Expat Life in Ecuador

Your expat life in Ecuador may be quite a bit different than your life back home. In this blog series, we’ll help you prepare for the cultural differences including things like learning Spanish, tipping customs, adopting a dog, dating life, and more.

Expat Life in Ecuador: 10 Surprising Facts About Ecuador

Before we moved to Ecuador in 2017, we had a LOT of preconceptions about what expat life in Ecuador would be like.

Most of these ideas were fed to us by a lifetime of news media stories, movies, TV shows and government travel warnings, which continue to paint Central and South America with one broad brushstroke.

However, after several years as expats, we’ve learned that many of our preconceptions were just flat wrong, so in this article, we’re going to share 10 surprising facts about Ecuador that we discovered after moving here.

#1 Dogs Walk Themselves

Dog Walking Himself Vilcabamba Ecuador

The first surprising fact about expat life in Ecuador, which is quite a bit different than most places in the United States, is that dogs often walk themselves.

When we lived in Cuenca, several neighborhood dogs made the rounds at the same time each day, trotting by our house and leaving their marks on the corners.

Ecuador does not have leash laws and most dogs don’t have collars. While they are allowed to roam more freely, they’re often very protective of their own territories. We avoided certain streets in Cuenca, as well as in Olón, to avoid a potentially violent confrontation when we walk our dog, Daisy.

There are several animal rescues and education programs underway throughout Ecuador to improve the living conditions of dogs and cats, but they still have a very long way to go.

#2 The Temperatures Are a Lot Cooler Than We Expected

Cuenca Ecuador Cool Temperatures

Before we moved to Ecuador, we expected it to be much warmer, similar to Mexico. While it is much warmer in the Amazon Rainforest located in the eastern third of Ecuador, the rest of Ecuador is much cooler than you might expect from a tropical country on the equator.

In Cuenca, average high temperatures range from 64-72°F (18-22°C) with average low temperatures ranging from 48-52°F (9-11°C). However, it can get below 40°F (4°C) at night so you will need a jacket in most of the mountain cities.

Even on the Pacific coast, some areas are cool during the cloudy season from June through November with overnight low temperatures near 60°F (15°C).

Check out our Weather In Ecuador & Best Time to Visit Ecuador article for more on this topic.

#3 People Want To Practice Their English With Us

Do You Speak English

We were often stopped on the street in Cuenca by Ecuadorians who wanted to practice English, and it occasionally happens in other parts of Ecuador, as well.

Expats are generally taller, lighter skinned and dress differently so we’re easy to spot. And since Ecuadorians are so friendly and welcoming, most don’t hesitate to talk to us.

Several times in Cuenca, we were stopped by college students who were tasked with asking native English speakers on the street a list of questions as part of a homework assignment. They would speak to us in English and we were instructed to respond in English so they could practice.

English is considered a lingua franca, or bridge language, which means a lot of people around the world speak it as a second language. Ecuadorians who speak English are often qualified for better jobs and tend to earn a higher income, so we’re more than happy to help them.

However, it does make it more challenging for us to learn Spanish!

If you would like to learn Spanish from an amazing instructor who was born and raised in Cuenca, we recommend Christina with Walking Spanish Lessons. We featured one of her classes in this video: Cuenca Ecuador Walking Spanish Lessons. Due to the pandemic, she is now offering classes over Zoom for remote learning. Tell her Amelia And JP sent you!

#4 There Is No Postal Delivery System in Ecuador

DHL Guayaquil Downtown

Correo del Ecuador is the official postal service in Ecuador, but it was scheduled to be liquidated in 2020 due to the high cost of running it and competition from private delivery companies. However, as of this writing, it is still in operation at limited capacity and reliability.

Both DHL and FedEx have offices throughout Ecuador in the larger cities, but they don’t offer home delivery so you need to go to a physical office to pick up a package or to send one.

Servientrega is a home delivery courier service that operates throughout Ecuador for an additional fee based on the distance they must travel to your home and the size of the package. We have confirmed with several people that this service does work, but it can be costly and it could take a week or more to get your package.

While Amazon.com claims to ship to Ecuador, the best way to ensure your package arrives is to have a friend or family member bring it with them when they visit, or use a mule service such as USAValet.net or APShipping.us. You can also find and provide mule services through the Ecuador Mule Forum on Facebook.

A home delivery postal system isn’t the only thing we miss about the United States. Check out our “10 Things We Miss About the United States as Expats in Ecuador” video for more. 

#5 Ecuador Can Be Modern And Developed

Plaza Lagos Samborondon

In the United States, we’re led to believe by the news media, movies and TV shows that most countries outside the US, Europe, Canada and Australia are very undeveloped.

When we told our family and friends we were moving to Ecuador, we fielded questions about whether our house had dirt floors and indoor plumbing. We had done the research and knew that Ecuador was more developed than that, but we’re still occasionally surprised by just how developed parts of the country are.

