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, 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.


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

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

#1 Don’t Believe The Negative Stereotypes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Be Patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Ask a LOT of Questions

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

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

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

#4 Don’t Have a Scarcity Mentality

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

Cuenca Ecuador House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5 Don’t Make These Timing Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 Don’t Make This Banking Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7 Study Spanish. A LOT of Spanish!

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

Ecuador English Proficiency

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


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NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!

Is CUENCA Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

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

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

Is Cuenca the Best Expat City in Ecuador?

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

Cuenca Is a Modern, Developed City with Old World Charm

Is Cuenca Ecuador the Best Expat City

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

Cuenca Has an Airport

Cuenca Airport

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

You Don’t Need a Car in Cuenca

Cuenca Ecuador Tranvia

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of English-Speaking Ecuadorians

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of Spanish Schools & Teachers

Walking Spanish Lessons Cuenca Ecuador

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

Cuenca Has a Large Expat Community

Cuenca Expats

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

Cuenca Has a Variety of Modern, Upscale Housing

Cuenca Ecuador House

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

Cuenca Has Excellent Pet Care

Cuenca Pet Care

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

Cuenca Has LOTS of Fun & Entertaining Things To Do

Cuenca Things To Do

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

There are LOTS of Amazing Day Trips Around Cuenca

Cuenca Day Trip Cajas

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

Cuenca Has High Quality Medical Care & English-Speaking Doctors

Cuenca Medical Care

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

Cuenca Has a Large Variety of Delicious Restaurants & Cuisines

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

Cuenca Has Great Coffee Shops

Cuenca Coffee Shops

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

Cuenca Has Modern Grocery Stores & Several Large Mercados

Cuenca Mercados

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

Cuenca Has Several Speciality & Organic Shops

Cuenca Specialty Shops

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

Cuenca Has Numerous Visa Agents

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

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

Major Drawbacks of Living In Cuenca

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

Altitude Sickness

Cuenca Elevation

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

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

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

Cool, Cloudy Weather

Cuenca Cloudy Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Drive Through Cajas to Get to Guayaquil

Cajas Drive

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

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

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

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

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

Is Cuenca Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

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

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

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


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse will tell you exactly how to do it! Join more than 250 people who have already signed up! See what our students have to say here...

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified relocation experts in Ecuador!

NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!

Ecuador Pet Care, Pet Sitting & Pet Food

If you’re planning to move abroad with your furry family members, you likely have many questions about the availability and quality of Ecuador Pet Care, as well as pet sitting/boarding, and dog and cat food options.

Overall, Ecuador is very pet friendly, and most people, Ecuadorians and expats alike, have one or more dogs and/or cats. That means there are plenty of options for grooming, pet sitting and veterinarians. However, there aren’t nearly as many options for pet food as we’re used to back in the US, and the cost of quality pet food is very high.

In this article, we’ll share our experience with Ecuador Pet Care in Cuenca and Olón, as well as a few options for pet food, including our very own recipe for Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food.

You may also be interested in our article about Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the United States…

Veterinarians in Ecuador

Veterinarians are very common in Ecuador, and most neighborhoods in the larger cities have one. However, many of the smaller rural areas do not have a veterinarian so you might need to drive an hour or more if you’re planning to live outside a city.

Olón Vet Clinic

Olón Ecuador Vet Clinic

We’re very excited about our new veterinarian clinic here in Olón! Prior to this new clinic, most people took their pets to Xavier Merchan in La Libertad, which is about an hour drive south of here. That was the closest location for quality pet care and grooming services.

However, now we have a much closer option! The folks at Coastal Animal Rescue of Ecuador (CARE) worked together with the comuna leaders and neighborhood volunteers to get the clinic up and running. In just the first 2 weeks of operation, the clinic served over 100 furry patients!

The clinic is located a half block west of the main highway through Olón on Avenida 3 de Diciembre, which the road that runs between the main mercados toward the ocean.

If you would like a quick tour of the new vet clinic in Olón, we featured them in this video:

Many of the local Ecuadorians cannot afford the cost of pet care, so the clinic mainly runs on the fees collected from those who can afford to pay for services, as well as recurring donations through the CARE Registered Non-Profit. If you’re in the US, all donations made to CARE are fully tax deductible and go directly to helping our furry Ecuadorian friends in Olón and nearby comunas.

If you would like to help a local family take good care of their dog or cat, you can learn more about making a one-time or recurring donation on the CARE website… Amelia and I donate $50 per month to help out!

Cuenca Animal Clinic

Cuenca Animal Clinic Teeth Cleaning

When we lived in Cuenca, we took Daisy and Alicia to the Cuenca Animal Clinic that was located near our house in the El Vergel neighborhood. They came highly recommended by several expats we knew, and now we recommend them, as well.

They were GREAT with our dogs, they speak English and they offer a variety of services for dogs and cats, including annual exams, toenail trims, anal gland expression, and teeth cleaning.

On the visit featured in our video, Daisy had her annual exam, toenails trimmed and teeth cleaned. The cost varies by the size of your dog, but the final bill for Daisy was $70 plus $12 for Frontline (flea and tick treatment). An annual exam without the dentistry typically costs between $15 and $20.

The Cuenca Animal Clinic also sells some higher quality dog food, as well as supplements, heartworm and flea/tick treatments.

Dog Grooming in Ecuador

Ecuadorians love small breed, designer dogs like Pekingese, Havanese and Shih Tzus, so there are more options for small breed groomers, but you still have lots of options even if you have a bigger dog.

