Last Updated on April 24, 2024 by Eric Livingston

Don’t Live in Ecuador in 2024!

Table Of Contents
  1. Don't Live in Ecuador in 2024!

Ecuador is located in South America, in the northwest corner. It borders Colombia to the north and Peru in the south and east. Despite being a small country, Ecuador is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world since it has four distinct regions; the Andes Mountain range that extends through the center of Ecuador, the Pacific Coast, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest. The Galapagos Islands or Colón Archipelago is located about 1,000 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador. It’s the fourth smallest country in the South America and tenth most populous country in the Americas. Ecuador has a population of more than 18.1 million according to the 2022 data from United Nations Population Fund. Ecuador is divided into 24 provinces.

Ecuador Has Become Very Dangerous!

I’m adding this warning before the rest of the information about Ecuador. Although the country has a special place in my heart seeing as how it was my first experience living overseas and where my daughter was born, I feel I have a duty to inform anyone of the current violence plaguing Ecuador as of the last quarter of 2023 as I write this. I do NOT recommend re-locating to Ecuador as an Expat at this time. My daughter and her mom, who still live there are planning their exit However, things change with time. Look at El Salvador for example, which is now the safest country in the Americas. I’m hoping safety and security return to Ecuador soon with the election of its youngest president ever.

Ecuador Changes its Currency from the Sucre to the U.S. Dollar

In the late 1990’s Ecuador suffered an economic crisis. In 1999 the economy fell by 7.5 percent, and inflation was the worst in Latin America at over 60 percent. Ecuador’s national currency the “sucre” lost two-thirds of its value. On January 9, 2000, President Jamil Mahuad and Vice President Gustavo Noboa changed the national currency to the United States Dollar. The change to the US dollar, however, was not popular with all Ecuadorians. Protests led by a coalition of indigenous peoples (CONAIE) and supported by the military occupied congress forced President Mahuad to resign. He was replaced by the Vice President Gustavo Noboa.

Ecuador Exports Bananas, Cocoa, Flowers, Oil, Shrimp and Other Seafood

The Ecuadorian economy has increased since its dollarization in January 2000. Ecuador was one of the main oil exporters belonging to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which it abandoned on January 1, 2020. This measure is aligned with the government’s plan to reduce public spending and generate new income (Spanish). Due to its location on the equator, it has a stable climate during the year, resulting in a strong agricultural sector. Ecuador is a leading exporter of bananas, flowers, cocoa and second largest exporter of shrimp in the world (Spanish). Ecuador utilizes eco-sustainable energies and is the first country on the planet to have the Rights of Nature guaranteed in its Constitution.

Illicit Drug Transportation and Money Laundering

Ecuador is not known for the production of illicit drugs such as Colombia, Mexico and Peru, however, there is a small production of cocaine in this country. Ecuador mostly participates in the transit of drugs due to its geographical location between two of the main producing countries Colombia and Peru which eventually ship their narcotics to Mexico to be smuggled into the United States or Europe via the west coast of Africa. This makes Ecuador more vulnerable to money laundering.

Ecuador is an Increasingly Popular Tourist Destination

Ecuador is blessed with a variety of regions and climates. Tourism in Ecuador has seen a great increase in recent years. Annually Ecuador receives approximately one million tourists although it’s hard to peg an exact number due to the diaspora of Venezuelans that have entered the country both legally and illegally. The majority of tourists, excluding Venezuelans are from the United States. Ecuador has long been considered one of the best places in the world to retire. The cities of Quito and Cuenca have been declared by UNESCO as cities of cultural heritage. The Galapagos Islands and the Sangay National Park have been declared natural heritage of humanity sites. The most visited places in Ecuador besides the aforementioned are the port city of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, Loja, and Baños (known for its thermal springs and bungee jumping off bridges) and the beaches of Salinas, Playas and Montañita.

Brief History of Ecuador

Ecuador’s history is backed by various customs, traditions and a rich culture that predominated hundreds of years ago. A number of indigenous groups lived together before being conquered by the Incas and subsequently by the Spaniards. On December 6, 1534, Sebastián de Benalcázar conquered Ecuadorian territory and founded San Francisco de Quito in honor of Francisco Pizarro. On May 24, 1822, Ecuador gained its independence from Spain with the help of liberator Simon Bolivar. Five days later, on May 29, 1822, Ecuador joined La Gran Colombia under the name of the Southern District. On May 13, 1830, Ecuador separated from La Gran Colombia. Juan José Flores became the first President of Ecuador.

