Relocating to Ecuador

Once you’ve decided that Ecuador is the right place for you to Live Abroad Now, you need to start planning for your relocation. In this blog series, we’ll share all the steps and tasks you’ll need to complete to make your relocation to Ecuador smooth and successful.

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.


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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

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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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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We have a supportive community of current and future expats on Patreon who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and provide support to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

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

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

Relocation Services of Ecuador Container Options

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

20 Foot Shipping Container

20 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

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

Wood Pallet

Wood Pallet

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

Lift Van

Lift Van

Ecuador Shipping Company Process

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

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

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

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

Express Containers

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

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

Pallets and Lift Vans

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

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

Items You CAN Bring to Ecuador (and Legal Limits)

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

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

Items You CANNOT Bring to Ecuador

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

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

Ecuador Shipping Company Cost

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

Relocation Services of Ecuador charges include:

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

If you would like us to connect you with Paul Wilches at Relocation Services of Ecuador, drop us a note through our contact form and we’ll send an email introduction.


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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

Is CUENCA Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

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

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

Is Cuenca the Best Expat City in Ecuador?

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

Cuenca Is a Modern, Developed City with Old World Charm

Is Cuenca Ecuador the Best Expat City

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

Cuenca Has an Airport

Cuenca Airport

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

You Don’t Need a Car in Cuenca

Cuenca Ecuador Tranvia

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of English-Speaking Ecuadorians

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of Spanish Schools & Teachers

Walking Spanish Lessons Cuenca Ecuador

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

Cuenca Has a Large Expat Community

Cuenca Expats

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

Cuenca Has a Variety of Modern, Upscale Housing

Cuenca Ecuador House

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

Cuenca Has Excellent Pet Care

Cuenca Pet Care

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of Fun & Entertaining Things To Do

Cuenca Things To Do

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

There are LOTS of Amazing Day Trips Around Cuenca

Cuenca Day Trip Cajas

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

Cuenca Has High Quality Medical Care & English-Speaking Doctors

Cuenca Medical Care

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

Cuenca Has a Large Variety of Delicious Restaurants & Cuisines

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

Cuenca Has Great Coffee Shops

Cuenca Coffee Shops

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

Cuenca Has Modern Grocery Stores & Several Large Mercados

Cuenca Mercados

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

Cuenca Has Several Speciality & Organic Shops

Cuenca Specialty Shops

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

Cuenca Has Numerous Visa Agents

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

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

Major Drawbacks of Living In Cuenca

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

Altitude Sickness

Cuenca Elevation

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

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

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

Cool, Cloudy Weather

Cuenca Cloudy Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Drive Through Cajas to Get to Guayaquil

Cajas Drive

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

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

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

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

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

Is Cuenca Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

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

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

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


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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

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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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We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

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

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

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

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

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

10 Crucial Steps to Moving to a New Country

1. List your priorities

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

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

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

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

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

2. Choose a destination (or several)

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

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

3. Research visa requirements

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

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

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

4. Join Expat Support Groups

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

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

Our Patreon Community

Amelia And JP on Patreon

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

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

5. Book Your Exploratory Trip

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

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

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

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

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

6. Making Preparations for Your Move to a New Country

booking a flight, traveling to a new country

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Decide What You Can Do & What To Outsource

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Moving to the New Country of Your Dreams

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

Planning for Your Pets

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

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

10. Start Your Expat Dream Life Abroad

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

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

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

Moving to a New Country is an Incredible Experience

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

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

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


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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!

Real Costs of Moving to Ecuador from the United States

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

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

Get Our Ecuador Costs Calculator

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

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

Required Costs of Moving to Ecuador

Temporary Resident Visa & Cédula

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Insurance

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

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

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

Airfare

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

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

Transportation

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

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

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

Lodging

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

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

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

Optional Costs of Moving to Ecuador

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

Miscellaneous Expenses

Exploratory Trip

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

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

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

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

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

Visa Agent

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

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

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

Shipping a Container

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

Extra Luggage

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

Travel Insurance

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

Mobile Phone

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

Housing Costs

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

Security Deposit

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

First Month’s Rent

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

Internet Setup Fee

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

Internet Monthly Fee

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

Utilities

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

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

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

Household Items

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

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

Pets

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

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

Veterinarian

The next step is to find a USDA Accredited Veterinarian to help you fill out all the paperwork and plan your vaccine schedule. Ours worked with the USDA to make sure everything on the paperwork and the vaccine schedule was correct.

We used Town & Country Veterinary Clinic in Marietta, GA. They were very helpful and we highly recommend them if you live in the Atlanta area. We paid about $600 for all the exams and paperwork for both of our dogs.

Vaccinations

The vaccine schedule is complicated, especially if you have multiple dogs at varying stages of their vaccine schedule. Daisy and Alicia both had some vaccines that had not expired yet. That meant we had to get boosters for some vaccines while others had to be given during a specific window of time. We paid about $300 for vaccines for both of our dogs.

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

Paperwork

You’ll also need to find the nearest USDA APHIS office to get all the certificates endorsed. You need to make an appointment with them, and it could take a couple weeks to get on their calendar so plan accordingly. Expect to pay about $38 per pet.

Pet Carriers

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

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

Check with your airline for their exact requirements.

Pet Travel

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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 to help take the mystery out of your move.

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 you.

Disclaimer

We are not 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.

We are not able to meet with anyone in real life. We would love to meet all of our patrons and subscribers in person, but for time and safety reasons (covid) we can only meet virtually over on Patreon and in our Discord community. Thanks for understanding!