Moving to Ecuador: FAQ's

Can I afford to move to Ecuador:  What’s the price of food, houses, cars?

Is building a house anything like it is in my country?

Can I finance land or houses in Ecuador when I am ready to buy? 

How is land measured in Ecuador?

Are the people friendly or antagonistic toward my country?
What is the social and cultural environment like?

How hard is it to get a resident visa and what does the process cost? 

Is it difficult to receive and send mail in Ecuador?

What about cell phones in Ecuador?

Q - Can I Afford to Move to Ecuador:  What’s the Price of Food, Houses, Cars?

– Living in Ecuador is extremely affordable in many ways.  The prices of food, gas and rents are low. Unfurnished apartments can still be had for $200 per month.

When we first came here, there were very few rentals. Now, as more ex-pats purchase houses and condos, there are quite a few furnished condos and houses in the rental pool, but since more people are renting long term, they are frequently filled.  

Rents for a furnished unit usually start around $500 per month. The best way to find an apartment or house is to come here and look around. Susy at Colors and Flavours restaurant manages several rental units in Primavera II.

$15-20 USD a week will buy all the fabulous fresh fruits and vegetables needed for a whole week of munching for two. 

Many different brands of cars are readily available. New cars range from 15% to 30% higher than in the U.S. depending on the make. Used cars tend to be significantly more expensive than in the states. It is not possible to import a car into Ecuador from another country at this time. 

Gasoline and diesel fuel in Ecuador is subsidized and has held steady at $1.48 per gallon for many years.  A tank of propane gas costs about under $2.00 if you pick it up from the distribution center or around $2.50 to $3.00 delivered. 

Move to Ecuador for an abundance of delicious        
fresh fruits and vegetables

Move to Ecuador for the markets! Market days are often the highlight of the week for many locals and markets are bustling on those days.  Cotacachi’s market day is Sunday and Otavalo’s is Saturday.  

Market day is a day for vendors to socialize as well as profit from the literal “fruits” of their labor. The markets ring with laughter, lively conversation and bartering as each buyer looks for the best produce at the best price.

Your move to Ecuador can save you money. Here’s a sampling of approximate costs for Ecuador food as of June, 2013 taken from Quito's Santa Clara market:

  • 3 medium pineapples (pinas) or 1 large - $1
  • 3 small Hawaiian papayas - $1
  • 5 Gala apples (manzanas) - $1
  • 3 pounds of carrots (zanahorias) - $0.50
  • fresh blackberries (mora) - $1 per pound
  • 5 passionfruits (maracuya) - $1
  • grapes imported from Chile (uvas) - $1.50 per pound
  • large bunch of bananas - $1
  • huge red juicy fresh strawberries (fresas) - $1 per pound
  • bunch of fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley - $0.25
  • free range eggs (huevos) - 25 cents each, although are becoming more difficult to find. Large regular eggs sell for $0.13 each in the market.
  • 6-7 pounds of potatoes (papas) - $1 
  • 5 large sweet potatoes (papa dulce) - $1 
  • red bell peppers (pimiento rojo) – 20 cents each
  • zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, cucumber, celery etc. –  $0.50 each
  • 2 dozen fresh roses or other cut flowers - $2.50 per bunch
  • lobsters (langosto) - $11 per pound
  • trout (trucha) - $2.80 per pound
  • tuna - $3 per pound
  • pork steaks - $2.80 per pound
  • fresh pork sausages - $2.50 per pound

A chain of grocery stores called, “SuperMaxi,” has locations in most larger cities and towns in Ecuador.  They carry many of those things ex-pats crave but often cannot always get in other countries.

There you'll find goodies like peanut butter, olives with pimento, imported cheeses such as Romano, Gouda, and Parmesan  pancake mix, yogurt, dry dog food, jalapenos, Mexican salsa, chips like Doritos and Ruffles, safely-packaged meats of all kinds, and ketchup.  Your move to Ecuador will not mean you have to go without familiar foods.

