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Making The Move To Ecuador

Moving to Ecuador

Over the last decade, more and more people have been moving to Ecuador to leave what they consider are untenable living conditions in their home countries. Escaping to this small but spectacular Latin American country is a great way to stretch your dollars a lot further then you could back home. Combine affordability with near perfect year-round weather, unspoiled nature, tasty and exotic food, a rich and vibrant culture, and a genuine friendliness of the Ecuadorian people towards foreigners, and you can see why people from around the globe are making the move to Ecuador.

On one hand, Ecuador offers plenty of benefits to expats. On the other hand, there are definitely some challenges that may make some folks think twice about relocating here. Surely, Ecuador represents a heartwarming destination with plenty of hidden treasures to discover. However, if you’re thinking about building a new life here, like many did before you, you might want to consider a few peculiar aspects that aren’t often discussed.

Why Do You Want to Move to Ecuador?

Moving AbroadWhen relocating to another country, indeed, whether it’s Ecuador or Spain, it’s fundamental to consider how flexible and open your views are. Ask yourself: are you amazed by new cultures? Are you going to immerse yourself in Ecuador’s culture with wide-open heart and eyes? Do you know enough about Ecuador? Are you willing to learn Spanish? Do you think you could stand the local lifestyle or are you going to look for your personal America or Europe? These questions may sound a little overwhelming, but they really are the basis of life as an expat.

Can You Live Well On $900 A Month?

Many people who decide to leave their native country are attracted by the idea that life abroad will automatically be cheaper and therefore happier. Apparently, many expats believe that $900 a month would be enough to live a utopian existence in Ecuador, with a comparable quality-of-life as that which can be found in their native country. The reality, though, is that $900 would cover only a very basic life in Ecuador. You would have to live on a tight budget, rent a $250/month apartment, have no car and have no money left for any kind of amenities.

Let’s Get Real!

The true costs of living in a town such as Cuenca or Salinas are directly linked to the kind of adjustments you’re willing to make. “Going local” is the first rule to follow if you don’t want to pay double for imported products. That being said, even if you fully embrace all the local products and habits, you still need to keep in mind those extra expenses that spice life up or that are considered normal in the United States such as eating out a couple times a week, having medical insurance and cable TV would make your ideal $900 budget rise to a more realistic $1,200 (still fairly cheap for a normal life). Living a very frugal life and forgetting entirely about your North American or European habits is the only way $900 would sustain you in Ecuador. A more realistic approach would be to lower your expectations about expenses while getting used to your new way of life, trying to enjoy it as would a native Ecuadorian.

Renting in Ecuador

If you haven’t been to Ecuador, we highly advise you to visit the country first to scout out the various expat communities and other interesting towns throughout Ecuador. Spend at least a few days really immersing yourself in each community to get first-hand knowledge of the local transportation systems, shopping centers, eateries, customs and activities available there. This is only true way of knowing whether a community is right for you.

Once you have settled on one or two particular communities, we always recommend that you rent before you buy. Before you plunk down money on a house or condo in a new place, stay awhile and see if suits your needs.Renting Abroad

You can start your search for a rental on the Internet. While you will find plenty of websites out there, most promote short-term vacation rentals in touristy locations, and prices can be quite a bit higher than the local average. Some real estate agents offer rental properties, but it’s not something found often. Rental management is a time-consuming and low-commission business, and it’s not one most realtors typically want to take on.

The classified section of local online newspapers is also a good source (especially to get a feel for prices). But unless you speak the language fluently, we wouldn’t recommend a lot of e-mail back and forth until just before your visit. Also, unless you are dealing with a reputable agency with excellent references, you should never send money to reserve a rental sight unseen. Too many things can go wrong.

If you speak Spanish, you have a leg up on the typical gringo. Your best bet is to take your time and keep your eyes open for signs advertising places for rent. This is what expat Christian White did in Loja: “We strolled past a sign taped to a gate a few days after we arrived in Loja. A quick trip up the elevator, a bit of Spanish and $250 in cash…and we walked out with the keys to our new home.”

