Living In Ecuador, Should You Do It? Facts For Expats

The incredible South American nation of Ecuador has a lot to offer expats, but it may come with challenges. Let's see if living there is right for you!

Are you considering a move to the beautiful country of Ecuador?

Our comprehensive guide provides all the essential information you need, from understanding the cost of living to exploring the rich culture and assessing healthcare quality.

A famous attraction in Ecuador - a swing on the top of the hill in the place called the end of the world
La Casa del Arbol, also known as The Swing At The End Of The World – one of the most iconic attractions in Baños, Ecuador.

It’s a resource tailored specifically for expats pondering the potential move.

Let’s delve into what you can expect from life in Ecuador. 

Why Ecuador is a great place to live for Expats

Imagine yourself living in the stunning landscapes, rich culture, and friendly communities that make Ecuador a prime destination for expats.

From its bustling cities to its peaceful beach towns, Ecuador offers a lifestyle to suit a wide range of preferences and budgets. 

The natural beauty 

Ecuador is blessed with a remarkable range of natural habitats, from the Andes Mountains to the Amazon rainforest.

Waterfall of Nambillo River, Mindo rainforest, Ecuador
Nambillo River waterfall in the Mindo rainforest, Ecuador

From the Pacific Coast to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll be amazed by the sheer diversity of the landscapes. 

The cost of living 

Living in Ecuador can be surprisingly affordable. From housing and utilities to healthcare and dining out, you’ll find your dollar stretches significantly further here.

You can live comfortably in Ecuador for much less than in many U.S. cities. 

Life in Ecuador offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences, tantalising cuisine and breathtaking natural beauty, all at an affordable cost.

The culture and people 

Ecuadorians are known for their warm hospitality, and the country has a rich cultural heritage.

With an array of festivals and celebrations throughout the year, there’s always something happening to make your Ecuadorian experience all the more vibrant. 

The climate 

With its location right on the equator, Ecuador enjoys a pleasant year-round climate.

Whether you prefer the crisp, cool air of the highlands or the mild, tropical climate of the coastal regions, there’s a perfect spot for you in Ecuador. 

Let’s delve deeper into some key facts that every potential expat should know about living in Ecuador.

Retirement: why Ecuador is a popular destination for retirees

Ecuador is incredibly affordable, the climate is pleasant all year round, and the natural beauty of beaches, mountains, and rainforests create a perfect backdrop for a fulfilling retirement.

Small Catholic Chapel on the hill surrounded by houses in Cerro Santa Ana Guayaquil
A chapel in Cerro Santa Ana, Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The country has become a popular retirement destination for many, especially US citizens.

Let’s look at why:

  • Pensions go further: This is a significant factor for many retirees. You can live comfortably on a pension income of around $1,600 to $2,000 per month, including rent, utilities, groceries, healthcare, and more.
  • Quality healthcare for less: Ecuador offers high-quality healthcare at a fraction of U.S. prices. Many doctors in Ecuador are trained in the U.S. or Europe and speak English.
  • Climate choice: Depending on where you live in Ecuador, you can choose from a variety of climates. There is the warm coastal region, the cool Andean highlands, or the more temperate climate of the valleys in between.

In short, there are some very good reasons why Ecuador is a magnet for retirees. 

Let’s continue to get to know Ecuador better!

Geography and climate: getting to know Ecuador

Snuggled between Colombia and Peru on South America’s west coast, Ecuador is a country of geographical contrasts.

From the lush Amazon rainforest to the towering Andes mountains and the beautiful Pacific coastline to the mesmerizing Galapagos Islands, Ecuador offers a rich tapestry of natural wonders. 

Elevation plays a crucial role in Ecuador’s climate, dividing the country into four main regions: 

  1. La Costa (Coastal Lowlands)
  2. La Sierra (Andean Highlands)
  3. El Oriente (Amazon Rainforest)
  4. La Region Insular (Galapagos Islands)

Each region exhibits unique climatic conditions, making Ecuador an enthralling destination for expats year-round. 

Despite its compact size, Ecuador is one of only 17 ‘megadiverse’ countries in the world, thanks to its geographical diversity.

The following table breaks down the average annual temperatures and rainfall for each region: 

RegionAverage Temperature (°F)Average Rainfall (inches)
La Costa75-85 (21-30C)50-160
La Sierra55-70 (13-21C)20-40
El Oriente70-80 (21-27C)80-120
La Region Insular (Galapagos)70-80 (21-27C)10-40

Ecuador’s proximity to the equator means that the sun rises and sets at around the same time each day, giving a consistent 12-hour daytime throughout the year. 

