10 Things to Know Before Moving to Ecuador
1) Four Regions in One Country
Ecuador is known to be a world within a country. All in one day, you can go from the coastal cities like Salinas, Olon, Montañita, and Ayangue to the Andes mountains in the center of the country-- Loja and Cuenca-- to Tena or Coca in the Amazon. The Galapagos Islands beckon off the coast of Guayaquil. Ecuadorians boast that their country is one of the most biodiverse areas, if not the most, in the world.
2) Investigate Visa Options
Ecuadorians want more foreigners to make this country home, and so the visa options are extensive. The new migration law requires that beyond the 90-day tourist visa, you may apply for a Temporary Residency Visa. This visa requires the resident leave no more than 90 days the first year, and 90 days the second year. After two years, the temporary resident can apply for the Permanent Residency Visa, which allows residents to leave up to 180 days each year. After 2 years of that visa, the resident can leave the country for up to 5 years.
Temporary Residency Visa Types
When applying for temporary residency, the most common types are: professional visa, investor visa, and the pensioners visa. The professional visa requires documentation from universities about your degree. The investment visa requires a minimum investment of $25,000. The pensioners visa requires that the resident has enough money coming in through social security to cover monthly expenses in Ecuador; essentially, more than $800 a month. Most foreigners, when figuring out the logistics of their visas, work with a lawyer to make sure that all the documents are correctly apostilled, notarized and translated. For more information, look here:
3) Embrace Slow Living
In Ecuador, “mañana, mañana” or “tomorrow, tomorrow,” is a typical expression. Ecuadorians value time with their family and friends. Work is a way to make a living, not a way to live. This mentality often contrasts the lifestyle of countries like Canada and the United States, but it is something that foreigners learn to embrace when they move here. Although things can take more time, there is also more time to enjoy living.
4) Name Brand Products are Different
Even though Ecuador has large commercial grocery stores, the stores do not have all of the same products that you may find back home. Or, if the products can be found, the name brands might be much more expensive. A jar of Jiffy peanut butter, for example, will cost a few dollars, whereas homemade peanut butter can be purchased in the market for $1 a pound. Sauces and syrups, different types of flour and baking supplies, some cheeses and butters-- many of these things might be more expensive in Ecuador compared to other products.. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to find something that’s a favorite of yours, bring some extra on your move down, just in case.
5) Consider Health Care/Insurance Options
Ecuador is known for its health care systems. See our article here. The new visa laws require that all expats have health insurance, but there are many options. The hospitals in the larger cities are top of the line, although the process is different from what you may be used to back home. Knowing Spanish can help your experiences with the health care system, but many doctors do speak English as well. It’s important for you to gather recommendations when you arrive to find the best general practitioners, dentists, and surgeons.
6) A Family-Friendly Country
Ecuador is a place for working professionals, retirees, backpackers, and families. There are International, American, German and alternative schools in the larger cities, but all cities and towns have public and often private school options. For families with children moving to Ecuador, it’s easy to find community groups and activities for kids of all ages. Those activities tend to be in Spanish, but the sooner children start learning a second language, the easier it is to become fluent. There are also expat groups, mommy groups, book clubs, writer groups, and many more “clubs” that can be found in areas where there is a larger expat population.
7) Ease of Buying Property/Paying Taxes
To buy a property in Ecuador, a foreigner just has to purchase the property and get the title in their name and they’ll have the same rights of ownership as an Ecuadorian. Though there are closing fees, those run around $2-3,000 when going through a lawyer, which is always recommended. Property taxes in Ecuador are a big draw for foreigners. Most people pay less than $300 for the entire year in property taxes. But, it’s important to be cautious in some areas, like Salinas for example, where the property taxes are higher. Overall, the process of buying and owning property is easier and less expensive than in many other countries.
