.

#4 – Take a Selfie with Wild Llamas at Cajas National Park

Amelia And JP at Lower Cajas National Park Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia And JP at Lower Cajas National Park Cuenca Ecuador

Number four on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to go to Cajas National Park about 30 to 45 minutes from El Centro.

The Lower Cajas is much lower in altitude so it’s also greener with more plants and animals to see. However, you’ll enjoy hiking in both parts of the park.

Polylepis Tree in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Polylepis Tree in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

As you can see in this picture, Upper Cajas could pass for the Scottish Highlands, or an entirely different planet!

Upper Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Upper Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

It’s common to see wild llamas in both areas of the park. We saw multiple herds of llamas on both of our hikes in El Cajas National Park. They’re very tame so you can get very close to them, but we encourage you to keep a safe distance so you don’t disturb them (and so they don’t spit on you).

Llamas in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Llamas in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

If you’re an orchid lover, you’ll want to visit Lower Cajas to see the abundance of wild orchids growing in the trees.

Wild Orchids in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Wild Orchids in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

#3 – Visit Turi on the City Bus Tour

Amelia on the Cuenca City Bus Tour

Amelia on the Cuenca City Bus Tour

Number three of the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to visit Turi Ecuador on the Cuenca City Bus Tour.

The Turibus costs $8 for adults and $4 for kids, with a deal for families. It takes about one and a half hours to do the full tour and it provides a nice Cuenca history lesson and tour of the city before heading up to Turi Ecuador for some amazing photo ops. It’s a hop-on/hop-off bus so you can enjoy different parts of the city and catch the next bus when it goes by.

Mirador Turi Church in Cuenca Ecuador

Mirador Turi Church in Cuenca Ecuador

New Cathedral Cuenca View from Turi

New Cathedral Cuenca View from Turi

Once you’re at Turi, you can spend about 45 minutes tasting a complimentary canelazo, wandering around or enjoying the views before your bus heads back to El Centro. However, you can spend some extra time taking pictures of Cuenca or get some adrenaline pumping at the Aventuri Adventure Park.

Stephen at Aventuri Adventure Park Turi Ecuador

Stephen at Aventuri Adventure Park Turi Ecuador

#2 – Take Time to Smell the Roses at the Cuenca Flower Market

Amelia at the Cuenca Ecuador Flower Market

Amelia at the Cuenca Ecuador Flower Market

Number two on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to take time to smell the roses at the world-famous Cuenca Flower Market located across the street from The New Cathedral.

The Cuenca Flower Market has been designated one of the Top 10 Outdoor Flower Markets in the world by National Geographic, and a quick stroll around the flower stands is enough to understand why.

Flowers are one of Ecuador’s major exports, so there’s a good chance you may have enjoyed some in one of your bouquets back home without knowing it. However, you probably paid a lot more than they cost in Ecuador. You can buy two dozen roses for between $5 and $7.

#1 – Get Creeped Out by the Shrunken Heads at the Pumapungo Inca Ruins

Museo Pumapungo Inca Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

Museo Pumapungo Inca Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

Number one on the top 10 things to do in Cuenca Ecuador is to get creeped out by the shrunken heads at Museo Pumapungo and then enjoy a walk through the 500+ year old Inca ruins.

The museum doesn’t allow photography inside so we don’t have any pictures of the shrunken heads to share, but trust us when we say they’re creepy! You’ll enjoy walking through the museum and learning about the history of the Incas in this part of Ecuador.

In addition to the Inca Ruins dating back to the 1400’s, you’ll also enjoy a relaxing stroll around the gardens and lake.

Amelia Being Funny at Museo Pumapungo in Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia Being Funny at Museo Pumapungo in Cuenca Ecuador

It was hard to choose a number one for the Top 10 Things To Do In Cuenca Ecuador, but we both agreed on Pumapungo because it’s such an iconic landmark in Cuenca, and it’s such an enjoyable place to visit. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do on your next visit to Cuenca Ecuador.

Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador Conclusion

Whether you visit Cuenca as a tourist, or if you’re on an exploratory trip to plan for an eventual move, you won’t be disappointed by taking some time to enjoy all the city has to offer.

There are several other things to do, like visiting the Museum of Modern Art or Parque de la Libertad, but these are the top 10 things that most visitors want to experience. Be sure to have your camera ready so you can share the sights with your friends and family back home!


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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!

Is CUENCA Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

Cuenca has been near the top of “best expat cities” list for nearly a decade, and a lot of expats live in Cuenca because of its international renown. However, if you’re still in the planning stages of your move abroad, you may be wondering, is Cuenca Ecuador the best expat city for me?

In this article, we explore all the things that make Cuenca an amazing place to start your new life in a foreign country, and we share a few reasons that may make you continue your search for a new expat home.

Is Cuenca the Best Expat City in Ecuador?

Before we share the main drawbacks that led us to leave Cuenca for one of Ecuador’s beautiful, rustic beach towns, let’s take a look at all the wonderful things that Cuenca has to offer expats.

Cuenca Is a Modern, Developed City with Old World Charm

Is Cuenca Ecuador the Best Expat City

Cuenca has all the modern amenities of a developed city like hospitals, malls and car dealerships, but it still maintains an old world charm with its beautiful, Spanish colonial architecture. The iconic blue domes of the New Cathedral can be seen from most vantage points in the city and make for amazing pictures to share with your friends and family. You’ll find a new, irresistible photo op around every corner in Cuenca.

Cuenca Has an Airport

Cuenca Airport

One of the amenities that makes Cuenca so appealing to expats is the airport located just a short cab ride from the heart of the city. While the airport claims to be international, nearly all flights go to Quito with an occasional flight to Guayaquil. You’ll also need to walk down stairs upon exiting the plane since there are no gangways, but the airport itself is very nice with a small food court on the second level and a tasty coffee shop on the first level by the ticketing counter. The flight to Quito only takes 45 minutes so it’s much easier than making the 8+ hour drive to Quito, or the 3+ hour drive to the Guayaquil international airport.

You Don’t Need a Car in Cuenca

Cuenca Ecuador Tranvia

Cuenca’s new Tranvia will take you from the airport through El Centro and out to the Don Bosco neighborhood on the southwest side of town. The expansive bus system will take you anywhere inside or outside Cuenca. Taxi rides are very affordable and most fares cost between $2 and $3 with a $1.50 minimum. Cars are much more expensive in Ecuador than in countries like the United States, and interest rates on car loans are very high, so luckily the wide variety of inexpensive transportation options mean you don’t need a car in Cuenca.

Cuenca Has LOTS of English-Speaking Ecuadorians

Most Cuencanos who are under 30 years old speak English, and many older Ecuadorians who lived in the US or Europe when they were younger also speak English. That means it’s a really easy place to start your life abroad if you’re not yet fluent in Spanish. With language apps widely available, speaking Spanish isn’t a requirement anywhere in Ecuador, but being able to communicate in English makes the transition to a new city and culture much smoother.

Cuenca Has LOTS of Spanish Schools & Teachers

Walking Spanish Lessons Cuenca Ecuador

If your goal is to learn Spanish, Cuenca is a great place to study the language. There are a variety of Spanish schools, teachers and language exchanges to help you learn and practice. We HIGHLY recommend Christina with Walking Spanish Lessons, whom we’ve featured in this video on our YouTube Channel: Cuenca Ecuador Walking Spanish Lessons.

Cuenca Has a Large Expat Community

Cuenca Expats

While many adventurous expats move to a foreign country to spend time with locals and experience a new culture, others move abroad mainly to live a more affordable, higher quality of life. These types of expats appreciate having other like-minded, English-speaking people to talk to and to provide social support. Cuenca has one of the largest expat communities in South America with thousands of immigrants from the US, Canada and Europe, making it an ideal place to start a new life abroad.

Cuenca Has a Variety of Modern, Upscale Housing

Cuenca Ecuador House

Your friends and family may think you’ll be living in a dirt floor house with no indoor plumbing when you move to Ecuador, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While building standards aren’t quite the same as in the US and other developed countries, Cuenca has a large selection of modern, upscale housing to choose from. Whether you want a freestanding home, a row home or a high rise condo, you’re sure to find something that will make you feel right at home for a fraction of the cost compared to similar housing in the US.

Cuenca Has Excellent Pet Care

Cuenca Pet Care

If you’re planning to take your fur babies with you when you move abroad, Cuenca has a number of English-speaking veterinarians and pet care providers. You’ll find pet supply stores in most neighborhoods and malls, and you can even take your dog to daycare for a playdate. Your dog will also enjoy long walks along the linear river parks and in Parque Paraíso. And there are plenty of opportunities to adopt dogs and cats from several different animal rescues in Cuenca. Check out our recent article, Ecuador Pet Care, Pet Sitting & Pet Food for more on this topic.

