Ecuador: The Hidden Paradise Where A Couple Can Live Comfortably On $2,000 a Month or Less
Sell your winter clothes...and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in the Land of Eternal Spring. Every cliché you've heard about living large on little...on even a retiree's budget...is true in Ecuador.
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- Population: 15,439,429
- Capital City: Quito
- Climate: Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
- Time Zone: GMT-5
- Language: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
- Country Code: 593
- Coastline: 2,237 km
You can study all the collected data, analyze real estate statistics, crunch the cost-of-living numbers, study weather patterns and more, but nothing surpasses your gut instinct when it comes to choosing a place to live.
Among the top retirement spots in the world this year, you’ll find great variety in the cultural offerings, climates and lifestyles. Each destination is desirable in its own way, but they all offer something increasingly hard to come by at home: A good quality of life for a reasonable price. Among these 22 destinations, you’ll discover places where you can save tens of thousands of dollars…
Imagine being able live wherever you want…or taking off on months-long vacations whenever the mood hits you. You sure can’t do that with a regular 9-to-5 job. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Copywriting allows you to live exactly this type of lifestyle…because your workplace becomes anywhere with an Internet connection. Plus, you get to answer to the best boss of all—yourself.
The thermometer was already getting close to 100 degrees when we left Las Vegas for Cuenca, Ecuador two-and-a-half years ago. We’d had enough of that scorching heat—as well as the humidity and chilly winters in the southeast where we previously lived… Besides the attractive cost of living, the mild climate of Cuenca was one of our major reasons for moving here.
When I talk to International Living readers about their plans to move abroad I’m often asked, “Where is the best place to move if I want to earn an income?” I gently explain that is really the wrong question because today, you can earn an income from virtually any place on the globe you have an Internet connection.
Ecuador’s North coast is on my radar because it’s stunningly beautiful. And, recently accessible. Perched above a sandy cove, Jama Campay is this coast’s best-in-class project. Here, the rental market is already strong.
Every time you turn around, another travel piece appears about Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Mainstream travel writers, it seems, are just now discovering what we’ve known for years… that the city is a worthy destination that blends new and old in alluring ways. It doesn’t hurt that Quito is one of the world’s most affordable cities.
My young guide in Quito put it well: “There really is no excuse not to buy your girlfriend roses when they cost so little…” In the Cuenca flower market, for example, roses are $1 a dozen—a fresh bouquet will be made for you, while you wait. In Quito, in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott, an enormous bouquet that must include at least eight dozen perfectly-matched white roses beautifully dominates the lobby.
Just shy of 10 years ago, my wife Laurie and I fell in love with the Vilcabamba Valley, a lush gem tucked away in the Andes of Southern Ecuador. The near-perfect weather, the healthy lifestyle, the low cost of living, and the natural beauty of the valley all contributed to our decision to settle there. And those things have lived up to our expectations.
Every time you turn around, another travel piece appears about Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Mainstream travel writers, it seems, are just now discovering what we’ve known for years…that the city is a worthy destination that blends new and old in alluring ways. It doesn’t hurt that Quito is one of the world’s most affordable cities, where you can still take a taxi anywhere in town for $1 to $5 and find a menú del día…usually a four-course meal of soup, salad, meat/rice/vegetables, dessert, and beverage…for $1.50 to $2.50.
Suzan Haskins is a long-time resident of Ecuador…so she knows this place inside-out. Below, she gives her tips on where to stay, shares her real estate contacts and gives details of what lies in the valleys beyond the capital.
Winner of the 2012 Global Retirement Index, Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar.
Own your own four-bedroom B&B in the middle of one of the most beautiful spots in Ecuador. At 8,000 feet, you’re surrounded by mountains. And the climate is ideal year-round—no need for heat or air conditioning—and there’s a large open patio and summer kitchen. The colonial town of Cotacachi, known for its leatherwork, is just 10 minutes away. Otavalo (pictured), a larger town famous for its Saturday open-air market filled with indigenous handicrafts, is just five minutes down the road. The country’s capital, Quito, is just a two-hour drive.
