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 Health Insurance: Private vs. Public IESS – EXPLAINED (2021)

Health insurance in Ecuador can be complicated and confusing, so we were very fortunate to have Carlos Ramírez from Blue Box Insurance stop by to explain it to us.

Blue Box is an insurance broker representing several health, auto and home insurance companies in Ecuador. They have an office in Cuenca, and they will be opening an office in Manta in April 2021.

Health Insurance in Ecuador is a bit different than the United States. You have the option of getting Private Health Insurance with one of Ecuador’s many health insurance companies.

Or, you can sign up for the Public IESS Health Insurance, which is Ecuador’s version of Universal Healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid). You’ll need your Temporary Residency Visa AND your cédula before you can apply for this plan.

Or, you can get both Private AND Public Health Insurance to make sure ALL your bases are covered. Since the cost of healthcare and health insurance in Ecuador is so much more affordable than in the United States, this is a viable option for many people.

If you have more questions about health insurance or healthcare in Ecuador, we recommend contacting a health insurance agent/broker directly since we are not experts on this topic. To get in touch with Carlos and his team, please visit their website at BlueBoxInsurance.com and be sure to tell them you saw this video on Live Abroad Now.

You might also be interested in our article about the Cost of Living in Ecuador: A Guide for Expat Budgeting.


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Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

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

Health insurance is NO LONGER REQUIRED for any of Ecuador’s visas, including the 90-day tourist visa, and both the temporary and permanent residency visas.

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 in an Ecuadorian CO-OP 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 during the first 2 years of your residency.

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 8.5% annually! That’s roughly $287/month in interest on your $40,000 CD!!!

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 the COOP because they will default the application to prevent withdrawal of the earned interest until the CD end date. 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 COOP CD, you can also purchase property to qualify for an Investor Visa in Ecuador. The only requirement is that the property be assessed by the government at more than $40,000.

IMPORTANT: The assessment value may be substantially lower than the purchase price. You can request a new assessment if the registered value is less than $40,000.

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 from either a 2-year lease agreement attached to a rental property you own, or a 2-year work contract.

The main difference from the pension visa is that you don’t have to show it’s income for life. You just need to provide your last 6 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, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or any blood relative. The primary 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.

90-Day 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.

The extension application has a fee that has increased from $100 when we moved here to $133 based on a recent viewer comment (Feb 2021). You’ll need to apply toward the end of your 90-day tourist visa.

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 and other relatives will need to have apostilled birth certificates.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in CD at an Ecuadorian COOP 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.

You will need to open the CD in a COOP such as JEP because banks like Banco Guayaquil require an Ecuador government ID (cédula) to open an account. You can open an account at a COOP with just your passport and your investor visa application.

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. You are not required to get a cédula, however, your expat life in Ecuador will be much easier and you’ll have more banking options available to you if you have one.

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.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

11 Reasons to Move Abroad in 2021

Have you considered what it would be like to pack up your life and move abroad to a new country? If you have saved up some money, work as a freelancer, are considering early retirement, or you’ve joined the “remote working” society that has become so prevalent in the last year, moving abroad may be easier than you once thought possible.

In these unprecedented times, working at a job you love does not necessarily mean you have to work in the city where your job is located. As long as you have a reliable internet connection you can have your cake and eat it too. You can earn your high-wage American paycheck while taking advantage of the lower cost of living in a different country.

If moving abroad sounds appealing to you, read on to learn more about the perks of living in a distant location, far from home.

#1 Move Abroad for a Fresh Start

#1 Move Abroad for a Fresh Start

Moving to a new and foreign destination allows you to create a fresh start for yourself—the world becomes your oyster!

Starting fresh does not mean you need to transform your life completely, but you can finally take the opportunity to change bad habits, focus on the things in life that you truly love, and meet new friends who can have a profoundly positive influence on you.

A fresh start in a new country allows you to wipe the slate clean and get your life in order.

#2 Move Abroad to Pay Down Debt

#2 Move Abroad to Pay Down Debt

When deciding where to start your life anew, be sure to take the local cost of living into consideration.

In countries such as Ecuador, where the U.S. dollar is also the official currency, you won’t need to worry about calculating currency exchanges in your head. The cost of living is also much lower compared to living back in the states, affording you the opportunity to spread your money out much further.

Other countries in Southeast Asia like the Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and India are even MORE affordable than Ecuador! However, they’re much further away and you might experience more of a culture shock if you’re leaving the United States.