Cuenca Has LOTS of Fun & Entertaining Things To Do

Cuenca Things To Do

If you’re an activity-oriented person, Cuenca will NOT disappoint! There are tons of things to do in Cuenca! You’ll find lots of museums to visit, like the Inca ruins at Pumapungo and the Museum of Modern Art in San Sebas. Cuenca has great walking tours, river walks, restaurants, social gatherings, music events, and more. Plus, a short 2o minute cab ride will deliver you to the hot springs in Baños Azuay southwest of Cuenca for a relaxing day of soaking in the therapeutic waters and pampering in the spas.

There are LOTS of Amazing Day Trips Around Cuenca

Cuenca Day Trip Cajas

Cuenca is centrally located near several of Ecuador’s incredible natural and historical sights like El Cajas National Park with its herds of photogenic llamas. You might also enjoy the waterfalls of Girón, the handmade guitar makers in San Bartolomé, the filigree jewelry in Chordeleg, the orchid farm in Gualaceo, the indigenous market in Cañar, the church built into the side of a mountain in Biblión, or the Inca & Cañari ruins in Ingapirca. And if you’re really brave, you’ll love mountain climbing at Cojitambo in Azogues! All of these attractions and more can be enjoyed on day trips from Cuenca!

Cuenca Has High Quality Medical Care & English-Speaking Doctors

Cuenca Medical Care

Medical and dental tourism in Cuenca is rapidly growing in popularity due to the availability of high quality care at a very affordable price. Many medical practitioners speak fluent English and most trained in the US, Europe, Argentina or Chile so they’re well educated and knowledgeable about the current science and procedures. Most private hospitals and newer public hospitals also have the same modern equipment that you would see anywhere in the US. If you have chronic health conditions or you’re just getting older, you may appreciate having Cuenca’s high quality medical care at your fingertips.

Cuenca Has a Large Variety of Delicious Restaurants & Cuisines

Dining out at restaurants in Cuenca is not only delicious, but varied and affordable. You can find most cuisines, such as Indian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, American, Gourmet, Vegetarian, Vegan, and plenty of Ecuadorian. In addition to serving food that tastes amazing, you’ll also often find yourself taking pictures of the artistic creations put down in front of you because aesthetics are just as important as flavor to many chefs in Cuenca. You can buy an Ecuadorian lunch, called El Almuerzo, for $1.50 to $3 while most popular expat dinners will cost around $7 to $10 per person.

Cuenca Has Great Coffee Shops

Cuenca Coffee Shops

Ecuador grows some of the best coffee in the world, and now they’re FINALLY opening coffee shops to serve it. Gourmet coffee shops are growing in popularity, especially in Cuenca. Goza Espresso Bar is Ecuador’s version of Starbucks and they have several locations in Cuenca with both indoor and outdoor seating. Café Ñucallacta and Yaw Ecuadorian Café are also tasty coffee shops with good atmospheres and outdoor seating. If you’re a Starbucks addict, you might be disappointed to learn that it hasn’t made its way to Ecuador, yet. However, you’re sure to enjoy the rich flavors and varied menus at Cuenca’s numerous coffee shops.

Cuenca Has Modern Grocery Stores & Several Large Mercados

Cuenca Mercados

If you want high quality, low cost fruits and vegetables, Cuenca’s large, rustic mercados are the best option. But if you’re looking for packaged and/or refrigerated items, or you prefer shopping in modern grocery stores, you’ll find plenty of those, too. The renovated Supermaxi in El Vergel is now like a Whole Foods in the US, and there are several other Supermaxi’s in Cuenca. Other modern grocery store chains in Cuenca are Akí and Coral Hipermercados, which is like a Super Walmart.

Cuenca Has Several Speciality & Organic Shops

Cuenca Specialty Shops

Holistic living is very popular among Ecuadorians, who appreciate the value of non-pharmaceutical options to healthcare needs. You’ll find plenty of speciality and organic shops in Cuenca selling everything from fair trade chocolate to gluten free flour to CBD oil to cruelty free shampoo. Semilla Tienda Saludable (healthy seed shop) is one of our favorite stores and a great place to start your search for specialty items in Cuenca.

Cuenca Has Numerous Visa Agents

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

If you plan to stay in Ecuador past your 90 tourist visa, you’ll likely need to enlist the help of a qualified visa agent. While it is possible to get a visa on your own without help, the process has become much more complicated over the years and very nuanced. The rules and regulations are not clearly defined, so you may get different answers from different government representatives and the success of your application often comes down to the relationships your visa agent has cultivated. Since Cuenca has one of the largest expat populations in Ecuador, there are also a lot of visa agents to help you navigate the confusing process of getting a temporary resident visa. For more information about Ecuador visas, check out our article: Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas.

Major Drawbacks of Living In Cuenca

While Cuenca is quite possibly the best expat city in Ecuador, if not the world, it does have a few major drawbacks that may impact your decision to move there.

Altitude Sickness

Cuenca Elevation

Cuenca sits at 8,400 feet (2.560 meters), which is well over a mile and a half above sea level. That means the air is very thin and the sun is very hot (when it makes a rare appearance). After an initial adjustment period of a few days to a week, most people have no long term effects from the elevation, but others aren’t as fortunate.

Common symptoms of altitude sickness (more aptly named elevation sickness) are dizziness, shortness of breath, skin flushing, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, headaches, forgetfulness, difficulty walking, drowsiness, and/or sleeplessness.

If you have spent time in high elevation cities without these symptoms, you will likely be just fine in Cuenca. However, if you’ve never spent time at a high elevation before, you won’t know if it affects you until you get there. If your body doesn’t adjust after a week, you may want to search for a lower elevation city.

Cool, Cloudy Weather

Cuenca Cloudy Weather

Cuenca sits just to the west of the Amazon jungle so all the moisture that evaporates on the eastern side of Ecuador is condensed into clouds when it hits the high Andes mountain range. Combine that with the high elevation in Cuenca and it’s a recipe for lots of cool, cloudy days.

During the cold/dry season from June through November, you’ll rarely see the sun for more than a few minutes at a time, and often not for days or weeks at a time. During the warmer/wet season from December through May, you’ll ironically get more sun between the rains, but it’s still very cloudy most of the time.

Cuenca is called the land of eternal spring, which elicits images of sunny days and green grass and blooming flowers, but it’s also cool and cloudy during spring, which is a more accurate interpretation of the term.

During the cold months, temperatures can dip below 40°F (4.5°C) at night and rarely go above 70°F (21°C) during the day. Central heating is very rare in Ecuador, so you might need space heaters and warm blankets to stay warm.

During the warm months, daytime temperatures are typically near 80°F (26.5°C) and rarely reach 90°F (32°C). If you’re a fair weather fan, the constant Seattle-like cool, cloudy weather in Cuenca may not be your cup of…coffee.

Too Easy to Speak English (If You Want to Learn Spanish)

While the large number of English-speaking Ecuadorians in Cuenca makes the transition to a new country and culture easier, it can also make it difficult to learn Spanish. It’s simply too easy to speak English in Cuenca so you may not feel enough pressure to learn the native language, and many expats don’t.

If your goal is to become fluent in Spanish, you might prefer one of the other popular expat destinations in Ecuador where English is not as common. Check out our article, Best Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats to see where other expats choose to live.

The Drive Through Cajas to Get to Guayaquil

Cajas Drive

If you fly into Guayaquil on your way to Cuenca, or if you visit the coast from Cuenca, you’ll need to drive through El Cajas National Park.

On your first trip, you’ll be awestruck by the natural beauty. You might even appreciate some new angles and scenery on your second trip. But by the third time driving on the winding mountain two-lane highway and down through the cloud forest with zero visibility heading toward Guayaquil and the coastal region, you’ll be firmly over the 3 plus hour commute.

You can fly from Cuenca to Guayaquil, but the flights go through Quito so it will take much longer than driving and cost 10 times more than a buseta with Operazuatur and 20 times more than an interprovincial bus.

There simply is no easy way to get from Cuenca to Guayaquil or the southern Ecuadorian coast without driving through the nausea-inducing Cajas.

This isn’t a deal breaker for most expats, but it is an inconvenience that does get tiresome.

