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Retiring in Ecuador

Hello everyone,

Why did you choose to retire in Ecuador? What are the advantages compared with your home country?

What were your main considerations when deciding to move? For example, taxes, ease of transferring your pension, etc..

Are there any specific formalities you had to go through as a retiree moving to Ecuador (for example, is there a particular retirement visa)?

What is Ecuador's healthcare like? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with healthcare professionals?

Do you have any tips for other retirees in Ecuador?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

Priscilla :

Do you have any tips for retirees in Ecuador?

Tips For Retirees

5.  Find out if you can adjust to high altitudes before committing to Quito, Cuenca or other highlands locations.  The weather is milder at altitude near the Equator, but you won't enjoy it much if low levels of oxygen in the air don't agree with your body.

4.  Half the flights entering Ecuador come into Guayaquil, the largest city in the country.  But don't allow that to persuade you or your family to spend a lot of time there.  The Big G is hot, humid, dangerous and overloaded with traffic.  And despite being considered a port city, it's not at the Pacific Ocean beaches.

3.  Most of the locals are friendly if a bit timid toward foreigners at times.  However, don't feel obligated to be overly friendly when walking along big-city streets.  Don't give eye contact to potential beggars, don't accept food or business cards from strangers, don't believe the guy who says he was robbed of everything and needs $50 until the embassy opens mañana.

2.  Learning to communicate in Spanish will enrich your time in Ecuador.  The locals don't expect you to mimmick their speech perfectly.  The point is to work on understanding and speaking and improving your skills.  Although you'll always be a Gringo to them, they will be friendlier if they know you are attempting to communicate with them in the native tongue. 

And the #1 tip of the day for retirees....

1.  Don't get swept up by a real-estate deal-of-a-lifetime.  Rent, don't buy or build, during your first year in the target location.  Not buying will keep your life simpler and more enjoyable while you attend to 100 other matters of importance to new arrivals.

cccmedia

Hi Priscilla,

I am not your typical case of retiring in Ecuador.  Since I left Ecuador in the late 70's to attend college, I have made it a point to return every couple of years. 

About 10 years ago, I bought some land near Pedernales and planted teak.  I have dabbled in different businesses in Ecuador since then.

I am fortunate enough to have the best of both worlds.  I spend two months in the u.s. and then around 30 days in Ecuador where I take care of any medical issues, check up on the farm and do as much fishing as I can.

Going back to your point, I have established medical doctors who I go to throughout the year for my routine visits.  Dermatologists, Dentists and hospitals for the blood work, CT scans.  (a once a year requirement for me).  Most of these visits are 25 or 30% of what I would have to pay in the U.S. 

Food costs are much less if you stay away from the upscale supermarkets.  Also going out to eat is less expensive if you stay away from the 5 star restaurants.

Getting around Ecuador is very inexpensive either by bus, shared car riding or flying.  Taxis are ridiculously cheap in the main cities.

I would advise anyone not to do business in Ecuador, as I have been taken to the cleaners numerous times due to my belief that most persons are honest and truthful when they tell me things.  This American belief will not serve you well here, as the individuals who seem to be able to make money, typically will not honor their commitments and have no issues with lying and stealing from you.

Don't pay anybody in advance, don't loan anybody any money, and don't take a check as a guarantee.  They are worthless unless you want to spend years trying to get your money back.

As long as you stick to these basics, Ecuador can be a very satisfying place to grow some roots.

Hope this helps.

Kit

Yes, I have been retired in Ecuador for 5 years, I bought a condominium, sold after 3 years, and bought a house in Quinta Chica, housing is easy to buy here, the cost of living is low.,  the food is very healthy, natural, and so many kinds of fruit, the weather, is about perfect year round, The people are very friendly, the will always help you, just ask. The pace of life is slow and laid back, the architecture. is artistically interesting, The public transportation is great, you don't need a car, the bus systems will take you to any part of the city's in Ecuador, the busses in the other neighbor country's are very good   if you want any help, ask,   Robert

kcomby :

Food costs are much less if you stay away from the upscale supermarkets.  Also going out to eat is less expensive if you stay away from the 5 star restaurants.

Upscale supermarkets, what are those? Supermaxi, Megamaxi or the same supermarkets that local middle class people including taxi drivers shop at. In Quito it is quite normal for Ecuadorians from all walks of life to shop at the dozens of Supermarkets. 

And as for eating out being less expensive if one avoids 5 star restaurants that's true in every country. In Quito dinning out at 5 star restaurants can easily cost $200+ at SUR and similar places.

But eating out at mid level restaurants is also not cheap at all and can easily cost $40-$70 easily. Simple sushi rolls and a little bit of Sashimi at an ordinary sushi joint can easily cost $70. Never mind a 5 star Sushi restaurant. 