Gastronomy in Ecuador

Known as “Creole food”, Ecuador’s cuisine is diverse depending upon the region. The coast and the sierra, for example, differ somewhat in the food they consume. Due to its wide coastline, many types of seafood are abundant among the coastal regions including corvina, shrimp and ceviche, which is cured raw fish that is “cooked” with citrus. Meats are also popular all throughout Ecuador, although “cuy”, a type of guinea pig is mostly eaten in the sierra and not the coast.

Main Food Staples in Ecuador

The main typical dishes are ceviche, churrasco or grilled meats, crab, guatita, locro soup, maduros, menestra, moro, mote pillo, patacones, potatoes, pumpkin cream, roasted guinea pig (mostly in the sierra) among other dishes. Ecuador has a wide variety of fruits, legumes, meats, seafood, and vegetables high in quality, freshness and at a relatively low price. Ecuadorian food typically isn’t spicy although you can always add hot sauce.

Typical Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche, shown on the Live in Ecuador page.
Typical Ecuadorian ceviche served with popcorn called “canguil” in Ecuador and toasted corn kernels.

Major Cities of Ecuador


Quito, Ecuador, Eric sitting on top of the well-known Quito sign on a partly cloudy day.
Eric sitting on top of the well-known Quito sign in Quito, Ecuador

Quito is the Capital of the Republic of Ecuador and the province of Pichincha. It is located in the north center of Ecuador, in the highlands, in the Guayllabamba river basin which is located on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano next to the Western Andes. Quito has an altitude of 2,850 meters above sea level and is the second highest capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia. In 2023, Quito has a population of 1,956,995 according to the World Population Review. Quito is the second most populous city in the Ecuador just slightly behind Guayaquil. The population of Quito may surpass Guayaquil in the near future. Quito is the cultural and political headquarters of Ecuador.

Climate in Quito

Due to its altitude and its position on the equator, Quito has a spring climate throughout most of the year. Quito has a subtropical highland climate and is characterized by its cool and often outright cold temperatures throughout the year. Quito has two wet and dry seasons. Its average temperature is 13.7 ° C (56. 66 ° F). The warm season lasts 4 months. This starts in June and ends in September. The wet season is between October and May. Winter starts in October and is characterized by rainy afternoons. Quito is divided into three climate zones: center, north and south. The center is rather warm and where the highest temperatures are reached. The north is temperate, and the south is colder due to its higher elevation.

Mile High Stadium in Denver is Nothing – It’s Hard to Breath in Quito Upon Arrival

Quito sits at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level. Visitors often experience the effects of high altitude upon arrival, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, due to the city’s elevation. To put it in perspective, Quito is approximately 70% higher than Denver, Colorado, famously known as the location of the “Mile High” stadium, which stands at 1,609 meters (5,280 feet) above sea level, hence the name. If you’ve watched the Denver Broncos play at home you’ve probably seen players on the sideline with oxygen masks gasping for air just one mile in altitude. Now just imagine adding 1,241 meters (or approximately 4,070 feet) in altitude and you’ll understand why travelers (not elite athletes) often struggle with breathing and fatigue upon arriving in Quito. I experienced this, several times and it’s not pleasant but you do become acclimated.

Take a Jacket or Sweater and an Umbrella

It’s advisable to take a jacket or sweater and an umbrella with you even if it is sunny at the beginning of the day. Also, keep in mind that Quito has extreme levels of solar radiation throughout the year, it receives 24 UVI.

Traffic and Security in Quito

Please read my updated 2023 warning at the top of this page. Quito, like other developing cities, suffers from traffic due to the number of cars in the city. In terms of security, Quito is generally considered a safe city. Petty crime, however, does happen. It is important not to attract attention. As they say in Colombia, “No dar papaya” (literally meaning “Don’t give papaya”) means don’t attract the attention of others with fancy jewelry or expensive cell phones. For example, don’t take out your phone in a possibly sketchy area of town while walking the street. Always use common sense for your own safety as well as your personal belongings.

