2008 was a very tough year for my wife and me. At the time, we were living the good life in Las Vegas—big home, high-paying jobs, investments that were propelling us toward our retirement goals. Then what I refer to as the “Economic Tsunami” hit, and we were among the many casualties of that global financial meltdown. When we both found ourselves downsized, we naively thought, “No problem. With our skillsets we’ll have no trouble finding another great job.”
A view, good-value real estate, low cost of living, friendly locals…they’re all important as you search for a new community to settle in abroad. But if you have a green thumb, you may have some special requirements for your dream home. You’ll need good soil and the right light. Maybe you want multiple growing seasons, which is possible in some tropical areas.
Better weather and a low cost of living makes Ecuador a great option for retirement, and recent improvements to the immigration process now makes it even easier to gain residence in Ecuador. Ecuadorian lawyer Santiago Andrade says: “President Correa’s administration has improved many of the bureaucratic processes, and business and immigration is not the exemption to this change. I have seen an improvement in the timing of the residence visa process. In the past a visa took around 30 to 45 days to be approved; now it takes two to three weeks.”
Before my wife, Cynthia, and I relocated to Cuenca, Ecuador from the U.S, we made an exploratory trip. Even though only a few years previously, we had never even heard of Cuenca, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. The city more than lived up to its UNESCO World Heritage designation with carefully preserved colonial architecture throughout the historic district. Plus while there we were thrilled to attend a free outdoor symphony concert. That’s right—free!
Expats have flocked to Cuenca, Ecuador in recent years for its great weather, low cost of living, and excellent health care. But most people aren’t aware until they arrive here that my hometown boasts five universities. And because Cuencanos speak what is recognized as the purest Spanish outside of Spain, we also have many Spanish language schools attracting study abroad students from all over the world. Great university towns are known as cultural hubs and artistic centers with a fun, vibrant atmosphere, and Cuenca is no exception. No, you won’t find wild tailgating parties happening during the fall—they play that “other kind” of football here.
The colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador, draws vacationers from all over the world…and it has a tendency to turn visitors into permanent residents. That’s what happened to me four years ago. My three-month visit turned into a six-month stay…Then a year passed and I still hadn’t left. Cuenca has become home. I’ve been to some great places in the world and have loved them—places like Spain, Italy, or even Argentina. So why do I stay in Cuenca when there are so many other great places I could be living? Well, there are three big reasons I keep staying (and staying and staying).
“How much does it cost to live in Ecuador?” That’s a question I hear a lot from readers. From masses of anecdotal evidence and my own experience of living here, I can safely say that a typical couple will most likely spend somewhere between $1,600 and $2,400 a month to live in Ecuador. But what you will spend depends very much on your own needs and wants.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, but it’s not the only one you’ll find in the Andean country. Thousands of expats have chosen from locations all over the country…Pacific coast beach towns, vibrant culture-filled cities, highland farm towns, and more. Ecuador harbors huge variety and whether you’re in search of adventure, planning to start a business, or just want to relax and watch the world go by, it’s got something to offer you.
In Ecuador, you’ll not only be in the middle of the world, but you could be on top of it. That’s because thanks to its location on the equatorial “bulge,” the peak of the country’s 20,564-foot Mt. Chimborazo is the point on the Earth’s surface that’s the farthest from the Earth’s core and closest to the sun. There truly is something for everyone here. Mountains, beaches, rainforests, cities, and small towns…all with a price tag nearly anyone can afford. By the way, Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar—no currency conversions necessary.
The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.
I’d wanted to visit Ecuador for almost 12 years before I finally set foot there. At the time, I didn’t realize it was going to be my new home. I thought I was just visiting… But when you’ve got a portable income, vacations go on forever. Money wasn’t an issue and I could easily afford to stay in Ecuador. I picked up a new apartment…a weekly cleaning lady…and lots of new friends. I had both the funds and the flexibility to be as social as I wanted. And I settled into a new kind of life in the colonial city of Cuenca—one that I truly, truly love.
The smell of fresh paint is just one sign things are changing in our Cuenca apartment these days… There’s new furniture. New towels, linens, and dishware. From top to bottom, this place is in the middle of getting a post-wedding makeover as I settle into the married life.
