Ecuador | The Good | The Bad | And The Ugly

Have you ever wondered if “Perfect” was possible for a place to retire?  Since retiring from the U.S. Navy in 1995, we have traveled to numerous countries in searching for that “Perfect Place”.

We went to Baja, Mexico and found a great Mediterranean climate, but it was too dangerous. The border areas of Mexico is not a place you want to live.

We went to Costa Rica and found a beautiful oasis with mountains and beach front property.   However, the growing expat community has caused escalation in property value.

We were living in Panama City, Panama when we retired in 1995.  That area was a little warm for our liking, so we checked out Boquete in the mountains. The climate was really nice, however, we were concerned of having enough to do.  And the price of property is also on the rise.

Ecuador is #1 According to IL

In March 2013, we decided to check out Ecuador and the #1 retirement country in the world according to International Living.  We found a developing country with a lot of positive aspects, but there were some negatives as well.  Now, lets take a good hard look at Ecuador.  We will attempt to give you an unbiased opinion of this area.

The Good

The climate in the highlands of the Andes Mountains and the city of Cuenca is as close to perfect as we could ever imagine.  You wake up each morning to a temperature of around 50 degrees.  You know that the high that day will be somewhere from 65 to 75 degrees.  You are reasonably sure it may rain for a few minutes to an hour.  And, this is every day!!

The Coastal areas and the beach community of Salinas are much warmer.  In March, the daily temperatures were in the high 80’s and low 90’s.  The mosquitoes were a pest in the evenings and early mornings.  But, this is expected in a warm climate.

Salinas, Ecuador
Salinas, Ecuador


The Coast has the advantage of beautiful scenery and fresh seafood!!  Shrimp, tuna and fresh mahi mahi at $2.00 a pound.  And it is sooooo good!!

The Mercado’s (Fruit and Vegetable Markets) are unbelievable!!  I have never seen a display of fresh fruit and vegetables like this in my life.  And they are in every community that you visit.

 I bought two mangoes in Cuenca that weighed almost a kilo (2 lbs) for a dollar.  A lady filled the back of her small SUV in produce and paid $18.  

Fruit & Veggie Market
Fruit & Veggie Market

There are numerous small cafes to eat lunch.  They feature a main dish usually consisting of chicken or pork, rice, a veggie, a small piece of cake and juice.  All for around $2.50.

In Cuenca and other larger urban areas owning a vehicle is not really necessary   A taxi fare to any where in the city is between $2 and $3.

Oh, it is the end of the month and your social security check hasn’t been deposited yet…..take the bus.  If you are over 65, it costs about .12, otherwise it is a quarter.  If you decide to own a vehicle, unleaded fuel has been the same price for ten years…$1.48 a gallon!!

With that thought, lets discuss the golden years.  In Ecuador, they really are golden.  After age 65, your utilities are cut in half and when you go to the store or the bank, it is the law that you get head of the line priveledges.  No questions asked!

As a senior citizen, save your receipts, because at the end of the month you get a refund for the sales tax you have paid.  This is capped at $180 a month.  With a 12% sales tax, it can add up.  And, you can fly to other Ecuador cities for half price!!

If your house fronts a street in the city, it is your responsibility to keep the curb area clean.  If you don’t, you get a ticket.  Now, this sounds like it should be in the Bad column, but this means the streets at extremely clean!!

A dozen long stem roses at the flower market will run you about $3 to $4 a dozen.  And that is probably the Gringo price.  We always pay a little more!

You can walk to dinner in the evening and never feel threatened.  There are Municipal and National police throughout the downtown area or what is called “Centro”.

You can rent a three bedroom/two bath apartment in Cuenca for $300 to $400 a month.  Be sure to have an Ecuadoran negotiate your rental agreement.  It can save you a bundle.  Contact me and I will hook you up with a guy that is invaluable!!

Property taxes on a $100,000 home is less than $200 a year.  In the U.S., that will be over $2000.

Utilities are cheap.  No heating or air conditioning needed in the highlands.  There are a few that have small electric heaters for the evenings.  In the coastal areas, the use of A/C will cause the price to go up

Medical facilities are very clean.  We visited a local hospital and was amazed at how clean it was.  In the photo below, Connie and our guide are walking in the corridor.  Notice their reflection in the floor.

Connie and our guide at a local hospital
Connie and our guide at a local hospital


It was like this everywhere.  And insurance is available for less than $200 a month.

The Bad

As you will notice, the lists will continue to get shorter.  That is because there is very few bad aspects of Ecuador.  Let’s see what we have come up with:

They have little signs that say, “Do Not Put Paper In Toilet”.  Some cities are over 500 years old and sewer lines are often made of concrete or brick.  The paper collects and causes the sewers to back up.

While in the Coastal area of Salinas, this was a problem during heavy rainfall.  Their sewers were built many years ago, then they started building condo units.  The lines can not handle that much run off!

You really need to learn to speak some Spanish.  Learn enough to be polite and ask “How much is it? or ?Cuanto Es?”

You very likely will have to learn how to ask directions.  If you show that you are trying, the Ecuadorian people will help you out!  The more you try, the better you will get.  Your ability to speak the language will determine to a great extinct how severe the cultural shock will be.

In many areas, do not drink the water from the tap.  In Cuenca, this is not a problem and I understand there are several other areas that tap water is safe to drink.

Be careful with eating food from street vendors.  Your digestive system needs to adjust to the local street cuisine.  Leafy vegetables like lettuce is very difficult to wash completely and parasites do exist.  You will more than likely eventually have some digestive issues.

In Montanita,  small surfer village on the West Coast, we did eat shrimp cervechi on the street and had no problems.  Huge bowl of cervechi was $5.00.  And a 20 oz Pilsner beer was $1.25!!  Life is good!

Buying imported items, such as electronics, vehicles, Jiffy Peanut Butter and Levis can be expensive.  If it is an American brand, you pay a premium price!  Learn to use local brands….they are good too.  And so far, I have not found boxers that fit a full grown man!!

Golf is available, but it is limited and very expensive.  Most courses are private and require a membership that can run several thousands of dollars to join.  This will probably eventually fix itself.  By the way, the courses are very hilly and there are NO golf carts!!  Be ready to walk.

Driving in Ecuador can be exciting or downright dangerous. Ecuadorians often use the centerline on the highway as a recommendation.  Passing in “No Passing” lanes is the norm.  Pedestrians do not have the right away.  If you decide to buy a vehicle, a license is required.  By the way, the test is in Spanish only!!

Citizenship is easy, but difficult!  Now, that doesn’t make sense does it?   If you have all your paper work in order, it can be very easy.  Now, with that said, it also depends on who you get at the Immigration office to complete your application.  Having a lawyer assist you may be a good decision.  This will cost a minimum of $1500.  The rules change daily.  Once you get your visa and cedula (Ecuador ID Card), you have all the rights of every other citizen.

There is a benefit that is available only in the U.S.  That is Medicare.  As we get older, this country provides the best medical care that is available.  Many expats are returning the the U.S. to take advantage of that.

There is no organized blood bank facility in Ecuador.  If you have to have major surgery, you very likely will have to find your own blood supply.  Many times, you will see adds on the various blogs for a certain type of blood needed.

Ecuador has a Socialist Government.  There are no guarentees that the government will not be over-thrown.  In that event, you could loose everything.

Firearms are not allowed! Period!!

AND, you will always be a Gringo!!

The Ugly

The only down right ugly aspect of living in Ecuador is some of the infrastructure issues.  Having to put toilet paper in the trash is just gross!

The ocassional power outages can be aggravating.  But, there are issues in the U.S. that drive us crazy too!!

The Ultimate Decision

With everything considered, we are still considering a move to Ecuador.  There are a lot of things to think about.  We are friends with several couples currently living there and they love it.

We have read numerous articles of people returning to the U.S. every day for various reasons.  Some miss their family and friends.  Some need extensive medical care.  As we get older, parts start to wear out!!

If we move down, we would absolutely rent for at least a year.  We will probably ship a container with personal items.  It will make the adjustment easier.  My wife wants her cook ware and flat screen TV’s.  I want my tools and Big Green Egg.  We do speak some Spanish, but will have to get better!

You can live pretty comfortably on $2500 a month.  And that is for a family of three to four people!!  You will read where you can make it on $1000 to $1200 a month and may be able to, but life is better with more comforts of home.

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One Response to Ecuador | The Good | The Bad | And The Ugly

  1. Vicki says:

    I am thinking about retiring in Equador or somewhere safe that would allow me to live on my Social Security and be able to stop working. My biggest concerns are that I am single, my 88 yo mother lives with me and would need to live at a place that included maintenance. It seems like most of the Americans who retire in the advertised “affordable” places abroad are accustomed to an adventurous lifestyle. Please give me your honest opinion and after reading your blog – you sound like a very honest gentleman who will shoot straight.
    Thank you so much,

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