Ecuador is home to great weather and jaw-dropping low prices. This country offers a perennial spring-like climate in the mountains (meaning no heating or air conditioning is required), an easy path to a retirement visa, and several well-established expat communities. Plus, local handicrafts make for great import-export business opportunities for those looking to start a business overseas.
Ecuador is not known for its beaches, and its coast remains relatively undeveloped. Current talk of a new beach road, though, is bringing investor attention to one particular stretch of coast, giving our editors reason to return Ecuador to our active radar screen.
In Ecuador, we believe Cuenca to be the best place for an expat to retire. It’s not the cheapest, but we think it’s the most affordable place in the Americas to enjoy a city lifestyle
There are other colonial cities in Ecuador, but Cuenca is the cultural heart of the country. You can attend the orchestra, a play, or enjoy a tango show or an art opening, and these activities are usually free.
Cost Of Living In Ecuador
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets for our favorite destination in Ecuador:
Infrastructure In Ecuador
Ecuador’s government has been investing heavily in projects to improve electricity, telecommunications, and transportation. In fact, a larger percentage of their GDP goes to infrastructure than any other country in the world.
Domestic flights are frequent and commonly used, as road travel in Ecuador is typically slow due to the terrain of the country. Ecuador’s rail system is used for freight only and is in need of renovation.
Public transportation is great, both within cities and between cities. The national and municipal bus systems are unusually efficient. All over Ecuador, buses are plentiful and inexpensive. Owning a car is an unnecessary expense, and, in fact, a burden to most people here. Rental cars are easily available when you’re ready to explore the country off the beaten trail.
Having said that, road travel throughout Ecuador can be dangerous, especially at night. Ecuador’s varying altitudes and terrains can make road travel slow and difficult. Many roads are poorly maintained or unmarked. Heavy rains and mudslides often close or wash out roads. Dense fog is common in mountainous areas. Road safety features such as crash barriers and guardrails along steep mountainsides are rare and in the countryside, livestock are often herded along roads or graze on roadsides.
Communications and electrical service in Ecuador are state-owned and operated. These services are subsidized, so they are cheaply available to the nation, but the quality is very poor.
Climate In Ecuador
Ecuador has a tropical climate. With a varied topography, the country’s climate changes quite a bit according to altitude, but the temperature in all areas of Ecuador typically ranges between 45°F and 70°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 75%. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Nearer to the equator and at sea level, the temperature can be as high as 90°F. Ecuador receives precipitation during the rainy season, but the rest of the year stays fairly dry. The average annual rainfall for Ecuador is about 50 inches, but this is distributed throughout the country and occurs mostly during rainy season.
Due to its diverse topography, Ecuador has a very varied climate. There are four primary regions in Ecuador – each has contrasting climates, temperatures, and seasons:
La Costa (the coastal lowlands area to the west of the country) region has a truly tropical climate. The weather here is usually warm, with temperatures hovering around 80°F. The rainy season (December to May) is humid.
El Oriente (the Amazon region of the east of the country) is also at sea level and also has a tropical climate. The weather here is a humid and rainy year round. Average daytime temperatures also hover around 80°F. The dry season varies, but is usually somewhere between December and March. August can also be drier than average.
La Sierra (the highlands, or Andean region) has a much cooler climate than the rest of the country and temperatures vary greatly with altitude. The average summer temperature in Ecuadorian capital, Quito, is around 60°F.
The Galapagos Islands have a warm and relatively dry climate year round, with temperatures averaging 80°F. Though the islands sit almost right on the equator, the Pacific lapping on all sides prevents it from getting too hot here. Most people find the stable climate here pleasant—there are no annual extremes here. The Galapagos receive almost no rainfall, either.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally Ecuador enjoys a temperate, mild climate with little temperature fluctuation from season to season.
Ecuadorian Rainy Season: January to June
Ecuadorian Dry Season: February to May
Residency In Ecuador
U.S. citizens may enter Ecuador without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need a “long-stay visa” in your passport before you leave the United States. You may be asked to present your visa or proof of onward travel upon arrival. If you have neither, you’ll be required to buy a plane ticket to exit the country before 90 days.
Ecuador offers a number of attractive residency options, with low thresholds of qualification. If you intend to live in Ecuador and would like to come and go as you please, you should get a residency visa.
If you can live with the in-country time restriction, obtaining residency is well worth the effort because you have almost all the rights of a citizen. The two most-common visas used by expats are pensioner and investor.
Ecuador’s pensioner visas requires an income of only US$800 per month from a stable source (plus an additional US$100 for each dependent). But if you don’t have such a pension or Social Security, you can set up a trust that will fund your retirement in Ecuador at any age.
Ecuador investor visas come in a number of types, and the minimum investment is US$25,000, plus US$500 extra for each dependent. Among other options, this investment can be your residence.
Holders of residency visas may only be out of Ecuador for a maximum of 90 days per year, for each of the first two years. After that time, you may not be out of the country for more than 18 consecutive months. The process for revoking visas is much more efficient than for obtaining them.
Residency in Ecuador can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship in this country.
Health Care In Ecuador
The health care in Ecuador is recognized some of the best value for money in the world, at a cost of only 10% to 25% of that in the United States. Ecuador’s cities are home to a number of high quality hospitals, with state of the art technology, specialists across the spectrum and excellent service. An added bonus: Ecuadorian doctors spend 30 to 45 minutes with each patient, so you can be confident your consultation is thorough.
If you prefer to have health insurance, it’s also relatively inexpensive— though of course the costs depend on your age. Most in-network items are paid at 90%, while out-of network costs are 80%. They even include US$30,000 of life insurance.
The cost of brand-name prescription drugs is about one-third of the price of the same product in the United States, and generics are as low as one-tenth of the comparable drug. I have not heard of or experienced any problems with authenticity and all drugs I’ve seen are in manufacturer’s packaging from known companies, with lot numbers and expiration dates.
Real Estate In Ecuador
Once you’ve decided on a property, the first thing you should do is find a qualified attorney (one who speaks English if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker). And no money should change hands until that attorney tells you the title is free and clear.
The purchase process in Ecuador is as easy as it gets…
- Make a verbal offer either in person, through your agent, or through your attorney.
- If desired, you can execute a sales contract to hold the property. This is called a promesa de compraventa and is useful if you need time to gather the funds or want to specify any special terms or conditions related to the sale. Normally, the promesa, if used, is accompanied by a 10% to 30% down payment.
- If you don’t need the promesa, you can go right to closing; which is the signing of the escritura de compraventa at the notary.
- Once the escritura is signed, the property must be registered by your attorney. At this time—not before—it’s completely yours. The registered copy of the escritura serves as the deed.
As you can see, it’s possible to close quickly if you have the cash. One of our Ecuador correspondents made an offer on a house at 2:00 p.m., and closed by 5:00 p.m. on the same day. Closing in Ecuador is a transaction only between the buyer and seller (aided by the seller’s attorney). The notary does not hold escrow or disburse funds such as real estate commissions, taxes, etc. Some attorneys however, maintain trust accounts for the purpose of holding escrow and disbursing funds, which is very convenient if you don’t yet have a local bank account.
Foreigners need permission to own real estate within 50 kilometers of international borders and within 50 kilometers of coasts. Owning real estate in the Galapagos Islands is prohibited.