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17 Tips from Expats about Moving to Ecuador

Joshua Wood

Summary: We asked expats in Ecuador for advice for newcomers. From cost of living to what to bring to culture shock, their insight is a must read for anyone thinking about moving to Ecuador.

Carolina Park in Quito, Ecuador
Carolina Park in Quito, Ecuador

If you're thinking about moving to Ecuador, you may want to explore the coastal cities of Salinas and Guayaquil or the cooler cities of Quito and Cuenca. Before you go, read what expats have to say about moving to Ecuador.

Advice for Newcomers to Ecuador

"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," said one expat who moved to Ibarra, Ecuador.

"I'd say if you are retired and wanting a nice beach area where the views are exceptional. Yes this maybe the place for you. But there are many cities along the coast that you may like better. One plus for us is we live very close to the main mall here, walking distance and we really like that as in the past it would take us all day of shopping when we lived in Montanita. P.S. Just lessons learned would only bring down only what you absolutely need. Shipping items to here is very expensive and a real pain in the butt. Would not recommend that unless you absolutely need to," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Bring comfortable shoes and get ready to live in a physically splendid environment. The people are gentle. Like any foreign culture, it is deceptively similar to America, but the little differences can sink you if you aren't totally flexible. Stay away from ex-pats, as a rule," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

Culture Shock in Ecuador

We asked expats about the culture shock they experienced when they moved to Ecuador. They replied:

"It has been a little frustrating to not know enough of the language yet, but that is our problem not the locals. We are learning and we will learn to be fluent or at least fluent enough to live here without feeling uncomfortable. If you say hello to people you pass and smile, you get the same in return. Smiles go a long way and we are making more and more Ecuadorian friends," said one expat who moved to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

"Not at all. We have traveled in Central and South America often, and visited Ecuador for extended periods in advance of the move," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Massive. The family culture is suffocating - living with my in-laws felt like being rolled up inside a carpet. The constant prodding and pushing, the basic inability to give me space to do my reading - Ecuadorians as a group have no appreciation of the written word - just about drove me out of my mind. After three months in Quito, my wife and I escaped to Cuenca, which is a superior destination any way you measure it. Notably, after eight years in the US, she couldn't handle the family scene, either. Arriving with only the most rudimentary Spanish exacerbated the situation greatly. I felt like a sack of potatoes being trundled here and there with no clear idea of where I was going or what was going to happen to me upon arrival," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

The Reality of Living in Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador

We asked expats how expat life lived up to their expectations. They said:

"I would have to say that up until about 6 or 7 years ago, everything was according to expectations.....But the anty was upped here because of the dollarization and the high prices, and the extreme laws, etc. Before, Ecuador was a 'little lawless banana republic' and you could pretty much do as you wanted, and we did. After running our business for 20 years, we sold the property a year and a half ago. We still live in the area, we have bonded here with the 'natives' (the indigenous) and we have 44 Indigenous godchildren and we are very well respected in the little community in which we have lived for almost 30 years now. This is the kind of 'small-town' respect that only existed in the USA in the 50s...where everyone knows you, and there is mutual respect among all," said one expat who moved to Quito, Ecuador.

"Still working at that question. Not having a significant other and retirement age, makes it much more difficult as it is hard enough on your own, but in a foreign country is is doublefold. I think I could safely say, if I were in a bigger town, yes it would, but my circumstances moving to Ecuador are quite different than most others," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Our experience has met and exceeded our expectations. We have met some incredible people. We have more friends than we could have imagined; not to mention a "social life", something we barely had in the States. We have visited some beautiful places and had experiences with our family visiting and living here that I could have never dreamed of....Galapagos is one example," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"We live in almost paradise. We have money left over each month from our social security budget which we save for travel back to the US to visit with our children and grandchildren. We have a maid once a week, a full time caretaker, someone who picks up our laundry and returns it clean, ironed, and folded for $5. No need for a washer-dryer or a car. We use taxis to go to "town" to shop. No car pmt., no car insurance, no gas, no car repairs...wow! We love this small fishing village and the Ecuadorian people are amazing, warm and always anxious to help. We have learned to give up some of the expected conveniences from the States in exchange for our easy, laid back lifestyle No car, no close by shopping, very little English spoken but we now speak Spanglish..lol. Periodic loss of electricity and water, water here is very bad quality but we have had a reverse osmosis system installed so now have excellent pure water right from the sink. Mainly we have learned to expect and accept tis way of life where mañana does not necessarily mean tomorrow but just not today. Our health has improved, I have lost 35 pounds without dieting, just by being able to eat chemical and additive free foods and fresh air and walks on the beach We love San Clemente," remarked another expat in San Clemente, Ecuador.