Grooming at the Olón Vet Clinic

Olon Ecuador Vet Clinic GroomerAs we showed in our video, you can now get your dog groomed at Olón’s new vet clinic. Daisy is a short haired Heeler/Border Collie mix so she doesn’t need haircuts, but she does need a regular bath and toenail trim. Alicia is a Toy Poodle so she needs regular grooming or she looks like a giant black cotton ball. We’re very happy to have a groomer so close by now!

Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca

If you have a small dog (less than 20 pounds), we highly recommend Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca for grooming and boarding. Maxi is a tiny little Chiguagua who belongs to Jessica, the owner, groomer and pet sitter.

Maxi’s Pet Care – Grooming & Pet SittingWhile Jessica typically only accepts small dogs for the services she provides, she made an exception for Daisy, who weighs about 30 pounds. We took Daisy over to Jessica’s for a play date to see how she behaved around the smaller dogs. She made mom and dad proud so she was allowed to come back for baths and longer term stays.

We were really happy with the quality of the grooming services Jessica provided. She made Alicia look like a young pup again! And Daisy always came home all bushy and clean smelling. Jessica even picked our girls up at our house, and dropped them off so we didn’t need to worry about transportation.

Jessica is truly a dog whisperer! Follow her on Instagram for some of the CUTEST dog photos you’ll ever see! We have no idea how she gets the dogs to pose like they do! She also shares pictures and videos each day that your dog stays with her so you can see your fur baby while you’re away.

Contact Jessica directly for current pricing.

Dog Wash Ecuador

Dog Wash Ecuador

We also took Daisy to Dog Wash Ecuador in Cuenca on occasion. They were located near our home so it was a short walk to get Daisy a bath. She REALLY dislikes water and being wet, so giving her a bath is a huge pain for all involved. We prefer to let the professionals handle it.

We only took Daisy there a couple times, but they did a good job for a good price so we feel comfortable recommending them.

Pet Boarding & Pet Sitting in Ecuador

One of the great things about living in Ecuador is that it’s really close to lots of amazing places to visit, like the Amazon Rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and so many more. While you’re busy exploring inside Ecuador and throughout South America, you’ll want to know your fur babies are being well taken care of back home.

Boarding Your Pet in Ecuador

Pet boarding in Ecuador isn’t nearly as common as hiring a pet sitter to take care of your dogs and cats while you’re away from home. In fact, there are no boarding options near our current rural comuna of Olón. Our only option is to hire a pet sitter, or take Daisy and Alicia to a friend’s house. They’re older dogs and don’t travel well so we can’t take them with us.

However, you will find several boarding options in larger cities like Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito. Whether you’ll be gone for just the day or for several weeks, we highly recommend Jessica with Maxi’s Pet Care in Cuenca if you have a small dog.

One thing we really like about Jessica’s operation is that she doesn’t kennel the dogs. They’re free to run around and play with each other, and Daisy and Alicia are able to sleep in the same bed together.

Jessica even has a nice doggie playground and they are taken for a walk every day, weather permitting.

Ecuador Pet Care at Maxi's Pet Care Cuenca

The best way to find reputable places to board your pet in Ecuador is by word-of-mouth so start by asking other expats who they trust to watch their pets while they’re away. That’s actually how most things operate in this country.

The next best option for finding places to board your pets is by asking for recommendations in Facebook Groups like Ecuador Expats, Cuenca Expats, Olón Life or Amelia And JP’s Unconventionals.

You can also ask for a recommendation on GringoPost.com, or search their past pet boarding recommendations.

Finding a Pet and/or House Sitter in Ecuador

If you’re like us, you’ll probably prefer hiring a pet/house sitter to stay at home with your fur babies while you’re away. Keeping your pets at home while you’re gone reduces their stress level and it’s also nice to have someone watch your house rather than leaving it empty.

Again, the best option to find a pet or house sitter in Ecuador is to ask your friends and fellow expats for referrals. Allowing someone to stay in your home and be responsible for your pets while you’re travelling can be very stressful so you’ll want to make sure the person you hire is completely trustworthy.

We only hire someone who we know personally, or someone who came highly recommended by a friend we know and trust. We invite them over to meet the dogs and see how they interact well before our planned trip to makes sure everyone gets along and we like the sitter. You can expect to pay $10 to $20 per day for someone to stay at your house, depending on the number of pets.

We know a couple of pet/house sitters in the Olón area, so if you need a referral, drop us a note through our contact form…

Pet Food in Ecuador

High quality, store bought pet food is very expensive and not widely available in Ecuador. While grocery stores such as Supermaxi, Mi Comisariato and Tía sell pet food, most of it would be comparable to Purina Dog or Cat Chow, which actually is available here. However, they don’t have the highest quality ingredients.

Dog Food in Ecuador

Here are some of the dog food options at the Tía in Montañita:

When we were in Cuenca, we bought PRO PAC® Ultimates™ Meadow Prime™ at a small pet food store by Supermaxi El Vergel. However, it’s imported from the US and it’s VERY expensive: $32.50 for 2kg (4.4 pounds)! Daisy and Alicia ate about two bags per month so that was as sizeable amount of our monthly budget!

During the quarantine, we weren’t able to go back to Cuenca when we had planned so we ran out of the PRO PAC dog food pretty early in the lockdown. Consequently, we decided to try a less expensive brand that we can buy locally at Agrolon, which is an animal and garden supply store here in Olón (they have NO web presence but you can find them one block east of the main road near the soccer field).