Moving Your Household Items

Once you have received your residency visa, you will discover that bringing your household goods to Ecuador represents one of the biggest advantages for choosing the country. Within a prescribed time frame, household goods are allowed into the country duty free. Below are the most up-to-date rules that must be followed. As always, we advise you to consult an Ecuadorian attorney for details before beginning the shipping process.

Family RelocatingSandy Boquero, an Ecuadorian customs broker, says the new rules for importing duty free household items to Ecuador offer expats two options:

Option #1: New residents to Ecuador can ship when they have their permanent residence visa stamped in their passports. This only works if the process does not take longer than three to four months. This leaves two to three months to ship, and the shipment must not be delayed. Only six months is allowed after the last entrance into Ecuador, NOT after the time when the visa is granted. If the visa process takes three months, there is only three months of the transit time for the cargo to arrive in Guayaquil.

Option #2: New residents can ship their goods without an approved residence visa. Expats planning on becoming a permanent resident can ship their goods before they have a permanent residence visa but must first pay a guarantee to Ecuadorian Customs to clear their cargo. This guarantee is refunded once they get their permanent resident visas stamped in their passports.

The refund process starts when they show the residence visa in their passport to Customs. The refund is then paid three to six months later. The expat has only six months after payment of the guarantee to show the residence visa to gain the duty free status and obtain the refund. If for any reason the new resident does not have the visa on time or fails to show to Ecuadorian Customs within the six-month period then the money paid for the guarantee is forfeited.

This is the risky part of shipping your goods without the proper visa or not having the proper documentation before coming to Ecuador to apply for a permanent resident visa.

Moving With Your Children

If you’re bringing your children, you’ll be happy to know there are many English-language and bi-lingual secondary schools in Ecuador, including American and British international schools in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil. Keep in mind that using a language preference to pick a school severely limits your choices, which may not be worth it given the short time it takes young children to learn Spanish. In general, you will find the best private schools in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil. There are also excellent universities in Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil.Relocating Your Pets to Ecuador

Moving With Your Pets

Dogs and cats traveling to Ecuador need a health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA. Dogs need certification of vaccination for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and corona virus. Cats need vaccination for calicivirus, feline rhinotracheitis, rabies, and feline panleukopenia. With the proper paperwork, your pets can clear customs with you when they check your bags. Currently there is no quarantine and there are no extra fees to pay.

Bringing Your Firearms

Current Ecuadorian laws state that firearms are not allowed to be shipped with your personal household items when relocating to the country. However, legal residents may buy handguns over the counter in most hardware and sporting goods stores. Perhaps surprisingly, gun crimes are rare in Ecuador. Carrying a concealed weapon requires registration and a short psychological test, given at a local police station. Permits are available to foreign residents as well as to citizens. Check for the latest information about firearm regulations in Ecuador.

Bringing Your Car

Owning a car in Ecuador is really not a necessity like it is in the United States. With city bus fares of 25 cents, inter-provincial bus fares averaging $1.25 per hour of travel, and big city taxi fares averaging $2 per short hop, owning a car is just a hassle for many expats.

Importing your car from the States or Europe can be an expensive proposition. Besides the expensive shipping costs, customs import duties are also very high. Our advice is to sell your car before leaving your native country and buy one when your residency is approved in Ecuador.

If you plan on buying a car here, be aware that car prices are much higher here than comparable vehicles in the U.S. And because cars keep their value much longer here, used cars are sometimes as expensive as new cars. Also, car buyers who purchase vehicles valued over $20,000 must pay a luxury tax that adds from 15 to 35 percent to the price.

