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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Relocate to Ecuador - The Basics

Q - Can I afford to move to Ecuador:  What’s the price of food, houses, cars?         
A – Living in Ecuador is extremely affordable in many ways.  The prices of food, gas and rents are low. Unfurnished apartments can still be had for $200 per month. When we first came here, there were very few rentals. Now, as more ex-pats purchase houses and condos, there are quite a few furnished condos and houses available. Rents for a furnish unit usually start around $500 per month. Unfortunately, they are frequently filled. The best way to find an apartment or house is to come here and look around. Susy at Colors and Flavours restaurants manages 7 rental units in Primavera II.

$15-20 USD a week will buy all the fabulous fresh fruits and vegetables needed for a whole week of munching for two.

        Move to Ecuador for Plentiful and Cheap
          Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Move to Ecuador

Move to ecuador for the markets! Market days are often the highlight of the week for many locals and markets are bustling on those days.  Cotacachi’s market day is Sunday and Otavalo’s is Saturday. 

Market day is a day for vendors to socialize as well as profit from the literal “fruits” of their labor and the markets ring with laughter, lively conversation and bartering as each buyer looks for the best produce at the best price.

Your move to Ecuador can save you money. Here’s a sampling of approximate costs for Ecuador food as of April, 2012:
  • 3 medium pineapples (pinas) or 1 large - $1
  • 3 small Hawaiian papayas - $1
  • 6 Gala apples (manzanas) - $1
  • fresh blackberries (mora) - $1 per liter
  • huge red juicy fresh strawberries (fresas) - $1 per 1 lbs.
  • bunch of fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley - $.25
  • free range eggs (huevos) - 18 - 20 cents each, although are becoming more difficult to find. Regular eggs sell for $.12 in the market.
  • potatoes (papas) - $2 for 10 pounds
  • red bell peppers  – 20 cents each
  • zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, etc. –  25 - 50 cents per large piece
  • 2 dozen fresh roses or other cut flowers - $2 per bunch.

A chain of grocery stores called, “SuperMaxi,” has locations in most larger cities and towns in Ecuador.  They carry many of those things ex-pats crave but often cannot always get in other countries; things like peanut butter, olives Move to Ecuadorwith pimento, imported cheeses such as Romano, Gouda, and parmesan, pancake mix, yogurt, sacks of dry dog food, jalapenos, Mexican salsa, chips like Doritos and Ruffles, safely-packaged meats of all kinds, and ketchup.  You move to Ecuador will not take you far away from familar foods.

Upon moving to Ecuador you will recognize those tried-and-true American brands you know and love, plus a large variety of European items.  They don’t carry very many spices, especially the ethnic ones from countries like India or Thailand.

SuperMaxi also sells good quality kitchen utensils, glasses and cups, pillows and specialty ingredients for Thai and Mexican dishes. Their pots and pans are the Ecuadorian standard—not the greatest.

A huge MegaMaxi is located in a new mall "Candado" in northern Quito. It rivals most big box supermarkets in the U.S.

     Move to Ecuador for Custom Built Homes
 $49 per Square Foot and up

Any area populated by gringos has seen land prices go up considerably in the last 5 years.  Today you will pay $25k for 1/3 acre or as much as $80,000 for one acre in a gated community in Cotacachi.  $10,000 - $20,000 per acre is what you can expect to pay for raw residential land, but these prices are steadily rising, too.  However, the diligent and thorough gringo can still move to Ecuador and find bargains.

Move to Ecuador House
The price of home construction is still a bargain by U.S. standards, largely due to low labor costs, since a typical workman is paid between $14 - 18 USD per day.  Brick, adobe or concrete Ecuador homes can be built for about $50 per square foot, depending upon the region and amenities.

Move to Ecuador for a beautiful home. Marble and granite is fairly cheap, from $80-195 per square meter, installed, with granite being the more expensive.  A large variety of colors and sizes of floor and wall tiles are available--Ecuadorian and imports from Italy, Columbia and Brazil.  Quito has several carpet stores where you can find U.S. wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs from a number of different countries.

Here are some sample prices for housing materials and furnishings for Ecuador homes:
  • Ceramic tiles – $1.50 per square foot, much more for porcelain or imported
  • Concrete blocks – 18 cents each
  • Chrome bath faucets – cheap to expensive, depending upon whether they are from China or Italy, but any quality desired is available in Quito.
  • Small electric washing machine - $450
  • Frost-free refrigerator - $550 and up depending on size and amenities
  • Custom wood kitchen cabinets cost about $150 -250 per linear meter
  • Solid wood door - $150-$190 installed

My Kingdom for a Home Depot!

