Ecuador expats

32 Ecuador Expats Talk About Living in Ecuador

Thinking about a move to Ecuador? Meet 32 Ecuador expats and learn about what life is like in Ecuador as an expat.

Ecuador expats

Ecuador Expats: Meet 32 Expats From Around the World

While every expat’s Ecuador relocation is unique, you can learn a lot from each experience. Each expat interview offers insight into what you can expect during your move and transition.

In this huge guide, you’ll meet 32 expats in Ecuador. While it’s great to read books about expat life, nothing replaces first-hand experience.

The expats featured in this article come from many backgrounds and countries. While there are many retired expats, there are also business owners and young married couples. 

These Ecuador expat interviews address the most common questions and concerns that future expats have. These include:

  • language learning
  • working abroad
  • getting settled
  • cost of living in Ecuador
  • what they love about living in Ecuador

Ecuador Expat Journeys

While the majority of the Ecuador expats are still in the country, some have returned to their home country or moved on to another one. There are many reasons why some expats might decide not to live in Ecuador.

Living in Coastal Ecuador

1. Inge Van den Herrewegen Living in Santa Marianita

Inge is from Oudenaarde, Belgium and decided to move to Ecuador after traveling through Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, French Polynesia, Chile, and Peru.

After hearing about the small coastal town of Santa Marianita, she headed north and decided to stay. She now has a family, including two sons. She runs Punta la Barca – a small hosteria on the coast, and gives kite-surfing lessons.

Why I’m Living in Coastal Ecuador (Santa Marianita)

Inge Van den Herrewegen
Website / Blog URL:

Sunset in Santa Marianita Ecuador

Where are your currently living?

We (my partner Juan, our two sons, and I) are living in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. I have lived here since 2012.

Santa Marianita, Ecuador
Santa Marianita, Ecuador

What’s Your Story?

I’m from a small town called Oudenaarde in the Flemish region of Belgium. I did my studies in biomedical engineering and then worked for an orthopedic company as a researcher.

I worked for around 3 years as a researcher; life was comfortable, work was comfortable, I had a routine. But it was missing something and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.

So I quit my job and started traveling. I didn’t want a routine, I didn’t want plans, I didn’t want an end date. I wanted to live and be present – and kitesurf.

My journey began in Australia, with lots of expectations of an authentic and idealistic lifestyle – like most Europeans have. But I ended up leaving Australia disappointed, and most probably because of these expectations I had.

South America was the next destination, but flying was an expensive option, so I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to island-hop and kitesurf through the pacific. I did New Zealand, Fiji, French Polynesia, Easter Island, and then to mainland Chile.

From Chile, I made my way up north to Peru, and then I hit Ecuador. I had met a traveler who had mentioned a town, by the port-city of Manta, called Santa Marianita where there was perfect scene for kitesurfing and that it was not swarmed by tourists.

I arrived at this small fishing coastal town, and I loved it! As corny as it sounds, it was exactly that “authenticity” that I was looking for. It became my base for a while, splitting time between Santa Marianita and Bahía de Caráquez.

For four days a week, I would be kitesurfing in Santa Marianita, and then three days in Bahía de Caráquez, working with a guy, who had a boat, in exchange for a place to stay and a free trip to to the Galapagos Islands. Spoiler alert: I never made it to the Galapagos Islands.

One day I was out on my board, and the line to my kite had snapped. Suddenly I was stranded in the water, and it was too far out from the shore to swim back. Luckily there were other kitesurfers around and they helped me back to shore.

But during the struggle, in the distance, I see this young, handsome Ecuadorian guy just observing from the shoreline. That was Juan. He helped me out with my line later that day, but it didn’t matter – I knew I had the “catch”.

A romantic relationship was the last thing I was looking for, but within a week there we were. I had obviously been accustomed to life here already. We got to that part of a relationship, where we started to dream of a future together.

We tossed around the idea of buying property and creating a hostel, a space where travelers like myself could find refuge in this piece of paradise. It seemed like an idealistic dream, and then by surprise I became pregnant – this actually became a catalyst for a lot of things.

Punta la Barca, Ecuador
Punta la Barca, Ecuador

We found and purchased a property on top of a hill in Santa Marianita (that was actually owned by Juan’s grandfather) and we started to build our dreams with our bare hands – literally. It took us almost a year to finish the cabañas and set up our business.

By the end, we baptized it ‘Punta La Barca’, paying homage to the land it breathes and beats on. There’s something really beautiful and cathartic about seeing what we dreamt, form into life. The feeling is like when you catch the right wind and you just keep “surfing”.

Over time our family has expanded and we now have two ‘niñitos’. We have changed from being a backpackers’ hostel to more of a co-live and co-work space for nomad travelers, remote workers, and kitesurfers.

And now, there are still no routines in my life and I get to live life in the moment – and I get to kitesurf whenever I want.

How’s your Spanish?

I speak Spanish, Flemish, English, French fluently – but I speak Spanish here everyday. I didn’t know any Spanish before arriving to South America – I kind of guessed based on French. But I learnt on the road during my travels, and I took a week’s worth of class in Ecuador to just pat down the basics of grammar.

When I arrived to Santa Marianita, no one spoke English – with the exception of retired foreigners living here, but I didn’t want to be part of that culture. You really do miss out on a lot if you don’t speak the native tongue.

Language and culture are so interconnected, that you can’t fully understand the culture unless you know a little bit about the language at least.

Also, Juan doesn’t speak English, so I had to learn it in order to communicate to him and his family. But the process of learning any language is like a rollercoaster.

It was tough and I had a severe headache for two months, but the best way to learn is just to be immersed in it all.

Living on Ecuador's coast

How do you make your living?

In addition to our Punta La Barca, Juan works as a kitesurfing instructor here in Santa Marianita and I have my part-time remote job.

The remote job, that I earn most of my income from, is from the same Belgium I left when I left Europe to travel.

Since I was still on very good terms with the management of the company, I asked them if there were any jobs that I could do remotely and they created a new position for me.

This is one of the reasons that enabled me to stay in Ecuador. Internet is good here – we have fibre optic – so it all worked perfectly!

At the moment for the company, I am working on a research-based orthopedic project in collaboration with the orthopedic faculty at the Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manabí in Manta.

View from Punta la Barca, Ecuador
View from Punta la Barca, Ecuador

What do you love about Ecuador?

I can only speak for this part of Ecuador. People are very “authentic” (here goes that word again) here, very family-orientated, welcoming, and super curious.

If you put the effort to speak Spanish to them, they will converse back with you and perhaps tell you their life story. And if you’re considering moving to Ecuador, stay in a place for a while and feel it out.

Ecuador Positives:

  • The weather (here in Santa Marianita) is great and very pleasant – I live on 7km of deserted beaches. It’s extremely safe here, day and night, but that’s not always true for other parts of Ecuador.
  • Living here is cheap – local food, travel, accommodation, etc.
  • Nature – Ecuador has a variety of beautiful nature and all within close reach. It has a variety of coastal regions, the Amazon rainforest, tropical dry forests, cloud forests, and mountain ranges (Andes).

Ecuador Negatives:

  • It’s hard to find good bread.
  • Imported goods are expensive.
  • Some parts of the culture – like organization, punctuality, responsibility
Living in Santa Marianita Ecuador

2. Dave and Robin Zinck Living in Loja, Giron, and San Jacinto

leaving Ecuador

Dave and Robin moved to Ecuador in January 2016.

They explored much of the country and lived in three areas: San Jacinto (near Manta, on the coast), Giron (in Yunguilla Valley), and Loja, in southern Ecuador.

After 1.5 years in Ecuador, they decided to return to Canada.

Read their full story

3. Andra and Josh Carter Living in Otavalo Ecuador

Andra and Josh Carter Mompiche Ecuador
Andra and Josh Carter

Andra and Josh moved to Otavalo in 2011. In September 2017, they moved back to the United States.

A Taste of Ecuador Travel

Okay, now on to their story.

Our 6 Years Living in Otavalo Ecuador: Andra & Josh Carter 

Andra Josh Carter Ecuador

Where are you currently living?

My husband Josh and I are in Otavalo. We’ve been here for 6 years now!

living in Otavalo Ecuador Carters

Josh and I hiking Laguna Cuicocha, Ecuador

What’s your story?

Josh grew up in VT and I grew up in NJ. We met 9 years ago and realized we both wanted to explore living in a foreign country, even if only for a few months.

After we got married we made it a goal to move somewhere within 2 years. A year later we were in Costa Rica, where we spent 3 amazing months.

Totally enjoyed our time there, but realized that for a more permanent change, we’d want to be in a place with a more temperate climate.

We did some research online and Ecuador just kept popping up – mostly Cuenca and Cotacachi. Everything sounded amazing – the climate, the safety, the mountain views.

So we came down to check it out. Fell in love with the Cotacachi area, fell into a prime house-and-dog-sitting situation to begin with, and have been here 6 years now.

Why did you decide to move to Ecuador?

We wanted to move abroad primarily because we were kind of living the rat race, both working full time, I was commuting to NYC every day… we felt like we barely saw each other and didn’t have time for the more important things in life.

We wanted to simplify and move to a place where we could work less, be together more, and have more time for the more important things in life. Been here 6 years. And now gets to the interesting part 🙂

We are actually going to be moving back to the US in September. Our time here has come to an end, which brings me to the biggest reason we hope that you choose to feature us on your site.

La Cosecha cafe bakery otavalo
Window of La Cosecha Cafe, with Otavalo in the reflection

About 3 years ago we worked with a group of local Ecuadoreans who became both our employees and our friends to create a cafe here in Otavalo – La Cosecha Ecuador.

This collaboration has resulted in an incredible location that serves thousands of customers a year. We are Lonely Planet’s Top Pick for Otavalo and rated on #1 on TripAdvisor in both the city and the province.

Otavalo La Cosecha cafe
Inside La Cosecha cafe, Otavalo
Otavalo Ecuador cafe bakery
Area inside of La Cosecha Cafe in Otavalo Ecuador

These employees (and friends!) receive a sustainable wage, healthcare, and a safe environment to work in from us. They describe the cafe as their second home, a place they’re proud to work in.

While we are the owners, we’re able to provide these benefits to our 7 employees, many of whom are supporting families.

La Cosecha Employees in Intag on Coffee Farm Ecuador
With employees of La Cosecha in Intag coffee farm

However, after over 6 years the time has come for us to return to the US. We thought (and prayed) long and hard about what to do about the business and we have launched an IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign today (July 1, 2017) so that the employees can raise the funds to be able to buy the business.

La Cosecha Employees Otavalo Ecuador
Another group shot of the employees at La Cosecha – this time in Otavalo

Our goal is to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of loan repayments and costs associated with turning over the cafe completely to our employees. They will become the sole owners of the business.

This will provide 7 employees and their families with reliable, honest work and a business they can continue to grow. This will also indirectly help many independent businesses we source from locally.