The plus side is that fuel prices are extraordinarily low because the Ecuadorian government subsidizes the price of gas and diesel. Prices currently run $1.43/gallon and $1.02/gallon, respectively. However, don’t run afoul of the local traffic cops. While enforcement is lax at best, if you are caught going 11 km/h over the speed limit it might cost you three days in jail! Just follow the rules and you’ll be fine.The World Is Your

Ecuador is Expat Friendly

Thanks to a rising economy, affordable living and political stability, Ecuador is attracting more expats than ever before. Dynamic expat communities can be found everywhere from Bahia de Caraquez and Manta on the coast, to Quito, Cuenca and Vilcabamba in the highlands, and lots of places in between. Interestingly, these diverse groups of expats get along much better then they would if they were in a retirement community in North America. Most expats here share a sense of adventure and have taken control of their lives in ways many people only dream of. In addition, there is a good mix of retirees, middle-aged couples with young families, entrepreneurs, and even non-residents expats simply looking to live off the North American or European grid — all of whom have chosen Ecuador as their primary home.


Overall, moving to Ecuador is easier than you think. As more foreigners from North America and Europe realize the truth about this country, it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular relocation and retirement destinations in the world. If you’ve been considering a move – for retirement or simply for a change of lifestyle – and wish to do it in a place that your hard-earned money will stretch further, maybe Ecuador is the right place for you!




    We have been living on $800 US a month all inclusive and live very well.

    The main points are DONT shop at supermaxi, shop at say 9 de Octubre mercardo, dont accept a rental above $300 a month and dont eat out at overpriced gringo restaurants.

    Gringo restaurants $10-15 per plate, Ecuadorian Almeurzo $1.50-$3.00 for a 3 course lunch. The quality of the gringo restaurants is not that great either.

    Our appartment is a brand new US quality 3 bed appartment with a granite kitchen for $350 a month including utilities.


    Pay cash for electrical goods (which are expensive) and you get at least 1/3 off the marked price. At the mercardo $2 a pound for cubed or ground beef. $1.37 per pound for chicken (dont eat the pork which is unsanitary in all but 1 producer).

    Tomatoes $0.50 per pound, onions $0.50 per pound, avocado 4 for a dollar and mangoes $0.50 ea.

    Rentals of $600-$800 per month are in gringolandia and are double the normal price because gringos are stupid enough to pay that amount.


    Does anyone know if we can bring a bow and arrows from USA to Ecuador? The arrows are for target shooting only.


    I am really interested in checking out Ecuador’s lifestyle. I am retired, receive $2000 a month and would like to have residency there but still carry my residency in America.


    Canadian/American here. Have lived in Cuenca for 3 years. Only read the cost of living part. It seems fairly accurate. I know of an extremely frugal single guy with a shared apartment who live on under $400 a month. Another friend lived on $650.

    It all depends on how simple you make your life. In the last year, I have greatly reduced my alcohol consumption, cook more at home with a higher level of vegetables (very cheap here in Ecuador) and reduced my taxi costs by bus riding and walking more.

    My total cost for my apartment with utilities and Internet is under $500 and it is a new 2 bedroom fully furnished. I do not own a vehicle, not needed here if you live in the city.

    With this background info I believe my monthly costs are around not a lot over $1000 a month and I don’t feel deprived. This does not include healthcare, travel or extraordinary purchases.

      Michelle Varrati

      Hi Marilyn,

      I’m an Alaskan senior considering an adventure in living in Equador. I recently met an Equadorian couple at a farmers’ market here in Anchorage, of all places, and of course they love their country and were friendly and enthusiastic. (It makes this Alaskan laugh to see people in winter coats in Anchorage in the summer!) As an Alaskan, I don’t do heat very well. I have been looking at Cuenca, as a place with a climate which seems suitable tor me.

      Apparently bringing my kitty to Ecuador is no problem, but I’m not finding anything regarding bringing her back to the U.S. I’m not willing to have her in quarantine for six months (which is what Hawaii requires!

      I spent some time in the central part of Mexico in my youth and enjoyed the culture VERY much. Are there similarities between Mexico and Equador, besides the language?

      I do have some health issues. I have medicare and private insurance (Aetna). Would you happen to know if medicare and Aetna would be honored? How about obtaining my prescriptions?