Visas and residency: navigating Ecuador’s visa system

Living in Ecuador is an appealing prospect for many US citizens, especially retirees, drawn by the country’s warm climate, low cost of living, and rich cultural heritage.

A historical street lined with colorful hoses
Cuenca City in southern Ecuador’s Andes mountains

However, to make this dream a reality, having a clear understanding of Ecuador’s visa and residency regulations is crucial. 

For US citizens, the application process for Ecuadorian visas is relatively straightforward.

You’ll need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) if you’re planning on staying for more than 90 days.

This visa is valid for up to two years and can be renewed.

Here’s what you need to know: 

  1. Application process: You must apply at an Ecuadorian consulate in your home country. The process typically takes between two to three months.
  2. Required documents: You’ll need to provide a valid passport, a completed application form, and proof of health insurance, among other documents such as proof of financial status.
  3. Fee: The application fee is approximately $50, with an additional $400 for the visa itself.
  4. Translation services: If you’re not fluent in Spanish, expect to pay around $150 for translation services.

There are several types of these visas. See the table below for more detail:

Visa TypeRequirements
Investor’s VisaProof of a minimum investment of $45,000 in an Ecuadorian bank or real estate.
Digital Nomad VisaProvide services outside of Ecuador must have earned a minimum of USD 1,275 per month in the last three months or a total of USD 15,300 over the past year.
Retirement VisaMust be at least 65 years old with a minimum $800 monthly pension plus $100 for each additional dependent.
Professional’s VisaA degree from a recognized university and a job offer or contract from an Ecuadorian company.

Remember, regular renewal of your visa is essential to maintain your legal status in Ecuador.

Once you’ve lived in Ecuador for 21 months on a Temporary Resident Visa, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa.

Make sure to stay updated on the latest immigration laws and regulations to ensure a smooth and hassle-free stay.

Transportation: getting around Ecuador with ease

Ecuador has a robust public transportation system that ensures you can explore the country with ease.

From air travel to metro commutes, there’s a multitude of options available to suit your travel needs. 

Air travel 

Ecuador’s air travel network is serviced by a number of domestic and international airlines, with the main airports located in Quito and Guayaquil.

These airports offer regular flights to various locations across the country, making it easy to reach your desired destination swiftly. 


Train travel in Ecuador is more about the journey than the destination.

The country’s rail network isn’t extensive but offers some of the most scenic rides in South America, such as the thrilling ride from Quito to Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose). 

Devil's Nose train running on beautiful Andean landscape, Alausi, Ecuador
The Devil’s Nose train, an incredible 45 minutes journey from the town of Alausi down to Silambe to enjoy the most breathtaking views.


Buses are the most common mode of public transportation in Ecuador. They are frequent, inexpensive, and service almost every town and city in the country. 


The first and only metro line in Ecuador is located in Quito, and it opened in 2019. This efficient mode of transport aims to reduce traffic congestion in the city and offers a clean and quick alternative to bus travel. 


Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced in Ecuador. Drivers usually don’t use meters, so it’s advisable to agree on a fare before starting your journey.

Official taxis are yellow and display a unique number, which adds an extra layer of safety for passengers. 

Remember, while public transportation in Ecuador is generally reliable and efficient, it’s always good to plan your journeys in advance and stay aware of your surroundings.

Cost of living: how far does your dollar go?

If you’re wondering how far your dollar will stretch in Ecuador, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

The cost of living in Ecuador is significantly lower than in the United States. 

From groceries to property prices, everything is much more wallet-friendly.

Let’s take a closer look at the specifics. 

Rental costs 

In Ecuador, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs around $350-$650 per month, while in the outskirts, it would be about $200-$450. 

If you’re considering buying property, the price per square meter ranges from $850-$2,000 in the city center and $700-$1600 in the suburbs. 

Grocery costs 

Food costs also follow the same affordability pattern. A loaf of bread is about $1.60, a dozen eggs are around $1.90, and a liter of milk costs approximately $1.10. Dining out is affordable, too, with a meal at an inexpensive restaurant priced at around $3.50-$6.50. 

Transportation costs 

Public transportation is incredibly cheap, with a one-way ticket costing around $0.35 and a monthly pass at about $20.