Depending on where decide to move abroad, your cost of living could be 1/3 or even less than you’re paying back home.

Check out our Cost of Living in Ecuador: A Guide for Expat Budgeting article for more on this topic.

#3 Move Abroad to Save For Retirement

#3 Move Abroad to Save For Retirement

Living abroad as an expat affords you the opportunity to develop a more aggressive strategy for saving for retirement.

Again, a lower cost of living allows you to live comfortably for less money, so the money you save can be invested into your retirement account. If you structure your retirement savings strategy the right way, you should be able to save much more money while living abroad, which will allow you to enjoy a better retirement when you get older.

The key is continuing to be frugal with your money, even when the exchange rate or cost of living works out well in your favor. Don’t adopt a more luxurious lifestyle just because you can.

#4 Move Abroad to Retire Early

#4 Move Abroad to Retire Early

If warm weather and sandy beaches are calling your name, consider becoming an expat and retire from the workforce earlier than the standard average age of 67.

We know several military, police and firefighters who retired after their 20 years of honorable service and moved to Ecuador. Their pensions weren’t enough to live a comfortable life back in the United States, but they can live a very comfortable life in Ecuador without working anymore. Imagine retiring in your 40’s or 50’s while you’re still young enough to enjoy life!

Moving abroad could be the ticket to realizing an earlier retirement, thanks to cheap real estate prices and being able to stretch your money out further.

#5 Move Abroad for a Better Work/Life Balance

#5 Move Abroad for a Better Work Life Balance

If you can’t afford to retire yet, one of the benefits of working remotely is that you can achieve a better work/life balance since you won’t be spending as much time commuting to a job. Less time in a car means more time at home with your family and friends.

You could also live in a vacation destination so you can enjoy the beach or the mountains every day instead of just when you take time off from work.

And since you don’t need as much money if you live in a low cost of living country, you may find that you don’t need to work as much. It’s a beautiful thing!

#6 Move Abroad for Medical or Dental Care

#6 Move Abroad for Medical or Dental Care

One of the biggest perks of moving to a country with a lower cost of living is that you will be better able to afford costly medical and dental procedures you may have been putting off.

You may be surprised to learn that reputable doctors and specialists are available in lots of countries, and you will find that it is perfectly safe and much more affordable to have medical and dental work completed abroad.

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.

Not only can you save between 50% to 90% having your medical and dental treatments taken care of abroad, but foreign medical and dental insurance policies are much cheaper than purchasing these policies from insurance companies based in the United States.

Check out our FAQ #6 – What about HEALTH INSURANCE In Ecuador? for more on this topic.

#7 Move Abroad to Expand Your Worldview

#7 Move Abroad to Expand Your Worldview

The best way to learn about a new, fascinating culture is to experience it firsthand by living abroad.

While living in your new country, spend time indulging in foreign cuisine at fine restaurants and roadside haunts, learn about the history of its people through museum visits and getting to know the residents in your community, and by exploring the country’s major cities and the roads less traveled out in the countryside.

Moving abroad might also give you a new appreciation or at least a new perspective about your home country. Immersing yourself in a new culture is truly a mind-altering experience that can dramatically expand your worldview.

#8 Move Abroad to Get Inspired with Fresh New Ideas

#8 Move Abroad to Get Inspired with Fresh New Ideas

Part of the allure of living in a foreign country is that the colors, smells, sights, and sounds are all different than those you have experienced while living at home. All these new sensory experiences can inspire you with fresh new ideas and dreams.

Seize the opportunity of living in a vibrant place to come up with new plans for the present and future. Have you ever wanted to write a book, learn a new craft, or embark on a new career journey? Moving abroad has the power to help you change your perspective and turn your dreams into a reality.

You’re also likely to notice that day-to-day life is much different in other countries than what you have experienced living in the United States and other developed nations. In many parts of the world, big corporations and retail chains do not rule commerce like in America. Small, family owned and operated businesses are still the norm, which means there is also a lower barrier of entry for entrepreneurs.

You might even be inspired to return home and start a new business based on the fresh new ideas you have while living abroad.

#9 Move Abroad to Learn A New Language

#9 Move Abroad to Learn A New Language

Living abroad offers the perfect opportunity to learn a new language, which is great mental exercise to keep your brain active and pliable as you age.

Engage in activities like reading road signs and local newspapers/blogs so you are exposed to, and immersed in, the new language as you go about your day.