They carry several different brands of dog and cat food, but some friends recommended Canimentos from BioAlimentar. It’s made in Ecuador so it has a smaller environmental footprint than PRO PAC and it only costs $7.50 for a 2kg bag, which is a huge cost savings for us. Plus, the dogs seem to really like it and they both seem very healthy with shiny coats and fast growing toenails so we’re going to continue with it.

We feed them CANi Adultos in the morning, and a combination of CANi and our Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food (see below) in the evening.

Cat Food in Ecuador

We don’t have cats so we don’t have much experience with cat food or care in Ecuador. However, we snapped some photos of a few options for cat food and kitty litter at Tía in Montañita:

Cats aren’t nearly as common as dogs in Ecuador, so the selection of cat food is quite a bit smaller.

Cheap & Healthy Homemade Dog Food Recipe

Since quality dog food is very expensive in Ecuador, many expats choose to make their own dog food with affordable, high quality, whole food ingredients.

Dogs are true omnivores so they can eat a combination of meat, vegetables and legumes. We have a meat-free kitchen so the food we cook our dogs only has lentils and vegetables; however, we know several expats who make their own dog food using meat, rice and vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 400g brown lentils (uncooked)
  • 400g green peas (fresh, frozen or dry soaked)
  • 400g carrots (chopped)
  • 400g sweet potato or pumpkin (peeled and chopped)

Instructions:

Add all the ingredients to a pressure cooker and cover completely with water plus about an inch for good measure. Pressure cook with the vent closed on the beans setting for 24 minutes. You can also boil all the ingredients together in a large pot until the lentils are cooked and everything is soft.

The serving size varies based on the size of your dog, but we feed Daisy (she’s 30 pounds) about 1 cup for dinner with a little CANi sprinkled over the top, and she gets about 3/4 cup of CANi for breakfast.

Alicia is only 7 pounds and nearly 20 years old so she doesn’t eat much of either: about 1/3 cup of CANi in the morning and 1/4 cup of the homemade dog food for dinner with a little CANi mixed in. We soak Alicia’s CANi in water to soften it up because she has lost most of her teeth.

The options for vegan pet food in Ecuador are non-existent. We never found any in Cuenca, and we never found the nutritional supplements that are added to pet food so we opted to feed them a combination of homemade and store bought dog food to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Ecuador Pet Care Conclusion

There are lots of different veterinarians, groomers, sitters, boarding places and pet food options to choose from in Ecuador, and it’s a very pet-friendly country so you’ll often find water bowls and treats at restaurants with outdoor seating and at pet-friendly businesses.

We’re very happy we brought our two rescue dogs with us to Ecuador, and we know lots of other expats who brought their pets with them, or adopted pets when they arrived. Truly, the worst part of bringing your pets to Ecuador is getting them here. Once they’re here, it’s easy to keep them happy and healthy.


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NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!

Ecuador Passport Renewal Process for US Citizens

If you’re an expat living in Ecuador and need to renew your passport, this article covers the renewal process and provides all the shortcuts you’ll need for locations, instructions and forms.

IMPORTANT: You are not allowed to travel internationally with less than 6 months of validity left on your passport. If the expiration date on your passport is June 1st, you will need to renew your passport before January 1st if you plan to travel to another country. Due to the pandemic, the passport process is taking longer than normal so plan accordingly.

Required Items for US Passport Renewal in Ecuador

The Ecuador US Embassy website has all the details about how to renew your passport in Ecuador from an application perspective. You’ll want to complete the questionnaire here FIRST to ensure you’re eligible to renew your passport.

Below, we’ll include more specific details about what you need, shortcuts to forms and maps, how to gather everything, the costs, and where to get things done.

Your Old Passport

If you’re living in Ecuador, it can be nerve wracking to surrender your only passport, which makes it impossible for you to travel internationally until you receive your new passport. Sadly, you have no other option; you must submit your old passport with your passport renewal application.

Prior to the pandemic, the passport renewal process took roughly 2 weeks. During the pandemic, the process was taking several months due to office closures and reduced staff at the US passport offices. As of this writing (October 15, 2020), we are told the process will take roughly 30 days.

Color Copy of Your Passport Photo and Signature Pages

You will also need to include a color copy of your main passport photo and signature pages with your passport application. Just lay your passport flat on the copy machine so both the signature page and the photo page are on one sheet.

In Guayaquil, we went to the Cyber Tek store in Mall del Sol to make a copy of the passport and print the passport application. The cost for the color copy and printing the application was less than $3.

New Color Passport Photo

In Cuenca, the FujiFilm store in Milenium Plaza Mall took my passport photo, made a copy of my old passport and printed the passport application for me. The cost for everything was less than $10.

In Guayaquil, the FujiFilm store in Mall del Sol took Amelia’s passport photo, but wasn’t able to make a copy of the old passport or print the application. The cost for just the passport photo was $13.

We went to the FujiFilm store in Mall del Sol because we stayed in the Sheraton Hotel that’s located across the street from the mall. However, there is also a FujiFilm store that takes passport photos located next to the authorized DHL service center in downtown Guayaquil where we went to mail the passport application. More on that below.

FujiFilm Guayaquil Downtown

Application Fee

As of this writing, the passport renewal application fee is $110 and must be paid with cash or credit card in person, or with a cashier’s check made out to “U.S. Disbursing Officer” if submitting by mail, which is currently the only option due to the pandemic.

We have a bank account at JEP so we went to the branch in Guayaquil, which is only 2 blocks from the DHL office. A cashier’s check is called a “Cheque de Gerencia” in Ecuador, which translates to Management Check.