Generalizing is never constructive especially when it contradicts the reality of cost of living at least for my city (Quito). Maybe eating out at mid-range restaurants for $40-$70 is nothing to some people but it's not cheap as far as I'm concerned especially for a developing country.

A fourth to seventy dollar restaurant?? any restaurant that is more then five dollars is getting expensive, I have never been to A restaurant in Ecuador that charges more than fifteen dollars,  There is a very good tienda two blocks from my house, cheaper than  super maxi, and much better quality food, than super maxi, I recently bought a new house, the quality is the better than  any house in the USA, for the price  Roberto

An63680 :

A fourth to seventy dollar restaurant?? any restaurant that is more then five dollars is getting expensive, I have never been to A restaurant in Ecuador that charges more than fifteen dollars,  There is a very good tienda two blocks from my house, cheaper than  super maxi, and much better quality food, than super maxi, I recently bought a new house, the quality is the better than  any house in the USA, for the price  Roberto

That’s the thing, you’re accounting for your own personal budget, your experience or your lifestyle. It’s not reflective of the cost of living for all of Ecuador. Quito is an international city with trendy neighborhoods, great restaurants, fine dining, superb cafes, craft beer pubs/bars, great shopping malls, nice international schools, and to enjoy it all the cost of living is not low by any means. Some people mislead others into thinking that they can enjoy such an “upper class lifestyle”, on a low budget. That is misleading, and a fallacy.

As for your local tienda having “much better food”, than super maxi, can you be more specific?

Do you know there are only a number of producers and food distributors in Ecuador, and the biggest ones have deals with the big chain supermarkets and why so many products are cheaper at supermarkets. Can your local tienda realistically compete with Megamaxi which offers so many brands for every budget?

I am not going to argue with anyone's opinions here, I am just  telling what I have seen in the five years of living here, you can use all the 5 star mega stores, It will be just like the USA, If that's what you want,  Don't bother  writing back to me,  Robert

First let's clear up the misconception that supermarkets are 5 star place. They are common places where Ecuadorians from all walks of life shop at. As a matter of fact there are 20 Megamaxi/Supermaxi supermarkets in Quito alone, and they are in influential and poor areas. My point here (again) is that people from every socioeconomic level shop at these places. So they should not be labeled 5 star places in anyway because there are simply supermarkets.

This is also true for restaurants, yes there are 5 star restaurants where dinner for two can easily exceed $200, and I linked to one such restaurant in a previous post. But there are many casual dining restaurants that can easily cost $40-$70 for two. So this notion that only "5 Star" places are expensive is fallacy. There is enough misinformation online that fools innocent people into thinking that they can live upscale lifestyles for $1500 (for 2) is an outright lie. This is a forum where ideas, opinions and information are to be shared. This same info is the same that I tell my friends and relatives when they ask about Ecuador.

Yes there are some things that are cheap, like dry cleaning for instance or hiring a tutor. But when it comes to many other things like dining, shopping, groceries, quality schooling, cars, etc, then dollar for dollar it is similar to developing world countries and in many instances much more. There was even a local article that was published in which grocery prices were compared to the US and South American countries and Ecuador was most expensive(after Chile). People will quickly cite cheap avocados but what about the price of chicken for instance.

It is time for an excerpt from legendary expats Frank and Angie Frugal from their blog discovercuencaecuador.com

Surprisingly or not, fruits and vegetables in the regular grocery stores of Cuenca, whether its Supermaxi or Coral Hypermercado are inexpensive when purchased in season.  Often times it’s simply not worth the trip or the effort of traipsing through Feria Libre or any other outdoor Mercado to save a literal buck.

For example we haven’t been to Feria Libre in almost two months and our grocery bill is the same. We wrote an article a couple years ago about how we stopped going to Feria Libre as often because many of the fruits and vegetables, especially the vegetables that we use for cooking are just as, or almost as cheap at Coral Centro as they are at Feria Libre when in season!

You have to understand that this is because we’re the gringo and they just up the price on us, no amount of negotiating is going to make the price cheaper than what they think the gringo should have it for…but at the grocery store THE PRICES ARE ALREADY FIXED! Do you understand what we’re saying here?

Well that was then, nowadays, we just understand what’s in season and buy that at fixed prices.  We rarely go to Feria Libre outdoor Mercado anymore; it’s just not worth it.  Why?  We’ve noticed prices steadily going up (for the gringo) at Feria Libre, which by the way, is supposed to be the cheapest Mercado in Cuenca, and so we have (almost) stopped shopping at Feria Libre.



