Cost of Living
Expatriates often compare living in Ecuador today to life in America during the 50s. The basis for this comparison is two-fold: a similar quality of life and a low cost of living. Those comparisons are dead-on accurate.
Those who think life in Ecuador costs about the same as other Latin American destinations like Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic are mistaken. Ecuador ranks below Bolivia, India, and even Honduras on most Cost of Living rankings, making it one of the cheapest places to live in the world.
Of course, how much your living costs depends on your personal spending habits, and to some extent the area of Ecuador in which you live.
A great thing about Ecuador is that you never have to worry about exchange fees, because Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency. And as you will see, Ecuador is a land where your dollar still goes a long way.
Stable energy prices (gasoline, diesel and natural gas) keep inflation in check and most daily expenses low. Food, transportation, housing and healthcare costs are all considerably lower here than in most of the western hemisphere.
A typical 3-course plate lunch (almuerzo) at a city restaurant costs around $2. This includes soup, your main course and side dishes, a drink and maybe even a dessert.
Even the international fast food chains have adapted to Ecuadorian prices. For example, at KFC you can get a plate lunch with chicken, rice, and beans for under $2, and at Pizza Hut, you can buy a personal pan pizza for $1.50. Sodas are 80 cents.
Many local families do all their grocery shopping for the month for under $200. Knowing how to shop, finding the best deals, and shopping for produce and perishables at the local mercados (markets) can save you a considerable amount of money. For instance, around the holidays mangoes and oranges will run 15 for $1 at the local markets.
In Ecuador, energy prices are among the lowest in the world. Gasoline costs $1.42 a gallon nation-wide (yes, Ecuador uses the gallon as a unit of measure), and diesel costs a stunning $1.03 a gallon nation-wide.
A city bus ride costs a whopping 25 cents and inter-city buses cost around $1.25 per hour traveled. So a typical trip from Quito to Otavalo will cost $2, and a bus from Guayaquil to Salinas is around $3.50.
Taxis within one of the major cities usually costs around $1-3 for a short 10-15 minute ride.
Such cheap transportation eliminates the need for your own car and the high costs incurred for registration, insurance, repairs and parking.
Costs to both purchase and rent are relatively low in Ecuador. To rent a small, 1-bedroom apartment in one of the major cities is around $150 to 200 a month. For a luxury, furnished 1-bedroom suite-apartment in a nice area of Quito, rents start around $350. A 3-bedroom house in Cuenca rents for about $450.
Purchase prices greatly depend on the area and property type, but you can easily build a home in Ecuador for $30 to $50 per square foot.
In Otavalo, located about two hours north of Quito, a comfortably-sized two-bedroom house in the city sells for around $35,000.
At beach destinations such as Salinas, 2-bedroom condos go for as little at $43,000. In places like Puerto Lopez one can buy a lot and build a 3-bedroom house for less than $50k. Or you can buy a 7-room home at a popular beach town for a little more than $100,000, which then could easily be converted into a bed-and-breakfast.
The health care system in Ecuador is consistently ranked among the best in South America. In fact, Bloomberg recently ranked Ecuador as having the 20th most efficient health care system in a study of advanced economies, second only to Chile in Latin America. The United States, on the other hand, ranked a dismal 46th, near the bottom of the list.
In the same study, Bloomberg found that the U.S. spends the most of all advanced economies on health care on a relative cost basis ($8,608 per capita) with the worst outcome, while Ecuador spends among the lowest in the world ($332 per capita).
Private clinics and hospitals throughout Ecuador make hygiene a priority. These clinics rival their North American counterparts in cleanliness, safe practices and the use of modern technologies.
A visit to a general practitioner costs $25 to $35 while a visit to a specialist runs $30 to $40. Simple outpatient procedures are equally inexpensive. In many cases brand name drugs are less than their generic counterparts in the U.S. And even those same generic drugs are much cheaper here.
Dentistry is another bargain, often one-fourth of the costs in the U.S. Teeth cleaning starts around $40, and a root canal generally costs about $300.
Full coverage medical insurance plans for seniors run around $70 to $180 per month, depending on your personal circumstances. In many cases expat retirees qualify for the public health system, where for just $60/month on average, all your medical needs are covered — prescriptions, doctor’s visits, hospitalization, you name it — even optical and dental.