La Cosecha Ecuador has become a place of meeting within the community and we work hard to source our products from local farmers and artisans who rely on our business.

I should warn you – this next video is going to make you crave chocolate and icing and syrup… (You’ve been warned…)

How’s your Spanish?

NOW our Spanish is quite good!

We knew nothing more than “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” when we got off the plane 6 years ago. We both definitely feel like we hit a plateau about 3 years in, and could be doing more to improve (my past and future tense verb conjugations are really abysmal) but we can communicate really well with the locals.

We feel it is SUPER important to learn the language of the country you choose to live in. There are so many reasons we chose to live here vs in the US for the past 6 years, and I feel strongly that if you are choosing to be somewhere other than “home” you need to make this new place your home. How can you do that if you can’t communicate?

Granted it was not easy to learn, and it’s still very hard at times to express feelings, but we don’t feel lost and confused like we did the first year!

More reading: The Best Book to Learn Spanish (Reader’s Choice)

How do you make your living?

We work online. I was in a good position when we moved down here, already working online part time, so the transition was very easy. We had a nice stable income coming in.

How is the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living is obviously less than in the US, but we feel that there is an over-exaggeration on the web in general. Yes, you CAN live on $500 a month as most Ecuadoreans do, but that means living and eating like an Ecuadorean.

Basic necessities of life are cheap (propane gas, electricity, home phone, water, fuel for your car) but anything else is not (wine and beer, internet, a car itself, beauty products).

Personally, I was not willing to give up certain luxuries like having hot water in the kitchen, having secure garage parking for our car, having a washer and dryer, etc, and those things mean that our rent is much higher than what an average Ecuadorean is paying. But I am happy 🙂

Working online and running web meetings and phone calls means we need good internet…. here in Otavalo that means paying for a fiber plan, which is not available in our area at the residential rate, which means our internet is shockingly more expensive than it would be at home for a fraction of the speed.

Other parts of Otavalo do now have fiber at the residential rate, but it’s not in our area yet… so that’s something to consider when choosing where you are going to live (the situation would be different for us in Quito, or even Cuenca I’d imagine).

We also find that we spend the same amount on groceries here as we did when we lived in the US. We like to cook Indian and Thai food at home, and that requires things like coconut milk ($5 a can!). I like to have a bottle of wine in the house. If you have any sort of allergy (i.e. dairy) it’s going to be very expensive to buy alternative milk.

So if you want to just buy your veggies in the market and eat rice and beans, you can spend much less on groceries than we do.

Oh – I am also particular about where I buy my meat – I don’t feel comfortable buying it where the locals do (you’ll see what I mean when you see a pickup truck drive by with 100 whole chickens in the bed! I think you’ll opt for Mr. Pollo from the grocery store too!).

All that being said, we did come down for a visit first, and we spent a huge amount of time in the grocery store looking at what was available and how much it cost. So the cost of groceries wasn’t really a surprise for us once we moved down here.

We also go home for a visit once a year and stock up on certain things (a big bag of protein powder, a big thing of peanut butter and coconut oil, a year’s worth of mascara!) that are pricey or nonexistent here.

It’s all a balancing act. Everyone needs different things to be happy. At the end of the day, we love being here, but it is a foreign country and it is tiring being out and about all day speaking Spanish.

So we want to have a home that is comfortable. Our definition of “comfortable” will be different from yours. But figure out what that means to you!

You might enjoy learning more about Otavalo Market.

What do you love about Ecuador?

Here are five things I love about living in Ecuador:

  1. Love the climate!
  2. Love the mountains (for hiking and for looking at).
  3. Love that the people are happy with what they have, not looking for more (generally speaking).
  4. Love that family is super important and family time is highly valued.
  5. Love to talk to the locals and see their joy when we say “we love it here!” and they realize we chose to be here vs the country we were raised in.
Hiking Mojanda Ecuador
Hiking with friends, Mojanda Ecuador

Things that are still hard for me to handle after 6 years:

  • the disorganization and how everyone is just totally OK with it.
  • fireworks at 3am for 10 days in a row for no reason that I can seem to figure out! And when I ask people about it they say “es por las santas” (it’s for the saints). WHAT?! It wasn’t even a holiday week! But they don’t care!
  • the complete disregard for personal safety (not using the overpasses to cross the highway, having a whole family, 2 adults a baby and a child, on a motorcycle and no one but the driver is wearing a helmet).

I feel totally safe here in Otavalo BUT that being said, don’t fall into the trap of feeling safe. We don’t leave our cell phones out on the table, or our bags unattended.

I am discreet with my wallet when using the ATM or paying anywhere. We don’t leave the windows open in our house when we are not home. We try to be alert to our surroundings.

Only once in our entire time here did we ever almost get robbed, and it was during XMAS week when Otavalo was super full of people and I was stupid – I had my cell in an outer zipped pocket of my purse and some guy had his hand IN MY BAG.

Thankfully I realized it and was able to get away from him before he got my phone, but honestly that would have been on me if he had gotten it! And that’s the only time in 6 years.

So be careful, don’t get too comfortable. Think about how you would act if you were visiting any city in the US that you didn’t know…. or even that you DID know!

Housing depends SO much on the area. If you want to be out in the country it may be much harder or more expensive to find something nice vs if you want to be in a city like Cuenca or Quito.

Make a list of what things are important to you and what things are “nice to have” because chances are you won’t find it all. You may have to compromise so know in advance what you’re not willing to compromise on (i.e. car parking or hot water).

Two Ecuador Living Tips

  1. My #1 tip is: VISIT! Visit Visit Visit! Ideally for a few months! If you can only visit for a short time then I’d recommend finding a way (if possible) to make the first 6 to 9 months of your move not permanent… coming down on a tourist visa, maybe renting out your home in the US before selling it and maybe renting a furnished place here for a year. It is not cheap to set up an apartment here and you really need to be sure. 2 weeks it NOT enough time to be sure.
  2. My #2 tip is: learn the language. It will be hard, but even if it’s slow going the locals REALLY appreciate your efforts. And you will get so much more out of the country when you can communicate. You’ll meet some great people and hear some great stories.

We used tools like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo which are great, but we really came into the language when we took classes 2x a week. Our teacher kept us accountable and while I hated doing the homework, it really helped.

4. Cassie McClellan Living in Otavalo

Cassie and her husband have been living in Otavalo since 2012. In this interview, Cassie shares why they moved, what they love about life in Otavalo, and how they are learning Spanish.

Cassie McClellan Ecuador Expat

Cassie McClellan Talks About Living in Otavalo

  • The Expat: Cassie McClellan
  • Connect with Cassie: on her Facebook cooking page

Where are you currently living?

We are living in the northern Andes region in Otavalo, Ecuador, and have been here five and half years.

living in Otavalo

What’s Your Story?

My husband and I are Georgia natives. We met and became friends in college. We lost touch as I moved to New York while my husband went to L.A. for a few years.

We re-connected twenty years later on Facebook and fell madly and hopelessly in love. We married two years later and within a year of getting married, moved to Ecuador.

Where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

During our first phone conversation after re-connecting, we both jokingly mentioned living abroad.

The idea starts taking serious shape after we moved in together. We were both interested in the adventure and the cultural experience of living in a foreign country.

We had the idea to go to different countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, etc., with Ecuador first on the list. We arrived, fell in love in with the country, and decided to look no further.

Expat living in Otavalo Ecuador

We purchased our first home here before we moved permanently. We spent two working vacations here furnishing our home and made the final leap in November of 2011.

We are now living in our third home here, high in the mountains above Otavalo in an almost all-indigenous community. We never say never and who knows what adventure might present itself. As for the here and now, we couldn’t be happier.

How’s your Spanish?

Cassie McClellan Otavalo Ecuador

My husband had some high school Spanish under his belt, while I only had bits of Spanish that I had picked up while visiting my brother who lived in Spain.

Before we moved, we both dedicated a few hours each evening to Spanish learning programs.

While it certainly helped with a good basic foundation for learning, our Spanish improved dramatically with full immersion.

The Ecuadorians are very forgiving of our inevitable mistakes, but it is very important to try. You miss out on so much without the language. It is an ever-constant learning experience and we welcome the challenge.

How do you make your living?

We started a small bed and breakfast and microbrewery. Our guests were mostly budget-minded young travelers.
There is a lot of competition in the small hostel business in Otavalo so we thought we could offer something special by brewing up our own stouts and ales.

At that time, there was very little variety out there for beer drinkers in Ecuador. We started brewing small five gallon batches and found we couldn’t keep up with production. We decided to invest in proper brewing equipment which we had fabricated for us and upped our production to 250 liter batches.

A few of the local restaurants started carrying our beer as well. This provided us with a modest income and a wealth of experience. We eventually sold our home and brewery thinking that we would be moving back to the United States. Our situation changed somewhat and we decided to stay.

We bought our third home (which we are living in now) and some financial investments provides us a monthly interest payment. We are currently updating our home to include a small apartment that we intend on renting, either full time or airbnb to provide some extra income.

More reading: Ecuador Real Estate Guide

We try to live on a budget and still enjoy our little extras like dining out and little exploratory trips within Ecuador.

Otavalo living

What do you love about Ecuador?

We have really come to love the Ecuadorian people and their constant smiles and laid back lifestyle. We love the freedom of not owning a car, we savor the street food, we are never (almost never) in a hurry.

We have the time to turn our attentions to our passions. For me, it’s cooking. For my husband, it’s his music.

We enjoy the best of country and town life, as we are out of town and away from most of the noise. We wake to roosters crowing and bird song and incredible mountain vistas every morning.

Yet, we can step on a bus that runs by our home every forty minutes and be in the heart of our vibrant town in 15 minutes, or if we choose, we can walk it in about thirty minutes.

Having lived in both a gated, mostly expat community, and now out in a rural, indigenous community, we can honestly say we feel safer here with a real sense of camaraderie with our neighbors.

We sought out any and all resources for research on Ecuador. International living, personal blogs, GringosAbroad, of course. Pretty much anything and everything I could find on the internet.

My honest advice to anyone considering moving to Ecuador would be to do diligent research, visit as much as feasible before taking the leap, learn at least some basic Spanish, travel around this diverse country to find the area that best fits your lifestyle, and above all, learn patience, smile, and embrace it all.

Ecuador is a wonderful and beautifully diverse country, but it’s not a Utopia. Stay long enough to take off any rose-colored glasses and see it with honest eyes.

We have found that after years of living here, we love it more than the day we first arrived.

Living in Otavalo Ecuador

And there you have it: a glimpse of what living in Otavalo is actually like.

5. Deborah Hughes Living in Manta

Deborah Hughes 4000 miles blog

The Hughes family moved from South Lake Tahoe, California to Manta Ecuador.

In this post, they discuss why they chose to live on the coast – instead of in Cuenca, high in Ecuador’s Andes mountains.

