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Retiring in Ecuador? Read This First

Thousands of foreigners have already chosen Ecuador as their retirement haven, and at least a hundred more move to Ecuador every day. International Living has named Ecuador the top retirement haven in the world six times in the last seven years. International Living makes its choice based on several factors including climate, cost of living, culture, health care, and other important considerations. Retirees in Ecuador can experience peace of mind and a sense of security on several levels.


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Photo Source: Better After 50

Of course, financial security is a major draw for those planning to retire in this exceptional South American country. The fact that money takes you further in Ecuador is just one of many reasons to consider retiring here, however. Although “living large on little money” or “settling into the lap of luxury,” even on a pensioner’s budget, might seem like clichés, such observations reflect the reality of retiring in Ecuador, one of the most affordable places to live on the planet.

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Photo Source: Baby Boomer Retirement

People love the fact that they can live a fairly extravagant lifestyle in Cuenca (with a main home in the city plus a country home or beach property) for $22,000 a year, with extra money left over for travel, hobbies and luxury purchases.

Ecuadorian food prices are among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Everything is cheaper in Ecuador, from property to the services of a full-time maid or gardener, to general utilities.[/color-box]

Fitting In 

Within Ecuador, retirees become part of the community with relative ease. Foreign visitors and residents are treated with respect. Locals welcome them into their circles of friends. Retirees blend harmoniously into the local scene and their new way of life.

Ecuadorian Real Estate 

There are no restrictions on foreign-owned real estate in Ecuador. Indeed, buying property could qualify a retiree for residency. Real-estate taxes and transaction fees in Ecuador are among the lowest in the world. All taxes are based on the municipal value of the property, which is normally much lower than the actual sales price.

Of course, real-estate prices depend considerably on the area and property type. Residents can rent luxury apartments for reasonable prices or even build a home with a limited budget.

Seniors’ Discounts 

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Source: Quito Adventure
  • 50 per cent off on public transit, airfare, electricity, water, phone service, and cultural and sporting event tickets
  • Eligible for refunds of a significant portion of the 14 per cent sales tax. Here’s how to get your IVA refund.
  • U.S. expat retirees do not have to pay Ecuadorian taxes on Social Security income. There is no need to worry about receiving Social Security benefits while living abroad. Monthly benefit cheques can be direct deposited into a U.S. bank account and withdrawn safely and easily from banks and ATMs throughout the country. Ecuador has adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency.
  • Low property taxes and frequent discounts
  • 50 per cent off airfare for round-trip tickets to the U.S. for flights originating within Ecuador
  • Free domestic landline phone service (does not include long distance service)


Within the larger centers, traffic can be congested, so many opt for public transportation, which is very affordable. A bus fare within Cuenca, for example, is 25 cents. Expect to pay $1.25 per hour for bus travel between cities (the two-hour bus trip from Quito to Otavalo costs around $3, for example).

Taking a taxi about town will only set you back $2 or $3. A trip from the airport to the center of Quito could be in the range of $20-$30.

Air Travel 

It is easy to travel to and from Ecuador. Located just outside Quito, the impressive Mariscal Sucre International Airport has plenty of shops, restaurants, and a baggage claim area that is rarely congested.

Three local airlines serve all the large cities and many smaller locales in Ecuador. A short flight will get you from one area of the country to another. Ecuador has 35 airports, but its two main airports, Quito and Guayaquil, are the only ones which handle international flights.

*Editor’s note:* Please be aware that there are currently delays in and out of Cuenca’s airport, and ground transportation is recommended.


Ecuador is known for its temperate and varied climate, a diverse mix across its main regions: coast, sierra, and rainforest. There are wet and dry seasons in the different zones, but the temperatures remain fairly constant over the course of the year. Due to the country’s location on the equator, residents enjoy 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness throughout the year.

