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Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion de Cuenca

Living in Ecuador

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Aug 24, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Ecuador: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

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What do I need to know about living in Ecuador?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Ecuador, they said:

"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," explained one expat living in Ecuador.

"You can avoid most of those problems by living in Valle de los Chillos or Cunbaya/Tumbaco (other valley) just outside of Quito. You can still enjoy activities in Quito but don't have to live with big city problems. Altitude us a bit lower (duh, valley) and it is warmer than Quito. They grow roses in Tumbaco area," said another expat in Ecuador.

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How do I meet people in Ecuador?

When we asked people living in Ecuador about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Get on online forum and arrange to meet one of the local expats. Ask them about local group and activities. Go online and Google groups for your interests and Ecuador, example pesca deportiva grupos Ecuador (fishing group Ecuador)," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"For the folks planning to visit and stay longer in Cuenca, Ecuador I recommend that you subscribe to the three printed media that are available for people abroad and those who live here. They are: CuencaHighLife, GringoPost. There you will get a good idea of what people are saying, what improvements the local and central government are making and planning to make, and how the ordinary expats and English speaking people are feeling, what they are doing, how they communicate with one another. Shops and businesses, restaurants, licensed therapists and doctors all post and are also asking to be recommended on Gringo Post. I have attempted to go to many activities including free movies, therapist lectures, free Spanish conversation classes, but so far I have only managed to get to the Jazz Society Cafe. I arrived there after a day of shopping with only enough money to take the taxi home late at night. I told the head waiter that I would pay double next time. I am an artist, and when the pianist saw me take out my watercolors, he asked the house if I could stay. That worked. Not many clubs or restaurants take credit cards. The big supermarkets do, and they always ask for my passport copy. I recommend everyone have a color print of their passport with the Passport number written clearly at the bottom. For meeting others, there are organized groups among the expat Americans and other foreigners and the meetings are posted in Gringo Post. I am a gringa so I read this every day. I select the events that I am interested in, with the addresses, dates and phone numbers, and copy them into a text message and into my calendar. There are specific cafes and restaurants that the expats do frequent. I attended a meeting of the American Consulate and Embassy one evening which took place at a popular art gallery. Members of the Business Bureau spoke and the group handed out envelopes for everything necessary to start up in Cuenca, from handyman to English speaking taxi drivers and licensed electricians, etc. There are experts in wifi and in Macintosh as well as any components for computer usage," remarked another expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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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.

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What is life like in Ecuador?

When we asked people living in Ecuador what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Salinas is a really nice place. Is like being in Guayaquil, but with a beach nearby, You will find supermarkets, banks, schools, hospitals and many more things than other ecuadorian beach. And a big plus is that is near Guayaquil (the biggest city in Ecuador and main commercial city of the country)," mentioned another expat in Salinas.

"Lives in this city seem to revolve around interest in where they live, apartment or house, rented or owned. I am sure most people have some kind of work, as some have written books or are expert in helping residents through their years of professional therapies and other businesses throughout their lives. Most are retired, and probably none are really rich because there is a lot of advice on how to live on your social security each month, Socializing seems to be happening within the events mentioned above. Since I am one of the older ones, I signed up for Kinesthetic Balance and Movement. I met a woman there who was kind enoug to walk me for about a half mile to my bus stop. Since the city is laid out around traffic circles and many small streets, with a few big avenues connecting the extreme edges of the city, it is really difficult to figure out for oneself, as a newcomer, what any given address entails. I have just "discovered" the URL for bus lines, and all of their stops. There are a half dozen bus lines each having a bunch of buses that are numbered. So when I leave my rural neighborhood, I have a choice of two bus lines. I note the stops, and so I only know how to get to El Centro for shopping, and to my Spanish class in the opposite direction, using one of the two bus lines. Every address entails a house number which reads like this (7-733) for example. It might say Ave such and such 7-733 y *which means and & in Spanish) and it gives the cross street. Most important places like hospitals give maps to tell you how to get there by car or transportation. Sports seems to be mainly hiking, but there are gyms and workouts. Specific sports, like classical music events, must pass between people particularly interested in those sports or music. I have not seen much, perhaps soccer, but I pass over those events," commented one expat who made the move to Cuenca.

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Is there a lot of crime in Ecuador?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Not at all. Some petty crime but you have to be vigilant just like any other place in the world," said another expat in Manta .