Are you worried that a move to Ecuador will leave you without Home Depot? Where does a man, or woman, desperate for a Phillips screwdriver, a pair of pliers or an Allen wrench, go when he or she absolutely has to have one?  There is no longer any need to get an emergency care package from the U.S. for those vital tools.

A chain called “Kywi” will rescue the building supply-impaired.  While in small towns you may have to visit half a dozen or more hardware stores, called “ferreterias,” and still not find exactly what you are searching for, larger cities now have a “Kywi,” -- one-stop shopping for many of your home needs.

“Kywi” carries tools of good quality, such things as safes, plants, pots and gardening supplies, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, paint, household items and light fixtures, electrical and plumbing supplies.  They do not carry lumber, plywood or building supplies.  Kywi is like Ace Hardware.  Prices are reasonable for most items.

Get Help Buying a Used Car for your Move to Ecuador

It is possible to move to Ecuador without a car, because there is good cab and bus transportation at very inexpensive prices.  However, exploring all those out-of-the-way places and enticing dirt roads is much more fun in your own vehicle! We lived in Cotacachi for 4 years before buying our first car, even while running a real estate business. We see that ex-pats who have lived here for a few years are now beginning to purchase cars although with public transportation, it is not necessary.

The newspapers are full of used cars, trucks, buses and vans---Toyotas and Chevrolets of all kinds and SUVs are popular.  Chevies are made here.  It is a Suzuki design sold under a Chevrolet trademark.  We see a few well-maintained older Mercedes, too.  Most car owners in Ecuador seem to have a new or late model car.  Not many junkers! Recent laws have increased the annual matriculation (registration) fee for cars older than 5 years.

Purchasing a used vehicle necessitates finding a reliable and trustworthy mechanic to do an inspection, plus an Ecuadorian middle-man to negotiate the deal for you.  Unless you are a top-notch negotiator and speak fluent Spanish, it is better to have help from a local, who can procure a better price for you.  It is common practice here to manipulate the odometers to lower the mileage.

Your car will have to be registered yearly.  This is usually done at the local police station. I have a 1984 land cruiser and it cost me around $300 to register the vehicle this year. The registration proess is very complicated and something that I would never try to navigate by myself. It's one of those things, even if you speak Spanish, that reguires a local to understand and navigate. A liability insurance called SOAT is required for everyone.

Cars can no longer be legally imported into Ecuador.  You must anticipate purchasing your car here. Chevrolet's are the vehicle of choice due to the fact that they are assembled here so the costs are lower. A new 2012 diesel 4 x 4 quad cab Chevy pickup will run around $30,000 and up. A standard 4-door midrange car will cost $15,000.

Most  car brands can be purchased here in Ecuador, except for some of the luxury models. 
Used cars tend to hold their value. I have been looking for a used 4 x 4 and it looks like I will have to pay in the area of $15,000 for a 2000 to 2005 model, depending on condition and mileage. Check out to get an idea of used car costs.

Q - Is building an Ecuador home anything like it is in my home country?

– Probably slower.  Workers love fiestas and celebrations are frequent.  Building contractors can be heard to complain because on Monday their workers sometimes don’t show up. . . for days! 

Ecuador does not require the reams of paperwork, building inspections or zoning that the United States does, although there are some building codes and restrictions.  For this reason, you are free to express your creativity and individuality with a move to Ecuador, but you may also end up living next to a restaurant, garage or shopping mall! 

Ecuador homes are often grand, three-or four or more stories of glass and concrete, complete with painted swans, curved windows, turrets and domes.  Many families build one or two stories at a time, waiting until they have the money to finish or add another story.  The fronts of buildings are finished.  The sides are not; the bare bricks and mortar are left exposed and unpainted.
Ecuador Homes
You won’t see that many obvious brick homes here because although brick is used, it is often covered with a concrete stucco. Wood is seldom used for exteriors, either.  Roofs are usually tiles of the Spanish variety or thick concrete, the most common material for housing construction.  Most Ecuador homes do not have garages or carports in rural areas, but they are more common in cities.

Architects abound and the work process is similar to the process in the United States.  A general contractor supervises the construction.  Condos are often pre-sold before being finished.   The economy is healthy and vital.