Instead of trying to work through a language learning program, get out and practice the language of your new country with the locals. To quote Xavier Montezuma, an Ecuadorian friend who is fully fluent in English, “Language is meant to be spoken; not studied.”

You will also find locals who are more than happy to help you learn their language. Do not be ashamed if you struggle at first—most people will be flattered that you are attempting to adapt to their culture.

#10 Move Abroad to Meet Someone Special

#10 Move Abroad to Meet Someone Special

Whether you are looking for a new best friend or a romantic partner to spend your life with, moving to a new country provides you with the opportunity to meet someone special.

It is often much easier to meet new people when you move to a new place because you are less wrapped up in your daily routine and are more open to new experiences.

When you first move to a new country, you will have more free time available, especially if you make a solo journey to the country without your friends or family.

You might meet a fellow expat with common interests, or maybe even a local. Once you “carpe diem” and start living life to the fullest, you suddenly become a lot more attractive to other people!

#11 Move Abroad for a Gap Year

#11 Move Abroad for a Gap Year

If you’re trying to decide what you want to study while in college, or whether college is even right for you, consider taking a gap year and moving abroad to open your educational horizons.

Experiential learning through immersing yourself in a new culture will provide a much more impactful educational experience than reading about world affairs in textbooks. Learning through experience better prepares you to tackle real world issues once you return to school or enter the workforce.

Are You Ready to Move Abroad Yet?

Whether you are young and want to take an adventure before settling down into a career, are considering early retirement, need to reduce your cost of living, or would just like to broaden your horizon and experience living in a different culture, moving abroad may be the perfect solution for you.

The beauty of moving abroad is that it doesn’t have to be forever, but it can change your life forever!


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

How to Work Remotely as a Digital Nomad or Digital Expat (from ANYWHERE in the world)

How to Work Remotely as a Digital Nomad or Digital Expat is a topic that is gaining more and more interest each day. Due to the pandemic and the shuttering of offices worldwide, which has caused a massive growth in the number of people working from home, it has become even more feasible to work remotely from anywhere in the world.

While it is possible to earn income from a job in another country, there are other options that may allow you to earn more money working fewer hours. Plus, you can start before you leave home so you minimize your risk of moving abroad and ensure a smooth landing in your new expat destination.

Is Getting a Job Abroad Realistic?

While it is possible to get a job abroad, it may not be the best option to earn income as an expat, especially in countries like Ecuador. Here’s why.

Local Language Fluency if Often Required

Local Language

Most businesses require their employees to be fluent in the local language because most of their customers do not speak English. If you’re not fluent in the local language, it will be very difficult to find a job.

This is especially true in Ecuador where Spanish is the official language. Even though Cuenca has a lot of English speaking Ecuadorians, most people don’t speak English and even fewer speak la lingua franca in other places outside Cuenca.

In fact, according to the 2020 English Proficiency Index for Latin America released by Education First, Ecuador ranks LAST for English proficiency out of the 19 countries in the study.

Spanish fluency is a requirement to get a job at most businesses in Ecuador, as well as in other Spanish speaking countries.

A Specialized Skill Set is Often Needed

Doctor

If you have a specialized skill set or education, you may be able to get a job and have a translator supplied for you. For example, Ecuador has a foreign doctor program that encourages doctors to move to Ecuador.

There are also programs to teach a foreign language to students in Ecuador, but the pay is very low: $4 to $5/hour.

When we were doing research to move abroad, we briefly considered New Zealand and Australia. However, even though we have marketable skill sets for available jobs in those countries, they have age and health requirements for immigrants that we didn’t meet.

You may have a specialized skill set that qualifies you for a job abroad, but the pay may be very low and there may be other factors that prevent you from getting a job in your preferred country.

You Might Need a Visa That Allows You to Work Remotely

You need a visa type that allows you to work in another country. Some visa types are specifically for work, others allow you to work, and others prevent you from working.

We have a Professional Visa in Ecuador, which allows us to work remotely, as well as get a local job, if we want to. Ecuador also has a Volunteer Visa that allows you to work as an unpaid volunteer, a Rentista Visa geared toward digital nomads, and a Work Visa that must be sponsored by an employer.

You’re allowed to work remotely in Ecuador with most of the temporary resident visa types, but the same is not true in other countries.