The 4 Zones of Quito

Quito is divided into 4 zones, the south, the center, the north and the valleys. The northern area is a considered one of the best areas to live in. Some of these areas are: El Condado, El Inca, Las Casas, La Mariscal, La Carolina, among others. La Floresta is located in the city center. It is close to cafes, shops, and universities. The southern zone of Quito is primarily comprised of middle to low socioeconomic class neighborhoods. The valleys, on the other hand, are highly sought after for wealthier residents. The well urbanized valleys, which are located around the city, tend to have a slightly warmer climate due to the lower elevation. The best-known neighborhoods in the valleys are Cumbayá, and Tumbaco.

Cultural Places and Tourism in Quito

Quito is known for the preservation of its historic center. It is considered the least altered and largest in Latin America. Quito is a mixture of colonial and the modern architecture. Quito was one of the first cities to be declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO on September 1978. Quito’s tourism comes mainly from the United States. Quito is surrounded by beautiful mountains and volcanoes such as, Antisana, Cayambe, Cotopaxi, and Pichincha. People are generally delighted by the overall pleasant spring like climate in Quito as well as the kindness of the locals.

Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)

Quito, Ecuador, Mitad del Mundo Monument shown on a partly cloudy day.
The Mitad del Mundo monument is located 26 km (16 mi) north of Quito

Mitad del Mundo Tourist Location

The Ciudad, Mitad del Mundo, is an area of land owned by the province of Pichincha, Ecuador. Mitad del Mundo is located at the San Antonio parish section of Quito. It’s 26 kilometers (16 miles) north of Quito’s center. On display is the Monument to the Equator that commemorates the eighteenth-century Franco-Spanish Geodesic Mission which determined its approximate location.

The Original Equatorial Line is Incorrect

Since 1736 modern GPS satellite technology has determined the real equatorial line about 300 meters (980 feet) north of the present-day monument. To visit the real equatorial line, one may check it using the GPS on their smartphone and head to the nearby Intiñan Solar Museum, which is five minutes away by car.

The “Incorrect” Equator is a Tourist Attraction

Some feel that the current monument, although nice, is a bit touristy. Since it wasn’t correctly erected on the actual equator, many visitors opt to skip paying the entrance fees to the monument and use that money to visit the real equatorial line at the Intiñan Solar Museum. If you have the time, I don’t see why you wouldn’t visit both.

Check Out Some of the Tricks Performed on the Equator

Tour guides and visitors to Mitad del Mundo demonstrate scientific tricks which are allegedly only possible on the Equator. Exhibitions of the Coriolis Force, showing water flowing both clockwise and counterclockwise down a drain depending on which side of the equator one is in, balancing eggs on their end, or weakening of muscles due to latitude are some of the fun tricks one can participate in.

Basílica del Voto Nacional

The Basílica del Voto Nacional (Spanish) is a stunning Roman Catholic church located in the historic center of Quito, Ecuador. It’s the largest neo-Gothic Basilica in the Americas and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The Basílica del Voto Nacional was inspired by Father Julio Matovelle in 1883. President Luis Cordero issued the decree on July 23, 1883, and it was carried out by President José María Plácido Caamaño on March 5, 1884. Although minor details are still missing, it can be said that the structure, as we know it today, was finished in 1924.

Pope John Paul II Blessed the Basílica del Voto Nacional

The Basilica was blessed by Pope John Paul II on January 30, 1985. It was sanctified and inaugurated on July 12, 1988.

National Pantheon of Heads of State

The western side of the basilica houses a pantheon for former Ecuadorian Heads of State. The following four former presidents are buried there.

Andres F. Cordova (1892-1983) (Spanish)
Camilo Ponce Enriquez (1912-1976) (Spanish)
Mariano Suarez Veintimilla (1897-1980) (Spanish)
Antonio Flores Jijon (1833-1915) (Spanish)
Quito, Ecuador, Eric standing in front of the Panteón nacional de jefes de Estado at the Basílica del Voto in Quito, Ecuador
Eric at the Panteón nacional de jefes de Estado at the
Basílica del Voto, Quito, Ecuador
Statue of El Panecillo standing on a serpent on a cloudy day in Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Statue of El Pancellio in Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador

El Panecillo, Created by a Spanish Artist

El Panecillo (Spanish, diminutive of “pan” meaning bread) is a 200-meter-high hill of volcanic-origin, located between southern and central Quito. It peaks at an elevation of 3,016 meters (9,895 feet). In 1976, the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras was commissioned to create a 45 tall monument of a Madonna standing on a high pedestal at the top of El Panecillo.

