Start Here – Live Abroad Now in Ecuador

There are lots of places to expat around the world so that means you have lots of things to consider when deciding where to move abroad. This blog series will help you determine if Ecuador is the right place for you by answering your main questions about being an expat in Ecuador.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are several different types of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas: Professional, Investor, Pensioners, Rentista, Dependent, etc. The qualifications and requirements vary for each type of visa so you’ll need to select the best option for your specific circumstances.

HUGE thanks to Maité from GringoVisas.com for not only helping us with both our Temporary and Permanent Resident Visas, but for taking the time to answer a bunch of questions for this article about the new visa requirements in Ecuador.

This is Part 11 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…

General Requirements for Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are a few general requirements for all Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas. You can read the detailed list on the government website here; however, here are the main things you’ll want to consider:

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

Passport Expiration

If your passport will expire during the 2-year visa period, we recommend renewing your passport before applying for the visa.

Ecuador no longer attaches physical visas to your passport. Instead, they issue electronic visas that are attached to your passport number. When you renew your passport, you’ll get a different number which means your visa will need to be electronically transferred to the new passport. This requires a $100 fee and an additional trip the visa office to sign paperwork.

There’s no harm in renewing your passport early and doing so will save you a lot of inconvenience.

Health Insurance

Before you can obtain your Temporary Resident Visa for Ecuador, you will need to show proof of health insurance coverage that works inside Ecuador.

You can sign-up for health insurance with one of Ecuador’s private insurance companies before you get your visa; you just need to show your passport to submit the application. You can expect to pay between $50 and $100 per person depending on your age and smoking habits. Pre-existing conditions are covered after a 2-year waiting period.

Once you have your Temporary Resident Visa AND your Cédula (government issued ID card) you can apply for Ecuador’s public IESS (universal) healthcare option. There are several advantages and disadvantages with this plan, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article since you cannot apply for coverage until you already have your visa.

If you would like us to connect you with our recommend health insurance agent, you can gain access to our entire list of English-speaking service providers in Ecuador by becoming a patron at any tier, or drop us a note and we’ll send an email introduction to our insurance broker.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

You’ll need to provide both State and Federal FBI background checks with your application. Ideally, your background checks will be squeaky clean, but if you have a minor offense with a reasonable explanation or if it happened a long time ago, it may not affect your application process.

These reports must be less than 6 months old when you file your visa application. If they are more than 6 months old, you will need to request them again and pay for the new reports so plan carefully.

Marriage License & Birth Certificates

For dependent visas, you’ll need a marriage license for a spouse or birth certificates for children. The apostille date on the documents needs to be less than 6 months from the date of the application.

You can register your marriage license in Ecuador at a Registro Civil office so it will always be on file and you won’t need to go through this process again. Ask your visa agent for help with this.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Ministry Fees

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas have two primary fees (as of 2020). The temporary resident visa application fee is $50 per person and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the temporary resident visa fee is $400 per person.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Types

Professional Visa

The Ecuador Professional Visa has the following requirements:

  • Monthly income of at least USD $400
  • An undergraduate or graduate degree from an approved university
  • A notarized and apostilled diploma
  • A notarized and apostilled transcript
  • A notarized and apostilled letter signed by a university official stating the diploma and transcript are valid

My temporary (and now permanent) visa is a Professional Visa, which means I still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador, and a degree from an approved university. You can find the approved university list here…

Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken online. To qualify as an approved university, more than 80% of classes must be taken in a classroom setting and not online.

I went to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) for both my bachelors and masters degrees. When I graduated in the 90’s, online courses weren’t a thing yet, so I took all my classes in-person. This means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.

We had to get an official diploma and transcript from KU for my most advanced degree (Masters). We also had to get a notarized letter from a university official stating my degree was valid. Then we had to send that to the GringoVisas office in Connecticut so they could get it apostilled at the federal level before mailing it to Ecuador.

Investor Visa

For the Ecuador Investor Visa, you need to invest $40,000 + $500 for each dependent (as of 2020) in an Ecuadorian bank Certificate of Deposit (CD) for at least 2 years, the duration of your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa. The new laws for this visa no longer have travel restrictions: You can leave Ecuador for as many days per year as you want.

The interest rates on the CD’s will shock you if you’re coming from the US where banks no longer pay meaningful interest. As of this writing, the interest rate on a 2 year CD in Ecuador is roughly 9%. NINE percent!

