Live Abroad Now Articles

These are the main articles on Live Abroad Now that will show you the way out.

How To Travel to Ecuador from the United States

Ecuador is more comfortable and more affordable than ever, and traveling to Ecuador from the United States is easier than ever. In this article, you’re going to learn about several of the options at your disposal for getting to Ecuador.

This is Part 9 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Booking a Flight to Ecuador

Direct flights from the United States land in the nation’s two international airports: the capital city of Quito and Ecuador’s largest city of Guayaquil. There are no direct international flights to Cuenca, Loja, Salinas, Manta or any of the other large cities in Ecuador.

Your estimated time in the air depends on your departure city in the United States. For example, it takes just under 14 hours to reach Ecuador from Los Angeles while it takes less than five hours when you depart from Miami. Flight time ultimately depends on the airline, location, destination, and whether you are taking a direct flight or not.

The price for a trip ranges between $150 to $450 when you book a couple of weeks in advance. Unfortunately, if you need to hop on a flight last minute, it could cost you more than a thousand dollars.

flying to Ecuador

Direct flights to Quito from the United States

In Quito, the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is located outside the city and takes about 30 to 45 minutes to drive to El Centro from the airport. From the Quito airport, you can catch a connecting flight to the smaller domestic airports such as Cuenca, Manta and Loja.

Direct Flights to Guayaquil from the United States

In Guayaquil, the modern José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) is located inside the city and only a short cab ride to hotels, malls and tourist attractions. There are no connecting flights to Cuenca or most of the other cities in Ecuador. Most domestic flights from Guayaquil only go to Quito or Loja.

  • Miami – American Airlines
  • Miami and JFK (New York) – LATAM
  • Ft. Lauderdale (Florida) – Spirit or JetBlue

Transportation Options from Quito Ecuador

Flying from Quito to Guayaquil or Cuenca

The cost of flying from Quito to Guayaquil or Cuenca is generally between $45 and $100 depending on factors such as the amount of time in advance that you reserved your seat, the airline, and whether you are taking a round trip or a one-way trip. This trip usually requires about 45 to 50 minutes of flight time.

Most of the international flights land very late at night so we recommend staying overnight in your arrival city so you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Ecuador during the day as you travel to your final destination.

Riding the Bus

Transportation by bus from Quito to Guayaquil takes an average of 8 hours, with a cost of around $10 to $15. You can also hire a private driver or taxi with a cost ranging from $200 to $400.

Traveling from Quito to Vilcabamba

From Quito, you can fly to Loja (about 1 hour, 20 minutes for around $50 to $90). Then you can take a taxi or bus to Vilcabamba. A drive from Quito to Vilcabamba is long but beautiful, taking about 14 hours and costing more than $200 for a private driver.

Traveling from Quito to Salinas

To get to Salinas from Quito, you’ll need to take an hour-long flight to Guayaquil before taking a bus or taxi to Salinas. These flights generally cost between $45 to $95.

Driving from Quito to Salinas will take you about 10 hours via bus, and costs between $15 to $30. In comparison, a taxi can cut that time to 8 hours for $300 and $500.

Traveling from Quito to Manta

From Quito, you can book a flight to Manta, which takes around 1 hour. Prices range from $55 to $200 depending on the airline, trip, and date you book the flight.

Although it is cheaper to travel from Quito to Manta by bus with an average cost of $10 to $30, it is time-consuming as it takes about 8 hours to get there. If you intend to hail a taxi or private driver, it will take 6 to 7 hours with a cost of $150 to $300.

Transportation Options from Guayaquil

Traveling from Guayaquil to Cuenca

There are no flights between Guayaquil and Cuenca, so you’ll need to fly to Cuenca from Quito, or drive to Cuenca from Guayaquil through the incredible scenery of El Cajas National Park.

The drive takes 3 to 4 hours. Under normal circumstances, a private driver will charge roughly $100 to $150. Interprovincial buses and busetas such as Operazuaytur cost $8 to $12 per ticket

Traveling from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba

There are no flights from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba so you’ll need to travel overland. A bus will take you there in about 7 hours for an average cost of $15 to $30. If you take a taxi or private driver, it may take less time than a bus, but it’ll cost $140 to $180.

Traveling from Guayaquil to Salinas

There are no flights between Guayaquil and Salinas. A bus will generally take you to Salinas in less than 3 hours at an average cost of $10 to $20. A taxi or personal driver would take less than 2 hours but cost higher, usually between $50 to $80.

Traveling from Guayaquil to Manta

There are no direct flights from Guayaquil to Manta so you will need to travel overland. To take a bus, you will spend an average of $10 to $30 for the 4-hour ride to Manta from Guayaquil. If you prefer a taxi, it will take you about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to Manta at a cost of $100 to $200.

What to Do When You Land

You can’t grasp the depth and beauty of Ecuador until you experience it first-hand. Ecuador is a great holiday destination, especially if you live in the Midwest where the winter weather chills you to the bone. The sights, sounds, and smells of paradise hit you wherever you go, providing a fantastic contrast to the cold winters in the United States.

Whether it’s Cuenca, Guayaquil, or the capital city of Quito, you’ll find yourself amazed at the culture expressed in Ecuadorian society. Everything from churches and architecture to the various heritage cities scattered across the county that exude Ecuador’s unique culture.

bridge in Ecuador

On the flip side, nature is always present in its abundant and diverse wildlife. Explore the same Galápagos Islands where Darwin launched his theory of evolution or witness the annual return of humpback whales seeking the warm waters bordering Ecuador’s coast.

Exploring the County & Nature

You’ll find your visit to Ecuador enriched when you explore some of its hidden paradise cities. Taste and feel the liveliness in popular cities with their sights, restaurants, and nightlife. Just on the periphery lingers the richness and serenity of nature that blends perfectly with Ecuador’s thriving culture of hospitality.

Mountain in Ecuador

Planning a Trip is Easier Than Ever

If you’re looking for a fun vacation destination or choosing to relocate to Ecuador, it’s more convenient than ever. You’ll save a lot of money on airfare if you book your flight several weeks or months in advance.

November to January is the highest season in terms of air traffic, meaning you’ll pay for more a flight. The cheapest time to fly, according to Kayak, is October.

However, if your goal is to be in Ecuador during the warmest and sunniest time of year, you’ll want to visit between December and May. It’s very cloudy and much cooler from June through November.

When you’re booking your flight to Ecuador, keep in mind that the two international airports are in Guayaquil and Quito. Your trip will have to touch down at one of those two airports, after which you can catch a connecting flight to a domestic airport or drive to another city.

There are far too many wonderful places to visit in Ecuador with far too many transportation options to cover them all here. Ecuador has a vast, affordable and easy to navigate public transportation system so you won’t have much difficulty getting around. If you stay overnight in your arrival city, your hotel will be able to help you find land transportation to your final destination.

Wherever you end up, you’ll quickly be immersed in Ecuador’s natural beauty, and you’ll feel welcomed by Ecuador’s warm and inviting people.


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!

Is Ecuador Safe? The TRUTH About Crime in Ecuador

“Is Ecuador safe?” That’s one of the most common questions future expats have when considering a move to this small Latin American country. Traveling or moving abroad may be uncomfortable at times, but it’s probably safer than you’ve been led to believe.

In this article, we’re going to shed some light on the real crime stats in Ecuador by comparing them to the United States, and we’re going to give you some common sense safety tips to help you avoid experiencing crime in Ecuador.

This is Part 8 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Gang Violence in Ecuador

If you’ve watched any of our YouTube videos from Cuenca or some of the other cities in Ecuador, you may have noticed a lot of graffiti. This is common throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world. Even in developed cities like Berlin, graffiti is common.

However, if you’re from the United States, Canada or other less graffiti-prone parts of the world, you may instantly picture gangs on a violent rampage vandalizing the city with cans of spray paint. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Ecuador, graffiti is viewed as an art form, which is why you’ll often see the artists real name embedded in the painting or below it. Much of what you may perceive as graffiti, is actually commissioned and paid for by property owners or local governments. 

Gangs used to be a major problem in some parts of Ecuador, such as in Guayaquil and Quito, but government efforts over the past 10 to 15 years have made gang violence virtually non-existent.

In 2007, the government shifted its approach to gangs by legalizing them and provided grants for these groups to serve their neighborhoods. 

Other social reform efforts included rebuilding the police and criminal justice system, as well as increases in vital social programs. An Inter-American Development Bank study found that, by 2018, these government efforts “helped reduce violence and criminality drastically.”

This isn’t to say you should walk around Ecuador without taking common sense precautions. Like anywhere in the world, there are ways to avoid dangerous places and situations.

The risk of robbery, assault, and kidnapping still exists, just as it does in the United States and everywhere else in the world. However, pickpocketing is the main type of crime that most tourists and expats face. But if you follow some of the tips we’ll cover below, you’ll find Ecuador is a very safe place for Americans and expats from around the world. 

Crime Statistics in Ecuador

In the past, one of the reasons Ecuador’s government struggled in combating crime had to do with limited police presence. Other factors, such as lack of judicial resources and weak border security, also played a role. However, social reform efforts such as rebuilding the police and criminal justice system, installing street cameras, and increasing vital social spending, has increased safety in Ecuador.

Since 2011, crime has fallen dramatically. Despite a recent plateau, the Ecuadorian homicide rate fell from 15.4 per 100,000 in 2011 to 5.7 in 2018.

Nationwide, any danger to U.S. tourists and expats in Ecuador mostly consists of theft in the form of pickpocketing, purse snatching, and mugging. The most common items stolen from tourists are phones, laptops, cameras, cash, and jewelry.

Generally, the police don’t pursue thefts of property worth less than $500. So taking the proper precautions in public will keep you from being stranded in Ecuador without a phone or wallet. 

Homicide Rate in Ecuador vs. The United States

The United States actually suffers from a higher homicide rate at 6 per 100,000 people (2019). Ecuador experienced just under 1,000 murders in 2018, setting its murder rate at 5.7 per 100,000. 

The safest expat cities in Ecuador, such as Cuenca, Loja, and Salinas, pale in comparison to U.S. cities with the highest murder rates (per 100,000 citizens), such as Detroit (40.6), Chicago (20.7) and Baltimore (57). Due to government efforts combating violence, Ecuador is seeing a rate trending similar to that of the safest cities in the United States. 

Like any country, there are common sense places to avoid in Ecuador. Below we’ll go over some of the main tourist areas and examine their safety. 

Overall Risks & Safety Tips

While the overall crime rate has been in steady decline since 2011, following the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, there has been an uptick in theft related crimes, at least anecdotally. No official crime stats for the second half of 2020 are available as of the writing of this article, but you may want to use extra precautions to avoid theft and robbery. 

Pickpocketing Schemes

One of the most common crimes against tourists in Ecuador is pickpocketing. There’s a wide variety of techniques used to snag your wallet. For example:

  • Bump and Grab – you’re bumped while being passed in close quarters like a bus or mercado and your pocket is picked.
  • Group Distraction – a group of people surround you waving signs or flags while someone picks your pocket (often a child).
  • You Dropped Something – someone points to the ground behind you and says you dropped something, then steals your bag while you look away.
  • Foam on the Sleeve – someone puts foam or shaving cream on your sleeve, then points it out to you and offers to help you clean it up. When you take off your jacket or bag, they grab it and run.

You can counter these theft tactics by taking a variety of precautions, such as not trusting random strangers, storing cash in multiple places on your person, and keeping the items you carry to a minimum. Some other investments are uploading essential documents to the cloud and using zipper pockets with a fastener. 

Most of these crimes occur in tourist locations, so staying vigilant in these areas and in crowds will help keep you from falling victim to theft. If you do find yourself confronted by someone with a weapon, it’s always better to part with your belongings rather than risk your health and safety. 

Use Your Hotel Safe in Ecuador

Some people have reported their belongings missing from their hotel rooms, so taking advantage of a hotel safe for belongings like passports and cash is a great idea. Take a picture of your passport ID page and store them on your phone so you can leave your physical passport in the safe.

Most hotels allow their guest to set a custom password so you’ll know your belongings are safe as you explore everything Ecuador has to offer. 

Are Taxis in Ecuador Safe?

There’s also the risk of losing your belongings traveling throughout Ecuador. The U.S. Embassy doesn’t allow its employees to use un-vetted taxi services because there have been instances of robberies. As tourists or embassy workers entered the taxi, a couple of men would enter the cab and force people to withdraw all the money at the nearest ATM.

Overall, it’s better to avoid the un-vetted taxi services in Quito, Guayaquil, Manta, Playas, and other coastal towns. If you have to travel through a city, it’s better to use apps like Azutaxi (in Cuenca), Uber (in Quito and Guayaquil only as of 2020), private recommended drivers (we have several) or shuttle services provided by your hotel.

