Real Costs of Moving to Ecuador from the United States

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

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

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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.

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