You can leave the interest in the account so it compounds, but you are allowed by law to withdraw the interest income from your CD without invalidating your visa. However, you need to be careful when signing the paperwork with your bank because they will default the application to prevent withdrawal of the earned interest. Be specific with them and tell them that you want to withdraw the interest every month, 6 months, or each year, whichever you prefer.

Bank deposits are only insured up to $32,000 so that means at least $8,000 of your investment will not be insured. You are not allowed to split the investment into different accounts or different banks to make up the difference, either. The entire investment must be in one account.

In lieu of a bank CD, you can also purchase property to qualify for an Investor Visa in Ecuador. The only requirement is that the property be independently appraised and valued at more than $40,000 + $500 for each dependent.

You are not allowed to transfer the investment without reapplying for the visa. So, for instance, you cannot use your CD to buy property. The investment must remain the same for the entire duration of the Temporary Resident Visa and cannot be changed or transferred.

Pensioners Visa

In order to get a Pensioners Visa, you need to show income for the remainder of your life of at least $400/month with no additional dependent income requirement (as of October 2020). This was recently changed, due to an oversight in the new visa laws, from $800/month + $100/month for each dependent. This may revert to the previous amounts in future updates to the laws and regulations.

Your income can be from Social Security, a pension, retirement accounts, annuities, etc. If you’re using Social Security for your income requirement, you’ll need an annual statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that’s signed by an SSA official and apostilled at the federal (not state) level. Due to the pandemic, this process is taking 8 to 10 weeks so plan accordingly.

You can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days per year with this type of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa.

Rentista Visa

The Rentista Visa is a relatively new type of visa, and due to confusion about how it works, not many have been issued.

It’s similar to the Pensioner’s Visa in that you have to prove you have a consistent monthly income of $400/month. The only difference is that you don’t have to prove that it’s income for life. You just need to provide your last 12 months worth of bank statements showing that the qualifying amount has been deposited each month.

You may also need proof of your work contract or employment that states you will continue to earn an income after you move to Ecuador.

Dependent Visa

A Dependent Visa must be attached to a valid Temporary Resident Visa and can be used for your spouse or underage children. This means the Temporary Visa must be issued before the Dependent Visa application can be filed.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

Amelia is here on a dependent visa attached to my professional visa. As long as we stay married, she can maintain her dependent visa, but if I die or she leaves me for a Latin lover, she will need to get her own visa and start the entire process over. That’s the major downside to the Dependent Visa in Ecuador.

It took 3 months for my visa to be approved and issued after we filed the paperwork with the ministry. We filed it shortly after our arrival in October and my visa was available toward the end of January. Amelia received her dependent visa in mid-March.

There are no other special requirements for the dependent visa. However, you can only be outside Ecuador for 90 non-consecutive days per year with this visa type.

Tourist Visa

This visa is easy to get. Just come to Ecuador and it gets issued at passport control. It’s only valid for 3 months, but you can apply for a 3 month extension if needed.

Other Visas

The four other types of Ecuador temporary resident visas are the work visa, volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa. These are only temporary visa options and cannot be converted to permanent resident visas at the end of the 2-year term. If your goal is to become a permanent resident of Ecuador, it’s best to get one of the other visa types.

These types of visas aren’t popular with expats because they don’t lead to permanent residency, so we’re not going to cover them in this article.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Process

There are lots of steps involved with getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa, and it usually takes 3 to 6 months.

It can take 2 to 3 months just to get the background checks done in the US, apostilled and mailed to Ecuador so keep that in mind when you’re planning your travel.

Step 1: Fingerprints

The first step in the process of getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is getting your fingerprints taken. We had ours taken in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip in 2017, but you can also have them taken back in the US.

Step 2: Background Check

Once we had our fingerprint forms, our visa agent requested the background checks from the FBI and Colorado state police.

Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real. Then it needs to be apostilled at the federal level.

Dependent Visa

If you’re applying for a dependent visa, you’ll need to get a certified copy of your marriage license and have it apostilled. Your children will need to have apostilled birth certificates. All documents must be apostilled at the federal level.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in an Ecuadorian bank CD for at least 2 years or purchase property that you intend to keep for the duration of the temporary resident visa. You can wire funds directly to an Ecuadorian bank from a US bank.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a letter from the SSA stating your monthly income and you’ll need to provide monthly income statements.

Step 4: Request an Appointment with the Ministry

You can go to any of the ministry offices in Ecuador to submit your application, but some have longer waits than others. Cuenca is one of the busiest offices in Ecuador so it can take 3 to 4 months just to get an appointment date to submit your application.

