Life In Ecuador

Everything You Need To Know To Launch Your New Life In Ecuador

“One of my favorite things about living in Cuenca,” Lee Harrison told the crowd in Ecuador last week, “was the duck herder.

“Talk about lack of regulation. This guy,” Lee continued, showing a picture of the duck herder on the screen for the room to see, “takes his ducks to market and home again through the city streets! The parent ducks lead the flock of ducklings, with the herder using a hooked cane to keep them all in line and keeping up with the adults. All the way to the market and back. I saw this guy every week going back and forth. I would go to my window to watch for him and his ducks every market day.

“Ecuador offers the lowest cost of living for the highest quality of life in the Americas. I feel confident standing before you today making that statement,” Lee said, “as I’ve been living and traveling extensively throughout this part of the world for the past dozen years.

“However, the almost unbelievably affordable cost of living isn’t the whole story about Ecuador, and I’d say it isn’t the real story. This country also offers tremendous appeal and diversity in terms of lifestyle. Whatever lifestyle you want, whatever experience you want, you can make it happen in Ecuador.

“Living here, you could shop at an open-air indigenous market (that has been there for hundreds of years) or at a grocery store no different really from the one you’re used to at home (with maybe a few products missing and a few added).

“You could spend more than US$4,000 a month to live in the big city in Ecuador, but I’ve had friends who have lived in the same area I’m thinking of for US$600 a month. You could live in a small town in this country on US$800 (because, frankly, there’s less to do…costs can be the same, but there’s just less to spend your money on).

“In rural regions of Ecuador, you could live on US$550 a month. That’s not an exaggeration and that’s not just a one-off example. That’s the budget for adopting a certain lifestyle in certain spots.

“In Cuenca, which has the highest property costs in the country, you could buy a new-built condo for US$1,100 per square meter or a modern condo (a few years old) for US$875 a square meter. A resale house changes hands for about US$725 per square meter.

“What does that mean in whole numbers? You could buy a city condo (in Cuenca) for US$65,000. You could own on the beach for US$85,000.

“Here’s what you won’t like about living in Ecuador,” Lee continued.

“This is a developing country with all the minuses that that suggests (including poor infrastructure, corruption, and inefficiency). However, I have to say that this is changing rapidly under the new president and this country is less ‘developing’ all the time.

“Note that Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country. You may be able to get by day-to-day speaking no Spanish, but administration is all in Spanish, from your dry cleaner to paying your local taxes. You will hit the ‘Spanish wall’ at some point, and you must be prepared.

“You also need to be prepared for the lack of regulation. This can be a good or a bad thing. It’s all in your perspective. I love being able to do what I want—for example, using my SUV to cross the median in traffic and go down the other side of the street. But I hate it when people do it to me. You will love it and hate it, too, but overall the freedom is something I value more than being occasionally frustrated. Just follow a basic code of self-responsibility and courtesy.

“Here’s what you’ll really like about living here:

“Ecuadorians respect foreigners and will accept you.

“Also, very big deal, the health care, which can be first-rate. In cities and in small towns, you’ll have access to great health care.

“Where should you consider settling, specifically?

“Quito is a big and impressive city. There’s more gold per city block in Quito than in any city in the world that I’ve seen. I thought the gold in churches and buildings in Quito was paint until I went on a city tour and found out that it is all gold-leaf, all over the city! Quito could be a good choice for you if you’re interested in retiring to a real city.

“Cuenca is this country’s most beautiful colonial city. It’s the cultural center of Ecuador with the best architecture and the largest expat community, growing every day. Cuenca will make your life easy. Go to YouTube and type in ‘Cuenca shopping,’ for example. You will find dozens of videos on buying whatever you might be shopping for in Cuenca, from grocery store items to cars. The point is that the way is paved in Ecuador. If you want an easy transition and a strong support system, this could be the place for you.

“Vilcabamba offers the best weather in this country and the most picturesque location. Property prices are very reasonable. Note, though, that development is changing the nature of the valley. What’s being built now is targeted to expats. This is a plus for some, a minus for others. It depends on what you’re looking for.

“If you’re interested in coastal living, understand that the coast in this country is relatively undeveloped. Don’t come here looking for pools and bars, surf lessons and beach resorts. There may be a few, but, generally, this isn’t a place to come for what you probably think of as ‘developed’ beachfront living.

“Bottom line, is Ecuador for you? To be happy in this country, you must be adventurous and up for exploration. Your life here will be exciting, dramatic, and diverse. Never dull. But not necessarily easy, either.

“The big-deal plus of Ecuador is its super low cost of living. You could retire to other countries (Mexico, for example, or Panama) and not feel the difference in your cost of living. But in Ecuador, you’ll feel the difference. You’ll know you are no longer in Kansas as soon as you hit the ground.”

Kat Kalashian

Continue reading: Moving Money In And Out Of Brazil, Ecuador, And Panama

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