Upon moving to Ecuador you will recognize many of those tried-and-true American brands you know and love, plus a large variety of European items.  SuperMaxi doesn't carry a great variety of spices, especially the ethnic ones from countries like India or Thailand.

SuperMaxi sells decent quality kitchen utensils, glasses, wine glasses, and dishes, pillows, inexpensive towels and specialty ingredients for Thai and Mexican dishes. Their pots and pans are the Ecuadorian standard—not the greatest. 

A huge MegaMaxi is located in a new mall "Candado" in northern Quito. It rivals most big box supermarkets in the U.S.

A large new mall is under construction in nearby Ibarra. It should be open for business by mid 2013.

Move to Ecuador for custom-built homes
at $49 per square foot and up

Any area populated by gringos has seen land prices go up considerably in the last five years.  Today you will pay $25,000 for 1/3 acre or as much as $80,000 for one acre in a gated community in Cotacachi. 

$10,000 - $20,000 per acre is what you can expect to pay for raw residential land, but these prices are steadily rising, too.  However, the diligent and thorough gringo can still move to Ecuador and find bargains. 

The price of home construction is still a bargain by U.S. standards, largely due to low labor costs, since a typical workman is paid between $14 - 18 USD per day.  Brick, adobe or concrete Ecuador homes can be built for about $50 per square foot, depending upon the region and amenities. 

Move to Ecuador if you want to build a beautiful home without too many restrictions. Marble and granite is fairly cheap, from $80-195 per square meter, installed, with granite being the more expensive. 

A large variety of colors and sizes of floor and wall tiles are available--Ecuadorian and imports from Italy, Columbia and Brazil.  Quito has several carpet stores where you can find U.S. wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs from a number of different countries.

Here are some sample prices for housing materials and furnishings for Ecuador homes:

  • Ceramic tiles – $1.50/square foot, more for porcelain or imports
  • Concrete blocks – 18 cents each
  • Chrome bath faucets – cheap to expensive, depending upon whether they are from China or Italy, but any quality desired is available in Quito.
  • Electric washing machine or dryer - $550 and up
  • Frost-free refrigerator - $650-$1200 and up depending on size and amenities
  • Custom wood kitchen cabinets cost about $150 -250 per linear meter
  • Solid wood door - $150-$190 installed

My kingdom for a Home Depot!

Are you worried that a move to Ecuador will leave you without Home Depot or Ace Hardware? Where does a man, or woman, desperate for a Phillips screwdriver, a pair of pliers or an Allen wrench, go when he or she absolutely has to have one? 

A chain called Kywi will rescue the building supply-impaired. There is no longer any need to get an emergency care package from the U.S. for those vital tools.

While in small towns you may have to visit half a dozen or more hardware stores, called “ferreterias,” and still not find exactly what you are searching for, larger cities now have a Kywi, -- one-stop shopping for many of your home construction and repair needs.

Kywi carries tools of good quality, such things as safes, plants, pots and gardening supplies, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, paint, household items and light fixtures, electrical and plumbing supplies.  They do not carry lumber, plywood or building supplies. Prices are reasonable for most items.

Get help buying a used car 

Moving to Ecuador without a car is possible, because there is good cab and bus transportation at very inexpensive prices.  However, exploring all those out-of-the-way places and enticing dirt roads is much more fun in your own vehicle!

We lived in Cotacachi for 4 years before buying our first car, even while running a real estate business. We see that expats who have lived here for a few years are now beginning to purchase cars although with plentiful cabs, trolleys and buses, it is not necessary.

The newspapers are full of used cars, trucks, buses and vans---Toyotas and Chevrolets of all kinds and SUVs are popular.  Chevies are made here.  It is a Suzuki design sold under a Chevrolet trademark. 

We see well-maintained older Mercedes, too.  Most car owners in Ecuador seem to have a new or late model car.  Not many junkers! Recent laws have increased the annual matriculation (registration) fee for cars older than 5 years. 