8) Spanish is the Dominant Language
Though Ecuador has become a “hotspot” for retirees, that doesn’t mean that you’ll only be speaking English. Spanish and Quechua are the main languages spoken throughout the country. Quechua is the indigenous language, and it has been making a comeback as more young people reclaim indigenous practices. Spanish is the daily language that will be needed when talking to taxi drivers, asking for directions, ordering food, and getting most tasks on your list done. Though there are many people in Ecuador who speak some level of English, even having a basic foundation of Spanish will be hugely beneficial. Thankfully, there are classes and schools for Spanish in all parts of the country, and private tutors are only about $10 an hour.
9) Sending/Receiving Mail is a Process
One of the biggest frustrations that isn’t realized until it’s often too late is the slow pace of the mail system in Ecuador. If you use regular mail, letters and packages can take multiple months to arrive. It’s important to review customs practices as well, knowing that in Latin America it is more typical, though not commonplace, that something could go missing from a package when sent through customs. However, there are also options for sending important documents and packages securely and quickly. DHL and ServiEntrega are two of the businesses that have offices around the country, and they can ship packages and letters in a matter of days to the
United States or Canada, though the price is double or more that of regular mail. Try to bring what you can with you when you move, and rely on friends and family members who visit to bring anything else needed.
10) Take Time to Explore
Whether you’re moving to Ecuador or simply buying property, the country is home to some of the most amazing things you will see in your lifetime. The Galápagos Islands, aUNESCO World Heritage Site and natural world wonder, are like stepping onto a different planet. The mystical archipelago captured Darwin’s fascination and inspired the theory of natural selection. You can swim with sea lions, birdwatch for finches, and sail around the 20 islands.
In the center of Ecuador, you can drive through the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Cotopaxi and Chimborazo break make the rest of the Andes Mountains seem small; they’re two of the tallest volcanoes on the continent. Cotopaxi Volcano is actually even taller than Mt. Everest when accounting for the bulge at the equator. There are hikes, thermal baths, and mountain bike treks for the adventurous travelers.
Another area to be explored is the Amazon. El Oriente, as it’s known in Ecuador, has many cities and towns, like Coca, Tena, and Puyo. There are canoe trips down the Napo River, which leads into the Amazon, opportunities to stay with indigenous Shuar communities to learn about the culture, and hikes through the jungle in search of birds and other wildlife.
New Visa and Health Insurance Laws
On August 3rd, new legislation was passed affecting visa and insurance plan requirements for foreigners and tourists coming to Ecuador. Ultimately, the new requirement for insurance plans is a good thing, as plans ensure that the patient will be covered for a variety of situations, everything from dental cleanings to emergency care. There are plenty of options available: public care in Ecuador (IESS), private care in Ecuador, domestic insurance from a home country, or insurance from travel organizations. This article is a brief overview of the healthcare system in Ecuador, changes to visas, and insurance options.
Healthcare in Ecuador: An Overview
In the last 10 years, Ecuador has seen huge improvements to the number and quality of hospitals and clinics in the country; along with these improvements came a boom in medical tourism-- people coming here for medical and dental operations that they couldn’t afford in their home countries. So why come to Ecuador? Namely, the cost.
The cost of procedures in Ecuador runs 10-30% of those in the United States. The doctors are also highly-trained-- many of them studied in universities in the US, Europe, or other Latin American countries. Many of them speak some level of English as well.
Healthcare Systems in Ecuador
There are two types of public health care systems as well as private healthcare in Ecuador. The public social security healthcare system is called IESS; a nominal monthly fee (roughly $60) buys you access to hospitals, doctors, and medicine. The IESS plan covers the cost of everything, and there are no restrictions on age or preexisting conditions.
The second public healthcare system is free to all citizens, but with that comes some restrictions on the medicine, vaccines, and services available. This option is now no longer available to residents or tourists, but when a resident obtains citizenship, it becomes available.