Is Cuenca Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

All things considered, if you don’t have issues with the elevation or the cool, cloudy weather, Cuenca is still the best expat city in Ecuador, especially for new expats. Cuenca’s modern conveniences, housing, healthcare and services make it an extremely easy place to land and get your feet wet if you’ve never lived abroad before.

After living in Cuenca for over 2 years, we decided to move to the coast, primarily because of my worsening altitude sickness and Amelia’s lack of appreciation for the dreary weather. If Cuenca was 4,000 feet (1.200 meters) lower in elevation and a bit warmer and sunnier, we may have never left.

We have no regrets about living there and we still feel like it is the best expat city in Ecuador, and maybe all of South America.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

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Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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 Pet Care, Pet Sitting & Pet Food

If you’re planning to move abroad with your furry family members, you likely have many questions about the availability and quality of Ecuador Pet Care, as well as pet sitting/boarding, and dog and cat food options.

Overall, Ecuador is very pet friendly, and most people, Ecuadorians and expats alike, have one or more dogs and/or cats. That means there are plenty of options for grooming, pet sitting and veterinarians. However, there aren’t nearly as many options for pet food as we’re used to back in the US, and the cost of quality pet food is very high.

In this article, we’ll share our experience with Ecuador Pet Care in Cuenca and Olón, as well as a few options for pet food, including our very own recipe for Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food.

You may also be interested in our article about Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the United States…

Veterinarians in Ecuador

Veterinarians are very common in Ecuador, and most neighborhoods in the larger cities have one. However, many of the smaller rural areas do not have a veterinarian so you might need to drive an hour or more if you’re planning to live outside a city.

Olón Vet Clinic

Olón Ecuador Vet Clinic

We’re very excited about our new veterinarian clinic here in Olón! Prior to this new clinic, most people took their pets to Xavier Merchan in La Libertad, which is about an hour drive south of here. That was the closest location for quality pet care and grooming services.

However, now we have a much closer option! The folks at Coastal Animal Rescue of Ecuador (CARE) worked together with the comuna leaders and neighborhood volunteers to get the clinic up and running. In just the first 2 weeks of operation, the clinic served over 100 furry patients!

The clinic is located a half block west of the main highway through Olón on Avenida 3 de Diciembre, which the road that runs between the main mercados toward the ocean.

If you would like a quick tour of the new vet clinic in Olón, we featured them in this video:

Many of the local Ecuadorians cannot afford the cost of pet care, so the clinic mainly runs on the fees collected from those who can afford to pay for services, as well as recurring donations through the CARE Registered Non-Profit. If you’re in the US, all donations made to CARE are fully tax deductible and go directly to helping our furry Ecuadorian friends in Olón and nearby comunas.

If you would like to help a local family take good care of their dog or cat, you can learn more about making a one-time or recurring donation on the CARE website… Amelia and I donate $50 per month to help out!

Cuenca Animal Clinic

Cuenca Animal Clinic Teeth Cleaning

When we lived in Cuenca, we took Daisy and Alicia to the Cuenca Animal Clinic that was located near our house in the El Vergel neighborhood. They came highly recommended by several expats we knew, and now we recommend them, as well.

They were GREAT with our dogs, they speak English and they offer a variety of services for dogs and cats, including annual exams, toenail trims, anal gland expression, and teeth cleaning.

On the visit featured in our video, Daisy had her annual exam, toenails trimmed and teeth cleaned. The cost varies by the size of your dog, but the final bill for Daisy was $70 plus $12 for Frontline (flea and tick treatment). An annual exam without the dentistry typically costs between $15 and $20.

The Cuenca Animal Clinic also sells some higher quality dog food, as well as supplements, heartworm and flea/tick treatments.

Dog Grooming in Ecuador

Ecuadorians love small breed, designer dogs like Pekingese, Havanese and Shih Tzus, so there are more options for small breed groomers, but you still have lots of options even if you have a bigger dog.

Grooming at the Olón Vet Clinic

Olon Ecuador Vet Clinic GroomerAs we showed in our video, you can now get your dog groomed at Olón’s new vet clinic. Daisy is a short haired Heeler/Border Collie mix so she doesn’t need haircuts, but she does need a regular bath and toenail trim. Alicia is a Toy Poodle so she needs regular grooming or she looks like a giant black cotton ball. We’re very happy to have a groomer so close by now!

Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca

If you have a small dog (less than 20 pounds), we highly recommend Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca for grooming and boarding. Maxi is a tiny little Chiguagua who belongs to Jessica, the owner, groomer and pet sitter.

Maxi’s Pet Care – Grooming & Pet SittingWhile Jessica typically only accepts small dogs for the services she provides, she made an exception for Daisy, who weighs about 30 pounds. We took Daisy over to Jessica’s for a play date to see how she behaved around the smaller dogs. She made mom and dad proud so she was allowed to come back for baths and longer term stays.

We were really happy with the quality of the grooming services Jessica provided. She made Alicia look like a young pup again! And Daisy always came home all bushy and clean smelling. Jessica even picked our girls up at our house, and dropped them off so we didn’t need to worry about transportation.

Jessica is truly a dog whisperer! Follow her on Instagram for some of the CUTEST dog photos you’ll ever see! We have no idea how she gets the dogs to pose like they do! She also shares pictures and videos each day that your dog stays with her so you can see your fur baby while you’re away.

Contact Jessica directly for current pricing.

Dog Wash Ecuador

Dog Wash Ecuador

We also took Daisy to Dog Wash Ecuador in Cuenca on occasion. They were located near our home so it was a short walk to get Daisy a bath. She REALLY dislikes water and being wet, so giving her a bath is a huge pain for all involved. We prefer to let the professionals handle it.

We only took Daisy there a couple times, but they did a good job for a good price so we feel comfortable recommending them.

Pet Boarding & Pet Sitting in Ecuador

One of the great things about living in Ecuador is that it’s really close to lots of amazing places to visit, like the Amazon Rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and so many more. While you’re busy exploring inside Ecuador and throughout South America, you’ll want to know your fur babies are being well taken care of back home.

Boarding Your Pet in Ecuador

Pet boarding in Ecuador isn’t nearly as common as hiring a pet sitter to take care of your dogs and cats while you’re away from home. In fact, there are no boarding options near our current rural comuna of Olón. Our only option is to hire a pet sitter, or take Daisy and Alicia to a friend’s house. They’re older dogs and don’t travel well so we can’t take them with us.

However, you will find several boarding options in larger cities like Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito. Whether you’ll be gone for just the day or for several weeks, we highly recommend Jessica with Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca if you have a small dog.

One thing we really like about Jessica’s operation is that she doesn’t kennel the dogs. They’re free to run around and play with each other, and Daisy and Alicia are able to sleep in the same bed together.

Jessica even has a nice doggie playground and they are taken for a walk every day, weather permitting.

Ecuador Pet Care at Maxi's Pet Care Cuenca

The best way to find reputable places to board your pet in Ecuador is by word-of-mouth so start by asking other expats who they trust to watch their pets while they’re away. That’s actually how most things operate in this country.

The next best option for finding places to board your pets is by asking for recommendations in Facebook Groups like Ecuador Expats, Cuenca Expats, Olón Life or Amelia And JP’s Unconventionals.

You can also ask for a recommendation on GringoPost.com, or search their past pet boarding recommendations.

Finding a Pet and/or House Sitter in Ecuador

If you’re like us, you’ll probably prefer hiring a pet/house sitter to stay at home with your fur babies while you’re away. Keeping your pets at home while you’re gone reduces their stress level and it’s also nice to have someone watch your house rather than leaving it empty.

Again, the best option to find a pet or house sitter in Ecuador is to ask your friends and fellow expats for referrals. Allowing someone to stay in your home and be responsible for your pets while you’re travelling can be very stressful so you’ll want to make sure the person you hire is completely trustworthy.

We only hire someone who we know personally, or someone who came highly recommended by a friend we know and trust. We invite them over to meet the dogs and see how they interact well before our planned trip to makes sure everyone gets along and we like the sitter. You can expect to pay $10 to $20 per day for someone to stay at your house, depending on the number of pets.

We know a couple of pet/house sitters in the Olón area, so if you need a referral, drop us a note through our contact form…

Pet Food in Ecuador

High quality, store bought pet food is very expensive and not widely available in Ecuador. While grocery stores such as Supermaxi, Mi Comisariato and Tía sell pet food, most of it would be comparable to Purina Dog or Cat Chow, which actually is available here. However, they don’t have the highest quality ingredients.