You Might Need to Pay Local Income Taxes

Income Tax

If you get a job abroad, you also need to pay income taxes to the country and province where the income is earned. If you work remotely and earn income online from clients in other parts of the world, you may not owe any local taxes.

In Ecuador, any income earned from companies based outside Ecuador is not taxable inside Ecuador. That not only saves you money, but it saves you the hassle of filing tax returns in Spanish.

Most Low Cost Countries Also Pay Low Wages

Low Pay

In popular expat destinations like Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, etc., the local wages are very low. It’s difficult to earn enough money from a job to live even a basic American middle class lifestyle in many countries.

The minimum wage for a full time job in Ecuador is $415/month (2021). That’s about $2.59/hour. Moving from a country like the United States to Ecuador with a monthly budget of $415 before taxes will likely be a drastically different lifestyle for you.

We recommend a budget of at least $500/month/person after taxes for a basic lifestyle in Ecuador, and a budget of $800/month/person after taxes for a more comfortable middle class lifestyle.

See More: Cost of Living In Ecuador (2020)

You Might Have Stiff Competition

Stiff Competition

Being a foreigner is often a hindrance to finding a job. This is especially true when there is stiff competition for work, which is common in most developing countries.

Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and other countries in this region have a lot of Venezuelan refugees who need work. Ecuador is prioritizing Venezuelan work visas so they can get jobs here and start paying into the social systems they’re using.

Since they already speak fluent Spanish and they’re willing to work for low wages, they are stiff competition to other foreigners looking for the same jobs.

If your dream of becoming an expat hinges on finding a full time job abroad, you might want to start thinking about Plan B.

How to Work Remotely & Make Money Living Abroad

If finding a job abroad isn’t the best option, then what is? Working remotely as a digital nomad or digital expat might be easier than you think. Here are several options.

Work Remotely from Anywhere in the World with Your Current Job

Work Remotely

One way to work remotely is to convert your day job into a virtual job. This is the most viable option for earning income abroad, as long as your employer will allow it.

Amelia works remotely for a commercial lighting company back in Denver, Colorado. She manages their sales CRM tools, sales incentives and manufacturer visits. 100% of her job can be done online.

When we lived in Denver, she worked in the office about 20% of the time and at home the other 80% of the time. When we decided to leave Denver, she told her bosses that she needed to be 100% virtual and thankfully they were ok with that.

Having Amelia’s full American salary while living in a low cost country like Ecuador has allowed us to pay down the debt we racked up from Amelia’s student loan and the lost income following my spine surgeries.

I also work remotely, but my job as a web designer has always been virtual. When we moved to Ecuador, most of my income came from my managed web hosting clients back in the United States. They pay me a monthly fee to host and maintain their WordPress websites.

Since our YouTube Channel has grown, we’ve started earning income from ad revenue and from our patrons on Patreon. As a result, I’ve stopped taking on new web design clients so I can focus on growing our YouTube and Blog business.

We also know another expat who worked as a medical transcriptionist for a doctor’s office back in the United States. She already worked remotely so when she moved to Ecuador, her employer didn’t know she left the country. With modern communication technologies, it’s easy to appear like you’re right next door even when you’re halfway around the world.

Work Remotely Doing Online Gigs

We live in the virtual age. More and more tasks can be done online from the comfort of your home, wherever your home happens to be. You can make money working remotely as a digital nomad or digital expat as long as you have a reliable internet connection and a few basic skills.

Work Remotely as a Website or Graphic Designer

Web Design

I built my first website back in 1995 while working for Sprint in Kansas City. Since then, I’ve built hundreds of websites for small businesses, as well as some very large business management systems for large corporations and the US government. My entire career has involved web design, software development and the Internet.

However, it’s much more difficult to make a living in the web business now than it was 20 years ago due to the wide availability of virtual workers from low cost countries. As a web or graphic designer, you’ll be competing with people in countries like India, Pakistan, Russia and China where the cost of living is a fraction of that in the United States or Canada.

It used to be common to charge thousands of dollars to build a relatively simple brochureware website. Now, you’ll be lucky to get a few hundred dollars, assuming you don’t lose the job to someone in India who will do it for $50.

To be honest, web design is a loss leader these days. It’s a way to get a business onboard with a web hosting, managed web hosting, SEO or social media management monthly subscription service.

My clients have paid me far more in managed hosting fees over the past several years than the original cost of building their website. Once I get a client onboard with managed hosting, they rarely leave. If they do cancel their service, it’s usually because they decided to delete the website or close the business.