Gasoline prices are around $0.70 per liter. 

Cost comparison table 

Cost CategoryEcuadorUnited States
One-bedroom apartment rent (city center)$350-$650$1,200-$3,800
Grocery costs (monthly, one person)$220-$350$350-$500
Public transportation (monthly pass)$20$60-$120

Note: The costs mentioned above are estimations and will vary based on the city and current economic conditions.

In summary, your dollar will indeed stretch further in Ecuador, offering you a comfortable lifestyle at a lower cost than in the US. 

Housing: finding your dream home in Ecuador

When planning your move to Ecuador, one of the first things you’ll likely consider is housing.

Alpacas pasturing in the farms around Cuicocha Volcanic Lagoon, , Cotacachi, Ecuador
Alpacas grazing around Cuicocha Volcanic Lagoon, Cotacachi, Ecuador

Ecuador provides a variety of options for every budget, from economical apartments to luxurious villas. 

Whether you’re keen on buying a property or just renting, you’ll find a wide array of options at your disposal. 

Renting in Ecuador 

The process of renting a property in Ecuador is reasonably straightforward.

You’ll find a broad range of comfortable apartments, houses, and villas available for rent in various parts of the country.

The cost of rent varies based on the location and the type of accommodation.

Generally, a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the city center starts at around $350 per month, while a luxury apartment with ocean views will cost around $1200 monthly.

Note: Always read through the lease agreement thoroughly before signing, and don’t hesitate to negotiate the terms. English contracts are not uncommon for expats, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Buying property in Ecuador 

If you’re considering making a long-term commitment, buying property in Ecuador might be an excellent choice.

Foreigners have the same property rights as locals. However, it’s crucial to hire a reliable, English-speaking attorney to guide you through the process. 

CityAverage price per square meter
Quito$1050 – $2,100
Guayaquil$850 – $1,500
Cuenca$900 – $1,600

As shown in the table, Quito, the capital, tends to have the highest property prices.

However, more affordable options can be found in other parts of the country, such as Cuenca or the smaller coastal towns. 

Before purchasing a property, it’s advisable to rent for a while to get a good feel for the area and understand whether it suits your lifestyle.

Healthcare: staying healthy in Ecuador

One of the most fundamental considerations, when you’re planning to relocate, is the healthcare system in your new country. 

As an expat, it’s essential to understand how healthcare in Ecuador compares to your home nation. 

Ecuador’s healthcare system operates on a public and private basis.

The public system, known as Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social (IESS), offers free or low-cost healthcare services to its contributors. However, it’s worth noting that: 

  • Wait times can be long, with priority given to emergency cases.
  • Some specialized treatments might not be available.
  • Hospitals and clinics are often crowded, particularly in urban areas.

On the other hand, the private healthcare system offers a higher standard of care, with a wider range of treatments and shorter waiting times. However, these benefits come at a higher cost. 

As an expat, it’s often recommended to have private health insurance to ensure access to the best healthcare facilities. 

International health insurance is also a popular option for expats.

To ensure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Here is a quick comparison between healthcare in Ecuador and the US: 

Cost of healthcareLowerHigher
Quality of public healthcareAverageHigh
Access to specialist treatmentsLimited in public hospitalsWidely available
Health insuranceRecommended for expatsAlmost essential

It’s also important to remember that while many doctors and healthcare professionals in Ecuador speak English, especially in larger cities, there may be a language barrier in more rural areas. 

Education: learning opportunities for expats

The Ecuadorian education system has taken significant strides forward in recent years, offering diverse learning opportunities for both expats and locals alike. 

View of the sandy beach and cactus grove, Santa Cruz Island-Port Ayora, Galapagos Island.
A sandy beach and cactus grove on Santa Cruz Island, Port Ayora, The Galápagos Islands.

Public and private schools 

Ecuador offers a mix of public and private schools, all regulated by the Ministry of Education.

The language of instruction in public schools is predominantly Spanish, while private schools, particularly international schools, often offer bilingual curriculums in English and Spanish. 

Public schools: Though free, these schools might pose language barriers for non-Spanish-speaking kids. However, they offer an excellent opportunity for cultural immersion. 

Private schools: These institutions charge tuition and often provide more resources and smaller class sizes.

Many expats choose private schools for their children due to their bilingual programs and international accreditations. 

