Is it possible to live in Ecuador for less than $500 per month? The short answer is yes! Expats and retirees flock to Ecuador for its tropical weather and beautiful, biodiverse landscapes, as well as for the low cost of living! Depending on where you choose to live, it’s entirely possible to live well in Ecuador on a very small budget.
People worldwide—including US, Canadian, and European expats—have discovered that Ecuador offers many affordable options to choose from. Besides the prospect of pleasant weather and stunning scenery, you can also look forward to minimizing your expenses and stretching your income!
In this article, we’ll take a look at the typical monthly expenses you can expect to incur living in Ecuador. This is a guide to everything you need to know to make a $500 budget work well for you.
You’ll find information on housing options, health insurance costs, food, and transportation that will allow a single person to live quite well on a low budget.
Low Budget Housing in Ecuador
Housing is often the largest budget consideration. It’s also what makes moving to Ecuador so attractive for people who leave Canada, Europe, or the US. Although coastal options and larger properties will cost more money, it is entirely possible to find safe, comfortable housing for less than $300/month.
Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when you look for housing on a tight budget.
Hostel or Private Room
Although you’ll have to share amenities like a kitchen and bathroom in these setups, you can find a safe, spacious place to live in Ecuador for between $100-$200/month in a hostel or private room in someone’s home.
For example, a friend secured a well-appointed room in a house living with an Ecuadorian family in Cuenca for $110/month. Though she only had a small corner of the fridge to herself and shared a bathroom with her host family, she enjoyed the experience and lived on a very low budget. As a bonus, living with an Ecuadorian family allowed her to quickly learn the local culture and become fluent in Spanish.
Private Housing in Ecuador
If you elect to rent a private house, condo or apartment, there are plenty to find below or around the $300/month mark in smaller cities and towns throughout Ecuador.
Here are some things that you’ll want to factor into your housing search:
Furnished, Semi-furnished and Unfurnished
There are some pretty dramatic differences between the types of listings for rental properties in Ecuador.
Furnished homes are move-in ready and have everything you need, including kitchen items, like pots and pans, and linens, like sheets and towels. Consequently, they’re more expensive.
Semi-furnished homes have appliances, like a stove and refrigerator, but you’ll have to provide everything else, such as pots, pans, plates, bedding, etc.
Unfurnished units will not have anything included—sometimes you’ll even need to provide your own blinds and light fixtures!
If you decide to go with an unfurnished or semi-furnished place, you can find reasonably priced second hand furniture at moving sales or local consignments shops.
If you’re planning to ship your belongings to Ecuador in a container, check out our article about Ecuador Shipping Company Costs and Process for more on that.
Ecuador Housing Location
Desirable properties on or near the beach, or centrally located housing in popular cities such as Cuenca, usually charge higher rents, but there are plenty of places with great views and surroundings that you can rent on a budget.
Paute (which has a thriving expat community) and Azogues are about 45 minutes from Cuenca, but offer a host of cheaper housing alternatives. Inland cities like Cotacachi, Ibarra, or Otavalo also have very affordable housing options. You might find that you need a car to get around those areas rather than rely on public transportation, so that could be costly.
For more ideas on affordable coastal living options, check out our Affordable Beach Town Rentals in Olón Ecuador video to see opportunities like the Casita in Las Nuñez, which rents for $350/month.
Health Insurance in Ecuador
You are no longer required to have health insurance to live in Ecuador. That rule was dropped from the tourist, temporary and permanent visa requirements in 2020.
However, you will probably choose to purchase either private or public health insurance, which will run you about $80/month/person. You’ll pay more or less than that depending on your age, pre-existing conditions, and whether or not you smoke.
Private Insurance in Ecuador
For private insurance, in addition to the monthly premium, you can expect a nominal $100 annual deductible and a $10 copay per visit for low deductible plans. You can also purchase a high deductible plan with gap insurance, which has the benefit of lower monthly premiums.
