“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.
For example, I know of (not personally “know,” but have no reason to doubt) a woman who lives in a tiny remote beach town and does so for less than $800 a month—quite a bit less, in fact. It’s not the way I’d like to live…but it suits her.
She has a small and very humble room to sleep in, takes cold-water showers, eats a vegetarian diet, and forgoes comforts like in-home Internet or telephone or cable TV. Still, she’s happy with her decision.
I know another couple that live an urban lifestyle with all the bells and whistles. They don’t deny themselves much at all and travel internationally three or four times a year. Their expenses hover around $4,500 a month.
Those two examples, of course, fall on either ends of the spectrum. But to give you some idea of how much a “typical” couple might spend:
$600 a month will net you an upscale, furnished, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home or apartment. (That probably includes Internet, DIRECTV, and water. If not, figure $30 for internet, $65 for a TV package, and $2 for water.)
Figure on spending $20 a month for electricity and $4 a month for gas to heat your hot water. That’s for living in the mountains where you’ll not need heat or air conditioning. Double the cost of electricity if you live on the coast and like to run your air conditioning with some frequency.
$25 (That’s in a city like Cuenca. Most expats don’t own cars, and if you live in a small, walkable town like I do, you may spend hardly anything at all.)
$500. This is totally subjective, of course…and for many will include meals out, including great-value almuerzos (a set two-course meal with a non-alcoholic drink.)
$15. (This supposes you own the phone. Most expats choose a pay-as-you-go plan…how much you pay depends on how much you like to talk on the phone.)
Total for those basic expenses: $1,164.
That’s a pretty good deal for a good basic standard of living. And it leaves plenty of money for the average retiree couple to enjoy some entertainment. Lunch once a week for the two of you could cost you $5 or $20, depending on where you eat. Dinner, too, with drinks could cost $20 or $50, depending where you go. Settling somewhere in between, we’ll peg this expense at $45 a week, or about $200 a month.
That puts our monthly total at $1,364. With me so far? Now, here are some additional expenses you may or may not want to add to your own personal ledger:
First up: health care. Many retired expats in Ecuador are buying into the government health system and are paying, on average (for a couple), $140 a month. (A private health plan for a retired couple will run in the vicinity of $250 a month.) Prescription medications are inexpensive here. A month’s supply of a general blood pressure medication, for example, costs about $10. A fitness club membership costs an average $20 to $25 per person.
What about pampering yourself? Haircuts can cost anywhere from $2 and up… A woman who is very particular about her hair might expect to pay $20 for a cut and $25 for a color. A massage runs anywhere from $15 to $30. Someone to clean your home will typically charge $10 to $15, depending on how much time and effort is involved.
How much travel will you do? The rule of thumb used by some expats is to stash away $250 a month or more for your annual trip back home. Put away another $200 a month to pay for local weekend getaways here and there—there is much to explore in Ecuador.
So now it’s up to you. Take that $1,364 we arrived at a few paragraphs back and add whatever is appropriate for you. If you plan to buy your home, you can subtract that original $650 we included for rent…but you’ll need to add Internet and TV expenses back in and include HOA fees and your annual property taxes. (Monthly HOA fees in Ecuador typically range from $40 to $100. Our annual property tax for our home is less than $54 a year.)
And there you have it: Your cost of living in Ecuador could be less than $1,000 if you are a frugal single, less than $1,500 a month if you’re a frugal couple (easily done since it’s possible to rent a nice apartment for $300 to $400). Spend a bit more—as much as $2,400 a month if you own your home (or somewhere around $3,000 if you don’t)—and you’ll enjoy the best of everything: fine foods and spirits, fitness club membership, a private health insurance plan, local travel, and a trip back home to visit once a year.
Only you know what you need to be happy and comfortable, which is why only you can answer the question “How much does it cost to live in Ecuador?”