Ecuador ~ a Retirement Option

What’s the #1 destination these days for retirees who wants to live abroad? According to the Annual Global Retirement Index of the publication, the answer is Ecuador.

Independence Square in Quito, Ecuador

Independence Square in Quito, Ecuador

Every year the 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?

Otavalo Market

Otavalo Market


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.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador

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)




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14 thoughts on “Ecuador ~ a Retirement Option

  1. Hi Nancy,
    Enjoyed your article and I’ve heard lots of buzz about retiring in Equador. I went to Equador and Peru in my twenties, long before even thinking of retirement ideas. I thought Equador was very beautiful and plan some day to go back. I particularly enjoyed the market town near Quito called Otavalo and a place called Los Banos. I have great photos but of course they are slides! (Back in the old days this was the way to preserve great photos!)
    Hope to return soon!

    • I bet these places have changed a bit since you were there last. I read about the amazing artists’ market every week on Otavalo. So much to see and experience. You were smart to travel while you were young and free. Melissa (my niece) is doing a 6 month solo backpack trip starting in July. She is going to Central and South America. I am so excited for her.

  2. Ecuador has come up a few times in my (very premature) discussions about retirement! I don’t know anyone who’s been though. Real estate is cheap especially if you can get in at the development stage. Keep us posted!!

    • Well, Astra, it’s good to know that some people actually pan ahead for things like retirement. I agree about the price of real estate in much o South America still being reasonable. It is interesting and a lot of fun to research the options.

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  4. When contemplating retirement the majority of us seem pre-programmed to only consider the far reaching financial implications of never bringing in an income again! But the fact of the matter is that there are many more things to consider if planning on retiring abroad, not to mention the fact that many retirees overseas pick up odd jobs and part time positions advising and assisting other expatriates with their lives and businesses anyway!..

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    • I agree. A large number of us will be looking for supplemental income through some kind of employment after we retire. I haven’t explored those options yet, but I hope they exist in whatever location we decide to settle in. Assisting and advising other expats would be a wonderful job. Thanks.

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  7. My wife and I are in our early 70’s, and have been delaying retirement primarily due to having to deal with Medicare. We saw a TV bit regarding retiring to Equador, and how reasonable health insurance is there. Would you remark on available health insurance for retired Americans, the safety of the area (thinking about what’s happening in Mexico), and any problems for those not fluent in Spanish. Thanks.

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  9. Hi! My name is Elena I am from Ecuador and I live in Salinas this is a Beach zone. Here we have a large and growing community of retired Americans and Canadians who are really happy for the decision they made of coming to Ecuador. I personally have helped a couple of them to know a little more of this beautiful country traveling with them through the coast zone: Ruta del Sol, Montañita town, Puerto López, we also went to city of Guayaquil, to the highlands to Baños city … they had a great time.
    If any of you need any assistance for traveling through Ecuador and knowing our customes you can contact me and I can give you references about me from people (expats) that know me.
    You can also ask me about anything you might want to know about Ecuador I will be glad to help.

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