How To Live In Ecuador

In this article, I am going to give a few suggestions on how to live in Ecuador. Of course, this assumes you desire to live there in the first place, or are at least considering it enough to do some research.  How To Live In Ecuador

As with many other places around the globe, Ecuador offers much for an ex-pat whether looking for a change of scenery or just a more ideal place to live or retire. Let me share a few ideas about this most interesting country.

How To Live In Ecuador — Some Basic Facts

— Population: 13,756,000

— Demographic Growth Rate: 1.56%

— Location and Borders: Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru

— Capital City: Quito (Metro Area Population: 2 million)

— Area: Total: 283,560 sq km

Land: 276,840 sq km

Water: 6,720 sq km

— Climate: tropical along the coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands

— Government System: republic

— Administrative Divisions: 22 provinces; Azuay, Bolivar, Canar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galapagos, Guayas, Imbabura, Loja, Los Rios, Manabi, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, Sucumbios, Tungurahua, Zamora-Chinchipe

— Industries: textiles, petroleum, food processing, wood products, chemicals
— Languages: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)

The Regions of Ecuador

Ecuador consists of three distinct regions: the coast, the sierra, and the orient. The coast and the orient are actually split down the middle by the Andes sierra region which runs right down the middle of the country from north to south.

The coastline of Ecuador is rich with beaches and resorts as well as various fishing villages and agricultural areas. The vegetation is mostly marshes and mangrove forests. The beaches are scattered with palms and the waters are warm around the year. The northern region of the coast is much hotter and humid with a lot more rain than in the southern region. This region is home to a culture with African roots as characterized by food, music, and dance.
The Sierra Highlands area is known for its volcanoes, and its rich biodiversity with wildlife, cloud forests, thermal baths, and beautiful landscapes. These natural characteristics, as well as the region’s strong culture, have made the highlands region one of the most popular and visited places.
The Orient is located east of the Andes mountain range. It is made up of tropical forests with several rivers which are filled by the melting snow from the surrounding volcanoes and mountains. Because of these tropical characteristics, the region is very bio-diverse with a variety of species of plants and wildlife. Due to the lack of entry points into this area, you will find fewer tourists here, but it does have many activities to enjoy in these spectacular surroundings.

Over one-quarter (1/4) of the twenty-eight (28) million hectares in Ecuador is protected. That is approximately five (5%) percent more than other countries in South America. There are one hundred and thirty-five (135) national parks, nature reserves, and wilderness areas in Ecuador, as well as three (3) biosphere reserves and eight (8) wetlands.  How To Live In Ecuador

In addition, there are almost eleven hundred (1100) species of amphibians, fish, and reptiles. With six hundred and forty (640) bird species and over nineteen thousand three hundred (19,300) plant species Ecuador definitely qualifies as being bio-diverse with many areas worth spending time exploring and taking in the sights.

How To Live In Ecuador — Some of the Dos and Don’ts

Whether living in Ecuador as an ex-pat or retiree here are a few suggestions to get you by in a more positive and harmonious way.

— Be courteous.

Now, this should be a no-brainer no matter where you are in the world, but you may be surprised by the rudeness I have encountered and observed over the years from tourists from all over the world. Some folks seem to have some sort of attitude of entitlement no matter where they are. I have always found that respect for another’s culture and an open mind to learn different ways of living are always appreciated. Also, a smile and some simple courtesy go a long way as well.

— Acknowledge your lack of knowledge

This includes admitting that you are new to the area and if you don’t speak Spanish or very little, let people know. People all over the world respect authenticity and a genuine response.

— As a Pedestrian keep your eyes wide open

To put it simply pedestrians NEVER have the right of way so look both ways and up and down as well. People get hit by cars all the time in Ecuador so be prepared. If at a stop sign the smart thing to do is to cross behind the lead car so that you have a bit of protection. Drivers are always watching the traffic and not pedestrians. So forget crosswalks or the right of way as this is all about survival.