The JEP tellers told us they can only do cashier’s checks for $3,000 or more so we kept asking and explaining until they finally agreed to give us one for $110. It took a teller, an account manager and a bank manager to do it, and the whole process took nearly an hour, so be patient.

We’ve heard from other people that cashier’s checks are challenging to get in Ecuador. They prefer to do wire transfers, which isn’t an option for US passport renewals.

Passport Renewal Application

Once you complete the renewal questionnaire and determine you’re eligible to renew your passport in Ecuador, you’ll need to print and fill out Form DS-82: U.S. PASSPORT RENEWAL APPLICATION FOR ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUALS.

If you live in Ecuador, use your current Ecuadorian address for both the mailing and permanent address fields.

Staple your 2″ x 2″ (5cm x 5cm) color passport photo with 4 staples as shown on the form.

Additional Information

If your passport has expired, you need to include a copy of your birth certificate or naturalization papers.

If your name has changed due to marriage or divorce since your last passport was issued, you also need to provide all relevant legal documents showing the name change.

Passport Renewal Options

Renew Your Passport In Person in Ecuador

Due to the pandemic, both the US Embassy in Quito and the US Consulate in Guayaquil are currently closed for in-person passport renewals.

Renew Your Passport By Mail in Ecuador

Due to the pandemic, you must mail your passport using an authorized DHL Service Center, which you can locate on this map. There are authorized centers in the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja, Machala, Manta, etc.

We went to the DHL office in Guayaquil (pictured above), which is located downtown across the street from La Iglesia de San Francisco. The Google Maps pin is on the wrong block so we had to ask a security guard for directions. The DHL office is behind me in this picture so if you see the church from this angle, turn around and you’ve found it!

Currently, passports are only being processed at the US Consulate in Guayaquil so be sure to send your passport to Guayaquil. If you send it to the US Embassy in Quito, your passport will NOT be processed until the office reopens, which could be months or longer.

The lady at the DHL in Guayaquil knew exactly what to do. The cost was $24.80, which included the postage for both sending the package and returning it. The passport will be returned to a different DHL location, but they didn’t explain why.

We didn’t have a manilla envelope and couldn’t find a store nearby that sold one so thankfully the DHL office had one on hand. That location doesn’t appear to sell packing materials like we’re used to seeing at shipping centers in the US, so we recommend going prepared with all of your materials in a letter size manilla envelope. Leave it unsealed so the DHL clerk can review everything.

Transfer Your Visa to Your New Passport

Ecuador now uses electronic visas, which means there is no longer a visa sticker applied to your passport. This change went into effect after my passport renewal in April 2019 so when traveling internationally, I carried my new passport as well as my old passport with the visa sticker and a hole punched in the passport by the consulate.

When I got my permanent resident visa in January 2020, it was automatically attached to my new passport so I no longer need to carry my old passport.

Now that the Ecuador visa is electronic, and since the new passport will have a different number, Amelia will need to get her visa transferred from her old passport number to her new passport number. We’re going to hire GringoVisas.com to help with that process and will keep you posted about what that entails.

If you’re applying for a temporary or permanent resident visa in Ecuador and your passport will expire within the next 2 years, we recommend renewing your passport BEFORE you submit your visa application so you avoid the need to transfer your visa to a new passport.

Conclusion

While it took several different stops, overcoming a few challenges, and cost us several hundred dollars including our trip to Guayaquil from our home in Olón on the coast, the process for submitting the passport application for renewal was relatively painless.

Hopefully, we’ll receive Amelia’s new passport in a reasonable timeframe because it’s stressful to live in a foreign country without one. Once we receive it, we’ll update this post with additional information and our experiences.


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NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!

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

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

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

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

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

10 Crucial Steps to Moving to a New Country

1. List your priorities

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

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

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

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

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

2. Choose a destination (or several)

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

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

3. Research visa requirements

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

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

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

4. Join Expat Support Groups

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

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

Our Patreon Community

Amelia And JP on Patreon

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

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

5. Book Your Exploratory Trip

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

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

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

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

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

6. Making Preparations for Your Move to a New Country

booking a flight, traveling to a new country

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Decide What You Can Do & What To Outsource

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Moving to the New Country of Your Dreams

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

Planning for Your Pets

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

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

10. Start Your Expat Dream Life Abroad

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

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

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

Moving to a New Country is an Incredible Experience

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

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

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


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse will tell you exactly how to do it! Join more than 250 people who have already signed up! See what our students have to say here...

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified relocation experts in Ecuador!

NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!

Real Costs of Moving to Ecuador from the United States

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

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

Get Our Ecuador Costs Calculator

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

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

Required Costs of Moving to Ecuador

Temporary Resident Visa & Cédula

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Insurance

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

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

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

Airfare

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

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

Transportation

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

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

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

Lodging

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

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

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

Optional Costs of Moving to Ecuador

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

Miscellaneous Expenses

Exploratory Trip

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

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

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

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

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

Visa Agent

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

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

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

Shipping a Container

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

Extra Luggage

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

Travel Insurance

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

Mobile Phone

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

Housing Costs

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

Security Deposit

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

First Month’s Rent

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

Internet Setup Fee

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

Internet Monthly Fee

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

Utilities

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

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

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

Household Items

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

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

Pets

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

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

Veterinarian

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

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

Vaccinations

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

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

Paperwork

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

Pet Carriers

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

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

Check with your airline for their exact requirements.

Pet Travel

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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Should You Consider Living Abroad in Ecuador?

