Ecuador might not be on your radar for a vacation or holiday, but the South American country has become a hot spot for retirees looking to stretch their post-career dollars far further than in other locations.
From its balmy, moderate weather to incredible biodiversity, dizzying array of activities, and comprehensive healthcare system, Ecuador has lots to offer those who choose to relocate here.
If you’re looking to pull up stakes permanently, here are eight reasons you might want to include Ecuador on your list of new home-country possibilities.
1. The Climate
Ecuador lies right on the equator, with mostly indistinguishable seasons that remain warm. Summers are dry, winters wet, and the entire country stays mild year round.
“Ecuador has eternal springtime, with a year-round growing season,” Jack Abercrombie, a Georgia native, explained. He chose to retire in Ecuador and now offers a concierge service dedicated to helping retirees and expats relocate to his adopted home country.
Temps in the high-altitude capital city of Quito stay in the pleasant mid-60s Fahrenheit range, while coastal cities, including Guayaquil, can top out in the mid to upper 80s. Bottom line: you’re not going to find the weather extremes and swings prevalent in other parts of the world, and that’s a good thing! (Especially if you’re not into ice and snow!)
2. The Healthcare System
Long hailed as efficient and affordable, Ecuador’s healthcare system is another big draw for expats making decisions about their next home. There is both a public, universal system as well as a private one to consider, but all residents, including expats, must have health insurance. The public system — the IESS — offers good rates and access, but can be difficult to navigate if you’re not fluent in Spanish. The private system offers more care options, but will be more expensive. Bottom line, you’ll want to shop around for what works best for you, and of course, you’ll find more comprehensive care in the country’s larger city centers.
Abercrombie reports that either way — public or private — healthcare in Ecuador is going to be a bit more budget-friendly than what most newcomers are used to.
“It’s affordable… as in one-third of North American prices,” he tells us.
3. The Cost (and Quality!) Of Living
Overall, expats will find their retirement savings stretch much further in Ecuador than other locales. Abercrombie says from rent and real estate to food and personal supplies, you’ll feel less of a pinch.
“Rent is economical, realty is affordable, plus shopping and building costs are lower, too,” he told us. “Utilities are very reasonable, and there’s no need for expensive heating and A/C bills.”
As previously mentioned, Ecuador has a temperate climate, which means a long growing season. If you expand your palate and opt to shop for local produce, you’ll find far lower prices. Same goes for the major foodstuffs if you shop like a local and avoid imported brands or products. When dining out, choose the almuerzos — cheap but delicious lunches with a set menu that will only set you back a few bucks.
While prices will be a bit higher in the metropolis of Quito, Abercrombie says true deals can be had in other charming but smaller areas, including Cuenca (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!) and Cotacachi. While you’re a bit further afield, you’re bound to find bargains.
And a serious plus for those 65 and up: You are considered what the Ecuadorians call “the third age,” which means serious, guaranteed perks! Seniors here get discounted airfares on the national airlines, as well as discounts on tickets to public, cultural, sporting, artistic, and recreational events!
One more thing to keep in mind: the official currency of Ecuador is… the U.S. dollar. So there’s no need to worry about fluctuating exchange rates here.
4. The Culture And History
Ecuador’s history is long and complicated. Today, indigenous customs are celebrated along with the colonial traditions brought here by the Europeans — namely the Spanish — who first arrived in the 16th century. The mixed heritage of most Ecuadorians is reflected in nearly every aspect of life here, from art and music to the markets, parades, and special events.
Ecuador is the perfect place for a history lover to poke around and perhaps make a permanent post-career home. Much of the country remains Catholic, and in Ecuador, you’ll find a church no matter the size of the town. The cathedrals in the larger cities are grand, as are the festivals and events celebrating saints and feast days. The grand colonial plazas, preserved throughout Ecuador, are treasure troves to explore, with many having been converted into museums and other public spaces. Case in point: Quito’s historic city center (along with the Galapagos Islands) was UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site! On the opposite side of the scale the small villages, scattered across the country but especially in the rural highlands, offer visitors a true, authentic glimpse of indigenous life.
And of course, this melding of cultures adds up to some incredible cuisine. From abundant tropical fruits to savory soups and stews (topped with popcorn) to delicacies including fresh ceviche and cuy (roasted guinea pig) there’s a dish in Ecuador to suit every palate, adventurous or not so much.
5. The Natural Beauty
Outdoor enthusiasts will rejoice in Ecuador’s incredible and all-encompassing natural beauty. While the country is relatively small (about the size of the state of Nevada) it truly has everything for everything — from the stunning Andres Mountains to the thick, lush rainforests and of course, those gorgeous Pacific Ocean beaches. Ecuador truly punches above its weight when it comes to the diversity of climate, land type, and natural wonders. And the great thing? You don’t have to travel very far to enjoy them all!
No matter your interest in activity or preference in setting — Ecuador has it all. This is a place where you can truly choose your own adventure, each and every day, thanks to Mother Nature’s gifts on full display here. And of course, the famed Galapagos Islands (a bucket-list destination for many nature lovers!) are a quick regional flight away.
6. The Incredible Biodiversity
When you stop to consider all the different landscapes, terrains, atmospheres, and climates in Ecuador, it’s no wonder that this country is blessed with abundant biodiversity that’s tough to top anywhere else in the world. For a bit of perspective: the country is home to 140 different species of hummingbirds alone, and for most large organism groups, Ecuador is home to more species than all of the United States and Canada combined. And despite its small size, an astounding 10 percent of the world’s species of flora and fauna make Ecuador home.
This natural vibrancy is a marvel to behold. From the bright birds, monkeys, and reptiles of the rainforests to the pumas, foxes, and bears that reside in the Andes, you’ll want to keep exploring to meet the country’s many — and much-varied — plant and animal ambassadors. And if you live here permanently, you might just be lucky enough to see a few of them from just outside your window!
7. The Activities
No matter if you’re part of the active, adventurous set, or would rather stick to the beach, Ecuador also has you covered! Of course, there’s year-round gardening, hiking, and golfing opportunities, and on the coast, you’ll be able to kayak, snorkel, swim and deep-sea fish to your heart’s content.
Just a few hours from the sea, the mountains give you plenty of opportunities to bike, trek, and climb. You can even scale the active volcano Cotopaxi! And of course, the Amazon rainforest is a bucket-worthy destination that is easily accessible. The larger cities feature art, museums, cafes and plenty of pubs to check out, while the countryside is a bit slower paced and lovely.
One more important activity to consider: learning a second language. Spanish is the prevalent language spoken here, and Ecuadorians will be delighted if you take the time to take it up!
8. The Safety Factors
Ecuador does have a complicated past which includes political instability, and the U.S. State Department does not currently advise travel to northern provinces near the border with Columbia due to an increased threat of violent crime. That said, most areas of Ecuador today are generally pretty safe, serene, and peaceful. If you’re in a larger city, take care and use common sense to avoid petty crime, especially in high tourist areas. That said, you’re not likely to run into any major issues when staying in places popular with expats and other retirees. People here are friendly, and generally welcoming to newcomers.
Things To Consider Before Retiring In Ecuador
We love Ecuador for all the reasons listed above. However, when it’s time to start thinking about a new home country, keep in mind natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions can and do happen here, and more often than in other parts of the world. You’ll want to bear them in mind as you make important decisions, especially when it comes to long-term lodging decisions — including renting vs. buying.
There are many factors to consider before retirement, read some of the advice offered here, such as: