Moving to Ecuador
Last updated on Oct 23, 2022
Summary: Moving to Ecuador: Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Ecuador.
What do I need to know before moving to Ecuador?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Ecuador, they said:
"We are retired and wanted a change from the U.S. at least for a few years, perhaps longer. That being the case we considered and visited several countries. We came to Ecuador at the start of August spent some time in Guayaquil which we liked and enjoyed and then moved on to Loja our target city. We absolutely love Loja, have rented an apartment and have started on our papers. Jona Poma of Life in Loja has assisted us greatly in showing us around the city and even found our apartment for us. Maite Duran of Gringo Visa is looking after our visas. Loja is a very walkable city so we wonder around daily to the markets, the parks and enjoy the artwork and monuments of the city. The people have been very pleasant and accepting of us and recognize us when we visit their market stalls, restaurants etc. People we pass on the street greet us and we respond with our limited Spanish. This is not North America and yes service can be slow. You have to learn how to work with it as the pace here is indeed slower. Come and see and decide for yourself. We love it here in Ecuador and hope that you will too. Good luck," added another expat who made the move to Ecuador.
"Come and visit for preliminary look, choose several locations for example beach, mountains and jungle. Try to visit a city and small town in each area, think also of some tourist attractions to get a flavor of the country. Return for another more focused visit to the vibe (example beach) that catches your interest....second visit, focus on areas large and small from your research that sound interesting. If you find a location that you like, plan to come for extended stay and RENT there. Do not look to purchase until you have lived here awhile, LIVED not visited. It is very different to live here rather than visit. Note as far as purchasing property: it is not like the USA, no realtor website with most of the properties in the area featured so can be tedious looking. No licensed inspectors so you are on your own to determine potential problems. Many if not most built "informally" i.e. not to codes. Also, if you make a mistake and decide to go back, properties here do not sell fast, you could be invested for years waiting for a buyer. Financing is difficult to obtain, mortgage interest rates are high (can be 10+%) and large down payments required for Ecuadorian buyers," explained one expat living in Ecuador.
How do I find a place to live in Ecuador?
We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:
"We came to Ecuador 4 times and fell in love with Salinas. We had a realtor help us find our new condo," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Salinas.
"Because my Spanish was limited when I arrived I found someone who had helped people in her church find an apartment. We looked at many. Some were terrible and some were ok and by the seventh day, I found the perfect place. She was most helpful and she kept telling me to speak Spanish which was not really easy but I did it anyway," commented one expat who made the move to Cuenca.
What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Ecuador?
"If you really want to experience and love Ecuador - or any other foreign - don't make the mistake that too many ex-pats do by surrounding themselves with other ex-pats in an all-ex-pat gated community. Why move to a foreign country only to surround yourself with English-speaking gringos who sit around all day complaining about how everything was "so much better back home"?," added another expat who made the move to Ecuador.
"I would not say it is not typical. Most expats decide to live in an apartment or penthouse in a primarily English speaking neighborhood with more upscale restaurants. Others will live closer to downtown as it is less expensive. I chose to live in a Spanish speaking neighborhood by one of the rivers and across from the park. The birds sing every morning," explained one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.
What is the average cost of housing in Ecuador?
If you are thinking about moving to Ecuador, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:
"They are much lower. The average cost is hard to say because the range is so broad depending on what you want. I will say the property taxes are 1% of the purchase price per year," explained one expat living in Salinas, Ecuador.
"I could never find a place like what I would get in the US. It is probably 3 to 4 less than in the states," said another expat in Cuenca.
Should I buy or rent a home in Ecuador?
If you have not spent a lot of time in Ecuador, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:
"Do not buy anything until you've lived in this country for at least 6 months! And preferably for over 1 year. Rent a house, an apartment, a condo first! Get to know the ENTIRE country. Travel, learn the language, get acclimatized, absorb the culture, and make friends ( both gringos and Ecuadorians ) ... then decide what place really fits you best and where you want to make your home. By then you'll have built up contacts, and learned the real prices ( not the tourist/gringo ones ), Then, and only then, should you consider buying. Once the rose-colored glasses have come off, you can make a sensible and informed decision about purchasing and possible investment. Don't buy a pig in a polk, as they say. Take your time. You'll be glad you did. ¡Bienvenida y buena suerte," added another expat who made the move to Ecuador.
"Lots of rental and for sale properties everywhere. I rent an apartment. In smaller towns like mine people don't even sign any rental agreements and it is convenient to rent from month to month," explained one expat living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
What should I pack when moving to Ecuador?