The Aluminum Statue was Put Together in Madrid, Spain

The 7,400 pieces of aluminum that made up the statue were assembled in Madrid. When completed the statue was then transferred by ship to Ecuador. The monument was named “Virgin of El Panecillo” and was finished on March 28, 1975, although another source reads the same date but 1976. The virgin with wings stands on top of a globe and is stepping on a snake.

What’s the Deal with Spanish and Snakes?

The Mexican flag features an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a cactus. This Aztec lore claims that the god Huitzilopochtli told the Aztecs that they would find their new home wherever they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a cactus. Building Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) on top of lakebed has caused Mexico City to shrink since the early 20th century, with some areas dropping as much as nine meters (30 feet). On average, CDMX sinks approximately 20 inches (1 foot and 8 inches) or 50 centimeters (1/2 meters) every year. This causes problems in managing rainwater and wastewater, leading to widespread issues with flooding.


Cúpulas de la Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción in Cuenca, Ecuador, shown on the Live in Ecuador page.

Cuenca is the capital of the state of Azuay, located in the center-south of Ecuador in the Sierra region, at an altitude of 2,550 meters (8,366 feet) above sea level. Cuenca is divided by the Tomebamba River, as well as by other rivers that cross the city to join in the northeast and form the Rio Cuenca. According to the INEC census as of 2017 Cuenca has 603,269 inhabitants including the metropolitan area. I could not find a more recent census, but I assume it still has less than one million residents. Cuenca is the third largest city in the country after Quito and Guayaquil.

Climate in Cuenca

Two women preparing empanadas dulces in Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
I love this photo I took of two women frying empanadas dulces in
Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador

Cuenca Can Get Chilly!

Due to its location within the vast middle valley of the Andean corridor, Cuenca has a mild climate. According to various sources, the average temperature is 14.7 ° C (58.46 ° F), during the day. The cool season is from June to September with an average temperature of 13 ° C (55.4 ° F), and a minimum of 7 ° C (44.6 ° F). The temperate season is from January to May where the average temperature is 17 ° C (62.6 ° F) and the minimum is 10 ° C (50 ° F).

Cuenca Awarded UNESCO Recognition in 1999

Cuenca is known as “La Atenas de Ecuador”, for its preservation of the historic center and Baroque-style buildings. The City contributes to Ecuadorian architecture, arts, literature, and sciences. Cuenca was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999. Its most famous landmark is La Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion located in the city square known as Parque Calderón. It’s a gorgeous church featuring 3 beautiful white domes with blue stripes called “cúpulas” in Spanish.

Cuenca Has Been a Popular Expat Destination for a Very Long Time

Cuenca has been written about as a popular expat destination for roughly 20 years now. The only place I can think of that preceded the popularity of Cuenca in various “Expat Publications” is Costa Rica. Cuenca has consistently been written about for a long time now. It’s unfortunate that Ecuador as a whole has become a violent, dangerous place to live. Granted, Guayaquil is more dangerous than Cuenca but it’s affecting the whole country. Sadly, Cuenca isn’t what it used to be.

Best Places to Live in Cuenca

The best areas to live in Cuenca are the center (Old Town), or higher up on Solano Avenue, Challuabamba, and Ordonez Lasso. Cuenca has modern supermarkets and smaller markets that offer a variety of fresh produce. Cuenca is chosen as a place to retire to by many foreigners due to its, mountainous climate, low cost of living and ability to live a healthy lifestyle.

Cultural Places and Tourism in Cuenca

Historic Center of Cuenca

The historic center of Cuenca is home to famous Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion, as mentioned above, which is located on one side of Parque Calderón. The actual park itself is a beautiful, clean and features a couple of fountains. There is also quite a police presence in and around the park which allow visitors to feel safe. Numerous restaurants and shops are located nearby. Other parks such as San Blas and San Sebastián are within walking distance as are numerous colonial buildings and the Agustín Landívar Museum.

Turi Mirador (Lookout)

Turi is a lookout or what is called a mirador in Spanish. Turi offers a spectacular view of the city of Cuenca. It’s also known as “the balcony of Cuenca.” Turi is close to the center of Cuenca. There are a few cafes and small shops in the area as well as a pretty sky blue and white church, appropriately named Iglesia de Turi. The top of Turi features a park of where one can zip line, swing on some swings or try balancing themselves on a slackline.