Link

Also mercados are very limited, and Ecuadorians that I know primarily use them to buy fresh produce because the veggies/fruits are ripe unlike supermarkets where they’re not in most cases. Supermarkets are used to buy everything else.

So what’s cheaper in Ecuador that might be important to retirees?

Healthcare, including private nurse assistants
Drivers
Maids
Dry cleaning
Tutors
Typical local lunch (almuerzo or rice, piece of meat/chicken/soup)
Fruits/Vegetables
Rent

Health care, for my wife and I seventy bucks a month, for full coverage, I have used it a lot, The medical cost here is very reasonable, even without insurance, But Ecuador is in the process of changing  the insurance requirements . There are plenty of restaurants with lunch or dinner  two dollars and fifty cents to six dollars per meal, Maid services, about ten to twenty dollars per day, The utilities, electricity, about ten dollars a month, Loco telephone about five bucks a month, Internet , twenty five to 75 per month, bus service is great, if you are over 65, you pay fifteen cents, fare, plenty of taxis, fare  one dollar fifty to three fifty  takes you around town, you don't need a car, even in Peru, the buss services are great, Fruit and vegetables, big open air markets, you can get to know a few of the ladies who work at the markets, they will sell you the best freshest natural grown veggies and fruits, Same with the meat markets, whole chicken one fifty a pound, fresh whole tuna three fifty a pound, apples five for a dollar, pineapples a buck and a half,  Robert

You can live a more tranquil life here. I do.

I'm finalizing pans to move into a new place, just built. I'll be renting for now. It is a cottage, 2/1 with a nice sized backyard large enough for a garden and my two dogs and constantly changing number of cats. Room to build up. I have always liked the town. Rent will be $200.

The location would not call to every gringo, it lacks curb appeal. For me it should work out well, I hope.

I have

Do you know much about  Playas, Ecuador?  My friend and I are thinking of retiring there.  DC

Does anyone have thoughts on the feasibility of opening a restaurant in Ecuador?

I would not suggest opening any business you have not run previously. There is enough of a learning curve in handling a business in a new language under new labor laws, within a new culture with stocking items from vendors within those new parameters and handling the expense and upkeep of your fixed assets and perishables as well as suppliers.

If you are planning to cater to just the expat crowd, it is not a sufficient economic market to be financially feasible for supporting a restaurant, market or shop. The demographic is small and tends to be fickle. Any business must cater to the wider market if it has hopes of survival, so the food and service needs to be marketed towards that end.

dfc7 :

Does anyone have thoughts on the feasibility of opening a restaurant in Ecuador?

This is one of the most lucrative businesses here but the success rate is very low. There are successful local brands that are expanding but I’ve also seen some restaurants in which a lot of money was put into decor, equipment, etc but fail in less than a year, and on top of that some have even paid franchisee fees on top of those expenses, ouch. They simply couldn’t sustain the losses.

If you know something about the food and beverage industry then you’ll understand susan_in_ecuador point about it being twice more difficult because of things like language, and a completely different system than what you are accustomed to. This is actually true for all businesses because it's a completely different mindset here in how things work.

However, a friend who’s been here almost 20 years and is doing quite well for his lifestyle averages about $4000 a month clean (net). He got it right though, the right niche, the right location, and it took him a long time to make this money. He said he lost money the first two years but the losses were decreasing over time, and for a few years after that he was basically even, and after that revenue increased. This guy has the “Ecuadorian” mentality. They are patient, and will put in time and effort longer than what many foreigners might be comfortable with because cutting losses is feasible and easier psychologically.

BTW I’m not in the food and beverage industry, simply sharing my perspective. I’m researching opening a businesses and getting closer with each passing day in terms of knowledge. I narrowed it down to niche, I’m currently on logistics, location, etc. And working on my language and won’t proceed until I have a level of proficiency that is acceptable (relatively speaking) as my target market is Ecuadorians.

Best of luck.

You're key word is "for the price" regarding construction,.  There is no enforceable code here for building, electrical connections are done with tape and concrete is mixed with beach sand- not to mention the support columns are not even close to US code for the size and weight.  I've seen the shoddy construction here that doesn't even come close to US standards so don't believe for a minute that any building here is even close to the US.

An63680 :

A fourth to seventy dollar restaurant?? any restaurant that is more then five dollars is getting expensive, I have never been to A restaurant in Ecuador that charges more than fifteen dollars,  There is a very good tienda two blocks from my house, cheaper than  super maxi, and much better quality food, than super maxi, I recently bought a new house, the quality is the better than  any house in the USA, for the price  Roberto

You're key word is "for the price" regarding construction,.  There is no enforceable code here for building, electrical connections are done with tape and concrete is mixed with beach sand- not to mention the support columns are not even close to US code for the size and weight.  I've seen the shoddy construction here that doesn't even come close to US standards so don't believe for a minute that any building here is even close to the US.

