Retire in Ecuador - Part I

Cost of Living * Climate * Infrastructure

How to retire in Ecuador: learn about cost of living, traveling the country with public transport, Internet availability and the Ecuador climate.

Cost of Living

Gary Scott, an Internet entrepreneur and part time resident of Ecuador, calls the cost of living in Ecuador the "$700 Solution" - as this seems to be the average amount a couple can live comfortably on, excluding rent. This leaves $500 for rent, in order to stay within our $1,200 per month baseline budget.

In 2000, after Ecuador's biggest economic crisis in history, the U.S. Dollar replaced the national currency, the Sucre.

Even in Quito, Ecuador's capital with two million people, you won't have problems in finding a decent two bed room apartment for that price. In rural settings, spacious three bed room condos or houses start as low as $150 per month.

A four course meal in a restaurant, made of fresh local products, will set you back $1.90, fuel costs $1.50 per gallon (about $0.40 per liter) and a maid, gardener or chauffeur can still be had for $10 a day.

In fact, it's difficult to find anything that is more expensive in Ecuador than in the United States or Europe, apart from the usual higher costs for imported brands.  Also, telephone and Internet services seem to be slightly more expensive than back home.

In conclusion, Ecuador currently is one of the cheapest places to live or retire in, where a monthly budget of $1,200 is more than enough for living a good life.

Climate

What locals say about the Ecuador climate could as well be said about my current home country, Ireland:

It is not uncommon to experience all "seasons" in the course of one day.

However, when Ecuadorians talk about "seasons", they simply refer to the distinction between months with less and more rainfall. Due to its location on the equator, temperatures stay roughly the same all year round. Plus, the Ecuador people can enjoy 12 hour long days for 365 days per year!

The Ecuador climate boasts a multitude of micro-climates across four distinct zones:

  • La Costa (Coastal Lowlands): hot all year, with average temperatures of 27°C (80°F), occasional highs of up to 35°C (95°F) and a rainy season from December to May.
  • La Sierra (Andean Mountains): cooler the higher you get and with less rain than in the lowlands. In Quito, for example, average daytime temperature at noon reaches 19°C (66°F) and falls to 10°C (50°F) during night. The climate in Quito and the surrounding Central Valley is often referred to as "eternal spring".
  • El Oriente (Amazon Region): hot, wet and humid, with rain all year round and temperatures similar to "La Costa".
  • Galapagos Islands: both temperatures and rainfall are lower than expected for an island so close to the equator. Due to the balancing effect of the cool Humboldt current, average temperatures are a comfortable 25°C (77°F).

Annual average rainfall varies greatly across and even within the four climate zones. The Amazon region can have as much as 500cm (200 inches) of rain throughout the year. Quito has an average rainfall of 150cm (60 inches), and in the coastal lowlands the amount of rain per year varies from up to 200cm (80 inches) in the far north to a mere 20cm (8 inches) in the far south close to Peru.

Infrastructure & Internet

It's been rather difficult to find reliable information about Internet services in Ecuador, but a common theme in the various Ecuador living forums and blogs seems to be that Internet is more expensive and slower than in the United States or Europe.

Whilst Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Manta have an increasing coverage for high-speed access, you might only get a rather shaky dial-up service in rural areas.

Claro (formely Porta), one of the main phone and Internet providers throughout Central and Latin America, offers dial-up, broadband and mobile Internet access. Their broadband package starts at $19.90 per month for a 1.6 Mbps connection and goes up to $110 for 15 Mbps. This is a huge improvement compared to a few years ago, where you had to pay $45 per month for a 128kbps connection.

One caveat though... I am using Claro myself (in Nicaragua). They are not known for world-class service. If and when things get done depends largely on the individual Claro employee you happen to be assigned to in their stores. If you don't succeed the first time round, come back another day. Eventually it always works out!

Ecuanet.com is another Internet service provider in Ecuador. Their rates for wireless access starts at $30, speeds vary from 192kbps to 512kbps. If you want wired, high-speed broadband their website refers you to Netlife, the first fiber optic Internet provider in Ecuador. Their cost / performanc ratio is good, with $29.99 for a 5 Mbps connection. However, they cover only certain areas in Quito and Guayaquil.

Tickets can be purchased on the bus. Ask local passengers about the ticket price to avoid paying the Gringo fare!

When it comes to Ecuador transportation, the most convenient and inexpensive means of traveling the country is by bus. The 4h bus ride from Cuenca to the coast for example costs approximately $8. In general, calculate about $0.50 per 15 miles or $1 per hour for your bus ride.

In major cities, the ubiquitous yellow taxis have meters and should use them. Still, it is always a good idea to agree on the price beforehand. According to EcuadorExplorer.com, any taxi ride in Quito should cost between $1 and $5, including the trip from the airport to town.

Ecuador's once well developed railway system is nowadays almost non-functional, except for a few sections where you can go for a scenic ride through the Andean mountains.

Due to the country's rugged topography, air travel has become a major means of inland transportation. There are supposedly some 205 airports in Ecuador, 61 of which have paved runways and two of which handle international flights (Quito and Guayaquil).

Three local airlines serve the major cities and many of the smaller destinations: LAN Ecuador, Aerogal and Tame. All of them have web sites both in Spanish and English language. At time of this writing (February 2010), fares for a round trip from Quito to Cuenca varied between $103 (LAN), $133 (Tame) and $180 (Aerogal). So it pays spending some time comparing prices!

Retirement in Ecuador - Part II

Retire in Ecuador: Learn about Education & Schools * Safety  * Real Estate

Retire in Ecuador - Part III

Retire in Ecuador: Get the facts about Visa & Benefits * Health Care * Culture & People

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