You can usually trust taxis that are registered, which are yellow with identical unit numbers on both the windshield and the doors. Registered taxis also have a taxi cooperative logo. Some of the companies vetted by the U.S. consulate include FastLine, Solservice, and Wayose.

Taxis waiting in line outside the airport or bus terminal have been validated by the attendants and are generally safe for expats.

Bus Safety in Ecuador

When you’re traveling by bus, it’s best to keep your luggage close to you. Some people report their luggage stolen from the overhead bins in buses traveling between provinces so keep your bags in your lap or next to you on the window side. It’s also better to travel during the daytime since the robberies that have occurred on buses typically take place at night. 

It’s generally safe to store large bags in the luggage compartment under the bus because an attendant monitors it while the doors are open and you must present a claim ticket to take a bag.

Political Demonstrations in Ecuador

Political demonstrations in Ecuador are common, and the police often retaliate using water cannons and deploying canisters of tear gas. Peaceful protests can turn violent on a dime, so it’s best to avoid any large demonstrations. 

Car Break-Ins in Ecuador

Don’t leave any valuable items on the seat of your car or in plain sight. Just like anywhere in the world, it’s common for car windows to be broken when items of value can be seen through them. 

Safety of Popular Areas in Ecuador

Guayaquil Ecuador Safety

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil is both the largest and most dangerous city in Ecuador. To put it in perspective, both Chicago and Guayaquil carry similar crime rates. Despite repeated government efforts, crime persists in the form of robberies, car break-ins, and homicides due to limited resources, a large wealth gap, and dense population. 

Many crimes go unsolved because the police don’t have the time or resources to pursue every robbery or case of pickpocketing. The primary threat to tourists is non-violent theft, so using anti-pickpocketing techniques like a belt wallet or clip zippers will help you keep track of your belongings. 

If you’re planning to visit Guayaquil, it’s best to do so in the safety of a group or with a tour guide. This will help make sure you can safely enjoy the sights of Guayaquil, such as shops and restaurants along the Malecón 2000 or the gorgeous Parque Seminario and its iguanas. 

Avoid walking alone at night and avoid shortcuts through alleys, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.

Quito Ecuador Safety

As with Guayaquil, Quito isn’t a place you should wander around at night, but for the most part, tourists have a great time in Ecuador’s capital city.

While both Guayaquil and Quito experience higher levels of crime compared to Ecuador’s smaller cities and rural towns, this is to be expected of large cities. 

Visiting the historic sites of Quito is a must when visiting Ecuador, but the city draws large crowds making it the perfect hunting ground for pickpocketers.

As you stroll through the shops and historic sites, make sure you know where you’ve stored your valuables and force yourself to remain alert about anyone trying to get too close to you.

Like Guayaquil, you shouldn’t walk around Quito alone, especially at night. Your safest option is to travel in a group or with a tour guide.

One nice thing about Quito is their tourist police force who wear neon vests. These officers can help you out in an emergency, such as a personal injury or to report a crime. 

Cuenca Ecuador Safety

San Francisco Plaza New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

The city of Cuenca is one of the safest in Ecuador with one of the lowest murder rates in Latin America, according to Governor Xavier Martinez. In terms of overall crime, the city ranks on the lower end when compared to similar cities in the United States. 

What this means is that you can enjoy the sights of Cuenca, like the Old and New Cathedrals or the Monastery of El Carmen de Asuncion without having to worry too much about staying safe. 

However, taking certain precautions like traveling in groups and avoiding traveling alone at night are always your best bet to stay safe in any major city. 

Conclusion

If you’ve been planning a trip to Ecuador, and you’re reluctant because of inflammatory news coverage, we hope this article provides more context to put your mind at ease. Overall, Ecuador is a very safe country, but crime is a still a risk, just as it is across the globe. 

The key in Ecuador is to travel smart, keep up with local news, and explore in groups or with a tour guide when possible. Other common-sense tactics we’ve covered include avoiding nighttime travel and investing in safety products like cash belts, bags with zipper clips and personal safes. 

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Always remain vigilant about your surroundings, especially in crowds and tourist locations.
  • Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with others.
  • Avoid walking alone at night, especially along dark streets and trails.
  • Don’t stand around on a dark street talking to people, this can attract unwanted attention. 
  • Wear a crossbody bag such as a money wallet and take advantage of zipper pockets with clips.
  • Shift your backpack to the front, like a kangaroo pouch, while you’re traveling through crowds. That will make it nearly impossible for a pickpocketer to steal anything without you noticing.
  • If you’re using a car, don’t store your valuables in plain sight. Put them in the glove compartment, under the seat or in the trunk.
  • When you’re traveling via bus, keep your valuable belonging on your person. Don’t put them in overhead bins and don’t hand them to anyone offering to help you. Just say, “NO, gracias.”
  • If you feel unsafe or suspicious of someone, keep walking until you’re in a safe, open, and public place. Or step into a restaurant or store.
  • If you’re threatened with a deadly weapon, it’s best to part with your belongings. As frustrating as it may be, things can be replaced; YOU can’t!

If you have any other safety precautions, let us know about them 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!

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!

How To Move Abroad: 10 Crucial Steps to Expat in a New Country

In this article, we share the 10 crucial steps that show you how to move abroad. Moving to a new country can trigger a life-changing transformation that is extremely rewarding. Take it from us, we sold everything in 2017 and moved from Denver, Colorado to Cuenca, Ecuador. Since then, we’ve documented our experiences exploring the country and culture of Ecuador.

Once you’ve decided to move abroad to live your expat dream, there’s a lot of planning required to making that decision a reality. It can be hard to know where to start: everything from choosing a country to arranging a visa takes a lot of work. If you don’t have a well-formulated plan, the entire process can become overwhelming. 

And that’s why we created this list of 10 crucial steps to make the process of how to move abroad less mysterious and confusing. But first, if you want to see what life is REALLY like in Ecuador, check out our YouTube channel.

This is Part 7 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

10 Crucial Steps to Moving to a New Country

1. List your priorities

First, you need to figure out which country best accommodates your personal needs. Factors such as healthcare quality and general safety play a role in many people’s decisions. 

You’ll also want to consider the cost of living so you’ll know if you can afford to live there. While many popular expat destinations have a very low cost of living, others may be higher than your home country.

The quality and reliability of the internet may also a deciding factor for you, especially if you will continue working online in your new country.

In this video, we discuss why we chose Ecuador over some other countries that are great for expats.

Your deciding factors may be different, which is why finding your perfect fit requires an accurate list of your priorities and a concentrated amount of research into possible countries.

2. Choose a destination (or several)

Once you’ve listed out your priorities, begin narrowing down the countries that fit your needs until you have a handful of exciting prospects. The top 10 list from International Living may help narrow your search. 

Reading blog posts, joining Facebook groups, watching YouTube videos, and researching statistics on crime and the cost of living can help you increase your knowledge about these destinations. From there, you can narrow down your list to five or six countries to seriously consider.

3. Research visa requirements

Every country has its own list of visa options and requirements, and you’ll need to figure out which one best suits your situation. Depending on your monthly income and investments, you’ll need to apply for a specific visa, such as pension, investor, work, student, etc.

Many countries have maximum age, minimum income and/or net worth requirements that may prevent you from moving there. For example, New Zealand requires $500,000 for their investor visa while Ecuador requires only $40,000 (as of August 2020). 

You also need to pass state and federal background checks, but your destination country might make exceptions if your history isn’t squeaky clean.

4. Join Expat Support Groups

When you’re researching how to move abroad to another country, it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone who lives in the destinations you’re considering. By joining one or more Facebook or Reddit groups, you can connect with people online to get a better idea about what life is really like for expats who already live there.

Participation in these groups is a great way to setup meetings with other expats before your exploratory trip. It really helps to talk to people who’ve already taken the plunge into living abroad where you want to live.

Our Patreon Community

Amelia And JP on Patreon

We also have a Patreon community with current and future expats who are eager to share their knowledge and support. For our basic membership, you’ll receive:

  • Access to our Patreon-only feed where we interact with our patrons and share exclusive videos, photos, posts, polls, and more.
  • Access to our continuously updated Ecuador Scrollodex of service providers.
  • An Exclusive Q&A Video each month answering questions posed by patrons and only available to patrons.
  • Access to our fun, private, safe, and secure Discord Chat Community that’s just for our Band of Unconventionals.

5. Book Your Exploratory Trip

When you book your exploratory trip, you may want to visit multiple cities throughout the country. This helps you get a real feel for the country, which is important as you move your entire life abroad.

One helpful tip is to stay in places with kitchens so you can live like a local during your stay. Shopping for groceries and cooking your own food will let you experience what your life will really be like if you decide to move there.

Culture shock is a real issue for many expats, so the more you can immerse yourself in the local culture, the better prepared you’ll be should you decide to move there.

Tour the cities and restaurants, and talk to expats about their experience adjusting to the culture. At the end of your trip, you may decide the culture is just too different for you and you may choose to continue your search for a different expat destination.

At the end of your exploratory trip, if the country feels like the right fit, you can officially begin the country’s visa process. We started our visa process while on our exploratory trip, which allowed us to meet the visa agent in person before we left. Drop us a note if you would like us to send an email introduction to a visa agent in Ecuador, or a real estate agent who can help you find property for the investor visa.

6. Making Preparations for Your Move to a New Country

booking a flight, traveling to a new country

First, you want to put together a reasonable timeline. Make sure to give yourself ample time and set hard deadlines for the tasks required to make the move.

Here’s a short checklist we’ve put together. This is just a baseline for you to start considering the affairs you need to put in order. Your list may be substantially longer.

Things to Consider When You’re Planning How to Move Abroad

  • Do you need to transition to a different income stream?
  • Are you going to retire or quit your job?
  • Are you bringing children who will need to go to school?
  • Does the country require your pets to receive special vaccinations?
  • When will you break the news to your family and friends?
  • Will you need a short-term place to live after your house sells and before you move abroad?
  • Are you going to bring everything with you or sell it all?
  • Do you need to get copies of your health and vet records?
  • Do you need to start learning the language with apps like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone or Babble?

You also need to get your home ready to sell. Home sales are unpredictable, but most homes take at least three months to sell. Getting on top of selling your home means you can move to your new home more quickly. If your home sells faster than you planned, you might need to make short-term housing arrangements back home before your move abroad.

As you’re working to sell your home, getting rid of excess belongings is another chore to complete. Estate sales can take 2 to 3 months to plan on average so you’ll want to get an early start on this process. Also, you’ll need a place to stay for the estate sale weekend, and you can often find deals near your home on AirBnB.

7. Decide What You Can Do & What To Outsource

Instead of moving our furniture and other belongings to Ecuador, we hired an estate sale company. It took a couple of months for them to setup the sale, but that process was a lot more convenient for us.

Anything that didn’t sell during that estate sale, we listed on Craigslist, donated or threw away. In the end, we moved to Ecuador with four suitcases between the two of us.

If you’re not fluent in the local language, we recommend hiring a visa agent. They’ll help you secure the necessary visas and immigration documents.

There are pet transport companies you can look into, but we opted against that because of the price and logistics. 

8. Decide what to keep, what to store and what to get rid of

If you want to take everything to your new home abroad, you’ll need to work with a shipping company.

For more information on shipping your household items to Ecuador, we interviewed Paul Wilches from Relocation Services of Ecuador. He discussed the logistics, process, import regulations, timeframes, and costs with us. He’s a wealth of information and is happy to answer your questions if you’re planning to move to Ecuador.

You’ll need to document EVERYTHING in case you have any issues with customs. Some countries like Ecuador require detailed shipping manifests that list every single item in every single box. We know one couple who had to unpack their entire shipping container and re-label every box because their manifest wasn’t detailed enough. Planning ahead will help you avoid their fate!

You may also want to store your household items back home while you get settled into your new home abroad. Then, once you’ve found a permanent place to live, you can have your container shipped directly to your long-term housing. Keep in mind that some countries have a time limit on how long you can wait to bring your household items before you must pay import taxes on them. 

Some countries, such as Ecuador, don’t allow you to ship an automobile, so you may need to sell yours before you leave. You’ll get more money if you sell them outright, but that can take time and be an inconvenience.

We sold my car through Cars.com several months before our move and got $8,000 more than the dealer purchase value. We didn’t have time to sell Amelia’s car, so we sold it to the dealer for several thousand dollars less than we could have sold it for outright. As a result, we were $5,000 upside down and had to take out a LendingClub.com loan to pay it off.

9. Moving to the New Country of Your Dreams

After buying your plane tickets, you might want to reserve a private driver to pick you up from the airport. If you haven’t finalized your long-term housing situation, make sure you have a place to stay when you arrive, such as a hotel or AirBnB.

Planning for Your Pets

If you have larger dogs, check with the airline for the details of flying with your pet. Some airlines don’t allow large dog crates anymore, so it’s important to check the company policies well in advance.