Read why they chose the coast: What’s the best place to live in Ecuador? Mountains vs Coast

6. Gregory Diehl Living in Vilcabamba

Gregory Diehl left California at 18 to explore our world and find himself. He has lived and worked in more than 50 countries, chronicling the enlightening lessons he learned in the Amazon bestseller: Travel As Transformation.

Gregory Diehl Vilcabamba Ecuador

After traveling the world, he chose to settle in Vilcabamba. Here’s why:

Why I Chose to Settle in Vilcabamba, Ecuador (After Traveling to 50 Countries)

When I left my home in California at 18, I had no idea what opportunities awaited me out there in the big bad world all around. I just knew I was not content with where I came from and needed to experience something more.

That was 10 years ago, and my curiosity has taken me on a journey around the world to investigate as many lifestyles as possible.

In the process of learning about how other people live, I learned about what I am really capable of and what I really want for myself.

My goals as a traveler have evolved as I’ve grown in this lifestyle. I’ve mostly moved away from rapid exploration, and set my eyes on settling down somewhere which fits my ideals for at least part of the year on a recurring basis.

That search brought me to a town in the valley of southern Ecuador called Vilcabamba, just an hour past the cultural capital of Loja. I was looking for a curated microcosm of sanity in a mostly insane world.

I was attracted there because of the many positive reports from expatriates, people who had journeyed from all over the world, to seek solace in this peaceful valley.

Vilcabamba expat life

Discovering Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Vilcabamba is known locally as “El Valle de Longevidad”, meaning “The Valley of Longevity”. The name is derived from rumors that inhabitants live statistically longer lifespans than average, with one of the highest concentrations of centenarians (people over the age of 100) in the world.

Areas such as these around the world are called “Blue Zones”, and their claims of old age are usually attributed to better air, water, and soil, a perennial spring-like climate, and a lifestyle that necessitates low stress and regular exercise.

The town itself is a mix of locals who have lived there for generations and foreigners from around the world who have chosen it as their adopted home.

Ecuador has among the most open borders of any country in the world, allowing citizens of every country except 12 to stay up to three months as a tourist. Citizens of most other South American nations can even enter with an ID card alone. They are even one of the handful of nations who recognize the validity of the politically independent World Passport.

Living in Vilcabamba Ecuador

The result is a refreshing blend of world cultures. Contrast this with a nation like Turkmenistan, which bars international visitors from any nation on Earth from entering without first acquiring a 10-day tourist visa in their home country.

Ecuador, the most biodiverse country per area in the world, attracts people who value immersion in-to different climates and ecosystems. It has become a retirement haven for Americans, similar to Costa Rica 20 or 30 years prior, but without being totally overrun yet.

The slow pace of life and lush natural surroundings made me feel like I was actually living as a functioning part of my environment, while still enjoying the benefits of the human world which had emerged around it.
As an expat, I was mostly left alone and free to make my own choices about how I would spend my time. I could hide away from the world in the trees, or just as easily spend all day getting to know interesting characters in the shops and cafes.

When I stumbled onto Vilcabamba, I was on a quest to find the place that I could call my home, for now and the indefinite future.

It was going to be a place where I could raise my future children away from the prying eyes and aggressive expectations of modern culture.

Vilcabamba expat

I was so impressed with the unique combination of elements I found, that I purchased an acre of property with the intention of returning to build a natural home when the time to settle down was right.

To this day, after a decade of constant travel to more than 50 countries, I haven’t yet found anywhere quite like it.

The Never-Ending Search

As much as I like some of the places I have been to, each has its own merits and downfalls. That is why it is unlikely that I will ever stay in one place full-time. I would prefer to live a multicultural lifestyle that will give my future family access to the best of what the world can offer, according to our own subject preferences and needs.

I can make these choices because I have worked hard to discover who I am and how that fits in with the world.

Whatever your starting conditions, you owe it to yourself to find the places which will enable you to live out your life as who you really are.

A person with awareness of both himself and the world must figure out which cultural conditions are most in line with who they really are and what they actually care about.

The answer for me was always Latin America. Nowhere else in the world has given me the same slow pace of life, year-round ideal climate, immersion with nature, and welcoming local attitude.

The rock-bottom cost of living is just the cherry on top.

Vilcabamba embodies the things I love about how humans have arranged themselves to live on this planet in groups, and I can foresee always considering it one of my homes here on Earth.

Gregory Diehl left California at 18 to explore our world and find himself. He has lived and worked in more than 50 countries, chronicling the enlightening lessons he learned in the Amazon bestseller: Travel As Transformation.

Read his work and listen to his podcast, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory, at: Most photos in Gregory’s submission are copyright

7. Damaris de Jimenez Living in Cuenca

exploring and living in ecuador

Damaris came to Ecuador in 2009 looking for a break from the typical American routine.
What she found is adventure (and her future husband).

damaris living in cuenca

Connect with Damaris

You can connect with Damaris on her blog (Cooking on the Equator) and on Pinterest and Instagram. Her blog is all about cooking with local ingredients in Ecuador: Creative and clean ideas for South American ingredients

Where are you currently living?

I currently live in Cuenca and have been here for the past 7 years.

What’s Your Story?

I am from Cleveland, Ohio (U.S.A.) and originally came to Ecuador in 2009 as a single twenty-something looking for a break in my very typical American routine, i.e., eat, sleep, work, gym, shop for stuff, an occasional opportunity to travel, repeat.

When did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

I came seeking an adventure and since I had visited Cuenca once as a teenager in the 90’s I felt really comfortable coming back, especially since I was coming with friends looking for a similar experience.

Even though I wanted to stay for an extended period of time, I was not planning on staying forever.

american exploring ecuador
single american woman exploring ecuador
playing with monkey ecuador amazon

I spent 2 years traveling by bus all over the country and learning Spanish. I spent much of my time hunting down hidden waterfalls, river rafting, and hiking in the mountains and jungles of Ecuador.

I was loving my life, so happy with my decision and completely immersed (thanks to volunteer work) into a great group of friends from all over the world.

I didn’t think things could get much better but that’s when one of my good friends became my best friend and later my husband.

In January of 2013, I was married here in Ecuador to a local, Marcelo, and that’s when I officially became a “media-cuencana”.

damaris cuenca wedding

We’ve been married for 3.5 years and can’t think of one good reason to permanently head back to the States.

How’s your Spanish?

My Spanish is good but my Spanglish is better and my English is quickly going downhill! Thanks to studying Spanish in high school, I knew a decent amount of vocab and the concept of verb conjugation was not foreign to me when I first got here.

I immediately put to use what I knew and tried to maintain a patient and lighthearted attitude regarding the language.

I also took some classes, asked LOTS of questions, and did research at home in order to improve. Spanish is not the first language I’ve learned so I was also aware of just how I personally learn.

Everyone is different in this respect. I love learning languages and being able to comfortably communicate with those of another culture.

It is an amazing way to broaden our understanding of the world and especially the people and their point of view.

How do you make your living?

I am fortunate enough to have a hard-working husband with a great job which gives me an opportunity to focus on fulfilling my dream of becoming a food blogger.

What do you love about Ecuador?

Well, first and foremost I love Marcelo!

damaris and marcelo living in cuenca

But aside from that, there are so many reasons to love living here! Palm trees, the amazing view from my bedroom window, the daily organic market that’s 5 minutes from my front door, art and music festivals, never having to lack for something new to go and explore and the advances that local businesses have made in the past 5 years are also AMAZING!

Many natural products I never in a million years expected to see available are now here! So now we can have our cake and eat it too.

Nothing is perfect so there are of course negatives to living here. I still get angry when I’m not given the right of way as a pedestrian. And when I get a little too adventurous with my food choices I end up paying for that later.

I have never personally felt unsafe in Cuenca. In fact, I feel much safer here than in the downtown area of my hometown. I have heard of a few incidents while living here but nothing that a) couldn’t be experienced in any city or b) couldn’t be avoided by taking precautions.

If you are planning on living happily in Cuenca I suggest taking some time to travel the country.

Cuenca is a wonderful place but it’s a bit of a cultural bubble. It’s SO important to understand the environment you have replanted yourself in. It will help you to assimilate and appreciate where you are living.

american living in cuenca ecuador

8. Rick and Dana Racinskas Living in Salinas

Rick and Dana are a married couple of 40 years. After checking out both Belize and Ecuador, they moved from Texas to the beach city of Salinas, Ecuador.

living in salinas rick dana racinskas

Our Life in Ecuador: Rick and Dana Racinskas

The Expats: Rick and Dana Racinskas

Where are you currently living?

We came to Salinas 3 years ago to spend two weeks here and two weeks in San Pedro Belize. We love San Pedro but daily expenses were higher than what we wanted.

living in Salinas

After several days here, we started making offers on beach condominiums as the prices were and still are very low for what you get. A great expat community with local hangouts, restaurants etc.

What’s Your Story?

We are a married couple with 40 years of experience behind us. Our parents and a matchmaker put us together but I digress.

I am an Engineer and my wife Dana is a geriatrics nurse practitioner. We enjoyed living in Texas for 35 years or so.
We decided the US was on its way down and now would be a good time to focus elsewhere.

Where did you get the idea of living in Salinas Ecuador?

We got some info from International Living and were curious about the #1 rated spot. We had made several trips to Belize and really liked what we saw there.

We decided we need to find a nice place to retire and then we decided to “retire” early and see what we can do. Ecuador has many quirks and is not for some folks.

It can be very frustrating at times as you need to be very patient. A simple thing can take hours or many visits to a store.

However, you can get beach condos here as low as $90K and live very well. The weather is good and near the same every day. The fish, seafood, produce, etc is wonderful.

We are here to stay.

Living in Salinas: Visiting the Malecon

How’s your Spanish?

Our Spanish is steadily improving. For me, it is a fourth language.

The people here are very friendly and accommodating but it is very important you learn to communicate here easily. It can lead to errors and much frustration even panic otherwise.

Brian Bolton chief of American Citizen Services
Brian Bolton (chief of American Citizen Services (ACS) at the Guayaquil Consulate) pictured with our staff

How do you make your living?

We have a passion to help the aged and we seem to be on the way to being there ourselves. There are no great solutions for folks who can no longer manage on their own.

Quite a few expats leave our little paradise for a US nursing home. A spouse dies, a stroke, etc can change your life very quickly. Then what?

Getting a private “nurse” here is a painful idea. Even hospital nurses are not well trained compared to US standards.

retirement home Salinas Ecuador

So we decided to change that here. We opened Chipipe Villa here in Chipipe (next to Salinas) to have folks who need extra help to get by. Unlike “group homes” we have seen, this is very upscale with a full array of services and amenities.

All the food here is very natural (organic if you will) and often leads to major health improvements all by itself. We offer beautiful private suites, pool therapy, a hot tub, a beautiful pool area, a private massage area, etc. 24/7 medical support.