The third option is private practitioners; many of them are still a fraction of the price of US doctors. Specialists for all types of procedures can be found in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. However, just because a clinic is private doesn’t guarantee that it is superior to public institutions. It’s important to research reviews of the doctors and facilities in advance. For a detailed read on the systems and prices of healthcare in Ecuador, read this article in CuencaHighlife.
The New Health Care and Visa Law
Presidential Decree No. 111, signed by President Lenin Moreno, includes the Regulation of Human Mobility Act, essentially a new outline of visa requirements for tourists and foreigners coming to the country. Visa laws change frequently in Ecuador, so it’s vitally important to read the most recent visa information before planning a trip to scout properties or embarking on your big move down south. A great overview of this new law and all of the new visa requirements (in English!) can be found here.
Tourist Visa Vs. Resident Visa
Temporary visitors, aka tourists, can come to Ecuador for 90 days without getting the visa in advance. Those 90 days can be renewed each year. Residency visa holders are now broken into two categories: temporary and permanent. The temporary residency visa is for 2 years and it covers a slew of categories: student, volunteer, missionary, work, etc. A permanent residency visa can be obtained after 21 months as a temporary resident. After 3 years, permanent residency visa holders can apply for citizenship.
Article 30: Health Insurance Requirements
“In order to maintain temporary or permanent residence in Ecuador, all foreigners must have public or private health insurance, valid for the length of time the foreigner is authorized to stay in Ecuador. This insurance should be shown to the Human Mobility authority within 30 days of the issuance of the visa. Once the foreigner complies with this requirement, the Immigration authority will grant a cédula order, allowing the foreigner to obtain a cédula before the civil register.”
The stipulation also applies for tourists coming to Ecuador-- they must have an insurance plan for the length of their stay in the country. This is important information to pass on to anyone visiting you.
Permanent Residency Visa
To apply for IESS health care in Ecuador, a cédula (Ecuadorian documentation) is required. For permanent residency visa holders, you will receive a cédula within the first few weeks of starting your visa and you’ll then have 30 days to sign up for IESS or another insurance plan.
If you already have a permanent residency visa, then you will be contacted by the government office closest to you as to when you need to get your insurance plan. So, in the meantime, sit tight and think about options.
Temporary Residency Visa
For temporary residency visa holders, you do not receive a cédula, meaning that you will have to find an alternative insurance plan to IESS. Healthcare options include insurance from a home country, travel insurance from a variety of organizations (check out Seven Corners or this list in Frommer’s) or a private insurance plan in Ecuador.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, the government of Ecuador wants to ensure that people who are passing through the country or who are coming here to live or work are covered should anything happen. The new articles in the law exist to protect foreigners, as well as to guarantee that the Ecuadorian healthcare system won’t be financially drained. It’s important to have a printout or card of your insurance plan on you at all times, especially when traveling to and from the country, as there are monetary penalties for not adhering to the requirements of your visa.
As a final note, this new law is still very much in transition. Always check with the consulate office or government officials for detailed information as to the specifics of your particular situation. Lots of the details are ambiguous as the government figures out how to best implement all of the new requirements. It’s also encouraged if a government official tells you something that seems contradictory to the law (like how many days you can stay in the country each year), that you get a piece of paper with that information signed and notarized as proper documentation. You’ll have to be your own best advocate in the next few months as the law becomes the norm, but all you need to do is a little research before embarking on your adventure of Ecuadorian living.
What Lies Ahead....
Opportunity is at the door and you hear the knock, will you answer...
Or...will you once again say..."I should have invested when the price was right!!"
Have you been looking and dreaming for years to live a much simpler and affordable life. Have you been wondering how will I ever retire on my pension or worse yet your social security alone. Right now it is still possible to live very comfortably on $1,000 per month. Those of you that have been looking for some time realize the days of great buys and inexpensive homes in Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama has passed us by while Ecuador still remains a great place to live and invest.