You’ll need to work with a USDA certified vet to document your pet’s vaccinations. Some people choose to find new homes for their pets, but that’s a really tough decision to make. Check out our Pet Travel video for more information.

10. Start Your Expat Dream Life Abroad

Cuenca Ecuador, travel, moving to a new country, Expats, sight seeing

With everything in order, and as your move date approaches, it’s time to say goodbye to your family and friends. You might want to help them install WhatsApp on their mobile phones since that’s a free way to stay in touch regardless of your expat destination. 

Once you board the plane, sit back and get ready for the beginning of your new life abroad!

Moving to a New Country is an Incredible Experience

We’ve met people from every corner of the Earth here in Ecuador, and that has helped us gain a more holistic understanding of the world.

Once you live in a different country, with different customs and cultures, you gain a different perspective of your home country and the global community. It truly is a life-changing experience!

Be sure to visit our Youtube Channel and our Patreon page for more information and support, and if you have any additional questions about how to move abroad, leave them 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!

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!

Real Costs of Moving to Ecuador from the United States

If your goal is to live abroad in Ecuador, you need enough money saved up to make your dream a reality. From airfare and visas to housing and utilities, this article breaks down exactly how much it will cost you to move to Ecuador.

This is Part 5 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Get Our Ecuador Costs Calculator

Ecuador Costs of Moving and LivingTo download our free Ecuador Cost of Moving and Living Calculator, we ask that you signup for our weekly newsletter. Each Friday, we’ll send you some expat news from Ecuador (in English), an excerpt from the week’s blog post and other expat related information. We won’t spam you and you can unsubscribe at any time.

You’ll get immediate access after you subscribe to our newsletter here…

Required Costs of Moving to Ecuador

Temporary Resident Visa & Cédula

You can come to Ecuador on a Tourist Visa for 90 days with the option of extending it for another 90 days. However, if you wish to stay more than 6 months per year, you’ll need to apply for a temporary resident visa.

As of August 2020, the application fee for a visa in Ecuador is $50. Once your application is approved by the Ecuadorian government, you’ll need to pay another $450 to get the visa.

Ecuador only issues electronic visas now so you won’t have a sticker in your passport anymore. Once you have your visa, you can get your cédula, which is a government issued ID similar to a driver’s license.

If you are doing an investor visa, you’ll need $40,000 plus $500 for each dependent. You will either need to deposit this into a CD (certificate of deposit) at an Ecuadorian bank, or buy property with a value greater than the amount required for the investor visa. You are no longer allowed to withdraw the interest from the CD while it’s being used to qualify for a visa. The interest rate is currently around 9%.

You cannot switch from a CD to property during the 2 year temporary resident visa period without starting the visa process over. After 2 years, you can apply for a permanent resident visa so you could switch from a CD to property at that time.

You’re eligible to apply for citizenship after living in Ecuador with a permanent resident visa for at least 3 years. Once you are an Ecuadorian citizen, you no longer need the CD or property and can liquidate both.

Health Insurance

Before you can apply for your visa, you’ll need a proof of health insurance coverage letter from your private Ecuadorian insurance provider or a foreign insurance provider that covers medical bills in Ecuador.

The monthly rate varies depending on your age, gender and smoking habits. We’re 48 (JP) and 52 (Amelia), we’re non-smokers and we pay $156 per month for both of us through Confiamed. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 2 year waiting period. With private insurance, you can go to any doctor or hospital that accepts your insurance.

You can signup for the public IESS health insurance option after you have your temporary visa AND cédula. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 3-month waiting period. You’re required to go to IESS doctors and hospitals.

Airfare

You can expect to pay around $500 for direct flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta or Houston to Quito or Guayaquil. There are no direct international flights to any other airport in Ecuador.

You can occasionally find great deals for around $300. However, during the busiest travel times of the year such as the holidays in December, you may pay double the usual rate.

Transportation

Once you land in Quito or Guayaquil, you may need additional transportation to get to your final destination. You can take a public bus for less than $10 to most cities while a smaller buseta with a company like Operazuaytur will cost roughly $12 per ticket.

If you have a lot of luggage or pets, you may prefer a private driver. Depending on the distance you need to travel from the airport, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for door-to-door service.

We have several private drivers that we recommend, which you can access by becoming a patron on Patreon at the lowest tier. To learn more about gaining immediate access to our Scrollodex of Ecuador Service Providers, click here…

Lodging

When you reach your final destination, you’ll need someplace to stay. Most people opt to stay in a short-term rental while they learn their way around and find an ideal neighborhood. However, others move directly into a long-term rental or purchase property.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,200 per month depending on where you want to live, the location relative to city centers or the beach, the view, quality of finishes, the size, amenities, etc.

All in, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 in REQUIRED costs to move to Ecuador. Realistically, you’ll also incur some of the following optional costs.

Optional Costs of Moving to Ecuador

There are several optional costs that you may decide to incur based on your budget, confidence and relocation plans.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Exploratory Trip

If you have never visited Ecuador before, you may feel more comfortable visiting before you relocate. An exploratory trip will give you the opportunity to learn more about the culture and possible move locations.

Some people struggle with the high elevation in the Andean mountain cities like Cuenca and Quito, so if you haven’t spent much time above 8,000 feet (2.500 meters) a visit before your move is a really good idea.

If you allot enough time on your trip, you’ll be able to visit multiple cities and take some city tours to get a better idea of where you might want to live.

And we HIGHLY recommend a relaxing day at one of Ecuador’s amazing hot springs, such as Piedra de Agua in Cuenca.

You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $4,000 for an exploratory trip depending on how long you want to stay, where you stay, how many people are joining you and how many tours you take.

Visa Agent

If you’re not fluent in Spanish, you may want to seriously consider hiring a visa agent like GringoVisas.com or EcuadorVisas.com to guide you through the process.

Even if you are fluent in Spanish, you may still prefer them to handle all the details for you. They also have the government employee connections to make the process flow better and they’re always up-to-date on the constantly changing visa laws, rules and regulations.

You can expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 per person for the visa agent depending on the type of visa and any unforeseen challenges (like unfavorable background checks or changes to the regulations during your application process).

Shipping a Container

If you opt to bring your household items with you, you’ll need to work with a company like Relocation Services of Ecuador. You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the size of the container.

Extra Luggage

We opted to sell nearly everything we owned and arrived in Ecuador with 4 suitcases and our dogs. You’ll need to check with the airline about current costs and restrictions, but we paid $75 for each extra suitcase.

Travel Insurance

Ecuador requires proof of health insurance that works in Ecuador upon arrival both as a tourist and a resident. You can get travel insurance through companies like Allianz Travel (formally Allianz Global) for less than $50 per person for 10 days. Note that most travel insurance doesn’t cover costs relating to COVID.

Mobile Phone

Upon arrival in Ecuador, you may opt to sign up for a mobile phone plan so you have an Ecuadorian phone number. This makes interacting with locals and businesses easier. A basic plan with Claro costs about $21/month.

Housing Costs

These costs assume you’ll be renting when you move to Ecuador. If you’re buying instead of renting, some of these costs may be substantially different.

Security Deposit

It’s typical for landlords to require a security deposit that’s equal to the rent cost. Pet deposits aren’t common based on our experience.

First Month’s Rent

In addition to the first month’s rent, you may also be required to provide last month’s rent when you sign the lease. You’ll find that leases in Ecuador are short and sweet, usually less than 2 pages.

Internet Setup Fee

The house we rented in Cuenca came with Etapa Internet service. However, at the time, we were told it wasn’t very reliable or fast so we chose to upgrade to Puntonet (aka Celerity). The installation fee was $80 for fiber to the curb. That also included the WiFi router.

Internet Monthly Fee

In Cuenca, we paid $56/month for 50mb up and down with Puntonet. Here on the coast in Olón, we pay $45/month for 75mb up and down with Netlife. Our Netlife plan came with a WiFi router and a booster that we put in our bedroom.

Utilities

Depending on your landlord, you may need to pay utility service activation fees, which will likely cost $100 or less. Both of our long-term rentals came with active utilities so we just pay the monthly bills.

In Cuenca, we paid for water, electricity, trash, Internet, landline ($2/month) and propane (water heaters and stoves use propane). The total cost for all utilities was about $80/month.

In Olón, we pay for electricity (through CNEL), propane tanks and jugged water. There is no landline and the landlord pays for Internet, trash and tap water. Our total cost for utilities is about $113/month with $90 for electricity, $20 for jugged water and $3 for propane.

Household Items

If you rent a fully furnished home or you’re shipping a container, you may not need to spend any money on household items. Most fully furnished places come with all the furniture, kitchenware and linens that you’ll need.

However, our place in Cuenca was lacking a lot of things that we wanted, such as a good set of knives and pots & pans. It also had virtually no linens so we had to buy pillows, blankets, sheets, etc. And since we cook all the time, we bought a toaster, electric griddle and a pressure cooker. In total, we spent about $700 to outfit our house the way we wanted it.

Pets

If you’re bringing your dogs and/or cats to Ecuador, start by reading through all the guidelines and certificate paperwork on the USDA APHIS website. APHIS stands for “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.”

For Ecuador specific guidelines, visit Pet travel from the U.S. to Ecuador on the APHIS website. You need to have this paperwork with you at all times while traveling internationally with your pets.

Veterinarian

The next step is to find a USDA Accredited Veterinarian to help you fill out all the paperwork and plan your vaccine schedule. Ours worked with the USDA to make sure everything on the paperwork and the vaccine schedule was 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. We paid about $600 for all the exams and paperwork for both of our dogs.

Vaccinations

The vaccine schedule is complicated, especially if you have multiple dogs at varying 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 others had to be given during a specific window of time. We paid about $300 for vaccines for both of our dogs.

Even working with an accredited vet, we still made a mistake on one of the vaccines for Alicia, which caused us to delay our trip by two weeks. We recommend creating a vaccine schedule in a calendar and running through it with your vet to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

Paperwork

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. Expect to pay about $38 per pet.

Pet Carriers

If you don’t have them already, you’ll need to buy airline certified pet carriers. For in-cabin pets, you’ll need a soft-sided pet carrier that is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

For checked cargo carriers, you’ll need to buy a hard-sided pet carrier with screw on fasteners and a clip on water bowl. We paid $30 for Alicia’s soft-sided carrier and $70 for Daisy’s medium sized carrier and the special fasteners.

Check with your airline for their exact requirements.

Pet Travel

Checking your dog is not an ideal situation. It causes a lot of stress and some pets die during transport. However, it’s still a far safer way to travel than in an automobile. Both you and your pet are far more likely to die in transit to the airport than on the airplane.

The cargo area where dogs are kept on the airplane is both temperature controlled and pressurized despite the misinformation you’ll find online. At 35,000 feet, no living being could survive the lack of oxygen and the cold temperatures without climate control. Several people have tried hiding in the wheel wells of aircraft only to arrive frozen to death. You can’t believe everything you read online.

Some people choose to re-home their dogs rather than transport them in cargo, and some dogs are too big to fit in cargo. Re-homing is a really tough decision that only you can make.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this detailed analysis of how much it costs to move to Ecuador will help you prepare for your relocation abroad. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or if we missed something that you think we should add.

Again, if you would like to download our Ecuador Cost of Moving and Living Excel Workbook, you’ll gain immediate access after signing up for our newsletter.


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!

Best Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

While Cuenca tops our list of best cities to live in Ecuador for expats, it’s not the only popular expat destination. There are several other expat-friendly cities in the mountain region, as well as on the Pacific coast and on the western edge of the Amazon Rainforest that might better suit your interests and circumstances.

This is our list of best cities in Ecuador for expats, along with some interesting information and vital stats for each city. There are thousands of cities and towns in Ecuador, and expats live in a lot of them, but this article focuses on the most popular expat cities.

This is Part 4 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Best Mountain Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

The Andes Mountain Range runs through the center of Ecuador from north to south with the Amazon rainforest to the east and the Pacific coastal region to the west. Depending on your personal interests, climate preferences and altitude issues, you may prefer some of the mountain cities over others.

Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

With more than 10,000 expats from North America and Europe, Cuenca is the most popular expat destination in Ecuador. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, it’s a beautiful old-world Spanish colonial city with all the modern conveniences.

Cuenca literally translates to “bowl” in Spanish, which is a well-chosen name as it sits nestled in a circular valley high in the Andes mountains. However, it’s actually named after its sister city in Spain.

Cuenca Ecuador Map

The New Cathedral (construction began in 1885) with its majestic blue domes is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in all of Latin America.

If you’re studying Spanish, Cuenca is a great place to learn the language. There are lots of bilingual Ecuadorians, as well as language schools. Plus, the Cuencana dialect is much slower paced than other Spanish dialects and their beautiful sing-song accent sounds more Italian than Spanish.

The airport in Cuenca makes it easier to reach than some of the other mountain cities like Cotacachi and Vilcabamba, which lack an airport; however, there are no direct international flights from the US or Europe into Cuenca. All passenger flights currently arrive from Quito, with an occasional flight from Guayaquil.