What to Bring When Moving to Ecuador (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in Ecuador what they wish they had brought when moving to Ecuador and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"Wish I'd Brought My furniture - harder than expected to find a furnished apartment Personal care products - expensive here Everyone's phone number and email address - tough to make friends here as the "upper class" society is pretty closed Wish I'd left home: Warm clothes - 90-95 on cool days here, although the sweaters come in handy when I go to Quito DVD's - pirated movies are big business here," said one expat who moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

"I wish I had brought digital camera, laptop and more books...I wish I had left home medicines (widely available and cheaper in Ecuador), basics like towel, socks, etc (also easily available), furniture (very beautiful pieces avialable locally)," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Wish list would include: Food processor/juice maker More Tennis/Walking shoes Good CD player Things not needed: Too many shoes and purses Too many clothes," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"We wish we would have brought a Leatherman, our Vitamix and a portable water filter. We could have done without so many clothes," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Visa & Immigration

Starting May 1, 2018 the Ecuadorian government will require foreigners in Ecuador to have health insurance.

"Proof of at least $800 a month income, FBI and local police report, birth certificate and if applies divorce papers or marriage certificate. All need to be notarized and apostle stamped. You can hire a lawyer or do it yourself at the local Immigration office here takes about 3 months to receive your residency card good for ten years. I have a blog about the process: AAA Living in Cuenca gas2335.blogspot.com or book available on amazon: Why Ecuador for me," said one expat who moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"We bought a house as partners so we each qualified for a 9-2 investor visa. I got our federal and state background checks in the US and had them translated apostilled by a service out of Atlanta for about $500. That required getting fingerprints which would not be an issue in a city, but from where we lived in GA it was a hassle just to find a place that did electronic and one that did paper prints. The other documents we needed were the closing papers, deed and the tax records of the property. We had an attorney in Guayaquil who handled the visa application for us and other than a glitch in the records for the deed it's been relatively smooth. We've been in country just 4 weeks and should have our visa and our container of goods in 2 weeks," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Birth certificates, wedding certificate, proof of income, police certificate from each state of residence for the last 5 years all translated into spanish. Found it easier to use an immigration lawyer," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"Income of or in my case Education documents proof of ability to support yourself, passport. Very easy process when you hire an attorney. I would not want to try to do it on my own," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Cost of Living in Ecuador

"The availability of fresh seafood, vegetables and fruits delivered to your door or purchased at the market are very reasonable, a household of two adults averages $200 per month for groceries. Rental properties range from $450 up based on location and size. You can purchase a beachfront home for under $200K. or off the beach from $50K. and up. Restaurants offer daily "almuerzo" specials for $3, dinner starts at $4 and up. Utilities are inexpensive, propane gas $1.75 refill, water for the cisterna $15, large jugs of bottled water $1.50, Wifi basic plan $25, electricity varies based on use of AC during the hot season (January - April), no AC. $45 - with AC, $100 and up. Transportation via bus starts at .50 cents and goes up based on destination. Taxi varies based on destination, fare starts at $2," said one expat who moved to San Jacinto, Manabi, Ecuador.

"The cost of living in San Clemente is very affordable. If you eat at local type restaurants, a typical lunch will set you back at $2.50-$3.00. Even at the more foreign type restaurants, it is still cheap to eat. Rent can range from $250 a month for a typical Ecuadorian house to upwards of $1,000 a month for a condo in a small complex. All in all, the cost of living is very affordable," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

Read Next

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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: Jan 17, 2018

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