If you’re in the web design business and don’t offer a monthly subscription service, you’re leaving most of your revenue on the table.

If you’ve never done web or graphic design, I don’t recommend starting now unless you live in a low cost country and can live on a small income. It also takes years of experience to become really good and efficient.

Check UpWork.com, Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com for web and graphic design of gigs.

Work Remotely as a Content Writer

Constant-Content

The web is made of content. Although video and images are extremely popular, the written word still dominates search results and eyeballs. In order to stay relevant, a website needs to produce high quality content on a regular basis. That means companies need writers.

The easiest way to get paid to write while working remotely is on websites like Constant Content, UpWork.com and Fiverr.com. If you’re a good writer with a broad range of experience or the ability to research, you can make a decent living writing content for other companies.

A few years ago, I submitted two business articles to Constant Content, which were subsequently purchased for roughly $80. I spent about 4 hours writing them, so my pay rate was about $20/hour. Not bad.

As an expat, you’ll also have valuable and unique experiences for the readers of International Living and similar media outlets. IL pays up to $350 if they publish one of your articles.

Some people make a full time salary by writing articles for companies and content brokers so this is a viable option for how to work remotely and make money living abroad as a digital nomad or digital expat, as long as you’re a good writer.

Work Remotely as a Social Media Manager

Social-Media-Manager

Business social media accounts require constant attention. In order to stay top-of-mind, companies need to post relevant and interesting content to their social feeds throughout the day and week.

A lot of companies, especially small businesses, don’t have the bandwidth to handle this time consuming and tedious workload so they outsource it to social media managers who are experts at getting attention online.

If you live on social media and understand how to attract eyeballs with your posts, this may be a viable way to earn income abroad as a digital nomad or digital expat.

Check UpWork.com, Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com for social media manager gigs.

Create Video and Podcast Transcription/Subtitles

The need for transcription services is a rapidly growing. There are millions of YouTube Channels and Podcasts that need transcriptions, translations, closed captions and subtitles for three main reasons: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the hearing impaired, and foreign language speakers.

Transcriptions for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO

YouTube uses a pretty sophisticated speech-to-text transcription system, but it’s still not very accurate, especially with foreign sounding names. It rarely understands the names of towns and businesses here in Ecuador when it attempts to generate automated English subtitles for our videos; however, it needs the subtitles to accurately optimize our videos for search results.

For example, the city of Guayaquil is often translated as “why I kill.” That’s actually a decent phonetic translation, but it’s obviously a very bad phrase to have in our subtitles for both SEO purposes, as well as the hearing impaired.

If names are misspelled or words are inaudible to the non-human transcription system, our videos won’t be as easily discovered in search results. Most large channels and podcasts with meaningful income streams pay humans to transcribe videos so they’re more accurate and more discoverable.

Closed Captions For the Hearing Impaired

Closed-Captions

It’s estimated that roughly 5% of views on YouTube are from hearing impaired viewers. That’s a lot of people who won’t be able to watch your YouTube video or listen to your podcast if you don’t have closed captions.

In addition, research shows that videos with closed captions have 12% more views and 80% more people watch them all the way to the end. As a channel or podcast continues to grow, the raw numbers associated with these percentages become huge. That means closed captions become increasingly more important as the size of your audience grows.

Translations for Foreign Language Speakers

Translations

Our VLOG is based in Ecuador, but we primarily target viewers who live back in the United States and are considering life abroad as a US expat.

We have a relatively small percentage of Spanish speakers who watch our videos, but as our channel grows, we’re getting more requests for Spanish subtitles.

Rev.com is one of the most popular transcription services. You can signup and start transcribing right now. The website charges $1/video or audio minute for English transcriptions, and $3/minute for Spanish transcriptions. They pay their transcribers $0.30-$1.10 per audio/video minute so you need to be a fast and accurate typer to earn a decent living in this field.

If you speak English and another language fluently, you can earn considerably more income by translating videos and podcasts. Even if English is your only language, you can still earn an income living abroad by transcribing videos and podcasts.

Check out Rev.com, UpWork.com and Fiverr.com for transcription and translation gigs.

Work Remotely as a Telemarketer or Customer Service Representative

Telemarketing

Several years ago, long before we considered moving abroad, I hired a telemarketer to make cold calls for my web design business. They advertised on CraigsList.org in Denver, but were based in the Dominican Republic.