If you are reading this then you probably already know that Ecuador is quite possibly the BEST deal in ALL of Latin America...that includes Mexico all the way to the tip of South America. It is for a number of reasons and you should consider them seriously if you have entertained the thought of owning a refuge outside of your home country.
Since you are reading this on my site you know...this is Gerald Brokate. I have been living in Ecuador for a few years now full time. I visit the states every year to visit my grown children and Grandchildren...if they weren't there I most likely would not venture back to the "Good Ol' USA". Let us share with you some of the things that put Ecuador at the Head of the Class in my opinion. I certainly do NOT know it all about Ecuador, but I have OBSERVED incredible growth and improvements since the day I moved here in 2014. And the influx of others like me confirm that there must be something here that draws so many of us in such a short period of time.
I think one of the strongest points to share is that Ecuador is growing from within! I say that because even though there are large numbers moving to Ecuador...we are NOT driving the market here. Ecuadorians are driving the market AND prices are on the rise because of what THEY are willing to pay for real estate in their country. Costa Rica was driven by foreign dollars coming in...not so here. We watch the market around us continue to climb to what I feel will someday catch Costa Rica prices. We all know the old saying about beach front..."they ain't making anymore of it". That is alive and well/true in Ecuador. Once an area experiences positive growth watch out. The "Hot Spots" are Salinas, Ballenita, Punta Blanca, Ayangue, Manglaralto, Rio Chico, Montanita, Olon, Puerto Lopez. Manta and further north are experiencing a slowdown due to last years devastating earthquake. You need to come STAND on as many beaches as you can and see which one is THE place for you. The Andes offer the same experience for those that love the majestic mountain style of living. From Quito to Vilcabamba you can find lifestyles of the Rich and Famous...to the local farmer living off the land. What's important to you...THAT'S what is important. Where do you wish to live, invest and enjoy life?
Another big draw is Ecuador has such a consistent year round climate in most of it's popular locations. We experience NO severe weather patterns...no monsoons, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes...nada. So your little "grass shack" will be there for years to come. The typical initial thought is "Ecuador...on the equator...must be the hottest and most humid place on earth"....WRONG... I was pleasantly surprised the first time I came to Ecuador to find LESS humidity, much less heat and just an overall Spring/Summer type existence in most areas I visited. There is humidity, but nothing like Central America or the southern states up in the USA. I can honestly say we have NEVER seen a 100 degree day in Ecuador...can't say that about California or Missouri where I grew up. So you have this very pleasant year round climate to enjoy. Your body also will be thankful it doesn't have to "gear up" for harsh winters or brutal summers. This is one of the contributors to long life here...you body will thank you!
I mentioned "nothing but improvements" since I have been here. I have witnessed road ways improve dramatically ALL over the country. I have seen new and improved medical facilities spring up....even in smaller villages. I have seen schools improve and offer wider based curriculum...most every High School student here can READ...not true in some places "up north". The government has been one of the more stable and PRODUCTIVE I have seen. Every country has it's problems, but it seems Ecuador hits theirs Head On and get's things done when needed. I have witnessed a few uprisings, but in a matter of days they are OVER...FINISHED....and business goes on as usual. I see the president here more as a CEO rather than a president (of course there are politics, but he is smart...even clever in how he works with other leaders). I call him a CEO in that "WHY?" would you get rid of a CEO when he is making the "company" stronger, more productive, improving conditions within the "company" and LEADING his "company" in the right direction. It makes no sense to change things if things are improving, growing, becoming the BEST country in Latin America. Many of the other countries are in trouble and staring at a dismal future...Ecuador on the other hand has a bright future ahead.