We featured a really upscale neighborhood in a video about Samborondón (pictured above), located just north of the Guayaquil airport. Amelia found it difficult to compose her thoughts in that video because she felt like we had been transported to Miami or San Diego.

All of the major cities in Ecuador have modern malls and business districts that would look normal anywhere in the US or other “developed” countries.

#6 Ecuador Has Awesome and Affordable Public Transportation

Cuenca Ecuador Tranvia

Quito has a relatively new subway system, Guayaquil has a new gondola system and Cuenca has a new Tranvia rail system. There are also comprehensive city and interprovincial bus systems throughout Ecuador.

All are very affordable, costing 35 to 50 cents for local fares, $1 to $3 for city-to-city fares, and less than $10 for interprovincial fares.

You can also take private busetas (small buses) and luxury buses between cities for less than $15 per ticket.

#7 It Takes a Long Time to Get From City to City in Ecuador

Blue Bus Olon

The main highways in Ecuador are paved, but most of them have 2 lanes and run through towns like the old 2-lane highways in the US.

There is no high speed interprovincial highway system that bipasses towns or cities, so the average speed for a long distance road trip is usually around 35 miles per hour (56 kph).

Several of the newer highways leading into larger cities like Guayaquil have 4 lanes, but they’re toll roads with old-school toll booths. This often means long delays while the driver waits to pay the typical $1 toll. We waited in line at a toll booth for over an hour on one trip from Cuenca to Guayaquil.

#8 Ecuador Uses The US Dollar As Its Currency

Ecuador US Dollar

One of the things that surprised us about Ecuador is that it is on the United States Dollar.

Ecuador uses the exact same currency as the US, which makes it a really easy transition for US American expats because we don’t have to do any currency conversion math in our heads!

Unlike the US, Ecuador uses dollar coins far more than dollar bills, and half dollars are very common. They also have some of their own coins based on the obsolete Ecuadorian Sucre, which was replaced with the US dollar back in 2000 when the Sucre had essentially become worthless due to hyperinflation.

These coins are the same size as the US half dollar, quarter, nickel and dime, but they have images of prominent Ecuadorian historical figures rather than US presidents.

Ecuador Coins Sucre

Ecuador is not the only country that is on the dollar. In total, there are 5 US territories and 7 sovereign nations that use the US dollar as their official currency.

This is just one of the many reasons we chose Ecuador for our expat life abroad. To learn about the other reasons, check out our article: Should You Consider Living Abroad in Ecuador?

#9 There Are A Lot Of Expat Owned Businesses in Ecuador

MOMO Olon Ecuador

Most expats who move to Ecuador are retired, but many come here to start a business, like Anahi from Argentina and Johan from Sweden. They owned a restaurant in Vilcabamba before they moved to Olón, where they started MOMO, a gourmet restaurant and specialty food shop.

Here’s a list of several expat businesses in Ecuador:

Some of these expat companies are full time businesses with full time income, while others are hobby businesses providing supplemental income.

The Ecuadorian government and citizens are very happy when expats move to Ecuador and start businesses, especially when they create jobs.

They aren’t as appreciative if the business only caters to the expat community, which fosters an “expat bubble.” If you start a business in Ecuador, try to involve the local community as much possible.

#10 Ecuadorians Are Incredibly Warm And Welcoming

Luis Cuenca Ecuador

Not long after we started our expat life in Ecuador, this gentleman (Luis) stopped us on the street to say hello and welcome us to his country. He was a native Ecuadorian who lived in the US for several years and wanted to speak English with us.

Before long, several members of his family had joined us on the street to talk to us. They asked if we would like to join them for a cerveza in their yard where several people were enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

We told him how much we loved his country and it brought tears to his eyes. He told us, “mi país es su país,” which means, “my country is your country.”

That was the first time we heard that phrase, but it wasn’t the last. Even before we started our YouTube Channel, we heard that phrase often from welcoming Ecuadorians. And we see it even more in the comments on our videos.

If you are friendly and make an attempt to speak Spanish, the Ecuadorian people will be very warm and welcoming to you. In their culture, they never meet a stranger.

Expat Life in Ecuador

We did a lot of research about expat life in Ecuador before we moved here. We watched as many videos and read as many articles as we could find. However, they didn’t do this magical country justice.

Even though we thought we were prepared and knew what to expect, we were still surprised about several aspects of expat life in Ecuador. We do our best with our YouTube Channel and this website to share what expat life is really like in Ecuador, but we know it’s impossible to accurately reflect it. You really need to experience it for yourself.

You may also enjoy the articles in our Start Here Series, which covers a wide variety of topics about moving to and living in Ecuador.


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Disclaimer

We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.


 

Weather In Ecuador & Best Time to Visit Ecuador

Many of our YouTube Channel viewers are curious about the weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit Ecuador, and what to pack for a visit to Ecuador, so we’ll shed some light on those topics in this article.

Since Ecuador is located on the equator in a tropical region, most people expect it to be hot, wet and humid like the Congo or Indonesia. However, the weather in Ecuador is much more complicated and nuanced than that.