The husband and wife team were both telemarketers from Southern California, but they couldn’t afford to live there as the cost of living skyrocketed, so they became expats and started working remotely from abroad.

They started in Costa Rica, but the 6 months of rain per year was too much for them so they moved to a beach town in the Dominican Republic where it’s much sunnier. With high speed internet available in most countries, it’s easy to use Skype or MagicJack to make calls anywhere in the world.

If you have the mental stamina to make cold calls, or the patience to deal with unhappy people on customer service calls, you can work remotely and earn an income abroad as a telemarketer or customer service representative.

Check FlexJobs.com, UpWork.com and similar virtual job sites for telemarketing and customer service freelance jobs. Or advertise on CraigsList and similar classified ad websites to work remotely as an independent contractor.

Teach English Online to Adults and Children

Teach-English-Online

We know several expats in Ecuador who earn the majority of their income from teaching English to Chinese children through websites like VIPKid.com. You can earn between $14 and $22/hour, but there are a few downsides.

For example, you have to commit to a certain number of hours per week so it’s not as flexible as other remote working jobs. Plus, if you’re in the western hemisphere, you’ll need to work either very early in the morning (4AM to 8AM) or very late at night (10PM to 2AM) since China is in the eastern hemisphere.

The main requirement for these types of remote working jobs is English fluency. We have a Russian friend who speaks English fluently as a second language and passed the test to teach English online so you don’t need to be a native speaker to do this online job.

Start Your Own Business Abroad

Start a Business

You may have never felt the entrepreneurial calling before, but it’s actually a great option for expats to make money living abroad. That’s because many of the products and services we take for granted back home aren’t readily available in developing countries.

While this isn’t necessarily a remote working income stream, we know lots of expat entrepreneurs. Here’s a list of several expat businesses in Ecuador:

Some of these expat companies are full time businesses with full time income, while others are hobby businesses providing supplemental income. It really depends on your skill set and your goals as to how much money you can earn from your own expat business living abroad.

How to Decide What to Do

Make-a-Decision

Deciding what type of remote working you want to do is the hardest part, especially if you’ve spent your career working a traditional white or blue collar job back in your home country.

Working remotely or starting a business may be a completely foreign concept, but there’s a really good chance you can find something that resonates with you. The real question is: How do you decide what to do?

Do What You Already Know

Do-What-You-Know

The most important point to take away from this article is to do what you already know how to do. This could be related to your career or a long-term hobby, but the key to earning income now is to start gaining expertise years ago.

If you don’t know how to touch-type, doing transcription or web design or programming probably isn’t a good option for you. To make a decent living in a typing heavy field, you need to be able to type quickly AND accurately.

If you’ve never built a website before, it’s unrealistic to think that you can start working remotely tomorrow by providing web design services. There is a steep learning curve that is masked by user-friendly web design platforms such as WordPress, SquareSpace and Wix.

It’s just not as easy as it looks and your customers will have unrealistic expectations that you’ll need to manage. If you’ve never done it before, you don’t know what you don’t know.

If you’re struggling to find something that will allow you to make money while living abroad, start by looking at what you already know how to do, as well as things you already enjoy doing. If you’re qualified to give advice on a topic, you can likely start earning income from it and work remotely from anywhere.

Identify a Demand (NOT a Need)

Dogs

There is a difference between a need and a demand. Your goal is to do something with a demand that has been unrealized or under tapped. There may be a need for a product or service, but if there isn’t demand for it, you won’t be able to earn an income from it.

For example, there is a huge need for dog and cat neutering services in Ecuador. However, there is also a cultural bias against removing a male dog’s, um, manhood. While neutering is growing in volume here, it’s mostly done on a volunteer basis because the locals aren’t willing to pay for it. That’s the difference between a need and a demand.

The list of expat businesses above are primarily successful for two reasons: the founders did what they already knew how to do, and they filled an unmet demand (not a need).

Determine If You Have What It Takes to Work Remotely

Perservance

It takes a lot of self discipline to work remotely, get your own gigs or start a business. A lot of people simply don’t have what it takes to work from home or be their own boss. They’re easily distracted and lack the motivation to work without someone breathing down their neck.

The easiest way to determine if you have what it takes is to start doing it now while you’re still at home. If you can start earning additional income while you’re still working your day job, that will prove the concept and you’ll know for certain that you have what it takes to work remotely from anywhere in the world.