One thing most people don't take into consideration is that Ecuador is NOT a strategic location...so NOT high on anyone's list as a country to Take Over. We have enough natural resources to completely care for the country, but NOT enough to take care of the world. We also can function if by chance the Internet was to be taken down by terrorists (which we truly believe will happen one day....we are not a Dooms Dayer's, but this would bring chaos to most every country on the globe). Ecuador for the most part would go on operating as per the norm and people would not freeze, die from heat stroke, starve or kill to get what they didn't have. You think this is crazy thinking?? Think about what CAN NOT take place when the Internet goes down....NO shipping, NO traffic control (we mean actual car traffic), NO flights leaving major airports, NO power distribution, NO life as everyone is accustom to in today's World of Technology. Communication would cease as this new generation has become DEPENDENT on. People here (the majority of them) do NOT depend on technology for their day to day needs. If something goes wrong around the world....we know we will have food to eat. water to drink, stores able to sell items with or without the Internet or even electricity for that matter and not have to worry about someone breaking into our house because we have a storage room full of food etc. We imagine you get where were going with this. People here know how to live off the land, be resourceful, creative and share what they have with others.
Markets come and go. They go up and they usually go down somewhere in the journey. The beauty of this market is EVEN if you get "stuck" one day (which I really doubt) with owning a piece of Ecuador....would that be a Bad Thing???? I don't think so. I like to have the worse case scenario have a happy ending...If we are stuck swinging in our hammock, sipping fresh coconut milk out of a coconut, watching the waves wash into the shore and NOT able to sell our home one day....WHAT'S the problem???
I have become enthralled with this place...is it perfect...NO...but it might be perfect enough for you...it is for me.
The Price is Right…. Or is it??
First of all a lot of the info you receive from some sources can be somewhat outdated or not current with "reality". I have told people for years this is like being in Costa Rica of say 15 plus years ago. We have great prices, but they are rising at a surprisingly rapid rate.
Gone is the day of the $10,000 beachfront lot or the $50,000 beach house. Let me qualify that a bit... you can still find those on RARE occasion, but they will be either very remote, in dire need of repair or something will be wrong with the paperwork (the title). We all dream of hunting down that "Piece of Paradise" somewhere in the world and I still believe Ecuador is your best Latin American country to do that in... just get ready to probably pay a bit more than you had hoped. When compared with the rest of Latin America you can't beat the prices or the VALUE of what you can buy here. Value is an important word to keep in mind when thinking of a purchase. Costa Rica and Panama (and other countries) have been riding the wave as the place to buy, but now they have topped out in value and the chance for appreciation after the purchase has waned. The other contributing factors to Ecuador's value is it (in my humble opinion) has much better weather (less humidity and heat), a strong growing economy (more on that in a moment), stable government, the people here are very warm and engaging, your beach front property belongs to YOU (unlike Mexico and a few other Latin American countries) and they use the US dollar as their currency.
So basically we all want "a good deal" and to feel like we were not taken advantage of in the process. That can be accomplished here... you just need to know the value of surrounding like parcels, homes or condos. Unfortunately with a newer MLS system the comps are just not there yet. That's where years of experience come in handy when hunting down that Piece of Paradise. Paradise can get ugly fast if you don't do your homework before the purchase. Involving a good lawyer is always suggested, but they too can be hard to find (as it is anywhere in the world nowadays). The person you work with hopefully has an up to date knowledge of prices and the surrounding areas high/low points. Any upcoming improvements or problems in the area of interest that could have an impact on property value are paramount to know. This is not as easy as it sounds, but being in the "Loop" pays off in Aces! The old saying "It's not what you know, but who you know" is alive and well here.
Now something that you have to keep in mind and embrace actually is that foreigners are NOT driving up prices here on the coast like you see them doing in the Andes' regions. Reason being is the economy in and around Guayaquil (Ecuador's largest city and closest to the beaches) is booming and there is a LOT of money in Guayaquil. Many people here have the ability to own beautiful homes in the city AND buy beach homes or condos for holiday use primarily. The old premise of Gringo and Local pricing is somewhat of a myth here (unless you go out on your own and knock on a door with a for sale sign). Yes, Gringo pricing can still take place, but when you go to buy a condo, home in a gated community or a building lot in a gated community you will pay the EXACT same price as the Ecuadorian in line to buy the same property. Know your market or have someone that does and then make your offer.