— Wherever you are always start with a Greeting

Whether in a store, in a taxi, or meeting someone new, start with asking how a person is or “Buenos días” (good morning) dependent on the time of day. When addressing each other people in this part of the world never just jump right into business. If it is a family or more personal setting expect handshakes and kisses when coming and going. When leaving a gathering you spend time shaking hands and kissing women on the cheek before walking out the door; the same thing when you first arrive. If you don’t do it people will assume you are mad at them.

Don’t get in a taxi without agreeing on what the fare is to be in advance.

Let them know you live there and know how the game is played or you will be charged over fifty (50%) percent more.

— Don’t show up to parties on time.

In this part of the world six (6) o’clock actually means eight (8) o’clock so don’t show up on time to parties as most people in this part of the world are not able to keep commitments. Over time you will identify who can, and you can then set your expectations accordingly. It is not uncommon for a person to set an appointment with you and then not show up for whatever reason. Once you adapt to this you won’t waste time waiting around for folks who never intended to show.

Restaurant etiquette.

First of all when you enter a restaurant seat yourself. Don’t expect someone to come up to seat you. Additionally, waiters are not assigned to any one table, so ask any waiter you can find when you need something. It doesn’t matter who took your order.

Also, don’t wait around expecting someone to bring your check. Ask for it, “la cuenta, por favor”. It is rude in this culture to bring the check before it is requested. Even at closing waiters will wait around until you ask for your check.

Ten (10%) percent for a tip is included in your bill. Additional money is not expected but okay if you do.

— Don’t be shy when driving

When driving in Ecuador it is highly recommended to be assertive, if not downright aggressive. This reminds me of the times of driving in New York City. My intention was to drive more aggressively than the cab drivers.

Don’t expect other drivers to show courtesy to drivers or pedestrians. Once you get used to it, it can be a fun game. If it bothers you, don’t drive.

— Personal space does not exist.

Don’t be surprised if people get close or even rub up against you in public. It’s just part of the culture.

— Be patient.

Once you settle in and appreciate the differences you will have a wonderful experience in Ecuador.


How To Live In Ecuador — Summing Things Up

Currently, market conditions are very good to purchase property in Ecuador either to live or as an investment. Much progress has been made as a result of the work and innovative thinking of the former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.

The easiest way to get established is to locate an expatriate community with plenty of English-speaking folks who share some of your interests. The drawback here is that you will not learn the culture as quickly.  How To Live In Ecuador

Since prices are somewhat depressed and demand is returning it is an ideal time to purchase property on Ecuador’s coast. The area of Salinas (population is about 60,000), formerly part of the Guayaquil province, is now its own province. In 2008, it became Santa Elena Province (the 24th in the country) and infrastructure funds came in from the government. Salinas is now called the “Little Miami”. Even before the ex-pats became aware of this area, it was a destination place for Ecuadorians on vacation. The area is a seasonal location (December through May), and the population can double then.

Year-round the ex-pat population is about seven hundred (700) to eight hundred (800) with a fifty (50) – fifty (50) mix of Canadians and Americans. In the height of the season, the population will jump to about one thousand two hundred (1200). It is safe for males and females to walk around at any time of the day or night.

There are plenty of fire, police, and ambulance services available with both private and public hospital care. Public transportation is available and many schools are bilingual. A service called “Tia Poli” is provided for Salinas residents where you register with the police and they provide you with a button on your cell phone to press as needed and the police will show up.

There is also an American-style mall with a movie theater and plenty of open-air markets. Fiber-optic internet is available.

I am highlighting this part of Ecuador because it is very inviting. The ex-pat community is very friendly and will engage with you easily asking about your interests. There are many ex-pat activities such as book clubs, dance lessons, yoga classes, coffee and happy hour get-togethers, poker, scramble, and even Spanish classes.