The weather in the Amazon Rainforest that occupies the entire eastern side of Ecuador is much different than the weather in the high Andes mountain range that runs north and south through the center of the country, which is also much different than weather in the Pacific coastal region occupying the western third of Ecuador.

Ecuador Topographical Map

And, of course, the Galapagos Islands located about 600 miles (965 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland has its own weather patterns, although similar to the Pacific coastal region.

The weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit and what to pack for your trip depends largely on what part of Ecuador you want to travel to or live in, but before we discuss that, you’ll want to understand how Ecuadorians define the seasons, which may not be what you expect.

Winter vs. Summer in Ecuador

If you’ve been watching our videos for a while, you’ve heard us refer to “the dark days of winter” and “the hot days of summer.” If you’re from the US or Canada, you have a pretty solid understanding of these two seasons: It’s cold in the winter and it’s hot in the summer.

But what if you grow up someplace where the daylight hours are always the same, and the high temperatures between winter and summer vary by less than 10 degrees F (5 C)?

We’ve received numerous comments from Ecuadorians who tell us that we have the seasons backwards. According to our native viewers, winter is from December to May and summer is from June through November. That’s the same as it is in the US and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

However, most of Ecuador is in the southern hemisphere, which defines its winter and summer as the opposite of the northern hemisphere.

For example, winter in Chile and Argentina is from June 21st to September 21st; that’s when it’s cold and it snows. Summer is from December 21st to March 21st; that’s when it’s hot and sunny.

The picture below of Amelia dripping with sweat in her bikini top was taken on February 16, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “winter.”

Winter In Ecuador

Winter In Ecuador

Summer In Ecuador

Summer In Ecuador

The picture of Amelia wearing a jacket during lunch at South Indian Restaurant one block off the beach was taken on August 10, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “summer.”

The scientific definition of “summer” states that it’s the warmest time of year, while “winter” is defined as the coldest time of year. The hot and cold season may vary by location, but the definition of winter and summer remains the same, at least according to science.

But in Ecuador, winter is defined as the rainy season, even though it’s hot and sunny most of the time, while summer is defined as the dry season, even though it’s cooler and cloudy most of the time.

These definitions of winter and summer may not make sense to us North Americans, but that’s how Ecuadorians define them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do so we will now be referring to the sunny, hot, wet “winter” season as the hot season and the cloudy, cooler, dry “summer” season as the cold season to hopefully minimize confusion with our North American and European viewers who might be planning a trip here.

Weather In Ecuador

Despite the numerous microclimates in Ecuador, for the most part, it’s hot or at least warmer from December through May, and cooler and cloudier from June through November.

It rains more from December through May, but it’s also much sunnier with most of the rain occuring at night or in spurts rather than daily. Ecuador does not have a monsoon season like other tropical regions.

Weather In Cuenca Ecuador (and the Mountains)

Cuenca Ecuador Weather

Moisture evaporates in the Amazon Rainforest and is condensed by the high Andes mountains, which explains why most of the mountain cities such as Cuenca and Quito are often cloudy.

Also, due to the high elevation with Cuenca sitting at 8,400 feet (2.560 meters) and Quito sitting at 9,350 feet (2.850 meters), it’s often much cooler than you might expect from an equatorial region.

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Cuenca, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (64-72°F / 18-22°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (48-52°F / 9-11°C).

These are just averages. It occasionally drops below 40°F (4°C) during the cold season in Cuenca, and above 85°F (29°C) during the hot season.

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (1-5 inches / 20-123 mm). The months with the most rain are March and April, but again, it’s sunnier during those months, too.

Humidity is not very noticeable in Cuenca due to the high elevation, but the UV index is very high so remember your sunscreen, hat and/or umbrella even if you’re just taking a short walk around town.

The lower mountain cities like Vilcabamba are much warmer and drier than Cuenca and Quito, and there are several mountain micro-climates that are very desert-like. However, you can expect similar weather conditions throughout most of the high mountain region of Ecuador.

Weather In Guayaquil Ecuador (and the Coast)

Guayaquil Ecuador Weather

The coastal region of Ecuador also has numerous micro-climates. Driving from Guayaquil west toward the coast and north to Manta, you’ll pass through deserts, jungles and rainforests multiple times. However, the general weather throughout the coastal region is similar to Guayaquil.

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Guayaquil, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (84-90°F / 29-32°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-75°F / 20-24°C).

Again, these are just averages. It occasionally drops below 60°F (15°C) during the cold season in Guayaquil, and above 95°F (35°C) during the hot season.

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (0-13 inches / 1-332 mm). The months with the most rain are February and March.

It’s also sunnier throughout the year in Guayaquil and much of the coastal region than it is in the mountains with a few micro-climate exceptions.

For instance, due to the low mountain range east of Olón that runs about 20 miles (32 kilometers) along the coast, the towns from Manglaralto north past Ayampe experience more clouds and cooler temperatures from June through November than other areas in the coastal region. Both Manta and Salinas are much sunnier and warmer, similar to Guayaquil.

