Expats in Ecuador: Pros and Cons of Living in Ecuador

By Joshua Wood

Summary: Expats in Ecuador share some of the pros and cons of living in Ecuador. Topics covered include where to live, the bureaucracy, the people and more. Expats in Ecuador seem to all agree that you'll have to come down and explore the country to find the perfect place for you!

Expats in Ecuador - Pros and Cons of Living in Ecuador

If you are contemplating moving to Ecuador, we've compiled a list of pros and cons of living in Ecuador to help with your decision. Everything on the list comes from expats who are living in Ecuador and some who've lived there in the past.

Expat Safety in Ecuador

Expats In Ecuador Find It Safe... If You Are Careful

In relation to expat safety and crime in Ecuador, one expat wrote that "I won't say Ecuador is absolutely perfectly safe, but it is far from the terrifying locale one would assume if you only rely on what you are reading. Use your common sense, don't flash your cash and don't wear lots of jewelry. If this makes you unfcomfortable, then perhaps Ecuador is not a place for you. But come and check it out and see how you feel. That is the only true measure... and that is the way it always has been."

Another expat in the same thread wrote: "I an an American currently exploring Ecuador. We have been here for 3 weeks and have visited Guayiquil, Cuenca, Lola and Vilcabamba. I have found that I have felt very safe in Ecuador. I have been out walking as late as 10pm and have seen families walking with their young children, couples and lies walking alone. It would be foolish to say their is no crime in Ecuador or that all places are safe at all times. The best advice is to use common sense and listen to the voice inside. If you feel nervous, catch a taxi."

Bureaucracy In Ecuador

Con: Bureaucracy is a Challenge for Expats in Ecuador

An expat wrote about that the Bureaucracy in Ecuador "often gets bogged down, especially during this election times and the economy in recession, and new Directors of Immigration get changed around out like underwear, so getting authorized signatures often takes a long time. Any processing times they tell you [should be multiplied] by at least 2, preferably 3 times."

Another expat added, "I would STRONGLY advise you to use an Ecuadorian shipping agent, since all the complications will always be in the Ecuadorian side upon arrival of the container. If you use a foreign shipping agent, after your container gets to Ecuador - and if any problems occur (and they WILL occur!) - the foreign shipping agent will often simply wash his hands of the entire problem, since he already has your money and will leave you to deal on your own with the Ecuadorians.

However, by using an Ecuadorian shipping agent from the start you'll have that shipping agent right there holding your hand through the entire nightmare Bureaucracy of getting your container out of EC Customs and the port."

Another expat in Ecuador reported: "The people here are great. After five years I have no complaint. The culture and governmental Bureaucracy are things these people put up just as we expats do. They didn't invent it, it is the result of history.

Finally, another expat added about the Bureaucracy: "On a philosophical note, I would argue for transferring the visa as soon as possible after getting your new passport. Some people may have had happy experiences using two passports, but you're really rolling the dice when it comes to dealing with the Ecuadorian Bureaucracy, so play it safe and transfer the visa..."

Deciding Where to Live in Ecuador

Pro: Ecuador Has Something for Everyone

Expats in Ecuador made the following comments about what they like - or don't like - about where they live in various places across the country: "I would recommend Cuenca. Not as big as Quito and easier to get around in. Cool at night though and rainy at times. Not all day but afternoons during rainy season. Somewhat European in nature. Rent is very inexpensive and a lot of choices to get you away from the noise. Drivers about like New York City but not as bad as you describe. Pretty clean city and a new trolley car system is replacing a lot of diesel buses," advised another expat.

"Cotacachi, Ecuador is a town on the move. While a few years ago, it was a little-known village that catered to tourists intent on buying leather products, it is now becoming a popular destination for retirees and others searching for a low cost place to live. The year-round spring like climate and mountain scenery are attracting expats from around the world.

An expat living in Quito said, "Be prepared for pollution and robbery problems. Quito also has a large traffic issue and makes it hard to get around at busy hours of the day. The altitude is sometimes hard for people with asthma or the elderly. In general, it's still a small city and has a friendly welcoming attitude.

One expat recommended Vilcabamba saying, "I suggest Vilcabamba, the valley of longevity, in southern Ecuador. The elevation is 5000 ft and its about 10 degrees warmer than Cuenca. The city of Loja is about 45 minutes away population 250,000 people... and it has all the modern conveniences..." Another said, "I've lived here over a year and have NO plans to live anywhere else.

The Ecuadorian People

Pro: Ecuadorians are very welcoming, warm people.

An expat in Ecuador wrote: "My wife and I retired here in October. Cuenca is a great place. Being respectful of the various aspects of the people, culture and language has provided us with a rich experience in our immersion into our new resident country. My wife were espanol challenged when we arrived, me knowing enough Spanish to get me arrested. But as we are learning Spanish, everyone is helpful (and forgiving) as we work our way around the learning curve. We have no regrets. Do your homework on Ecuador, and you'll have a great time. You may find other comments posted to be a bit more negative, but remember the old programmers axiom, garbage in, garbage out. Safe journey and bienvenida!"