      Thanks so much. If you ever want to visit my beautiful state ….


    This is really helpful. It is mid September 2015 as I write this and I wonder if this information is up to date or if there are changes. I have just sold my house and my partner and I are Ecuador bound in early October with our 2 dogs and 1 senior cat. We were there last year for 2 months and are really considering resident visas. We have rented a farmhouse in the northern Sierra and hope to rent in Cuenca area after a couple of months. We are volunteering as well. We are putting all our household goods into storage in a sea can, simply because we don’t have time to liquidate them intelligently. I am curious as to what is included and what is excluded in household contents. We are partners but not legally married. Would we take out residency status individually? Thanks for any responses.


    My wife and I have just started the process with Sara. We are feeling reassured at every step toward our resident visas. We are looking forward to meeting Sara in person.


    This is a recommendation for Sara Chaca and her law firm, Ecuador Visas & Containers, whose website is found at, in assisting Expats in obtaining residency visas and Cedulas.

    Our experience had the potential to be a complete nightmare, and had it not been for Sara, we would have probably gone back to the U.S. with our tails tucked between our legs. To begin with, BEFORE WE HAD MET SARA, we made two trips to Miami to talk to the people at the Ecuador Consulate to find out what we needed to do and then to pick up our visa’s prior to leaving the states. The consulate referred us to a woman that worked at the Banco Del Austro there in the plaza down from the consulate. She is an Ecuadorian citizen and she translated and notarized all our documents after we had them Apostilled. On our second trip, we picked up the translations.

    We took those documents to the Miami consulate and they legalized every document. We opted for the 180 day visas instead of the free 90 day visas as we were thinking it would give us more time in case of any snags in the process. Well, when we arrived in Quito, immigration stamped our passports and we were off to Cuenca, none the wiser. All was going as planned until we went down to the Ministerio to apply for our residency visas. When we got to the desk with our legalized documents in hand, they refused every one of our documents because the notary stamp that the Ecuadorian Consulate’s translator/notary used was in English, not Spanish. And, the guy behind the counter made me very angry when he took my original marriage license and waved it in the air saying it was ridiculous. It was over 20 years old (my original) and that it didn’t prove that we were still married. They wanted one that was 30 days or less in age. It did not matter that it was certified by the county and Apostille by the state, translated, notarized and legalized by the Ecuador consulate in Miami, they would not accept it here in Cuenca. We were told we were going to have to go back to the states and get a new marriage license. I then told him that if I ordered a new license that it would look exactly like the one he had in his hand and would not prove that we were still married and that he needed to tell me exactly what he wanted to prove we were still married. He got angry and told me we had to leave the Ministerio. We left and I told my husband we had better get an attorney to handle this mess. This struck fear in the both of us as we had read the horror stories about the experiences of others in hiring an attorney and the money it cost them, the long drawn out processes….. So we went on Gringo Tree and started mulling through the recommendations. I called a couple of people from the recommendations and the last one I called was Sara Chaca. I was immediately struck by her kindness and understanding of our situation so we scheduled a meeting. It certainly helped that she spoke enough English that we could communicate effectively with her. So, we started the process. We went to the Migratory Police to obtain our Migratory Movement reports. Remember me mentioning going through immigration in Quito? Well, they stamped our passports T-3. That is for the 90 day visas that are free when you enter the country, not the 180 day visas we paid for in Miami and actually had. Well, that had to be corrected. Sara took us to the notary and got a special power of attorney, flew to Guayaquil and got that mess corrected. She was with us every step of the way. We did not have to go anywhere or do anything that she was not by our sides. And we must have gone to the Ministerio office a minimum of 12 times throughout the process. There were a couple of times that she couldn’t be with us but Gabby was there in her place. Gabby speaks very good English and is as sweet and kind as Sara. The both of them have the patience of saints too. Not something I am known for.