Humidity varies a lot depending on the weather and the season. During the hot season when it rains more, the humidity is much higher while it tends to be lower during the dry season.

During one of our visits to Guayaquil, it was very dry one day, cloudy and humid the next day, then dry again on the third day. Since much of the coastal region is desert-like, you won’t notice as much humidity as you might expect for a country located in the tropics.

I grew up in eastern Kansas south of Kansas City, spent a lot of time in north-central Texas, and lived in northern Virginia. The humidity in the coastal region of Ecuador is nothing like it is in the eastern and central United States when the air is so thick you can barely breathe.

Weather In Puyo Ecuador (and the Amazon)

The Ecuadorians refer to the Amazon region as El Oriente, which got its name from the original Ecuadorian government in 1861.

The province of El Oriente originally contained the two cantons (counties) of Napo and Canelos, but it was dissolved in 1920 by the local canton governments. However, Ecuadorians still refer to the region as El Oriente.

According to ClimatesToTravel.com, Puyo, Ecuador and the other cities/towns in the Amazon have similar weather throughout the year without many seasonal variations. Puyo sits at 3,300 feet (1.000 meters) above sea level, so it’s a bit cooler than the lower elevation areas in the eastern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

High temperatures in Puyo range from 77-81°F (25-27°C) with low temperatures ranging from 61-63°F (16-17°C). As you might imagine, it rains a lot in the Amazon Rainforest with average monthly rainfall ranging from 12-15 inches (295-390 mm). January and February have the least rainfall on average, with less than 12 inches (300 mm).

With all that rainfall in a tropical rainforest, it’s very hot, wet and humid in El Oriente.

Weather in The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Weather

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in the Galapagos Islands, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (79-86°F / 26-30°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-73°F / 20-23°C).

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (.3-4 inches / 8-107 mm). The months with the most rain are January through April, but those are also the warmest months and the best time to visit if you hope to spend time in the water.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Ecuador?

The best time to visit Ecuador in terms of weather is during the sunny season from December through May. This is especially true if you’re planning a beach vacation.

The water temperatures are mostly constant along Ecuador’s coast, ranging from 73°F (23°C) in January up to 79°F (26°C) in May. However, the cooler air temperatures combined with the ocean breeze mean it’s too chilly for most people to swim without a wetsuit during the cold season. You also won’t see enough sun from June through November to get any sort of suntan to show off when you go back home.

If your dream is to walk on miles of empty beach or go whale watching, and you couldn’t care less about swimming or suntanning, visit during the cold season from late June through early October when the Humpback Whales are passing by and the beaches are mostly empty.

Puerto Lopez Whale Watching

If you like crowds and festivities, the best times to visit Ecuador are during the first week of November during Cuenca Days, the week between Christmas and New Years, and Carnival in mid to late February. If you prefer fewer people and cheaper lodging, you might want to avoid those times.

The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is also from December through May when the temperatures are warmer so you don’t get too cold on those amazing boating, snorkeling and diving adventures.

If you’re planning a trip to the Amazon, the time of year doesn’t matter very much since the weather is mostly the same year round.

What to Pack for Your Visit to Ecuador

The type of clothes, accessories and supplies you should pack for your visit to Ecuador depends on the area(s) you plan to visit.

What to Pack for the Mountain Region – Cuenca, Quito, etc.

San Francisco Plaza New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

When you’re packing for your trip to the mountain cities in Ecuador, bring clothes that you can layer. The temperature can vary widely throughout the day in the mountain cities, from 40°F (4°C) when you wake up to 85°F (30°C) by mid-afternoon when the sun is out.

It can also vary widely within the span of an hour, going from sunny and warm to cool and rainy so you always want an umbrella, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water and a small backpack to carry everything. Bring comfortable shoes because Ecuadorian mountain cities are very walkable.

We don’t recommend hiking shoes or boots for the cities because the sidewalks are hard and uneven so the cleats can cause you to trip on things. However, if you plan to visit El Cajas National Park or go hiking in other natural settings, you’ll want a good pair of hikers and maybe walking sticks.

What to Pack for the Ecuador Pacific Coast, Galapagos and Amazon Regions

Guayaquil Ecuador Building Cerro Santa Ana

In general, you’ll want to pack shorts, sandals, short sleeve shirts, a hat/do-rag, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant and your bathing suits when you visit the warmer regions of Ecuador.

You also may want hiking shoes and pants, as well as a backpack with a camelback for water if you’re planning any jungle hikes.

If you’re planning to visit the coast or the Galapagos during the cooler months from June through November, you may want to bring a mask, snorkeling gear, a lightweight wetsuit for swimming or surfing, a light jacket or windbreaker, and some light pants.

Conclusion

To recap, Ecuadorians call winter “summer” and summer “winter,” but we’re guests in their country so we should use the terms they’ve been taught since childhood.

