Best Places to Retire in Ecuador - A Guide to Retirement

Ecuador has  has become a popular place for U.S. and Canadian retirees, based on its very low cost of living and warm weather.  One estimate has between 5,000 - 10,000 American expats here, most of them attracted by the low cost of living. Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country approximately the size of Colorado. It has a democratically elected government. In general, tourist facilities are adequate but vary in quality. Crime is a significant concern. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, and U.S. bills and both U.S. and locally minted coins are accepted everywhere. Topretirements named Ecuador the 10th best country for international retirement in 2013.

This is some solid advice from the U.S. State Department about retiring in Ecuador:

"Retiring In Ecuador: In recent years, Ecuador has become a top overseas destination for retiring U.S. citizens. Bear in mind that organizations promoting Ecuador or any other place as a retirement destination may have a financial incentive to attract retirees, and may not always present a balanced picture. Consider multiple sources before choosing a destination.

Remain vigilant when contracting professional services for assistance with Ecuadorian visas, real estate transactions, or customs brokering for imported household effects. U.S. citizen retirees regularly complain about unethical practices by lawyers, real estate agents, and others who have taken advantage of their lack of knowledge about local language, laws, and culture, resulting in costly losses and little hope for a remedy through the local judicial system.

As in any country, Ecuadorian rules governing visas and customs are subject to change with little notice. The Ministry of Foreign Relations and other Ecuadorian government agencies publish little information in English, increasing foreigners’ reliance on lawyers or other facilitators, some of whom have distorted the true cost or requirements for obtaining Ecuadorian visas. Staff members at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not in a position to give detailed advice about Ecuadorian immigration law."

Residency. In most cases you need to apply and provide proof that you can support yourself, a current passport, photos,  and (sometimes) with a medical certificate. You can stay for 90 days and usually get an extension for another 90 days. A criminal background check going back 5 years is required. It is generally possible to become a full-time resident in Ecuador. Here is the Ecuadorian Embassy site for more details.

Crime and Security. This is what the U.S. State Department says about crime and security in Ecuador: "Political demonstrations occur frequently throughout Ecuador. During demonstrations, protesters often block city streets and rural highways, including major arteries such as the Pan American Highway, disrupting public and private transportation. Protesters sometimes burn tires, throw rocks, damage cars and other personal property, and on occasion detonate small improvised explosive devices. Police response to demonstrations varies, but may include water cannons and tear gas. U.S. citizens and U.S.-affiliated interests are not usually targeted, but you should avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress and be prepared with back-up transportation plans. Peaceful demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning, and you could become a target.

Crime is a severe problem in Ecuador. Crimes against U.S. citizens in the past year have ranged from petty theft to violent offenses, including armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, and several instances of murder and attempted murder. Very low rates of apprehension and conviction of criminals – due to limited police and judicial resources – contribute to Ecuador’s high crime rate."

Taxes. Ecuador does not tax U.S. Social Security income. Property taxes are very low.

Medical. US Medicare is not honored in Ecuador. Adequate medical and dental care is available in the major cities of Ecuador. In smaller communities and in the Galápagos Islands, services are limited, and the quality is generally well below U.S. standards. Ambulances, with or without trained emergency staff, are in short supply in cities, but even more so in rural areas. Tropical diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever can be contracted here.

Do not assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you travel whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas. Ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m outside the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

In Ecuador, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy does not offer overseas coverage, you should take out another one for your trip. Even if you have insurance, you may have to pay in advance and seek reimbursement from your insurer. If you are unable to pay for medical care, you may be relegated to Ecuador’s public hospitals, where care is far below U.S. standards. If you are staying in Ecuador long-term, consider taking out a local insurance plan.

Cost of Living. The price comparison (CPI plus rent) shows Ecuador with an index of 29, vs. the U.S. with 60 and UK at 73.  The Local Purchasing Power Index shows 48 for Ecuador vs. 120 for the UK and 139 for the U.S. Most expats can easily afford household help.

Best Places to Live. See the list of the Ecuadorian cities we have reviewed in the top right hand column. For reasons of atmosphere plus famiiarity many retirees prefer to live in small towns popular with expats, such as  the colonial city and World Heritage site, Cuenca. Bahia de Caraquez is a laid back resort town on the west coast. Cities have more attractions and living options, although they will generally be a bit more expensive.

Pluses and Minuses. Ecuador is a cheaper alternative to retirement in the U.S, Canada, or Europe. Some expats report a fair amount of culture shock - particularly with dealing with the bureaucracy, finding a place to live, getting a telephone, etc. The weather is warm most of the year.  Crime and violence is something to be concerned about.

Weather. The climate is generally warm although a bit cooler in mountainous areas of the country.



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