So, you’re considering living abroad in Ecuador? That’s a big decision!

You’ll be leaving your family, your friends and the life you’ve always known. And THAT can be terrifying! But it can also be exciting, adventurous and life changing!

According to a study conducted by Rice University in 2018, living abroad in one place for an extended period of time “increases self-concept clarity.”

Exposure to a new culture and a new way of doing things may lead you to question your long held beliefs and help you discover who you really are and what really matters to YOU apart from familial and societal pressures and traditions.

Living abroad can also significantly reduce your cost of living. To be honest, we didn’t move abroad because we wanted more self-clarity. We moved abroad because we couldn’t afford medical coverage or healthcare back in Denver, Colorado.

The self-clarity we’ve obtained after nearly 3 years of living abroad in Ecuador has just been an added benefit for us, and may be due to our lower financial stresses and clearer heads.

If you’re still on the fence about living abroad or you’re trying to decide between Ecuador and another popular expat destination, the criteria we used and the reasons that led us to choose Ecuador may help you make this tough decision.

This is Part 1 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you would like to read the other articles, you can view all of them on our Start Here page.

Criteria To Help You Decide Where to Live Abroad

We researched a lot of popular expat destinations before choosing Ecuador. On the list of potential new homes abroad was: Mexico, Puerto Rico (not technically abroad, but definitely away), Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.

With so many popular places to choose from, we needed some sort of selection criteria to narrow down the options. Here is the list of criteria we used:

  1. Low Cost of Living
  2. High Quality & Affordable Healthcare
  3. Low Crime Rate
  4. Stable Government
  5. Stable Economy
  6. Stable Weather
  7. Stable Food Supply & Quality Food
  8. Easy to Get to/from the United States
  9. Similar Time Zone as the United States
  10. Expat Friendly
  11. Drinkable Tap Water

Applying this criteria to each expat destination helped us determine that Ecuador was the best fit for us.

Why Live Abroad in Ecuador?

Why should you live abroad in Ecuador? Why Not Panama or Colombia or some other popular expat destination?

There are so many amazing options for your new life abroad that it can be hard to decide which one is best for you. Here is the list of reasons that helped us decide to live abroad in Ecuador instead of any other expat destination:

Ecuador Is On the US Dollar

This was a big surprise to us. We didn’t realize any country other than the United States was on the US dollar until we started researching popular expat destinations and learned that Ecuador switched to the US Dollar in 2000 to increase economic stability.

Being on the dollar also made our expat transition easier because we don’t have to do currency conversions in our head and our American-earned dollars go a lot further in Ecuador due to the low cost of living.

In addition, the value of the currency doesn’t fluctuate like it does in other expat destinations. For years, the Mexican peso held steady around 10 pesos to $1 USD. As of March 17, 2020, the exchange rate is 23 pesos to $1 USD. If you have a local bank account in your expat country, your purchasing power changes as the exchange rate changes. And you have to constantly change the math in your head when buying things.

However, dollar coins are much more common and you’ll rarely see a dollar bill in Ecuador. The ATM machines dispense $20 bills, but businesses often don’t have change to break them. When you visit from the States, bring plenty of $1’s, $5’s and $10’s so vendors don’t have to run around looking for change.

You may also want to bring a few $2 bills. They’re considered lucky in Ecuador and they’ll make taxi drivers and vendors smile.

In addition to Ecuador, these countries are also on the dollar: East Timor, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Zimbabwe.

Ecuador Has a Low Cost of Living

This was #1 on our list of criteria for living abroad so Ecuador’s low cost of living compared to the United States was very appealing to us.

Like so many Americans, we simply weren’t earning enough money to make ends meet as our cost of living outpaced our income.

World Cost of Living Numbeo

Numbeo.com is a descent source of unscientific data on cost of living around the world. Since the data is self-reported by expats-on-the-ground, it’s not always reliable, but we found it to be mostly accurate based on our own experiences.

There are lots of countries that are less expensive than the US and Europe, and many of them are in South America.

The cost of cars and electronics are quite a bit higher here so you’ll pay more for anything with a motor or a plug, and the selection is much lower.

However, the cost of food, housing and other life essentials are about 1/3rd compared to the United States, while healthcare and medication are about 1/10th.

The cost of things may be high, but the cost of living is low.

Ecuador Has Excellent & Affordable Healthcare

Ecuador has a reputation for affordable and high quality healthcare. Bloomberg rated Ecuador 20th in the world for most efficient healthcare system among advanced economies while the United States was ranked 46th.

Following my two spinal surgeries, my insurance company dropped me. When I applied for a new plan, I was told it would cost $1,200/month plus a $12,000 deductible and 40% out of pocket with no maximum out of pocket.

JP's Herniated Disc & Artificial Disk

JPs Lumbar Fusion

That was not only unaffordable for us following a year of rehab and virtually no income from me, it was also a recipe for financial ruin if I ever do need another surgery. I simply wasn’t willing to put Amelia or myself in the position of filing for bankruptcy so late in life.

The thought of starting over financially in our 40’s or 50’s because of medical expenses was reason enough to leave the United States, but we also wanted to choose a country with high quality, as well as affordable, healthcare.

After living in Ecuador for nearly 3 years, we can confirm that not only is the cost far lower, but the quality of healthcare in Ecuador is actually higher than the United States. They have all the modern equipment you would expect to see in a doctor’s office or hospital. Some of it has actually been new to us!

My doctors and physical therapist all trained in the US or Europe, and they work together. They call each other to discuss my health and my progress in therapy to make sure I’m getting complete care.

