Ecuador has long been a draw for expats and retirees, thanks mostly to its affordable cost of living and pleasant climate.
These days, a new group is joining the migration to this beautiful and historic South American nation—digital nomads.
Having recently spent a month traveling Ecuador as a digital nomad—with time in both Quito and Cuenca—I’d like to share my experience and show you how this country stacks up against other DN hotspots.
Ecuador is about the size of Nevada. For such a small country, it packs a punch. You can visit the big city, the mountains, and the beach all in a weekend.
For many digital nomads in South America, myself included, learning Spanish is a high priority. Ecuador is a great place to aprender español, with excellent and affordable Spanish schools in both Quito and Cuenca. If you aren’t up for a group class, it’s also easy to find private tutors.
I’d say the main attraction of Ecuador, though, is its people, who are welcoming and hospitable. The owners of the guesthouse where we stayed in Quito invited us for breakfast and coffee and patiently entertained our Spanglish. They treated us like old friends.
While there’s a lot to see and do in Ecuador, digital nomads have to work once in a while. Thankfully, working remotely from Ecuador is easier than ever.
Let’s take a look at what digital nomad life looks like in this country, specifically in Quito and Cuenca.
Digital Nomad Resources: 7/10
Over the past few years, the internet situation in Ecuador has improved dramatically. Not long ago, you had to find an internet café and log on to an ancient PC to access a super-slow connection that you’d hope would support the sending of an email.
I’m not saying that the entire nation has access to high-speed, fiber-optic service, but it’s readily available in Quito and Cuenca. My girlfriend and I had a solid connection at our guesthouse in the capital and at our Airbnb in Cuenca and were able to teach English online and upload photos and videos to our blog.
If you’re more productive in a co-working space or café, you’ve got many choices in both cities. In Quito I’d recommend IMPAQTO near scenic Carolina Park. The basic monthly plan runs US$75 and gives you 45 hours of workspace time plus 4 hours of meeting room use. They also offer a startup incubator and on-site consulting, if you’re looking for help with a business launch.
Coworking Cuenca offers plans starting at as little as US$40 a month, or you can pay as you go at US$5 a day. It’s a comfy space with fiber-optic internet, a nice kitchen, and even a ping-pong table.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become a digital nomad to sit in an office all day, no matter how nice it is. Thankfully both Quito and Cuenca are café cities with many options for settling down at a table, ordering up a cappuccino, plugging in, and work for several hours without anybody bothering you.
Personally, I like to work at home in the morning and then alternate between co-working spaces and cafés in the afternoons. If you book your accommodation strategically, this is easy to do in both cities.
Visa Requirements: 8/10
If you’re sick of dealing with visa headaches as a digital nomad, you’ll be happy to hear that Ecuador has one of the most lenient visa policies in the world. Citizens from many countries (including the United States and Canada) can visit Ecuador for 90 days on just your tourist visa.
If you’re interested in a longer stay, it can be easy and straightforward to extend your visa for another three months. The cost is about US$130, and you can make your application online.
Established digital nomad hot spots like Medellín, Chiang Mai, and Bali host thriving digital nomad communities that are easy to plug into. Ecuador doesn’t offer this yet, but the DN population here is growing.
While there aren’t Facebook groups for remote workers in Quito or Cuenca yet, the many co-working spaces in these two cities provide for plenty of chances to connect with fellow nomads.
Both cities also have a Selina Hotel, which, in my travels through Latin America, I’ve found to be a good place to work and socialize, even if you’re not staying there.
We were worried that, because Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, we’d be faced with U.S. prices, as well.
That’s not at all the case.
Our comfortable studio rental in Quito was about US$30 a night. The kitchen was tiny, but it was enough to prepare coffee and breakfast before our early English lessons with students over in China. We had an easy 10-minute walk down to the center of town and then a steep climb to return home. When we weren’t up for the climb, we were able to hail a cab or call for an Uber for US$5.
We spent more in Cuenca for our week-long stay there. Our well-appointed two-bedroom apartment set us back US$50 a night, but it was worth it. With super-fast internet, great work spaces, and even a washer and drier, it was the perfect environment for being super productive before traveling to the Galapagos Islands.
We found both eating and drinking to be good value. Big lunches in the market were US$3 to US$4, and dinners out at Western-style restaurants with a few drinks were US$20 or less per person.
Going out for coffee rarely cost more than US$3 each… US$5 if we indulged in something sweet to go with it. We splurged on craft beer, as there’s just so much of it to try in both Quito and Cuenca.
Many attractions are free or really cheap. It costs US$1 to visit the Virgin Mary statue overlooking Quito and US$8 to ride the cable car up the mountain. In Cuenca, we spent many afternoons walking along the river to the park. Sometimes the best things in life really are free.
To get from one destination to the other, we caught local buses and found them comfortable and affordable. It cost just US$10 each to get from Baños to Cuenca and then another US$8 for the ride down to Guayaquil.
This is one area where Ecuador really shines for digital nomads—the many activities available to you when you’re not plugging away on your laptop.
The historic centers of both Quito and Cuenca are stunningly beautiful. Whenever I needed a quick break from work, I would go for a short walk around town. Some days we worked in the mornings only, leaving us time to climb the tower at the basilica in Quito, for example, in the afternoon.
In Quito, on days off, we headed north to Mindo to explore the cloud forest or south to see the Quilotoa crater lake. In Cuenca, nearby Cajas National Park makes for a great day trip… or you can soak in the hot springs in Baños.
In fact, Ecuador offers so much to do on days off that we’re considering returning for a longer stint.