These plans cover you at 90% in-network and 80% out-of-network. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a two-year waiting period with private insurance plans.
Public IESS Insurance in Ecuador
After you obtain your temporary residency visa AND your cédula, you can enroll in the Public IESS health insurance plan for a similar monthly premium.
Under the IESS coverage, you’ll have no copay or deductible and everything is covered at 100%, including doctors visits, surgeries, hospital stays and medication.
However, you must go to doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies in the public IESS network. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 3 month waiting period.
To learn more about this topic, check out our article, Ecuador Health Insurance: Private vs. Public IESS.
Grocery Costs in Ecuador
Budgeting $50/month/person for groceries is a reasonable amount in Ecuador, especially if you buy most of your fruits, vegetables and beans from the local mercados rather than the grocery stores.
Meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods are more expensive in Ecuador, so if you eat a plant-based diet or limit your consumption of those products, you’ll save a lot of money.
Ecuador is well-connected with a reliable public transportation system. Each ride costs about 35 cents in Cuenca and 50 cents along the coast.
Cab rides in Cuenca typically cost between $2 and $3, while on the coast they cost $1.50 to $5 depending on how far you travel between towns.
Interprovincial buses will take you from city to city throughout the country for just a few dollars per trip.
Realistically, you can get by on about $20 per month for transportation if you stay local and limit your cab rides.
Mobile Phone Service in Ecuador
WhatsApp is included in most mobile phone plans in Ecuador, and it’s used by most people to stay in touch using the free public Wi-Fi that’s available throughout the country.
Many expats choose to get a monthly phone plan that includes data for about $20/month. You can also go the prepaid route and spend a few dollars a month on minutes that you use until you run out. Depending on how heavily you rely on your mobile phone, this option can save you a lot of money over the course of a year.
Many rentals include utilities like water, internet or electricity.
In warmer areas in the coastal or Amazon regions, electricity isn’t typically included because air conditioning preferences lead to varying costs that are hard to predict. Depending on how cold you like it, and how efficient your place is, you’ll probably pay between $20-$100 per month in electricity charges.
Some extra costs that you might incur are bottled water delivery, for about $20/month. However, plenty of people in Cuenca enjoy the tap water.
Propane costs vary widely, from $2-$3/month to $15 or more.
Though the best way to save money on food is by shopping at the mercados and cooking at home, there are affordable dining options that you can enjoy on a low budget.
Local-run restaurants that serve typical Ecuadorian fares like chicken, fish, soup, rice, plantains, and juice are very affordable. Almuerzos, which are sizeable lunch portions, normally run between $1.50 to $3 for a hearty, authentic meal.
Depending on where you go and what you eat, you can dine out a few times a week on a $30 monthly dining budget.
Ecuador offers plenty of free entertainment options, such as local walking tours, free museums and free concerts. Local parks are outfitted with free outdoor workout equipment, and the beautiful beaches and most national parks are free, too.
These are plenty of fun ways to entertain yourself on the cheap in Ecuador.
Clothing & Shoes
Local brands of clothing and shoes are more affordable than imported brands, like Nike or Skechers. You can find plenty of options in malls, small stores or pop up shops that are in line with what you’d expect to spend on clothes or shoes back at home.
Yes! It’s more than possible to live well in Ecuador on less than $500 per month!
Frugal couples can easily manage on $700-$800 per month since the cost of housing won’t increase with more people.
Health insurance is reasonably priced, but will be a significant budget consideration. Beyond that, fresh, healthy food is very affordable in Ecuador. Almuerzos at local restaurants and fresh fruits and veggies from the mercados will allow you to eat well on a low monthly budget.
Transportation, utilities, and incidentals are also inexpensive compared to high cost of living places like the United States, Canada and Europe. The low cost of living in Ecuador continues to attract expats from around the world.
With a little creativity and little frugality, there are plenty of ways to make a $500 monthly budget work well for you in Ecuador, while providing lots of enjoyment and a higher overall quality of life.
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