The nation of Ecuador is in the northern portion of South America, situated right along the equator. It is bordered by Peru along the south, Colombia to the north, and the Pacific Ocean helps to guard the coast. It still offers a developing economy that is very dependent on commodities, especially agricultural products and petroleum. It is one of only 18 megadiverse countries in the world, hosting many endemic plants and animals thanks to its governance of the Galapagos Islands.
Even though Ecuador has a reputation for crime in the minds of some retirees, the nation has the fifth-lowest homicide rate in the Americas. Poverty levels have decreased by over 14 percentage points over the past decade, and the annual GDP growth is getting close to 2% per year.
The requirements to retire in Ecuador are minimal. It is one of the few countries where you can receive a 90-day tourist visa upon entry for any nationality with a valid passport. You can qualify for an extension by proving a balance of at least $1,125 and having travelers’ insurance or international medical coverage for another 90 days. There are pensioner and investor visas that can help you to retire here as well.
Once you receive approval through a residency visa, then you must stay in the country for nine months per year for the first two years.
List of the Pros of Retiring in Ecuador
1. The weather tends to be warm and pleasant throughout the year.
Many people contemplate the idea of retiring in Ecuador because of the climate. There’s a reason why the country has earned the nickname of being the Land of Eternal Spring. If you live in the mountains, then the temperatures stay cool and comfortable throughout the year. Even if you live near the beach, the warmth isn’t overpowering except for about six weeks in July and August – which you can manage by heading up to the mountains. If you don’t mind the rain, then you’re going to love the weather here.
2. There is plenty of fresh produce available in Ecuador.
If you love cooking meals at home, then retiring in Ecuador is going to feel like paradise. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available for purchase throughout the year. When you buy from local growers, then you’re supporting the economy of the country in multiple ways. There are several exotic produce items that you can try when you start living here as well.
3. You don’t need to worry about a currency exchange when you retire here.
Ecuador doesn’t have its own currency. It prefers to use the U.S. dollar instead. It used to operate with the sucre, but the economic collapse in 2000 forced the country to look at alternatives. Everyone started putting their holdings into the American greenback as a way to protect its value, so that unofficially became the backbone of the economy. It didn’t take the government long to officially make the switch. That means you don’t need to worry about exchanging cash, managing conversion fees, or the other challenges that come with the use of a different currency.
4. It is safe to retire in Ecuador if you are careful.
Every country has crime. Most expats who live in Ecuador say that if you use common sense when retiring here, then you can avoid a lot of problems. Don’t wear fancy jewelry in public and avoid flashing how much cash you have. If those behaviors make you uncomfortable, then retiring here might not be the best option. Families take their children outside past 10 pm here regularly, and couples are not afraid to walk by themselves at night. As long as you use common sense, you’ll be fine here.
5. There is something for everyone in Ecuador to enjoy.
Whether you want to live in a large metropolitan area like Quito or something smaller like Cuenca, you’ll find that everyone can find a place to live that suits them. You can retire to old tourism-related areas like Cotacachi where the scenery and climate are beneficial. There are coastal locations to enjoy, you can get a small apartment in the city, or find a place at a lower altitude so that your asthma or breathing problems don’t get triggered very often. There will be traffic issues to navigate and movement can be difficult during the busiest hours of the day, but you can retire here and feel happy without much difficulty.
6. The atmosphere in Ecuador is warm and welcoming.
Although you can encounter the occasional person who snubs you because you’re a foreign retiree, most people want to get to know you after your move. Most people are respectful of the different cultures and experiences that you’ll bring to your neighborhood. As long as you’re trying to learn the language and push your learning curve, there will be a lot of support for your presence in the community. Most of the retirees who have a poor experience usually refuse to adapt their approach to the local culture.
7. There are some tax incentives for you to consider when retiring in Ecuador.
If you decide that you like being in Ecuador after spending time here on a tourist visa, then there are some financial advantages to consider if you pursue residency as part of your retirement. You won’t pay any taxes on whatever foreign income you bring into the country, which means your Social Security benefits could stretch further. You can also import your household goods duty-free within six months of obtaining your residency.
You can obtain the relevant permanent residency visas in Ecuador by showing that you have a minimum income of $800 per month from a stable source. You can also qualify by purchasing land or a house worth at least $25,000.
8. Healthcare expenses are minimal when living in Ecuador.
Expats living in Ecuador tout the healthcare system as one of the primary advantages to consider when retiring here. You can still receive house calls in this country if you want, while the service at hospitals or medical facilities tends to be personable and knowledgeable. Going to the dentist or seeing a specialist will cost about $40. A simple house call is about $20. Most people can save up to 90% on their usual medical expenses, but you may need to live near Cuenca, Quito, or Guayaquil to take advantage of these benefits.
9. There are plenty of fun activities to enjoy in Ecuador during your retirement.
Ecuador provides world-class outdoor activities for you to enjoy if you have an adventuresome personality. You can take a trek through the rainforest, walk along a volcano, or take a charter boat out to do some whale watching. There are more than 1,400 miles of coastline to enjoy, which means there is plenty of snorkeling, diving, and surfing to enjoy. You can also enjoy the music and dance festivals held throughout the country, with many of them focused on playing the marimba.
List of the Cons of Retiring in Ecuador
1. If you don’t like rain, then you’re going to struggle to enjoy your retirement.
The weather can be an advantage for many retirees who contemplate Ecuador, but there are periods where the climate can be a challenge. There are lots of lush green spaces in the country because it rains very often. It is not unusual for rain to happen every day during the month of April. If you live in the mountains or near the jungle, then it can rain for weeks at a time if you encounter an El Nino year. The precipitation can bring down the ambient air temperature, but you’ll want to pack an umbrella every time you go somewhere.