Purchasing a used vehicle necessitates finding a reliable and trustworthy mechanic to do an inspection, plus an Ecuadorian middle-man to negotiate the deal for you.  Unless you are a top-notch negotiator and speak fluent Spanish, it is better to have help from a local, who can procure a better price for you.  It is common practice here to manipulate the odometers to lower the mileage. 

Your car will have to be registered yearly.  This is usually done at the local police station.

We bought a 1984 Land Cruiser and it costs around $300 to register the vehicle each year. The registration process is very complicated and something that I would never try to navigate by myself.

It's one of those things, even if you speak Spanish, that requires a local to understand and navigate. A liability insurance called SOAT is required for everyone. 

Cars can no longer be legally imported into Ecuador.  You must anticipate purchasing your car in Ecuador if you want one.

Chevrolets are the vehicle of choice because they are assembled here so the costs are lower. A 2012 diesel 4x4 quad cab Chevy pickup will run around $30,000 and up. A standard 4-door mid-range car will cost $15,000. 

Most car brands can be purchased here in Ecuador, except for some of the luxury models. 

Used cars tend to hold their value. I have been looking for a used 4x4 and it looks like I will have to pay around $15,000 for a 2000-2005 model, depending on the condition and mileage. Check out to get an idea of used car costs.

Q - Is Building an Ecuador Home Anything Like It is in My Home Country?

A Probably slower.  Workers love fiestas and celebrations are frequent.  Building contractors can be heard to complain because on Monday their workers sometimes don’t show up. . . for days!  

Ecuador does not require the reams of paperwork, building inspections or zoning that the United States does, although there are some building codes and restrictions.  For this reason, you are free to express your creativity and individuality with a move to Ecuador, but you may also end up living next to something less than residential, like a restaurant, garage or shopping mall!  

Ecuador homes are often grand, three-or four or more stories of glass and concrete, complete with painted swans, curved windows, turrets and domes.  Many families build one or two stories at a time, Then they wait until they have the money to finish or add another story. 

The fronts of buildings are finished.  The sides are not; the bare bricks and mortar are left exposed and unpainted.

You won’t see that many obvious brick homes here because although brick is used, it is often covered with a concrete stucco. Wood is seldom used for exteriors, either. 

Roofs are usually tiles of the Spanish variety or thick concrete, the most common material for housing construction.  Most Ecuador homes do not have garages or carports in rural areas, but they are more common in cities.

Architects abound and the work process is similar to the process in the United States.  A general contractor supervises the construction.  Condos are often pre-sold before being finished.  

The economy is healthy and vital. Construction projects of all kinds have been underway for years.

The finish work is often not as fine as it can be in the U.S.   Kitchen countertops are often several inches lower than North American standards because the people here are shorter. 

As with any construction, being on location yourself is the best way to get the quality you want.  It is important to pay attention to every detail.  Don’t take anything for granted.  

Q – Can I Finance Land or Houses in Ecuador?

A – Not much financing has been available for foreigners to purchase real estate in Ecuador, although in some areas that is changing.  Sometimes an owner or developer will carry financing for you, but interest rates will be high. 

Some banks are now offering financing to foreigners with residency visas at 30% down and 10 -12% interest for 15 years. Ouch!!

Cash is king when you move to Ecuador, with as much as 50% required for a deposit on a new house or condo, and the balance due when the building is complete.

Condo developments are offering more financing.  With as little as 5%-10% initial reservation a buyer can purchase a pre-construction unit. 

Then he has the option to make monthly payments until the unit is completed in order to come up with the rest of the down payment or deposit required.  Even this financing can be prohibitive for expats since they do not usually have established credit in Ecuador. 

Q – How is Land Measured in Ecuador?

A - Land is measured in meters and hectares.  A meter is 3.28 feet and a square meter is 10.76 square feet.  A hectare equals 2.47 acres, 10,000 square meters or 107,000 square feet.

Houses are usually sold by the square meter. To find out how many sq. ft. in a sq. meter, multiply the number of square meters by 10.76. 

Land is often sold by the square meter. For example, an acre of land has approximately 4,000 m2. If the price quoted is $3.50/m2, the cost of the acre will be $14,000.

