Fancy living in the orchid capital of the world? Ecuador is the land of eternal spring, where you can enjoy fresh delicious fruits and vegetables, clean air and crystal clear water all year-round. A uniquely diverse and spectacularly beautiful destination, not just to visit but also to retire or spend a few years as a digital nomad too.
Simply knowing you live in a country that uses the US dollar as its official currency is enticing in itself for some. Add the awe-inspiring nature, Amazon Rainforest, outdoors activities and ecotourism, rather easy and straightforward visa system and its no wonder Ecuador has, over recent years, topped many lists of the best places to retire to. Ecuador also boasts one of the highest standards of living in Latin America, an agreeable climate, high quality infrastructure, cheap cost of living, and a thriving expatriate community are some of the main reasons people choose to head to Ecuador.
Ecuador is bordered by Colombia and Peru. One of the most interesting things about Ecuador is the diversity of its people. Ecuador has a population of more than 15 million people, with a mix of Spanish and Native Americans. Much of Ecuador’s culture is heavily influenced by its Spanish colonizers. The country gained independence from Spain in 1822 and began adapting and evolving its own cultures and traditions. Ecuador’s indigenous heritage and colonial influences are reflected strongly in people’s customs as well as the stunning architecture.
Thousands of Americans and Canadians have discovered the secret of Ecuador’s beauty and now permanently call this country home. With the right amount of planning and preparation you too could make the move! There’s no denying that a move to Ecuador has its challenges. The first of which comes in the form of the language barrier. With their official language being Spanish, it might be wise to start some basic Spanish lessons before you arrive in the country. Remembering the contents of your Spanish classes from high school might be a bit of a stretch!
Once you embrace the Latino language culture however, you will find yourself thriving in this country.
Ecuador is the perfect retirement destination because it allows you to experience a slower pace of life whilst also enjoying the comforts of the nation’s improved infrastructure and services. Between 2005 and 2014 Ecuador experienced a lucrative oil boom. This resulted in increased government spending on healthcare, education, and infrastructure projects. The investments worked because Ecuador is now one of Latin America’s highest-ranking countries for standard of living and a really appealing retirement destination. Crime and poverty rates have been reduced and standard of living has been vastly improved.
With rainforest, mountains, and coastline perhaps you are wondering what Ecuador’s climate is like. Well, the country’s climate changes from region to region because of the varying elevation levels. Generally speaking, yearly temperatures throughout Ecuador range from 45°F (7°C) to 70°F (21°C). The mountains experience much lower humidity levels and cooler temperatures, especially at night.
Ecuador has four main regions all with different seasons, climates, and temperatures. La Costa, a coastal area in the west of the country has a really tropical climate. Temperatures are usually around 80°F (26°C) and the rainy season is from December to May. El Oriente, the country’s Amazon region, also has a tropical climate, expect humidity and rain year round. The dry season is between December and March, though it does vary each year. La Sierra, the Andean region is different once again, with a much cooler climate. Average summer temperatures in the nation’s capital are around 60°F (15°C). Finally, head to the Galapagos Islands for a warm and dry climate year round. Temperatures are around 80°F (26°C) throughout the year. What’s more, the Galapagos Islands have basically no annual rainfall.
An Ecuadorian lifestyle is usually focused on family and religion. Many locals enjoy music, dancing and good food. They are also really into their football (soccer)! If you are thinking of moving to the country, then you can expect to enjoy a similar lifestyle. Embracing local culture, learning Spanish, and interacting with the locals is a really important part of living in Ecuador.
Whilst most middle and upper class families live a comparable lifestyle to that in the U.S., there are some welcomed differences. Usually, people travel home for lunch to enjoy food with their families. The weekend is when people throughout the country switch off and enjoy sports, dance parties, and ice cold beers. The working week is forgotten in fun and family.
Living in Ecuador is simply what you make of it. Getting involved in your local community and embracing the Ecuadorian way of life will broaden your opportunities.
Safety and Security
Is Ecuador a safe place to live? Overall, the country is considered to be safe (ranked 79 from the Global Peace Index), but like many South American countries there are places that should be avoided, particularly at night. Petty thefts, scams, violent crime, and drug trafficking does happen. One place to avoid entirely is the border area with Colombia, just don’t risk it!
By Latin American standards, Ecuador does boast one of the lowest serious crime rates in the region. But being conscious of where your valuables are and being cautious at ATMs is a good habit to get into the moment you arrive in the country.
For a country like Ecuador, natural hazards are another safety concern. There is no denying that Ecuador sits in a highly seismic zone. There is a high risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. You and your family should be very aware of what to do in the result of one of these events.
Cost of Living
Cost of living is an important factor particularly when you are retiring. It is feasible for a couple to retire on less than $17,000 a year. This figure would allow for a comfortable standard of living for around $1,400 per month.
Because of the low cost of living, for many it’s achievable to have a property in the city and in the countryside. In the bustling expat destination of Cuenca, you can easily rent a luxurious three bedroom apartment and cover your regular costs for $1700 a month. Even in the pricier Quito you can rent a deluxe two bedroom apartment for $1800 per month. Many suggest that you can live a fairly luxurious lifestyle for around $20,000 a year for two people.