Clinics within walking distance, beautiful sandy beaches 3 blocks away and so much more. Things of a caliber we have not seen in the USA and probably would not be affordable anyways.

assisted living Salinas Ecuador

Here we can do it for a third of what you pay for an average place.

dana and alejandra chipipe villa

Assisted Living in Ecuador: Chipipe Villa, Salinas

What do you love about Ecuador?

Ecuador is in the downstage at this point. The economy is in a bad place with the earthquake and the low price of oil.

However, I think it is a great place to live and enjoy the company of 800 other expats here. Always lots of things to do and a real sense of community that so lacks in the USA suburbs.

We have a whole lot more of the country to explore as well.

Chow and see you soon!

9. Todd & Heidi Gorishek Living in Cuenca

our life in ecuador heidi todd gorishek

Todd and Heidi moved to Bahia de Caraquez (on Ecuador’s coast) in January 2016. After the earthquake hit that town on April 16th, their family moved to Cuenca.

This is their first international move and they are loving their new life in Cuenca.

Where are you currently living?

My wife Heidi, my adult son Easton, and I are currently living in Cuenca, Ecuador after being displaced by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit April 16th in Bahia de Caraquez.

living in bahia de caraquez ecuador

We had arrived in Ecuador and lived in Bahia de Caraquez on January 11th, 2016.

We moved to Cuenca on April 27th, 2016 after staying in Bahia de Caraquez to help our friends and the local community with the aftermath of the quake.

Photos of Ecuador Quake

ecuador earthquake damage
Damage to our building after the quake
Locals living in tents after ecuador quake
Locals living in tents after the Ecuador quake
ecuador earthquake 2016
ecuador damage earthquake

What’s Your Story?

I began a journey of intense personal exploration when I turned 40. I count this as my second “midlife” crisis. The first was when I turned 30 and left my corporate job to return to school and pursue a career in the medical field.

At 50 I began serious plans to move to Ecuador, leave my career as a pharmacist, and begin my career as a men’s life coach. I guess this could be considered my 3rd midlife crisis. That was three years ago.

I am married to a wonderful woman Heidi, and I am a father of two terrific young men, Chase and Easton.
My oldest son Chase is currently at the end of a 27 month Peace Corp service mission in Guyana, South America, and will be joining us in Ecuador when he is finished. This is the first time any of us have lived outside of the US.

When did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

Through my journey of self-exploration I started to see the world and my place in it differently. I shed the dogma of working 30 years and retiring with the gold watch.

I longed to participate in different cultures, with different people, learning a different language; all the while knowing that at our deepest levels, beyond differences of language and customs, we share similar fears, hopes, and needs.

Since money is a reality for obtaining food and shelter, I needed to live somewhere I could afford. I wanted to experience South America, learn Spanish, and live on the warmer part of the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador filled the bill for me.


After talking about making this move for years, I chose to step into my fear and make it happen. It was a journey for my wife as well who had to step into her own fears.

For my younger son, he saw it as an opportunity to experience life in a new way early in his adult life.

Our planned time in Ecuador is open-ended. Our intention is not to leave before we are fluent in Spanish.

How’s your Spanish?

Myself, my wife, and my son moved to Ecuador without knowing the language. It was challenging the moment we set ground on our arrival at the airport.

Because of translator apps it isn’t impossible to communicate, but it is cumbersome and difficult. We enrolled in Spanish lessons within two weeks of arriving and began the process of learning Spanish.

Learning Spanish at 53 is more difficult than I thought. I had visions of being somewhat conversational within three months and that did not happen. It is taking a lot of work, and I am getting it, but it is much slower than I hoped.

What I hold true is that it is my responsibility to learn the language of the country I am living in. This is done as both a show of respect for the people here and my own ability to participate in the local culture.

How do you make your living?

I have enough savings to live on before retirement, and I intend to continue to work. My plan is to develop my coaching practice via the internet.

Ecuador is more expensive than I initially imagined. Any name brand product from dish soap, to peanut butter, to electronics, to clothing, to vehicles can be anywhere from twice to four times the cost in the US.

What can be cheaper is fresh produce and meats from the local farmer’s markets. Rents are also cheaper, but rising due to the influx of expats to the area. This applies to buying property as well.

Ecuador was my chosen destination to explore and experience life outside the US. It was what I expected as far as immersion in the language and availability of services. I didn’t give much thought to product options but was surprised at the limited options and choices of goods.

The overall cost of living seems higher than what I expected, but still much less than living in comparable accommodations in the US.


What do you love about Ecuador?

I love the coast of Ecuador. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm, and the sunsets are glorious. I enjoy the small towns and villages with locals who sit outside their homes along the streets, smiling or observing, but quick to say Buenas as I walk by.

The mountains of Ecuador are green and lush. The air is cool and the sun is hot.

Park Cuenca Ecuador

Cities like Cuenca are busy and can be noisy with the constant activity of people walking, on buses, in taxis, and driving their cars. The old city is filled with hundreds of architecturally fascinating buildings, churches, and cathedrals.

The celebrations of local holidays and traditions fills the squares with the colors and sounds of a rich Ecuadorian heritage. Where I have lived, Bahia de Caraquez and Cuenca, I have always felt safe. There is crime, but it seems low, and I have never felt at risk in my surroundings.

Before deciding to move to Ecuador, join fb groups like Ecuador Expats and take time to review housing and services as offered on GringoPost. A lot of the “feel” of Ecuador can be ascertained from these sites.

When you do make the move to Ecuador, come open and without expectations of anything like a US, or first world, experience. It will make the transition much easier.

10. Linn Vermilion Smith Living in Pakakuna Gardens, Chaca

Linn Vermilion Smith Ecuador

Linn’s journey from the US to Cuenca, the coast, and then back to the Andes (near Quito) is one that many expats can relate to.

After arriving in Cuenca in 2010, they decided to look for a warmer climate. (Some expats find it cold in Cuenca.) After a short period on the coast, they settled in Chaca – just outside of Quito – in a small community called Pakakuna Gardens.

My Life in Ecuador: Linn Vermilion Smith 

Linn Vermilion Smith Ecuador

I was living on Kauai, Hawaii when I first heard about Ecuador.

Our retreat business was rapidly declining with the economy in the dumps and we were looking at other ideas about where to go and what to do.

My sister and her husband had done a lot of research on other countries where one could retire.

They had a list of criteria including:

  • weather
  • cost of living
  • infrastructure
  • health care
  • safety
  • monetary system, the list goes on.

Cuenca, Ecuador was at the top of their list.


Our New Life in Cuenca

They moved to Cuenca in September of 2010, and we moved in October. We decided to sell everything and came with 10 suitcases and a lot of hope for a relaxing retirement.

Cuenca proved to be as beautiful as we had been told.

We found a cute little Ecuadorian home surrounded by Ecuadorian neighbors and began to acclimate ourselves to life in a new culture and environment. We spoke no Spanish, so immersed ourselves in learning the language of our adopted country.

cuenca ecuador market

We did not buy a car. The public transportation in Cuenca is fabulous, so we used the bus system for most of our excursions in town and out of town.

We traveled all over the southern part of Ecuador on day trips and weekend getaways and got to know our way around very well.

One day we watched a construction site across the street from our home with intense interest. They were building a new top floor to a small apartment building. They use concrete to build in Ecuador, trees are scarce here.

The workers needed to get the material up to the top floor with no elevator or lift of any type. They devised a pulley and rope system, to which they attached a bucket.

Then after filling the bucket, two men would hold the rope and run up the street to raise the bucket to the waiting men on top, who would then add water to create the concrete. We were fascinated at their ingenuity.

Here is a video of the process.

Adapting to Our New Country

We have done our best to adopt the customs, which I find utterly charming.

Every person I pass on the streets says hello, good morning, how are you. In the United States this would be considered very unusual except in small towns.

I find the children in Ecuador to be so calm, sweet, and centered. Seldom do I ever hear a screaming child on a bus. I am offered a seat almost every time I step onto a crowded bus and I always meet a friendly soul who wants to talk to me.

I find the people in Ecuador to be very happy, almost stress-free, relaxed, and absolutely lovely.

I will never forget the time we were waiting for a bus and watching a couple of small children playing. No game boys or iPhones to occupy them, they had a roll of packing tape. They would place a piece over the other one’s mouth and then giggle with delight when the other couldn’t talk.

It reminded me of the 50’s in the States when life was so much less complicated when children made up games to play and lived a simple and happier life.

The children here are soooo cute and are so safe. I see small children (6 or 7 years old) on the bus by themselves all the time. No one would even think of harming a little child, they are considered treasures of society.

ecuador children

From Cuenca to Ecuador’s Coast

We spent 3 ½ years in Cuenca. After only one year, we knew we needed to find a warmer place.

We started exploring the coast and after 2 ½ years of looking, we settled on Manta, where we moved in October of 2014. Manta had lovely beaches, a mall, decent grocery stores, and very nice open-air markets.

manta ecuador beach
malecon in manta ecuador

At first, it seemed great, but we began to tire of the brown. What I mean is this, it seldom rains in Manta and so everything is dry.

Manta is all about the beach, and it is wonderful for about a third of the year when the wind isn’t blowing. When the wind is blowing the sand beats you to death.

The climate was also hotter than we expected and we longed for the lush greenery we were accustomed to on Kauai.

In Manta, the mosquitoes made it hard for me to spend much time outside in the cooler evenings (I am sweet meat to them) so we were delegated to run the air conditioning constantly, which got very expensive.

When we moved to Manta, my sister and her husband moved too. They also found Cuenca to be too rainy and cold, and missed the sunshine.

They discovered Pakakuna Gardens, east of Quito, very close to the new international airport and bought a villa there.

pakakuna gardens

I visited them in the summer of 2015 and after only one day I had fallen in love with the place. It is a huge botanical garden with villas and homes interspersed throughout the gardens. The magical energy of Pakakuna had me under her spell.

I spent a week, went home to Manta and informed my husband I wanted to live there for the rest of my life.

living in quito

Finding Our Ecuador Home: Pakakuna Gardens

We moved to Pakakuna in December and I have never looked back.

The sun shines here most of the time, it ranges in temperature between 70-80 degrees almost every day, nights are cool with little to no mosquitoes (what a relief) and the vibration/energy of the place is mystical – magical. I can’t explain it. It is so unique.

our ecuador patio

The villas are separated by plants, so even though neighbors are close by, it feels like we are only surrounded by tropical plants.

Pakakuna Gardens is the brainchild of Claus and Maria Elena Egger, a couple from Switzerland and Bolivia. They came here 30 years ago and built their dream of a botanical utopia.

life in ecuador pakakuna

I can say that to live in a place like this in the USA would cost millions of dollars and I live here on social security. It is incredible.

I feel like Goldilocks, from the fairy tale. For me, Cuenca was too cold, Manta was too hot, but Pakakuna is just right. I have found paradise in Ecuador and plan to live here forever. My heaven on earth.

expats of pakakuna

11. Why I Decided to Move to Loja Ecuador: Jesse Bayer

jesse bayer ecuador

In 2013, Jesse moved from New York to the province of Loja in Southern Ecuador.

