by Mark Bradbury
It’s Saturday morning, a little after 6 a.m., and life is just starting to stir in the Port of Manta. There’s a light rain, but work will soon begin among the fishermen and others who share this busy harbor. One by one, large shrimp boats emerge like ghost ships from the foggy horizon, heading for home after a long night of work. A loud booming boat horn pierces the crisp, cool air, announcing to all that the day is about to start, with, or without them. There’s work to do in Ecuador’s second largest port, but for me things are different.
I get to sit on my terrace every morning, watching this routine play itself out each day. I watch the sky lighten up as the sun emerges from the coastal mountains to the east, and I just sit back and enjoy it all. It’s a new way of life for me, and I drink it in like my morning coffee. Like so many other retirees from the United States and Canada, I’ve chosen Manta as my home, and I’m never disappointed.
Retire in Manta
January, February, and March are the months considered to be the high season along the Ecuadorian Coast, which means that we all get to soak up the warm temperatures and gentle breezes of the Pacific Ocean. It’s officially tourist season, and people from all over the world come here, so we get to share our city and its offerings, but Manta is more than capable of handling the task of host admirably.
Summer here brings our highest temperatures and our heavier periods of rainfall. Fortunately, most of the rain visits during the night, clearing out in the morning, leaving us with a clean air feeling for a brief while before the sun starts to heat up. Manta is quite dry for most of the year, so the rains are always a welcome gift to the region.
The average daily temperatures range from the mid-70’s F during the cooler months of July, August, September, and October to the low to mid-80’s F the rest of the year. There are days when the sun can be intense (keep your sunscreen handy), and there are others when there’s a good cloud cover, leaving you comfortable to explore this great city. I have been able to exist in shorts and sandals every day; there’s little to no need for getting dressed up.
Manta has been exploding with new growth for the past few years and shows little sign of slowing down. It is Ecuador’s 4th largest city, with a population of around 300,000 people. There is a beautiful new shopping mall in Manta that has opened within the last two years that includes a terrific grocery/everything store called MegaMaxi. And a well-stocked MegaKiwi, Ecuador’s answer to the Home Depot is just across the street. There are also hundreds of craftsmen and businesses here that offer just about anything you might be looking for, too. You might even find a few more “Mega” businesses; it seems to be a local thing.
These attractions have brought many more expats to Manta. It’s all about convenience for most of us. The shopping, access to healthcare, with several hospitals nearby, and the availability of excellent specialists and dentists, combine to make this a good place to be. I’ve noticed that there are people visiting Manta for tourist dentistry and surgery, as healthcare here cost pennies compared to the U.S. and Canada. Most medications can be bought over the counter, and there is access to countless generic equivalents that are very reasonable.
Health insurance can be purchased through the government once you have established your residency. It is very inexpensive ($70 per month for a single, $80 for a couple), and my experiences have been good with their service and care. Medicines and examinations are all included, as are surgeries and standard dental work. Medications are mostly generic, but they are of a high quality. Insulin is included in my plan, as well.
Obtaining permanent residency is a little different than it previously was, but it is easily attainable if you follow the guidelines. You will need to qualify for a Temporary Resident visa at first, which is good for two years, and then you can apply for a Permanent Visa. Dual citizenship and an Ecuadorian passport are also available once you have met the current requirements. Three years residency has been the norm, but I have heard conflicting reports of it changing to five years. I’ll be in line for citizenship soon, and I plan to go ahead with the procedure. All of this can be done on your own, but there are many great companies that can walk you through everything for very reasonable fees. I highly recommend the use of one of these professionals.
Lifestyle in Manta
Did I mention the restaurants? There are so many good choices here, from local Ecuadorian to chic gourmet. Prices are very reasonable in most cases, and you rarely walk away hungry. I’ve lived in other parts of Ecuador, and the food choices here are exceptional. It’s one of the things that make Manta so right for me. And, it will only cost you no more than $2 for a taxi to get you around to the better restaurants in town.
Housing can be found all over the Greater Manta area, in both homes and apartments. Manta has several nearby beach communities to the west and north that combine beach life and convenience to Manta, also. I was fortunate enough to find a very nicely furnished, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo, with an excellent view of Playa Murcielago (Manta’s main beach) and the Port of Manta, including views of the entire fishing fleet that calls Manta home, for $700 per month, including utilities. Luxury condominiums can go as high as $1,200 (and more) per month, but there are also less expensive homes and apartments throughout town. It seems to me to be the best value I’ve found along the southern coast of Ecuador, when you factor in all that this city has to offer.