Dog Food in Ecuador

Here are some of the dog food options at the Tía in Montañita:

When we were in Cuenca, we bought PRO PAC® Ultimates™ Meadow Prime™ at a small pet food store by Supermaxi El Vergel. However, it’s imported from the US and it’s VERY expensive: $32.50 for 2kg (4.4 pounds)! Daisy and Alicia ate about two bags per month so that was as sizeable amount of our monthly budget!

During the quarantine, we weren’t able to go back to Cuenca when we had planned so we ran out of the PRO PAC dog food pretty early in the lockdown. Consequently, we decided to try a less expensive brand that we can buy locally at Agrolon, which is an animal and garden supply store here in Olón (they have NO web presence but you can find them one block east of the main road near the soccer field).

They carry several different brands of dog and cat food, but some friends recommended Canimentos from BioAlimentar. It’s made in Ecuador so it has a smaller environmental footprint than PRO PAC and it only costs $7.50 for a 2kg bag, which is a huge cost savings for us. Plus, the dogs seem to really like it and they both seem very healthy with shiny coats and fast growing toenails so we’re going to continue with it.

We feed them CANi Adultos in the morning, and a combination of CANi and our Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food (see below) in the evening.

Cat Food in Ecuador

We don’t have cats so we don’t have much experience with cat food or care in Ecuador. However, we snapped some photos of a few options for cat food and kitty litter at Tía in Montañita:

Cats aren’t nearly as common as dogs in Ecuador, so the selection of cat food is quite a bit smaller.

Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food Recipe

Since quality dog food is very expensive in Ecuador, many expats choose to make their own dog food with affordable, high quality, whole food ingredients.

Dogs are true omnivores so they can eat a combination of meat, vegetables and legumes. We have a meat-free kitchen so the food we cook our dogs only has lentils and vegetables; however, we know several expats who make their own dog food using meat, rice and vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 400g brown lentils (uncooked)
  • 400g green peas (fresh, frozen or dry soaked)
  • 400g carrots (chopped)
  • 400g sweet potato or pumpkin (peeled and chopped)

Instructions:

Add all the ingredients to a pressure cooker and cover completely with water plus about an inch for good measure. Pressure cook with the vent closed on the beans setting for 24 minutes. You can also boil all the ingredients together in a large pot until the lentils are cooked and everything is soft.

The serving size varies based on the size of your dog, but we feed Daisy (she’s 30 pounds) about 1 cup for dinner with a little CANi sprinkled over the top, and she gets about 3/4 cup of CANi for breakfast.

Alicia is only 7 pounds and nearly 20 years old so she doesn’t eat much of either: about 1/3 cup of CANi in the morning and 1/4 cup of the homemade dog food for dinner with a little CANi mixed in. We soak Alicia’s CANi in water to soften it up because she has lost most of her teeth.

The options for vegan pet food in Ecuador are non-existent. We never found any in Cuenca, and we never found the nutritional supplements that are added to pet food so we opted to feed them a combination of homemade and store bought dog food to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Ecuador Pet Care Conclusion

There are lots of different veterinarians, groomers, sitters, boarding places and pet food options to choose from in Ecuador, and it’s a very pet-friendly country so you’ll often find water bowls and treats at restaurants with outdoor seating and at pet-friendly businesses.

We’re very happy we brought our two rescue dogs with us to Ecuador, and we know lots of other expats who brought their pets with them, or adopted pets when they arrived. Truly, the worst part of bringing your pets to Ecuador is getting them here. Once they’re here, it’s easy to keep them happy and healthy.


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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!

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Requirements, Fees & Process

An Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is something you need if you want to stay in Ecuador beyond your 2-year temporary resident visa expiration date. Here’s an overview of the requirements, fees and process if you’re ready to stay in Ecuador permanently.

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.

If you’re looking for more information about moving to Ecuador, check out our Start Here series.

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Requirements

Here is the current list of requirements to apply for an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa. The laws and regulations are constantly changing in Ecuador, which is why we strongly suggest working with a visa agent.

Even if you’re fluent in Spanish, which is a requirement to navigate this process by yourself, it’s impossible to stay on top of the frequent changes unless you do this full time and have government connections who can explain them to you.

You can read all the detailed permanent resident visa requirements on the government website here…

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa

The first requirement to apply for an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is having a valid temporary resident visa for at least 21 months. If you’re still in the planning phase of your move to Ecuador, we suggest starting with our Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa article first.

Valid Passport

You need a valid passport to apply for an Ecuador permanent resident visa. If your passport is expired or will expire before the application date, you’ll need to renew it before your application appointment. This process can take more than a month so plan accordingly.

Since Ecuador now uses electronic visas that are attached to your passport number, we recommend renewing your passport if it will expire within the next few years.

Each new passport comes with a new passport number, so you’ll have to pay a $100 fee plus visit the ministry to transfer the visa to the new passport number. You’ll save yourself some money and a lot of time if you renew your passport before starting the visa process.

Health Insurance

You either need public or private health insurance to apply for a permanent resident visa in Ecuador.

The public plan is called IESS and it’s Ecuador’s version of social security and Medicare rolled into one. The IESS plan has its pros and cons, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Our private health insurance plan is through Confiamed. We purchased that plan through an insurance broker in Cuenca. If you need our insurance agent’s contact info, please submit our Insurance Broker referral form and we’ll send an immediate email introduction.

The cost of both public and private health insurance depends on the standard factors: single or couple, age of applicants, and smoker or non-smoker. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 2-year waiting period with private insurance. The IESS plan now has a 3-month waiting period for pre-existing conditions.

We pay $158/month for a private health insurance plan that covers both of us. We’re 49 and 52 year old non-smokers.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

If you leave Ecuador for a single day during your temporary resident visa period, you must supply new US background checks from the FBI and state police with your permanent resident visa application. You don’t need to supply state background checks for every state you visited during the previous 2 years; you just need a background check from the state of your previous residence prior to moving to Ecuador.

Marriage License

If you didn’t register your marriage with the Ecuadorian government during your temporary resident visa process, you’ll need to request a new marriage license and have it apostilled again.

The apostille date needs to be less than 6 months from the date of the application so the apostilled marriage license from our temporary resident visa application had expired.

During our Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa process, we registered our marriage in Ecuador so it’s on file and we don’t have to go through this process again.

You can learn more about what an Apostille is and how to get a document appostilled on the US Embassy in Ecuador website…

Specific Requirements for Ecuador Permanent Resident Visas

There are several different types of residency visas in Ecuador, and the requirements vary depending on the type you have.

Professional Visa

We’re here in Ecuador on a Professional Visa, which means we still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador (at least $400/month), and a degree from an approved university.

Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university degree is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken online. I went to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) for both my bachelors and masters degrees. When I graduated in the 90’s, online courses weren’t a thing yet, so I took all my classes in-person. This all means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.

Since my degree was certified and apostilled for our temporary resident visa, we didn’t need to have that done again. It was already on record with the ministry and attached to my name.

Investor Visa

If you purchased a bank CD or property to get your temporary resident visa, you’ll need to renew that CD or keep the property to qualify for the Ecuador permanent resident visa. However, once your visa application is approved and you receive your permanent visa, you no longer need the investment and can liquidate it as long as you don’t plan to apply for Ecuadorian citizenship.

I spoke to Maite at Gringo Visas while she was at the ministry office in Machala and she confirmed with the government visa representative that this change went into effect on October 20, 2020.

However, we’ve heard from other sources that if you got your visa before August 2017, this change does not apply to you. It only applies for permanent resident visas issued AFTER August 2017. You MUST check with the government before you liquidate your asset to see if this new rule applies to you.

Additionally, you can remain in Ecuador permanently with a permanent resident visa and you will never be required to show proof of your investment again. However, if your plan is to become an Ecuadorian citizen after your 5 year anniversary in Ecuador (2 years with a Temporary Visa and 3 years with a Permanent Visa), you need to keep the investment intact until your citizenship is approved.

When you apply for citizenship, you’ll need to show proof that you maintained the investment during your entire 5 year residency in Ecuador. Once your citizenship is approved, you can liquidate the investment.

Dual citizenship is allowed by both the US and Ecuador so you don’t need to give up your US citizenship if you choose to become an Ecuadorian citizen.

Pensioners Visa

If you have a temporary resident pensioners visa, you’ll need to get a new copy of your pension letter stating your income. Due to the pandemic, this process can take up to 3 months so plan accordingly.

Dependent Visa

If you’re in Ecuador on a dependent visa, the primary visa holder must apply and receive his or her visa before you can submit your dependent visa application.

We submitted my Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa application in early January 2020 and received it about 2 weeks later. At that point, Amelia’s Ecuador Dependent Visa application was submitted and she received hers in less than 2 weeks.