However, if your goal is to lay on the beach and get a suntan or enjoy water sports, you’ll want to come during “winter,” which is from December through May. If you want to visit when there are fewer tourists and it’s more tranquilo, or you want to go humpback whale watching, the best time to visit is from June through November. The height of whale season is from July through the end of September.

What to pack for your trip to Ecuador depends largely on when you visit and where you visit, but as a general rule, pack layers and bring good shoes because you’ll be walking a lot. But don’t worry too much if you forget something because you can always buy it in Ecuador and help out the local economy.

Ecuador is a WONDERFUL place to visit as a tourist or live as an expat/immigrant. If you’re considering a move to Ecuador, you might want to checkout our Start Here Series, which is full of useful information that will help reduce the mystery of moving abroad.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

Ecuador Costs of Moving and LivingEach Friday, we send out a newsletter with some expat-relevant news from Ecuador. It's a great way to stay up-to-date with what's going on in Ecuador.

In addition, you'll gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator after you opt-in to our newsletter. It now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option. You can opt-out at any time and we promise never to spam you.

Get Even More Personalized Information

We have a supportive community of current and future expats on Patreon who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support.

Plus, you'll gain immediate access to dozens of patron-only videos and posts, and your support helps us continue sharing this magical country with the rest of the world.

Disclaimer

We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.


 

Guayaquil Ecuador: Hotels, Malls and Restaurants Near the Airport

If you’re planning a trip to Guayaquil Ecuador, here’s a handy guide for hotels, malls and restaurants near the Guayaquil International Airport.

In case you missed it, we shared a video on our YouTube channel about our long weekend in Guayaquil. We showed the Sheraton Hotel where we stayed, Mall del Sol where we shopped and ate, and we visited the Guayaquil airport to say goodbye to an old friend.

Several of our viewers asked for more details about our experience in Guayaquil, and especially about the price of Apple products in Think, the Apple Authorized Retailer, so that’s the focus of this article.

Guayaquil Ecuador: The 40,000 Foot Overview

Guayaquil Ecuador Building Cerro Santa Ana

General Information About Guayaquil Ecuador

We had several comments on our video about how developed Guayaquil looked. The part of town where we stayed near the airport and Mall del Sol is very “first world,” but there are large parts of the city that are still very poor and underdeveloped.

Miles of sprawling barrios with cinder block houses line the highway heading west out of town fulfilling the stereotype that many US Americans have about developing nations. However, some parts of Ecuador’s major cities feel just like any other developed city in the US, Canada or Europe.

Guayaquil and Quito (the capital city) are roughly the same size with about 3 million people. Guayaquil is Ecuador’s major economic driver and is home to Ecuador’s largest port.

Tourist Attractions in Guayaquil Ecuador

Guayaquil also has a number of popular tourist attractions, such as the Malecón 2000, Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill), Cerro Blanco and Parque Histórico in Samborondón. These areas are well guarded and very safe during the day.

Safety in Guayaquil Ecuador

Guayaquil is also Ecuador’s most dangerous city with a high crime rate compared to other major cities in Ecuador. However, Guayaquil is still safer then the most dangerous cities in the US, such as Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Baltimore.

Most of Guayaquil’s crime occurs in the lower income areas of town, so if you stay in the more developed areas and don’t walk around the city at night, you’ll minimize your risk.

The two main causes for concern as tourists are pickpockets and taxi drivers. Always keep your possessions secure in locked zippers or safety belts. It’s best to leave your valuables in the hotel safe, but you’ll be fine taking pictures with your phone. Just pay attention to your surroundings.

We recommend using the Uber or Cabify apps to request cabs in Guayaquil, or use the hotel drivers/shuttles. These are much safer options than hailing cabs on the street since there will be a record of the fare.

Unfortunately, whether true or not, Guayaquil taxi drivers have a reputation of driving unsuspecting tourists to a bad part of town, taking all of their belongings, and leaving them to fend for themselves. We have never met anyone who has experienced this, but we regularly get comments on our videos about this type of crime from Ecuadorians who live in Guayaquil so it’s something to keep in mind.

Hotels Near the Guayaquil Airport

There are several hotels near the Guayaquil airport that are also conveniently located to malls and restaurants.

Air Suites Hotel Guayaquil Airport (Low Budget)

Air Suites Hotel Guayaquil Ecuador

The Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil is only a few blocks from the airport, it’s very affordable and they accept pets. We’ve stayed their several times and it typically costs about $35/night.

The rooms are small, but very clean and the location is convenient to the airport, but there aren’t many dining options nearby and no one speaks English who works there. They do offer a limited breakfast.

We walked about 8 blocks to Mall del Sol for dinner one evening while it was still light, but we wouldn’t recommend walking there or back after dark. You can take a cab for about $2.

Holiday Inn Hotel Guayaquil Airport

Holiday Inn Guayaquil Ecuador Airport

We’ve never stayed at the Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport, but it has been recommended to us by friends and viewers. It’s walking distance from the airport, making it the most convenient. Rooms run $80 to $100/night.