Jesse was a real estate investor in New York City and offers a unique perspective on real estate in Ecuador.

Jesse is co-founder of Abundant Living Ecuador – a real estate and relocation services company based out of Loja.

Here’s his story.

Why I Decided to Move to Loja Ecuador: Jesse Bayer

When I made the choice to leave New York City with my family and relocate to South America, there was a set of parameters that informed my search for a suitable destination.

I was looking for warm weather, safety, fertile land, and clean, abundant water, in an area located a safe distance from volcanoes, fault lines, the coast, large population centers, and nuclear energy facilities.

loja ecuador

After an exhaustive search I settled on Southern Ecuador, ultimately Loja. Ecuador, and Loja in particular really offer the best of both worlds.

Infrastructure such as airports, roads, power, basic services, and Internet are excellent yet the old time customs remain.

Because Loja, and much of southern Ecuador are off the beaten expat trail, it is absent of some of the problems associated with a large expat community.

Introduction to Life in Loja, Ecuador

Reasons to Move to Loja Ecuador

One of the highlights of living in this area is the variety of climates. With 4 distinct climates within 45 minutes of Loja, any climate, lifestyle, or weekend getaway is accessible.

The city itself boasts a temperate climate, all the normal shopping and entertainment one would expect, yet the feel of a small town. It’s amazing how familial it is.

With the cost of lunch under $3 and high-end apartments on the market from $90,000, the quality of life/cost ratio is exceptional.

move to loja ecuador
view loja ecuador

People are formal and polite. You never see verbal disputes. It’s a quiet, safe city that lends itself to a pace and lifestyle that is really nice.

One of the things I enjoy most is the natural juices made to order, so common here, for around $1. The Sunday market also stands out to me. I do all my food shopping there.

A staggering quantity of every imaginable fruit and vegetable is displayed by vendors, many of whom grow the food themselves, locally, including a large variety of organic.

And the prices! I shop for a family of three each week for $30-$60, nearly all organic. And the bulk of that is coconuts for coconut water I buy for $1 each!

living in loja ecuador

Loja is not for everyone, however. World-class dining options are few and far between. If you are looking for glamorous and exciting nightlife, you will be disappointed with your options.

That said, the combination of natural beauty, climate, cost of living, and quality of life benefits are hard to find anywhere in the world.

abundant living ecuador

This is a post by Jesse Bayer. A successful NYC-based Real Estate Investor, Jesse sold his holdings in 2013 to move with his family to Ecuador and co-found Abundant Living Ecuador – a real estate and relocation services company based out of Loja. 

12. Mark Cowtan Living in Capaes, Salinas Ecuador


In December 2012, Mark and his family moved from Northern California to Salinas, Ecuador.

He is British and his wife is Peruvian.

A couple of years ago, Mark’s family was featured in House Hunters International.

Here is their story.

Where are you currently living?

Capaes, on the Salinas peninsula in Santa Elena Province.

What’s Your Story?

We moved to Ecuador from Northern California, in Dec 2012 to a small beach community called Capaes on the Salinas peninsula, two hours from Guayaquil.

I am British, and my wife is Peruvian, but we met in California where we were both living. She longed to return to Latin America, and I frankly had had enough of the grind.

When our small business went belly up, due to the real estate crash, we started to plan our escape from America. It took us a couple of years of research to take the plunge, sell everything, and start over in a new place.

To begin, we set up “base camp” in Lima, Peru, where my wife has family, and traveled up and down the coast of Peru and Ecuador for several weeks before finally settling on Ecuador.

My wife had already made a couple of trips to Ecuador on her own to get the feel of the country, while I was still in the US packing up our home and getting the house sold.


Because my wife is Peruvian, Peru seemed like the obvious choice, but for a number of reasons, Ecuador proved to be a better option for us.

On our first trip together, we were more or less decided on where we wanted to settle, so we spent the time house hunting, and looking for an affordable car (Used cars are 50%-60% more expensive here than in the US and in a lot worse condition, so it was tough to find one that felt like a fair deal).

We wanted to live by the coast, but just to be sure, we also checked out Cuenca, where we knew a lot of expats were settling too. Cuenca is lovely, but the coast was for us, and we returned to Peru with the wheels in motion to buy a condo near the beach in Capaes, Santa Elena.

On the next trip, we closed on the house, moved in, and started looking for contractors to help us fix up the condo.

My parents were big travelers, and so am I. So it was no big deal when I emigrated to California almost 20 years ago. It was an easy decision, and I was young and single, so I just did it.

But when you have a family to worry about, it’s a lot more complicated. It is not like being a 20-something traveler. There is a lot more to emigrating than meets the eye.

Not to mention this uneasy state of limbo, when your stuff is in a container somewhere, you don’t have a home anymore, and you’re living out of a suitcase (for 8 months already).

After 20 years in California, we were settled, and secure, but not happy with our lives. As the years rolled on, all we were doing was working, working, working. Besides the glorious weather, I wasn’t getting to enjoy most of the things that drew me to California in the first place – certainly not “smelling the roses”.

My wife and I started a real-estate marketing venture that collapsed along with the housing market, wiping out most of our savings. Then, we ALL took another beating in the financial meltdown. That was the last straw. The US was not working for us anymore!!!

But, like most Americans, we had our noses so close to the grindstone, we couldn’t see we were going round and round in circles.

We needed a fresh perspective and a fresh start. So, I used up all my accrued vacation and borrowed some from the next year, and we went to Puerto Rico for Christmas and camped by the beach for a month on Culebra Island. Culebra reminded us of our dreams and our passions, and it gave us time to think. The seed of the idea of leaving the US was born.

Planning Our Move Abroad

Over the next two years, we researched the Caribbean or Latin America, trying to find the right combination of things we wanted in our future life, our future home, and the future culture that our daughter would grow into.

The climate, uncontaminated food supply, nature around us, affordable housing, decent water supply, more relaxed lifestyle, access to cultural activities, and the list went on.

Although my wife is Peruvian, Ecuador kept winning. She tried skewing the scorecards in favor of Peru, with the “I’ve got family there” card. But it still wasn’t enough.

From Biodiversity to a low cost of living, Ecuador has a lot going for it, so for us the Ecuador coastline was the clear winner.

Having literally forgotten my first language Portuguese at the age of seven, I have always yearned to speak a Latin language again. In fact, it is one of the reasons I first met my Peruvian wife who was living in San Francisco.

But while we were in the US, I was lazy and learned very little, because her English is so good.

In Peru and Ecuador, it is a different story. I need Spanish every day, and it is improving poco-a-poco. I love the language, it is so rich. It is a big thrill to understand your first joke in a foreign language, and an even bigger thrill when you can make one!

The low cost of living really makes it easy to stretch ones budget. And the amazingly low $2.15/gallon gas price gives you the freedom to explore this beautiful country. We love the parks, the rivers and especially the beaches.

When we were researching Ecuador, we found it hard to connect the dots between where different towns and neighborhoods were, and what attractions or beaches they were near to.

So we’ve made it our weekend hobby, to visit and take photos of Ecuador beaches and put detailed information online for others to see. It’s a great way for us to learn about and appreciate the country too.

How’s Your Spanish?

In the US I was lazy because my wife speaks very good English. But now that I need it, my Spanish is coming along quite nicely.

What Do You Do?

Once the dust settles, we expect to start a local business here. Everywhere we turn, we can see so many opportunities here. We just need to spend more time understanding the market dynamics.

The low cost of living is a real blessing. Our money should last us pretty well until we get back up to speed with a new business. Low gas prices make traveling and exploring around very affordable.


What do you love about Ecuador?

Here are some of the challenges we faced and some common misconceptions about Ecuador:

Schooling: One big concern for us was finding a decent school for our daughter who turns 7 this month. The school system in Guayas and Santa Elena provinces is pretty antiquated, and even more behind the times in the provincial towns along the coast. It’s like stepping back to 1960.

We have met the parents of a few wealthy Ecuadorean families who turned to homeschooling. We thought we might need to do the same.

But just in the nick of time, before the school year started, we found a new school that was much more progressive and offering something between a Montessori and traditional curriculum. It is called Educa, and is located in La Libertada.

Safety: Before coming to Ecuador, we had lots of warnings about crime and safety in the big cities. By the beach it is not an issue at all, but even in Guayaquil, we have never felt threatened.

We have a tiny stun-gun 30,000V that looks like a cell phone (only about $30 in the US), which we carry in Guayaquil, or when we get money from the bank teller machine, just to be sure. It’s reassuring to have it, but we’ve never needed to use it.

Bureaucracy: Overall, we have found Ecuadorians to be exceptionally friendly and helpful, and we feel sure that coming here is the best decision we’ve made in a long time. Yes the speed of life and the bureaucracy, takes some getting used to. Be patient, and go with the flow… you’re in Ecuador!

Getting our residency and Cedula was a frustrating experience, and my best advice on this to anyone emigrating is make sure you do as much preparation as you possibly can, in your home country. That means multiple copies of original birth and marriage certificates, with translations and apostil.

And then act immediately to get the ball rolling as soon as you arrive. There are a lot of time dependencies, so if say your visa or your police clearance letter expires, you’re back to square one, and it is much harder getting things done in the US, once you’re out of the country.

The bureaucracy aside, life here is a breeze, and the stress we lived under in the US is fading away into a distant memory. It’s a bit like waking up from a nightmare – the day ahead holds so much promise.

What We Love in Ecuador

Here are some of the top reasons why we chose Ecuador:

  • Amazing Biodiversity, from the Galapagos to the Jungle
  • 10% of land masses and lots of ocean are protected areas
  • One of only two non-GMO countries in Latin America
  • Hasn’t sold out to US, with mining and oil rights
  • Government is making a dent in reducing poverty
  • Affordable housing, and housing boom still to come
  • No shortage of water, rain is abundant
  • Great weather by the coast, not too hot
  • Warm ocean with ~100 beautiful beaches
  • Generally eco-friendly government policy
  • Moderately Eco-aware population
  • Incredible geology in a small geography
  • Lots of places to go and things to do
  • Low gas prices and low cost of living

13. Why We Sold it All and Moved to Cuenca Ecuador (Haines Family)


Back in 2013, I (Bryan) wrote this overview of why we decided to sell everything and move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

Dena also wrote her expat profile about our life in Cuenca – after we had lived there for a year and a half.

A couple of years ago, Dena wrote What’s it Like to Live in Cuenca Ecuador? This has been one of our most read articles on the site.

And our daughter, Drew, also wrote about what it was like for her to move to Ecuador when she was 8-years-old: My Move to Ecuador: From the Eyes of an 8-Year-Old Canadian Girl

14. Stewart Perez Living in Cumbaya, Ecuador

Stewart and his family moved from Florida to Cumbayá (Pichincha Province). He works as a property and construction manager.