Q - Are the People Friendly or Antagonistic Toward My Country?

A – We have occasionally seen graffiti that is anti-American written on walls—“Cuba si, Yanks no.”  There is a strong Cuban sentiment among some factions and an equally strong U.S. affinity. But generally, people are very friendly and warm. 

Much has been written in the U.S. press about the current president, Rafael Correa, and his relationship with Venezuela and that country's now deceased president, Hugo Chavez. 

To us, Correa looks like a highly educated individual who has his country’s best interest at heart. For the last few years the Ecuadorian economy has been booming.

With oil more than $100 per barrel, Correa is pumping money into infrastructure.  New roads, bridges and schools are popping up everywhere. A higher minimum wage is having a decidedly positive effect on the working poor, even though it is driving up the cost of housing. 

The most recent ratified constitution of Ecuador gives a good indication of the future direction the country could take. One of its new laws declared that Ecuadorians would treat the earth as a living entity that must be protected.  

On the other hand, Correa has been partitioning off Ecuador and selling oil leases to multinational petroleum companies.  Indigenous tribes in affected areas are up in arms, declaring to fight to the death.

We feel optimistic that the friendly attitude of the people and the politics of this country towards expats will continue and will have a positive impact to your move to Ecuador. However, expats have a responsibility to maintain good relationships and to integrate culturally with the local population.

Ecuadorians are in general, very low-key and calm in nature.  They seldom speak up in the face of pushy salesmen, noise or problems.  Their usual solution to a difficulty that remains unresolved after a long time is to go on strike. 

They will also set up roadblocks in protest.  But to our knowledge, there have been no demonstrations against North Americans living in Ecuador.  

Ecuadorian democracy seems to function extremely well.  When a President or Congress becomes unpopular, they simply throw them out!  Move to Ecuador and experience democracy in action.

Q - What is the Social and Cultural Environment Like?

A – As a rule, we find that Ecuadorians are friendly and helpful, communal and generally non-aggressive. They are not outspoken or vocal in most situations.  I have rarely seen a mother or father reprimand or physically punish a child in public.  

The indigenous tend to group together in rural areas, keeping the surrounding land for only agriculture.  Life in Ecuador moves at a slower pace than in North America.  Mañana rules. And it doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow, it means "not today." 

Each indigenous village or community has its own individual dress.  In Cotacachi that means skirts and white sequined blouses for women and white pants, shirts and shoes with blue ponchos for men.  

Each village is distinctive.  Village life is agricultural, centering around fiestas and the church, which is mostly Catholic.

Large cities are like most others in the world—a variety of cultures and races, including those from other countries.  International dining, fine hotels, opera, theater, music, shopping malls:  all are available. 

There are coffee houses, bars, delis, English bookstores, good public transportation and a multitude of nightlife to choose from.  Your move to Ecuador will provide a wide range of experiences and cultures.

If you are friendly and open, you can assimilate into the Ecuadorian culture fairly easily.  

Q - How Hard is It to Get a Resident Visa for My Move to Ecuador and What Does the Process Cost? 

A – Since you can only stay in Ecuador for six months out of each year, the expat choosing to move to Ecuador more permanently must obtain a resident visa.  There are at several different kinds of resident visas to choose from.  

Once you decide which visa to apply for, the process can take several months.  Although you can do it alone, hiring an attorney can be quicker and easier, but more expensive.   If you don’t know Spanish, then we would suggest that you get an attorney.

Immigration laws and the entire immigration system has been morphing for several years.  This has created havoc for newcomers trying to understand and navigate the immigration process. Make sure you check with someone knowledgeable and trustworthy before you begin the process as things change rapidly. 

When the process of getting your visa is complete, you are then required to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months each year, total, for the first two years.  Check the current law regarding this rather than take someone's opinion about it.  Immigration rules change periodically/frequently. 