Due to the pandemic, the government reduced staff and closed offices so the process is taking much longer now.

Other Visas

The other types of Ecuador visas are work visa, volunteer visa, student visa, rentista visa and industrial investor visa. These visa types are only valid for temporary resident visas; they aren’t valid visa types for permanent resident visas so we won’t discuss them here.

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Ministry Fees

The Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa has two primary fees. The permanent resident visa application fee is $50 per application and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the permanent resident visa fee is $500 per person.

Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa Process

It’s VERY important to get an early start on your Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa application process. If you miss the window to file, which is between 21 and 24 months from the issue date of your temporary resident visa, you may need to reapply for another temporary resident visa. That would restart the clock and you would need to wait another 21 months to reapply for a permanent resident visa.

It can take 2 to 3 months to get the background checks done in the US, apostilled and mailed to Ecuador, which is why Maité at GringoVisas suggests starting this process 5 to 6 months before your visa expires. Your temporary resident visa is good for 2 years exactly, so that means you need to start the process around month 18 of your temporary resident visa.

Step 1: Renew Your Passport

As stated above, you’ll save yourself some money and a lot of time if you renew your passport before you start the visa application process. If your plan is to apply for Ecuadorian citizenship, we recommend renewing your passport if it will expire any time during the 3 years following the issue date of your permanent visa.

Step 2: Fingerprints

The next step in the process of getting your Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa is having your fingerprints taken.

We had our fingerprints taken in Cuenca on our exploratory trip in 2017 for our temporary resident visa application, but the ministry doesn’t keep them on file unless you commit a crime. Therefore, we had to get our fingerprints taken again at the police station in Cuenca so they could be used to request new background checks.

Step 3: Background Check

Once we had our fingerprint forms, Maité’s team requested the background checks from the FBI and state police back in the US. Again, you only need a background check from the state of your previous residence; not all states you visited during your temporary resident visa period.

Step 4: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

If you have a professional temporary visa, then your university degree documents are already on file with the government so you don’t need to do any additional work.

However, if your temporary resident visa is something other than a professional visa, you need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real and you attended more than 80% of the classes in-person. Then all the documents must be apostilled.

Dependent Visa

If you are in Ecuador on a temporary resident dependent visa and you didn’t register your marriage with the Ecuadorian government, you’ll need to get your marriage license re-apostilled to submit with your permanent resident dependent visa application.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to renew your bank CD if it was only for the duration of your temporary resident visa (2 years). You need to have a valid investment to apply for an Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a new letter stating your monthly income. This can take up to 3 months so get started early.

Step 5: Request an Appointment with the Ministry

You can go to any of the ministry offices in Ecuador to submit your application, but some have longer waits than others.

We went to Machala to submit both our temporary and permanent visa applications because the wait for an appointment was only 2 weeks. Machala is about 3 to 4 hours from Cuenca, so a lot of people go to Azogues, which is about 30 minutes from Cuenca. However, the Azogues office has much longer wait times than Machala.

Step 6: Fill Out and Notarize the Visa Application Form

The visa application form is in Spanish and must be filled out in Spanish. Once it’s filled out, you’ll need to go to a notary in Ecuador to have it notarized. You need to sign the application in front of the notary after showing him or her your passport or cedula as identification.

Step 7: Submit Your Application

Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required documentation, you need to go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You need your passport and potentially your cedula (your government ID card, similar to a driver’s license). We recommend taking them both just to be safe.

Step 8: Wait

It took less than a month for me to get my Ecuador permanent resident visa and Amelia’s dependent visa, but that was before the pandemic started. You can expect the process to take at least 3 months due to staff shortages and office closures.

The visa rules and regulations seem to be constantly changing in Ecuador, which can cause additional delays. We were in Ecuador for several months beyond our 3-month tourist visa before our temporary resident visas were approved. Since the application was in-process, we technically weren’t illegal aliens, but it sure felt like we were! Thankfully we didn’t need to leave the country during that small window or it might have been difficult to get back in.

Step 9: Get Your Visa from the Ministry

Once your visa is approved, the government assigns the visa electronically to your passport number. Ecuador no longer attaches a physical visa sticker to your passport.

Step 10: Get a New Cédula

Once you receive your Ecuador permanent resident visa, you’ll need to get a new cédula stating you’re now a permanent resident of Ecuador. This costs $5 and takes about an hour. You can visit any Registro Civil office; you don’t need an appointment.

Ecuador Citizenship

Our current plan is to apply for citizenship once we’ve been here for 5 years. That’s the amount of time you need to live in the country before applying for citizenship: 2 years on a temporary resident visa and at least 3 years on a permanent resident visa.

Since the permanent resident visa never expires, we can technically live here for the rest of our lives without ever applying for citizenship, but we like the idea of having 2 passports: one from the US and one from Ecuador.

Another reason to get citizenship is the flexibility to leave Ecuador for longer periods of time. On a professional permanent resident visa, we can only be outside Ecuador for 180 non-consecutive days per year. With citizenship, there are no travel restrictions. We can leave for several years and come back whenever we want. Investor visa holders do not have the same travel restrictions as other visa types so this won’t apply if you have an investment visa.

Hopefully you enjoyed our interview with Maité from Gringo Visas, and this lengthy blog post about the Ecuador Permanent Resident Visa requirements, fees and process. If you see others asking about this complex process on social media, please share it with them. And if you spot any inaccuracies or outdated rules, please let us know so we can keep this article up-to-date.

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.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

Follow Us on Social Media

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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!

Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the United States

Traveling with dogs or cats to Ecuador takes a lot of planning and preparation. You’ll need to get a variety of vaccinations on a very specific schedule, and you’ll need to make travel plans to fly them. In this article, we provide all the shortcuts for the required paperwork and share our firsthand experience bringing our two dogs to Ecuador from the United States.

IMPORTANT: As of the writing of this article, most airlines are not allowing checked dogs in cargo due to reduced staff during the pandemic. We will update this article when that changes.

If you’re planning a move to Ecuador, you may find our Start Here series helpful.

USDA APHIS – Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the USA

If you’re going to bring your pets to Ecuador, the first thing you need to do is read through all the guidelines and certificate paperwork on the USDA APHIS website. APHIS stands for “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.”

Here’s the page with the Health Certificates for Dogs and Cats, specifically for Ecuador. You need to have this paperwork with you at all times while traveling internationally with your pets.

The next step is to find a USDA Accredited Veterinarian who can will help you fill out all the paperwork and plan your vaccine schedule. They’ll also work with the USDA to make sure everything on the paperwork and the vaccine schedule is correct. We used Town & Country Veterinary Clinic in Marietta, GA. They were very helpful and we highly recommend them if you live in the Atlanta area.

You’ll also need to find the nearest USDA APHIS office to get all the certificates endorsed. You need to make an appointment with them, and it could take a couple weeks to get on their calendar so plan accordingly.

The vaccine schedule is complicated, especially if you have multiple dogs or cats at various stages of their vaccine schedule. Daisy and Alicia both had some vaccines that had not expired yet. That meant we had to get boosters for some vaccines while making sure others were given during a specific window of time.

Even working with an accredited vet, we still made a mistake on one of the vaccines, which caused us to delay our trip by two weeks. Thankfully for us, but not for millions of other people, Hurricane Irma passed through Atlanta on the day we were supposed to leave and closed the airport, so we were able to change our flights without paying any fees.

The best way to avoid timing mistakes is to create a calendar and share it with your vet. Have them make sure everything is correct and nothing is missing or on the wrong dates. If you don’t have all the right shots at the right times, your pet will not be allowed to board the plane to Ecuador.

Is It Safe to Fly Your Pets on an Airplane?

There are a lot of horror stories that are easy to find about how dangerous it is to fly your pets, especially as cargo. However, if you look at the safety stats, it’s still safer to fly your pet in an airplane than it is to drive him or her to the airport in a car.

If your pet is small enough to fit under the seat in a soft-sided pet carrier, or if you have a registered service animal who can fly in-cabin with you, you won’t have as much cause for concern. With that said, some airlines won’t allow snub-nosed dogs like pugs or bulldogs due to their notorious breathing issues. Check with your airline about their policy relating to these types of dogs if you have one.

As for checking your large dog as cargo, that’s a whole different story. It is very safe to fly your dog in the temperature and pressure controlled cargo area of the plane, but it can be very stressful to hand your fur baby over to an airline employee and watch him or her disappear behind a door into the bowels of the airport. It’s a leap of faith for sure, but thousands of pets are flown on airplanes every year with very few incidents.