Cost of Living in Ecuador

Con: Ecuadorians Will Charge Expats MORE For Everything

One expat wrote: "They think we are rich, so untill you get to know the rules, do not buy any property. Do not pay the asking price on rentals. Offer half of what they are asking and you will find out what they are really wanting."

Another in Cuenca said: "If you have funds, you can afford to live anywhere in the world. Ecuador can cost almost as much as the U.S. because of 'gringo gouging.' Best way to find housing is not to read paid ads but to first find a neighborhood and buildings you might like, then look for signs and call the numbers directly. It takes an enormous amount of work to figure out which landlords are honest and fair and those who are not. Even if they seem correct, they may turn on you. The name of the game is $$$ and if you are not on a budget, then nothing really matters and you can pay double or more than a local would... This later remark is noteworthy... paying more contributes to the economy, but also creates understandable resentment among locals."

Pro: With Research There are Many Affordable Places to Live

One expat who has lived in Bahia and San Vicente said his costs were "much lower. We paid cash for our land and to build our house. Electric is about 100 per month. We get 2 trucks of water a month roughly and it equates to about $50/month in water. There are no other bills."

Another expat in Puerto Cayo wrote, "Depending on the quality and area we find costs to be lower to about the same for housing cost to purchase...however the cost of real estate taxes, and maintenance is much lower here."

There is Public and Private Health Insurance for Expats in Ecuador

Pro: Expats Can Be Eligible For Public Health Insurance

Many expats choose to pay for voluntary membership in the Ecuadorian national health care system. The IESS or Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social.

There seems to be a bit of debate about the cost of healthcare through the IESS. One expat said, "It's free if you pay your 'contribution' to the social security system here as an IESS Voluntary Member (Afiliacion voluntaria) or if you are employed, where your employer would pay. The cost is 17.60% of the current basic salary ($366/mo) or $64.41. You spouse would be an additional 3.41% or $12.48." Others expats living in Ecuador debated that the cost would be higher, because an expat must have a higher salary to stay in Ecuador.

Con: Public Health Insurance in Ecuador Has Gaps

"Keep in mind that if you're paying out of pocket a catastrophic illness will still probably bankrupt you. If [you're] waiting for government treatment for cancer or something similar, there is a good chance you'll die waiting," asserted one expat.

If you wish to have private health insurance in Ecuador, get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Read more tips about healthcare in Ecuador.

Expats Face Bureaucracy Problems in Ecuador

Con: Expat Visa Waiting Times Are Considerable in Ecuador

Here are some thoughts on this aspect of expat life in Ecuador:

Bureaucracy in Ecuador "often gets bogged down, especially during this election times and the economy in recession, and new Directors of Immigration get changed around out like underwear, so getting authorized signatures often takes a long time. Any processing times they tell you, you must multiply by at least 2, preferably 3 times."

The people here are great. After five years I have no complaint. The culture and governmental bureaucracy are things these people put up just as we expats do. They didn't invent it, it is the result of history.

On a philosophical note, I would argue for transferring the visa as soon as possible after getting your new passport. Some people may have had happy experiences using two passports, but you're really rolling the dice when it comes to dealing with the Ecuadorian Bureaucracy, so play it safe and transfer the visa...

I would STRONGLY advise you to use an Ecuadorian shipping agent, since all the complications will always be in the Ecuadorian side upon arrival of the container. If you use a foreign shipping agent, after your container gets to Ecuador - and if any problems occur (and they WILL occur!) - the foreign shipping agent will often simply wash his hands of the entire problem, since he already has your money and will leave you to deal on your own with the Ecuadorians.

However, by using an Ecuadorian shipping agent from the start you'll have that shipping agent right there holding your hand through the entire nightmare Bureaucracy of getting your container out of EC Customs and the port.

More Pros and Cons of Living in Ecuador

Pro: Great cultural mix, many people from other countries

Pro: Cheap prices for most food

Con: Sanitation is an Problem in Parts of Ecuador

An expat living in Salinas wrote: "I was not prepared for the culture shock of the absence of sewer systems and the resulting smells you encounter in the towns and neighborhoods. The overall lack of respect for the environment means you see garbage just thrown or dumped along the roads, in empty lots, on the beaches. Very sad."

Need more information on living in Ecuador?

Login or Register and visit our Ecuador Forum. Talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Ecuador.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood joined Expat Exchange in 2000. His areas of responsibility include creative aspects of the community, research, sales and business development. Joshua received his Master's Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in English Textual Studies.

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First Published: Oct 03, 2017

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