When we need an appointment, we can usually see the doctor (not a physician’s assistant) the same day or the next day. We don’t need to wait weeks or months for an appointment.

Our dentist and eye doctor have state-of-the-art facilities, they’re more efficient and they provide better service than their counterparts back in Denver.

Dentist Office Cuenca Ecuador

If healthcare is important to you, Ecuador is a great place to live abroad.

Ecuador Has a (Mostly) Stable Government

The United States government may be divided and our elected officials may not get much done, but American’s aren’t under constant threat of the government being overthrown.

However, that’s a daily reality in a lot of countries around the world, especially in Latin America where governments seem to change hands (sometimes violently) every few years.

In October 2019, we experienced our first taste of political turmoil in a Latin American country. The people joined together to protest the IMF austerity measures put in place by President Moreno, and the people won (at least for now). We filmed the protests for our lifestyle channel and were impressed with how unified and peaceful everyone was.

Cuenca Ecuador Paro Protest

We wanted to live abroad in a country that has a history of government stability and a Republic that holds Democratic elections.

Ecuador Has a Stable Economy and Low Inflation

With an unstable government, you’ll often get an unstable economy. Venezuela used to be a popular expat destination because of its natural beauty, amazing beaches and low cost of living, but most expats fled Venezuela years ago due to its political and economic instability.

Venezuelan money now has such low purchasing power that it has more value as an art supply.

Venezuela Worthless Money Used for Art

We wanted to live abroad in a country with a history of low inflation and a stable economy.

For the past several years, Ecuador’s inflation rate has been one of the lowest in the world, ranging from a little below to a little above 0%. That means the cost of most things hasn’t increased much over the past several years.

2019 Country Inflation Rates

In 2018, a massive import tax was repealed, which lowered the cost of electronics and cars. However, we’ve seen a modest increase in rental costs for American-style housing geared toward expats and wealthy Ecuadorians as the demand for those properties outpaces the supply.

Ecuador Has a Low Crime Rate

Ecuador has a low crime rate compared to most Latin American countries and most major cities in the US, and crime has been on a steady decline since 2010.

The crime rate in the United States can’t really be considered “low” anymore, especially in bigger cities like Denver. We often felt unsafe walking home from dinner in Uptown.

However, we also didn’t want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. We wanted to choose a safe city in a safe country with a low crime rate.

World Cities Crime Numbeo

Heading back to Numbeo.com for their analysis of crime in major cities around the world, Cuenca, Ecuador (as of 2020) is one of the safest cities, ranking 245 out of 393 where 1 is the most dangerous (Caracas, Venezuela).

Denver ranks 209, which is less safe than Cuenca, Ecuador. Guayaquil, Ecuador ranks 46 and Quito, Ecuador ranks 82.

The United States is home to 10 of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world, including Baltimore, Memphis, Detroit, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Oakland, Cleveland, New Orleans and Houston. All of these cities are more dangerous than Tripoli, Libya and Guadalajara, Mexico!

Most crime in Ecuador is petty theft so you always need to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for pickpockets. The majority of violent crimes are domestic in nature.

Ecuador Has Affordable Transportation

The low cost of public transportation in Ecuador was very important to us because we didn’t plan to buy a car. Neither of us like driving and we really didn’t like the cost of car ownership (payment, tags, taxes, insurance, parking, fuel, maintenance).

In Cuenca, a bus ride costs 31 cents and the minimum taxi fare is $1.50. We usually spend around $2 for a 10 minute taxi ride.

In Guayaquil, the minimum taxi fare is $5.

We can take a taxi from Olón to Montañita for $1.50 and buses cost 50 cents per ride along this stretch of coast.

We usually take a buseta from Operazuaytur between Cuenca and Guayaquil. As of early 2020, a ticket costs $14 and the trip takes 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Operazuaytur Guayaquil Ecuador

We usually take the CLP Bus between Guayaquil and Montañita/Olón. A ticket costs $6 and the trip takes about 3 hours.

CLP Bus Guayaquil Ecuador

You can also hire a private driver to take you between Guayaquil and Cuenca ($100) and between Guayaquil and Salinas ($60) or Montañita ($80).

Ecuador is a Short Plane Ride from the United States

We return to the US two or three times per year for work and family visits so having easy access to airports with direct flights to Miami, Atlanta and Houston is very convenient.

Amelia still works for the same company back in Denver; she just works online now. However, she occasionally needs to go back to Denver for meetings.

We also have aging families with several members in poor health. If we need to head back for an emergency, we wanted to be a short plane ride away and not halfway around the world.

Cuenca Airport Mariscal Lamar International Airport

Cuenca’s airport claims to be international, but you’ll need fly out of Quito or Guayaquil to get back to the States. A typical direct flight takes roughly 4 hours, which is about the same time as it takes to fly from LA to Atlanta.

Ecuador Is In the Same Time Zone as the United States

Amelia attends weekly meetings online and must be available during Denver office hours. I have web design clients from Washington DC to Hawaii and also need to be available during office hours.

Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Thailand and Vietnam would require us to work at night and sleep during the day, which we didn’t want to do.

Ecuador doesn’t observe daylight savings time so the time doesn’t change twice per year like it does in the United States.

From November to February, Ecuador is in the US Eastern Time Zone and from March through October, it’s in the US Central Time Zone. That makes it easy for us to work during normal business hours back in Denver.