The Sheraton Hotel

The Sheraton Hotel

We often stay at the Sheraton Hotel across the street from Mall del Sol when we visit Guayaquil. It’s close to the airport, it has a walking bridge to the mall, and it’s now part of Marriott so we get points that we can use on future trips.

The hotel rooms are extremely luxurious and the hotel itself is very high end. We usually pay $70 to $100/night to sleep in arguably the most comfortable bed we’ve ever had. In Denver, rooms in a comparable hotel would easily be more than $300/night!

The people who work the front desk/check-in counter speak English, but most of the other staff does not. English is spoken by a lot of people in Cuenca, but not in other parts of Ecuador, so it’s a good idea to study your Spanish and bring a translator app with you when you travel throughout Ecuador.

Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil

Marriott Courtyard Guayaquil Ecuador

UPDATE: The Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil by San Marino Mall is no longer in operation, an apparent casualty of the pandemic and quarantine. We’re disappointed to learn that it has closed because it was a really nice hotel in a great location.

None of these hotels offer many food items for speciality diets so you won’t find a lot of vegan or gluten-free options on the menu. They cater to a largely international and wealthy Ecuadorian audience who tends to eat traditional fare.

Malls Near the Guayaquil Ecuador Airport

There are several high-end malls and shopping areas near the Guayaquil Ecuador international airport.

Mall del Sol

Mall del sol

Our viewers were especially surprised by Mall del Sol. You could drop this mall anywhere in the United States and people wouldn’t know it was from Ecuador. It even has a lot of the same stores and fast food dining options as any mall in the US, including Fossil, Clarks, Forever 21, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc. This mall also has a Sukasa, which is a home store similar to a Crate & Barrel.

Think Authorized Premium Apple Reseller

Premium Apple Seller

We were really impressed with the customer service at Think, an Apple Authorized Premium Reseller and Repair Center. They were very knowledgeable about the products and very eager to help us with my laptop, which had a battery recall.

Below, I’ve included a few photos of the price and specs labels for the iMac and MacBook Pro (as of August 2020). Unlike a true Apple Store back in the US, Think only has a couple of options available in the store with a VERY limited color selection for each type of device.

The prices are also a lot higher. For example, the 21.5 inch 3.0 GHz iMac at Think costs $2,005 while it’s listed for $1,499 on the Apple website. That’s about 50% more. The base 13 inch MacBook Pro model costs $2,364 at Think while it’s listed for $1,299 on the Apple website. That’s almost double the price!

You’ll also notice that the prices are prominently shown with financing, which is extremely common in Ecuador. You can finance EVERYTHING. Even $20 toasters! However, you get a steep discount for paying in cash or charging it to your credit card.

iMac MacBook Pro Prize MacBook Pro Prize

San Marino Mall Guayaquil

San Marino Mall Guayaquil Ecuador

San Marino Mall is very similar to Mall del Sol, although it feels a bit more compact and crowded. It has many of the same international chain stores that you’ll find in malls throughout Ecuador’s major cities. It also has a nice food court with a Noe Sushi.

Plaza Lagos Town Center in Samborondón

Plaza Lagos Samborondon

Plaza Lagos Town Center is a high-end outdoor mall in the upscale Samborodón township located about 10 minutes by cab north of the Guayaquil Airport. We’re constantly amazed  by how developed parts of Ecuador are and we like to bust the “3rd world” myth whenever we have the chance.

This outdoor mall is one of the nicest we’ve seen, ANYWHERE! The stores and restaurants are VERY fancy! And expensive! You can expect to pay United States/European prices at this mall, which is a popular place for wealthy Ecuadorians to see and be seen.

Restaurants Near the Guayaquil Ecuador Airport

There are lots of restaurants to choose from near the Guayaquil Ecuador airport, mostly located in or around the three nearby malls.

Restaurants in Mall del Sol Guayaquil Ecuador

Mall del Sol has a big food court with a bunch of typical unhealthy American fast food chains, but we were really surprised at the healthy food options in the mall. The Freshii where we ate for lunch was delicious, and a place called Biscuits by Nané in the same area was equally good.

Both had loads of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and traditional fare that would be considered fast casual like a Chipotle or Tokyo Joe’s in the US. Our lunch at Freshii cost $19.94, which included two entrees and two bottles of water.

Our favorite “treat” place to eat in Ecuador is Noe Sushi. We typically pay $60 to $80 to eat dinner there, depending on how hungry and “thirsty” we are. We often enjoy a carafe of saki, which is $15 for a large. Saki is quite a bit more expensive in Ecuador because it’s imported. A glass of wine costs about $6.

A typical meal like this back in Denver would easily cost over $120.

Noe Sushi

Saki

There are also several restaurants located next to the Sheraton hotel, including a Red Lion.

