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17 Tips from Expats about Moving to Ecuador

Joshua Wood, LPC

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

"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 who moved to Bahia de Caracruz, Ecuador.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"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 Ecuador.

"Make it a point to meet the local Gringo population, remember that if they do not have a marked price then barter is often necessary to keep from overpaying. Rent until you know the area and keep an open mind. Realize that on the coast tossing garbage on the side of the road and men publicly urinating is not unusual. This is a super place to retire and Manta's location is dry and arrid. Makes it very healthy and with little rain its easy to plan many outdoor activities. One needs to smile a lot and its amazing how a positive outlook spreads," remarked another expat in Manta, Ecuador.

"Do not listen to anyone initially, feel the place out first and make sure you enjoy the area. When buying or renting a place such as apartments be careful of all Brokers, even the Licensed, who both I and our friends have seen on many occasions add 20% or more to the costs and who also try to get paid both sides, by in effect charging innocent foreigners much more, where as if you deal with owners directly you will pay less! Brokers means that they are more broke than you so be CAREFUL. I recommend either Tucasaecuador.com on line or their magazine you can buy in the main Shopping center or in Petrol stations. Personally we bought from the Best Tower in Town the PHOENIX LUXURY TOWER who were in this magazine in front of the Banco Pacifico on the second street in Salinas which has over 9 nationalities based there and found that in dealing with the OWNER we got the best and fairest deal and no broker crap trap! They have suites, medium and large apartments but are over 80% sold now," said another expat in Ecuador.

"Bring whatever technology items you can w you bc they are very expensive here. If your car is less than 4 years old you can bring that, if it has a smaller engine," remarked another 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:

"in ecuador, none, but i missed the english language when i moved to costa rica. i also missed libraries. (i still miss libraries!)," said one expat who moved to Jama, Ecuador.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"Not at all. We have traveled in Central and South America often, and visited Ecuador for extended periods in advance of the move," commented one expat who made the move 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," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"I was quite shocked mostly by how behind some ares of life were in Ecuador in comparison to Europe and North America," said another expat in Ecuador.

The Reality of Living in Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador

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

"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," said one expat who moved to San Clemente, Ecuador.

"There are many good things about living here. In general, the pace of life is delightful, people are friendly and the climate is agreeable. I relax so much more and after 6 months or so, I could viscerally feel the stress leaving my body. We live a very good life for about 1/3 the cost of what life was costing us in Washington State. The cost of living will depend on how you chose to live. There are no set rules. If you want to live large, you can spend as much as you want. There is a burgeoning middle class. The city is constantly involved in infrastructure improvements. Very impressive. New and refurbished parks, paths, roads. The current mayor and his administration are progressive and have a lot to be proud of with their achievements. Returning Cuencanos dumped almost $750 million into the local economy in 2010 alone, probably more in 2011 as more and more repatriate fleeing the sputtering economies of Spain and the U.S.. There are many ways to be involved. I am taking courses in Italian at the University. There in an active and increasingly organized expat community. It is easy to meet people and the variety of different venues, classes, groups is increasing on a weekly basis. You are literally a half hour from the town center to Cajas National Park with its extraordinary beauty," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"My costs have significantly been lowered, the climate is more stable and the food is more healthy meaning its easier for me to keep the pounds off," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"I learned very quickly that it was dangerous for a single woman to live by herself out in the country. Instead, I chose to live in an apartment on an upper floor in a small town, Bahia de Caraquez. I am able to buy excellent fruits and vegetables, chicken, eggs and everything I need at very reasonable prices in the beautiful market every day. I am able to walk everywhere I need to go in this town, which has everything I need, so I don't need a car. When I go to other cities I am able to take a taxi for a few dollars. The people are warm and friendly and I have made many new Ecuadorian friends. I avoid most ex-pats because all they seem to do is gossip about each other," remarked another expat in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

"The weather here is great, wardrobe is mostly shorts, sleeveless shirts and sandals. As expected, so much less stress than in the U.S. due to slower pace of life and simplifying daily tasks. The fresh inexpensive seafood, vegetables and fruits you can get at the outdoor markets are wonderful and daily walks on the beach make for a healthy lifestyle," said another expat in Ecuador.