Here’s a handy time zone map from TimeAndDate.com:

Ecuador Time Zone

Ecuador Has Fast & Reliable Internet

As virtual workers, this is important to us, but not really an issue in most mainland countries around the world. The most unreliable internet access we’ve had was in India, followed closely by Denver.

In Cuenca, we had 50mb up and down for $56/month through Puntonet. Here on the coast of Ecuador in Olón at our condo near the beach, we have 75mb up and down for $55/month through Netlife. Both service providers provided the equipment and neither required a contract.

Ecuador Has Stable Weather

We were seriously considering Puerto Rico because a friend moved there from Denver, but as the oceans warm and hurricane intensity increases, we decided the weather was too unstable there.

Hurricane

Shortly after my friend moved to Puerto Rico, it was hit by Hurricane’s Irma and Marie, which left them without water and electricity for weeks. It has been several years and the island still hasn’t fully recovered.

We decided hurricanes were sufficient reason to rule out anyplace in the Caribbean, including Belize.

It has been cooler and rainier than normal in Ecuador since 2018, but the the weather is still more stable than other parts of the world.

In the mountains (Cuenca and Quito), the temps are in the 40’s and 50’s (5 to 15 C) at night and 60’s and 70’s (15 to 26 C) during the day.

Cuenca Ecuador from Turi

On the coast (Guayaquil, Salinas, Montañita and Manta), temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s (15 to 26 C) at night and the 70’s and 80’s (21 to 32 C) during the day with an occasional day in the low 90’s (32 to 35 C).

Olon Ecuador Sign Beach

There has been a lot more rain than normal over the past few years, which has caused some flooding in low-lying areas, but Ecuador seems to be pretty well-equipped to handle water flow.

While the weather in Ecuador has been changing over the past few years, we don’t have to worry about tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms or blizzards.

Ecuador Has Food Independence & Doesn’t Allow GMOs

Countries with a cold winter climate like the United States must ship a significant amount of their food from far away places and store it in refrigerated warehouses during the winter months. Most of the food for island countries must be brought via container ships, which can’t operate during hurricanes.

San Francisco Shipping Container Golden Gate Bridge

We wanted to live in a country that grew most of its own food year round and wasn’t dependent on foreign sources of food.

Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables we eat in Ecuador are grown by local farmers near to where we live. Beans and rice come from further away, but still inside Ecuador. That means we not only have food independence, but we also have a much smaller carbon footprint and lower overall environmental impact.

Ecuador imports things like vehicles, medicinal products, telecommunications equipment and electricity, but as much as 95% of the fruit grown in Ecuador is exported to countries in the northern hemisphere like the US and Russia. Most of the “food” imported into Ecuador is fed to livestock and not directly eaten by humans.

GMO crops, more accurately called genetically engineered (GE) crops, are banned in Ecuador. If a product is imported that contains GE ingredients, it must be clearly labeled. Since farmers are allowed to save their own seeds for use in future growing seasons, the price of food has remained low and small farms are still common.

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado

Typical Ecuadorian vegetables would not sell very well in the US because they’re often very dirty, contain bugs, or have a plethora of bug bites taken out of them. They also aren’t very pretty or uniform in size, shape or color. They may not win a beauty contest, but they taste great just like they did when we were kids back in the States.

Ecuador Is Very Expat Friendly

This criteria wasn’t nearly as important to us as the others, but it was a consideration. We didn’t want to blaze a trail to a new expat destination that lacked English speaking service providers (like doctors) and expat-oriented services (like visa agents).

Amelia Maite Francisco GringoVisas

You’ll need a tourist visa to visit Ecuador for up to 90 days, which is issued at the airport upon your arrival. If you want to move to Ecuador, you’ll need to apply for a temporary resident visa, but they have a variety of different types to choose from so one is sure to fit your situation.

Since the laws are always changing and the visa process relies heavily on personal relationships with government employees, we recommend working with a visa agent like GringoVisas.com. They aren’t cheap, but they take the mystery out of the process and make sure things get done.

HINT: It’s easier if you start the visa process before you leave home in case you need to go to government or university offices in person to get all the necessary paperwork (like we did).

NOTE: The word “gringo” may be considered rude in some parts of the world, but it’s a term of endearment here in Ecuador. They don’t have a word for expat and the closest Spanish word is “extrañjero,” which translates to stranger or foreigner. We prefer gringo over stranger (danger) and often use it to refer to ourselves.

Expats (aka expatriates or immigrants) from places like the US, Canada and Europe bring a lot of money into Ecuador so the government has made it relatively easy to move here.

It is estimated that 100,000 Americans and 30,000 Europeans live in Ecuador spending roughly $1.5 billion per year on housing, food, tourism, restaurants, Spanish school, sales tax, etc.

Cuenca Ecuador Expats

While older and/or unhealthy expats have caused some strain on the healthcare system, many expats use very little in the way of public services and most are retired or work online so they don’t compete for jobs with Ecuadorians. It’s a win-win situation for Ecuador and for expats.

Cuenca may be the most expat-friendly city in Ecuador because of the large number of English-speaking Ecuadorians. Many of the doctors and other service providers speak English, making the transition easier and less scary. There are also a lot of expat-owned businesses and local businesses that cater to the large expat population in Cuenca.

During all of our travels throughout Ecuador, we have found the Ecuadorian people to be extremely friendly and welcoming. They love sharing their culture and history with us, and they seem to genuinely enjoy having us here.

Ecuador Is a Great Place to Learn Spanish

Learning Spanish is easier in Cuenca, Ecuador because people speak more slowly, have an easy to understand accent, and typically use more proper Spanish.