Execution in Ecuador...
Lately too many of those executions have been just that...killers of our returns in this market. Every day there is more gloom and doom and unfortunately it is well founded at this time in the markets. What if there was a place, an investment, a commodity let's call it that is returning 50% or more in less than a year's time. Would that be worthy of investigation...maybe even "pulling the trigger"? I am talking about the abundance of real estate that is waiting for foreign investors here in Ecuador.
Opportunities present themselves from time to time and some are worthy of investigation and some aren't worth the time it takes to review them. I have mixed feelings about sharing this opportunity because we all know what happens when 'the word gets out'...prices start to rise...those that get in early make money and those that hesitate sing the blues once more. Can an investor come here and make money? Is the ride just starting or pulling back into gate? Let us put it this way, if you could have bought property around Cancun, Bocas del Toro, Boquette or other 'Now' hot spots 15 years ago would you have done so? Ecuador will be and IS the next Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Belize.
Let's head to the coast. Do you like the idea of finding the likes of Puerto Vallarta, but in its infancy. Here the time frame for profits is compressing. Everyone that comes to Ecuador wants to own beach front here...even if they had not planned on such a purchase.
So the question comes to mind as to what and where should one buy to make money in Ecuador? We can answer that in four words....everything and everywhere selectively. The Andes, the jungle and of course the coast. The next question and maybe even more important is your time frame. How long do you want to hold that investment? What are your goals...income, appreciation...both?
If you are looking for rapid return on your investment then you will want to concentrate on the hot spots. On the coast that would be Ballenita, Salinas, the Montanita/Olon beaches, Rio Chico, and Manglaralto. Each area offers instant gratification. Salinas your best bet for both appreciation and income would be a condominium that is finished or in the construction stages. Pre construction brings you a wonderful profit that can be made during the building phase or the big return when the doors open for occupancy.
Ecuador brings to the table a feast of fortune to be devoured by the hungry investor. Investors that want to wait to see what is left will get just that...left overs.
Life is Good in Ecuador!
Malibu South…Way South!
Life is Good in Ecuador. This stretch of beach is in Olon, Ecuador. We call it Malibu Beach because it has miles of beach homes and estates on the sand. The best thing is that there are NO high rise condos nor will there ever be. There is a three story building restriction on this beach so you see nothing but beautiful homes and beach cottages (with a mix of fishermen's homes... that are disappearing slowly).
Okay it's not quite Highway 1 in California and that's a GOOD thing. You don't have all that traffic nor tons of people on the beaches here. This place is sort of a hidden paradise. Oh yeah, people know about it, but in limited numbers. I grew up in Huntington Beach, California and even back in the sixties you would have to watch where you put your foot while trying to part the crowds in order to get to the waves. You have NO problem like that here... even on big holiday weekends you can meander the beach and find your own "spot in the sand" without being stepped on, crowding others or fighting to protect your beach towel's "spot in the sand". Come lunchtime I stroll down to Lolita's Cabana on the beach and dine on the freshest seafood that has ever crossed your palate. I share with people that if you're eating seafood here... it was swimming less than 24 hours ago (more like a few hours ago). Sitting with your feet in the sand, a cold beer in your hand and a huge plate of fresh grilled mahi mahi in front of you will set you back $4.50. It's like a scene out of one of those Corona commercials, but this is REAL living in Ecuador. Catch a little hammock time after lunch and then once lunch has settled make for the water. You can sea kayak, boogie board, surf, swim or just let the waves chase you back to your beach towel... you choose and enjoy. Probably the best part of the day though is when that big orange ball is heading for it's dunkin' into the ocean. The sunsets here are phenomenal and beyond words. Watching that globe slowly drop into the water is a very soothing and tranquil part of the day.