El Cajas National Park

El Cajas National Park is 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) or approximately a 40-minute drive from Cuenca. It is a protected area located west of the city of Cuenca in the Andes Mountains. El Cajas National Park has steep slopes, lakes, glaciers and small valleys. The weather is cold. The average temperature in the park is 8 ° C (46 ° F). One can perform activities such as bird watching, climbing, hiking and fishing. Visitors are allowed to camp in established areas.

El Cajas National Park Wildlife

El Cajas National Park is 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) or approximately a 40-minute drive from Cuenca. It is a protected area located west of the city of Cuenca in the Andes Mountains. El Cajas National Park has steep slopes, lakes, glaciers and small valleys. The weather is cold. The average temperature in the park is 8 ° C (46 ° F). One can perform activities such as bird watching, climbing, hiking and fishing. Visitors are allowed to camp in established areas.


Guayaquil, Ecuador, the top of Las Peñas, shown on the live in Ecuador page.

Guayaquil is known as “the Pearl of the Pacific”. It’s the capital of the province of Guayas. Guayaquil is located in Northwest South America on the banks of the Guayas River on the Pacific coast. Guayaquil’s population in 2023 is 3,142,466 according to World Population Review. Guayaquil is the most populous city in Ecuador.

Climate in Guayaquil

Guayaquil is generally warm and muggy. This is due to its relative low elevation near the equator. Guayaquil has two seasons, wet and dry. According to various sources, the dry season is from June to December with an average temperature of 31 ° C (87.8 ° F). The wet season is from January to May with an average temperature of 29 ° C (84.2 ° F). From January to May the heat is somewhat extreme due to the humidity. Guayaquil has good air quality and is surrounded by natural forests.

Guayaquil is the Economic Capital of Ecuador

Guayaquil is the economic capital of Ecuador. It is home to 39% of the 1000 most important companies in Ecuador. Guayaquil is the main port of the country. In 2017, The Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL) placed Guayaquil as the seventh most important port out of 120 throughout Latin America (Spanish). 83% of all imports and 70% of all exports are transferred through the port facilities of Guayaquil. The main exports are bananas, cacao, shrimp, and sugar cane.

Guayaquil Sees Major Improvement in the Last 20+ Years

Thanks to its urban regeneration over the past 20 years including new roads and a modern airport, Guayaquil is considered one of the most developed cities in Latin America. Unfortunately, Guayaquil is plagued with violence in 2023. I hope the situation improves soon.

Best Places to Live in Guayaquil

Guayaquil is divided by 16 urban parishes. The best “new” safe areas to live in Guayaquil for people with some money are Samborondón, Via a La Costa and Puerto Santa Ana (Spanish). Samborondón is basically a replica of a nice place you might find to live in the United States with franchise restaurants, gyms, name brand shopping, nightlife and so forth.

Las Peñas and Puerto Santa Ana

One can climb the 444 steps at Las Peñas, which is situated on Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill). At the top of the 444 steps lies a sky blue and white lighthouse “El Faro” that was built in 2001. The colors of the lighthouse are representative of the colors of Guayaquil’s flag. The top of the lighthouse offers 360-degree panoramic views of the city and the Guayas River. Las Peñas is popular with Guayaquileños and tourists. Vendors offer drinks, food, and souvenirs to those making their way up to the top of the platform. There’s also a small church on the platform at the opposite side of the lighthouse. Puerto Santa Ana is next to Las Peñas, the oldest and most colorful neighborhood in Guayaquil (Spanish). It’s comprised of numerous modern high rises and buildings with nice views and a variety of nice restaurants to choose from. From Puerto Santa Ana one can walk to the Malecón 2000 in downtown Guayaquil. If one is looking for a more authentic, yet rather safe place to live, nice older neighborhoods such as Lomas de Urdesa, Kennedy Norte and Los Ceibos may fit the bill.

Las Peñas, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Cultural Places and Tourism in Guayaquil

Guayaquil has never been known as a tourist destination. However, many tourists pass through Guayaquil on their way to other cities in the Ecuador such as the famous Galapagos Islands, the colonial city of Cuenca and some beaches near Guayaquil; mainly Salinas, Playas and Montañita. Although Guayaquil is not considered a tourist hot spot, it has several interesting places to visit.

El Parque Histórico de Guayaquil

The Historical Park of Guayaquil is a cultural and recreational park featuring wildlife, fauna and flora of Guayaquil. It was opened on October 21, 1999. It is comprised of 8 hectares. The park displays beautiful antique homes from old Guayaquil that were dismantled and rebuilt in the park. The land is divided into three zones: Traditions, Urban-Architectural, and Wildlife. The park is located in the area of Samborondón, one of the newer and wealthiest regions of Guayaquil. The park is managed by the Public Company of Urban Parks and Public Spaces and the Ministry of Tourism.