Cuenca, and most of the mountain cities in Ecuador, are referred to as “the land of eternal spring.” That’s because the weather is very spring-like most of the year.

The Andes Mountains squeeze the moisture out of the air coming off the Amazon Rainforest to the east, which means it’s frequently rainy and cloudy in Cuenca. You won’t want to leave home without your umbrella and rain jacket.

With daytime high temperatures from 60 to 80°F (15 to 26°C) and nighttime lows from 40 to 60°F (4 to 15°C), you’ll often need a jacket for more than just the rain. You may even want some gloves and a scarf to keep warm on your way home from dinner, especially after you watch the beautiful sunset over the Cajas National Park to the west.

With its deep cultural heritage, broad range of shopping, affordable transportation, high quality medical services, and so much more, Cuenca is one of the best cities to live in Ecuador for expats.

Fast Facts About Cuenca Ecuador

Founded: April 12, 1557

Population: 330,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 8,400 ft (2.560 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (3.5 hour drive) or Quito (8 hour drive; 45 minute flight)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil or US Embassy in Quito

Quito Ecuador

Quito Ecuador

Quito is the capital city of Ecuador, and like Cuenca, it’s a Spanish colonial city with all the modern conveniences. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscripted more than 20 years before Cuenca in 1978.

Often called “the most beautiful big city in South America,” the old-world charm of the city center combined with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains will keep you mesmerized for hours. You’ll want to keep your camera handy as incredible shots are waiting around every corner.

Quito Ecuador Map

Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua located north of Quito’s city center is a massive 14,000 acre park with scenic drives, forest walking trails and outdoor activity areas. With 17 times more space than New York City’s Central Park, it’s a popular place to visit for Quito’s residents and tourists.

Some of the most popular neighborhoods for expats are La Floresta, La Carolina and La Paz. These neighborhoods are very walkable with modern housing and plenty of shopping.

If you prefer a quieter, more suburban feel, the areas of Cumbayá and Tumbaco to the east of Quito may be more your speed. They’re also popular with expats and closer to the airport, but you might need a car if you choose to live there.

Cumbaya Ecuador Map

The Quito airport is modern and fully international with direct flights to the United States and Europe, as well as many other destinations around the world. It’s also a short 45 minute domestic flight to both Cuenca and Guayaquil.

Quito sits at 9,350 feet (2.850 meters) above sea level, which is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) higher than Cuenca. The thin air is likely the first thing you’ll notice when exiting the plane.

The weather in Quito is very similar to Cuenca, although a bit cooler due to the higher altitude.

If you prefer a modern city with direct flights to other countries, Quito Ecuador may be the perfect expat destination for you.

Fast Facts About Quito Ecuador

Founded: December 6, 1534

Population: 1.6 million (as of 2010)

Altitude: 9,350 ft (2.850 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (45 minute drive from downtown)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Loja Ecuador

Loja Ecuador Map

Loja is another colonial mountain town located in south-central Ecuador. It has a regional airport with inconsistent flights to/from Guayaquil and Quito, but most people drive to Loja from Cuenca. It’s a beautiful scenic 3.5 hour drive through several of Ecuador’s microclimates.

Much like Seattle, Loja is often rainy, cloudy and cool, and is known for its delicious coffee and vibrant music scene. Loja is a popular expat destination because of its close proximity to Vilcabamba and Ecuador’s southern Amazon Rainforest.

Parque Nacional Podocarpus is a short 25 minute drive from Loja to the northern entrance and boasts some amazing hikes putting Ecuador’s vast biodiversity on display.

Once each year, the Guayacanes Forest near Loja blooms with a bright yellow explosion of color. Tourists from around the world arrive in Loja for the short blooming period in December and January.

While Quito and Cuenca both have a lot of English-speaking Ecuadorians, Loja and most of the other cities on this list do not. If you’re still learning Spanish, Loja will be full immersion.

If you prefer living in a smaller city that’s more isolated but still offers modern shopping and medical services, Loja might be the best Ecuadorian city for you.

Fast Facts About Loja Ecuador

Founded: December 8, 1548

Population: 180,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 6,758 ft (2.060 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (6.5 hour drive; 40 minute flight)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil

Vilcabamba Ecuador

Retire In Ecuador - Vilcabamba

Vilcabamba is considered a fountain of youth by many because it was briefly considered a Blue Zone where people live longer than normal. While it is true that you’ll see many incredibly OLD people walking around Vilca (as the locals call it), that’s a common occurrence in other cities, as well. The older generation seems to live a really long, healthy life in Ecuador! Perhaps for the same reasons as the official Blue Zones.

Vilcabamba Ecuador Map

Located about 45 minutes south of Loja and 4 hours south of Cuenca, Vilcabamba is nestled in a valley surrounded by scenic mountain peaks. There are numerous well-maintained river walk trails, as well as some high mountain hiking trails. If you have a few hours and enough courage, the hike up to Mandango will give you a panoramic view of the Vilcabamba valley.

Vilcabamba Mandango

You won’t find any big stores or large mercados in Vilca. It’s more like Leadville, Colorado in terms of amenities, but at roughly a mile high (5,233 ft / 1.595 m), you won’t struggle as much for air.

There are several small food shops and veggie stands in town, but the main mercado pops up on Sunday’s where people from rural areas sell their wares. You’ll also find a lot of restaurants, with many geared toward the sizable expat community living in Vilcabamba.

Unlike Cuenca, the weather in Vilca is warmer and drier, making it a better choice if you prefer a more tropical mountain feel. However, you might feel a bit isolated being so far from an international airport.

Fast Facts About Vilcabamba Ecuador

Population: 4,778 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 5,233 ft (1.595 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (7 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil (7 hour drive)

Ibarra Ecuador

Ibarra Ecuador

Located roughly 2 hours north of Quito are three very popular expat cities: Ibarra, Otavalo and Cotacachi. Ibarra is the largest of the three cities with 140,000 people, making it less than half the size of Cuenca.

Ibarra Ecuador Map

The Imbabura Volcano is clearly visible from all three cities. While it hasn’t erupted in over 14,000 years, Imbabura is not considered extinct so if you have a fear of living near a dormant, but potentially active volcano, you might prefer one of the other mountain cities. However, thanks to past eruptions, the land around the volcano is very fertile making it great for growing crops like corn, sugarcane and beans.

Ibarra is very springlike with average high temperatures around 70°F (21°C) and average lows around 50°F (10°C).

With lots of hiking, boating options, a mountain train, museums, and shopping, Ibarra has lots of activities to keep you busy. Plus, it’s just a short 30 minute drive to Otavalo.

Fast Facts About Ibarra Ecuador

Founded: September 28, 1606

Population: 139,721 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 7,300 ft (2.225 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (2 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Otavalo Ecuador

Otavalo Ecuador Market

Otavalo Ecuador is best known for its indigenous textiles market. While some things are available during the week, the largest market day is Saturday. You’ll find all sorts of irresistible things to buy, from blankets and tablecloths to clothes and wood carvings.

Of these three northern cities that are popular with expats, Otavalo is the closest to Quito. The scenic drive up Highway 35 takes about 1 hour 20 minutes from Ecuador’s capital.

Otavalo Ecuador Map

Otavalo is surrounded by high volcanic peaks, including Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda. All these volcanoes are currently listed as dormant or inactive, but not extinct. They haven’t erupted in thousands of years and show no signs of becoming active any time soon. These volcanoes, as well as the cloud forests, waterfalls and lakes around them, make for great hiking and camping.

Fast Facts About Otavalo Ecuador

Population: 39,354 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 8,307 ft (2.532 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (1.5 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Cotacachi Ecuador

Cotacachi Ecuador Cuicocha

Cotacachi sits at the base of the Cotacachi Volcano with its famous crater lake: Laguna de Cuicocha. The distinctive island in the middle of the lake is called Isla Teodoro Wolf named after the German naturalist and geologist who conducted a geological survey of mainland Ecuador, and wrote a book about the Galapagos Islands.

Cotacachi is located a short drive off the main highway between Otavalo and Ibarra. With fewer than 10,000 people, it’s the smallest of the 3 popular northern expat cities so you’ll get more of a small town vibe.

Cotacachi Ecuador Map

Just like Ibarra and Otavalo, Cotacachi is close to forests, lakes and waterfalls making it the perfect spot for nature lovers and one of the best cities to live in Ecuador for expats.

Fast Facts About Cotacachi Ecuador

Founded: 1544

Population: 8,848 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 7,933 ft (2.418 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (1 hour 45 minute drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Best Coastal Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

While some expats prefer living near the clouds, others prefer living near the sand. The entire western side of Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean and is home to several popular expat beach cities and towns.

Guayaquil Ecuador

Guayaquil Ecuador

While Guayaquil isn’t located on the coast of Ecuador, it is located in Ecuador’s Pacific coastal region at the base of the Guayas River delta that empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Guayaquil Ecuador Map

As Ecuador’s largest city with more than 2 million people, Guayaquil has all the amenities of a big city, including an international airport with direct flights to the US and Europe, as well as most other countries in South America.

It also has a rich culture with lots of interesting activities and places to see. The malecón along the Guayas River has a variety of restaurants and shops. There are several modern shopping malls in Guayaquil, including Mall del Sol and San Marino Mall. And you may enjoy visiting the Iguana Park, which is home to dozens of the prehistoric reptiles.

Iguana

Guayaquil also boasts some of South America’s top hospitals with every type of medical service you would find in the US, but at a fraction of the cost. The hospitals equipped to deal with COVID-19 were overwhelmed in Guayaquil during the pandemic due to the high volume of patients. However, during normal times when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic, you’ll be very happy with the available medical services in Guayaquil.

While the mountain cities in Ecuador are known as the land of eternal spring, it’s always summer in Guayaquil. High temperatures range from 80 to 92°F (29 to 33°C) year round with ample humidity. You’ll probably want an air conditioner in your car and your home.

Thousands of expats call Guayaquil home and there are several gated communities with modern, western-style housing, but it’s also the most dangerous city in Ecuador with one of the highest crime rates in all of South America. If safety is a major concern, you may prefer one of the safer Ecuadorian coastal cities.

However, if you prefer a major metropolitan city with all it has to offer while never having a cold day, Guayaquil might be your perfect expat home.

Fast Facts About Guayaquil Ecuador

Founded: July 25, 1535

Population: 2.291 million (as of 2010)

Altitude: 13 ft (4 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (located near downtown)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil (located near the soccer stadium)

Playas Ecuador

Playas Ecuador

Playas Ecuador is a very popular expat city in Ecuador because of its close proximity to Guayaquil. It takes about an hour and a half to drive the nicely maintained highway from Playas to the international airport in Guayaquil and even less time to get to one of Guayaquil’s modern hospitals.

Playas Ecuador Map

Playas means “beaches” in Spanish, which is an appropriate name because the city is located near several beautiful beaches. However, it is officially named General Villamil Playas after the independence war hero.

Over the past few years, Playas has invested in several much needed updates, including a new malecón (boardwalk area) and the El Paseo Mall. In addition to a traditional Ecuadorian mercado, you’ll also find a modern Tía and an Akí grocery store.

If you’ve always wanted to live in a beach town that’s close to a major city and an international airport but has more of a small city feel, Playas may be the best expat city in Ecuador for you.

Fast Facts About Playas Ecuador

Population: 24,000 (as of 2001)

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (1.5 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil (1.5 hour drive)

Salinas Ecuador

Salinas Ecuador

Salinas Ecuador has the feel of a little Miami, but at a fraction of the cost. This Ecuadorian coastal beach town is very popular with wealthy Ecuadorians, many of whom own beachfront vacation condos that they visit on weekends and holidays.

The Salinas malecón and beach are where most of the action occurs. You’ll find lots of restaurants, bars, discos, and tourist activities there. If you prefer a more laid back atmosphere, you’ll want to visit La Playa de Chipipe (Chipipe Beach), which is a 5 minute walk south of the main beach just past the Salinas Yacht Club.

While there is a small mercado and a Supermaxi in Salinas, most of the shopping is done in La Libertad, which borders Salinas to the north and hosts a variety of malls, grocery stores and a large traditional Ecuadorian mercado. It’ll cost you about $2.50 to take a taxi from Salinas to El Paseo Mall in La Libertad.

Salinas Ecuador Map

You won’t find the same level of medical services in La Libertad as you will in Guayaquil. There is a small hospital and a variety of healthcare professionals, but you’ll likely go to Guayaquil, which is a little over 2 hours by car, for serious medical conditions and specialists.

On your drive to Salinas from Guayaquil, if you take the turnoff at Ancón and enter Salinas from the south via Avenida Punta Carnero, you might be surprised at how much it looks and feels like a desert. The blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on your left provide a stark contrast to the sandy, barren land on the right. Salinas lies in one of Ecuador’s many microclimates, which sees very little rain and is therefore less humid than the tropical microclimates an hour to the north.