Restaurants in San Marino Mall Guayaquil Ecuador

San Marino Mall has a large food court with a variety of Ecuadorian and traditional fare restaurants. They also have a restaurant called Go Green (there’s also one in the Mall del Sol food court) that is similar to a Chipotle with bowls, burritos and salads.

The San Marino Mall also has a Noe Sushi and several other restaurants located in the area near the mall.

Restaurants in Plaza Lagos Town Center Mall

Plaza Lagos Restaurant Samborondon

We had a delicious lunch with some Aperol Spritzers at Tinta Café in our Samborondón video. The mall has several high-end restaurants that serve mostly traditional fare: American, Italian, Mexican, etc. They even have a Sweet & Coffee and a wine bar, but they have very few options for special diets. You can expect to pay similar prices as the United States at these stores and restaurants.

Conclusion

If you’re flying into Guayaquil Ecuador and plan to stay overnight or for several days to enjoy the tourist attractions, you’ll find lots of options for nice hotels, malls and restaurants near the Guayaquil airport.

That part of the city is very well developed and mostly safe during the day, but you’ll want to take common sense precautions just like you would in any major city to avoid being the victim of a crime, especially pickpocketing.

The cost of living in Ecuador is low, but the cost of things are high. Restaurants, hotels and public transportation (including taxis) are much more affordable, although there are a few exceptions like Plaza Lagos. However, anything with a plug, especially electronics, are 30-100% more expensive in Ecuador than the United States, and you’ll find a smaller selection with fewer options.

However, if you plan to stay in Ecuador, it’s easier to get things repaired if you buy them here, so you have to weigh the hassle of servicing things against the higher cost of buying them.

Most people don’t realize that Ecuador has a lot of wealthy people and a growing middle class (at least before the pandemic). While a large percentage of the population lives in poverty, it’s not a nation of poor people as the news media portrays it. We really enjoy showing the higher end areas as a contrast to our rural beach town and they also help bust the “3rd world” myth.


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Disclaimer

We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.


 

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

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

#1 Don’t Believe The Negative Stereotypes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Be Patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Ask a LOT of Questions

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

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

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

#4 Don’t Have a Scarcity Mentality

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

Cuenca Ecuador House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 Don’t Make These Timing Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 Don’t Make This Banking Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7 Study Spanish. A LOT of Spanish!

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

Ecuador English Proficiency

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


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In addition, you'll gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator after you opt-in to our newsletter. It now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option. You can opt-out at any time and we promise never to spam you.

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We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.


 

Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

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

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

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

New Cathedral Cuenca Altar in Cuenca Ecuador

New Cathedral Cuenca Altar in Cuenca Ecuador

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

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Terrace Eastern View of Cuenca Ecuador

#9 – Step Back In Time at The Old Cathedral

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

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

The Old Cathedral Mural in Cuenca Ecuador

The Old Cathedral Mural in Cuenca Ecuador

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

Fine Ecuadorian Coffee at Goza in Cuenca Ecuador

Fine Ecuadorian Coffee at Goza in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

#7 – Model a Panama Hat at the Hat Museum

Museo del Sombrero Hat Museum

Museo del Sombrero Hat Museum in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

Museo del Sombrero Café View of Cuenca

Museo del Sombrero Café View of Cuenca

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

Paja Toquilla

Paja Toquilla (aka Panama Hat)

#6 – Soak in the Hot Springs at Baños

Novaqua Cuenca Hot Springs Pool

Novaqua Cuenca Hot Springs Pool

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

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

Novaqua Cuenca Cold Pool

Novaqua Cuenca Cold Pool

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

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

#5 – Taste Exotic Fruit at a Mercado

Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Market Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado

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

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

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

Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya in Ecuador

Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya in Ecuador

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

Soursop or Guanabana in Cuenca Ecuador

Soursop or Guanabana in Cuenca Ecuador

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

Sweetsop or Chirimoya in Cuenca Ecuador

Sweetsop or Chirimoya in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

Amelia And JP at Lower Cajas National Park Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia And JP at Lower Cajas National Park Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

Polylepis Tree in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Polylepis Tree in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

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

Upper Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Upper Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

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

Llamas in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Llamas in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

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

Wild Orchids in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

Wild Orchids in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

#3 – Visit Turi on the City Bus Tour

Amelia on the Cuenca City Bus Tour

Amelia on the Cuenca City Bus Tour

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

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

Mirador Turi Church in Cuenca Ecuador

Mirador Turi Church in Cuenca Ecuador

New Cathedral Cuenca View from Turi

New Cathedral Cuenca View from Turi

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

Stephen at Aventuri Adventure Park Turi Ecuador

Stephen at Aventuri Adventure Park Turi Ecuador

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

Amelia at the Cuenca Ecuador Flower Market

Amelia at the Cuenca Ecuador Flower Market

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

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

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

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

Museo Pumapungo Inca Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

Museo Pumapungo Inca Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

Amelia Being Funny at Museo Pumapungo in Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia Being Funny at Museo Pumapungo in Cuenca Ecuador