Ecuador Expat Life: Stewart Perez, Cumbaya Ecuador

The Expat: Stewart Perez

ecuador-expat-Stewart-PerezWhat is your blog url?


Where are you currently living?

We live in Cumbayá, Pichincha Province, Ecuador. Cumbayá is a rural parish of Quito, located in the Sierra region of Ecuador.

We’ve been living in this area since September of 2011.

What’s Your Story?

My name is Stewart Perez and I’m married with 2 young children and our dog,

Lucky. I’m an architect from the States. I was born in Los Angeles, California.

I lived in California most of my life until I moved to Florida in the summer of 1999.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

Originally I didn’t want to move out of the States, but I was having trouble finding work. I had worked for Hilton Worldwide before as a Regional Director of Design and Construction for a few years until the end of 2009 when the effects of 2008 hit.

My wife and I decided to move last year for a few reasons. One was the lack of opportunities in Florida in my field.

The 2nd major reason was the wonderful school we found for the kids in Ecuador.

Family was another reason. Both my parents and my wife are Ecuadorian. Right now I have dual citizenship so I’m a Gringo / Ecuatoriano. In our journey I resisted change.

Although we got dual status for the kids at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Miami before leaving, (my wife previously obtained USA citizenship a few years ago) I wanted to test the waters. I arrived in Ecuador with a Gringo passport as a tourist (good for 90 days).

We changed this to a business visa with the help of a lawyer after 2 months which expires this month. After a few months of living here and seeing how well the kids have adapted, I decided yes and started the process of getting Ecuadorian citizenship through my birthright.

My work status changed to construction manager due to personal contacts and the fact that there is so much construction now in Ecuador.

How’s your Spanish?

I consider myself born and raised Gringo from USA although my parents always spoke Spanish and English in the home.

After marriage my Spanish improved, and I used this professionally in work as well. Before arriving in Ecuador my Spanish was fluent.

Knowing (reading, writing, and speaking) a second language is very important. South Florida has a diverse Spanish culture and I found knowing this language very useful.

In Ecuador it’s indispensable. Many people know English in Ecuador because it’s taught in many schools, but like any other language, if you don’t practice and use it, you lose it.

Cuenca perhaps doesn’t need so much Spanish because it’s a smaller city compared to Quito, and there are many Gringo retirees there. Here in Quito, Gringos are hard to find.

There are places where they frequent like certain universities or bike riding on the Chaquinan Trail near Quito, but otherwise, I don’t hear much English spoken in this area.

What do you do?

I’ve always worked in Construction mostly in architecture firms in the States. My last job there I became more of an owner’s rep. by representing an International Hotel chain and dealing with franchisees, architects, contractors, and engineers and verifying their projects were up to Hilton standards.

Here in Ecuador, I have a project working for a general contractor on a project for I.E.S.S. (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social) as a construction manager.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

Comparing with cost of living in the States overall the cost is lower here. In certain things, like groceries, it’s maybe 30% lower. Fresh fruits are abundant at many street corners (10 Tangerines for $1).

If it’s imported, the cost will be higher than in the States because of the import tax. Some items have been taken off the shelves because the tax was too high. My kid’s Aunt Jemima Maple Syrup is one victim.

Other things like gasoline definitely cheaper. Rent also but not much. Schools also again but not much. We put the kids in a Catholic school so that’s why. Insurance for cars and medical we found almost the same price, but we’re looking for cheaper now.

What do you love about Ecuador?

The Mountains we love. Florida is Flat but it has the beaches and oceans. I thought living in Cumbaya we would miss the beach, but it’s only a 6-hour bus ride away or a 1-hour plane ride away.

The traffic is terrible. Many people live in the valleys like Cumbaya, Tumbaco, San Rafael and work in Quito like me. The highways are not bad overall but totally insufficient. They’re building more highways so hopefully this will improve.

About housing for Gringos I think Cuenca will be your best option. It’s the 3rd largest city in Ecuador so really it has everything and much lower costs than Quito or Guayaquil. Many Gringos also buy condos in Salinas (beach town).

If you move here I strongly recommend using a broker (mover from Ecuador). We used INSA through a contact in Miami. Email me if you want more info. Without them, Lucky (our 120 lb Labrador) wouldn’t have made it through customs.

15. Gary Sisk Living in Cuenca, Ecuador

Gary moved to Cuenca from the States back in 2011. Since then, he wrote a book about his move (Why Ecuador for Me).

My Life in Ecuador: Gary Sisk Living in Cuenca

The Expat: Gary Sisk

What is your blog url?


Where are you currently living?

Cuenca, Ecuador for three months.

What’s Your Story?

I am a single 63-year-old man still seeking new adventures in life.

I am retired, I was born in Long Beach, CA and grew up in Ojai, CA. I have lived in Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Mexico.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

I wanted to live in a healthy affordable environment and after a few months of online research I decided Cuenca, Ecuador was the place.

I have been living in Cuenca for almost three months now and plan on becoming a resident here. I have applied for retirement residency and expect it will take a few months.

How’s your Spanish?

I speak several words in Spanish and I can communicate when it is necessary but I have relied on my Ecuadorian friends for major tasks.

It is important to speak Spanish if you are going to live here and easier to learn while you are living here. I am American and speak English.

What do you do?

I am retired from the Time-Share industry, which I got involved with in 1983 in Hawaii and continued in the industry in Puerto Vallarta, Cabo and Playa Del Carmen during my twelve years of living in Mexico.

I also worked in Time-Share in Branson, MO., Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

Everything in Cuenca is much less than the USA except for imported items which I can live without. The cost of living here is pretty much what I expected.

What do you love about life in Ecuador?

The things I love most about living here in Cuenca is number one the Ecuadorians are very friendly and seem happier than people from my hometown.

The positive things for me about living here is the clean enviroment. Fresh air, great water and fresh fruits and vegetables all year around. I really did not read many negative things about Cuenca other than some unhappy

Expats who probably would not be happy living anywhere anyway.

I feel very safe here, but of course watch what I carry with me as I would also do anywhere in the USA.

I found a great two bedroom/two bathroom condo here on the 11th floor overlooking the Tomebamba river. My rent is $280 a month, water is $8, gas $6, electricity $8, Cable $56 and Internet $26. My major expense was appliances and furniture.

Any gringos considering moving here should do their research on line. I found GringosAbroad to be my best resource.


I contacted my attorney recommended by GringosAbroad before I came here. I faxed them my paperwork to make sure I had what was required. I followed Bryan’s advice about finding an apartment for rent and the cost of furnishings.

I have been to a couple of Expat parties and made a few gringo friends. But I also have made some great Ecuadorian friends that I enjoy being with very much.

16. Jamie Stambaugh Living in Cotacachi

Jamie is a young mother of two boys who lived in Cotachaci for just over a year. In her story, you’ll read what it was like to school her two boys in the local school system.

Jamie gives this important tip: “I think being very honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle about your living space will help a lot when budgeting for a place to live.”

Ecuador Expat Profile: Jamie Stambaugh Living in Cotacachi

The Expats: Jamie & Bo Stambaugh and Family


Where are you currently living?

Cotacachi, Imbabura, Ecuador

What’s Your Story?

We are a family of 4 living in and traveling around South America for 12-15 months.

My husband, Bo, worked for the ski resort in Crested Butte, CO and I was a stay-at-home mom to our two young boys Vaughn (6) and Luke (4).

At the start of 2012, Bo quit his job, we sold all our belongings, packed up 4 suitcases, a backpack, and 2 pillow pets — and boarded a one-way flight from Denver, Colorado to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

We’ve lived in Colorado our whole lives, but love traveling outside our state and country lines to experience and participate in the world around us as often as we can.

Bo and I have been married for 10 years, and for each of those years we dreamed off and on of someday living abroad as a family. We feel strongly that the experience of foreign travel and cultural exposure will be about the best gift we can offer our children as they grow and decide what role they want to play in the world.

It doesn’t hurt us either, to re-think what we believe, how we do things, and what really matters.

How’s your Spanish?

Bo and I had both studied Spanish in high school and college, although we are embarrassingly rusty. The boys knew nothing coming into this, but part of our plan was to settle for the first 6 months of this Family Sabbatical and enroll everyone in school.

Language classes for Bo and I and local school for the boys. Which is what we’ve done here in Cotacachi. Vaughn is attending 1st grade at Las Lomas, and Luke is attending Pre-kinder at San Bernadino.

Both boys have done an AMAZING job just getting up each day to try and try again with a strange class and new kids and a different language. They are both about 3 weeks in to their schooling now and picking up new words all the time.

It’s fun to see them light up when they come bounding out of their classroom saying, “Mom! I learned more new words today!” Of course, that doesn’t happen every day – but often enough to give us hope that some powerful language neurons are being laid in their young and developing brains.

The hope is that all 4 of us will leave this learning time speaking Spanish well enough to have it really enhance the rest of our travels in South America.

What do you do?

Well, we aren’t making a living right now. I feel like writing “we’re making a life” — but I know how cheesy that sounds. (Ha! It’s true though!)

We have been saving for this experience for a while, we sold our house, our cars, and most of our belongings and are using that money to fund our Sabbatical.

There is a limit in our bank account at which we are not willing to go home without, so when that point is reached we’ll head back. We are hoping that we can stretch it 12-15 months at least, but travel is full of (financial) surprises and so we just don’t know for sure.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living here in Cotacachi is tremendously cheaper than what we lived on in Crested Butte. That said – there is a learning curve to meeting a budget, even here.

The local produce is great and cheap, but if your kids won’t eat it and you give in to another pizza night… that can sometimes add up. And yes, there are places to rent for as low as $250/month.

But each of those places we looked at wasn’t ones we felt comfortable in. Some people would, we just didn’t. I think being very honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle about your living space will help a lot when budgeting for a place to live.

We are currently renting a 2-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a renovated hostel for $500/month. That includes all our utilities — although we are paying extra for faster internet and an empleada (housekeeper) who comes 3 mornings a week.

We are looking around for a more affordable option that we’d still feel at home in, but even $500/month is INFINITELY better than the $2-400 a week a family of 4 can spend on hotels.

A lot of guidebooks will tell you that a place is, say, $10/night. But the fine print is that that is per-person. So for us, a super-budget hostel is around $40/night- 7 nights… $280/ week. You can imagine how happy we are to be settled! 🙂

What do you love about Ecuador?

We spent the first month of our time traveling Ecuador scouting out different places that might work for this settled-down phase of our trip.

We saw a lot of beautiful country and met a lot of friendly people, but nothing struck our hearts as much as the culture and countryside here in the Cotacachi/Otavalo area.


We love the towering green volcanoes that rise up all around the city. We love living side by side with the beautiful and justly proud indigenous people of this area. We love the abundance of healthy produce that can be had for a quarter or less!