During the off season from May through November, Salinas is reminiscent of a ghost town since most of the high rise condos are Ecuadorian vacation homes. The beaches are nearly empty and many of the restaurants are closed except during holiday weekends when everything springs to life.

Because of the lack of activity most of the year, the expat community is very transient in Salinas. Many expats stay for a year or two before moving to someplace with a better culture, restaurant and entertainment scene.

Fast Facts About Salinas Ecuador

Population: 50,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (2.5 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil (2.5 hour drive)

Montañita and Olón Ecuador

Montañita Ecuador

The 9 mile (14 kilometer) stretch of Ecuador’s Pacific Coast between Manglaralto and La Entrada, including the main beach towns of Montañita and Olón, are very popular with North American and European expats. You’ll find lots of expats from all age groups, and many have lived in this area for more than 5 years.

Olon Ecuador Map

Montañita is known as Ecuador’s party town. You’ll find lots of nightclubs, both on and off the beach. There is a large variety of restaurants, from Thai to vegetarian, and plenty of pizza shops. If you’re in need of clothes, shoes or accessories, you’ll have your choice of many small stores and street vendors.

Olón is quieter and more family friendly than Montañita. It’s a 5 minute, $1.50 cab ride north along Olón’s MASSIVE beach that stretches 5 miles (8 kilometers) north to La Entrada. When the tide is out, you can walk the entire beach in roughly 3 hours and then catch a cab or bus back to Olón in time for dinner at one of its many high quality, delicious and affordable restaurants.

Olon Ecuador

Both Montañita and Olón offer the best surfing in all of Ecuador, which is what makes them popular with younger expats from around the world. A walk on either beach and you’re likely to hear Spanish, English, German, Dutch, Polish, French and a multitude of other languages, with English being the common denominator. The prevalence of English speakers in this area may be one reason so many American and Canadian expats have lived here for so long.

The other towns (or comunas) such as Manglaralto, Curía, San José, Las Nuñez and La Entrada are very small with virtually no services aside from a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant and a small tienda (convenience store) or two. However, there are lots of affordable beachfront homes along this entire stretch of coast so if you’ve always wanted to wake up to the sound of the ocean but couldn’t afford it anywhere else, this might be the best place to make your dreams come true.

Manglaralto to La Entrada Map

Unlike Salinas, the tropical microclimate in this area is more lush and green. Walking down the street, you’ll spot Papaya, Guanabana (Soursop), Lime, Naranja, and a host of other tropical fruit trees and tropical birds sitting in them. The summer high season is from December to May when the weather is warm and sunny, but the remainder of the year it’s cooler and mostly cloudy.

The ocean temperatures peak around March 4th at 75 to 84°F (24 to 29°C) and bottom out around September 4th in the range of 66 to 75°F (19 to 24°C). Combined with the cloudy, cool winters, you might need a wetsuit to swim or surf from June through November.

The major downside of living in this rural area is the lack of medical care. Manglaralto is home to the area’s only urgent care clinic, which can handle broken bones, stitches and a variety of ocean injuries, but if you need a specialist or serious medical care, you’ll need to drive to La Libertad (1 hour), Manta (2.5 hours) or Guayaquil (3 hours). If you have serious or chronic health conditions, you may want to consider a more developed Ecuador beach town.

Fast Facts About Montañita and Olón Ecuador

Montañita Population: 4,500

Olón Population: 2,500

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (3 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil

Manta Ecuador

Manta Ecuador

With nearly a quarter million inhabitants, Manta is one of Ecuador’s largest cities. The 2016 earthquake did extensive damage in the area so several new structures have been built, including the IESS hospital, which opened in 2018, and Mall del Pacífico, a modern shopping mall.

Manta is an industrial city and home to Ecuador’s largest shipping port, making it a popular stop for cruise ships. The city also has an airport, but most flights go to Quito or Guayaquil. However, the cheapest way to get to Manta is to take the bus, which is roughly seven hours from Quito and five hours from Guayaquil.

Manta Ecuador Map

Most tourists visit Manta for the water sports, including surfing and boating adventures. However, there are also things to do on shore, such as the International Film Festival in January and the International Theater Festival in September.

There are lots of expat-oriented, western-style housing options to rent or own in high rise condos near the ocean, as well as several gated communities located further inland.

The Montecristi Golf Club & Villas is a new golf course development located about 25 minutes from the beach. It’s open to the public, and with 300 days of sun per year with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s F (20 to 30 C), you’ll be able to hit the links whenever you want.

If the big city isn’t your thing, you might prefer one of the small towns located roughly an hour drive from Manta, such as San Clemente to the north or Puerto Cayo to the south. You’ll have the benefit of the small town vibe with easy access to big city amenities.

If you live in Manta, you won’t need a car as there are plenty of buses (30 cents/ride) and taxis ($2 to $3). However, if you prefer to live in one of the nearby beach communities, you may not need a car but it would make your life a lot easier.

Manta is one of the best cities to live in Ecuador for expats because it has all the services of a big city while also offering a beautiful beach and lots of warm, sunny days.

Fast Facts About Manta Ecuador

Founded: 1534

Population: 221,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (30 minute flight; 5 hour drive) or Quito (40 minute flight; 7 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil or US Embassy in Quito

Best Amazon Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

The Amazon cities are growing in popularity, but you won’t find nearly as many expats living there as you’ll find in the mountain and coastal regions. Most of the cities in the Amazon are smaller and not nearly as developed as the other best cities to live in Ecuador for expats. Many expats who live in the Amazon region actually live outside the cities on rural farms or forest land rather than in cities.

Tena Ecuador

Tena Ecuador Map

Tena is located about 3.5 hours from Quito by car. The airport that resides near Tena is no longer used for passenger travel due to low volume, so the only way to get there is by driving over Papallacta Pass, which sits at 13,000 ft (4.000 m) and, on clear days, provides amazing views of the valley below.

If you like hiking in the jungle, up a volcano or down a cave, Tena is the place to be. It’s famous for the Amazon rainforest surrounding it, as well as the tributaries that eventually feed the Amazon River. Kayaking and river rafting are popular tourist attractions and the whole area is a bird watchers haven.

Tena is also home to a new IESS hospital as of late 2018 so you’ll have better access to medical services than most of the other smaller Ecuadorian cities. However, you’ll likely still need to visit Quito for more serious conditions requiring specialists.

Average temperatures in Tena range from 71°F to 88°F (21°C to 31°C) and it rains year round, but the official rainy season is April through June.

Fast Facts About Tena Ecuador

Founded: 1560

Population: 60,880 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 1,378 ft (420 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (3 hour 20 minute drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Puyo Ecuador

Puyo Ecuador Map

Puyo is located just 1.5 hours south of Tena by car, but sits at 3,116 ft (950 m) making it more than double the altitude compared to Tena. That means it’s a little cooler on average, but similar in most other aspects.

Forest hiking, waterfalls and bird watching abound in Puyo, but it has been slow to jump on the tourist bandwagon so you won’t find it nearly as well developed as Tena.

There is a small airport near the city, but it’s used to shuttle tourists and locals into remote jungle villages. Ambato is the nearest major city located a little over 2 hours drive west of Puyo on winding mountain roads.

Fast Facts About Puyo Ecuador

Founded: 1899

Population: 36,659 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 3,116 ft (950 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (4 hour 30 minute drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Coca Ecuador

Coca Ecuador Map

Coca is the launchpad for many Amazonian travel adventures and is commonly known as the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. At more than 5 hours drive time from Quito, most people fly into the Coca airport before venturing off into the jungle.

Due to its lower altitude and location deeper into the Amazon jungle, it’s typically a bit warmer than Tena and Puyo with average high temperatures over 90°F (32°C).

Over the past several years, Coca has invested in a river walk and other tourist attractions, as well as an IESS hospital similar to the one in Tena. You’ll be able to get most of your basic medical needs covered there, but you’ll probably want to head to Quito for more serious conditions.

Fast Facts About Coca Ecuador

Founded: 1899

Population: 72,795 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 1,000 ft (300 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (5 hour drive; 40 minute flight)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

The Best City to Live in Ecuador for YOU

With so many amazing cities to choose from, you might have a hard time deciding which one is best for you. While you’re still in Ecuador on a temporary resident visa, you may want to stay closer to a major city like Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil with easy access to visa agents and international airports.

Once you get your feet wet and feel comfortable with the culture and the language, you may decide to venture outward to a more rural or remote destination like Olón, Vilcabamba or Coca. Where you call home really depends on your weather and altitude preferences, as well as the activities you like to do in your spare time.

Each city has a variety of pros and cons, but you won’t know what resonates with you until you live there. If you travel light, you can easily move between cities until you discover the best city in Ecuador for you.


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!

Should You Retire in Ecuador?

Retirement accounts have taken a hit yet again as we enter the NEXT Great Recession (or worse). You may have never thought about living abroad before, especially this late in life. However, it may now be a serious consideration and you might be wondering if you should retire in Ecuador.

This is Part 3 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Benefits of Retiring in Ecuador

For the past 10 years, Ecuador has been near the top of the list of best places to retire abroad, and for good reason. Ecuador has a lot of benefits for retired expats:

Low Cost of Living

Retire in Ecuador - Low Cost of Living

If your retirement accounts have taken a hit like ours have, finding a place to retire that has a low cost of living is likely at the top of your list.

Ecuador converted its currency to the US Dollar back in 2000, which helped bring unprecedented economic stability to this small South American country. For the past several years, Ecuador’s inflation rate has been among the lowest in the world, hovering around zero percent.

Change may be a hassle in the States, but here in Ecuador, you’ll be able to put those pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and even half dollars to good use!

The cost of electronics is generally higher, so it’s best to bring those things with you. But housing, food and transportation are generally 1/3 the cost compared to the United States.

Bottom line is your American earned retirement dollars will go a lot further in Ecuador than in the United States.

Low Healthcare and Medication Cost

Retire In Ecuador - Low Cost of Medication

One of the things that continues to shock us is the high quality, yet highly affordable healthcare and medication. If you’re from Canada or Europe you might not feel the same way since you have Universal Healthcare, but as an American, we’re in heaven!

The cost of healthcare and medication in Ecuador is about 1/5th to 1/10th the cost compared to the United States.

My neurosurgeon back in Denver charged nearly $300 for an office visit and since we had a $12,000 deductible, that came completely out of our own pocket. Plus, we typically saw the Physician’s Assistant, not the neurosurgeon.

In Cuenca, my neurosurgeon charges $35 for an office visit and my appointment is with him, not his PA. He takes his time with me, too. My appointments generally last 30 to 45 minutes.

Our general practitioner also charges $35 for an office visit. My physical therapist charges $20 for an hour compared to $100 back in Denver. I paid $350 for a 3D printed dental crown (my mom just paid $1,400 for a traditional crown back in Kansas City).

We don’t take any medications so we don’t have a lot of experience buying them. However, we’ve been told they run about 1/10th the cost compared to the States.

If a large amount of your budget is spent on healthcare, retiring in Ecuador could save you a fortune!

Easy to See Your Doctors & Dentists

Retire In Ecuador - Easy to See Doctors

Another shocking difference between Ecuador and the US and Canadian healthcare systems is how easy it is to see a doctor or a dentist. We don’t need to wait weeks or months for an appointment; we can often see them the same day or the next day.

The first time I went to see our general practitioner, I asked him for a referral to an English-speaking neurosurgeon for my ongoing spinal issues. He picked up his mobile phone and called the neurosurgeon while I was sitting there. He asked if I would like to go see him the same day. It was 4PM! I said tomorrow would be just fine.

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.

If you’re tired of waiting months to see your doctor or dentist back home, retiring in Ecuador may be just what the doctor ordered. Sorry. I had to go there.

IESS Covers Pre-existing Conditions

Retire In Ecuador - Pre-existing Conditions

Once you have your temporary resident visa and your cedula (a government issued ID card similar to a driver’s license), you can go on Ecuador’s public health insurance plan. It’s called IESS (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social). It’s their version of social security and universal healthcare rolled into one.

While private health insurance is available and affordable in Ecuador (we have Confiamed for $156/month for both of us), it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions until you’ve been paying into the plan for 2 years. After that, they offer pretty low coverage amounts. Our plan only pays up to $7,500 per incident, which isn’t much if I need another surgery on my back. They also don’t cover medication expenses related to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. if you had the condition prior to signing up for the plan.

With IESS, all your pre-existing conditions are covered on the first day. The monthly premium is around $75/person and you have no out-of-pocket after that. No copays, no medication costs, no nada. Everything is covered.

You do have to go to IESS hospitals and doctors, so that limits your options a bit, and we’ve heard mixed reviews about the experiences other expats have had, but if you can’t afford healthcare back in the US or your pre-existing condition isn’t covered, retiring in Ecuador or another country with Universal Healthcare may be your best option.