The History Behind Guayaquil’s First Boutique Hotel

One of the buildings that was taken apart and rebuilt was Hotel del Parque. The building was originally built in 1891 in the center of Guayaquil. It was initially named Hospício Corazón de Jesús, by Guayaquil’s oldest charity. The founder, Julián Coronel, stated that it shall provide shelter to the elderly, disabled and homeless regardless of gender. Facing demolition in the 1980’s the Central Bank of Ecuador bought the building and painstakingly moved and rebuilt it in Samborondón. The Oro Verde chain manages the hotel. They claim it to be the first boutique style hotel in Guayaquil.

Malecón 2000

The boardwalk, called the Malecón 2000, runs along Puerto Santa Ana. Malecón 2000 features an array of fine restaurants, modern high-rise residences, and the luxurious Wyndham hotel (Spanish). The Malecón 2000 is close to the center of Guayaquil, located on the banks of the Guayas River (Spanish). There are also monuments to see, the most famous being the Morisca Tower; better known as the Public Clock or “Reloj Público” (Spanish), that can be seen while strolling along the Malecón.

Parque Seminario Colloquially Known as Parque de las Iguanas

Seminary Park, aka Park of the Iguanas, is located in downtown Guayaquil (Spanish). It’s a small park with numerous iguanas and pigeons. Inside the park there is a statue of Simón Bolívar mounted on a horse. He was a Venezuelan military General and Politician who led an army that fought to gain independence from Spain for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. According to historian Melvin Hoyos, the iguanas arrived in the park in 1970 by a group of young Mormons who could not take them back to their country. Vendors inside the park sell bags of lettuce and seeds for 50 cents. The lettuce is the most popular and is used to feed the iguanas. The seeds are for the pigeons that coexist with the iguanas. One can feed both the iguanas and pigeons right from their hand like I did!

Eric feeding Iguanas at Parque Seminario aka Parque de las Iguanas in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Salinas, Ecuador

Guayaquil doesn’t have its own beach. The most popular beaches that are relatively close to Guayaquil are Salinas, Playas and Montañita. Salinas is located 120 kilometres from Guayaquil, about an hour’s drive away. It’s the most popular beach for Guayaquil residents and tourists alike. The main industries in Salinas are tourism, fishing and salt production.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Whether by air or sea, most traffic to the Galapagos first passes through Guayaquil. Charles Darwin, an Englishman, left his country in 1831 and set sail on the HMS Beagle with Captain Robert Fitzroy on a 5-year voyage. He arrived in the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and developed his Theory of Evolution. He especially studied finches and brought specimens back to England after his voyage to further study his theory. On November 24, 1859, many years later, Charles Darwin published his book “On the Origin of Species”.

Galapagos Islands Gets UNESCO Inscription in 1978

Positioned in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 kilometers away from Ecuador, these 19 islands and the adjacent marine reserve are often described as an unparalleled living museum and demonstration of evolution. Positioned at the meeting point of three ocean currents, the Galápagos Islands serve as a diverse “melting pot” for marine species.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, 2 blue footed, white and charcoal grey boobies.
2 blue-footed boobies on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Other Notable Towns or Cities in Ecuador

Cotacachi is a small indigenous town located in north central Ecuador is close to Otavalo, and well known for its high-quality leather jackets and other leather goods.

Esmeraldas lies in Ecuador’s northwest coast near the Colombian border. Its inhabitants are primarily of African descent.

Loja is in central southern Ecuador, is just 185 kilometers from the border town of La Tina, Peru. It is known for its rich tradition in the arts.

Machala is known as the banana capital of the world. It’s the 4th largest city in Ecuador but isn’t known as a tourist destination. It lies just 75.6 kilometers from Puente Internacional Peru-Ecuador or about an hour’s drive.

Manta is situated more or less on Ecuador’s central coast. Manta has one of the best economies in Ecuador due to fishing, especially tuna. Its tuna is exported to Europe and the U.S. International tuna corporations including Bumble Bee. The world famous “Panama Hats”, originated in Ecuador and are still made in the nearby town of Montecristi.