We went to Machala to submit our temporary visa application because the wait for an appointment was only 2 weeks. It can take several months to get appointments in the busier offices in Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil.

Step 5: Fill Out and Notarize the Visa Application Form

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

 Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

Step 6: Submit Your Application

Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required and apostilled documentation, go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You’ll need your passport as identification. This process is different if your visa will be issued in your home country. Your visa agent will help with that process.

Step 7: Wait

We submitted my Ecuador temporary resident visa application at the end of October when we first arrived in Ecuador, but didn’t receive it until the end of January. It took 3 months to get approved and printed.

Due to the constantly changing laws and delays when we applied for our temporary resident visas, we were here in Ecuador for several months beyond our 3-month tourist visa without our temporary resident visa. Since the application was in-process, we technically weren’t illegal aliens, but it sure felt like we were! Thankfully we didn’t need to leave the country during that small window or it might have been difficult to get back in.

Step 8: Get Your Visa from the Ministry

Once your visa is approved, the government issues an electronic visa that is digitally attached to your passport number. They no longer attach a physical visa sticker to your passport. Again, if your passport is about to expire, we recommend renewing it first before applying for your Ecuador temporary resident visas.

Step 9: Get a Cédula

After we received our temporary resident visas, we took them to the government office in Cuenca to get our cédula, which is our official government issued identification card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.

It took about an hour to get the cédula and the cost was $5.

Hopefully, you found this lengthy article about the Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas helpful. If you see others asking about this complex process on social media, please share it with them. And if you spot any inaccuracies or outdated rules, please let us know so we can keep this up-to-date.

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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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Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is It Safe to Fly Your Pets on an Airplane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pet Transport Services

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

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

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

Pet Friendly Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil Ecuador

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

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

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

Renting a Home that Accepts Pets in Ecuador

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

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

Pet Services in Ecuador

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

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

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

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How To Prepare Family and Friends for Your Move to Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

Crime

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

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

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

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

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Extreme Weather

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

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

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

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

Healthcare

IESS Hospital in Manta Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation & Infrastructure

Quito Ecuador Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

Housing in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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How To Travel to Ecuador from the United States

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

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

Booking a Flight to Ecuador

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

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

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

flying to Ecuador

Direct flights to Quito from the United States

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

Direct Flights to Guayaquil from the United States

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

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

Transportation Options from Quito Ecuador

Flying from Quito to Guayaquil or Cuenca

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

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

Riding the Bus

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

Traveling from Quito to Vilcabamba

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

Traveling from Quito to Salinas

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

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

Traveling from Quito to Manta

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

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

Transportation Options from Guayaquil

Traveling from Guayaquil to Cuenca

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

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

Traveling from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba

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

Traveling from Guayaquil to Salinas

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

Traveling from Guayaquil to Manta

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

What to Do When You Land

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

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

bridge in Ecuador

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

Exploring the County & Nature

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

Mountain in Ecuador

Planning a Trip is Easier Than Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Ecuador Safe? The TRUTH About Crime in Ecuador

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

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

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

Gang Violence in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crime Statistics in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Homicide Rate in Ecuador vs. The United States

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

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

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

Overall Risks & Safety Tips

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

Pickpocketing Schemes

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

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

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

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

Use Your Hotel Safe in Ecuador

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

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

Are Taxis in Ecuador Safe?

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

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

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

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

Bus Safety in Ecuador

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

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

Political Demonstrations in Ecuador

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

Car Break-Ins in Ecuador

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

Safety of Popular Areas in Ecuador

Guayaquil Ecuador Safety

Guayaquil, Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Quito Ecuador Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador Safety

San Francisco Plaza New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

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

If you have any other safety precautions, let us know about them in the comments below.

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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. 

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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.

Plus, you'll gain immediate access to dozens of patron-only videos and posts for less than the cost of a cup of coffee. Your support helps us continue sharing this magical country with the rest of the world.

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…

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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.

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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.