"No. Ecuador is unusual in having a VERY low crime rate and Cuenca is the best in the country. The risk rate here is the same as Ohio which is much higher than Quebec but ok for us. No place in this city you can't walk day or night. Other cities (Quito and Guayaquil,) have risky spots we are told," added another expat who made the move to Cuenca.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Ecuador accepting of differences?

"There are significant numbers of the diverse groups. It was one of the first things my Spanish teacher listed on the board. She listed 25% egroupo ethnico and 7% indigenous. The Ecuadorian history, which encompasses the last 11,000 years, reaches into the present; 25 percent of Ecuador's population is of indigenous heritage, while another 70 percent is of mixed indigenous and European heritage. Most people seem to be part of a large number of different Christian churches and organizations, mostly posted in Gringo Post on Friday. That is where I get my idea about this. I am Jewish, and do not follow Orthodox here, but I studied Torah for a year and a half in the US with a Chabad educational group who was Orthodox. I learned that praying for peace and keeping a good feeling about life is not only healthy but productive. I have learned to proportion my hours better to accomplish what I need to do as an artist. I do not know who is accepting of differences. I live in a rural area and I don't talk about being Jewish. Very few people in any general population, religious or not, know anything about what being Jewish means. It's best to fit in with the population at large and not stress any differences, although I do put information on my Facebook page because I keep the friends I had in Berkeley. As a young person and being of Italian heritage, I am well aware of the beauty of music and art in the history of Christianity. I celebrate holidays of all religions and ethnic groups! I don't speak Spanish yet, but I sense that the Ecuadorian people are very accepting, quite attentive and interesting. The people I have contact with are appreciative of the arts, are skilled in labors such as carpentry, although most houses here are made of cement. The Americans here, are just, well American, diverse and educated. I was in a copy shop today and the kids there were using the computers. When they finished they came over to see my portrait copies, and one grade school boy spoke to me in English. He was probably a really good student learning language at that age," explained one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"Race means nothing here. The quechua keep to themselves. The fact that I am a gringo only means the cab drivers will occasionally try to rip me off - classic gringo pricing. Fortunately, my wife is Ecuadorian, so that doesn't fly," said another expat in Cuenca.

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William Russell Health InsuranceExpat 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.
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What are the schools in Ecuador like?

"If you don't mind total Spanish immersion for your child and appreciate a creative, kinesthetic learning environment, this is a wonderful school," commented one expat when asked about Pacha Mama in Tumbaco.

"You must come to the campus to see. It is a nice little campus in the upscale community of Cumbaya. Tuition runs about $6,000 per semester and $1500 for the summer semester. They do offer financing through the University as well as scholarships to top performing students. Class sizes are small and there are a wide variety of programs of study available. It is a nice option to the expensive US colleges," explained one expat in Cumbaya, Ecuador with kids at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

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Is the cost of living in Ecuador high?

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in Ecuador, they wrote:

"Very comfortable Under 2,000. It depends on where you live — mountains or beach," commented one expat who made the move to Manta .

"One person can live on around $1000 a month, a couple on $1500 but it also depends on the area and personal needs," remarked another expat living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

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"Prices have risen some in the past 10 years but still, the cost of living is way better than in the States. My wife and I live very comfortably on little under $1,000 per month and that includes helping out other members of our family and traveling the country ( before the Covid-19 curtailed that! ). We do own our houses - a small 3-story in the city and a casa de campo out of town - but one of my stepsons and his family rent their semi-furnished, three-bedroom, 1 bath, home for about $300 per month. Utilities are very inexpensive. My monthly electric bill, inclusive of service charges for garbage and fire protection runs about $35 monthly. Water is $10.99 monthly, Gas for cooking is $3,00 a canister, and drinking water is $1.60 for a 22-liter container. Our conventional telephone is $8 and cable tv package & high-speed internet runs $85 per month. We pay $90 per month for IESS ( they just went up $5 ) for both of us - My wife is Ecuadoran and I am on her policy, so obviously my rate would be lower than yours might be, but you get a general idea. city-run Busses are 15 cents for Seniors and 35 cents for others. Taxis $1,50 - $2.50 depending on where you're going. My grocery bill at the supermarket for our family averages just under $300 per month and fresh foods, meats, fish, poultry, fruits & veggies, etc., and occasional restaurant take-out is never more than an additional $200 a month. Some imported food items are a bit more expensive than the States but usually not appreciatively. Fresh fish, meat, poultry, pork, etc., and fresh fruits and veggies are plentiful, inexpensive, and a larger variety than you'd find where you are," said one expat living in Machala.