There are Rotary and Lions clubs and plenty of volunteer opportunities including two handicapped schools in need of assistance.

With the changes in the capital appreciation laws under Correa and the overall low economic climate in recent years in Ecuador, you can find good prices for property to live or invest in. Plus the increase in the capital gains tax has been repealed. You can get quality property starting at around $100,000 USD.

Keep a few things in mind when looking to purchase property. First, buildings are not constructed for people with disabilities or any type of mobility issue. Also, not all buildings have elevators so if this is a consideration for you let your real estate agent know this upfront. All buildings do not have balconies so if you want one let your agent know.

Also since listings are not exclusive, many agents will have the same listings and quite often at different prices. Don’t rely on online listings because they are not up-to-date. Some buildings have restrictions regarding no rentals or sub-leasing and no pets. You have to schedule your viewings of properties as there is no lockbox system.

Be prepared to purchase a property As-Is as locals do not maintain their properties in ways to which you may be accustomed. For example, fixtures may be broken and cabinets may need to be replaced. The seller will not repair these things before closing.

Here are a few properties for sale in Ecuador to give you an idea.

There are a lot of things to research and plenty of questions to ask before making a property purchase, but one of the most important is to determine who the builder is. With all the new construction going on there are many new developers hitting the scene. In the Salinas area, there are three (3) developers with proven track records so find out who they are and stick with them if you choose to pursue some property.

This should provide you with plenty of information of how to live in Ecuador if this is an ideal destination for you. With some additional research, you will have plenty of information on which to base a decision. Enjoy!

To your current and future Adventures,


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28 thoughts on “How To Live In Ecuador”

  1. I love travelling and I want to go to every country I can. Hopefully I can visit ecuador soon. I was just curious to why the people there set time then come late, I mean in the party you are talking about. So how do you get used to this? I do not know now what time should I really come

    • Thanks for your comments Vincent.  You can arrive on time if you want but the host may just be getting out of the shower and have to answer the door in a towel.  LOL 🤣

  2. Wow, I love this article, you just have the demographic and geographical data of Ecuador, I’ve never been there but reading this article has given me an insight how that place looks like, you can imagine drivers that don’t look out for pedestrians. Thanks for the information, I will bookmark this just incase i find myself there any day.

  3. I wow! This is an informative and educative article on how to live in Ecuador. You have put everything in perspective for anybody reading this to understand how to do when in Ecuador. you have exhaustively put everything in view from economy to security to manner and etiquettes. However I am scarrd of hit and run! It must be a recurring event for you to mention it.

    how frequent is pedestrian car accident?

    • Appreciate your comments.  Like anywhere else it’s important to stay aware of your environment and circumstances.  Having spent time in New York City and other large cities around the world this is not an issue as long as you Accept the ways things are and adjust accordingly.  All  the Best.

  4. heh I enjoyed reading about living in Ecuador, thank you for that.  Sounds like a place not for the faint-hearted.

    Some of the advice you were giving can apply in a number of densely populated cities I’ve ‘strolled’ around in – like I never thought of it but you’re right, using the leading car as protection when crossing!  I’ll follow that advice now, for sure!  I am  often almost getting run over coz i keep thinking i had right of way.

    Think you’ll be following this article up with a brief look at the cuisine there too?  You’ve piqued my interested in Ecuador … I’d love to read that article too 🙂

  5. As someone looking to immigrate soon, Ecuador never even registered on my radar. 

    Thank you for this article, you have opened my eyes to new possibilities!
    I especially like that the property values are so low, albeit fix-me-uppers 🙂 (Thanks for the extra property tips, by the way!)
    I also really like the idea of a friendly community, especially towards expats.
    On the downside, I’m a bit worried about the personal space issue… I do understand culture, and perhaps that specific type of “close” culture is not for me. Also, I doubt I’ll be able to adjust to driving in Ecuador x’)

    • Thanks for your comments.  All the Best with wherever you choose to live.  I have found everywhere has its tradeoffs so it is just a matter of finding what best suits you.