2. The number of dogs in Ecuador almost outnumber the people living there.
You’ll quickly notice that the dogs in Ecuador tend to roam in packs on the street if you decide to retire here. They get into a lot of trouble during the night, often tearing into the trash bags that are set out for collection the next day. All of those dogs create a lot of waste that gets left in the sidewalk and streets as well. You’ve got to watch where you step if you decide to walk somewhere to avoid an unpleasant present on your shoe. Even retirees who love dogs can struggle with this potential disadvantage. They also tend to bark a lot at night.
3. Your utility services can go out at any time when living in Ecuador.
You’ll have access to your regular utilities if you decide to retire in Ecuador. That means you can have telephone, electricity, water, and Internet just like you do at home. The only difference is that these services can go out at any time during the day or night, and it often occurs without much warning. Some people keep water tanks on their property just in case they experience an extended outage. If that is not possible, you can always keep a clean trash can in your bathroom filled with water to manage an emergency situation.
If you work online as part of your retirement approach, then you’ll want to have a backup power source to ensure that you can stay connected. Having a USB modem or a cellular VPN may be helpful too. Then make sure you have candles and lanterns available to use as needed.
4. Living in Ecuador can be a “dirty” experience.
You are going to find yourself in situations where germs could transfer easily if you retire in Ecuador. Public transportation will cram you into a vehicle with dozens of other people who will be in your boundaries. The open-air markets are bustling with activity and questionable cleanliness when examining some of the produce. You’ll even see a thicker layer of dust coming into your home every day. If you prefer to keep a certain bubble of space and a clean house, then the retirement experience here can be overwhelming in ways that are far from positive for some people.
5. You will need to learn a different language when living here.
If you decide to retire in Ecuador, then you’re going to need to learn how to speak at least some Spanish. There are some businesses that offer English-speaking assistance, but the majority of what you’ll see will require some knowledge. Most people are friendly and understanding if you’re willing to learn more about their culture, but there are some locals who will avoid you simply because you’re from a different country. It helps to greet everyone you meet to avoid feeling isolated or marginalized here.
6. Getting used to the bugs can be a challenge for some retirees.
You’re going to be living in a subtropical biome if you decide to retire in Ecuador. That means the insects are going to be out all year long in most areas of the country. This disadvantage is especially problematic when you start to consider mosquitoes and the diseases that they can carry. You’ll want to speak with your doctor about any vaccinations you might need before you start living there on a full-time basis.
The WHO and PHAC recommend that you receive vaccinations for typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, and meningitis in addition to the standard set of MMR and TDAP that are needed. You may also want to receive protection against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
7. There is a significant amount of bureaucracy you’ll need to navigate.
Any request that you need to make to stay in the country after retiring in Ecuador will take a lot of extra time to complete. The bureaucracy struggles a lot when the economy is in a recession, there is an upcoming election, or there are changeovers in personnel. Most processing times that you get quoted in the country should be tripled as part of your “reasonable” expectation for service.
It helps to use an Ecuadorian shipping agent if you decide to retire here. Almost all of the complications that you will experience occur upon the arrival of your containers. It makes things a lot easier when you need to navigate through customs.
8. Expect to pay a lot more for things because you’re from a different country.
Until you get to know the purchasing rules that exist in Ecuador, it helps to avoid buying real estate or other large ticket items. You do not want to pay the initial asking price for a rental. Negotiation is part of every financial exchange. Offer about 50% of what the asking price tends to be, and then you’ll get a better idea of what someone wants. If you have money and don’t negotiate, then living in Ecuador can be as expensive as it is in the United States. Even if someone is honest and fair with you initially, they can turn on you in a heartbeat.
You’ll want to research where the affordable places to live are in the country, and then contact people directly instead of going through paid advertising.
9. Schooling options are limited in Ecuador.
If you want your child to attend an international school when you retire in Ecuador, then you’ll need to settle near Guayaquil or Quito. There are some private schools that like to call themselves bilingual, but they tend to be Spanish schools that offer English classes instead. The student-teacher ratio in the county is about 23:1, which puts the country in the bottom 25%. Expect to pay more for this privilege as well, so you’ll want to review your finances to ensure that you can afford this cost before completing the move.
10. There can be a lack of sanitation systems in some communities.
There is a definite culture shock that you can experience if you decide to live in one of the smaller towns or villages in Ecuador. Many of the communities do not have an active wastewater treatment system. That means there will be some smells that will be unpleasant until you get used to experiencing them. Some people never really get used to the experience. You’ll also see a lot of garbage dumped along the roads, in empty lots, or even on the beaches. When you add in the gaps that are present in the public health system, like treating cancer, then this disadvantage could create life-threatening results unless you use expat health insurance to cover your needs.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of Retiring in Ecuador
Retiring in Ecuador will take some adjustments for you and your family to have a successful experience. Its location along the equator creates some favorable climate experiences, but you’ll need to manage the rain as well. The cost of living tends to be cheaper here too, assuming that you have a willingness to haggle over the final expense.
The legal requirements to complete the move are minimal. If you have a passport that won’t expire in the next six months, then you should consider a trial trip to see if you like living here.
As with any country, the pros and cons of retiring in Ecuador show that there are some challenges to balance. If you come into the situation using your common sense, then living here can be a very positive experience.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.