A Move to Ecuador can certainly be a hard decision as there are so many wonderful places in the world to settle. Even within Ecuador, there are many choices, depending on the climate you prefer, the size of city or town, or whether you might even like to work or volunteer your time and services.
In 2008 I chose Cuenca as my new home and lived there for almost three years. I wanted to be in a mild climate, and to live in a medium sized city so that we could enjoy great facilities. Cuenca gave me the opportunity and affordability to also spend time at the coast. All I had to do was take the Van to Guayaquil and then hop on another bus to anywhere we wantedt to be on the coast. All for under $20 pp.
If you decide to move to Ecuador I would sincerely say that you should first take an exploratory trip or if you can afford the time, spend a couple of months touring around to see where you would like to fit in.
For me the move to Ecuador came after having toured through te country and then decided to live in Cuenca for a month to get the feel of the place. Remember that moving to Ecuador can be a culture shock for those who are not prepared. Even to those who are, there will still be difficulties that you will come across. If you do not speak the language then that will be another challenge. Although these days many people also speak English, but this is mainly in the bigger cities.
Even the way people do business here is totally different to what you may be used to. For many from other countries it is hard to understand. Well maybe you don’t have to understand, but rather respect how people work here. Remember that we are guests in this beautiful country and the people and their traditions and culture are to be respected.
By the way, we are known as “Gringos” here. Don’t be offended; they are not being disrespectful. Many foreigners have asked me where all the Gringos live here in Cuenca. The answer to this is that we live all over the place. Some live in houses outside of the city, some choose to renovate in the historical part of the city, others live in Condos.
I believe that you should not come here thinking that you are going to make great changes to the less fortunate of this society. By giving large tips or paying large salaries, you will be changing the expectations of the locals who will actually be laughing all the way home and probably thinking how silly these Gringo’s are. However, it is perfectly OK to help the less fortunate to earn more. A good example is the retired couple from Chicago who have helped many locals earn more from growing Quinoa .
Unfortunately many locals may think all Gringos are wealthy and this can then lead to some petty crime, and the more you flaunt your wealth, the worse it will be. The minimum wage here is about $240 per month, and many indigenous people in remote areas earn a lot less. So it is not hard for these people to think you are wealthy.
Please be respectful. I have already seen some Gringo’s that are quite insulting to the most educated Ecuadorian. As far as I am concerned that is just not on. As an expat community, we are in the minority and the locals will soon lump everyone in the same category. Please respect and treat the Ecuadorians as an equal. If you are seeking residency, then you are also going to be an “Ecuadorian” with an identity card (“Cedula”) exactly the same as the locals.
It really helps if you make an effort to have some local amigos and at least try and learn the language. If you do some volunteer work that will be a bonus for you. The people are wonderful if they see you are at least trying. But then some shock you when they reply in English. Some smaller towns that have attracted a lot of foreigners have already experienced some problems.
I also think it is courteous to learn to respect the local culture of having lunch between 1p.m. & 3 p.m. Most stores in the city will close as do many other businesses. People go home or meet family to have lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day. Please respect it and work around it. To try and do otherwise will be seen as demanding and you will be insulting the locals.
Sundays are also considered a day to be with family and friends. I love it and believe that some of us have lost this tradition.
One of the first things to do when arriving into Ecuador is to buy a cheap cell phone. It will make life a lot easier for you. You can buy a prepaid phone for less than $50. It will cost you a lot more than that if you use your existing phone with “roaming”. And local residents (foreigners too) will resist calling you on your international phone.
The currency in Ecuador is USD. Make sure you bring $20’s and $1 dollar bills (USD) as most places will not take $50 or $100 bills (only the banks). Taxi fares are cheap ($2.00 average) and they do not usually have change even for $20 bills. Carry lots of $1 bills or coins.
Initially, when coming to Ecuador, you are permitted to stay for a period of up to 90 days on a FREE Tourist Visa that you receive AUTOMATICALLY on arrival to the country - following that you also have the ability to obtain PAID Tourist Visa Extensions that permit an even longer stay in Ecuador. If you are planning on moving permanently you will be required to obtain a resident visa. There are various options to achieve this. It will also be in your best interest if you employ a Residency Attorney.
I hope this will be of some help for your “Move to Ecuador”