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.