The finish work is often not as fine as it can be in the U.S.   Kitchen countertops are often several inches lower than North American standards because the people here are shorter.  As with any construction, being on location yourself is the best way to get the quality you want.  And it is important to pay attention to every detail.  Don’t take anything for granted. 

Q – Can I finance land or houses in Ecuador when I am ready to buy?

A – Not much financing has been available for foreigners to purchase real estate in Ecuador, although in some areas that is changing.  Sometimes an owner or developer will carry financing for you, but interest rates will be high.  Some banks are now offering financing to foreigners with residency visas at 30% down and 10 -12% interest for 15 years. Ouch!!

Cash is king for your move to Ecuador, with as much as 50% required for a deposit on a new house or condo, and the balance due when the building is complete.

Condo developments are offering more financing, with as little as 5-10% initial reservation payment on pre-construction units.  Then the purchaser has the option to make monthly payments until the unit is completed in order to come up with the rest of the down payment or deposit required.  Even this financing can be prohibitive for expats since they do not usually have established credit in Ecuador. 

Q – How is land measured in Ecuador?

A - Land is measured in meters and hectares.  A meter is 3.28 feet and a square meter is 10.76 square feet.  A hectare equals 2.47 acres, 10,000 square meters or 107,000 square feet. Houses are usually sold by the square meter. To find out how many sq. ft in a sq. meter, multiply the number of square meters by 10.76 to give you square feet.

Land is often sold by the square meter. For example, an acre of land has approximately 4,000 m2. If the price quoted is $3.50/m2, the cost of the acre will be $14,000.

Q - Are the people friendly or antagonistic toward my country?

– We have occasionally seen graffiti that is anti-American written on walls—“Cuba si, Yanks no.”  There is a strong Cuban sentiment among some factions and an equally strong U.S. affinity. But generally, people are very friendly and warm.

Much has been written in the U.S. press about the current president, Rafael Correa and his relationship with Venezuela’s Chavez.  To us, Correa looks like a highly educated individual who has his country’s best interest at heart. Live in Ecuador Flags In early 2012, the Ecuadorian economy is booming. With oil more than $100 per barrel, Correa is pumping money into infrastructure, new roads, bridges and schools are popping up everywhere. A higher minimum wage is having a decidedly positive effect on the working poor, even though it is driving up the cost of housing.

The new constitution of Ecuador gives a much better indication of the future direction of this country. In it, Ecuador has become the first country in the world to declare that the earth is a living entity that must be protected. We feel very optimistic that the friendly attitude of the people and the politics of this country towards expats will continue and will have a positive impact to your move to Ecuador.

Ecuadorians are in general, very low-key and calm in nature.  They seldom speak up in the face of pushy salesmen, noise or problems.  Their usual solution to a difficulty that remains unresolved after a long time is to go on strike.  They will also set up roadblocks in protest.  But to our knowledge, there have been no demonstrations against North Americans living in Ecuador. 

Ecuadorian democracy seems to function extremely well.  When a President or Congress becomes unpopular, they simply throw them out!  Move to Ecuador and experience democracy in action.

Q - What is the social and cultural environment like?

– Ecuadorians are friendly, helpful (although they may send you off in the wrong direction rather than admit they don’t know the answer to your question), communal and generally non-aggressive. They are not outspoken or vocal in most situations.  I have never seen a mother or father reprimand or physically punish a child in public. 

The indigenous tend to group together in rural areas, keeping the surrounding land for only agriculture.  Life in Ecuador moves at a slower pace than in North America.  Mañana rules. And it doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow, it means "not today."
Living in Ecuador
Each indigenous village or community has its own individual dress, but that usually means skirts and blouses for women and white pants and shirts with blue ponchos for men, all in distinctive materials, depending upon the village.  Village life is agricultural, centering around fiestas and the church, which is mostly Catholic.

Large cities are like most others in the world—a variety of cultures and races, including those from other countries.  International dining, opera, theater, music, fine shopping:  all are available.  There are coffee houses, delis, English bookstores, good public transportation and a multitude of nightlife to choose from.  You move to Ecuador will provide a true range of experiences.

If you are friendly and open, you can assimilate into the Ecuadorian culture fairly easily. 

Q - How hard is it to get a resident visa for my move to Ecuador and what does the process cost?

– Since you can only stay in Ecuador for six months out of each year, the expat choosing to move to Ecuador more permanently must obtain a resident visa.  There are at least six different kinds of resident visas to choose from. 