Be Prepared for Hard Work and Slow Progress

Hard-Work

If you want to start an expat business or get online gigs, it will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think it will. You need to plan for that.

Patience, determination, consistency and perseverance are required traits for entrepreneurship, regardless of where you start your business. It takes a lot of hard work to start, operate and market a new business. If you build it, no one will come unless you promote it like crazy!

Avoid Remote Working Scams

Avoid-Scams

There are lots of people selling digital nomad and work remotely snake oil. They will tell you what you want to hear and encourage you to do things at which you’re not likely to succeed.

While doing some research for this article and the related video, I found people recommending things like online poker, day trading and bitcoin investing. These ideas don’t qualify as earning an income abroad; they’re just different ways of GAMBLING abroad.

The charlatans who push these scams tell people who can barely use the Internet that they can learn how to build websites or do search engine optimization. And they’re happy to share their “secrets”…for a fee, of course.

Please don’t give your money to these con artists or believe what they say. Much of their advice is absurd and will end up costing you more money than you’ll ever make. Some people have lost their entire life savings on these scams.

Consider Multiple Streams of Income

Multiple-Streams-of-Income

We have income from Amelia’s job, my web design clients, ad revenue on YouTube and our websites, and Patreon membership fees.

Several of our friends in Cuenca teach English online while also teaching yoga and fitness, or writing content for the web.

Even if you have a stable day job back home, it’s always a good idea to have multiple streams of income in case one of them goes away unexpectedly. The same is true if you want to work remotely and earn an income living abroad.

Study the Local Language

Walking Spanish Lessons

As I mentioned before, speaking the local language is critical if you want to find a job in your new country. However, it’s also important if you want to start a business.

In Ecuador, it’s pretty easy to function with just English, but your life will be much easier and your business more successful if you can speak at least a little Spanish.

Start Before You Leave Home

Start-Now

You don’t need to wait until you arrive in your new expat home before you start working remotely or earning income online. In fact, it’s best if you start right now so you have time to prove the concept before you need the income.

If you want to earn money online, it’s easy to get started in your spare time. First determine what you want to do and then start doing it.

Don’t get buried in the busy work or worry about getting everything just right before you launch. Just start. Sign-up on a website and apply for a job or gig or start writing. See how it goes. Learn and adapt.

If you want to start a business in your new expat destination, you can get a lot of the research and planning done before you get there. Figure out where you’re going to get the products or how you’re going to provide the services. Create your brand image and write your business plan.

More importantly, start reaching out to other business owners who have already started a business abroad. Ask them questions about the process, requirements, costs, and marketing methods that work well where you want to live. You’ll be surprised at how helpful some entrepreneurs are when other aspiring entrepreneurs ask them questions.

If you’re worried about how to work remotely or earn an income living abroad as a digital nomad or digital expat, the best way to alleviate your concern is to start doing it now. You have lots of options at your fingertips and there are lots of ways to make money living anywhere in the world. The hardest part is getting started.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

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

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

Relocation Services of Ecuador Container Options

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

20 Foot Shipping Container

20 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

40 Foot Shipping Container

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

Wood Pallet

Wood Pallet

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

Lift Van

Lift Van

Ecuador Shipping Company Process

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

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

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

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

Express Containers

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

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

Pallets and Lift Vans

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

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

Items You CAN Bring to Ecuador (and Legal Limits)

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

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

Items You CANNOT Bring to Ecuador

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

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

Ecuador Shipping Company Cost

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

Relocation Services of Ecuador charges include:

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

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


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

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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Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

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.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

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.


Follow Us on Social Media

Download Our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator

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

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

Get Even More Personalized Information

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

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

Disclaimer

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


 

Is Ecuador Safe? The TRUTH About Crime in Ecuador

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

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

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

Gang Violence in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crime Statistics in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Homicide Rate in Ecuador vs. The United States

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

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

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

Overall Risks & Safety Tips

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

Pickpocketing Schemes

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

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

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

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

Use Your Hotel Safe in Ecuador

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

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

Are Taxis in Ecuador Safe?

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

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

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

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

Bus Safety in Ecuador

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

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

Political Demonstrations in Ecuador

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

Car Break-Ins in Ecuador

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

Safety of Popular Areas in Ecuador

Guayaquil Ecuador Safety

Guayaquil, Ecuador

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

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

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

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

Quito Ecuador Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuenca Ecuador Safety

San Francisco Plaza New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

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

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


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Disclaimer

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