For those interested in buying, the market here is endless. There are several beautiful high-rise condo towers along the water, with stunning views, and more new construction is underway. Prices for most of the condominiums normally run from $200,000 to $300,000, but there are certainly higher-priced units available if that’s what you desire. There are gated communities and beachside developments that also offer so many amenities, including views of the Pacific Ocean, a must if you’re going to live here. Prices run around the same as condominiums but can increase dramatically for beachfront or private communities. Or if it’s a house you want in a traditional neighborhood, there are so many choices for you to see. Overall, Manta offers some of the best real estate values in Ecuador. You will certainly find your place in this bustling city by the sea.
Other points of interest: Manta is a city of taxis and buses. It’s not necessary to own a car here, but a car is more important if you live in one of the local beach communities. Here in town most of us walk, taxi, or take the local city buses. As I mentioned, taxis run from $1.50 to $3.00, depending on what part of town you’re going to. Buses are 30 cents (half-price for seniors) And walking is free.
There is a very nice golf course development outside the city just east in Montecristi. The course is open to the public and is a challenging layout. There are tennis clubs, gyms, and fitness centers, also. The beach town of Santa Marianita, to the west, is the Capital of Kite Boarding in Ecuador, and has a great beach vibe. There are several other beachside towns north of the city that are home to expats from all over North America and Europe.
Manta has an airport that is being converted to an international destination within the next couple of years. It is believed by all that several international carriers will make it a stop on their South American flights. You can currently fly from Manta to Quito to connect with flights to anywhere in the world. Manta also boasts a brand-new regional bus terminal, serving most destinations in Ecuador. And there is a recently opened cruise ship welcome center at the port, making it easier for cruise companies to commit to Manta as a port of call.
Cost of Living in Manta
Here’s what an average couple who rent should plan to spend monthly with a combination of dining out and cooking at home:
|Housing||$800 to $1,000|
|Utilities (water, electricity, television, internet, etc.)||$100|
|Medical (with public insurance—IESS)||$100|
|Transportation (taxi, bus)||$50|
|Approx. Total||$1,700 to $1,900|
Progress in Manta – The Best Place on the Coast of Ecuador to Live and Work
By Mark Bradbury
A friend recently asked me how my city of Manta, Ecuador, had fared through the pandemic. He was curious if a city based on fishing and tourism could withstand the onslaught of COVID-19, and still have a little left in the tank. I asked him how much time he had!
For those of you unfamiliar with Manta, I can tell you with confidence that it was growing at a remarkable pace before the virus started showing up around the world. When the President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, announced on March 16 that we were shutting down, the local governments, both municipal and provincial, jumped in with a unilateral statement of support for the quarantine, and a pledge to ensure its success. We all went into a lockdown that lasted for six months plus, and is continuing to a lesser degree even today.
The city of Manta is a pretty special place, and a lot of that is due to us being represented by a young, energetic Mayor named Agustin Intriago. The Mayor is a very dynamic man that doesn’t just talk about doing things, like so many others; he makes those things happen with a dedication unseen here before. He is a 37-year old, seasoned politico that is loved by the people he serves, and our city benefits on a daily basis from his efforts.
In the early days of his term, Mayor Intriago set out to change the city in dozens of ways. His goals included making Manta the best city in Ecuador to live and work, to make Manta a place where big events were commonplace, to bring sports at every level to our beaches and stadiums, and to work towards putting Manta foremost in the minds of anyone planning anything important.
He was well on his way early on, bringing event after event to Manta. In February, just a month before the quarantine, Manta hosted one of the biggest Carnaval celebrations in South America, with mega-concerts on its beaches. One of them had at least 100,000 people, partying and dancing on Manta’s biggest beach, Playa Murcielago. Two nights earlier, a different band drew an estimated 60,000, while a massive DJ Festival on San Mateo Beach had upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 in attendance. There were dozens of other events all over the city during Carnaval, and the best part? Every single show or event was free!