Ecuador’s Natural Beauty 

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Photo Source: Top 20 Amazing Places

From its snow-capped volcanoes to the dense Amazon jungle, to the Pacific beaches and famous Galápagos Islands, Ecuador possesses astounding natural beauty. Considering that Ecuador covers a mere 0.02% of the global land mass, the country offers amazing diversity and is home to 10% of the world’s plant and animal species.

Ecuadorian Treasures 

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Photo Source: Meetup

With sunken Spanish galleons off its shores, legends of lost ancient wealth, and current mineral exploration, Ecuador is renowned among treasure hunters.

Yet this country’s real treasure, however, is its people. They have different lifestyles depending on whether they live in jungle river towns or coastal fishing villages, isolated cattle ranches, ancient haciendas, or even large colonial cities. Due to Ecuador’s compact size, travelers can observe several unique ways of life in a single day.

Things to Do 

Cultural Events 

Ecuador provides opportunities for countless activities and forms of entertainment, including traditional events. With more than 28 indigenous groups speaking over 10 languages, evidence of this country’s heritage fills its marketplaces and festivals.

A wealth of hand-crafted goods are available at local markets, especially at the well-known Otavalo fair. Popular items are weavings, wood carvings, painted ornaments made of bread dough, dress pins, leather goods, textiles, and many other local crafts.

Ecuador’s remarkable culture is also evident in the country’s music and dance festivals.

This fascinating country offers varied cultural opportunities. Larger cities, such as Quito and Cuenca, offer symphonies and ballets and attract artists from around the world. Museums, historic places, and ancient churches are just a few of the interesting places to visit in Ecuador.

Outdoor Fun 

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Photo Source: Ecuador Birding Adventures

The natural world of Ecuador offers unlimited experiences such as…

  • Whale or bird-watching
  • Hiking
  • Rafting
  • Rainforest trekking
  • Volcano hiking
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Horseback riding
  • Surfing
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba diving

…and much more fun and adventure!

Modern Life in Ecuador 

Major cities, such as Cuenca, Quito, and Guayaquil, have all the latest conveniences, from cell phone service to internet connection. In fact, much of Ecuador is equipped for modern life. Obviously, cellphone service or WiFi can vary according to the location.

For example, valleys in the Andes can have spotty service, and cell phones will not work in remote areas of the Amazon Basin. The country’s mobile phone system, however, is always undergoing improvement.

Satellite and cable TV with an abundance of English language shows and sports networks are available in most areas.

The larger city centers will offer the most convenience and latest technology. However, some retirees still choose to settle outside the main centers and enjoy other advantages, such as even more favorable rental rates.

Ecuadorian Health Care 

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Photo Source: Welcome to Ecuador

The cost of health care is up to 90 per cent lower than in the United States, and doctors are known to make house calls at an affordable rate. A variety of health insurance options are available for foreigners. Legal residents of Ecuador can take advantage of public health insurance.

“Ecuador is one of the most affordable places in the western hemisphere that has good services and infrastructure….The value for your dollar is incredible,” says Dan Prescher, the Special Projects editor for, who settled in Ecuador after traveling extensively through Latin America.

Recently, the federal government enacted sweeping legislation offering free health care for expat retirees who become legal residents on a national level. Full medical coverage for only $70 a month is a new health care option for Ecuadorian residents. Ecuador’s national healthcare plan (managed by the country’s Social Security administration) is removing age and pre-existing medical condition restrictions for those who want to join the system on a voluntary basis.

“Voluntary” membership is open to all citizens and legal residents. Besides health care, voluntary members of the system are also entitled to other Social Security benefits, including low interest loans for home purchases, funeral expense assistance, and unemployment benefits. Although joining the government program is not for all expats, it is a great option for those who might not be able otherwise to obtain low-cost health insurance.

Retirees who do not participate in the government system can purchase private health insurance if they meet the qualifications. This decision by the Ecuadorian government is extremely good news for would-be retirees. The new health system provides full medical coverage including doctors’ visits with no co-pays or deductibles, dental care, and free or discounted prescription medicine. In case of emergency, members can go to any hospital in the country and the government will pick up all expenses.