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Best Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

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

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

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

Best Mountain Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

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

Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Cuenca Ecuador

Founded: April 12, 1557

Population: 330,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 8,400 ft (2.560 m)

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

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

Quito Ecuador

Quito Ecuador

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

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

Quito Ecuador Map

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

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

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

Cumbaya Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Quito Ecuador

Founded: December 6, 1534

Population: 1.6 million (as of 2010)

Altitude: 9,350 ft (2.850 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Loja Ecuador

Loja Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Loja Ecuador

Founded: December 8, 1548

Population: 180,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 6,758 ft (2.060 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil

Vilcabamba Ecuador

Retire In Ecuador - Vilcabamba

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

Vilcabamba Ecuador Map

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

Vilcabamba Mandango

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Vilcabamba Ecuador

Population: 4,778 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 5,233 ft (1.595 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (7 hour drive)

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

Ibarra Ecuador

Ibarra Ecuador

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

Ibarra Ecuador Map

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Ibarra Ecuador

Founded: September 28, 1606

Population: 139,721 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 7,300 ft (2.225 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (2 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Otavalo Ecuador

Otavalo Ecuador Market

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

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

Otavalo Ecuador Map

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

Fast Facts About Otavalo Ecuador

Population: 39,354 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 8,307 ft (2.532 m)

Nearest International Airport: Quito (1.5 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Cotacachi Ecuador

Cotacachi Ecuador Cuicocha

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

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

Cotacachi Ecuador Map

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

Fast Facts About Cotacachi Ecuador

Founded: 1544

Population: 8,848 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 7,933 ft (2.418 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Best Coastal Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

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

Guayaquil Ecuador

Guayaquil Ecuador

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

Guayaquil Ecuador Map

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

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

Iguana

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Guayaquil Ecuador

Founded: July 25, 1535

Population: 2.291 million (as of 2010)

Altitude: 13 ft (4 m)

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (located near downtown)

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

Playas Ecuador

Playas Ecuador

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

Playas Ecuador Map

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Playas Ecuador

Population: 24,000 (as of 2001)

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (1.5 hour drive)

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

Salinas Ecuador

Salinas Ecuador

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

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

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

Salinas Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Salinas Ecuador

Population: 50,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (2.5 hour drive)

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

Montañita and Olón Ecuador

Montañita Ecuador

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

Olon Ecuador Map

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

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

Olon Ecuador

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

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

Manglaralto to La Entrada Map

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Montañita and Olón Ecuador

Montañita Population: 4,500

Olón Population: 2,500

Altitude: Sea Level

Nearest International Airport: Guayaquil (3 hour drive)

Nearest US Consulate: US Consulate in Guayaquil

Manta Ecuador

Manta Ecuador

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

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

Manta Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Manta Ecuador

Founded: 1534

Population: 221,000 (as of 2010)

Altitude: Sea Level

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

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

Best Amazon Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats

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

Tena Ecuador

Tena Ecuador Map

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

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Tena Ecuador

Founded: 1560

Population: 60,880 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 1,378 ft (420 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Puyo Ecuador

Puyo Ecuador Map

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Puyo Ecuador

Founded: 1899

Population: 36,659 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 3,116 ft (950 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

Coca Ecuador

Coca Ecuador Map

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

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

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

Fast Facts About Coca Ecuador

Founded: 1899

Population: 72,795 (as of 2010)

Altitude: 1,000 ft (300 m)

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

Nearest US Consulate: US Embassy in Quito

The Best City to Live in Ecuador for YOU

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

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

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

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Should You Retire in Ecuador?

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

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

Benefits of Retiring in Ecuador

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

Low Cost of Living

Retire in Ecuador - Low Cost of Living

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

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

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

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

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

Low Healthcare and Medication Cost

Retire In Ecuador - Low Cost of Medication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy to See Your Doctors & Dentists

Retire In Ecuador - Easy to See Doctors

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

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

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

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

IESS Covers Pre-existing Conditions

Retire In Ecuador - Pre-existing Conditions

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

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

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

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

Affordable Transportation

Retire in Ecuador - Cuenca Tranvia

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

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

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

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

Variety of Low Cost Service Providers

Retire In Ecuador - Service Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of Things to Do

Retire In Ecuador - Hot Springs

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

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

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

Strong Expat Community

Cuenca Ecuador Expats

It is estimated that 100,000 Americans and 30,000 Europeans live in Ecuador from all walks of life. We’ve met retired postal workers, bus drivers, bankers, college professors, software project managers, marketing executives, electricians…you name the profession and we’ve probably met someone who retired from it.

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

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

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

Challenges of Retirement in Ecuador

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

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

Uneven Sidewalks

Retire In Ecuador - Uneven Sidewalks

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

Not Handicap Accessible

Retire In Ecuador - Handicap Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

High Altitude in Popular Expat Mountain Cities

Retire In Ecuador - High Altitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Medical Care in Popular Expat Beach Towns

Olon Ecuador Sign Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limited Direct Flights to the United States

Cuenca Airport Mariscal Lamar International Airport

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

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

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

Most People Don’t Speak English

Retire In Ecuador - English

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

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

What’s Next…

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

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

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