Ecuador is a fertile country and a land of plenty. A typical meal in the country’s highlands might consist of locro a delicious soup of potato, cheese and corn; followed by a main course of llapingachos (cheesy potato cakes) served with chorizo (sausage), lomo (steak) or pollo (chicken). For desert, there could be morocho de leche – baked cheese dough balls brushed with sweet syrup or humitas.
As you might imagine, coastal delicies center on seafood with the classic ceviche, and encondados (fish dishes with a Caribbean flavor) that are usually served with rice, bananas or plantain.
The cost of living
It is not really a stretch to say that you can live like a king in Ecuador on a pauper’s budget. In fact, it is said that you can take $250 U.S. out of an ATM machine on Monday and this will cover your expenses for the next week. Many expatriates say you can live fairly well in Ecuador for about $700 U.S. a month or $1,000 tops. Groceries typically cost about $250 a month and you can buy a week’s worth of fresh vegetables and fruits for around $13 U.S. A full-time maid costs around $100 a month.
Ecuadorian taxes are very reasonable. Income taxes are progressive with rates from 5% on annual incomes up to $6800, to 25% on incomes of $54,400 and higher. There is also a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 12% on most goods and services. Property taxes vary depending on the province and cantonin in which the property is located. As an example of this, the annual property taxes on a $170,000 home in Cuenca are $110.
Real estate in Ecuador
Buying real estate in Ecuador is fairly simple. However, there is no such thing as a multiple listing service so a real estate agent in Quito may have no idea as to what’s available in Manta or Cuenca.
Many of the real estate agents in Ecuador act as a buyer’s agent and charge a commission. Also, foreigners are not permitted to own property within 50 km. of the country’s borders or coastlines.
When you buy property in Ecuador, you will make a down payment with the rest of the value of the property deferred over one to seven years with a bank credit of mortgage. This is because most Ecuadorian banks make only short-term loans.
As examples of real estate costs in Ecuador, a two-bedroom apartment in Cuenca’s colonial center just sold for $39,000. Out in the country, in the Valley of Longevity (Vilcambamba), a two-story house with five bedrooms on 2.5 acres – with fruit trees and a fresh water source – recently sold for just under $60,000.
Ecuador’s coastal lowland (La Costa) is usually warm with temperatures averaging 77o F. The highlands (La Sierra) have a much cooler climate and its temperatures vary by altitude. For example, Quito’s average summer temperature is about 60.8 o F.
Ecuador’s third region, the Amazon (El Oriente) is humid and rainy with an average daytime temperature around 77 o F. And the Galapagos Islands have a mostly dry climate year around with temperatures averaging 80.6 o F.
As you can see from these average temperatures, there is a good reason why Ecuador is called the “real land of eternal spring,”
Retiring to Ecuador
If you choose to retire to Ecuador, you should b happy to know that the task of becoming a resident is fairly straightforward. You will submit an immigrant-status visa application at the Ecuadorian consulate nearest your current place of residence. It will have to be approved by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Relations. This process normally takes four to eight weeks. Once your application is approved, you can have the visas for your dependents processed directly at your consulate.
Spanish is Ecuador’s official language. English is the most spoken foreign language, especially among young professionals and those who provide services to tourists. If you plan on living in Ecuador, you will probably want to learn Spanish as this makes day-to-day living easier.
The Ecuadorian economy is heavily dependent on its oil exports. It is the world’s largest exporter of bananas and also exports gold, shrimp and other primary agricultural products.
The country’s industrial sector had had a tough time growing significantly due to a lack of energy. However, the country’s government is working to improve the performance of existing hydroelectric plants and to create new ones. The government has also developed incentives and tariffs that are designed to help tourism, food processing, renewable and alternative energies, bioenergies, automotive parts and pieces, and several other industrial sectors.
As of this writing (July, 2010), Ecuador’s Gross Domestic Product (GNP) was $108.2 billion (U.S.) and its inflation rate was estimated to be 4.3%
Ecuador offers excellent health care. In the larger cities, especially Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil, there are hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. There are specialists in all fields. The average visit to a doctor’s office runs $20 U.S. and a visit to a specialist about $25 U.S.
Health insurance costs just a fraction of what it does in the U.S. Dentists are highly skilled and widely available. Partial plates usually cost about $329 US. and a complete set of dentures around $l,200 U.S. This includes all office visits, fittings, impressions lab work, etc.
Ecuador offers wide variety of cultural and historical activities. Guayaquil has great Museums of Anthropology and Contemporary Art. Its downtown features many architectural styles that combine a colonial look with the feeling of a bustling commercial center.
Ecuador’ capital, Quito, has the Telefriqo, which is the city’s best-known attraction. Riding it up its mountain offers some of the most spectacular views of the city. Quito also has the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the country’s most striking churches, and the Parque Metropolitan, one of the largest city parks in North America.
As you might imagine, Ecuador also offers an amazing array of outdoor activities, including cycling, swimming, hiking, climbing, horseback riding, birding and rafting – to name just a few.
Three Ecuadorian cites we like for retirement – Where to retire in Ecuador
If you intend to retire to Ecuador, there are three cities you should investigate – Manta, Cotacachi and Cuenca.
Manta. If waking up to a great view of the ocean and pristine beaches is your cup of tea, Manta might be the place for you.
When lying on the beach gets too boring, fear not. Manta is a bustling city on Ecuador’s east coast with a population of 250,000 and the same high level of medical, transportation and communication services you would find in Quito or Guayaquil.
Manta’s housing prices are very reasonable. Condos on the beach north of Manta are currently being offered for $18,000 and a Mediterranean-style beach house with 1,937 sq. ft. was recently listed at $170,000. It was described as a “beautiful two bedroom beach house with dining-living room with fireplace, kitchen and store room.
Cotacachi. A second Ecuadorian city worth investigating is Cotacachi. It is perched at 7,825’ above level in the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. Many visitors say that being in Cotacachi is like being on top of the world – except its weather is spring-like year around.
Cotacachi is an artisan town. Its artisans are the masters of leather good and their shops line the city’s main street. You can buy just about any type of leather product in these shops from a saddle to booties.
It’s difficult to find example of housing costs in Ecuador, as there is no multiple listing service. However, there was recently a home listed in Cotacachi in a gated community with two bedrooms, two baths and 1,600 sq. ft., and an asking price of $87,000 U.S. There was also new, 1 ½ story, Spanish-style homes within walking distance of Cotacachi called Paradiso Homes advertised at $78,500 to $84,000 U.S. These homes have two bathrooms, two bedrooms, covered porches, wood burning fireplaces and landscaped yards.
Cuenca. A third Ecuadorian city that’s great for expats is Cuenca. It is in the Ecuadorian highlands at 8,200 feet above sea level. It is the country’s third largest city. Like all of the Ecuadorian Andes, Cuenca has a mild climate year around. The days are usually warm and nights so cool, you will need a sweater or jacket.
Real estate prices in Cuenca are very reasonable. As an example of this, a new condo in the city’s center was recently listed at $30,000. There was also listed a hour with living room, great room, dining room, kitchen, laundry area and three parking spaces – all for $115,00 U.S.
Beautiful sun-dappled beaches, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Rain Forest, inexpensive housing, a low cost of living and a bustling economy all come together in Ecuador, making it one of the best places in the world to live.