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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Ecuador
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Plaza de la Independencia in Loja, Ecuador


10 Things to Know Before Moving to Ecuador

By Betsy Burlingame

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: If you're planning a move to Ecuador, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Ecuador.

Are you considering a move to the beautiful country of Ecuador? This South American gem is a popular destination for expats from all over the world, thanks to its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and affordable cost of living. However, before you pack your bags, there are a few things you should know. Here are the top 10 things to know before moving to Ecuador.

1. Understanding the Ecuadorian Culture

Ecuador is a country with a rich and diverse culture. The people are warm, friendly, and family-oriented. They value their traditions and customs, many of which are influenced by their indigenous roots. It's important to respect these traditions and try to learn about them. For example, you might find yourself invited to a local festival or celebration. Participating in these events can be a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and make new friends.

2. Learning Spanish is Essential

While you might find some English speakers in the major cities and tourist areas, the majority of Ecuadorians speak Spanish. Learning the language will not only make your daily life easier but also help you connect with the local community. There are plenty of language schools offering Spanish classes, and you can also find private tutors or language exchange partners.

3. The Cost of Living is Affordable

One of the biggest draws for expats moving to Ecuador is the low cost of living. Housing, food, and healthcare are all significantly cheaper than in many Western countries. For example, a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost you around $15, while a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can be rented for as little as $300 per month.

4. Ecuador's Diverse Climate

Ecuador is located on the equator, hence its name, but don't let that fool you into thinking the climate is the same everywhere. The country's geography is incredibly diverse, from the coastal lowlands to the Andean highlands and the Amazon rainforest. This means the weather can vary greatly depending on where you are. Be prepared for this diversity and pack accordingly.

5. The Importance of Safety Precautions

Like any country, Ecuador has its share of safety issues. Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching can be a problem, especially in larger cities. It's important to take precautions, such as not displaying valuable items openly and avoiding certain areas at night. However, most expats report feeling safe in Ecuador, especially in the smaller towns and rural areas.

6. The Delicious Ecuadorian Cuisine

Ecuadorian cuisine is a delightful mix of indigenous and Spanish influences, with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Be sure to try local dishes like ceviche, a seafood dish marinated in citrus juices, or locro, a hearty potato soup. And don't forget to sample the country's chocolate, considered some of the best in the world!

7. The Healthcare System in Ecuador

Ecuador's healthcare system is generally good, especially in the larger cities. The country has both public and private healthcare, with many expats opting for private insurance. It's worth noting that medical care in rural areas can be more basic, so if you have specific health needs, you might want to consider living closer to a major city.

8. The Breathtaking Natural Beauty

From the stunning Andes mountains to the lush Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, and the beautiful Pacific coast, Ecuador is a nature lover's paradise. There are countless opportunities for hiking, bird watching, snorkeling, and exploring the country's diverse ecosystems. Just remember to respect the environment and follow local guidelines to protect these precious natural resources.

9. The Ecuadorian Visa Process

Before moving to Ecuador, you'll need to secure a visa. The process can be complex and time-consuming, so it's a good idea to start early. There are several types of visas available, including investor visas, professional visas, and pensioner visas. It's recommended to consult with an immigration lawyer to understand the best option for your situation.

10. The Pace of Life in Ecuador

Life in Ecuador tends to move at a slower pace than in many Western countries. This can be a big adjustment for some expats, but many find it to be one of the most appealing aspects of living in Ecuador. It's a chance to step back, relax, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. So, take a deep breath, slow down, and embrace the Ecuadorian way of life.

Moving to a new country is always a big step, but with the right preparation, it can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. By understanding these aspects of life in Ecuador, you'll be well-prepared for your move to this beautiful and diverse country.

Expats talk about Moving to Ecuador

"Come visit first, stay in a travelers hostel if you want to meet people, doesn't matter your age...see where you want to live, then check the local paper to find rental listings..," said one expat living in Quito.

"THis process esp with minimal Spanish is NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, trust me. I have struggled at times and have lived before out of the United States in South America. Visit, do your homework, trust that you will be taken advantage of (as I have several times with trusted Ecuadorians) and you REALLY have to WANT TO MOVE HERE sometimes to simply stay here. I am overall happy with my move/immigration to Ecuador but it is tough and challenging esp as a soltera at times, very tough," wrote a member in Quito.

"Be open minded, flexible and leave over exaggerated expectations in your mother country. You are moving into a foreign country for a reason - don't bring your bad with you," commented one expat who made the move to Puerto Cayo.

"Pick out 2 or 3 places and rent to live in each for 2 to 3 months. See if you really like the area, the locals, the activities, etc. Do not start looking for a house to buy until you are SURE where you want to live. We thought we wanted to live in a beach town and tried several but we found we did not like the climate nor the local vibe. We are happier living in a valley outside of Quito (did not like big city either, moving from Houston) and visiting the beach when we want," remarked one expat living in Ecuador.

"1. Learn some basic spanish before coming here. 2. Have a source of income to sustain you, don't expect to work to survive. 3. Keep an open mind and expect things to be very different from home. 4. Come for 3 to 4 weeks to see if you will like the country and city before making permanent immigration plans. 5. Have great patience and don't expect the people to act in a manner to which you are accustomed. Things here take time. 6. Remember you are a guest in their country so be respective of their customs, If you don't know what is expected-- ASK. Don't demand anything. They wll be nice if you are. 7. Always check your passport for visas and date stamps. They have been known to make errors on dates--quite often! 8. Be flexible, things are not under your control. Have Fun," said one expat living in Bahia de Caracruz.

"Get to know the place before you commit, as everywhere else, you have to like the place with its pros and cons. In getting a place for rent or purchase, stick to licensed real estate brokers as there are many "unofficial" brokers who will get you in trouble... guaranteed. I was a victim of one of them until I contacted the Coldwell Banker people. As far as I go, they are the only professionals I trust," wrote a member in Salinas.

"This city has a little of everything. The old and the new blend very well indeed. Lots of great restaurants, lots of music the weather is the best, the mountains are breathtaking, the prices for me are just right. I really have everything here I could ever wish for," commented one expat who made the move to Cuenca.

"I have a close friend who is going to move here. He loved his visit here a couple of months ago. I told him that the culture is very different form the US but that is true anywhere in the world. The only way to learn is through immersion into the life here. I took a job consulting for the municipio, another side task of teaching the local kids in our barrio English and I applied to teach at the local University. The more active I am, the faster I get what is going on here. Ibarra is no Quito; it is like most other towns in Ecuador, just a little larger at 150,000 people. My Spanish is constantly improving. Our farm is becoming more productive, our list of freinds is growing. But it all takes lots of time and personal investment of yourself," remarked one expat living in Ibarra.

"We live in Valle de los Chillos just outside of Quito and did not have any security problems during the nearly 3 week paro (strike) like there were in Quito. Food was in shorter supply and a bit more expensive but available. Propane tanks for cooking and heating water also a bit more expensive but available. Gas stations had gasoline. Pretty quiet. Since Quito is capitol, any demonstrations will likely be there along with the associated disruptions. Outside in the valleys, peace and tranquility," wrote one member in Ecuador.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Plaza de la Independencia in Loja, Ecuador

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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