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

Top 10 Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador Conclusion

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

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


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Cost of Living in Ecuador: A Guide for Expat Budgeting (Updated for 2020)

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

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

Cost of Housing in Ecuador

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

Short Term Cost of Living in Ecuador

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

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

AirBnB.com Ecuador Stays

Cost of living in Ecuador, AirBnB Ecuador Stays

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

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

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

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

Apartment Hotels in Ecuador (aka Short Term Stay Residences)

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

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

The cost of living in Cuenca

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

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

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

Long-Term Rental Costs in Ecuador

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

Types of Housing Rentals in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Best Way to Find a Long Term Rental in Ecuador

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

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

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

The agent will get the first month’s rent from the owner as compensation for helping them rent their home, so it won’t cost you anything out of pocket to use their services. However, due to the way the agents get paid, most will only work with you if your rental budget is over $500/month.

Low Budget Rental Options and Costs in Ecuador

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

House and Condo Rentals in Ecuador

Cost of Living in Ecuador, Cuenca Ecuador House

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

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

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

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

Luxury Rentals in Ecuador

Bahia Chipipe Beach Salinas Ecuador

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

Buying a House or Condo in Ecuador

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador Condo

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

Olon Ecuador Beach House

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

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

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

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

Cost of Food in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

Ecuador Mercado Itemized Food Cost

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of living in Ecuador, groceries, Cuenca Ecuador

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

Ecuador Grocery Store Cost

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

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living Supermaxi

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

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

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

Ecuador Restaurant Costs

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

Breakfast Restaurants in Ecuador

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

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

El Almuerzo in Ecuador

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

Dinner Restaurants in Ecuador

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

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

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

Restaurants in Olón Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Health Insurance Costs in Ecuador

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

Private Health Insurance in Ecuador

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

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

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

If you would like us to connect you with our insurance agent, please drop us a note, and we’ll send an email introduction. Mario, the gentleman we featured in our video, recently passed away. However, his son and brother-in-law are taking care of his clients. Both speak fluent English and are able to help with appointments, translations and claims.

Ecuador IESS Public Health Insurance

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

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

Other Common Costs of Living in Ecuador

Startup Costs Following Your Move to Ecuador

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

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

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

Transportation Costs

In Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

In Olón Ecuador

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

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

Clothing and Shoes

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

Cuenca Ecuador Emily Shoes Cost

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

Fitness Costs in Ecuador

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

Yoga at RumiSol in Cuenca Ecuador

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

Appliances and Electronics

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

TV Cost in Cuenca Ecuador

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

Cuenca Ecuador 65 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

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

Cuenca Ecuador 75 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

Cost of a Dishwasher in Cuenca, Ecuador

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

Cuenca Ecuador Dishwasher Cost

Refrigerator at Marc’s Consignments

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

Cuenca Ecuador Refrigerator Cost

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

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

Itemized Expenses

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

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

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

Unchanged prices

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

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

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

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

Taxi rates and doctors visits have also remained unchanged.

Price Decreases

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

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

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

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

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

Due to the pandemic, I haven’t been getting weekly massages like I did in Cuenca, but I hope to get back on that schedule at some point so that cost will increase.

Price Increases

Our private health insurance increased from $117/month when we arrived in Cuenca to $158/month now. The old company that provided our insurance went out of business (without notifying us). Our new plan is through a more reputable insurance company and offers better coverage.

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

Here in Olón, we have a tank connected to our gas stove that we’ve replaced once in 9 months. We replace the tank connected to the hot water heater about every 2 months. We’re not sure why a tank lasts so much longer here, except that water boils at a lower temperature due to being at sea level, and the outside air is warmer so the pipes aren’t as cold for the hot water transit.

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

Our mobile phone plan with Claro has increased from $17/month when we signed up in October 2017 to $21/month in September 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Ecuador Costs of Moving and LivingEach Friday, we send out a newsletter with some expat-relevant news from Ecuador. It's a great way to stay up-to-date with what's going on in Ecuador.

In addition, you'll gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator after you opt-in to our newsletter. It now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option. You can opt-out at any time and we promise never to spam you.

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Disclaimer

We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.


 

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.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

Ecuador Costs of Moving and LivingEach Friday, we send out a newsletter with some expat-relevant news from Ecuador. It's a great way to stay up-to-date with what's going on in Ecuador.

In addition, you'll gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator after you opt-in to our newsletter. It now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option. You can opt-out at any time and we promise never to spam you.

Get Even More Personalized Information

We have a supportive community of current and future expats on Patreon who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support.

Plus, you'll gain immediate access to dozens of patron-only videos and posts, and your support helps us continue sharing this magical country with the rest of the world.

Disclaimer

We are not in any way responsible for your use of the information contained in our videos, articles or linked from our web pages. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information. However, news, laws, guidelines, rules, regulations, etc. are often open to interpretation, change frequently and sometimes we make mistakes, so please check the links we reference before making decisions or travel plans. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so we can attempt to correct it.