Some airlines prohibit large dog crates and will only allow dogs to be checked as cargo during certain times of the year when the temperatures at the departure and destination airports aren’t too hot or too cold. Be sure to check with the airline about their rules and plan your trip accordingly.

We moved to Ecuador without Daisy (my Heeler/Border Collie mix shown here) because it was too hot to fly her in cargo. She stayed with her grandma in Atlanta until the weather changed and we were able to go back to get her.

Even then, we still had issues due to weather. Atlanta had a freak cold snap in November with 8 inches of snow and it was too cold to fly her so we rented a car and drove to Miami. The car rental was very expensive and changing our flights was a huge hassle.

The trip was very stressful for her and it took several days for her to forgive us for the whole experience, but she’s our baby and we didn’t want to leave her behind.

If you have an older or unhealthy pet, or your dog is too large to fly in cargo, you have two options. First, you can find a new home for your pet with a family member or friend. We know a few people who have done this. It’s a tough decision, but it may be the best option for your fur baby.

Second, you can charter a flight if you have sufficient funds. We also know people who have done this. The cost is between $20,000 and $30,000 so it’s not something the average person could afford.

Whether you decide to find a new home or bring your dogs or cats to Ecuador is a tough decision, but we’re very happy our two dogs are here with us.

Pet Transport Services

We also researched pet transport and relocation services before we moved to Ecuador. These services handle all the logistics of transporting your dog or cat to your new home in Ecuador. They’ll pick your pet up, take them to the airport and make sure they get on the plane safely. Then someone else will pick them up at the destination city and deliver them to your new home.

We opted not to go this route because these services are very expensive and they fly the pets in a commercial airplane just like we did. The only difference is we wouldn’t have been there with Alicia in-cabin or with Daisy when we dropped her off at the checkin counter or picked her up in Guayaquil.

We decided the cost wasn’t worth it and we wanted to be with our babies as much as possible during the stressful experience.

Pet Friendly Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil Ecuador

Air Suites Hotel GuayaquilThe hotel we mentioned in the video is the Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil. It’s only a few blocks from the airport, it’s very affordable and they accept pets. We’ve stayed there several times and it typically costs about $35/night. The rooms are small, but they’re very clean.

You can walk to Mall del Sol, which is about 10 blocks away. That mall has all the modern stores you would see in the US or Europe with a sizable food court and lots of nice restaurants. We featured a bit of Mall del Sol in this video: Guayaquil Ecuador: It’s a LOT Different!

We don’t recommend walking to the mall or back to the hotel at night, but it’s safe during the day. Just stay aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere.

Renting a Home that Accepts Pets in Ecuador

Not all landlords in Ecuador will accept pets, and some will only accept small dogs like Alicia. Daisy is considered a large dog here even though she’s only 30 pounds.

Ecuador has a culture of negotiation so you may be able to convince a potential landlord to accept your pet, but they might want to meet your fur baby first. Pet deposits aren’t common in Ecuador, but you could offer one to sweeten the deal.

Pet Services in Ecuador

We now live on the coast in Olón, Ecuador, which doesn’t have the same types of pet services that Cuenca does. Most people take their pets to La Libertad about an hour drive south of Olón, but we are getting a new vet clinic with a full time vet and a vet tech. Once they officially open for business and we have more information about them, we’ll update this article.

We highly recommend these pet service providers in Cuenca, Ecuador:

If you have any other questions, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to answer them.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

Follow Us on Social Media

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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 Passport Renewal Process for US Citizens

If you’re an expat living in Ecuador and need to renew your passport, this article covers the renewal process and provides all the shortcuts you’ll need for locations, instructions and forms.

IMPORTANT: You are not allowed to travel internationally with less than 6 months of validity left on your passport. If the expiration date on your passport is June 1st, you will need to renew your passport before January 1st if you plan to travel to another country. Due to the pandemic, the passport process is taking longer than normal so plan accordingly.

Required Items for US Passport Renewal in Ecuador

The Ecuador US Embassy website has all the details about how to renew your passport in Ecuador from an application perspective. You’ll want to complete the questionnaire here FIRST to ensure you’re eligible to renew your passport.

Below, we’ll include more specific details about what you need, shortcuts to forms and maps, how to gather everything, the costs, and where to get things done.

Your Old Passport

If you’re living in Ecuador, it can be nerve wracking to surrender your only passport, which makes it impossible for you to travel internationally until you receive your new passport. Sadly, you have no other option; you must submit your old passport with your passport renewal application.

Prior to the pandemic, the passport renewal process took roughly 2 weeks. During the pandemic, the process was taking several months due to office closures and reduced staff at the US passport offices. As of this writing (October 15, 2020), we are told the process will take roughly 30 days.

Color Copy of Your Passport Photo and Signature Pages

You will also need to include a color copy of your main passport photo and signature pages with your passport application. Just lay your passport flat on the copy machine so both the signature page and the photo page are on one sheet.

In Guayaquil, we went to the Cyber Tek store in Mall del Sol to make a copy of the passport and print the passport application. The cost for the color copy and printing the application was less than $3.

New Color Passport Photo

In Cuenca, the FujiFilm store in Milenium Plaza Mall took my passport photo, made a copy of my old passport and printed the passport application for me. The cost for everything was less than $10.

In Guayaquil, the FujiFilm store in Mall del Sol took Amelia’s passport photo, but wasn’t able to make a copy of the old passport or print the application. The cost for just the passport photo was $13.

We went to the FujiFilm store in Mall del Sol because we stayed in the Sheraton Hotel that’s located across the street from the mall. However, there is also a FujiFilm store that takes passport photos located next to the authorized DHL service center in downtown Guayaquil where we went to mail the passport application. More on that below.

FujiFilm Guayaquil Downtown

Application Fee

As of this writing, the passport renewal application fee is $110 and must be paid with cash or credit card in person, or with a cashier’s check made out to “U.S. Disbursing Officer” if submitting by mail, which is currently the only option due to the pandemic.

We have a bank account at JEP so we went to the branch in Guayaquil, which is only 2 blocks from the DHL office. A cashier’s check is called a “Cheque de Gerencia” in Ecuador, which translates to Management Check.

The JEP tellers told us they can only do cashier’s checks for $3,000 or more so we kept asking and explaining until they finally agreed to give us one for $110. It took a teller, an account manager and a bank manager to do it, and the whole process took nearly an hour, so be patient.

We’ve heard from other people that cashier’s checks are challenging to get in Ecuador. They prefer to do wire transfers, which isn’t an option for US passport renewals.

Passport Renewal Application

Once you complete the renewal questionnaire and determine you’re eligible to renew your passport in Ecuador, you’ll need to print and fill out Form DS-82: U.S. PASSPORT RENEWAL APPLICATION FOR ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUALS.

If you live in Ecuador, use your current Ecuadorian address for both the mailing and permanent address fields.

Staple your 2″ x 2″ (5cm x 5cm) color passport photo with 4 staples as shown on the form.

Additional Information

If your passport has expired, you need to include a copy of your birth certificate or naturalization papers.

If your name has changed due to marriage or divorce since your last passport was issued, you also need to provide all relevant legal documents showing the name change.

Passport Renewal Options

Renew Your Passport In Person in Ecuador

Due to the pandemic, both the US Embassy in Quito and the US Consulate in Guayaquil are currently closed for in-person passport renewals.

Renew Your Passport By Mail in Ecuador

Due to the pandemic, you must mail your passport using an authorized DHL Service Center, which you can locate on this map. There are authorized centers in the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja, Machala, Manta, etc.

We went to the DHL office in Guayaquil (pictured above), which is located downtown across the street from La Iglesia de San Francisco. The Google Maps pin is on the wrong block so we had to ask a security guard for directions. The DHL office is behind me in this picture so if you see the church from this angle, turn around and you’ve found it!

Currently, passports are only being processed at the US Consulate in Guayaquil so be sure to send your passport to Guayaquil. If you send it to the US Embassy in Quito, your passport will NOT be processed until the office reopens, which could be months or longer.

The lady at the DHL in Guayaquil knew exactly what to do. The cost was $24.80, which included the postage for both sending the package and returning it. The passport will be returned to a different DHL location, but they didn’t explain why.

We didn’t have a manilla envelope and couldn’t find a store nearby that sold one so thankfully the DHL office had one on hand. That location doesn’t appear to sell packing materials like we’re used to seeing at shipping centers in the US, so we recommend going prepared with all of your materials in a letter size manilla envelope. Leave it unsealed so the DHL clerk can review everything.