We asked people living in Ecuador to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:
"Vitamins, big bottle from Sams or Costco. Vitamins are real expensive here. Generic Allegra if you use Allegra, brand name only here $1+ per pill. If you use an expensive electric toothbrush, pack replacement heads, having a hard time finding here. Disposable razors mega pack. 3 razors for $5 here. Hosiery for women for special occasions, not much selection, colors or sizes here. Aftershave and colognes, limited selection of cheap brands here. Try Fragrance.net in USA for discount prices. Imodium, not available here. Most generic non anxiety non depression drugs readily available here without rx. No narcotics available at all as far as i know and likely no arthritis iv drugs either as those are very expensive. Think 3rd world cheap, if not used here hard if not impossible. Advil liquid gels very expensive and not readily available. My generic thyroid meds are $3 per month and available without rx. Electronics are not cheap but also brand names are really expensive. Recommend updating cell phone prior to coming and getting cheap cell to carry around here due to theft issues. Bring computer and tablet, we bought cheap hp deskjet for $60 or so here so bring a printer is not necessary. You can get copies and scans very cheap here also. Spring fall clothing to be layered unless going to coast. Typical mountain Temps are 40-55F at night, 55-75 F during day. I layer shirts with warmup jackets and hoodies during day and wear mid level jacket at night. If you think you may stay, bring all apostilled documents with you. No mail service here, DHL or FEDEX are your options at $100+ to get it here and not necessarily delivered. MOST OF ALL BRING RESPECT, WILLINGNESS TO LEARN AND ADAPT AND LOTS OF PATIENCE!!! EXTRA CREDIT FOR BASIC SPANISH SKILLS, LITTLE ENGLISH IS SPOKEN," added another expat who made the move to Ecuador.
"1. Flents Ear Stopples. The best product available for when you are in noisy places or desiring to sleep well. 2. For motorists: bring your still-active Drivers License and any required certification from your DL state. This way you can get an Ecuador DL without taking tedious Spanish-language driving classes to 'learn' what you have known for forty years. 3. Some English-language reading material. When your Internet provider cuts off your service temporarily without advising you in advance for reason/s you did not anticipate .. you'll have something to read at night for the several days it takes to get your service back on," explained one expat living in Ecuador.
What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Ecuador?
We asked people in Ecuador if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:
"I used to translate "you know what I mean" to "si me entiendes" and people would just nod politely but give me a weird look... later I was informed that "si me entiendes" sounds condescending to the other person in Spanish because the context of the sentence implies they are not bright enough to follow my chain of thought-- I was told to use "si me explico?" which translates to "am I explaining myself? " which puts the responsibility of any misunderstanding on my shoulders," explained one expat living in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
"I am blessed with an Ecuadorian wife, so I have avoided most of this sort of thing. We have been married for six years, so I get it. One thing I would note for gringos is that in my experience, Ecuadorians lack a sense of humor - they don't tell jokes. They are some of the most literal people imaginable, so get ready for a blank stare if you have a funny story to share. Ecuadorians prize conformity, even anonymity, above all. The best metaphor I can come up with for their society is of a prairie dog village. They never raise their voices or speak critically of each other. They criticize the government but never with any specific purpose or agenda - they just bitch gently about whatever. So do not speak your mind forcefully - I lost my temper visiting my wife's family in Quito and it was incomprehensible to them that I could raise my voice," said another expat in Cuenca.
Why do people move to Ecuador?
When we asked people why foreigners move to Ecuador, they responded:
"Vilcabamba is a small town in South Ecuador. It is also called a Valley of Longevity. People come to live here for its natural beauty, fresh air, water and perfect climate all year round," remarked another expat in Vilcabamba.
"The coast of Ecuador has miles of beautiful beaches, with mild temperatures and no hurricanes! Ecuador uses the US dollar so there is no fear of currency fluctuations and the cost of living is easy on the wallet," added one expat living in Rio Chico.
How are healthcare services Ecuador?
When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Ecuador, they replied:
"I have SaludSA and it is $100 per person per month. Check your options before using IESS. Depending on your situation private might be more cost effective, especially when you have to go to IESS facilities and medicine has limited availability. We go to private clinic in the local shopping mall and pay $5 copay for office visit, $90 deductible each person," remarked another expat in Ecuador.
" We have private insurance which costs $100 per month per person with $90 deductible. Our doctor copays are $5 for office visit (general and specialty). My husband had physical therapy for $15 each visit since deductible was not met yet. Normal blood tests are about $50. Colonoscopy $150 with anesthesia. I have gone for lab tests without rx for thyroid and other issues. About $12-20 each cash pay. There are doctors who will make house calls also, probably Spanish speaking. Costs are cheap without using insurance except for discounts. Rarely use it for meds because very little require rx. Just go talk to local friendly pharmacist about your issues and they will recommend a variety of meds and give you the pros and cons of each. They will also advise when you REALLY need to go to doctor. My lab test for infection ($12) gave me a list of meds that could be used to kill that bacteria. Took lab results to pharmacy to discuss which med would be the best for me. The amount of attention that the doctors in USA are able to give has made us fairly educated medical consumers. The system here makes it easy and cheap to get care," added one expat living in Ecuador.
"Surprised by the ease in getting doctor's appointments and the speed at which patients are processed - much less waiting time than in the States. No wasted or unnecessary medications or treatments. Doctors and nurses here are for the patients not for profit," said one expat living in Machala, Ecuador.
"I don't require prescription medication, however, many expats in the community have shared that availability of prescription medications and the costs are extremely low compared to North America. They have their prescriptions translated into Spanish for simplifying the process at the pharmacy," offered another expat living in San Jacinto.
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.
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