International schools 

There are numerous international schools in the major cities of Ecuador.

These schools usually follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum and have a strong reputation for quality education. 

Home schooling 

If you prefer to homeschool your children, Ecuador is relatively flexible. Homeschooling is legal and growing in popularity among the expat community.

Always ensure you’re following the current rules and regulations to maintain your child’s education standard. 

Higher education 

Ecuador houses a number of reputable universities and higher education institutes. Tuition fees are relatively reasonable compared to U.S. prices.

There are public and private universities, with courses available in both Spanish and English. This can be an enticing opportunity for expats looking to further their education while living in Ecuador. 

Working: employment opportunities and starting a business in Ecuador

If you’ve got your sights set on working in Ecuador, you’ll be comforted to know that the country has a growing economy with opportunities in various sectors.

Row of water taxis in the harbor in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador
Row of water taxis in the harbor in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Whether you’re an employee seeking a job or an entrepreneur eyeing a start-up, here’s what you need to know. 

Employment opportunities 

Ecuador’s economic landscape is diverse, offering job opportunities in areas like agriculture, oil and gas, tourism, and education.

Teaching English is a sought-after position for expats, with schools and universities always on the lookout for native English speakers. 

Remember, although Spanish is not a prerequisite for all jobs, it’s a significant advantage. 

Starting a business 

Starting a business in Ecuador can be an exciting venture.

The government has made efforts to attract foreign investment, offering incentives and simplifying the process of starting a business.

However, it’s not without its challenges. 

  • Business culture: Understanding the local business culture is essential. Ecuadorians value personal relationships, so face-to-face meetings are often preferred.
  • Legal requirements: You’ll need to navigate through a series of legal requirements, including obtaining the right visa, registering your business, and understanding local tax laws.

Despite these challenges, many expats find starting a business in Ecuador rewarding. The key is to be prepared, patient, and persistent. 

As an expat, forging connections with local business owners and joining expat business groups can be invaluable. 

Whether you’re looking to join the Ecuadorian workforce or start a business, the opportunities are plentiful, and the experience can be enriching.

Remember, the key to success is understanding the local culture, mastering the language, and being adaptable to new experiences.

Culture: embracing Ecuador’s rich heritage and diverse society

Ecuadorians are known for their warm hospitality and rich cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations. 


The country’s official language is Spanish, but many people also speak English, especially in the major cities.

Indigenous languages like Quichua are also spoken in certain regions.

Learning some basic Spanish will not only help you navigate daily life more smoothly but also enable you to connect more meaningfully with the locals. 

Customs and etiquette: 

Ecuadorians value respect and politeness, which is reflected in their customs and etiquette. While Ecuadorians are generally informal, it’s polite to address older people or those in authority using their titles and surname. 

When invited to an Ecuadorian home, it’s customary to bring a small gift, such as flowers or sweets.

Dining etiquette is also important, with guests expected to wait until the host begins eating before they start. 

Festivals and celebrations: 

Ecuador is a country of festivals, with celebrations taking place throughout the year.

These events are a spirited blend of indigenous, Spanish, and modern traditions. 

Notable festivals include Carnival, a pre-Lenten celebration with parades, dancing, and water fights.

Easter is commemorated with religious processions and the lively New Year’s Eve celebrations where effigies known as ‘Años Viejos’ are burned to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new.  

Food: savoring Ecuador’s cuisine and culinary traditions

Imagine the freshest seafood caught just hours before or sinking your teeth into juicy tropical fruits that taste like sunshine.

A rich and creamy soup served with bread and herbs - a traditional Easter soup in Ecuador, Fanesca
Fanesca, a traditional soup prepared in Ecuador during Holy Week.

Ecuador’s cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes, with each region offering unique flavors and traditions. 

The coastal cuisine 

On the coast, seafood reigns supreme. The region’s star dish is ceviche, a refreshing mixture of raw seafood marinated in citrus juices, typically lime, garnished with onions and cilantro, and served with crunchy toasted corn.

The Andean delights 

In the Andes, the food is hearty and wholesome. One iconic dish is llapingachos, a pair of cheese-filled potato patties served with peanut sauce, avocado, and a fried egg.

The highlands also produce fantastic grains and legumes, making it the heartland of Ecuador’s soul-warming soups. 

The Amazonian flavors 

In the Amazon, the indigenous communities have developed a rich culinary tradition centered around the bounty of the rainforest.