Affordable Transportation

Retire in Ecuador - Cuenca Tranvia

We don’t own a car and have no plans to own one. That saves us a LOT of money! But that also means we need other forms of affordable and reliable transportation.

Car ownership in Ecuador for anyone but the wealthy is a relatively new thing. Most average people didn’t own a car just a decade ago. Now it’s common to see older people learning how to drive, and driving schools are everywhere.

Because most people still don’t drive themselves, Ecuador has been built around public transportation. Buses and taxis are very affordable and easy to find. Quito has a new world class tram system and Cuenca’s Tranvia will hopefully be operational soon.

The major cities also have mobile apps like Cuenca’s AzuTaxi that allow you to call taxis to your front door. Quito and Guayaquil also have Uber.

Variety of Low Cost Service Providers

Retire In Ecuador - Service Providers

Because of my back, my days of cleaning bathrooms and doing lawn work are over. Luckily, Ecuador is a service culture with a variety of different low cost service providers.

We had a housekeeper in Cuenca (pictured above) and we also have one in Olón. They charge $5/hour and clean for about 4 hours. That’s $20/visit and we have them come every two weeks so it costs us $40/month to have our house cleaned by a professional.

Lawn guys typically charged us between $10 and $20 depending on how much work needs to be done. They usually came once per month in Cuenca and once every 2 weeks here in Olón (but that’s included in our rent here).

We had plumbers come several times in Cuenca. We paid between $10 and $20, including parts.

Massage therapists charge between $20 and $30 for an hour. Mani/pedis and haircuts cost between $5 and $10. And some service providers will even come to your house.

Whether you have health restrictions or you just don’t like do things yourself, Ecuador is a great place to retire because you can hire someone cheaply to do almost anything.

Lots of Things to Do

Retire In Ecuador - Hot Springs

If you enjoy traveling and sightseeing, Ecuador could keep you busy for years between the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes Mountain Range, the Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Islands. There are simply too many things to see in Ecuador to list them all here.

However, if you’re more of a homebody and prefer to stay close to your new expat city, Cuenca has a huge variety of activities, from cultural events to card games to hiking in the Cajas National Park to soaking in the hot springs. If you’re board in Cuenca, it’s because you’re not leaving the house.

We haven’t lived in Quito, but we know it’s similar to Cuenca where we lived for 2 1/2 years, and Cuenca is like a cruise ship on dry land: There are lots of things to do and the food is great!

Strong Expat Community

Cuenca Ecuador Expats

There are thousands of expats living in Ecuador from all walks of life. We’ve met retired postal workers, bus drivers, bankers, college professors, software project managers, marketing executives, electricians…you name the profession and we’ve probably met someone who retired from it.

We’ve also met people from one end of the political spectrum to the other. We made the conscious decision to leave politics back in the US, but some people continue to attend regular meetings for their respective political affiliations here in Ecuador.

Expats have created Facebook groups for playing games, bird watching, river walks, mountain hikes, South American travel, watching American sports, learning Spanish, and more.

If you’re worried that retiring in Ecuador will leave you bored and lonely, that’s not a concern unless you’re really shy and choose to stay home. Most expats make a lot of new friends when they retire in Ecuador.

Challenges of Retirement in Ecuador

Ecuador is a great retirement destination for most people, but there are a few things that make it challenging for retirees to live here, especially if you have mobility issues or altitude sickness.

Here are several challenges that might make retiring in Ecuador more difficult for you:

Uneven Sidewalks

Retire In Ecuador - Uneven Sidewalks

The sidewalks throughout Ecuador are not great. They’re uneven, full of holes and often disappear in the middle of a block. Amelia and I have both tripped on rebar and metal posts that have been cut off leaving an inch or two sticking out of the sidewalk. We’ve also seen unattended open manholes. You really have to watch where you step in Ecuador!

Not Handicap Accessible

Retire In Ecuador - Handicap Accessibility

Cuenca is making an attempt to improve its handicap accessibility, but there is no ADA compliance in Ecuador. We’ve noticed this in most places we’ve visited, including Latin American countries, Europe and India. We’re very lucky in the US to have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with functional ramps and elevators.

In Ecuador, very few sidewalks have ramps and some curbs are so high we have difficulty stepping up on them. Many of the walk lights at intersections barely last long enough for us to make it halfway across the street before the light changes, and drivers pay very little attention to them. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way in Ecuador.

Some buildings do have wheelchair ramps, but most have been added recently and are so steep they’re dangerous. Once you get inside, many buildings don’t have elevators.

Despite all this, we have seen several people in Cuenca driving motorized wheelchairs around the city, but without sidewalk ramps, they’re usually on the street.

If you have a physical disability that makes it difficult for you to walk, retiring in Ecuador will be a bit more challenging for you.

High Altitude in Popular Expat Mountain Cities

Retire In Ecuador - High Altitude

Most of the popular expat cities for people who retire in Ecuador are very high altitude, which can cause health problems for some people. Amelia has no issues with altitude, but I do.

The high altitude is the main reason we left Cuenca. I simply couldn’t handle the thin air and it was getting worse, not better. Almost daily, I felt light-headed, dizzy, short of breath, and full-body tingles. I frequently had headaches and difficulty sleeping. On rare occasions, I felt nauseated. That’s not a fun way to live.

Here are the altitudes for the popular mountain cities where expats like to retire in Ecuador:

  • Quito: 9,000 feet (2.700 meters)
  • Cuenca: 8,400 feet (2.500 meters)
  • Cotacachi: 7,900 feet (2.400 meters)
  • Ibarra: 7,300 feet (2.200  meters)
  • Girón: 7,100 feet (2.200 meters)
  • Loja: 6,900 feet (2.100 meters)
  • Vilcabamba: 5,200 feet (1.600 meters)

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if you’ll have issues with altitude until you’re at altitude, and then it’s hard to escape. You either need to get on an airplane and fly to a lower altitude, or spend several hours driving to a lower altitude.

You can also try Mate de Coca tea, which is made from the same plant used for cocaine. It has a powerful caffeine like effect and will amp you up for hours, but it helped me. There is a prescription drug called Diamox that may also help, but it has a long list of side effects.

Poor Medical Care in Popular Expat Beach Towns

Olon Ecuador Sign Beach

If you have altitude issues, there are lots of cities and towns on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast that are popular with expat retirees. And since they’re at sea level, you certainly won’t have altitude issues.

However, living in an Ecuador beach town is a lot different than living in a cultural mecca like Cuenca or Quito. There aren’t nearly as many things to do so you might get bored unless you really love the beach.

The biggest drawback for most people who want to retire in one of Ecuador’s beach towns is the lack of quality medical care. Guayaquil has some of the best hospitals in South America and Manta has a new IESS hospital that has great reviews and looks amazing, but there are no high quality hospitals between Guayaquil and Manta, or north of Manta.

The stretch of beach between Manglaralto and La Entrada including Montañita and Olón is very popular with retired expats in the younger age bracket (under 70), but many move to Cuenca or another more developed city as they age.

Manglaralto has an urgent care clinic that mostly deals with ocean injuries, stitches and broken bones, but not serious medical conditions. If you need a real hospital or specialized doctors, it takes 3 hours to drive to Guayaquil and 2 1/2 hours to drive to Manta.

If you have a lot of health issues and take a lot of medications, it’s best to retire in Cuenca or Quito. If you can’t handle the altitude, Guayaquil and Manta (including Manabí, Canoa and San Clemente) are your best choices.

Limited Direct Flights to the United States

Cuenca Airport Mariscal Lamar International Airport

Cuenca, Loja, Salinas and Manta claim to have international airports, but they only fly to Quito and/or Guayaquil. That means you’ll need to take a domestic flight or drive several hours to catch your international flight back to the United States, Canada or Europe.

If you have aging parents or young grandchildren and you plan to return home from your retirement haven in Ecuador, it makes for a long travel day unless you live in Quito or Guayaquil.

We rarely travel back home so this isn’t an issue for us, but it’s a major challenge for many expats who retire in Ecuador.

Most People Don’t Speak English

Retire In Ecuador - English

Learning a foreign language is very difficult later in life, but you’ll need to master at least the basics of Spanish if you want to retire in Ecuador because most people don’t speak English.

We aren’t fluent yet, although we are studying and hope to be fluent someday, but we’re very good with taxi, mercado and restaurant Spanish. If you focus your learning efforts on those areas, you’ll be better prepared for your life abroad in any Spanish-speaking Latin American country.

What’s Next…

While there are several challenges to retiring in Ecuador, those challenges apply to nearly all low cost of living countries around the world and especially in Latin America. However, we feel the benefits far outweigh the challenges, making Ecuador the perfect place to retire.

In Part 4 our this series, we’re going to discuss the “Best Cities to Live in Ecuador.”


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!

15 Reasons NOT to Live Abroad in Ecuador (or Anyplace Else)

Living abroad is an experience of a lifetime for many, but only if you leave home with the right mindset and realistic expectations. Some expats are simply unable to adapt for one or more of these reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador (or anyplace else).

This is Part 2 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

Common Reasons Expats Wish They Had Stayed Home

If you’re seriously thinking about moving to another country, here are some reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador or any other expat destination.

Reason #1: You Don’t Qualify for a Resident Visa

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Visa Problems

The first thing you need to do is make sure you qualify for a resident visa in Ecuador or your chosen expat destination. Ecuador has several different visa types and one is sure to fit your situation, but it’s better to make sure before you leave home. Plus, it’s easier to get all the necessary paperwork while you’re still driving distance to government and university offices. Without a visa, you won’t be living abroad very long!

Reason #2: You Can’t Afford the Initial Costs

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - No Money

Living abroad may be a lot less expensive, but moving abroad isn’t cheap. When you add up the cost of visa agents, visa application fees, moving expenses, plane tickets, private drivers, first and last month’s rent, health insurance, etc., it can easily cost $10,000 USD or more to move to a foreign country. If the investment visa is the only type of visa you’re qualified to get, you’ll need $40,000 USD to invest in a CD (certificate of deposit) or real estate. If you don’t have sufficient cash on hand or access to other sources of funds, you may need to spend some time saving money before you move abroad.

Reason #3: You Don’t Want to Start Your Life Over

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Starting Over

If you have an active social and family life back home, you may find it difficult to start over in a new country. You won’t know very many people (or anyone) before you arrive so you won’t have the same social support network you had in your home country. You’ll also need to find new doctors, massage therapists, transportation, banks, gyms, restaurants, social activities, etc. Starting over was exciting for us, but a lot of people don’t enjoy the process making this a common reason not to live abroad.

Reason #4: You’re Afraid of the Unknown

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Fear of the Unknown

Change is scary. For some expats, it’s terrifying. The laws are different when you live abroad, and some are confusing (and even ridiculous). The culture and customs are different. You’ll be exposed to strange new food. You’ll need to make new friends. Find new restaurants. Moving abroad is one of the biggest life changes you can make and reason enough to stay home for many would-be expats.

Reason #5: You Expect It to Be Just Like Home

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - No Place Like Home

Some people are so afraid of the unknown that they expect living abroad in Ecuador to be just like home. Let me assure you, it’s not. The culture is a lot different, especially when it comes to service delivery. Mañana literally translates to “tomorrow,” but it’s also a term used to mean sometime in the future, or maybe never. Medical facilities may not be what you’re used to. Not all doctors speak English. Administrative and bureaucratic processes are confusing, tedious and cumbersome. We love our expat life in Ecuador, but the culture shock even gets to us sometimes, making it a good reason for Americans, Canadians and Europeans NOT to live abroad in Ecuador or most other Latin American countries.

Reason #6: You Expect Everyone to Speak English

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Expect Everyone to Speak English

We think it’s strange that many Americans expect everyone in the United States to speak English, but then move abroad to another country and still expect everyone to speak English. While Ecuador, and especially Cuenca, has a large population of bilingual Spanish and English speakers, the vast majority of people in Latin America do not speak English. This makes it very difficult to communicate effectively and necessitates a certain level of mastery in charades.

Reason #7: You Don’t Want to Learn the Local Language

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Don't Want to Learn Spanish

Learning a foreign language is hard. Learning one later in life is downright painful! It’s easy to understand why so many expats don’t want to learn the local language when they move abroad, and many don’t. We know several expats who have lived in Ecuador for years and speak virtually no Spanish. They rely on charades, Google translate or someone else to translate for them. Not being able to communicate effectively is just too uncomfortable for some people, making this a good reason not to live abroad.

Reason #8: You’ll Always Be a Foreigner

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - You'll Always Be a Foreigner

If you look different than everyone else, and you don’t speak the local language natively, you will always be considered a foreigner. While we haven’t experienced discrimination here in Ecuador, we know people who have. And we occasionally get comments on our YouTube channel along the lines of “go home we don’t want you here.” Most people are very friendly and welcoming to expats in Ecuador, but even if you become fluent in Spanish, you’ll always be a foreigner.