For years, Richard and Amy Griffin ran successful businesses in the southeastern United States. Amy’s focus was interior design, while Richard was a food distributor for restaurants, hotels, and country clubs. Things were going well until the economic downturn hit in 2008. “Charlotte is a banking community and all my customers were pretty much bankers, so they pulled the plug immediately, because they had no clue what was going to happen,” says Amy.
I’m sitting on the patio of the Villa Nova Inn in Cuenca, Ecuador enjoying a few beers. I’m watching the sun go down, looking out over the manicured grassy banks of the Tomebamba river. I can hear the laughter of children in the new Parque de Madre just across the river.
I’ve always loved to explore the areas in which I live. Whether I was bushwhacking through wild Alaskan terrain or driving down dusty country roads in Minnesota farm country, I relished the thrill of seeing what’s around the next bend. It could be a fantastic little family-owned apple orchard or a mama moose with newborn twins.
Moving abroad can be the start of the most exciting and fulfilling chapter of your life. I arrived in Ecuador over four years ago and I’ve never been happier. Stress has vanished; I choose how to spend my time; and I’ve never had so many wonderful friends.
Travelers flock to Ecuador each year to enjoy the country’s diverse regions, exotic wildlife, and of course the famed Galapagos Islands. Some visitors become so enthralled with Ecuador that their vacation becomes a permanent stay. But whether you’re a passer through or a smitten expat, don’t miss out on Ecuador’s vast cultural options.
I go to Spain whenever I get the opportunity; this is my third vacation there in the past five years. This time I’ll head to the North of Spain…to the little-known but very affordable region of Galicia. Previously, I’ve visited artistic Barcelona, historic Seville, and sun-soaked Malaga…three cities with their own distinctive characteristics, appeals, and benefits—and I’m anxious to follow up this vacation with another soon, to picture-perfect Valencia, the bull-running city of Pamplona, and the traditionally preserved hillside towns of Cuenca and Ronda.
Until a few days ago my knowledge of coffee was as follows: buy a bag at the store once in a while and drink a couple of cups to get me going each day. I’ve just returned from an extremely interesting tour, organized by the owner of a local coffee shop here in Cuenca, Ecuador, with a new-found appreciation for my morning beverage.
My sister was shocked at the $2,000 she’d been quoted. But for a year’s worth of monthly housecleaning in Ohio, apparently that’s the going rate. While she recovered from her sticker shock, I did a bit of quick math.
Recent years have seen the small South American country of Ecuador attract many foreigners to its borders. The low cost of living, diverse geography, and ease of immigration are just a few factors that make this equatorial nation appealing.
If you’ve ever sat at a desk dreaming of owning your own jungle lodge in paradise, look no farther than Wendy Green for inspiration. On the outskirts of Ecuador’s cloud-forest town of Mindo, two hours from the capital, Quito, Wendy runs wellness/yoga retreats on her five-acre parcel of land, complete with three waterfalls and a freshwater spring.
There’s a lot to love about Ecuador—the amazing biodiversity; great weather; the low cost of living. And in the larger cities like Cuenca, where I live, the excellent medical care and cultural amenities are an added bonus. I’ve been kept up to date on the miserable winter in the States through Skype conversations with my two children. Right now I’m looking out the window at blue skies and am looking forward to yet another day with temperatures in the 70s.
My best friend from high school saves $84 a month because I live and work in Ecuador. My sister slashed her dental bills. And I recently discovered a way for family members to double the value of their cell phones…
We’ve already lived in seven communities in four different countries. We’ve had some time to honestly assess ourselves and what we need to live somewhere for more than just a month or two a year. By now we have some pretty clear criteria for what we really need a location to provide.
I can’t give you one good reason why Americans and Canadians are coming in droves to Ecuador…because there are dozens of very good reasons. There are so many that I can’t list them all here…but based on a recent trip there, I can tell you what some of the best reasons to live in Ecuador are.
In our years abroad, my wife, Suzan, and I have met expats who told us clearly that it was their intention to live someplace where they never saw another expat again. Although I admire the spirit and determination of this kind of total immersion, I can’t help but recall what an expat in the real estate trade in Mexico told us many years ago.