Although most routine medical services are provided at Social Security hospitals and clinics, it is also possible to receive treatment at several private healthcare facilities under contract with the government. Now legal residents have access to free and improved healthcare. In addition, many private pharmacies have agreements with the government for this program.

The healthcare system in Ecuador is consistently ranked as one of the best in South America. Since 2008, Ecuadorian healthcare has seen an increase in new hospitals, clinics and equipment, upgraded facilities, the addition of new technology, and double the number of doctors on contract with the system. The big cities, such as Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, have numerous hospitals and specialists in different fields, as well as U.S. and European-trained doctors.

Impressed expats who have used the improved government system report excellent care and substantial savings. Many English-speaking private practice physicians work for the Social Security health system and can prove invaluable in making arrangements for their expat patients.

Obviously, the quality and availability of services can vary between cities and towns and rural areas where residents might have to travel to facilities in larger centers.

Visa Requirements 

Ecuador is quite welcoming to visiting foreign seniors. The country offers some of the most relaxed resident visa options in the world. Everyone gets an automatic 90-day tourist visa when they arrive in Ecuador. From there, they can apply for a six-month extension (12-IX visa). Check with the nearest consulate about current terms and requirements.

Permanent Residency Visa Requirements 

Obtaining residency in any country requires going through a specific bureaucratic process, and Ecuador is no different in that regard. Research and prepare carefully before moving to Ecuador. After arriving in the country, take all the remaining steps to meet the required deadlines.

In order to obtain permanent resident status, retirees often apply for a pensioner visa. They need to show a minimum income of $800 per month to obtain a pensioner 9-I visa or invest $25,000 in local real estate, such as a residence, or in an approved financial instrument. They must also show a police report from their home country and, if married, a copy of the marriage certificate. The visa application documents must be authenticated by your home country and then translated into Spanish after arrival in Ecuador.

Once retirees have their residency visa, they are required to stay in Ecuador for at least nine months a year for the first two years. After that period, they can leave the country for a longer length of time.

Permanent residency status means that…
1. Retirees do not pay any taxes on foreign income.
2. Retirees could import their household goods duty-free within six months after obtaining residency.

Retiring in Ecuador 

It is estimated that between five and ten thousand American expats (mostly retirees) now live in Ecuador. With its high quality of life, Ecuador is a land of opportunity and an affordable and beautiful retirement destination. There is something for every retiree in Ecuador.

The best advice for people planning to retire in this charming country would be to make an initial observation trip. See if Ecuador suits your hopes and dreams. The statistics show that it has worked — and is working —  for many, and an ever-increasing number are interested in this retirement paradise.

A new life in a unique country with new friends, a distinct culture, a laid-back atmosphere, and the opportunity for awesome adventures while enjoying a low-cost luxury lifestyle is waiting for you. Retiring to this extraordinary South American country is a win-win situation. Welcome to Ecuador!

Please note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the Ecuadorian sales tax as 12 per cent. It is 14 per cent. (Monday, July 11, 2016.)

18 Responses

  1. Anyone who believes anything written by International Living, is not playing with a full deck. All IL is interested is selling tours and publications.

  2. Having visited Ecuador since 2013 and lived here permanently since Aug 2014, I can say that you should not rely on this article to make a decision on whether to move to Ecuador. There are some great things about Ecuador, but there are also some not so great. This is a rose colored article worthy of International Living.

    Do, come here and put boots on the ground to get the real truth about living in Ecuador.; join forums about Ecuador and above all else, make your own decisions.

  3. Hi, the length of time a person holding a residential visa is able to travel outside of the country is 18 months in every 5 year period after the 2 year period following receipt of their residency Visa. So, an average of just over 1/2 a month a year more than the 90 days permitted during the first 2 years. So yes, your comment is correct, but fails to note the current limitation.

  4. Hi, regarding the length of time a person with a resident Visa in allowed to be out of Ecuador is 18 months in every 5 year period following the 2 years after a person received their resident Visa.

