The Republic of Ecuador is in the northern part of South America, straddling the equator. It is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the south, and the Pacific Ocean. Much of the space that the country occupies was once part of the Inca Empire until the Spanish came into the area with dreams of colonization. Independence was first achieved in 1820 when it was part of Gran Colombia, and then it became a sovereign state about a decade later.
Ecuador is also responsible for the administration of the Galapagos Islands, which lie about 600 miles to the west of the mainland.
This country is a middle-income representative democracy. The economy is still developing since it is quite reliant on commodities like petroleum. It is only one of 18 megadiverse countries recognized in the world today thanks to the fact that it hosts numerous endemic species. Their 2008 constitution was the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable ecosystem rights.
If you’re thinking about making a move to this country, then there are several pros and cons of living in Ecuador that you’ll want to review.
List of the Pros of Living in Ecuador
1. The weather in Ecuador can be pleasant all year long.
It is not unusual for people to describe this country as having spring all year long. If you happen to live in the mountains after moving to Ecuador, the temperature is quite temperate and enjoyable throughout the year. You’ll want to get used to the rain since it can sometimes keep going for weeks at a time, but that is also the reason why there is a lot of green space that surrounds you. If you can manage the sun going away for a little while, then you’ll find life can be quite comfortable here.
2. Ecuador offers a low cost of living.
The prices in Ecuador might be rising, especially for expats, but they are still quite competitive when compared to other regions of the world. You will need to expect to pay a little more than locals do for goods or services at first. Once you get to know the prices, then you’ll be able to negotiate your way to favorable rates. Most couples can comfortably retire here for less than $20,000 per year.
That means you can have your main home in the city. It is not unusual to have a second country home or a beach property. If you were to move to the mountains in Cuenca, then you can rent a three-bedroom apartment, have housekeeping services, eat out at fine-dining establishments, and operate a vehicle all for about $1,700 per month.
3. Ecuador offers a pensioner visa with very reasonable terms.
If you have consistent income levels of at least $800 or you have a stable pension of that amount, then you can qualify for a pensioner visa to start living in Ecuador. Unlike other countries in the region, you do not need to meet a minimum age requirement to qualify for this status. All you need to do is prove that you can meet the basic income level in perpetuity. If you have dependents coming to live with you, then you’ll need to add another $100 per month for each one to qualify for the status.
4. You can start living in Ecuador as an investor.
If you have the capability of investing at least 100 times the minimum wage in Ecuador at a bank or in real estate, then you have the option to apply for an investor visa. This option tends to be the most common method that expats use to achieve residency. That means you will need to purchase a property or invest about $400,000 as of 2019 to cover the stipulations set forth by the government.
If you don’t have that kind of money, a professional visa could be a possibility. If you have a degree recognized by the government and want to practice your profession in the country, then this or another niche visa could help you to achieve your goals.
5. Ecuador is a reasonably safe country.
Ecuador has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world for a nation of its status. It would be incorrect to say that the country is 100% safe, but there are few places in the world that are. As long as you’re not telling everyone that you’re wealthy and avoid wearing lots of jewelry, then most people will leave you alone. You can even go out walking at night without much difficulty. Even families take their young children for a stroll.
Use your common sense when you start living in Ecuador. Listen to the voice inside of your head. If you start to feel nervous for any reason, then consider hailing a taxi so that you can make your way home.
6. There is something for everyone in the country.
You can find different atmospheres, cultures, and attitudes across Ecuador so that everyone can find a place to call home. Communities like Cotacachi are progressing rapidly toward modernization, offering a low-cost solution for pensioners or expats. Quito might have traffic issues and pollution, but it is also a small community with a welcoming attitude. You can live in the mountains or at the beach. If you’re ready to make a change in life, then each community offers something special that will make you think of this country as your next home.
7. You will have access to multiple forms of healthcare insurance and coverage.
If you decide to move to Ecuador, then you can become eligible for the government’s public health insurance option. Most expats choose to pay for voluntary membership in the IESS, which is the national healthcare system. The cost is about 18% of the basic salary offered in the country, which comes to about $65 per month. Higher salaries can cause bigger charges, and you’ll need to pay another 3.5% for each dependent.
You also have the option to pursue private health insurance when living in Ecuador.
List of the Cons of Living in Ecuador
1. Dogs outnumber people when you live in Ecuador.
Almost everyone loves dogs at a core level. They’re our good girls and boys. When you start living in Ecuador, you’ll discover that the street packs might make you change your mind about the canines. The pups tend to roam around neighborhoods in a semi-feral state, getting into whatever they can find since food can be in short supply. That means you need to navigate their landmines that get left behind.
Many of them are starving, so it is not unusual to see people deliberately poisoning them to help them get out of their misery. If you’re a light sleeper, then their barking is going to keep you up most of the night.
2. Your utilities can go out at any time.
When you start living in Ecuador, then you’ll have access to all of the everyday utilities that are needed for modern living. That means electricity, water, phone, and Internet services are available almost everyone. What you must plan for after your move is that these services can go out at any time and without warning. It is a disadvantage that has started improving in recent years, but it has not gone away entirely. Most locals keep a source of fresh water available to use in case there is an extended outage.
If you work online when living in Ecuador, this disadvantage means that you’ll need a wireless modem and a backup power source so that you can meet your deadlines.