Otavalo is an artisan city in north central Ecuador comprised of roughly 40,000 inhabitants, mostly from the Otavalo indigenous group is known for weaving textiles, usually made of wool. Otavalo is surrounded by the volcanic peaks of Imbabura at 4,630 meters (15,190 feet), and Cotacachi at 4,995 meters (16,388 feet).

Visas in Ecuador

Tourist visas in Ecuador are granted for up to 90 days. Nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Somalia, must apply for a tourist visa to enter Ecuador. South American citizens of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela are allowed to remain for 180 days. Tourists that were issued a 90-day visa may request an extension in Ecuador (Spanish). If a foreigner wants to extend his or her stay in Ecuador even further or wants to be a resident, then they must apply for one of the following visas according to “Cancillería del Ecuador” (Spanish)

Temporary Special Tourist Visa (Spanish)
Temporary Residence Visa for Retirees (Spanish)
Temporary Residence Visa Based on Proof of Income (Spanish)
Temporary Residence Visa for Investors (Spanish)
Permanent Residence Visa Based on Time Accumulated through Temporary Residence (Spanish)

Driver’s License in Ecuador

Driver’s License for Tourists in Ecuador

In Ecuador, the law establishes that tourists can drive with a valid driver’s license from their country throughout the duration granted on their visa, which is a maximum of 180 days.

Driver’s License Exchange in Ecuador

Foreigners with temporary or permanent resident visas may exchange their license for an Ecuadorian one. Consult the National Transit Agency (Agencia Nacional de Transito) (Spanish) to learn more.

Vehicle Imports to Ecuador for Temporary and Permanent Residents

For information on the importation of vehicles to Ecuador as household items, check the requirements directly with Ecuador’s Customs (Aduana del Ecuador) as the information may change (Spanish).

Properties in Ecuador

Foreigners and Ecuadorians have the right to acquire property anywhere in the country except for restricted zones. There are restrictions such as “National Security Areas” marked by the government that cannot be purchased. Other properties in certain areas established by article 39 of the Public and State Security Law that require permission to buy are based on border security zones.

Ecuadorian Restrictions on Foreigner Property Purchase

“The border security zone covers the land space of twenty (20) kilometers from the border limits into the national territory, the maritime space of ten (10) nautical miles, and the corresponding airspace”.

An Attorney is Required to Buy Property in Ecuador

In order to purchase property, one must have a qualified attorney. The attorney should be able to manage the transaction with few complications and have the buyer’s best interest throughout the purchase.

Similar to Other Western Countries, the Following Steps Are Required to Purchase Property in Ecuador

Check that the title of the property is free of any liens or any other type of encumbrance including any property taxes that may be outstanding.

All parties meet to execute the Purchase and Sale Agreement “Contrato de Compraventa” (Spanish) including the buyer, the buyer’s attorney, notario público, seller and seller’s attorney (if the seller has an attorney). According to Ecuadorian law, a qualified translator must be present if the buyer doesn’t understand Spanish and the translator may not be the buyer’s real estate agent.

The execution of the purchase and sale agreement must be completed in front of a notario público which is greatly different than a notary in the United States. Each Province has a certain number of court-appointed notary publics, each of which has a law degree or doctorate, has worked in their legal field for at least three (3) years prior to being appointed and has gone through rigorous training and passed the court required exams The number of notaries each province appoints is based on demand. For example, the latest information I found regarding appointed notaries according to Ecuadorian government’s website shows that there are 86 notary publics appointed in the Ecuador’s capital, Quito, Province of Pichincha. No more, no less. Take a look at my post Requirements of a Notary in the United States versus a Notario Público in Ecuador to get an idea of the stringent requirements and responsibilities a notary public has in Ecuador and Latin countries in general.

Once taxes are paid and all documents are signed the notary public will close, issue and record the deed (escritura) similar to what a title company does in the United States.

Taxes in Ecuador

Income Tax in Ecuador

In Ecuador, tax obligations are regulated by the Internal Revenue Service (Servicios de Rentas Internas del Ecuador) or its abbreviation SRI. One is considered a tax resident in Ecuador once they stay past 183 days in a year in Ecuadorian territory. The law states that residents must pay taxes on income of Ecuadorian origin in Ecuador and abroad, however foreign income sources are not assessed. Ecuador has several tax treaties with other countries to avoid double taxation.

