Ecuador: Everybody's Darling
Once more, Ecuador comes out on top as the clear winner of the Expat Insider survey. It occupies first place in the Personal Finance and Cost of Living Indices: 91% of the survey participants are generally satisfied with the cost of living and 80% say the same about their personal financial situation. But the quality of life is also relatively high. In this index, Ecuador occupies the top rank for Personal Happiness. Respondents are generally satisfied with their personal life and their romantic relationships. Leisure options also seem to be abundant in Ecuador, as 94% of respondents give them a positive rating.
More than that, though, Ecuador is a country that is easy to settle down in. The country ranks first when it comes to finding friends and feeling welcome. Job security, however, is only mediocre - Ecuador occupies 22nd rank in this subcategory and 59% say their income is lower than at home. Moreover, 55% fall into the lowest income brackets of 25,000 USD and below.
The majority of expats living in Ecuador are US Americans (56%) and in their golden years: the average age is 51.9 years. Of those who have a job, 36% work part-time while 36% of all respondents in Ecuador are retirees. The country seems to attract those who plan on a long-term stay. In fact, 45% say that they might stay there forever.
The Country of the Mestizos
Ecuador has a population of almost 16 million (as of August 2015). It is a very young population, too, with the median age being 26 years. More than two-thirds of residents live in the country’s large cities, such as Guayaquil, Quito, or Cuenca.
Ethnically, the majority — about 72% — of Ecuadorians today are Mestizo, a group of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. Another 7% of the population is made up by Amerindian peoples. This is not a homogenous group, but consists of various ethnicities itself. Seven percent of the nation’s residents are white, i.e. people of European descent. Apart from these groups, there are also sizeable communities of people of African and Asian heritage living in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s Languages: Spanish and Quichua
The main language you will hear in Ecuador is, obviously, Spanish, which is both the official and most commonly spoken language. There is, however, a second widespread tongue, due to the large Native American population in Ecuador: Kichwa, also known in Spanish as Quichua. Rooted in the native language of the Inca, Kichwa is spoken by a considerable portion of residents living in Ecuador and is also the nation’s second official language. Some other Amerindian languages also exist in the country, none of which, however, is as significant as Kichwa.
You should not expect too many people you meet outside a business context to be fluent in English, so we highly recommend acquiring at least a basic knowledge of Spanish before you start your time abroad in Ecuador.
Seeing how the ethnic makeup of the population is fairly diverse, it should not take anyone by surprise that this diversity has also left its marks on the national culture. The mix of various Amerindian traditions coupled with the influence of the culture that came to the country with the European conquests has created a quite unique way of life. Later immigration, for example by Africans, has also contributed many important facets to the culture that makes living in Ecuador so fascinating.
The many religious and secular holidays you will experience in Ecuador are just as diverse and range from celebrations in honor of the patron saint of the city you are in to Catholic and indigenous festivals to national holidays such as the founding and independence days of the nation’s large cities.
If you are interested in what Ecuador has in store for your taste buds, and we are sure there is something for every taste, you might want to visit the Ecuador Travel page of the Ministry of Tourism.
Living at the Equator
As you might have guessed from the country’s name, living in Ecuador is roughly equivalent to living right at the equator. The country’s diverse geographic regions. The coastal regions are tropical, and as you venture deeper into the country and the Andes, temperatures drop steadily. The Amazon region again features tropical weather.
The only two seasons you will experience in Ecuador are the dry season — summer — and the wet season, the Ecuadorian winter. Again, the geography has considerable influence on the seasons: the coastal regions, for example, are strongly affected by ocean currents.(www.internations.org)
In Quito and Cuenca, high temperatures average a comfortable 75 degrees year-round, and that means we can wear short-sleeved shirts almost every day…but we’re never roasting hot. The air is dry, and we aren’t badgered by mosquitoes. At night, the temperature is an agreeable 50 or 55 degrees, so you can build a fire for ambiance…but you rarely need it for warmth. On the coast, the weather is warmer, of course, but not as hot and humid as a Florida beach during the summer.
Surrounded by volcanic peaks that reach heights of almost 21,000 feet, we can sit on our front patio each morning in the clear mountain air, sip coffee, and bask in the equatorial sun. Yet we’re not isolated. Ecuador offers easy, affordable access to the rest of South America. From Ecuador it’s easy to explore the splendors of Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela.
Inside this tiny nation, barely larger than the state of Nevada, at least 14 different ethnic groups live side by side, some still speaking the language of the Incas. Fine craftsmen and attentive caretakers of their land, Ecuadorians adhere to the natural healing traditions their ancestors taught. And whether they live in jungle river towns or coastal fishing villages…colonial cities or isolated cattle ranches…they are a friendly and polite people, which makes day-to-day living here a pleasure.
Where “Land of the Free” Still Exists
Ecuador is gentle…safe…healthy…private…civil. As one friend of ours put it: “It’s like living in the 1950s in the USA.” You’re guaranteed a quality of life that just plain doesn’t exist anymore in the States. Up north, violence, materialism, and increasingly intrusive government policies have whittled away the last vestiges of the American Dream. Yet here you’re guaranteed a truly extraordinary lifestyle. And that makes Ecuador the perfect place to retire…to reinvent yourself. You’ll find like-minded company when you do.
The “transplants” we’ve met have not only embraced the improved lifestyle in Ecuador, but they’ve also discovered a wealth of opportunity in businesses as diverse as adventure tourism, button-making, and shrimp-farming…
Live Healthier…Live Longer
This is a place where you can reconnect with the Earth and discover the natural rhythms of the world. For millions of years, Mother Nature has provided natural remedies to soothe our pains, calm our anxieties, and protect us against illness. But in the last century, synthetic medicines have supplanted these natural remedies in popularity and accessibility…except in a few small, protected pockets of the world. Ecuador is one of those places.
