Ecuador: The World’s Best Retirement Haven in 2015

Ecuador takes top spot in this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index. Every year, International Living releases this Index after months of research. With the assistance of dozens of expats and experts around the world…data is collated and numbers are crunched…to identify the very best retirement destinations in the world in 2015.

Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your-buck retirement destinations on the planet. Twenty-five countries made it on to the list this year, and Ecuador gets the highest score.

So what are the main reasons Ecuador is the best place on earth to retire?

In the opinion of many expats, Ecuador is the world’s #1 retirement destination because it is beautiful, friendly, has a perfect climate, and is inexpensive.

These four reasons can go a long way toward making your retirement a pleasure.

The mountains and Pacific Coast of Ecuador are remarkably gorgeous. The people are easy going. Being on the equator, the weather changes with the altitude, so you can pick any climate you like just by changing your elevation. And the cost of living can be astoundingly low, especially when you take high health care costs, utility bills, and property taxes out of the budget equation.

Ecuador Versus North America

Is it perfect? Some expat retirees think so. They’re the ones who don’t expect Ecuador to be just like the U.S. or Canada at half the price. They know that Ecuador is its own country with its own laws, culture, history, and ways of doing things. And some expat retirees actually prefer those Ecuadorian qualities over the ones they left back home.

Even the ones who miss things about the U.S. and Canada (and there are few expats who don’t miss something about back home) find that Ecuador can still fill just about every need they have in one way or another.

The health care in Ecuador is world class, and compared to the U.S., it is remarkably inexpensive. As with anywhere else, the farther you get from major cities, the less well funded and staffed facilities become, but finding highly qualified, English-speaking doctors in Ecuador is perfectly possible…and at rates that often seem unbelievably low compared to U.S. out-of-pocket prices.

Ecuador is not a consumer backwater…it has well-stocked supermarkets. You won’t find every brand of olive or peanut butter or coffee creamer or chili seasoning ever made, but you’ll find everything you really need and much, much more. And you’ll also have the local mercados, which are basically the farmers’ market we’re used to in North America without the high prices. Farmers taking their produce to town to sell it themselves isn’t a trendy thing in Ecuador… it’s daily life.

Salinas offers the best of beach living in Ecuador. Here you will still find bargains on beachside properties with breath-taking ocean views. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, sits right on the equator and was named the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is home to the country’s best hospitals and universities. The market town of Otavalo, nestled between two mountains, offers expats the chance to purchase famous Ecuadorian products like brightly colored weavings or blankets and sweaters. The colonial city of Cuenca is abound with culture, has top-notch health care, a low cost of living and is just a short flight away from the U.S. Cuenca, the “pearl” of Ecuador, is nestled high in the Andes Mountains at 8,314 feet and boasts spring-like temperatures year-round. The artisan town of Cotacachi, in Ecuador’s Northern Andes, is known for its tranquil, slow-paced small-town lifestyle in a truly stunning setting. Baños is located in a picturesque mountain valley on the side of Tungurahua, Ecuador’s feistiest active volcano. Here you’ll find lush orchid-growing forests where waterfalls pour from above and thermal springs bubble from below.
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Baños is located in a picturesque mountain valley on the side of Tungurahua, Ecuador’s feistiest active volcano. Here you’ll find lush orchid-growing forests where waterfalls pour from above and thermal springs bubble from below.

The World’s Best Climate

One of the best things about Ecuador, of course, is the weather. Ecuador is directly on the equator, which means the country gets practically the same amount of sunlight each day of the year. The sun comes up as 6 a.m. and goes down at 6 p.m. no matter what the season. This gives Ecuador warm, tropical beaches and cool, temperate highlands 365 days a year. That’s one reason utility costs are so low…in many parts of the country neither heating nor air conditioning is needed, ever.

And the expense of owning, operating, insuring, and maintaining a car is something many expats in Ecuador simply don’t have to deal with any more. Public transportation throughout the country is always available and very inexpensive. Cab rides in major cities average $10 or less and 2 to 5 dollars in smaller towns and villages. Buses run everywhere, constantly, and cost an average of a dollar an hour. That is, if you take the bus to a destination that is a three-hour drive away, you pay about $3.

Speaking of dollars, the national currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar, so no conversion math to do. There are several large banks to choose from which often accept direct deposits of Social Security checks from the U.S. And ATMs are everywhere, which makes getting and spending money from banks in the U.S. or elsewhere easy and instantaneous.

And with that money, many expats in Ecuador are living very comfortable, happy lives on $2,500 per month or less. Sometimes much less. And doing so without giving up anything as far as health care or quality of life.

Where to Live in Ecuador

Some expats live on Ecuador’s stunning Pacific coast, where miles of sandy beaches are punctuated by majestic headlands reminiscent of the coast of Northern California. From modern, bustling beach towns like Salinas, where Ecuadoreans themselves go on holiday, to old and established coastal trading towns like Bahia de Caraquez, to tiny, picturesque villages where you can watch migrating whales and fishermen bringing in their daily catch, Ecuador’s tropical coast has something for everyone who love the sea and sand.

Other expats prefer the fresh air and lush greenery of Ecuador’s beautiful Andes Mountains. In highland towns like Vilcabamba, Cuenca, Cotacachi, Otavalo, and many others, expats enjoy the perfect weather that comes from Ecuador’s unique location. Because Ecuador is directly on the equator, even at 8,000 feet above sea level the weather is consistently mild and temperate, making it possible to live on the slopes and in the valleys of magnificent Andean peaks without ever shoveling snow or wearing anything heavier than a sweater or jacket year around.

Is Ecuador the perfect place for every retiree? If it was, every retiree on earth would be there, and that certainly isn’t the case. There are dozens of excellent countries where you can live a happier, healthier, more cost-effective life than you can in the U.S. and Canada right now, and each one has a different value proposition. Each one has its own unique character and set of benefits that make them more or less attractive to folks trying to make their retirements as happy and rewarding as possible, for as long as possible.

But Ecuador scores at the top of the list in this year’s Global Retirement Index in so many categories important to U.S and Canadian expats that it’s almost impossible to say it isn’t the best retirement destination on the planet. Beautiful, friendly, comfortable, and affordable… Ecuador has it all.

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