    1. My electric bill vary from $7/mo to $15/mo at the most when I use my pump a lot to water my 5.000 m2 which happens maybe 3 or 4 times a year. My water bill is $2/mo $4 at most. I would feel very embarrassed to ask for a senior discount even with my pension that is not so great. Ecuadorian seniors pension here is $50 a month. They are the one who need the discount in my opinion, not us expats.

  5. I forgot to add that I agree with Malcom and Marc. This article is written by someone who wants to sell something. I object to this article because it raises unrealistic expectations. It should also mention the hundreds who leave Ecuador every year when they realize that it is not as rosy as described in the above article. One thing that is almost never talked about in articles about Ecuador is that there is a lot of “in your face” poverty here. People who have been raised and lived most of their life in the opulence of western countries and are not used to simple life in harmony with nature are bond to experience a shock that they cannot overcome especially when they more to small villages that are painted as Shangri-La’s.
    But for those of us who are willing to see Ecuador as it really is, accept the poverty, learn the language and the culture to communicate with their poor neighbors to discover their story, it is definitively a fabulous learning experience that changed me for the best.

  6. I am surprised Gringo Tree would publish this article. It sounded as though it was written by International Living and there is not one negative and or challenge that many expats experience including culture shock and missing friends and family. It is this type of propaganda that prompted me to write about the challenges that many face and experience while living in Ecuador. It does not mean Ecuador is not a wonderful place and many expats are enjoying their lives there. I love Ecuador and have been studying the culture for over 35 years and find it fascinating. Nevertheless, it is important when someone is moving to a foreign country to have a better idea of the daily realities of living in a place.

    Here are some points the author makes that some may have a different idea or opinion about.

    1. The IVA refund – many expats are reporting that it is quite an onerous process to gain the refund and that payment times are getting slower all the time. And, it could be gone at the whim of the government.

    2. The 50 percent off airfare – There may be some that use this but my research shows that the restrictions are difficult and that after all is done, the passenger may have done better locating a good sale price on the internet or through a travel agent in Ecuador.

    3. The author makes no mention of the numbers of expats that leave after great expense in moving there after glowing rose colored reports.

    4. She makes no mention of the cultural differences, which are many and often play a role on an expat leaving. It does not mean Ecuadorians generally are not wonderful people. There are many and I married an Ecuadorian over 35 years ago. But there are differences and if you see the world in terms of black and white and cannot tolerate the shades of gray, it may not be an ideal place for you. One must be prepared for the differences which for many makes it an attractive place to live or retire.

    4. There is no comment about the earthquake in April in which many expats lost their homes and or their life savings by investing in property. As well no mention of the political situation which can be described as tense.

    5, There may be some things that are less expensive in Ecuador as compared to the U.S. and or Canada. However, prices have increased significantly over the last two years and many imported items previously found are no longer available. The fact is many items are more expensive in Ecuador.

    Overall, anyone reading this article should be cautious and do further research.


    Nicholas Crowder
    Author – “100 Points to Consider Before Moving or Retiring in Ecuador”

    1. Nicholas, your comments are spot on. The article reads just like and IL advertisement and while there are many positive truths written, there is no mention of the not so rosy picture of the stray, starving dogs in the streets, the visible garbage everywhere and the louder than loud parties that start at 10pm and can go until 5:ooam with no regard for neighbors. If only I knew then what I know now (after having lived here for 4 years)
      My advice for someone thinking of moving to Ecuador is to live here for at least 6 months to 1 year and rent before buying. Talk to other expats about their experiences (both good & bad) as well as the local people especially anyone selling real estate in an area you may be thinking of buying, better to do your due diligence than be a victim of Buyer Beware after the fact. Word of mouth within the expat community can help a newbie expat avoid some costly mistakes by using recommendations gathered from experiences. Best to see the full picture of what you may be getting into as one cannot truly experience a new life in a new country after just a few weeks of visiting or reading rose-colored articles. There is always two sides to a story and it is best to hear from both sides.
      As Paul Harvey used to say…and now the rest of the story!