  6. Living in Ecuador has so many similarities with where I come from. You mentioned that the northern region has a culture that has roots in Africa. I find that surprising since the country is a South American country. 

    I think I will blend easily with the lifestyle of Ecuador because there are hardly any differences between my country and Ecuador, except the governmental system. 

  7. I have never been to Ecuador but I have always ways heard of it. It seems to a cool place to live. What you have shared here is a full and well-detailed insight into living here, I believe that those who are desiring to live here will have a wealth of knowledge as they visit your website on living in Ecuador. It is good to experience culture and a new way of life.

  8. Hi Joseph. Thanks to you for writing this great, informative And educative post about Ecuador. I’m definitely going visit this country to have fun and these great experiences. The driving part got me lol. I guess I’ll just be driving around the town to do the aggressive thing lol. I really enjoyed this and I’ll be looking forward to new posts from you. 

  9. Hi Joseph
    Wow, I learned a lot about Ecuador thanks to your article! Very interesting part of the world, I have never visited but am keen to now – thank you.
    In Africa we joke about “African time” which can literally mean any time at all – I see that was imported into Ecuador too.
    How does this work when it comes to business meetings? If I were to travel to Ecuador from South Africa, would the fact that I have traveled so far for the meetings mean anything or is the likelihood still there that some people would not show for meetings?

    • Thanks for your comments Louise. In business pretty much the same but it depends on the person. I always show up on time and bring a book and/or my laptop.

  10. Hello, first and foremost I would like to commend your effort on this heat informative article. I came across this article looking for information about what life in Ecuador can be and I found satistfying information here. I also aggre that when you get to a place you are not too familiar with it you don’t fully understand their language, it is only proper to not be shy of asking for help or direction. Great tips, learnt lot.

  11. I just had to make a comment on this post about Ecuador because that is where we live!
    It sounds as though you live here too. Everything you have written is so accurate and I really think this is a very useful article for anyone contemplating moving to Ecuador.
    This is a beautiful country with friendly people and I appreciate your good insight and advice.
    Muchísimas gracias,

    • Thanks so much for your comments Colette. I am happy that you enjoy living there. I have a very good friend who has made several trips there both to the cities and even the very remote areas and really enjoys the culture and the people. All the very best to you.

  12. This is a great article which is very thorough. I must admit, I didn’t really know much about Ecuador as I live on the other side of the world! So it’s nice to read about other countries and their cultures. You have a great site and a good writing style so I’m sure you will do very well. Thank you.

  13. Love travelling, exploring new places and your article just gave me some more food for thoughts. I live in Europe and it has been a while now since I have been thinking of relocating somewhere else, I am just tired of listening to people complaining and talk about the crisis, that’s all they do and no wonder people get depressed.
    I orginally thought to relocate in Asia where I lived for many years but now reading about Ecuador I would be interested in visiting the place. Can I ask if you know whether or not foreigners are allowed to purhcase properties in their name? I ask because in Asia sometimes to buy a house is not a straight forward thing and I wonder if Ecuador has any specific rule. Thank you

    • Thanks for your comments Barbara. I do not own property there so I would suggest contacting a real estate person in Ecuador to get the up-to-date and current info on property ownership. All the Best wherever you choose to end up.

  14. Your article has provided me with some new information. I have been researching emigrating to Ecuador since last fall. I find lots of expat information for Cuenca and Quito but not so much for the rest of the country. Your insights into other areas of the country have been very helpful, I would like to live near the coast. I am preparing the documents for a retirement visa and hope to there by January. Do you know of any retail websites, i have not decided on what I should bring from Canada, shipping costs vs purchase in country.
    Thanks Bob

    • Thanks for your comments Bob. All the Best in your relocation to Ecuador.Off hand I do not know of any retail sites to suggest. Regards, Joseph


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