Reason #9: You Get Homesick Easily

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Homesick

If you got homesick on your weeklong vacation to the Grand Canyon, moving thousands of miles away from your friends, family and comfortable routines back home might be overwhelming. When you move abroad, it takes time to adjust and make new friends. Some expats feel very homesick at first, but it eventually gets better. For others, it’s a big enough reason not to live abroad so they move back home.

Reason #10: You’ll Miss Your Friends & Family Too Much

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Miss Family and Friends

If you’re very close to your friends and/or family, moving to another country will be extra challenging for you. Most of our friends back in Denver were work-related, and our family was geographically dispersed in several different states so we were already used to only seeing them once or twice a year. But if you have a tight group of friends or live near your family and enjoy spending lots of time with them, your relationships with them will change. You might lose some friends. Your family may get angry with you. You will miss some birthdays, weddings and funerals. If you have children, they may be angry with you for tearing them away from their friends. If you have grandchildren, it may simply be too difficult to live so far away from them. This is one of the most common reasons expats move back home.

Reason #11: You Can’t Live Without the Conveniences

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Conveniences

Let’s admit it. Americans, Canadians and Europeans are pretty spoiled when it comes to modern conveniences like Amazon next-day delivery, one-stop-shops and drive-thru everything. Most Latin American countries like Ecuador are seriously lagging behind with these types of conveniences. Some expats enjoy the “Easter Egg Hunt” (as we call it) when we’re looking for something special. Others get very frustrated with the ongoing challenge of finding basic things and some simply can’t handle going cold turkey from Amazon shopping. If you’re addicted to all the conveniences of the western lifestyle, this may be your reason not to live abroad in Ecuador.

Reason #12: Your Partner Isn’t as Adventurous as You

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Spouse Is Afraid

Amelia was skeptical when I broached the subject of living abroad. She wasn’t sure about selling everything and leaving the life we knew. It took several months of discussions and information sharing for me to convince her it was the right decision for us. She’s very thankful I talked her into it now, but a lot of cautious spouses/significant others never adjust to living abroad. They don’t appreciate the adventure and miss their life back home too much. In fact, several of our married friends have moved back to the United States because one of the spouses couldn’t handle Ecuador anymore. Even if you do convince your spouse to live abroad, they may eventually want to move back for one of the reasons on this list.

Reason #13: You Need a High Paying Job & You Don’t Like Working Remotely

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Need a Job

If your plan to live abroad hinges on your ability to get a high paying local job, you need a new plan. The low cost of living in Ecuador, as well as other low cost countries, means the local wages are equally low or everyone would be rich. Unskilled jobs like restaurant servers and store clerks get paid between $5 and $10 per hour. Most English teaching jobs pay around $10/hour and most are part-time so you won’t earn a 40 hour/week wage. You’ll need to be fluent in Spanish for most jobs, especially skilled work like software development and IT. The best way to earn income abroad in a low cost country is to work online for your old company back home or as a consultant in your field of expertise so you continue earning wages from your high cost/high wage home country.

Reason #14: You Don’t Like the Local Weather

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Bad Weather

The weather in Ecuador takes a little getting used to. Cuenca ended up being too cold, cloudy and rainy for us so we moved to Olón, a small beach town on the coast of Ecuador. For some expats, beach life is too hot, humid and sandy. Most of the Latin American countries in Central and northern South America don’t have seasons, either. Most popular expat destinations in this region have rainy and dry seasons, or hot and cool seasons, but no snow or autumn leaves or spring thaw. The weather is the same most of the year, which is a big adjustment if you enjoy the changing of the 4 seasons.

Reason #15: You’re Running Away From Something

Reasons Not To Live Abroad - Running Away

To quote Confucius, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you’re unhappy with your life back home, living abroad won’t magically cure all your woes. In fact, it may bring on a whole lot more of them for the reasons listed above. We didn’t move abroad in an effort to fix a failing marriage or to finally be happy. We were happy in our marriage and happy with our life back in Denver. The main reason we moved was because we couldn’t afford our life back in Denver. If our income had kept pace with our expenses, we may have never left home or moved abroad. If you don’t first address your underlying reasons for being unhappy in life, that’s a great reason NOT to live abroad in Ecuador, or anywhere else.

What’s next…

We aren’t sharing these reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador to scare you away. Rather, we want you to be prepared for your radically different life abroad. If you move abroad with realistic expectations and a positive mindset, you’re much more likely to embrace the change and much less likely to move back home.

In our next post, we’re going to answer the question, “Should you retire in Ecuador?


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!

Should You Consider Living Abroad in Ecuador?

So, you’re considering living abroad in Ecuador? That’s a big decision!

You’ll be leaving your family, your friends and the life you’ve always known. And THAT can be terrifying! But it can also be exciting, adventurous and life changing!

According to a study conducted by Rice University in 2018, living abroad in one place for an extended period of time “increases self-concept clarity.”

Exposure to a new culture and a new way of doing things may lead you to question your long held beliefs and help you discover who you really are and what really matters to YOU apart from familial and societal pressures and traditions.

Living abroad can also significantly reduce your cost of living. To be honest, we didn’t move abroad because we wanted more self-clarity. We moved abroad because we couldn’t afford medical coverage or healthcare back in Denver, Colorado.

The self-clarity we’ve obtained after nearly 3 years of living abroad in Ecuador has just been an added benefit for us, and may be due to our lower financial stresses and clearer heads.

If you’re still on the fence about living abroad or you’re trying to decide between Ecuador and another popular expat destination, the criteria we used and the reasons that led us to choose Ecuador may help you make this tough decision.

This is Part 1 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you would like to read the other articles, you can view all of them on our Start Here page.

Criteria To Help You Decide Where to Live Abroad

We researched a lot of popular expat destinations before choosing Ecuador. On the list of potential new homes abroad was: Mexico, Puerto Rico (not technically abroad, but definitely away), Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.

With so many popular places to choose from, we needed some sort of selection criteria to narrow down the options. Here is the list of criteria we used:

  1. Low Cost of Living
  2. High Quality & Affordable Healthcare
  3. Low Crime Rate
  4. Stable Government
  5. Stable Economy
  6. Stable Weather
  7. Stable Food Supply & Quality Food
  8. Easy to Get to/from the United States
  9. Similar Time Zone as the United States
  10. Expat Friendly
  11. Drinkable Tap Water

Applying this criteria to each expat destination helped us determine that Ecuador was the best fit for us.

Why Live Abroad in Ecuador?

Why should you live abroad in Ecuador? Why Not Panama or Colombia or some other popular expat destination?

There are so many amazing options for your new life abroad that it can be hard to decide which one is best for you. Here is the list of reasons that helped us decide to live abroad in Ecuador instead of any other expat destination:

Ecuador Is On the US Dollar

This was a big surprise to us. We didn’t realize any country other than the United States was on the US dollar until we started researching popular expat destinations and learned that Ecuador switched to the US Dollar in 2000 to increase economic stability.

Being on the dollar also made our expat transition easier because we don’t have to do currency conversions in our head and our American-earned dollars go a lot further in Ecuador due to the low cost of living.

In addition, the value of the currency doesn’t fluctuate like it does in other expat destinations. For years, the Mexican peso held steady around 10 pesos to $1 USD. As of March 17, 2020, the exchange rate is 23 pesos to $1 USD. If you have a local bank account in your expat country, your purchasing power changes as the exchange rate changes. And you have to constantly change the math in your head when buying things.

However, dollar coins are much more common and you’ll rarely see a dollar bill in Ecuador. The ATM machines dispense $20 bills, but businesses often don’t have change to break them. When you visit from the States, bring plenty of $1’s, $5’s and $10’s so vendors don’t have to run around looking for change.

You may also want to bring a few $2 bills. They’re considered lucky in Ecuador and they’ll make taxi drivers and vendors smile.

In addition to Ecuador, these countries are also on the dollar: East Timor, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Zimbabwe.

Ecuador Has a Low Cost of Living

This was #1 on our list of criteria for living abroad so Ecuador’s low cost of living compared to the United States was very appealing to us.

Like so many Americans, we simply weren’t earning enough money to make ends meet as our cost of living outpaced our income.

World Cost of Living Numbeo

Numbeo.com is a descent source of unscientific data on cost of living around the world. Since the data is self-reported by expats-on-the-ground, it’s not always reliable, but we found it to be mostly accurate based on our own experiences.

There are lots of countries that are less expensive than the US and Europe, and many of them are in South America.

The cost of cars and electronics are quite a bit higher here so you’ll pay more for anything with a motor or a plug, and the selection is much lower.

However, the cost of food, housing and other life essentials are about 1/3rd compared to the United States, while healthcare and medication are about 1/10th.

The cost of things may be high, but the cost of living is low.

Ecuador Has Excellent & Affordable Healthcare

Ecuador has a reputation for affordable and high quality healthcare. Bloomberg rated Ecuador 20th in the world for most efficient healthcare system among advanced economies while the United States was ranked 46th.

Following my two spinal surgeries, my insurance company dropped me. When I applied for a new plan, I was told it would cost $1,200/month plus a $12,000 deductible and 40% out of pocket with no maximum out of pocket.

JP's Herniated Disc & Artificial Disk

JPs Lumbar Fusion

That was not only unaffordable for us following a year of rehab and virtually no income from me, it was also a recipe for financial ruin if I ever do need another surgery. I simply wasn’t willing to put Amelia or myself in the position of filing for bankruptcy so late in life.

The thought of starting over financially in our 40’s or 50’s because of medical expenses was reason enough to leave the United States, but we also wanted to choose a country with high quality, as well as affordable, healthcare.

After living in Ecuador for nearly 3 years, we can confirm that not only is the cost far lower, but the quality of healthcare in Ecuador is actually higher than the United States. They have all the modern equipment you would expect to see in a doctor’s office or hospital. Some of it has actually been new to us!

My doctors and physical therapist all trained in the US or Europe, and they work together. They call each other to discuss my health and my progress in therapy to make sure I’m getting complete care.

When we need an appointment, we can usually see the doctor (not a physician’s assistant) the same day or the next day. We don’t need to wait weeks or months for an appointment.

Our dentist and eye doctor have state-of-the-art facilities, they’re more efficient and they provide better service than their counterparts back in Denver.

Dentist Office Cuenca Ecuador

If healthcare is important to you, Ecuador is a great place to live abroad.

Ecuador Has a (Mostly) Stable Government

The United States government may be divided and our elected officials may not get much done, but American’s aren’t under constant threat of the government being overthrown.

However, that’s a daily reality in a lot of countries around the world, especially in Latin America where governments seem to change hands (sometimes violently) every few years.

In October 2019, we experienced our first taste of political turmoil in a Latin American country. The people joined together to protest the IMF austerity measures put in place by President Moreno, and the people won (at least for now). We filmed the protests for our lifestyle channel and were impressed with how unified and peaceful everyone was.

Cuenca Ecuador Paro Protest

We wanted to live abroad in a country that has a history of government stability and a Republic that holds Democratic elections.

Ecuador Has a Stable Economy and Low Inflation

With an unstable government, you’ll often get an unstable economy. Venezuela used to be a popular expat destination because of its natural beauty, amazing beaches and low cost of living, but most expats fled Venezuela years ago due to its political and economic instability.

Venezuelan money now has such low purchasing power that it has more value as an art supply.

Venezuela Worthless Money Used for Art

We wanted to live abroad in a country with a history of low inflation and a stable economy.

For the past several years, Ecuador’s inflation rate has been one of the lowest in the world, ranging from a little below to a little above 0%. That means the cost of most things hasn’t increased much over the past several years.

2019 Country Inflation Rates

In 2018, a massive import tax was repealed, which lowered the cost of electronics and cars. However, we’ve seen a modest increase in rental costs for American-style housing geared toward expats and wealthy Ecuadorians as the demand for those properties outpaces the supply.

Ecuador Has a Low Crime Rate

Ecuador has a low crime rate compared to most Latin American countries and most major cities in the US, and crime has been on a steady decline since 2010.

The crime rate in the United States can’t really be considered “low” anymore, especially in bigger cities like Denver. We often felt unsafe walking home from dinner in Uptown.

However, we also didn’t want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. We wanted to choose a safe city in a safe country with a low crime rate.

World Cities Crime Numbeo

Heading back to Numbeo.com for their analysis of crime in major cities around the world, Cuenca, Ecuador (as of 2020) is one of the safest cities, ranking 245 out of 393 where 1 is the most dangerous (Caracas, Venezuela).

Denver ranks 209, which is less safe than Cuenca, Ecuador. Guayaquil, Ecuador ranks 46 and Quito, Ecuador ranks 82.

The United States is home to 10 of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world, including Baltimore, Memphis, Detroit, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Oakland, Cleveland, New Orleans and Houston. All of these cities are more dangerous than Tripoli, Libya and Guadalajara, Mexico!