  7. Your Comment I agree with the first two gentlemen their article was pushed with the belief they were selling something like the magazine. I didn’t see a section what is wrong with Ecuador for Gringos and why are so many leaving. At the moment the complete city is dug up now some say for 3 month some say for 5 month some say it will be lucky if it gets all done in a year. Have you ever seen a city torn up completely well it looks like a Hell Whole they say it will be great but it has put a lot of people out of business. Very difficult to find a bus route they don’t even know where they are going. Wait it gets better there are taking 10% of the bus of the street well that’s ok we can’t find them for repair. Oh wait
    another decision they are digging the runway at the airport when it rains it pours they have to no coice but it is funny. So if your coming now is not the time people are falling braking legs, ankles and arms.
    And walking a long way to find a cab who might very well say I won’t go there hummm.

    to answer the person about water you must take your original cedula and make a copy in color, bring it with you both and passport just in case one never knows. Ask your land lord or manager where you go for water for your place have him print it on paper and address. Cab drivers don’t read anything but print. You will be there a long time patience. It is there you point out your age 65 and over to get discount. Now unless they have changed the rules which they do daily that was it for me. Save all paper work. Any benefits they offer are not easy to get you need lots of paper work originals and it take months months and some times it is just easier to hire an expert to walk you through their system with you because they speak Spanish and know where to go. Don’t hire a cab driver or a clean women hire a professional that does this as a full time living she knows all the tricks of her trade I used her and wow very impressed and worth every penny

  8. It’s awesome that in Ecuador, foreigners are able to buy real estate. I know of some countries that don’t allow foreigners that luxury. It’s also great that the price for a nice place to retire is lower in Ecuador. My wife and I have been looking for a good international location to retire, and maybe we’ll look at real estate in Ecuador and see what there is. It sounds like a great opportunity to me.

  9. I very much appreciate getting what might be called “the negative” view of Ecuador. “More realistic,” I’d call these responses. I am currently deciding between Spain and Ecuador as places to live in my older years. While the cost of living is a major factor, it certainly isn’t the only one. I agree, too, with the perception many responders have about International Living: an increasing slant toward sales pitch and boosterism. If you think there’s something fishy in that, you are probably right.

  10. My wife and I are pretty much sold on moving to Ecuador in late 2020 or in 2021. This site has been a breath of clear air as opposed to rarified IL air.
    The truth shall set you free. 🙂

  11. Planning to move by 2030, but looking to make the flight down to find a spot, invest in land or a house and pay it off prior to making the move. Question for anyone out there… what beach community would you recommend? Salinas? thanks.

    1. Choose something smaller and more relaxed than Salinas unless you wanna pay more and live luxuriously, As far as beach towns in that area go Olon or Ayampe are good small options to consider

  12. As a freelance writer (and author of this article), I would like to point out that I create some projects on my own as well as other assignments upon “request” which I research and write about truthfully with the information at hand. (This article was the latter.) Others might have different and more personal experience on which they base their views.

    I respect all opinions, however, I just noticed one comment posted here with which I must take exception. It was posted quite a while ago, but it is very important to me that I set the record straight on this matter.

    As part of a longer comment, Nicholas Crowder Author – “100 Points to Consider Before Moving or Retiring in Ecuador” – posted -…”There is no comment about the earthquake in April in which many expats lost their homes and or their life savings by investing in property. “…

    This article was posted in July 2016, but I add that it had also been previously published here months before that date – long before Ecuador’s tragic earthquake. It is deeply upsetting to me that anyone on this planet would think that I would publish such an article after a tremendous loss of life and property and not include my thoughts and prayers for Ecuador and its people.

    I understand, of course, how Mr. Crowder would make that point if he had not known about the previous publication.

    My freelance writing involves working for clients who, obviously, have their own agenda in arranging these projects. I do not ever write anything, however, which I know to be false but, above all, I never put anything on paper which goes against my principles. I would not just casually overlook or forget to mention about a recent tragedy in an article about the affected country.

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