It was November 1, 2001, and we had jettisoned our previous lives to begin anew in Quito, Ecuador. Just as the thick fog that wrapped its arms around us that night, the future felt fresh and full of possibility. Our Ecuadorian friends greeted us with cheers and hugs and loaded us up for the short ride to the home we’d rented for the coming year. In one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, it had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a guesthouse…
In Ecuador, every day is a memory maker. But some more than others… Like the time three of us stayed at a friend’s beachfront house in Olón, with a bamboo bar overlooking the ocean. We dubbed it the “Sand Bar,” for its sand floor. (The owner paid just $50,000 for this house, by the way.) Long into the night, the guys played guitars and sang…
IL correspondents sometimes share their monthly budgets to help readers get a feel for the ongoing costs of living abroad. Items such as rent, utilities, and food are self-explanatory, but what about that nebulous “entertainment” category? Expenditures can vary wildly from person to person depending on individual interests and taste.
Everyone who moves to Ecuador has a different reason for doing it, but they all have one thing in common… they’re glad they did. Earl Phillips and his wife, Jan, almost lost everything they had spent 36 years working for when the property bubble in the U.S. burst. But after Jan suggested moving from their home in central Washington to the coast of Ecuador…
Many expats living here are thrilled when they experience significant weight loss and overall improvement in their health. Two friends of mine, David Akins and his wife Karen, relocated to Cuenca, a lovely colonial city sitting at 8,400 feet altitude in Ecuador’s southern highlands, a year and a half ago.
I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. I did it for all the right reasons—and discovered an exciting new life beyond the curtain of fear that keeps most people stuck at home. I’ve been living here for two years now, and my expat experience thus far has vastly exceeded expectations that were pretty high to begin with. One of the most impressive aspects of life in Ecuador is the quality and affordability of health care.
In exotic, welcoming, warm-weather destinations all over the world—from Colombia to Korea—you can live better for less. But, alas, you can’t live for free. Many retirees fund their lives overseas through savings, Social Security, and pensions. But those aren’t your only options. In this golden age of the portable career, we know readers cashing in with freelance work from every corner of the planet.
Venice is one of the world’s most romantic cities, a place where graceful vessels glide along 700-year-old canals in the shade of historic mansions. Lots of people come to visit, but not many get to stay. You could, however, by taking advantage of one of the many opportunities that exist for funding a life overseas. In fact, there are more of these opportunities than ever these days, opportunities that often don’t reveal themselves until you are on the ground.
In the U.S., you cannot do what I have done here in Ecuador… you’d have too much debt to worry about,” says Kevin Sheehy, who bank-rolled his first venture—a Vietnamese restaurant—in the cool-weather capital of Quito with just $14,000. One business opportunity led to another, and today his success overseas means that Kevin enjoys the flexibility to live in a place he loves (the weather is spring-like year-round) and spend four months every year traveling.
Famous for its artisanal leather goods, the colonial town of Cotacachi (pictured) features open-air markets and small mom-and-pop stores. For other amenities Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is only two hours away by car or bus. Here you’ll find a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo, one of six in a secure building. There are great mountain views and at 8,000 feet, there is no heat or humidity. It’s cool in the evenings.
Columbus called Costa Rica “the Rich Coast”—and it still is, with Caribbean beaches and Pacific shoreline that’ll take your breath away. But this nation has much more to offer, too: a year-round tropical climate, modern cities, rain forests, lush valleys and majestic mountains.
To be young is to dream. As kids we fantasize about becoming super heroes, professional athletes, or actors. We start our careers and imagine great success and an early, prosperous retirement. Then “reality” gets in the way. One by one we set those dreams on a shelf. Still, it’s good to keep them around, however dusty. Because sometimes you’ll find them coming to life in amazing and unexpected ways.
On Ecuador’s best stretch of coast sandy coves and verdant hills showcase jaw-dropping views. Prices have stayed low here because it was difficult to get to. But a new highway means that this has changed. Members of Real Estate Trend Alert can buy a lot in the best-in-class project in this area, with a manageable down payment and monthly payments of $470.