Income Tax Assessed by Bracket

Income taxes in Ecuador are charged at a gradual scale, similar to the sliding rate employed by the United States and many other nations. The tax in Ecuador charged includes a fixed tax according to the Base Amount plus a tax range from 0% to 35% on anything above the base amount. In 2020, any income earned that is $11,315 or less is not taxable, although it is recommended the individual still declares. In order to see the current and previous year tax tables visit Servicios de Rentas Internas del Ecuador (SRI) (Spanish).

Capital Gains Tax on Property Sales in Ecuador

Capital gains tax in Ecuador is aimed at people who sell a property. It’s based on the change in municipal value between when the property is bought versus when it’s sold. Specifically, the rate is 10% of the difference between the municipal value at the time of purchase and time of sale. The rate may be discounted a bit for improving the property. That includes the addition of furniture, appliances, etc.

Property Taxes in Ecuador

Ecuadorian real estate taxes should be approximately 2% to 2.5% of the municipal value (appraised value). It may vary slightly by city or province and whether or not the property is considered to be in a rural or urban setting. Homeowners over 65 are excluded from paying property taxes valued at less than $183,000. For married couples, if only one is 65 or older, the tax bill is reduced by 50%. The transfer tax of any property is 1% of the municipal value shown in the deed.

Sales Tax in Ecuador

Value Added Tax (VAT) generates most of Ecuador’s tax revenue. The sales tax rate for 2020 is 12%. It is added on to most all purchases though few types of purchases may be exempt. There are tax incentives for people 65 and older that can request a refund of up to $92.64 per month.

Cost of living in Ecuador

The cost of living in Ecuador is rather inexpensive if you compare it with the United States. Each city in Ecuador offers a slightly different cost of living. Similar to other countries in the region, basic staples and food are cheap. Property rentals and purchases are very affordable. Imported items, on the other hand, such as automobiles, electronics, and name brand clothing can be quite expensive.

Use Expatisan and Numbeo to Compare Cost of Living

Numbeo is a website that compares the living costs of various cities around the world. It should be taken into account that the figures established by Numbeo may be entered by any user which can alter their authenticity whether done so with mal-intent or by simple human error. In smaller cities, they’re may not be enough data entered by users which may result in unreliable data. True costs of a living in a town or city cannot accurately be estimated by 1 or 2 people that input their own data. Nonetheless, it’s a great tool to use assuming you’re researching a city and perhaps compare it with another that has data input from many people. Expatisan is another website that works very much like Numbeo. It may be wise to check both sites to see that the data you receive is similar when checking both sites.

The Minimum Monthly Wage in Ecuador

The monthly minimum wage is in Ecuador is $400 USD per month in 2020 up $6 from 2019. Similar to most expat destinations in most of Latin America, finding help at an affordable price is simple. One may choose to hire a cleaning lady once a week, for example. Many Ecuadorians and expats alike choose to employ a live-in maid. The maid has her own quarters to sleep in and takes care of household chores each day including cooking.

Banking in Ecuador

It’s important to keep in mind that each bank has their own rules in addition to government regulations. An Ecuadorian bank may choose to open or not open an account based on their own criteria. Generally speaking, visitors with just a tourist visa may only open a savings account. Permanent residents or visitors with an investor’s visa should be able to open a checking account along with a savings and/or other type of investment account.

Typical Requirements for Opening a Savings Account in Ecuador

Copy of passport or an Ecuadorian cedula (identity card)
Proof of valid immigration status
Copy of a utility bill such as electric, telephone or water service that matches the proposed account holder’s residence that is not older than 2 months
A personal, bank or commercial reference
Proof of current balance from proposed account holder’s foreign bank

Possible Additional Requirements for Opening a Checking Account in Ecuador

Copy of passport or an Ecuadorian cedula (identity card)
Proof of valid immigration status
Copy of a utility bill such as electric, telephone or water service that matches the proposed account holder’s residence that is not older than 2 months
A personal, bank or commercial reference
Proof of current balance from proposed account holder’s foreign bank

Popular Banks in Ecuador

A few of the more popular banks in Ecuador are Banco Pichincha (Spanish), Banco del Pacífico (Spanish), Banco Guayaquil (Spanish), Produbanco (Spanish), Banco Internacional (Spanish), Banco Bolivariano (Spanish). The initial account deposit varies depending on the bank. Typically, it can range anywhere from $10 to $300.

Permission to Own Firearms in Ecuador

For information on the requirements to own firearms whether for personal protection or for sport visit the Arms Control Information System (Sistema Informático de Control de Armas – SINCOAR) (Spanish).

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