I recently watched the Grammy salute to the Beatles commemorating their performance on the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago. Yes, I was among the 73 million households glued to the TV set on that historic night. A song that Paul and Ringo performed on the show, “A Little Help from My Friends,” got me thinking about how getting things done where I live in Cuenca, Ecuador is so much easier when you are open to the assistance of others.
It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks. Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.
But nature abhors a vacuum, and I know of no one here simply staring out the window wondering how to spend their time. During four years of living in Cuenca I have been amazed to observe the many creative outlets foreign residents dream up to be active and productive. Free from the yoke of employment (although many expat-run businesses have sprung up) folks are starting foundations and volunteering, learning Spanish and teaching English, tending animals and growing food, traveling in Ecuador and far beyond its borders.
You have probably heard of Cuenca. It’s Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, home to thousands of contented expats, colonial architecture, verdant parks, galleries, museums, and plenty of bars and restaurants. But that’s just the city itself. Since arriving, my work with a local tour company has helped me uncover some of the best day trips.
It’s interesting what you get used to—and what you forget about that you used to be used to. Since moving to Cuenca, Ecuador three and a half years ago my wife and I have noted how much simpler our life has become. For us moving abroad and retirement went hand in hand, so we’ve attributed this phenomenon to no longer having careers with the accompanying stress and pressure.
Yunguilla is a long valley that begins just south of Cuenca and ends near the seaport city of Machala. Its elevation ranges from about 7,000 feet near Cuenca down to 4,500 feet at the Santa Isabel side (closest to Machala on the coast). At its highest point, Yunguilla is 1,500 feet lower than Cuenca, which translates to a warmer climate and very short rainy season. Since the valley is oriented east-west, it gets direct sunshine all day long.
Tired of shoveling snow, braving the torrential rain or wrapping up against the bitter cold? If so, check out these top three places to retire for a better climate as ranked in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014. With a perfect score of 100 and for the second year in a row, Ecuador comes out top in the Climate category and is the overall runner up in this year’s Global Retirement Index. Lying directly on the equator, it enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year.
Whether you are looking for a home on the coast, on an island or in a colonial city, these three countries have the best value real estate. If your dream home includes a pool, a big back yard in which to swing from a hammock in the sun, a place close to the beach where you can snorkel, relax with a good book or watch the sunset…rest assured, you can have it—because your real estate dollar stretches further overseas. You can buy a superior property in a better location for the same amount or less than you would spend on a home in the U.S.
It is Christmas morning, and my wife Cynthia and I are celebrating the joyous occasion with our daughter’s family in New Jersey. Tomorrow we fly to North Carolina to do it all over again in the home of our son. When we moved to Cuenca, Ecuador three and a half years ago we had no grandchildren. In the space of 19 short months we experienced our own private “baby boom” and today we have three (and counting?).
“So why did you move to Cuenca, Ecuador?” Even after three and a half years I’m often asked this question, and there are many answers—the low cost of living, temperate climate, proximity of the U.S., excellent medical care, and the wonderful mix of historic architecture plus modern conveniences.
After doing some research online, which included International Living, I moved to Cuenca at age 54. I planned to travel throughout South America, but I just loved it here, feeling no need to go farther south. Then, six months later, at age 55, my teacher’s retirement kicked in, so I could qualify for a pensionado visa, living off my retirement income.
Are you sick of the rat race? You know the routine…get up, shower, have breakfast, leave the house, get stuck in traffic, put in long hours at the office. Get home, go to bed and do it all again tomorrow. Are you ready for retirement…but looking at your savings you know retirement is out of the question? Here’s how to survive a retirement crisis. You can live a richer lifestyle for less overseas. Many expat couples can live a very comfortable life on a budget of between $1,500 and $2,000 a month…
In the following five countries you will pay less for health care than you do at home. And the quality is at least as good…in fact, many expats say it’s better. Affordable health care isn’t the only reason to move overseas—but it makes the move more attractive. You can get great quality health care for less abroad, lowering your monthly expenses. Panama offers excellent quality health care and modern hospitals in Panama City and other large towns or cities…