We love that we are really living in another country, with another culture, and another language. There is a lot to get used to and some of our adjustment has been harder than imagined — but not a day goes by that we don’t know we are living a dream come true.

17. Christina Ring Living in Otavalo, Ecuador

After visiting Ecuador on her honeymoon, Christina and Thomas decided to move two years later. Christina is from Germany and now operates 4 Volcanoes Lodge. Christina wrote a piece about owning horses in Ecuador.

Ecuador Expat Profile: Christina Ring in San Pablo del Lago, Otavalo

The Expats: Christina Ring & Family


Where are you currently living?

We live in San Pablo del Lago, 15 minutes outside Otavalo. We have always lived around the Imbabura mountain, starting in Otavalo, then moved to Hacienda Zuleta, now warmer San Pablo.

We moved in one year ago to start our own lodging business.

What’s Your Story?

We are a family of 5, our sons are 1, 4 and 6 years old. Two of the kids are born in Ecuador, one in Argentina, my husband and me are both German. We have met in Hamburg and lived in the north of Germany.

Originally we are both from Bavaria. Yes, lots of places and countries represented in our family. You should see us when we travel, we need an extra bag just for passports.

In Germany, we were self-employed and working as consultants. Right now we are managing our own Lodge, but we started our adventure in the Ecuadorian tourism industry as employees, first at Las Palmeras, then we managed Hacienda Zuleta for 4 years.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

Thomas and I met and married in Germany, and came to Ecuador on our honeymoon trip. We liked the country so much, that two years later we packed up and came to live here permanently!

The idea was to find a life closer to nature, to have horses, to spend a lot of quality time with the family. I am not a stay-at-home Mum, and he didn’t want to be away on his seminars all the time.

So we started in the tourism sector where we could life in great places and work there as hotel managers.

We are here for almost 10 years now, interrupted just by a short, 6 months adventure in Argentina. We plan to stay, given that the political situation stays as quiet as it is. I have no intention of living guerrilla nightmares or anything similar. If that would be the case, we might go back to Argentina as we have a residency there too.

After a couple of semi-illegal years, we got Ecuadorian residency because our children were born here. To get it was pretty easy.

How’s your Spanish?

I grew up with German, learned Latin (no, not much benefit here), French and English at school.

My Spanish was limited to a couple of phrases, but I studied some on our journey here, I was afraid to be totally lost without the language. My husband was almost fluent due to several trips to Ecuador as a student.

But as it turned out, I had a Spanish-speaking nanny when I was around 2 years old, so I learned the language in the blink of an eye. I can read and spell and use the grammar correctly and I even got rid of my accent.

On the phone people are often mistaken – they think I am an Otavaleña! Our kids are bilingual and we love it. Now the challenge is to teach them to read and write in both languages!

If one wants to work here, speaking Spanish is a MUST. I also think that everybody who wants to live here should at least work on the basics, it seems fairer and less ignorant.

What do you do?

The standard salaries in Ecuadorian companies are just ridiculous. While we were managing that first-class hotel and built its award-winning reputation, our wage (for two full-time management jobs) was below 20k, per year. Yes.

So we decided that working 60hour/week for others was not the reason that brought us here. We quit the job, took 6 months off in Argentina, had the third baby, and came back to start our own business.

It is still in its early steps, we opened in December 2010, but growing. And fun! We work at home most of the time and also home-school the kids.

I make some extra money by managing other vacation rentals and Suites. I also give horseback riding lessons and my husband taught a semester at the university, but those are more hobbies than serious income jobs.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

Prices are increasing. You can still live with little money I think, but not as cheap as it used to be. One reason might be, that 10 years ago, the food offer was very limited, so you couldn’t spend more money in the Supermaxi.
Now you get German sausage, American maple syrup, french cheese, but it is darn expensive. And so hard to resist….

We are no big shoppers, but we have left a lot more money in the Supermaxi as we intended to.

What has also cost a fortune is high-quality stuff for the house that wouldn´t break after the first use! Little things like curtain rods. Bathroom amenities. Thanks to Kywi you now get those things, but for a lot of money.

Good schools are ridiculously expensive (and hard to find!), that´s why we chose to home-school. Now that we are trying to get a little extra loan we had find out that the bank charges an outrageous 18-25% for a mortgage.

So overall, life here is cheaper for us than in Germany, but there are some gaps opening up. Anyone who wants to give us a private $ loan?

What do you love about living in Ecuador?

What I like most about living here and actually missed even in Argentina are all those preposterous, absurd, grotesque, outrageously funny little things that happen all the time.

Could be a sighting, a story, an incident. Sometimes these things really bother us, but once we tell them to our friends they seem so slapstick, we can’t help laughing to tears. That makes life so interesting!

We don’t like that people have not much respect for the property of others, or let’s put it that way, they are in need of everything. A post that is not well put will disappear overnight. Horse’s water bins out in the pasture – gone.

In Germany people leave their shoes and toys in the yard (fenced by a decorative 20cm joke) or in the common hall, they park strollers unlocked in front of the supermarket! Big difference.

We understand where this comes from, but it would be nice to be able to leave home without the need of a 24h caretaker. We still read about scary stuff on the embassy sites. There it sounds as if this country was a war zone!

Could someone please update the info there and be more precise? It says we have Malaria risk in Imbabura province. yes, but only in that tiny little stretch by the coast that no tourist ever visits!


I am scared about traffic accidents mostly. People drive like lunatics, it’s insane. The kids can’t go to the village plaza by bike because they run the risk to get hit by the buses that are racing through the narrow streets.

What we sometimes miss are long summer evenings, colored leaves, and the romantic idea of glittering snow. But altogether the weather is great.

My favorite place to hang out is our Lodge! The dinner parties we organize for our guests are fabulous. Since I am in the hospitality business I have met the most amazing people.

House Hunters International Ecuador: All 14 Episodes


With it’s popularity among expats, it’s little wonder that Ecuador has been in the sights of House Hunters International.

Back in 2012, our family was featured in a House Hunters International episode in Cuenca.

See all 14 Ecuador episodes

Curious about HHI? See our behind-the-scenes in House Hunters International.

Your Turn

Do you have a question you would like to ask an expat? Just visit their specific page and ask it in the comment section.


  1. I totally am all in on Retiring in oct 2023. I want to rent @cotocahi or maybe playas, like 6 months each… No dependents not bringing much, clothes, paperwork,camera, guitar. Coming on pensioner visa. I am very much NOT a typical American. I am far from a proud one, I prefer to learn Spanish than try to understand american political worship of politicians… just seems so much easier. LOL

  2. So glad I found this site. I’ve been thinking about Ecuador for a couple of years now. It was just a “wish I could” daydream I thought wasn’t possible.
    As a 73 tr old woman with a minimal income I’m researching how to live on a limited budget.
    I first started thinking about vanlife in the US after stumbling on to some videos on YouTube- hundreds of videos later it dawned on me I could travel all over.
    Does anyone have any information on mobile living: Ecuadorian vanlife, nomad life?
    I’m thinking of costs- and also safety, home base-
    Maybe renting a spot to park a van/camper.

  3. I am looking for retired British ex Pat’s living in Ecuador
    Trying to find their view as it could be very different from those from USA as the 2 countries are vastly different
    Different priorities and needs?.

  4. lovely to see all these engaging comments. I am just beginning to explore Ecuador and hoping to journey there this year.

  5. Hi there, I recently purchased a property in Salinas, I would like to know if anyone can recommend a good security company. I’m looking for a security system that will alert the police if anything happens.

    Does anyone know of any that I can contact?

    Also, how do people feel about home insurance in Ecuador? Is it worth it? I heard it can be very expensive.

  6. You should all think hard about moving to Ecuador if you a) haven’t spent several months here or b) haven’t looked into the visa and retirement cedula process and drivers license. The visa process and cedula process will take about 6-7 months and cost around $7,000, as everything must not only be original, but must be apostilled, which is another $150 per document. The drivers license will be around $1500 which includes the 2 week drivers class you must take. If you don’t plan to drive, there are both town, city and country wide buses. However, there is no real schedule and you better be in good shape to hop on and off while the bus is moving as they certainly don’t wait for you to get on, off or even take a seat. The health care is free if Ecuadorian, if not you will pay for private insurance, not sure how good it is. Only after you get your cedula and private health insurance can you switch to IESS health insurance. IESS health insurance is not a percent of your social security, it is a flat rate of about $80 for one person and another $15 for the spouse. Not sure how good it is either, but it doesn’t even take effect until you get your cedula and private insurance AND you must pay for it for 3 months before you can use it. Very odd indeed. This is a 3rd world country so unless you plan to live in Quito or Guayaquil, your eating habits will have to change dramatically. There is no refrigeration in the outlying towns so there will be no “cold” food, ever. If you can adjust your eating, great, the produce is good and there is rice. The rent is cheaper than the states, but you will easily pay double what your Ecuadorian neighbor pays. Cuenca the gringo mountain town has cheap rentals, otherwise along the coast rent is rather high, easily $1200 plus. Remember if you chose Cuenca, there is ONLY ONE road in and out. If they block it, you are stuck. (yes that happened to us) The phone and internet will run about $80 per month if you can get it depending on where you live. There are no malls, gyms, movie theaters or anything else you may be used to in the states unless you plan to live in the two big cities-Quito or Guayaquil although Salinas has a small mall. As for banks, well they are not stable in the least. First of all, only after obtaining a cedula can you get a bank account. I was with one of the four biggest banks here. I tried to wire my retirement money from my U.S. bank to Ecuador through SWIFT. Well, my entire retirement monies went missing for almost 2 months. I had to hire an attorney to go to the giant bank jefe here several times to try to find it. Apparently, wiring money from a U.S. bank to Ecuador is very, very problematic, read, don’t do it. Finally, as for real estate, you will find that the realtors are happy to sell you something and pretend it is all legal. Beware, most of the time it is not legal and you will find later you don’t really own anything. Certainly gringos are not allowed to own beach front property, it is a country law. As for other properties, I know of several that lost money as it all fell through either after they paid, or after they moved a year into it all. If you want to build, you must have more patience and spanish skills than the rest of us. While in general the Ecuadorian people may be gentle, they are poor and see gringos as targets for money, money, money. Everything will cost you more than a local, the bus, the taxi, the car, the rent, the health insurance, the mercado, everything. Personally, I am not finding my quality of life here suitable for me. I love the beaches and the tad lower cost of living, but it is not enough for me to stay. Good luck to the rest of you.

    1. Driver’s license:
      – apostille document: 50 dollar
      – translation + notary for this document: 50 dollar
      – application: 140 dollar
      Total costs for Ecuadorian driver’s license: 240 dollar
      – apostille documents: around 100 dollar
      – translations + notary for these documents: around 100 dollar
      – application + visa: 450 dollar
      Total costs for visa: 650 dollar
      I really wonder why you are mentioning such high costs.