Citizens and foreigners are mostly taxed on their Ecuador-based income. Non-residents are also expected to pay tax on their Ecuador income irrespective of their domicile or place of residence. If you are a non-resident you can expect to be charged 25% income tax on locally received income. A tax that everyone pays in Ecuador is Value Added Tax (IVA) . This tax rate is the second lowest in South America at 12%.
Visas and Residency
Citizens from the United States, Canada and most of Europe can receive a visa upon arrival in Ecuador. To gain a residency visa you must first obtain a temporary resident visa. There are 13 different temporary resident visas you can obtain. For retirees there’s Jubilados which is for those with a pension. To get this visa you must have proof of a legal income and the means to support any dependents. Your minimum monthly income should be at least $800 and an extra $100 for each dependent. It’s also important to know that in Ecuador pensioners can qualify for a visa even if they’re younger than 65 years old.
You may be surprised, but happy to hear that health care in Ecuador can be both of a high standard and great value. There’s just one slight downfall…if you are living outside of Ecuador’s cities, do not expect anywhere near the same standard.
The World Health Organization ranked the country in number 111 of its annual global healthcare list and the low ranking is mainly due to the rather poor facilities and healthcare services in rural areas.
One of the smaller touches that you’ll appreciate about Ecuadorian health care is that doctors spend around 30 to 45 minutes with their patients. Public medical care is around 10% to 25% of that in the U.S. Pharmaceuticals are also very affordable at an estimated one-third the cost of the U.S.
House prices have increased slightly in recent years because of the country’s growing economy. But lucky for those wanting to retire in the country, buying and renting is still inexpensive in comparison to the States.
First thing to remember is you are buying property in a Spanish speaking country. Don’t rely on that high school Spanish, hire a translator if needed or just a bilingual attorney.
Property prices in Ecuador vary depending on the location. In Cuenca, a city in the southern Ecuadorian Andes, you can buy a new home in a gated community with three bedrooms for around $150,000. In Quito there are four bedroom townhouses for $115,000 in the north of the city.
One of the good things about choosing to live in Ecuador is that foreigners and Ecuadorians have the same rights when it comes to buying and owning property.
Best Places to Live in Ecuador
Sometimes being around fellow expatriates is an important priority when moving somewhere new. If this is high on your list, then choosing to stay in Cuenca is a good idea. This southern Ecuadorian city is known for the Tomebamba River which runs through the city. With an array of knowledgeable English-speaking expats, help is never too far away in this city. There are believed to be around 12,000 American, Canadian and European expats residing in the city. Plus, this is one of Ecuador’s prettiest cities. Its colonial architecture and historic center provides tranquility yet there is just the right amount of atmosphere.
Another popular place to live is Quito. A fun fact about Quito, it’s the world’s highest capital in terms of elevation. Quito provides an excellent balance between tradition and modernism. Yes, there are modern shopping malls, five-star restaurants, and nightclubs but there is also the opportunity to explore the historic city center or climb the Basîlica del Voto Nacional.
Or for somewhere really different, head to Vilcabamba. This village is in the southern region of Ecuador and is around 45 km from Loja. It’s a rustic town that oozes charm. If you are looking to buy land and develop your own property this is an excellent destination to consider.
Proximity to the United States
From New York City to Ecuador’s capital Quito, it takes nine hours with a stopover in Miami. Whilst it’s not a super quick flight, if you want to be close to home there are worse places to live!
Activities and Recreation
For a country around the same size as Nevada, there sure is a lot of things to see and do. Whether you are interested in history, culture, culinary delights or the natural landscape, it’s time to get exploring this awesome country.
Ecuador boasts five UNESCO World Heritage Sites (three cultural and two natural). Built in the 16th century by the Spanish, Quito was the nation’s first UNESCO site. The historic center is one of the best preserved in the entire of Latin America. Cuenca is another city that benefits from the protection that UNESCO offers. This Andean city is littered with parks, quaint squares, cobbled streets, churches, and atriums.
If exploring nature is your passion, then Ecuador is a haven. The Sangay National Park is a fascinating park that has one extinct and two active volcanoes. A visit to Pailon del Diablo is not to be missed. This waterfall, also called Devil’s Cauldron, is on the Rio Pastaza, a tributary of the Amazon River. The hike to this waterfall will blow your mind. Precarious stairs hug the rock face providing wet and spectacular views of the waterfall.
Of course living in Ecuador means that you are just a short trip away from The Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, which is one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing.
Whether you are staying in the city or venturing out to explore Ecuador, retiring in the country will certainly not leave you bored. You can happily spend the rest of your retirement discovering the hidden gems of this intriguing nation.
In all honesty Ecuador really is an awesome retirement and expatriate destination. From stunning natural scenery, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and charming architecture, this country has it all. Its affordability, good healthcare, and attractive visa programs set it apart from other destinations! As long as you put in the effort to learn Spanish you will find yourself flourishing in this South American country.
Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of traveling, living, moving and retiring in Ecuador
Stunning landscapes and the Amazon rainforest
Official currency is the US Dollar (even in everyday transanctions)
Pleasant climate year round
Attractive ‘Jubilados’ retirement visa program
Healthcare is lacking outside of the cities
Safety can be a concern in certain parts of the country
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