Moving 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. We chose Cuenca as our new home and have now lived here for three years. We wanted to be in a mild climate, and to live in a medium sized city so that we could enjoy great facilities. Cuenca gives us the opportunity and affordability to also spend time at the coast. All we have to do is take the Van to Guayaquil and then hop on another bus to anywhere we want to be on the coast. All for under $20 pp.
It did not take us long to decide back in February 2008 that this was a place we were happy to move to. Our first friends in Cuenca were local Ecuadorians and they still remain our dear friends along with many other new local friends and expats.
If you decide to move here you also should think about not only living a cheaper lifestyle but how are you going to feel living in a different culture, eating new foods, learning to speak a different language, and more.
Even the way people do business here is totally different in some respects 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 . See www.incaorganics.com for the great success story.
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.
After an exploratory trip to Ecuador where we spent two months in the country we decided that we were not going to bring our furniture or appliances. The cost of shipping would have been much more than the cost of buying new furniture. But that was our decision and it is not always the same for everyone. We landed with 5 suitcases full of clothes and some sentimental items and our laptops to start our new life in Cuenca. It was a decision that we are both happy we made.
Cuenca has extremely good furniture makers and you can furnish an apartment or house with quality crafted furniture. We hear all sorts of stories about folks bringing in a container full of their possessions and having problems. If you are considering bringing a container with your furniture and possessions I recommend you seek advice from someone like Relocation Services of Ecuador.
To live here is extremely affordable in many ways. The price of gas, food and housing, whether renting or buying, is very cheap. Apart from the free or inexpensive cultural events, cinema prices are not expensive, and nor are restaurants. We often go to a vegetarian restaurant that is within walking distance of where we live, and we get the “menu of the day” for less than $5 for the two of us. That includes a soup, a main meal and a juice.
Taking a foreigner out to view real estate here is a lot different to what you are used to. You will generally pay $15 per hour to view properties either for renting or purchasing. If purchasing, the showing fee is usually deducted from the final purchse price. This practice dissuades “tire kickers” who want realtors to effectively be free tour guides. If you don’t speak Spanish and don’t have a car, then you will need a bilingual realtor service with transport - and that is the service that bilingual realtors provide foreigners. If you can speak Spanish and have a car, then you can go to the local realtors and don't need specialist services.
Many of the realtors who look after foreigners will charge 5-6% Buyers Agent commission to you the purchaser. Given that the properties are generally much cheaper than where you have come from, and the fact that the Ecuador property market is booming, you won't regret the expense. I have seen many a Gringo get caught out because they thought they could do it themselves and save a few $$$$. Instead it has cost them more than what they would have originally paid if they had paid for some help some help.
If you can go direct to a seller, they will try and charge you a “Gringo price” anyway – usually more than 5% above a local price. You may say that you wish to come and rent for 6-12 months to get the feel of the city. This is a great idea and I can quite understand why people want to do this. However, prices are increasing all the time. Rents might be inexpensive, but if you have missed out on twice as much in capital gains, then the rents might not seem so cheap in hindsight.
f you are considering buying a property in Ecuador be prepared to pay cash. There has not been very much financing available for foreigners, although that is also changing in some areas. In general you need to be a resident of Ecuador to qualify for bank finance.
Sometimes an owner or developer will carry financing for you, but the interest rates will be high and the term is usually short. If buying in a new condo development you will be asked to make a down payment and the balance will be divided into 12 monthly payments. The last payment (12thmonth) to be paid once the construction has been completed, titles transferred and you get the keys.
House and land measurements here are in square meters. Land is measured in hectares (10.76 square feet = 1 square meter and 1 hectare = 2.47 acres or 10,000 square meters).
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 into Ecuador you can stay for a period of up to 6 months. If you are planning on moving permanently you will be required to obtain a resident visa. There are various options to achieve this.
Once you obtain your residency you are required to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months per year for the first two years. These laws like many others in Ecuador change periodically. So it is wise to make sure you check and don’t just take my word for it. For more information please contact Dr Gabriela Espinosa in Quito.
I hope this will be of some help for your “Move to Ecuador”