    Oh, I almost forgot. As for the marriage license, Sara’s husband, Adam, is from the states and I think it might have been him that got us a new marriage license and had it Apostilled and overnighted here to Cuenca. Each time we went back to the Ministerio, there was a problem to be fixed. I truly believe this was because of the first impression we made and the guy there held a grudge against us for making him angry. I’ve since learned that I am a guest here in this country and I should act that way and leave my old stress filled habits there in the states as they are not well accepted here. Yes, it was an experience to get our Residency Visas and our Cedulas. If it weren’t for Sara, we would not be here. I would recommend her, and have many times already, to anyone that needs help. She is amazing and one of the kindest, most helpful, honest and fair people you could ever want to meet.
    She could easily triple what she charges and still be well worth the cost. I never felt like I was being taken advantage of by Sara. That is saying a lot because after our first experience at the Ministerio, that experience left me very defensive and guarded.

    Sara took all the stress out of the rest of the process and I feel like I’ve made a friend for life in her and the entire office where she works. By the way, they also bring containers of household goods into Ecuador if you need those services too. They also have someone in their office that you can talk to about health insurance and prescription drug discount cards.

    Her Email is: and her website is

    Jane Burberry

    Good article. It was inspiring


    This is a great article! Thank you writing and posting. My girlfriend and I are seriously considering relocating and are going to start the process by WOOFing or doing some version of volunteer work to minimize our expenses and really get a lay of the land and culture. Being around Cuenca does seem, from our research like a desirable destination (on the outskirts though) as we are not ‘city folk’.

    My concern is that we have two small dogs less than 25lbs each. We were thinking about bringing her truck but from what I read it will be unnecessary and more of a hassle. Can anyone provide any recommendations on the current necessity, or lack there of, of having a vehicle and also any difficult hoops to jump through getting the dogs into the country?

    Thank you in advance for any and all information. We fully are ready to immerse ourselves into the lifestyle and I already speak decent Spanish but absolutely need to practice for fluency.


    I see a lot of references towards Americans, would Canadians be able to retire in Ecuador and have the same opportunities?


    • Doug Morgan
      Doug Morgan

      Absolutely. Canadians have the same great opportunities available (real estate, business, etc.) to them as Americans and Europeans.


    I’m only 29, been to Ecuador a few times, my fiancee is an Ecuadorian, and I have to tell you, problems and all, “poor” salaries and all, if i could find a job there, I would move in a HEARTBEAT, no hesitation… as it is now, we hope to move back there permanently in the relatively near future (once i pay off my schooling)…

    Ecuador is simply an amazing nation with much to offer, especially if one is willing to truly immerse themselves into the culture…

    be prepared for people to stare at the Spanish speaking gringos however, especially when way away from the tourist stops… and if you’re with an Ecuadorian… and doing more than chit-chatting, i.e. holding hands

    Nancy Hofmeister

    Why should people immerse themselves in the various expats communities? What about getting to know the ECUADORIANS? And, about bringing your stuff. If you are coming down here to recreate the US, why are you leaving?


      That seems a little nasty. I don’t know about everyone else, but I just discovered this website and am looking for information. Information such as : would it be cheaper to ship things, ie couch, table, bed, chairs, or would it be cheaper to buy in Ecuador? Everything I have read states that household furniture is very expensive. Now I don’t know what very expensive is in Ecuador. It may be very affordable to me and not so for someone else. As for immersing in culture, I am a great multi-tasker, so I do think I have the skill set needed to immerse in the local Ecuadorian culture as well as make friends in the expat community. smh…

    Terry Andrews

    This was very helpful information! We are leaving the 29th of Aug. to spend 15 days in various areas of Ecuador to consider relocating there. We are starting the down sizing here so we can break free and enjoy the new life there. Thanks for your efforts to prepare us and make the transition easier.

      Judy G.

      Just wondering how you made out on your trip In August? What did you discover? Are you still planning to move there, and if so, do you know where?

    Jerry R.

    Nice article! Thanks for the information.

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