      1. That is what I paid Gringo Visas in Cuenca to assist my husband and I in our visa, cedula and drivers license process. We have lived here 4 years now and love the surfing otherwise it is just an ok country for us.

  7. I am looking to move my parents and I to Ecuador. We are planning our trip in Feb to visit and maybe find a house. I would love to talk to people about their experiences and ideas about where to look and etc. thank you.

  8. Its good to see you writing about Ecuador.I have been lived there for a few years. People of Ecuador are so gentle.

  9. We are making the move in April of next year! We have already started selling our stuff here in Texas and about to get the house here on the market. We are looking at some BnB properties on the coast. We are having trouble getting any real answers or quotes on shipping one 40′ container (via ocean). Any help would be appreciated! Also some answers on building new cabins on our property to have more rental income (like permits needed? Can I built like I would in the us with standard 2×4,s and siding etc.

    1. You might check out the YouTube channel “Amelia and JP” who live in Cuenca. One of their videos is an interview with a business who specializes in moving you to Ecuador. You will find it very helpful.

  10. I have my one-way ticket to Ecuador for March 6th. Woo, hooo! I’ll be shipping a pallet of belongings to Guayaquil by boat. I’m having no success finding any contact info for the port (Contecon). Would be nice to get a heads-up before just arriving there in a taxi to claim it.

    1. Jorge Lopez helped us w/ our cargo in GYE, over 3 days, and brought us and 50 cartons to Cuenca. Great guy who studied in Massachusetts. He lives near the airport in his B and B. Dogs permitted.
      Cellphone: 098-903-1961.
      593-98-903-1961, out of Ecuador.

  11. I’m trying to get a better grasp on what the cost of health insurance for a senior living on Social Security will be, and I’m getting confusing info from straight informational reports versus various expats’ personal firsthand reports. On the one hand it is said that one can use the Ecuadorian national health plan IESS, for which you are charged about 17% of your stated retirement/pension income on your residency application. So using an easy round figure, let’s say I have $1500 Social Security monthly income, that means my health insurance monthly charge for IESS coverage would be $255. And I thought it stated that that insurance covered EVERYTHING. Yet in an anecdotal expat testimonial a woman says she and her husband pay about $80 monthly for both of them for IESS, which is very contrary to the total pension (SS) she and her husband have monthly combined (over $3000).
    What am I not understanding? Also this same woman refers to paying out of pocket for small fees and reserving IESS for more “catastrophic” health care needs. I thought IESS was a blanket coverage? I do understand there is also private insurance which can be bought and that price can vary depending on how high or low deductibles you choose for your plan. But this woman specifically mentions using IESS at a low cost for both her and her husband etc. as I stated already. Very confusing trying to figure out in advance planning stages what I will need and expect to pay for health care and if it will fit overall into living there on my modest SS budget. Thanks for any insight. Also, any links to more specific facts of healthcare plans that explains things in detailed plain facts would be appreciated!!!! Thank you!

    1. As of May 1st, 2018, the Human Mobility Act of Ecuador imposed new rules on expats. One of the important requirements is to have public or private health insurance. There are two health insurance options available. The first, as you mentioned, is through the public Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS), and the second is from a private health insurance company. As you touched on, the IESS public insurance is paid for through 17.6 percent of the individual’s income directly by the individual. A spouse or partner with a cédula (Ecuadorian ID) can also be enrolled at an additional cost. Supposedly, this gives expats access to free medical appointments, procedures and medications at IESS contracted facilities.
      Keep in mind, although the public health service has improved in Ecuador, it still has some ongoing problems. One problem is the increased number of people accessing the services, resulting in over-subscription for appointments and treatment. Another problem is the quality of care which varies in different IESS contracted facilities. In some instances, IESS pharmacies do not have prescribed medications and expats have to go to a non-IESS facility to buy medicine, costs of which would be over and above contributions paid to the IESS. If you have reservations about quality care of HMOs in the U.S., you should definitely be concerned about public health service in Ecuador. The suggestion of “paying out of pocket for small fees (i.e., medical care at a private medical clinic) and reserving IESS for more catastrophic health care needs” has merit. Be aware, catastrophic illness can bring physical and/or financial ruin. It is important for expats to investigate the health insurance options thoroughly and ensure compliance with the new mandatory rules of the Human Mobility Act. This probably doesn’t answer all your questions, but I hope it helps.

  12. I was wondering if I can buy my dietary supplements in Equador? I have to have Sam-e, L-Lycine, Prylosec, and Glucosamine caldortion. Any help would be appreciated. It would really make my bag light if I didn’t have to pack for three months of pills. I plan on spending the next few years spending three months each in several countries before deciding where to land for my old age.

    1. Sam-e and Prylosec can be found in Quito, but L-Lycine and Glucosamine Caldortion will be hard to find.

      1. Thanks for the feedback Richard. I feel sort of embarrassed that I just found out that Quito is so high in altitude. I have lived at sea-level my whole life. I have changed my plans to go to Cuenca first, so as only to deal with half the altitude at at time. I suppose that the drugstores in Cuenca will be pretty much the same as Quito.

        1. Your welcome Sam. Quito is a little over 9,000 feet in elevation and may be too much for someone coming from a sea-level altitude. Cuenca which is about 7,700 feet is probably the top choice of many expats. A little further south from Cuenca are two other top picks of expats, Loja (about 6,700 feet elev.) and Vilcabama (about 5,000 feet elev.). These two last options are a safer distance from the “Avenue of Volcanoes”. Don’t forget to visit the Incapirca Ruins while you are in Cuenca.

  13. Bryan, my son is living in Guayaquil and I am trying to find information on municipal water quality. I am looking to purchase a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system for him so he doesn’t have to drink bottled water. However, the company in the US said their system might make the water safe to drink IF the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is below 2,000 ppm. However, I am having a hard time tracking down this kind of information on the net. Any ideas? Thanks!

  14. I am researching affordable assisted living /or shared living options for seniors in cotacochi. My friend lives on social security about 1200 dollars a month. Part of her expenses are pharmaceutical costs/she has a us health plan plus medicare. She has mobility issues not wheel chair bound but has broken her back twice. perhaps she should change her health care plan its 300 per month and try something else down there. Also needs phone service that is affordable. Any suggestions phone calls are to and from us which she thinks might be accessible thru computers. Are there any (not big city) options where expats are starting to go that feel similar to cotacochi but perhaps not as expensive for rents. Thanks for all your help from Atlanta georgia

  15. Living in Ecuador off-and-on for 46 years, I noticed that many expats are not fully aware of this nation’s geohazards to make an informed decision on where to live in this beautiful part of the World. Unlike Californians who have an abundance of information about earthquakes and volcanic activity and their secondary effects (i.e., landslides, mudslides, tsunamis), the subject is not as well addressed in Ecuador. After I retiring from the U.S. Geological Survey I put together a book designed for visitors, investors, and retirees interested in living in Ecuador. The book published by Amazon Kindle entitled “Ecuador: A Nation Living Precariously on the Pacific Ring of Fire” (in English and Spanish). A must read for those living or thinking of living in Ecuador.

    1. Thank you Mr. Santos for the information regarding the earthquakes. etc. My husband and I were in the process of doing some research in finding a place in Manta. We currently live in AZ. My concern is the safety of those new high rise apartments during a big earthquake…….

      1. Avril, I have a Powerpoint presentation I recently put together that covers the geohazards risks of living along the coast of Ecuador, let me know how I can get it to you. I don’t think is set up for attaching files.

  16. Hi Bryan,
    I have been looking for a. gravity water filter as well as a water distiller and have had little luck finding one in Cuenca. Do you have any suggestions? Also, in one of your older posts you mentioned a SteriPen. Is that the same as a water distiller? Thanks. Cindy

    1. For gravity type filters in Cuenca check-out Artesa: Arte en Ceramica, Isabel La Católica 1-102 y Av. De Las Américas, (593) 4056457 or SteriPen is a water purifier device that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize water and make it suited for drinking. There are limitations to UV treated water, it is not rendered completely safe for drinking because UV light does little to eliminate contaminants in water such as chlorine, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.

    1. You can live very well on that much monthly income – depending on your expected standard of living. I think many expats would have trouble spending that much money – once your place is setup and furnished. Food, rent, utilities, and transport likely would range from $800 to $1400 per month. That should leave some decent monthly reserves.
      Banks are reliable and stable. There are lots of small cooperativas (like a credit union) – that pay higher interest rates – but aren’t as stable as the larger banks

  17. I have been in Spain recently and it was just crazily hot…up to 52 degrees.
    35 is more than enough for me. Where is good?

  18. My sister and I are planning to retire in Quito. Between the two of us we will have a very comfortable income coming every month from different sources. We would like to rent and eventually buy a condo in a nice residential area of the city where we could walk everywhere… Restaurants, Gym, Grocery Stores, Movies, Malls, etc…
    Any area recommendations before we start our own research would be most appreciated.

  19. My name is Mateo Jacome, I’m senior consultant of Deloitte Consulting Ecuador. I am reaching out to you because we are working on a real estate sell-side deal here in Ecuador that we think might be of interest to some real state players. Specifically, Project Andes is an opportunity to develop a resort for senior population in Ecuador, a well renowned place for American, Canadian and European retired seniors.
    In our desk research we identified that your core business is working with projects of senior home care business with different locations, this is why we might think having an alternate destination (egg. for winter time) would make sense and make any interest of you to project Andes.
    Please do let me know if you have any interest to get more information of this project for sharing with real state players or any questions about the project. I would be happy to jump on a call.

    1. Hi Mateo – thanks for reaching out. Sounds like an interesting project.
      Please send me the details. Please let me know what you would like our involvement to be.

  20. Any input from expats on the Mirador San Jose project? They’re doing quite a bit of advertising in Canada at the moment. Thanks in advance ~ Ruth

  21. You should interview me. You guys and I go back to 2011, when I asked for your advice about the safety of Ecuador. Fausto Malo was murdered in my house, the house I was, in 6 months, going to move my family into. I have quite a story to tell. Now, renting that house and living on a self built ranch 22 km south of Cuenca with 5 horses, I can say this is my favorite spot on the planet. I know maybe 5 gringos after having been here 5 years. All my friends are local Cuencanos with horses, and we do wild rides twice a month up and into the Sierra.

    1. Hi Gordon!
      I currently live in Guayaquil, as I am conducting a research project at the ESPOL university for 10 months. Although many consider Guayaquil to be a big and dangerous city (which it certainly is), I have luckily never run into any safety issues. I live in a part of town called Urdesa which has restaurants, bars, and places to do karaoke / go dancing. Guayaquil is a beautiful city (especially now during the rainy season because everything is green), and it is very easy to visit the beach or the sierras on the weekends. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out.
      Chippie from San Francisco, CA

      1. Hi Chippie.
        My name is Dean and I’m from Australia. Just wondering if you had any contacts or know of any good honest reale-state attorneys in Salinas please.
        Many thanks

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