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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

"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," said one expat who moved to Cuenca, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to 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 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," commented one expat who made the move to 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 in Cuenca, 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 another expat in 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," 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:

"It wasn't bad but then I again I already had some experience and training. However, you do experience frustration over things that you know would not happen in the US," said one expat who moved to Ambato, Ecuador.

"It didn't really hit me for at least a week but then I had mitigating circumstances which brought me to this part of Ecuador," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Ecuador.

"in ecuador, none, but i missed the english language when i moved to costa rica. i also missed libraries. (i still miss libraries!)," commented one expat who made the move to 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," remarked another expat in 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," said another expat in 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 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:

"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," said one expat who moved to Bahia de Caraquez, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving 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! 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 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," commented one expat who made the move to 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," remarked another expat in Cuenca, 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," said another expat in 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 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:

"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)," said one expat who moved to Quito, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving 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," commented one expat who made the move to 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 in Quito, Ecuador.

"Wish I would have brought: Gallons of Patina for our stained glass hobby; Desk Chair because I work from home; more towels and dishrags Things I could have left: all things leather (we live on the beach and everything molds); metal lamps (rusted); outdated computer (should have bought a new one before shipping down here)," said another expat in Ecuador.

"Wish I had brought: more rain gear, especially shoes (low quality shoes here), books (not a country of readers even in Spanish), back-up computer. The best thing I brought was a small space heater," remarked another expat who made the move to Ecuador.

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Visa & Immigration

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

Expats living in Ecuador interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

"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 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.

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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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Comments about this Article

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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