Transfer Your Visa to Your New Passport

Ecuador now uses electronic visas, which means there is no longer a visa sticker applied to your passport. This change went into effect after my passport renewal in April 2019 so when traveling internationally, I carried my new passport as well as my old passport with the visa sticker and a hole punched in the passport by the consulate.

When I got my permanent resident visa in January 2020, it was automatically attached to my new passport so I no longer need to carry my old passport.

Now that the Ecuador visa is electronic, and since the new passport will have a different number, Amelia will need to get her visa transferred from her old passport number to her new passport number. We’re going to hire GringoVisas.com to help with that process and will keep you posted about what that entails.

If you’re applying for a temporary or permanent resident visa in Ecuador and your passport will expire within the next 2 years, we recommend renewing your passport BEFORE you submit your visa application so you avoid the need to transfer your visa to a new passport.

Conclusion

While it took several different stops, overcoming a few challenges, and cost us several hundred dollars including our trip to Guayaquil from our home in Olón on the coast, the process for submitting the passport application for renewal was relatively painless.

Hopefully, we’ll receive Amelia’s new passport in a reasonable timeframe because it’s stressful to live in a foreign country without one. Once we receive it, we’ll update this post with additional information and our experiences.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

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News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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!

Money and Banking in Ecuador

Money and banking in Ecuador is similar to the United States with a few key differences. In this article, we’re going to share some tips about the best ways to transfer money to Ecuador, access your money from Ecuador and spend it once you’re here.

This is Part 10 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Currency in Ecuador

Ecuador has been on the United States Dollar since 2000. Back in 1999, the value of the Ecuadorian Sucre crashed so the government decided to go on the dollar to stabilize the economy.

Paper bills in Ecuador (1’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s, 50’s and 100’s), as well as $1 coins, are the exact same money as the US so there’s no need to convert them or learn a new currency. All paper currency used in Ecuador is printed in the US and all $1 coins are minted in the US.

All coins minted in the US can be used in Ecuador, but coins minted in Ecuador (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and 50-cent coins shown below) cannot be used in the US so you should convert them to larger denominations at a bank before you go back home. Coins minted in Ecuador are called centavos are are technically fractions of the old Sucre so they have virtually no value outside Ecuador.

Ecuador Coins

The main difference is that your dollars go a lot further on most things due to the much lower cost of living.

Dollar coins are much more prevalent in Ecuador than dollar bills, and leave your $50 and $100 bills at home because no one will have change to break them except a bank. Cab drivers rarely have enough change to break anything larger than a $5 bill so it’s a good idea to carry lots of coins and $5’s with you.

If you would like to make your cab drivers or vendors smile, bring some $2 bills. They’re considered good luck in Ecuador and service providers love getting them!

Ecuador is a Cash Society

While the US and most developed countries are moving away from cash, Ecuador is still largely a cash society. Most small businesses and service providers like cab drivers do not accept credit cards. That means you always need to have cash handy if you take taxis or shop at small neighborhood vendors.

Larger stores like Coral, Supermaxi and Tia accept credit cards, as do chain restaurants like Noe Sushi and Fabiano’s, but they will require a photo ID such as a passport or cédula. Rather than carry those with you all the time, we recommend taking a photo with your phone so you can show it to the cashiers. They just need to see your picture and enter the ID number to complete the transaction.

Best ATM Option for Expats from the United States

Since Ecuador is a cash society, you’ll frequently find yourself standing in front of an ATM machine. Most US banks charge hefty fees to withdraw money from foreign bank ATMs, and most ATMs in Ecuador also charge fees that range from $1.50 to $5 per withdrawal.

That’s why we recommend opening a Charles Schwab checking account before you visit or move to Ecuador. Charles Schwab doesn’t charge any ATM fees worldwide to withdraw money. Plus, they reimburse all ATM fees at the end of the month that are charged by the dispensing bank. They have saved us literally thousands of dollars in ATM fees since we moved to Ecuador.

We recommend opening your Charles Schwab account while you’re still in the US. We attempted to open our account after we moved to Ecuador, but they required us to visit a local branch back in the US to show a photo ID for verification. That meant we couldn’t use the account or get the ATM card until our next trip back home.

When you start the online account creation process, you’ll need to first open a brokerage account, and then you can open a checking account that comes with an ATM card. You don’t need to use the brokerage account or keep money in it, but Schwab requires you to have one.

Once you have the account setup, you can electronically transfer money to it for free from your other US bank accounts. You’ll have to setup the remote bank info and it can take a few days for the verification process to complete so plan accordingly.

If you click this link and open an account, we’ll get credit for the referral, which helps us continue providing valuable expat advice like this article.

Best Credit Cards for Expats from the United States

Most credit cards charge foreign transaction fees so you’ll want to carry a couple of cards that don’t, such as Capital One and Discover.

Even though Ecuador is a cash society, you can still use your credit card for larger purchases like tours, hotels, appliances, electronics, and higher end restaurants. Foreign transaction fees on these types of larger purchases can really add up!

CoOps and Banks in Ecuador

Ecuador has a lot of banks! We have a checking account and ATM card with Cooperative JEP, and that’s the bank most people use for the Investor Visa CD, but there are several more to choose from:

Most of these banks have 24/7 ATM machines, but not all of them accept ATM cards from US banks. Cooperative JEP, Banco del Austro and Produbanco don’t accept our Charles Schwab ATM card while Banco Guayaquil has been the most reliable bank for ATM withdrawals.

Big cities and most larger towns have a plethora of ATM machines, but small towns like Olón, Curía, San José, La Entrada and other small comunas along Ecuador’s coast do NOT have ATM machines so you’ll want to plan ahead if you’re going to stay in a rural part of Ecuador.

How to Transfer Money from the US to Ecuador

If you’re planning a long visit or permanent move to Ecuador, here are a few options for transferring your money here.

Are Checks Accepted?

In general, you won’t have many occasions to use personal checks from your US checking account. Very few people or businesses accept them, and you’ll need an Ecuadorian bank account to cash or deposit them. You can expect personal checks to take up to a month to clear and the recipient has little recourse if they don’t, which is why they are not a common form of payment in Ecuador.

When you open an account at an Ecuadorian bank, it will be a savings account with an ATM card by default. Once your savings account is setup and funded, you can start the longer process of applying for a checking account, which requires additional documentation and qualifications that vary by bank.

Very few people have checking accounts in Ecuador, and most bills are paid with cash, credit card or online bank deposits.

ATM Machines

When you first move to Ecuador before you have a chance to open an Ecuadorian bank account, ATM machines are the easiest way to transfer money from the United States to Ecuador.

Most ATMs have maximum daily withdrawal limits between $300 and $500 (including ATM fees), so you you may need to visit the ATM multiple times on multiple days to pay for things like rent or other high cost items.

Once you have an Ecuadorian bank account, the cheapest way to put money in it is by withdrawing cash from an ATM using your Charles Schwab account, and then depositing it into your Ecuadorian bank account. However, you’ll only be able to withdraw and deposit several hundred dollars at a time so if you need to deposit a larger amount, you may want to use an online service or a wire transfer.

Xoom, MoneyGram, PayPal, Western Union, Etc.

Xoom.com is an online funds transfer service that’s owned by PayPal. They claim to work with nearly every bank in the world, and we can confirm that it works with Banco Guayaquil, Banco del Austro, Banco Pichincha, Cooperative JEP and Banco Bolivariano. The fee starts at $5 to transfer $100 and increases based on the amount you want to transfer.

MoneyGram.com is a competitor to Xoom and offers better rates. This service was recommended by an Ecuadorian who lives in the US and uses it to transfer money back to Ecuador. It works with most banks, but it doesn’t work with JEP, at least JEP isn’t in the list. If you transfer from a bank in the US to a bank in Ecuador, there is no cost but it takes 3 to 4 business days. You can pay a small fee for a same day transfer.

You can also use PayPal.com to transfer money to many individuals in Ecuador, and some businesses. The recipient just needs a PayPal account of their own. Once you have their email address, you can transfer money to them. It’s free from an individual to another individual, but fees are charged for businesses, which may be passed on to you.

Western Union is also a very popular way to send money to Ecuador. They have offices all over Ecuador, including two in the small town of Montañita.

There are a number of other online transfer services with a range of fees, but these are the most reputable. Be sure to search for reviews before signing up on a money transfer website.

Wire Transfers

Due to the restrictive transfer limits and high fees charged by online transfer services, you may opt to do a wire transfer through your bank if you need to move a large sum of money.