Most crime in Ecuador is petty theft so you always need to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for pickpockets. The majority of violent crimes are domestic in nature.

Ecuador Has Affordable Transportation

The low cost of public transportation in Ecuador was very important to us because we didn’t plan to buy a car. Neither of us like driving and we really didn’t like the cost of car ownership (payment, tags, taxes, insurance, parking, fuel, maintenance).

In Cuenca, a bus ride costs 31 cents and the minimum taxi fare is $1.50. We usually spend around $2 for a 10 minute taxi ride.

In Guayaquil, the minimum taxi fare is $5.

We can take a taxi from Olón to Montañita for $1.50 and buses cost 50 cents per ride along this stretch of coast.

We usually take a buseta from Operazuaytur between Cuenca and Guayaquil. As of early 2020, a ticket costs $14 and the trip takes 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Operazuaytur Guayaquil Ecuador

We usually take the CLP Bus between Guayaquil and Montañita/Olón. A ticket costs $6 and the trip takes about 3 hours.

CLP Bus Guayaquil Ecuador

You can also hire a private driver to take you between Guayaquil and Cuenca ($100) and between Guayaquil and Salinas ($60) or Montañita ($80).

Ecuador is a Short Plane Ride from the United States

We return to the US two or three times per year for work and family visits so having easy access to airports with direct flights to Miami, Atlanta and Houston is very convenient.

Amelia still works for the same company back in Denver; she just works online now. However, she occasionally needs to go back to Denver for meetings.

We also have aging families with several members in poor health. If we need to head back for an emergency, we wanted to be a short plane ride away and not halfway around the world.

Cuenca Airport Mariscal Lamar International Airport

Cuenca’s airport claims to be international, but you’ll need fly out of Quito or Guayaquil to get back to the States. A typical direct flight takes roughly 4 hours, which is about the same time as it takes to fly from LA to Atlanta.

Ecuador Is In the Same Time Zone as the United States

Amelia attends weekly meetings online and must be available during Denver office hours. I have web design clients from Washington DC to Hawaii and also need to be available during office hours.

Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Thailand and Vietnam would require us to work at night and sleep during the day, which we didn’t want to do.

Ecuador doesn’t observe daylight savings time so the time doesn’t change twice per year like it does in the United States.

From November to February, Ecuador is in the US Eastern Time Zone and from March through October, it’s in the US Central Time Zone. That makes it easy for us to work during normal business hours back in Denver.

Here’s a handy time zone map from TimeAndDate.com:

Ecuador Time Zone

Ecuador Has Fast & Reliable Internet

As virtual workers, this is important to us, but not really an issue in most mainland countries around the world. The most unreliable internet access we’ve had was in India, followed closely by Denver.

In Cuenca, we had 50mb up and down for $56/month through Puntonet. Here on the coast of Ecuador in Olón at our condo near the beach, we have 75mb up and down for $55/month through Netlife. Both service providers provided the equipment and neither required a contract.

Ecuador Has Stable Weather

We were seriously considering Puerto Rico because a friend moved there from Denver, but as the oceans warm and hurricane intensity increases, we decided the weather was too unstable there.

Hurricane

Shortly after my friend moved to Puerto Rico, it was hit by Hurricane’s Irma and Marie, which left them without water and electricity for weeks. It has been several years and the island still hasn’t fully recovered.

We decided hurricanes were sufficient reason to rule out anyplace in the Caribbean, including Belize.

It has been cooler and rainier than normal in Ecuador since 2018, but the the weather is still more stable than other parts of the world.

In the mountains (Cuenca and Quito), the temps are in the 40’s and 50’s (5 to 15 C) at night and 60’s and 70’s (15 to 26 C) during the day.

Cuenca Ecuador from Turi

On the coast (Guayaquil, Salinas, Montañita and Manta), temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s (15 to 26 C) at night and the 70’s and 80’s (21 to 32 C) during the day with an occasional day in the low 90’s (32 to 35 C).

Olon Ecuador Sign Beach

There has been a lot more rain than normal over the past few years, which has caused some flooding in low-lying areas, but Ecuador seems to be pretty well-equipped to handle water flow.

While the weather in Ecuador has been changing over the past few years, we don’t have to worry about tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms or blizzards.

Ecuador Has Food Independence & Doesn’t Allow GMOs

Countries with a cold winter climate like the United States must ship a significant amount of their food from far away places and store it in refrigerated warehouses during the winter months. Most of the food for island countries must be brought via container ships, which can’t operate during hurricanes.

San Francisco Shipping Container Golden Gate Bridge

We wanted to live in a country that grew most of its own food year round and wasn’t dependent on foreign sources of food.

Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables we eat in Ecuador are grown by local farmers near to where we live. Beans and rice come from further away, but still inside Ecuador. That means we not only have food independence, but we also have a much smaller carbon footprint and lower overall environmental impact.

Ecuador imports things like vehicles, medicinal products, telecommunications equipment and electricity, but as much as 95% of the fruit grown in Ecuador is exported to countries in the northern hemisphere like the US and Russia. Most of the “food” imported into Ecuador is fed to livestock and not directly eaten by humans.

GMO crops, more accurately called genetically engineered (GE) crops, are banned in Ecuador. If a product is imported that contains GE ingredients, it must be clearly labeled. Since farmers are allowed to save their own seeds for use in future growing seasons, the price of food has remained low and small farms are still common.

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado

Typical Ecuadorian vegetables would not sell very well in the US because they’re often very dirty, contain bugs, or have a plethora of bug bites taken out of them. They also aren’t very pretty or uniform in size, shape or color. They may not win a beauty contest, but they taste great just like they did when we were kids back in the States.

Ecuador Is Very Expat Friendly

This criteria wasn’t nearly as important to us as the others, but it was a consideration. We didn’t want to blaze a trail to a new expat destination that lacked English speaking service providers (like doctors) and expat-oriented services (like visa agents).

Amelia Maite Francisco GringoVisas

You’ll need a tourist visa to visit Ecuador for up to 90 days, which is issued at the airport upon your arrival. If you want to move to Ecuador, you’ll need to apply for a temporary resident visa, but they have a variety of different types to choose from so one is sure to fit your situation.

Since the laws are always changing and the visa process relies heavily on personal relationships with government employees, we recommend working with a visa agent like GringoVisas.com. They aren’t cheap, but they take the mystery out of the process and make sure things get done.

HINT: It’s easier if you start the visa process before you leave home in case you need to go to government or university offices in person to get all the necessary paperwork (like we did).

NOTE: The word “gringo” may be considered rude in some parts of the world, but it’s a term of endearment here in Ecuador. They don’t have a word for expat and the closest Spanish word is “extrañjero,” which translates to stranger or foreigner. We prefer gringo over stranger (danger) and often use it to refer to ourselves.

Expats (aka expatriates or immigrants) from places like the US, Canada and Europe bring a lot of money into Ecuador so the government has made it relatively easy to move here.

It is estimated that 100,000 Americans and 30,000 Europeans live in Ecuador spending roughly $1.5 billion per year on housing, food, tourism, restaurants, Spanish school, sales tax, etc.

Cuenca Ecuador Expats

While older and/or unhealthy expats have caused some strain on the healthcare system, many expats use very little in the way of public services and most are retired or work online so they don’t compete for jobs with Ecuadorians. It’s a win-win situation for Ecuador and for expats.

Cuenca may be the most expat-friendly city in Ecuador because of the large number of English-speaking Ecuadorians. Many of the doctors and other service providers speak English, making the transition easier and less scary. There are also a lot of expat-owned businesses and local businesses that cater to the large expat population in Cuenca.

During all of our travels throughout Ecuador, we have found the Ecuadorian people to be extremely friendly and welcoming. They love sharing their culture and history with us, and they seem to genuinely enjoy having us here.

Ecuador Is a Great Place to Learn Spanish

Learning Spanish is easier in Cuenca, Ecuador because people speak more slowly, have an easy to understand accent, and typically use more proper Spanish.

Cuenca also has a lot of English speakers who are happy to help you learn Spanish, and there are several language schools, private teachers and language exchanges.

Walking Spanish Lessons Cuenca Ecuador

People in the coastal region of Ecuador have a different accent, which makes it more difficult to learn Spanish. It’s common to drop the letter “s” from words so “¿Quiere más?” (Do you want more?) sounds like “¿Quiere má?” (Do you want mom?). That can be confusing at first, but we’re getting used to it.

Cuenca Ecuador Is Very Walkable

When we sold our cars before we left home, we didn’t plan to buy another one. That meant we needed to be able to walk most places. One of the reasons we chose Cuenca, Ecuador as our landing zone was because it’s a very walkable city.

Cuenca Ecuador Inner Neighborhood Map

  1. El Centro
  2. San Sebas
  3. Gringolandia
  4. El Batán
  5. Sucre
  6. Don Bosco
  7. El Vergel
  8. Cañaribamba
  9. Totoracocha
  10. Miraflores

We lived in the neighborhood of El Vergel, which is on the south central side of the city. It took us 15 minutes to walk from our house near the Yanuncay River to Parque Calderon in El Centro. Nearly everything we needed could be found within a 20 minute walk of our house.

Gringolandia is located on the west side of Cuenca and is a popular part of the city with expats. It’s also about a 15 minute walk into El Centro or a short $2 cab ride.

The outer neighborhoods of Cuenca are also popular with expats, but it’s more convenient to have a car if you live outside the main area. It’s a $5 cab ride or a long bus ride from those areas.

Cuenca Ecuador Outer Neighborhood Map

  1. Turi
  2. Ciudadela de los Ingenieros
  3. Machangara
  4. Challuabamba
  5. Colinas de Challuabamba
  6. Cebollar
  7. San Joaquín

Xavier Montezuma, a native of Cuenca and owner of Apartamentos Otorongo, gave us a tour of the outer neighborhoods for our lifestyle channel. It gives you a nice overview of the city and feel for how diverse and beautiful it is.

The riverwalk trails along the 4 rivers that run through Cuenca were our favorite part of Cuenca’s walkability. The linear river parks are well maintained and full of beautiful flowers, trees and birds.

Cuenca Ecuador Yanuncay Flower

Cuenca Ecuador Has Drinkable Tap Water

This also wasn’t a top consideration for us because bottled water is available everywhere, as are filtration systems. However, we thought it would be nice to be able to drink the water or at least use it to wash our veggies.

The city water in Cuenca is chlorinated, which means it’s drinkable by Americans and Canadians. We found the taste of the water very refreshing; however, some expats choose to drink bottled water out of an abundance of caution.

The pipes in our neighborhood of El Vergel were all replaced with PVC while we lived there, but much of Cuenca still has old pipes that may not be 100% sealed.

Cuenca Ecuador Drinkable Water

Whether you choose to drink the tap water or not, it’s still safe to wash your produce in it, which is something we really miss now that we live on the coast. We buy 5-gallon jugs of water for drinking and boil water to wash our produce. It’s a bit of a hassle, but the beach and sunsets more than compensate!

Ecuador Is a Beautiful & Diverse Country

There aren’t many places in the world where you can hike in a rainforest, climb a snow capped mountain and lay on a sandy beach within 24 hours, all without getting on an airplane. You can do all of these things in Ecuador, plus Ecuador is home to the Galapagos Islands, the birthplace of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Galapagos Blue Footed Booby

The eastern third of Ecuador is home to the western side of the Amazon Rainforest. Native tribes still live there and fiercely protect their ancestral lands. Many have embraced the tourism industry so you can take a cruise down the headwaters of the Amazon River to remote villages and stay in lodges equipped with modern conveniences (like air conditioning).

Ecuador Rainforest Lodge

Along the central third of Ecuador from north to south lies the Andes Mountain Range. With plenty of old-world, European-style cities, museums, symphonies, national parks, active volcanoes, hot springs and peaks over 20,000 feet (6.200 meters), there’s something to keep everyone entertained.

Cuenca Ecuador El Centro

Cotopaxi Ecuador
Photo of Cotopaxi by César Viteri on Unsplash

Cuenca Ecuador Cajas Park

The western third of Ecuador borders the Pacific Coast. Sadly, most of the coastal biodiversity has been destroyed to make room for livestock grazing, fish & shrimp ponds and crops like bananas, cocoa (chocolate) and palm oil.

However, the coastal region is still incredibly beautiful and Ecuador’s beaches are some of the best in South America boasting indescribable sunsets. If you enjoy surfing, Montañita and Olón have amazing waves waiting to be caught!

Olon Ecuador Sunset

What’s Next…

Hopefully the criteria we used to evaluate all of our potential expat destinations and our analysis of Ecuador will help you make this tough decision, or spark some ideas for your own list of criteria. We’re very happy with our decision to live abroad in Ecuador, and we’re happy we started in Cuenca.

In Part 2 of this series, we’re going to share 15 Reasons NOT to Live Abroad in Ecuador (or Anyplace Else)…


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!