"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," mentioned another expat inVilcabamba.

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What type of recreational facilities are in Ecuador?

When we asked people living in Ecuador about recreational activities, they mentioned:

"We have a hiking group on Facebook called Vilca Hikers. Every week we explore a trail in our area and other villages around. People also enjoy horseback riding, bicycle riding, tennis, yoga, games like bridge and Texas 42 and dining outside in local restaurant gardens," commented one expat living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

"There are miles of gorgeous beaches, what more can anyone want? Surfing is possible year round here as is scuba and snorkeling. Golf is a couple of hours north outside Manta," remarked another expat living in Rio Chico.

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What is the weather like in Ecuador?

"The best climate in the world. We have dry and rainy season only. The temperatures are 24-26 C (80s F) during the day and 14-15 C (57-60 F) at night all year round. Not too much humidity because we are in the mountains on 1600m (5250 feet) elevation," mentioned another expat living in Vilcabamba.

"On the equator, we get sunrise at 6:30am and sunset at 6:30pm all year long. We are semi arid with cloudy days and some rain from May to December. Our warmest and sunniest days are Christmas to Easter. I use the AC in bedrooms during those months, but the ocean breeze is sufficient for the rest of the year," said an expat in Rio Chico.

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Are there good restaurants in Ecuador?

"There are about 30 restaurant in a town of 5.500 people. Many choices and types of food, from local Ecuadorian to Turkish and American/European foods," remarked another expat living in Vilcabamba.

"Montanita is the nightlife spot about 10 minutes from me. Lots of young people use the 2 or 3 dance clubs in town. All along the Coast are great little seafood shacks. Near me are also Thai, Peruvian, Mexican, Italian and American style restaurants," said one expat living in Rio Chico.

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Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Ecuador?

"While you will quickly adjust to shopping here, and find the supermercados very similar in layout and product to what you're used to, don't be afraid to go to the central markets to buy your fresh produce, poultry, fish, liver, veggies, etc. and test your haggling skills," added one expat living in Machala.

"We have organic market on Saturday and general market on Sunday. You can get fresh produce, meat and dairy. During the week many local shops offer fresh fruit, veggies, meat and other products, very plentiful. In Loja there is a supermarket called Supermaxi for more commercial and international products," commented one expat who moved to Vilcabamba.

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What are the visa & residency requirements in Ecuador?

"Also, they may tell you to submit documents electronically but you WILL need them in paper versions. Visas are now electronic but Immigration requested a paper copy of my visa (and their ministry issued it!) which was NOT listed as one of the documents needed. You actually rarely use your visa once you obtain a cedula (ID card) based on the visa, not even for reentry to Ecuador once you have a resident visa. USA passport and cedula are all needed, except for at times, covid vaccine card. I took a photo of my cedula side by side with covid vaccine card and use the photo when needed. Bring extra original documents like birth certificates and marriage licenses and background checks, at least 3 originals of each and apostilled. Your background checks will be good until you return to USA, obviously you are not committing crimes there while you are living here. Expensive and difficult to get more documents while you are here sent from USA," mentioned another expat inEcuador.

"There are several types of permanent visa: Pensioner's -based on $900 income for a couple or $800 for a single, Investment - CD in a bank or property for min. $40,000 value, Professional - need a college or university degree. With proper documents the process for residency is not that difficult," commented one expat who moved to Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Ecuador?

" We got private insurance during pandemic because the hospitals were full and one family member (Ecuadorian citizen) had to go to the hospital but there was no room. Ended up in a private clinic for 10 days at $1000 per day. You need to assess your risks. We got $30k private insurance each for $100 per month. Family member was young and healthy 30s but imagine if he had to be there for a month. Normal hospital bills are not bad, but with covid. I think the private clinics can charge what they want. Your visa requires medical insurance," commented one expat living in Ecuador.

"The cost of average minor surgery is about $1500-$2000, The office visit range from $25 - $40. I have private insurance that has large network of providers with most private hospitals. Four hospitals are in the network in the city near me. I chose my insurance based on price and positive reviews from people who have used it," remarked another expat living in Loja.

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William Russell Health Insurance

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.

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William Russell Health Insurance

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.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

About the Author

Joshua Wood 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.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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