Every year the InternationalLiving.com editors send out their experts who explore and evaluate countries that are the most popular with American and Canadian retirees. Among the factors they weigh are the climate, the cost of living and how friendly the people are. Ecuador scored high on all of them, and then some. It’s been a top contender for several years.
When we started planning our backpack-and-rollie retirement, I began to look seriously for retirement locations where we could live comfortably on a very limited budget. Ecuador kept popping up. Ecuador? I wasn’t even sure exactly where it was, but apparently LOTS of other expats did and were singing it’s praises. I recently met a woman while visiting Las Vegas (yes I met her in Starbucks) who had lived for five years in Quito, Ecuador. We chatted for quite a while about the climate, the people, the expat community and the airport (which sounded pretty scary to me). Ok. I finally got the message. It was time to dig a little deeper into what this South American country that I literally knew nothing about might have to offer two geezer gringos with their backpacks and rollies.
What I have learned so far is very interesting, so I thought I’d share a little with you.
~First a Few Facts ~
- Located in Western South America, Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean between Columbia and Peru.
- 15,000,000+ people live in Ecuador.
- Quito, a cosmopolitan city of 2 million people, is the capital. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the first cities to be designated.
- Spanish is the official language.
- Time Zone – is the same as Washington, DC during Standard Time (EST)
- Geography – Ecuador is located directly on the equator and includes the Andes Mountains, miles of beautiful beaches, a rainforest and the Galapagos Islands.
When a 22 page article about retiring in Ecuador begins with – Ecuador is gentle…safe…healthy…private…civil, well I don’t know about you, but I had to find out more. Why are so many American retirees moving to Ecuador?
Here’s why! Quality of life. Ecuador offers something for everyone and much of it at a price that retirees on a limited income can actually afford. The major cities like Cuenca and Quito have all of the Western conveniences we’ve grown accustomed to like reliable cell phone and internet service, history, architecture, world class restaurants and shopping. According to International Living, “It’s not difficult to live in Ecuador on less than $17,000 per year, and you don’t have to live an unattractive lifestyle in order to do so.” Maybe yes, maybe no, but I’ll bet two people could live quite nicely on less than $35,000 a year.
The spring-like climate of the higher elevations around Quito and Cuenca offer 12 hours of direct sunlight 365 days a year, but at an altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, the temperature averages mid 70’s during the day and 50ºF at night. The beaches and rainforest are warmer and tropical – good for a visit, but we love a 75ºF day so we’d head to the area around Quito. There is a small but growing village called Cotacachi that has caught my eye. Yes, there is a rainy season.
You can still buy a home (house or condo) for less than $100,000 and you do not need to be a resident to purchase real estate, but you do need cash. Prices are rising as more expats move in. Darn those expats!
One of the best perks for foreign residents is the high-quality low-cost health care. From what I read, you will receive excellent personal attention from medical practitioners (many U.S. trained) for a $35 office visit. The larger cities have many excellent hospitals with all of the latest equipment and American and European trained English speaking doctors.
It’s good to be old in Ecuador! If you are 65 or older discounts abound:
- 50% off public and private transportation within the country
- 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events – even movies
- Free domestic landline local phone service
- Reductions on all kinds of takes, including income and sales taxes
- 50% airfare reduction on international flights offered by airlines such as Taca, Copa Airlines and Ecuador’s AeroGal. All three airlines offer flights to the U.S.
- Your foreign income (social security or IRA payments) are not taxed.
- Their currency is the U.S. dollar
And best of all – citizens and residents over 65 never have to stand in line. Seriously, if you go to the bank and there is a line, it is the law in Ecuador that seniors go to the front of the line. Now that’s called respecting your elders.
Ecuador is definitely on our bucket list for travel and a “look see”. With any luck we might be able to do a home exchange in Cuenca or even a month long rental through VRBO like this one for only $750 in the lovely village of Cotacachi. I’m thinking next year in the Spring. Major U.S. Airlines offer direct flights from Houston and Miami
The best news is that Quito just opened its brand new international airport. Hopefully they’ve solved the pesky problem at the old airport in the center of the city with the short runway that one or two planes managed to over-shoot each year. That is not my idea of a fun ride!
Hasta Luego! See you in Cotacachi.
Photo Credit – Since I have not been there yet to share my own photos, the photos in this post are from International Living’s report of Ecuador. (Thank you)