"After trying Cuenca and Bahia de Caraquez, and rejecting both, we decided to give Manta another chance and within just a few days of actually being here and renting a place for two weeks, we agreed it was what we were looking for. As my husband says, regarding Bahia, "If you have to drive to Manta to shop and you have to drive to Manta to fly anyplace, why not live in Manta?" A friend had admonished "You don't want to live in MANTA....THAT IS A WORKING CITY" and we really never understood his comment until we tried it here and realized that a "working city" is exactly what we were looking for -- in other words, we wanted to be on the beach/coast BUT we didn't want to live someplace that is ONLY a beach town...we were looking for a real city with a great BEACH....which is pretty much what Manta is. It has all the infrastructure that we prefer, yet we are located in a central location where we can walk to practically everything we need. It is, I am told, Ecuador's fastest growing coastal city, and we have seen a lot of growth in the three years we have been here. We do not spend time with most expats here because the people that are coming here: 1) do not care at all about being part of Ecuador -- they are here for one thing and one thing only -- CHEAP LIVING; 2) do not really seem to have any agenda for their lives except to start drinking at 10 am, wear the sloppiest beach clothes they can find, and gossip about each other. If you want to live cheaply in Ecuador, you will have to adjust your tastes to embrace locally available food, get rid of all your "toys" back home, and cut way back on travel, but it can be done," remarked another expat who made the move to 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:

"Being from Australia probably more vegemite. My moisturiser that I used for hundreds of years........but now I have found another here that is just as good. My grown kids :)," said one expat who moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to 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)," commented one expat who made the move 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," remarked another expat in Bahia and San Vicente, Ecuador.

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

"More books - not the Kindle I was given --personal effects, small paintings, items you love at home (small and transport friendly) Nothing in 2nd category," remarked another expat who made the move to Ecuador.

Visa & Immigration

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

Need health insurance in Ecuador? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a Quote

Need health insurance in Ecuador? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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

"I have a volunteer visa good until January 2020 & will be getting a retirement visa. All documents must be "apostilled" and the translations must be apostilled. I found the consulate in Phoenix to be very helpful," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"The biggest problem is that the rules change often in Ecuador. We started planning two years ahead. Still, the Visa "types" change along with eligibility. We currently have a two year temporary Visa. We are only allowed 90 days each year out of the country," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"We received our 2 year visa in Chicago before we moved. In retrospect, it would have been easier to do once we were here as there are many facilitators able to complete the process faster and easier," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"Ecuador has a Pensioner's Visa which is easy to obtain with Social Security statement (min. $800 a month income), FBI and police reports. The process is not difficult and there are many attorneys and facilitators who can help. But it can be done personally too," said another expat in Ecuador.

"Permanent resident visa. Police records, Health attestation. Pension income 1000/month or wealth deposit 25k," remarked another expat who made the move to 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, 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.

"We have found the cost of living to be reasonable, especially foods at the market, on the streetsides. Tia Food stores are a little more. Supermaxi in Loja is a good place to shop occasionally to stock up on basic items and for some variety. Clothing is higher in comparison it seems, but when they have there "holidays" with people filling the streets to market their goods, then is the time to get good deals," stated one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"There is a wide variety of housing available on the Coast. In my little stretch of beach, expats can purchase a home in a gated community starting at just $125K and going up to $285K for an amazing 3 bedroom home with a pool. Rentals are anywhere from $600 and up depending upon amenities. Taxis and food are inexpensive and good," remarked another expat in Ecuador.

"Real estate taxes are very low. For a 1,850 ocean front condo, taxes are $257 a year. You can grab lunch for less than $4. For breakfast a capuchino and big omelette are $4. Buses are $.30 ($.15 if you are over age 65). Taxis are $2 to the grocery store," added one expat living in Ecuador.

"A couple can live here on $1200-$1300 a month which includes for example 3 bedroom 2 bath modern apartment. A single person can live under $1000 a month," commented one expat who moved to Ecuador..

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Sep 3, 2018 10:50

I thought about Ecuador and Costa Rica and even invested in Costa Rica for a while. My one problem with Ecuador, being a US Citizen, is and has been that the Ecuadorian Govt has such a visceral and open dislike for the US. I’m very proud of my country, which has allowed me the opportunity to do and become whatever I choose and to move to a country where the govt holds it in such disdain was the deal breaker for me.

First Published: Jan 17, 2018

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