Here, you’ll find dishes like maito, fish wrapped in a bijao leaf and cooked over an open fire, offering a beautiful smoky flavor. 

Leisure: enjoying Ecuador’s natural wonders and vibrant cities

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a culture vulture, or someone just looking for a laid-back lifestyle, Ecuador offers you various leisure activities. 

Here’s a glimpse into some of the leisure opportunities that await you in this South American gem. 

Unmatched outdoor adventures 

From exploring the mysterious Galapagos Islands to hiking the rugged trails of the Andes, Ecuador is a playground for outdoor adventures. 

The country has 11 national parks and numerous nature reserves, each flaunting a unique ecosystem. 

  • Cotopaxi National Park: Known for its active volcano, this park is a hiker’s paradise.
  • Sangay National Park: Here, you can witness the rare spectacle of glaciers meeting the Amazon rainforest.
  • Machalilla National Park: This coastal park is perfect for diving, bird-watching, and whale spotting.

Immerse in rich cultural experiences 

When it comes to experiencing Ecuador’s rich culture, its cities are the places to be.

Quito, the capital city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing a blend of colonial architecture and thriving modernity.

Cuenca, another UNESCO city, is known for its art scene and beautiful historical buildings. 

Relax and unwind in comfort 

Living in Ecuador doesn’t mean you have to forego the comfort you’re used to. The country offers top-notch facilities, from world-class hospitals to upscale restaurants, ensuring a quality lifestyle. 

Ecuador is a country that has masterfully blended its natural wonders with the convenience of modern amenities, making it perfect for those seeking a fulfilling and comfortable expat life.

Ecuador’s security overview

Despite being a beautiful country with an incredible culture, Ecuador isn’t devoid of security concerns.

However, with the right knowledge and precautions, you can navigate your way safely. 

Safety in cities vs. rural areas 

Living in Ecuadorian cities can be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to safety.

Areas like Quito and Guayaquil have their fair share of crime, particularly in certain neighborhoods. However, these cities also house safer, upmarket neighborhoods that are popular with expats. 

On the other hand, rural areas in Ecuador are generally safer. Crime rates are lower, and the communities are often welcoming and close-knit.

Keep in mind that more rural regions may lack certain amenities and quick access to healthcare facilities. 

Common safety concerns 

  1. Petty theft: Pickpocketing and bag snatching can happen in crowded places and on public transport.
  2. Violent crime: While less frequent, violent incidents can occur, especially late at night or in secluded areas.
  3. Road safety: Traffic rules are not always adhered to, making driving in Ecuador potentially dangerous.
  4. Natural hazards: Ecuador is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, so it’s wise to stay informed about potential natural disasters.

Staying safe in Ecuador: tips and precautions 

  • Stay alert: Always be aware of your surroundings and take note of any suspicious activity.
  • Travel in groups: Whenever possible, travel with others, especially at night.
  • Avoid flaunting wealth: Keep expensive electronics, jewelry, and large amounts of cash out of sight.
  • Take registered taxis: It’s safer to use registered taxis or reputable ride-share services.

Living in Ecuador can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Don’t let safety concerns deter you. Instead, equip yourself with the right knowledge and precautions to enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer.

Conclusion: is living in Ecuador right for you?

As you ponder over the prospect of a life in Ecuador, it’s essential to consider the many facets that this diverse country offers.

Your decision will depend on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and goals, but let’s delve into some aspects that make Ecuador a unique and inviting choice. 

  • Cultural richness: Ecuador is a melting pot of indigenous, Mestizo, and European traditions, creating a vibrant cultural landscape.
  • Natural beauty: From the lush Amazon rainforest to the majestic Andes Mountains and a stunning coastline, Ecuador’s diverse landscapes are a nature lover’s paradise. 
  • Cost of living: Your dollars will stretch further in Ecuador. With lower costs for housing, groceries, and healthcare, many expats find they can enjoy a higher standard of living.

However, it’s crucial to note that while Ecuador has a lot to offer, it may come with certain challenges.

These may include language barriers, cultural differences, and adaptation to a slower pace of life. Moving to another country is always an adventure, rife with the excitement of the unknown. 

So, is living in Ecuador right for you?

Only you can answer that question. 

But by understanding the realities of life in Ecuador, you will be empowered to make an informed decision.

And who knows? It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Other popular South American countries to consider:

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