Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
May 24th, 2019
Most people wonder about the feasibility of retiring comfortably, especially with the volatility of the economy and steadily rising costs of living. Many cities in the United States are very expensive, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. To that end, all across the world, it has indeed become harder for most people to save for retirement. With these conditions facing those on the cusp of their golden years (how they’re supposed to be known as anyways), a larger number of persons than ever before are considering moving abroad to places that have a substantially lower cost of living than the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia (among others), and Ecuador is at the top of many peoples’ lists.
Florida was in the past often thought of as an ideal place to retire within the US, because of the mild to hot weather and all of the available outdoor activities there. While the cost of living in Florida tends to be lower than in many other places in the US, it’s been on the rise for decades such that now many Florida cities such as Boca Raton, Miami, Sarasota and Tampa have become just as costly as some of its brethren towns of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in the US. That noted, there are other places in the world with better weather and just as much to offer in terms of lifestyle and activities. Ecuador for one, offers a climate that is generally warm (in some places even warmer than the likes of Florida), but as an additional benefit, Ecuador also boasts a relaxed lifestyle and drastically reduced costs of living in direct comparison to Florida or virtually any other state/place in the US.
In general, South American countries are growing in popularity with retirees for good reason. And again with respect to Ecuador, you can find everything from mountains to beaches, bustling cities and peaceful villages, arts and culture (not to mention many hundreds of years in history), all wrapped nicely into a high quality of life and very low cost of living. This small country sits right on the equator and borders Peru and Colombia. Travel between the US and Ecuador is fairly simple, with direct flights from several US cities (i.e. Atlanta, Miami, Houston and New York City), so it’ll be easy to get home to visit your family or to have them come visit you for an amazing vacation as you enjoy and relax (plus save big each month) in your new digs.
Thousands of expats from the US and other countries live in Ecuador, and the Ecuadorian people have welcomed them graciously to their country as well as enjoy their presence as both tourists and residents alike. While learning Spanish makes life easier in Ecuador, many locals speak English, especially in the bigger cities, and there are lots of opportunities to take classes to learn Spanish and engage with people in the country as well as make new friends.
Residents of Ecuador who are seniors enjoy many benefits in their retirement, besides the generally low cost of living, including high quality medical care and prescription drugs at a greatly reduced cost, preference to go the front of the line at banks and supermarkets, various discounts on transportation, activities, and more. There are several different types of residency visas that are available to someone when retiring in Ecuador, though of course the rules are constantly changing and so it is important to be well guided in applying to become a resident of Ecuador, whether one is retired or is still working/wanting to work.
Where to Live in Ecuador
Whether you want to live on the beach, in the heart of the city, or in the country, there are multiple options for you if you’re retiring in Ecuador. There are beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean, and just a short ways away you can find a cooler climate in the mountains.
If you desire all the comforts of home, you’ll find all the amenities you’re used to in the major cities: Cuenca, Quito, and Guayaquil. Cuenca is especially popular with expats, but you’ll find many expats in as well as near all of these cities. You’ll also have access to great restaurants, plenty of daily/nightly activities, and easy travel options in and around them too. Even still, the pace of life is slower than in American cities, but rest assured that you’ll never run out of things to do in Ecuador.
If you prefer a small town, there are several that are popular with foreigners. Cotacachi is one small village that is a great option for retirement, and so is Baños, a lovely town near hot springs, including Vilcabamba, a place known in Ecuador and with expats as the “Valley of Longevity” for its residents’ generally long life expectancies. Nature is always nearby in Ecuador – if you like to spend time outdoors, you’ve got easy connections to hiking, biking, and kayaking, as all of those are routine in and near Ecuador’s many national parks, as well as even in the cities/towns themselves.
Medical Care in Ecuador
The quality of medical care is always a valid concern for everyone, no mater where they are, especially in retirement. And so, you can find solace in the fact that Ecuador has excellent medical care, which is comparable to the care you’d receive in the United States. In fact, many doctors train in the states before returning to Ecuador, so many of them speak English, which is very helpful for expats. Hospitals in Ecuador have modern equipment and all kinds of specialists (also often English speaking too). There are also plenty of private clinics for routine care, and quality dental care as well.
The cost of Ecuador’s medical care is much less than America’s. Public health insurance is available in Ecuador (“IESS” being the Ecuadorian Government’s Health Plan), as well as various Private Health Insurance options, and you can expect to spend much less – most typically ranging between 10-25% of the cost of comparable medical care and health insurance in the United States. A doctor’s visit costs about $20-40, and specialists are similarly priced (rarely costing more than $50 at most).
Cost of Living in Ecuador
Living on a fixed income can be difficult in the US or elsewhere, and so in Ecuador your dollars will stretch much farther than in the former. A retired couple can comfortably live on $2,000 a month or less in Ecuador. A two bedroom apartment’s/home’s rental cost is about $500 a month, and utilities are generally less than $50 per month. Groceries are inexpensive and there is fresh produce available year-round. If you prefer to eat out, there are plenty of inexpensive options for Ecuadorian food as well as international options.
There is cheap and reliable public transportation in the cities, so you won’t have to maintain a car if you live in the center of any city, and as a retiree you’ll enjoy many discounts on both public and private services. You’ll also find discounts on cultural attractions, sporting events, and even your utility bills.
Some people have even been able to increase their standard of living when they retire to Ecuador, with the opportunity to travel, or even have a second home or regularly stay at hotels or Airbnb’s in the countryside or at the beach. As well, if you’re looking to invest in property, you can even get an Investor Visa in Real Estate when you come to the country, besides of course several other type visa as well as lifestyle options for you to consider in planning your relocation to Ecuador.
The Weather in Ecuador
While in general the climate is mild across the country, you will find some variations in different regions. There’s a lot of sunshine year-round, though December through April is the rainy season, and you can expect a shower or sprinkle most days in those months. In the lowlands, it’s warmer, around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Up in the Andes, the weather is cooler, around 75 degrees during the day – hence the reason that so many Expats who move to Ecuador choose to live in Cuenca, Cotacachi and even Vilcabamba so as to benefit from same. That said, no matter where you choose to reside in Ecuador, you need not worry about hurricanes, tornadoes or snowstorms, as virtually never is Ecuador (if ever) visited by the likes of those such torments that the US and other countries know of (and have to deal with) all too well.
Finally, though living in Ecuador (or any place besides one’s place of origin), clearly isn’t for everyone, it’s truly a rare person these days whom after coming to Ecuador, leaves with less than whence they came, or who doesn’t at minimum hold dear the time that they spent as well as the friends that they made while residing in it.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is email@example.com and her law office’s fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com for you to visit at any time of day or night – plus, her personal Ecuadorian cell phone number is 099-296-2065 and her Toll Free “800” phone number for US & Canadian callers is 1-(800)-655-1581. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically in closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.