Not only is it the finest section of Pacific coast in Ecuador…it’s the finest anywhere. This is a place of explosive colors and contrasts, forests and coves, exotic butterflies and monkeys. Fishing villages and little surf towns dot the coast. Fishermen bring their fresh bounty ashore and sell it from their boats. Pioneer surfers catch waves and enjoy a cold beer at sundown.
About five years ago I heard about a course running in Ecuador that could show me how to make money from travel. I didn’t know anything about Ecuador but was intrigued by the idea. The more I read about it, the more excited I got. The course was about import/export and it was about to show me how I could travel to exotic spots, shop for beautiful, unique artisan-made goods, and turn a profit…
If Ecuador isn’t on your short list of places to travel, add it. Ecuador has mountain towns…tropical coast…the Amazon basin…and it’s also home to the Galapagos Islands. But I won’t dwell on any of that right now; just suffice it to say that if you go, you’ll want to go back.
While in Miami airport recently awaiting a flight home, I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler. When he learned I lived in Ecuador he was extremely curious and asked many questions about why I was there and how I liked it. Before we parted he said, “Well, I don’t speak Spanish so I couldn’t move to your new country.” He’s partially right.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have lived abroad for nearly 12 years now, in seven different locations in four different countries. And at some point during each of those years, in each of those locations, we’ve asked ourselves, “Is it time to go back to the States?” We’ve said “no” every time…but not for the reasons you might think. We didn’t leave the States because we hated it. We love the U.S. and all the family and friends we have there.
After just a few months in Ecuador, Julian and Casandra bought a property just outside Otavalo, the hometown of one of South America’s largest indigenous markets. Their dream was to turn it into a bed & breakfast where they could indulge all of their interests at the same time. Rio Blanco Bed & Brew was born. “I love to cook,” says Casandra.
We had just pulled out of a perfect…and perfectly deserted…half-moon cove where sand and surf played lazy tag between rock-boned headlands. After driving just a few more minutes north, our driver again turned off the coastal highway and again we dropped into another beach scene lifted straight from a tropical postcard. “Tasaste,” our driver said.
If you’re looking for a beach home and you’re on a tight budget, one country should top your shortlist: Ecuador. Ecuador’s coast is a sleeping giant. For years foreign buyers ignored it as a second-home destination. When it came to buying a place in the sun, they focused on better-known (and more expensive) beach destinations. That lack of foreign buyers is why beach homes in Ecuador remain affordable.
It happens to me every now and then…I look around in amazement and ask myself, “How did I get here?” Right now, here is a small Andean mountain village basking under the equatorial sun in a green valley 8,000 feet above sea level between two extinct volcanoes in northern Ecuador. And of course, I know more or less how I got here. Almost a dozen years ago, my husband Dan and I sold our house in Omaha…
Why do I love Quito, Ecuador? The sweet-natured people…the extraordinary weather…the gorgeous scenery…the great restaurants, shopping, the first-class infrastructure and services…and, of course, the affordability… It’s a city where you can still take a taxi anywhere in town for $1 to $5 and find a menu del dia for $1.50 to $2.50.
My wife and I decided to get off the “hamster wheel” over two years ago. We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. And we’re now living “life in the slow lane.” After my visit to the drugstore I decided to stop off for a $3 manicure. Shortly after I got back, my wife Cynthia returned from yoga class and is now off to a “ladies’ lunch.” I’ll spend the afternoon writing and painting.
What if you could improve your lifestyle by about 200%…and do it for half what you spend today…why wouldn’t you? You could do it in a place where you never had to shovel snow again…where the weather is always perfect, about 77 degrees during the day and 50 degrees at night—all year round. A place where, in a single day’s drive, you can go from a sophisticated city with true cultural appeal…
My wife is the one who first suggested we look for a home on an entirely different continent. We began our research and discovered we could trade in the familiar U.S. retirement locations for more affordable (and exotic) destinations overseas. Over time, we narrowed our target to Ecuador. We wanted warm weather and beachfront property with a view.
Would you like to wake up every morning and feel as though you’re on vacation? I’m used to it, and after two years, I allow myself the luxury of not feeling guilty. As soon as the sun ﬁlters through our bedroom window and I hear the rippling sounds of the Tomebamba River, I think about the piece of la dolce vita I have in Ecuador…