The resident visa allows you to bring your household items into Ecuador duty-free for six months following the issuance of your visa. However, if it doesn't arrive here within the six months, you will be charged duty! You will also be eligible for discounts for such things as flights to the Galapagos, paying the same price as locals.  With a resident visa your move to Ecuador will start to pay off!

Resident visa fees are generally $350 per person, plus the cost of an attorney, if used, which can vary greatly.  Then there are the additional costs of photographs, notarized copies of your passport and copies of other documents.

Notaries in Ecuador often have elaborate offices and charge much more for their services than their U.S. equivalents. Here, the notary is a registered attorney. It is one of the choice jobs in Ecuador due to the high pay.

Q – Is it difficult to receive and send mail after my move to Ecuador?

A – Mail service is fairly reliable in large cities.  Paying for a post office box may be the best and safest method for receiving mail.  There is a small fee for this service.  

Mail in smaller towns and rural areas is sporadic. I once received a Christmas card mailed on Dec. 22 4 months later in April. Here in Cotacachi some mail can be delivered at your address.

The post office rents mail boxes for around $20 per year.  You can get general delivery at the local post office.  Post office boxes are available in many towns in the area.

Use UPS, DHL or FedEx.  It’s safer and more reliable, although expensive.  We recently received a credit card from the states through FedEx International Priority and the price for mailing was $89 USD!

UPS seems to be the cheapest system for small items.  An alternative is an Ecuador postal service which ships your goods to a post office box in Miami and then flies them to Ecuador, bypassing customs. The limits are 4 kg (8.8 lbs), max $400 dollars, with a shipping rate of $4.90/lb.

There is a $10 annual membership fee. Check out The post mistress says that items mailed this way will be here in five days. You must have a post office box in order to participate in the service. 

Mail forwarding while moving to Ecuador makes your postal mail instantly available online, just like email.  You can look at, open, recycle and manage your mail online, from anywhere in the world.  Check out your mail and then eliminate the junk mail, fliers, advertisements and other useless paper. Simplify your move to Ecuador. 

You then have your selected mail sent to a remote address.   Earth Class picks up your mail each day at the post office, scans in all the sealed envelope images, then electronically sends each one to you online.

You view your envelopes in a secure online mailbox and tell them what you want to do with your mail.

•    Recycle all the junk with a click of your mouse
•    Have them securely scan the contents so you can read it online
•    Shred sensitive information
•    Forward the original to you or someone else
•    Forward the electronic document to whomever you choose
•    Archive the originals at their facility

This service is quick, safe and environmentally sound.  Save fuel costs and reduce your carbon footprint.  

Ex-pats save 50-90% over traditional mail forwarding services.  They even have check processing. gives you your own U.S. mailing address, whether it be a suite, box, apartment, department or office.  You can view all incoming mail and customize each shipment by carrier, speed and price.  

For international business, a U.S. address is necessary.  They offer inventory and fulfillment services in addition to mail forwarding.  

For individuals, they offer the most advanced mailing service.  View incoming mail in real-time and customize each shipment by carrier, speed, and price.

With U.S. Global Mail you can shop on and other popular sites that will only ship to a U.S. address. Forward mail and packages to your current foreign address.

Q. What about Cell Phones in Ecuador?

- As in most parts of the world now, nearly everyone has a cell phone. There are three companies, Claro, Movistar, and Alegra.

Claro is the largest with Movistar coming in second. Alegra is a government-owned cell phone agency.

The majority of people have Claro phones. It is cheaper to call a phone on the same company than it is to call across company lines. Rates range from .05/minute to a few friends, up to $.25/minute to call other company phones or land line phones.

Cell phone plans are available, but few use them. People prefer to purchase time as they need it. Time cards are available in various price range up to $20. However, keep in mind that your time expires usually after 6 weeks.

A wide variety of cell phones are available for sale. Although the smart phones are considerably more expensive than in the U.S., a suitable phone can be purchased for $45. Usually they come with a SIM card which gives you your phone number.

If your U.S. phone takes a SIM card and is unlocked, you can bring it with you and purchase a SIM card when you get here.

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