Cuenca also has a lot of English speakers who are happy to help you learn Spanish, and there are several language schools, private teachers and language exchanges.

Walking Spanish Lessons Cuenca Ecuador

People in the coastal region of Ecuador have a different accent, which makes it more difficult to learn Spanish. It’s common to drop the letter “s” from words so “¿Quiere más?” (Do you want more?) sounds like “¿Quiere má?” (Do you want mom?). That can be confusing at first, but we’re getting used to it.

Cuenca Ecuador Is Very Walkable

When we sold our cars before we left home, we didn’t plan to buy another one. That meant we needed to be able to walk most places. One of the reasons we chose Cuenca, Ecuador as our landing zone was because it’s a very walkable city.

Cuenca Ecuador Inner Neighborhood Map

  1. El Centro
  2. San Sebas
  3. Gringolandia
  4. El Batán
  5. Sucre
  6. Don Bosco
  7. El Vergel
  8. Cañaribamba
  9. Totoracocha
  10. Miraflores

We lived in the neighborhood of El Vergel, which is on the south central side of the city. It took us 15 minutes to walk from our house near the Yanuncay River to Parque Calderon in El Centro. Nearly everything we needed could be found within a 20 minute walk of our house.

Gringolandia is located on the west side of Cuenca and is a popular part of the city with expats. It’s also about a 15 minute walk into El Centro or a short $2 cab ride.

The outer neighborhoods of Cuenca are also popular with expats, but it’s more convenient to have a car if you live outside the main area. It’s a $5 cab ride or a long bus ride from those areas.

Cuenca Ecuador Outer Neighborhood Map

  1. Turi
  2. Ciudadela de los Ingenieros
  3. Machangara
  4. Challuabamba
  5. Colinas de Challuabamba
  6. Cebollar
  7. San Joaquín

Xavier Montezuma, a native of Cuenca and owner of Apartamentos Otorongo, gave us a tour of the outer neighborhoods for our lifestyle channel. It gives you a nice overview of the city and feel for how diverse and beautiful it is.

The riverwalk trails along the 4 rivers that run through Cuenca were our favorite part of Cuenca’s walkability. The linear river parks are well maintained and full of beautiful flowers, trees and birds.

Cuenca Ecuador Yanuncay Flower

Cuenca Ecuador Has Drinkable Tap Water

This also wasn’t a top consideration for us because bottled water is available everywhere, as are filtration systems. However, we thought it would be nice to be able to drink the water or at least use it to wash our veggies.

The city water in Cuenca is chlorinated, which means it’s drinkable by Americans and Canadians. We found the taste of the water very refreshing; however, some expats choose to drink bottled water out of an abundance of caution.

The pipes in our neighborhood of El Vergel were all replaced with PVC while we lived there, but much of Cuenca still has old pipes that may not be 100% sealed.

Cuenca Ecuador Drinkable Water

Whether you choose to drink the tap water or not, it’s still safe to wash your produce in it, which is something we really miss now that we live on the coast. We buy 5-gallon jugs of water for drinking and boil water to wash our produce. It’s a bit of a hassle, but the beach and sunsets more than compensate!

Ecuador Is a Beautiful & Diverse Country

There aren’t many places in the world where you can hike in a rainforest, climb a snow capped mountain and lay on a sandy beach within 24 hours, all without getting on an airplane. You can do all of these things in Ecuador, plus Ecuador is home to the Galapagos Islands, the birthplace of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Galapagos Blue Footed Booby

The eastern third of Ecuador is home to the western side of the Amazon Rainforest. Native tribes still live there and fiercely protect their ancestral lands. Many have embraced the tourism industry so you can take a cruise down the headwaters of the Amazon River to remote villages and stay in lodges equipped with modern conveniences (like air conditioning).

Ecuador Rainforest Lodge

Along the central third of Ecuador from north to south lies the Andes Mountain Range. With plenty of old-world, European-style cities, museums, symphonies, national parks, active volcanoes, hot springs and peaks over 20,000 feet (6.200 meters), there’s something to keep everyone entertained.

Cuenca Ecuador El Centro

Cotopaxi Ecuador
Photo of Cotopaxi by César Viteri on Unsplash

Cuenca Ecuador Cajas Park

The western third of Ecuador borders the Pacific Coast. Sadly, most of the coastal biodiversity has been destroyed to make room for livestock grazing, fish & shrimp ponds and crops like bananas, cocoa (chocolate) and palm oil.

However, the coastal region is still incredibly beautiful and Ecuador’s beaches are some of the best in South America boasting indescribable sunsets. If you enjoy surfing, Montañita and Olón have amazing waves waiting to be caught!

Olon Ecuador Sunset

What’s Next…

Hopefully the criteria we used to evaluate all of our potential expat destinations and our analysis of Ecuador will help you make this tough decision, or spark some ideas for your own list of criteria. We’re very happy with our decision to live abroad in Ecuador, and we’re happy we started in Cuenca.

In Part 2 of this series, we’re going to share 15 Reasons NOT to Live Abroad in Ecuador (or Anyplace Else)…


Planning a move to Ecuador?

Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse will tell you exactly how to do it! Join more than 250 people who have already signed up! See what our students have to say here...

Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations

Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?

We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified relocation experts in Ecuador!

NEWS from ECUADORNews & Current Events from Ecuador

Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!

In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.

 

BE Unconventional!

Cuenca Ecuador ExpatsWe've assembled a supportive community of current and future expats who are eager to share their experiences, answer questions and offer encouragement as you embark on your move abroad.

Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!