3. You will need to clean your produce carefully.
There is an abundance of fresh produce available in Ecuador. Many expats find that the exotic selection is one of the best reasons to start calling this country home. It is also an issue that you’ll need to consider since the water supply can be questionable. Most places require you to purchase or boil your water to avoid health issues. It is essential to clean your fruits and vegetables. That means cooking at home can be a challenge because supplies are sometimes limited.
4. There is a layer of dust that seems to be on everything in Ecuador.
If you don’t like the idea of being surrounded by germs, then living in Ecuador is not for you. Whether you’re in an open-air market or taking advantage of public transportation, there are going to be crowds of people around you that can lead to feelings of discomfort. There is a layer of dust that seems to descend onto everything no matter where you choose to live, which means you’re spending more time cleaning. You’ll often see expats trying to manage this disadvantage by bringing along a container of hand sanitizer.
5. Residency visas go through frequent policy changes.
When you enter Ecuador for the first time, your passport will receive a T-3 tourist stamp. This action gives you the ability to stay in the country for up to 90 days for free. If you wish to stay longer than that, then a special tourist visa is necessary to stay for up to 180 more days. You’ll need a temporary residency visa for any more than that, which means you cannot be outside of the country for more than 90 days per year. Violating any of the rules can result in fines and cancellation of your visa.
Once you reach the second year of a permanent residency visa, you can be out of the country for up to five years without losing your status. All of these rules could change at any time, so you’ll want to be in contact with your embassy to stay updated on all of the rules.
6. You will need to take some time to learn Spanish.
If you don’t know any Spanish and you want to start living in Ecuador, then taking some lessons before the move will be helpful. Most Ecuadorians are friendly and embrace the idea that you’re trying to get to know their culture, but there can be some wariness in certain communities. Making friends here in this country often starts when you are willing to be nice to everyone you meet. If you only use English or your first language when moving here, then the options available to you will become somewhat limited.
7. It will take some time for your body to get used to the bugs.
Because there is a lot of rain that happens in Ecuador, the bugs love to come out and bite. Mosquitoes are the biggest problem in this country, but there are several other biting insects that you’ll need to think about managing. It is not unusual for expats to need 6-12 months to let their bodies begin to build up a resistance to the creatures here, so the first few days can be a little miserable if you get bit and that makes you sick. It may be helpful to spend a couple of long holidays in the country before finalizing your move to ensure that you can manage the physical expectations of living here.
8. The bureaucracy in Ecuador can drive you insane.
The government gets bogged down a lot, making it a challenge to access the services that you need. Times of recession or during an election can grind to a halt, even if you need to process an annual visa. The person who is in charge of the immigration department gets changed frequently, so you never know when or if an application will get processed. As a general rule, you’ll want to triple the quoted processing times quoted to you so that there’s a reasonable expectation of when things will happen.
Most expats recommend that you use a shipping agent if you decide to start living in Ecuador. All of the complications of your move will happen in the country, so it helps to have local help to resolve problems. That will help you to get your stuff faster than normal, but at a pace that is still rather slow.
9. There are some gaps in the public health insurance sector.
If you decide that a catastrophic illness is something that you don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for to reduce your costs, then you’ll still go bankrupt when living in Ecuador. Waiting for the government to offer treatments for cancer or something potentially terminal can be excruciatingly long in some communities. You’ll want to identify whatever gaps there are in your health insurance cover from a public perspective so that you can plug them with private options. Companies like CIGNA often provide expat coverage, so it may be helpful to receive a quote before finalizing your move.
10. Make sure that you have plenty of sunblock available.
Because Ecuador is positioned right along the equator, you’re going to receive 12 hours of direct sunlight all year long. If you suffer from a condition like seasonal affective disorder, then those bothersome symptoms will go away pretty quickly when living here. You’ll want to pack lots of sunscreen, wear a hat, and reduce exposure levels to ensure your time in the country can be a safe and healthy experience. The UV rays are quite strong, and you will usually burn faster than you think you will when you first move to the country.
11. Inspect your apartments for the “suicide showers.”
Grounding and proper connections are not building standards that you’ll find throughout Ecuador. A lot of people complete shower installations based on what they think they know instead of using today’s best practices. The electric showers can crackle, spark, and make popping sounds frequently. You’ll want a complete inspection of any property before running the water to avoid the threat of electrocution. Most buildings have at least one or two installations that you’ll need to avoid.
Another option you can use is to disable the hot water heater so that you’re always having a cold shower.
12. Non-residents must have a round-trip ticket.
If you are visiting Ecuador to see if you would like to live there, then you’ll need to present a round-trip ticket as part of the entry process. That will give you the full 90 days. If you don’t know when you will be leaving, then a bus ticket to Columbia or Peru will satisfy the initial obligation. Even if you can’t get a refund on that expense, the low cost of them is much better than paying for a plane ticket that you don’t end up using. Some bus tickets are as low as $12.
Ecuador offers several advantages that are worth considering if you’re looking for a new place to live. It is an eco-friendly country with unique employment opportunities that won’t require a significant capital outlay. You will find a diverse set of communities where almost everyone is waiting to welcome you with open arms.
There are some challenges to consider when moving to Ecuador. The wait times for a visa can be excruciating. You’ll also want to review your health insurance and overall care options before moving to ensure that you’re fully covered.
The pros and cons of living in Ecuador are essential to review if you’re thinking about making a life change. Carefully consider each point in this guide to see if living here is your best option.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.