For example, if you’re planning to apply for the Investor Visa, you’ll need to transfer $40,000 + $500 for each dependent. This amount far exceeds the transfer limits set by online money transfer services like Xoom.com.

You can expect to pay about $25 to $50 to do a wire transfer, so it makes the most sense to go that route when you’re transferring a large sum of money.

Conclusion

Money and banking in Ecuador are very similar to the United States with a few minor differences.

We lived in Ecuador more than two years before opening an Ecuadorian bank account, and still rarely use it. We currently only use it to pay our Claro mobile phone bill, and our Netlife Internet access bill.

We pay our rent using Xoom.com to transfer money directly into our landlord’s bank account at Banco Bolivariano. We use our Capital One credit card to pay for our private health insurance with Confiamed, as well as for groceries at the larger stores like Tia and Supermaxi. But most of the money that we spend in Ecuador at mercados, small stores, restaurants and for transportation is cash that we withdraw from ATM machines.

Transferring money to a foreign country can cause some anxiety, so please let us know if you have any additional questions about banking in Ecuador in the comments below.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

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Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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!

How To Prepare Family and Friends for Your Move to Ecuador

When you prepare family and friends for your move to Ecuador, the news will likely generate mixed reactions. Your closest confidants may not be surprised, but you’ll hear exasperated questions from others.

Some may try to make you think that moving abroad is a mistake, especially to a Latin American country like Ecuador. Their perception of Ecuador may be based on what they see in the movies or dramatized news coverage, which is exaggerated reality and often relating to a specific event or location.

You may field questions about safety and healthcare options. However, you may also be asked if Ecuadorian houses have dirt floors, electricity, indoor plumbing and Internet access!

Some may never accept your expat dream of living abroad, but you can at least prepare your friends and family for your move to Ecuador.

Shedding Stereotypes to Prepare Family and Friends for Your Move to Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador

A lot of people who haven’t travelled outside of their home country, or specifically to Ecuador, have a notion that, as soon as you step foot off the plane, you’re liable to become a drug mule or you’ll die in an earthquake or perish in a volcano eruption. Perhaps you might contract some horrible, rainforest disease and pass away in a dirty, fly-infested hospital cot.

A horrible death was a common theme shared by several of our family members before we left home, which is one reason we started Our Unconventional Life YouTube Channel where we answer expat questions and show you what it’s REALLY like to live in Ecuador.

While the culture may be different, we can assure you that life in Ecuador is very similar to most other Constitutional Republics with a Democratically elected government.

Crime

One of the first things people want to know about is the overall safety of Ecuador. In our article on crime in Ecuador, we noted that the government has worked to combat crime throughout the country.

For example, in 2007, the Ecuadorian government decriminalized gangs. This change in approach led to a dramatic decrease in crime, thanks in part to the government grants given to the former illegal gangs to improve their neighborhoods.

Since then, the overall homicide rate has seen a significant downward trend. The national homicide rate per 100,000 citizens fell from 15.4 in 2011 to 5.7 in 2018. To put that into perspective, the United States has a national homicide rate of 6 per 100,000 while Baltimore is 57 per 100,000.

For more information on crime in Ecuador, be sure you check out our article: Is Ecuador Safe? The TRUTH About Crime in Ecuador. Or, our video about crime in Cuenca Ecuador:

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Extreme Weather

Ecuador is located on the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific Ocean, which causes earthquakes and volcanoes from Alaska to Chile and Japan to New Zealand. If you grew up in the western United States, volcanoes and earthquakes may be just a normal part of your life.

Having grown up in Kansas (JP) and Chicago (Amelia), these phenomena are new to us. However, Ecuador doesn’t have extreme weather like tornadoes or hurricanes that affect the midwest and eastern United States. Flooding during the rainy season often washes out roads in the mountains, but Ecuador’s many rivers are effective at channeling the water away from major cities.

The last major earthquake in Ecuador occured in 2016, causing a lot of damage to older structures and low income housing. Newer construction was minimally affected and the damage was limited to the coastal region. We’ve experienced several small earthquakes since 2017, but nothing noteworthy.

The Sangay Volcano 80 kilometers northeast of Cuenca is one of the region’s most active volcanoes with occasional eruptions that have spread ash as far away as Guayaquil and affected air quality in Salinas. However, most of Ecuador’s volcanoes are dormant and haven’t erupted in thousands or millions of years.

Healthcare

IESS Hospital in Manta Ecuador

Ecuador has both a private and a public healthcare system. Private health insurance can be more expensive than the public IESS plan, and it also has a 2-year waiting period for pre-existing conditions with total spending limits, but you’re able to choose your own doctors and hospitals. You can expect to pay $50 to several hundred dollars per month depending on the plan and your age.

With the public IESS plan, you can only visit IESS hospitals or doctors, but there is only a 3-month waiting period for pre-existing conditions and all of your medical expenses are covered at 100% without copays. You can expect to pay $50 to $100 per month depending on your age.

Most hospitals in the major cities are very modern with updated equipment similar to what you’ll see in the United States or other developed countries. Many of the doctors speak multiple languages, including English, and have been educated in the US or Europe.

According to CEOWORLD Magazine, in 2019 Ecuador had the best healthcare system in the Americas south of Canada. They looked at Overall Healthcare, Infrastructure, Professionals, Cost, Medicine Availability and Government Readiness. Ecuador ranks 25th among the 89 countries they evaluated, barely losing to Canada (23rd) and beating the US (30th). The top 9 countries are in Asia and Europe, and number 10 is Australia.

While the medical care at rural hospitals and clinics may be lacking in Ecuador, your family and friends can rest assured that you’ll receive top rated care in the bigger cities like Guayaquil, Quito, Manta and Cuenca.

If you would like more information about healthcare in Ecuador, we discussed it in detail in our blog post, Should You Retire in Ecuador?

If you would like to see what some of the medical facilities look like, check out our Ecuador Healthcare Info Playlist on our YouTube Channel.

Transportation & Infrastructure

Quito Ecuador Airport

If your family and friends have watched any movies about traveling to South America, they probably have a vision of a small propellor plane landing on a dirt runway. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Guayaquil and Quito are home to Ecuador’s two international airports with direct flights from the United States and other countries around the world. They are both modern and well-appointed airports with plenty of dining options, stores with familiar brands, and runways capable of supporting the largest jet airplanes.

Ecuador also has numerous regional airports in Cuenca, Loja, Manta, etc. They mainly support smaller jets or propellor planes, and you may need to walk down stairs to get off the plane, but they’re also very nice, modern airports.

Quito and Cuenca have rail systems, while all of the major cities feature an intricate bus system that extends out to the rest of the country. Many people also travel by taxi or private drivers.

The main highways are mostly two lanes with sections that are four lanes, but they have all been paved during the past several years so travel is easy between cities.

For more on traveling to Ecuador and between cities, check out our Traveling to Ecuador from the United States blog post.

Housing in Ecuador

If your family is concerned that you’ll be giving up modern luxuries like plumbing, electricity and the Internet, they’ll be happy to learn that those are available in ALL expat-oriented housing in Ecuador.

Some of the locals, especially in rural areas, still don’t have electricity or running water, but that is not the norm for most Ecuadorians. Expat-oriented houses, condos and hotels throughout Ecuador have reliable electricity, indoor plumbing and high-speed Internet. Many also have granite countertops, tile floors and stainless steel appliances.

Here are two condo tours that we’ve done in Ecuador that will show you just how nice and modern the housing is:

And here are two real estate tour videos we did in Olón Ecuador, a rural beach town:

Conclusion

We hope this article helps you prepare family and friends for your move to Ecuador. The key is education. If they’re afraid about you leaving, it’s likely because they are unfamiliar with where you’re going and that uncertainty triggers their protection instinct.

While researching our plan to live abroad, we couldn’t find a lot of positive, realistic videos about life in Ecuador, so we wanted to break the myths by showing what it’s really like for expats who live here.

Now, our subscribers tell us that they share our videos with their concerned family and friends to show them that living abroad in Ecuador is perfectly safe and perhaps even safer than some places back home.

If your family and friends are worried about your decision to live abroad in Ecuador, share blog posts and videos with them so they can see what it’s like to be an expat here.

And remind them that the things we see in movies and news programs aren’t accurate representations of reality. Thank them for their concern and tell them you can always move back if you feel unsafe, or you don’t like living abroad.


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse is now live! Join more than 100 people who have already signed up!

Follow Us on Social Media

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified service providers in Ecuador!

News & Current Events from Ecuador

Ecuador Costs of Moving and Living

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!