Manta was cranking up the volume when the quarantine put the brakes on any forward progress. Major shows and events that had been scheduled for this year were canceled one by one, as we all began to see the depth of the coronavirus situation. The cruise ships that came to our sparkling new Cruise Terminal stopped coming, and future cruise visits were put on hold indefinitely. While all this was going on, Manta waited, ready to spring back into action as soon as it was clear.
During this time period, we had curfews and driving restrictions every day, and worse yet, we couldn’t go to our beloved beaches; they had been shut down, and there were no parties or going to the movies, nothing social at all. We were getting food delivered, instead of going out to eat, and if we went anywhere, there were biosecurity protocols that we had to follow, or face a civil fine. I had never seen anything like this in my entire life!
But now, as we hurtle through the rest of this crazy year, we have been able to emerge from isolation, and we are seeing our city being reborn. We are still very much under restrictions, but things are much looser than they have been. Restaurants, theaters, stores, and businesses of every sort have been allowed to reopen and start fresh. Again, there are protocols, most notably in the number of customers allowed in every business, but Manta is open again and ready and able to serve.
The beaches have all reopened, and without question, that is one of the primary reasons to be happy if you are planning a visit to Manta. Our city and its surrounding towns have more than 12 beaches open, ready for you to enjoy. Our weather is getting better every day as we emerge from our cooler months into our “Summer” weather, certainly a plus if you’re looking to be in a place where you can put your jackets away and walk barefooted if you’d like.
And the Mayor, and the city of Manta? Well, they went back to promoting our city, following the original agenda set out before the quarantine. There will be the Miss Ecuador Pageant, being held here on October 17, and there will be one of the world’s most prestigious cycling competitions, the GFNY, with over 700 competitors racing against each other over an 87-mile course. Manta will also host an Iron Man competition in a few months, one of only a few in South America.
The Mayor and his staff have let everyone know that Manta is ready for anything, as long as the people are willing to ensure everyone’s safety, following all the biosecurity protocols in place. It has been an aggressive stance that seems to be bearing fruit once again.
The best thing that’s happened here is the rebirth of projects throughout the city. They put people back to work, finishing some of the things that were halted when the hammer dropped. The amount of positive news coming out continually has everyone excited.
The amount of infrastructure work being done throughout the city is staggering! Water and sewerage improvements, road construction, upgrading the city’s parks, improving both water and electrical services, expanding the traffic lanes on the busiest waterfront road, and adding 12 miles of bike lanes in and out of the city; it just doesn’t stop!
There is a new museum/park that opened last month that has all of Manta talking. It’s called the Plaza del Mar, and it’s an amazing place to visit. In addition to an architecturally striking building, the park includes a soccer field, a large family/play area, and water fountains and features that light up in various colors at night. It is on the main road along the beach, just east of downtown.
And, most importantly, work has been restarted on the incredible park that Manta is building on an empty waterfront lot. The property is on the same road along the water, nearer to downtown. The site was created from the tons of rubble that was generated after the April 2016 earthquake that rocked Manta, when the city chose to deposit the hard fill in an area that had been lowland and previously unusable. Now, that former symbol of destruction will be transformed into an amazing jewel to add to the city’s treasures.
The proposal calls for walkways along the harbor, semi-enclosed places for open-air concerts and events, shops and restaurants, marine usage, and docking space, both for private and public use, and open green space everywhere, for the enjoyment of the people of Manta and her guests. It is expected to be completed sometime in late 2022, but there is a possibility that certain sections will be opened as construction wraps up in those areas.
Manta also has a new, ultramodern airport approaching completion that will rival other major players for travelers coming to Ecuador’s Coast. The new international air terminal should be open in early 2021; they are at 85% completion at this point.
Officials from the Galapagos Islands were here in Manta recently to inspect the airport, and to forge an alliance with the Mayor to make Manta a stopping and departure point for the Galapagos. This is a very exciting proposal that will make our city an international stop.
There are already a couple of Latin American airlines working on getting the permissions necessary to fly their planes in and out of Manta to foreign countries. Manta currently has domestic flights only, offering service to Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, all on a limited basis for now.
The City of Manta, along with the provincial government, is open for business again! In a very short time, Manta has repositioned itself as the new leader on the Coast, and maybe in the entire country. This will ensure that the city will be the “go-to” place for retirement and for dynamic younger people looking to shape a new marketplace for Ecuador. She is moving forward again and is looking for new blood to make her the best city in Ecuador. Come to Manta; enjoy your life and share in its growth!