Once you decide which visa to apply for, the process can take several months.  Although you can do it alone, hiring an attorney can be quicker and easier, but more expensive.   If you don’t know Spanish, then we would suggest that you get an attorney. A new immigration system was installed April 1, 2012, which may have some impact on the process. Make sure you check with someone knowledgable before you begin the process as things change rapidly.

When the process of getting your visa is complete, you are then required to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months each year, total, for the first two years. This requirement has changed to allow more flexibility in traveling out of the country, but check the current law regarding this rather than take someone's opinion about it.  Immigration rules change periodically/frequently.

The resident visa allows you to bring your household items into Ecuador duty-free for six months following the issuance of your visa. However, if it doesn't arrive here within the six months, you will be charged duty! You will also be eligible for discounts for such things as flights to the Galapagos, paying the same price as locals.  With a resident visa your move to Ecuador will start to pay off!

Resident visa fees are generally $350 per person, plus the cost of an attorney, if used, which can vary greatly.  Then there are the additional costs of photographs, notarized copies of your passport and copies of other documents.  Notaries in Ecuador often have elaborate offices and charge much more for their services than their U.S. equivalent does. Here, the notary is a registered attorney. It is one of the choice jobs in Ecuador due to the high pay.

Q – Is it difficult to receive and send mail after my move to Ecuador?

– Mail service is fairly reliable in large cities.  Paying for a post office box may be the best and safest method for receiving mail.  There is a small fee for this service. 

Mail in smaller towns and rural areas is sporadic. I just received (April) a Christmas card mailed on Dec. 22. Here in Cotacachi some mail can be delivered at your address. A post office was opened a couple of years ago with mail boxes for around $20 per year.  You can get general delivery at the local post office.  Post office boxes are available in many towns in the area.

Use UPS, DHL or FedEx.  It’s safer and more reliable, although expensive.  We recently received a credit card from the states through FedEx International Priority and the price for mailing was $89 USD! UPS seems to be the cheapest alternative for small items, although the Ecuador post office has a new program where you have your goods shipped to a box in Miami, and the items are then flown here, by-passing customs. The limits are 4 kg (8.8 lbs), max $400 dollars, with a shipping rate of $4.90/lb. There is a $10 annual membership fee. Check out The post mistress told me yesterday that items will be here in five days. You must have a postal box.

Mail Forwarding and your move to Ecuador makes your postal mail instantly available online, just like email.  You can look at, open, recycle and manage your mail online, from anywhere in the world.  Check out your mail and then eliminate the junk mail, fliers, advertisements and other useless paper. Simplify your move to Ecuador.

You have your selected mail sent to a remote address.   Earth Class picks up your mail each day at the post office, scans in all the sealed envelope images, then electronically sends each one to you online.
You view your envelopes in a secure online mailbox and tell them what you want to do with your mail.

•    Recycle all the junk with a click of your mouse
•    Have them securely scan the contents so you can read it online
•    Shred sensitive information
•    Forward the original to you or someone else
•    Forward the electronic document to whomever you choose
•    Archive the originals at their facility

This service is quick, safe and environmentally sound.  Save fuel costs and reduce your carbon footprint. 

Ex-pats save 50-90% over traditional mail forwarding services.  They even have check processing. gives you your own U.S. mailing address, whether it be a suite, box, apartment, department or office.  You can view all incoming mail and customize each shipment by carrier, speed and price. 

For international business, a U.S. address is necessary.  They offer inventory and fulfillment services in addition to mail forwarding.  You can shop on E-bay.

For individuals, they offer the most advanced mailing service.  View incoming mail in real-time and customize each shipment by carrier, speed, and price.
With U.S. Global Mail you can shop on and other popular sites that will only ship to a U.S. address. Forward mail and packages to your current foreign address.


  1. Mail Forwarding is a perfect solution for busy professionals like freelancers, expatriots, international shoppers and doctors,i can recommend one of the best companies is Maillabs, they gives you the flexibility and freedom to receive your postal mail the way you want it in a modern, electronic way, Mail Forwarding, digital copies of mail to friends and family, business contacts, financial professionals or legal entities with no delay

  2. mail forwarding service receives your mail, scans it and notifies you of its arrival, allowing you to manage your Virtual Business Address. You are assigned a U.S. street address at which to receive your mail and package deliveries. Simply fill out a change of address form or alert senders of your new address. Once mail arrives addressed to you, we notify you of its arrival and make the image available to you through our online system. You decide how to handle it. You simply choose which items you want, where and when you want them sent, and we'll forward them on to you at any destination in the world!