Susan,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.  All great points to consider!  My friend and I are intending to move to Playas next year, buying property early in the year, and then building our house.  My friend wants also to build a restaurant (so we would buy two plots of land) .  I have my anxieties and have shared them with my friend, but he is quite certain this is needed in Playas and would be lucrative.  He has run his own business in Toronto, and has a couple of other people who would not be investors but would help with the accounting and business, for a one year commitment, and hopefully beyond that.  We have a dear friend from Ecuador who knows the people and culture.....and he has family and friends in Ecuador who would be an asset as well.  After reading your response I developed hesitancy but my friend is not at all hesitant and intends to go forward with the plan.  So, if you have any more thoughts or ideas please share, as you are able.   Thank you again!  denise

VSimple,

Thank you so much for your response.  I know the restaurant business is one that fails more often than not in the US, so I can only imagine how difficult it will be to earn any income if opening this business in Ecuador.  We are moving to Playas, which has some small eateries, all of which serve similar things.  I suppose because what they serve is what Ecuadorian's enjoy!  While in Playas in May, we met a chef who has been driving a taxi and trying to earn enough money for his family AND ultimately to open a restaurant.  We are going to ask him if he would be the head chef at our restaurant, as he is a fabulous cook (he made an unbelievable meal for us) and he knows and excels making Ecuadorian food, sometimes with a nice twist!  Anyway.....your feedback, along with Susan's feedback, give us things to consider before sinking our money into a restaurant business.   You;ve got me curious about your pending business - share if you feel comfortable?  Take good care and thank you again for your thoughtful response (and excuse the typos - bad keyboard) - denise

Robert,

   Who would you go to to locate a good deal on land near Quito.  Someone who understands the requirements for water, etc. and is bi-lingual?

Thanks,

Les

lesmo :

Who would you go to to locate a good deal on land near Quito.  Someone who understands the requirements for water, etc. and is bi-lingual?

Les

Dear Les,

Welcome to the Ecuador forum.

If, as stated in your introduction, you want to relax while visiting Ecuador for a month at a time .. I'd say rent on your first trip or two to Ecuador.

Usually, the caveat is to avoid buying or building on property in Ecuador until you have spent a year in the target area.

That goes double for you because (a) you want to relax .. and searching for property and learning the ropes of property-purchase will defeat that purpose, and (b) attempting to buy property in the first month has been a recipe for disaster for way too many newcomers.

Consider spending time with the growers at coffee coops -- in line with your area of interest -- to get a fuller understanding of the experience.  Even at altitude, the intensity of the Equatorial sun can be daunting to Expats.

cccmedia

CC,

   I definitely will be renting, but I would like to take advantage of my time there to understand the process.  I would be willing to pay a real estate professional for their time so that I can understand where in the greater Quito valley I should look...

Thanks,

Les

this is off the subject a little but, what can you tell us about the new law that was passed that all expats need to provide proof of health insurance.  The ones we had checked even before we heard about the new law was very expensive.  The IESS will cost us about 20% of our monthly income.  Is there anything you can share with us.

Robert, can you share with us where you are have your health care coverage.  We my be missing something but, we are see a lot higher prices than $70 per month.

Thanks

Marc

This health insurance law has really been aggravating for me.  We pay out of pocket, I don't earn income so I guess I could sign up for IESS, but hate to waste monthly premium dollars if I'm going to continue to pay out of pocket.  I researched so many international companies and Ecuadorian companies for weeks.  I have chosen to go with bmi.  I've received my welcome letter email, but do not yet have a policy #.  I'm waiting for this to travel, since so many people are getting hassled and held up at the airports without it.  Health insurance policies here are not what I'm used to, so I will basically use it as an emergency plan unless I have to have an inpatient/outpatient procedure.  Also make sure you have in writing what the companies plan termination policy is in case you leave or are unhappy and want to switch.  I've also chosen to have my monthly premium charged to my international credit card for that reason.  They quoted me $133 and change a month, but we will see once it's through underwriting.  I've also read on different blogs and forums (which I know not to always believe) that it can be difficult to cancel IESS.  Not the actual process but the paper work gets lost and so forth.  Apparently, they continue to accrue premiums even if you don't know it wasn't canceled.  Not sure how true that is.  Plus the IESS hospital was destroyed here in Manta during the earthquake and I'm not sure if it's been rebuilt or not.  Just my 2 cents.

Thanks for the info. most of the post are over 2 years old.  This new requirement is very concerning as we came here with limited resources of my pension.

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