The Truth About The Cost of Living in Ecuador

In Ecuador, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well. A couple can retire on less than $18,000 per year, and this figure is based on a comfortable lifestyle. Many foreign residents take advantage of this low cost of living to have their main home in the city, and also own a country home, a beach property, or even property in another country…a feat that would be impossible on a comparable budget in the U.S.

Nestled in the Ecuadorian highlands and with a population of just under a half million, the vibrant colonial city of Cuenca is located in a picturesque valley at about 8,200 feet above sea level. Cuenca’s climate, pace of life and peppering of colonial buildings has made it popular with tourists and expats alike. Then, of course, there’s the cost of living. You get big-city amenities without the inflated costs associated with big-city life. You can rent a luxury three-bedroom apartment, have a weekly maid service, cover the cost of running a car, and regularly eat out at a fancy restaurant for $1,700 a month.

Even in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, a stunning city which just drips with Spanish colonial history, you can live well on a modest budget. Quito is home to some of the most exclusive addresses in Ecuador, yet a pampered lifestyle—with maid, healthcare, plenty of entertainment and dining out, and a luxury two-bedroom apartment rental—will come in at around $1,800 per month for a couple.

Vilcabamba is a small rural town in a secluded mountain basin in southern Ecuador known as a ‘Valley of Longevity’ thanks to the tendency of its inhabitants to live beyond 100. A couple can rent a two-bedroom country home, have a maid visit once a week, regularly go shopping for new clothes, and eat out at restaurants all for less than $1,500 a month (including healthcare).

Additionally, the low cost of living in Ecuador allows retirees to increase their travel, take up new hobbies, and generally enjoy a better quality of life. Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe.

If you are 65 or older it gets even better. Members of Tercera Edad, which means “Third Age” in Spanish (a much better term than “senior citizen,” don’t you think?) enjoy many special benefits in Ecuador. Like discounted airfare on flights originating in the country—half-price public transportation and admission to sporting and cultural events—half-price utilities and a free land line if you own your home. Plus you are eligible for a refund on what you spend for your monthly IVA tax on all purchases. You even have your own line at the bank and grocery store.

Here is a sample budget for a couple living well in the city of Cuenca. The expenses are, of course, approximate. We’ve erred on the side of extra spending to come up with a budget that allows for a pretty luxurious lifestyle…for barely more than $20,000 a year for two people.

Sample monthly budget for a couple living in Cuenca:

Housing (rental of a luxury three-bedroom, unfurnished apartment)
Utilities (including phone, water/electricity, internet, and DirecTV)
Maid (once a week)
Groceries (not including alcohol)
Maintenance and fuel for one car
Misc. (personal items, etc.)
Entertainment (two people dining out six times a month
with drinks, dessert, and tips)
IESS (social security) healthcare
Monthly total:
Yearly total:

Sample monthly budget for a single person living in Cuenca:

Expense U.S.$
Housing (rental of a luxury two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment)$400
Utilities (including phone, water/electricity, internet and DirecTV)$155
Maid (once a week)$80
Groceries (not including alcohol)$400
Maintenance and fuel for one car (optional expense)$140
Misc. (personal items, etc.)$80
Entertainment (one person dining out six times a month with drinks, dessert, and tips)$120
IESS (social security) healthcare$65
Monthly total:$1,440
Yearly total:$17,280