You eat organic fruits and vegetables…because that’s what’s sold in the markets. You walk more…because the pace of life is slower and you take the time to do it. The hours you once wasted in commuter traffic you now spend in the relaxing company of friends. No longer do you while away entire days under fluorescent office lights in a climate-controlled building…now you’re outside in the sun. Living here is energizing…restorative. Simply put: You feel younger, years younger, every day.
An important fact: Although Ecuador is a much poorer country than the U.S., life expectancy here is the same. The reason? Good food and good living.
Here You’re a World Apart…but Not Isolated
For us, moving to Ecuador was as much, maybe more, about adventure and a better quality of life as it was about value investing or affordable living. But the good news is that Ecuador delivers on all counts.
You can find cheap property all over the planet…Ecuador is no exception. But in many locales, you’d lead an uncomfortable life, far from friends and family and disconnected from the rest of the world. Not so in Ecuador.
In this country, you can golf on breathtaking courses so free of crowds you never have to make a tee time. A gourmet meal in a world-class restaurant costs about what you’d pay for bottled water and an appetizer in Los Angeles, New York City, or London. The fresh fruits and vegetables you find overpriced at specialty shops up north sell here at the local markets for pennies.
Daily flights depart for destinations across the hemisphere. Cell phones seem to be standard issue. Cyber cafes are easy to find, and home-computer hookups are common. Cable TV gets you the major U.S. networks, CNN, three HBO channels, Cinemax, TLC, and more (for less than $50 a month).
Whether you thrive on the hustle and bustle of the city…or you are drawn to mountain valleys where cowbells are more common than car horns…
Whether you crave the sun, sand, and crashing surf…or have always dreamed of a rural retreat where you could ride your horse into town for lunch…
Safe…and on the Road to success
Ecuador is a safe place to live and invest.
We can’t say crime is unheard of. Petty theft, particularly in the big cities, is an issue…as it is in all big cities. But a bolstered police force and greater attention to education have been brought to bear on the problem. Based on statistics compiled by Interpol and the United Nations, Ecuador ranks third safest in terms of serious crime among Latin American countries.
Politically, Ecuador is a peaceful country. The population is gentle. Even in the throes of a violent economic upheaval when the local currency careened downward, losing 67% of its value against the dollar in 1999, protests were peaceful. Nobody fired a single shot. Historically, Ecuador has avoided the guerilla warfare and repressive dictatorships that other Latin American countries have endured.
And economically speaking, Ecuador is walking smartly on the road to recovery. Back in 1999, the footing was less certain. The country had suffered everything short of the plague: a drought…then rains that washed away much of the country’s infrastructure and crops…plummeting oil prices…near triple-digit inflation…failed banks…frozen assets…the collapse of Asian and Brazilian economies, which further hurt trade…and political deadlock, which made effective government reforms impossible.
Good Weather and Friendly Neighbors in Intellectual, Artistic Cuenca
A United Nations World Heritage Trust Site, Cuenca is another city worth a close look. More charming than Quito, the city was voted one of Latin America’s “most livable” cities by international urban planners in 2006. Considered the cultural heart of Ecuador, Cuenca nurtures a thriving intellectual and artistic community. With a population of 450,000, Cuenca offers big city infrastructure without big city problems. Since 2004, Cuenca has probably attracted more IL readers than any other single destination in Ecuador.
Real estate prices in Cuenca are similar to those in Quito. Many expats are buying new condos just of outside the city’s historic district, paying between $50 to $55 per square foot. Many of the apartments have outside terraces that offer stunning views of the city and the mountains beyond.
If you are willing to pay $250,000 and up, you can buy a beautiful, colonial-style building in Cuenca’s historic district, with 10,000-plus square feet of space, including a courtyard and interior gardens. It’s perfect for renovation into a hotel, restaurant, or B&B.
Live to a Ripe Old Age in the Valley of Longevity
Tucked away deep in southern Ecuador is the sacred Valley of Vilcabamba, known for its long-lived locals and its hippie transplants. (Young counter-culture types made it to Vilcabamba in the 1970s as backpackers and never left.) Gentle and pristine, this valley offers a mellow lifestyle, organic food, and lots of “communing with nature.”
What does it cost to buy here? Less than you might think. Chaupi House, a two-story traditional Ecuadorian place with five bedrooms on 2.5 acres with lots of fruit trees and an irrigation canal that provides fresh water year-round, is on offer for $70,000. Across the road, a substantial home with a separate guesthouse, all on 7.5 lush and gently sloping acres, lists for just $120,000.
Ecuador Is for the Adventorous and Thoughtful
Clearly, we think Ecuador is worth your attention. But we should, perhaps, qualify our enthusiasm in one small way. If you’re overly bothered by roads that have potholes, if you cannot bear to be in the sight of people less affluent than yourself…if you are at a loss when things do not function in exactly the way you’re used to them functioning…well, then, Ecuador may not be for you.
The people we know who seem the happiest here–and certainly the ones who are the most successful in their businesses–they are all adventuresome sorts. They take the unexpected in stride. They set out to explore the unknown.
And they are thoughtful; interested in their local communities. Some have begun studying the healing practices of rainforest tribes. Others are working with local craftsmen to help them develop products they can sell to a wider clientele. Still others volunteer in local schools or with environmental groups.
Ecuadorians are tremendously welcoming and friendly. And if you launch a new life here with enthusiasm for them and their nation, you’ll find it’s an easy, enjoyable, rewarding place to live.
WELCOME TO ECUADOR