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Moving to Ecuador

Expats moving to Ecuador are sure to be in awe of this compact country’s diversity and natural beauty. From its gorgeous coastline and large swathes of Amazon jungle to the stunning peaks of the Andes, exploring Ecuador is bound to be a breathtaking experience.

Living in Ecuador as an expat

Most expats live in the capital, Quito, or Ecuador’s most populous city, Guayaquil, while Cuenca is popular among retirees. Wherever expats decide to settles, they are sure to be embraced by a friendly local community. 

Political tension and protests, as well as personal safety, are sometimes concerns in Ecuador, especially in cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. It's best for expats to exercise the same caution they would in any metropolitan city: keeping valuables hidden, only walking in well-lit areas at night and avoiding public transport late at night. Crime is much less of a worry for those who relocate to the Galápagos Islands. While recognising the risks, it's important to have an open mind.

Accommodation in Ecuador comes in all shapes and sizes, and excellent medical care is accessible in major cities. With insurance, the cost of private medical treatment is also reasonable and only a fraction of the price that expats from North America and Europe would be accustomed to.

Cost of living in Ecuador

The cost of living in Ecuador is refreshingly affordable for those from more expensive destinations. From accommodation and public transport to entertainment and eating out, expats can expect to spend a lot less in Ecuador than in major destinations such as the US and parts of Europe, and even some of its South American neighbours. An expat's choice of lifestyle also has a major influence on their monthly costs. Those who shop around and choose local alternatives will find that they can save plenty of money which can then be used for travelling or other fun activities.

Expat families and children

Expats with children can note that Ecuador has a well-established public education system and standards are improving year on year. Still, many expats prefer the quality and curriculum flexibility of private and international schools – many of which offer bilingual opportunities in Spanish, English, French and German.

This diverse climate and environment make for fun activities for the whole family, and learning about the local culture and language is critical for expat adults and children as they settle in. 

Expat families wishing to explore the country will discover that the natural landscape is full of wonders. They can experience everything from incredible views of calderas and volcanic lakes, such as Quilotoa Lake, to warm and sunny beaches, lush rain forests and more arid, desert conditions. And remember that the Galápagos Islands are a province of Ecuador – a beautiful volcanic archipelago world famous for its wildlife.

Climate in Ecuador

Due to its location on the equator, most of Ecuador has a humid tropical climate, specifically around the coastal areas and lowlands, which are covered in rainforests. The mountain valleys have a more mild climate due to the high altitude in this part of the country. Temperatures generally fall between 73ºF (23ºC) and 79ºF (26ºC) throughout the year, although they are somewhat lower in the mountains and can rise slightly during the warmer months in the rainforests. 

Expats who are considering relocating to Ecuador need to weigh up the pros and cons of doing so. Concerns about safety and schooling are worth serious consideration, especially for expats with children – on the other hand, the country offers a low cost of living, great healthcare facilities and a steadily improving infrastructure, not to mention gorgeous scenery.

Fast facts

Population: 18 million

Capital city: Quito

Neighbouring countries: Ecuador is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Geography: Ecuador has four distinct geographical regions – the Galápagos Islands, the western coastal area (La Costa), the central highlands (La Sierra) and the Amazonian basin (El Oriente).

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Roman Catholicism

Main languages: Spanish. There are also additional indigenous languages. It is wise for expats to speak at least basic Spanish before moving to Ecuador.

Money: Ecuador's currency is the US dollar, making financial transactions easy. ATMs are available all over the country. Expats may open a bank account with a local bank but extensive documentation is required.

Tipping: Service charges are usually already included in bills at restaurants, although an additional dollar or two may be given for exceptional service. Tipping is appreciated but not necessarily expected.

Time: GMT -5 and -6

Electricity: 120V, 60Hz. Plugs have two or three flat blades.

Internet domain: .ec

International dialling code: +593

Emergency contacts: 911

Transport and driving: Public transport in Ecuador consists mainly of a bus system. Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road.

Public Holidays in Ecuador




New Year's Day

1 January 

1 January


20–21 February 

12–13 February

Good Friday

7 April

29 March

Easter Sunday

9 April

31 March

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Battle of Pichincha Day

26 May

24 May

Independence Day

10 August

9–10 August

Guayaquil Independence Day

9 October

9 October

All Souls' Day

2 November

31 October

Cuenca Independence Day

3 November

4 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

*Midweek public holidays are sometimes moved to the preceding Monday or the following Friday to make a long weekend.

Transport and Driving in Ecuador

Expats will find it easy and inexpensive to get around in Ecuador. Although many people own private vehicles, the backbone of Ecuadorian transport is the bus.

The interprovincial bus service is robust and all major cities in Ecuador have local bus systems too. Taxis are also readily available and are great for short distances, while domestic flights are the best way to travel long distances across the country.

Whatever the means of transport, there are potential safety implications involved that should be considered.

Public transport in Ecuador


Ecuador's bus service is incredibly cheap – but the quality and cleanliness vary greatly and not all buses have bathrooms. It's not unusual for buses to break down – and like most of Ecuador’s drivers, bus drivers are known to drive erratically and often above the speed limit. Despite this, buses are a slow way to get around because of constant delays and unscheduled stops.

The local city buses are a popular and affordable way to get around, and Quito has both trolleybuses – running on separate tracks to those of vehicles – and normal bus services.

Long-distance buses are often more comfortable and likely have air-conditioning and toilets, but may still be far from first-class standards. They normally make some stops along the way at certain terminals for passengers to have a break, stretch their legs and buy some food.

We recommend checking the information booths at bus terminals for info on bus schedules and fares, and for longer trips, expats would be wise to buy a ticket in advance. When using public transport, it’s helpful to brush up on some Spanish and always be polite to the staff.

For information about transport options and routes in Quito, see the city's transport website


The rail system has largely been repaired and operates through Tren Ecuador, but these are mostly tourist trains, which are not useful for everyday commuting. Still, new arrivals wishing to see more of the country can take advantage of these tourist routes for impressive sights of the Andes and Ecuador’s coastline. See Ecuador Train Journeys website for more about the different routes available. 

Taxis in Ecuador

Taxis are a good way to travel short distances but can quickly become expensive. Drivers should be licensed and registered, but there are also illegal, unregistered taxis, many of which are involved in scamming, stealing from or even kidnapping passengers. 

Registered taxis are yellow with orange number plates. Taxis are required to have their meters on during the day and passengers should insist on this. At night, the meters are usually turned off, so a flat fee for the ride should be negotiated before getting into the taxi. In Quito, taxi drivers generally use their meters but this is not always the case in other cities and towns in Ecuador. Make sure to negotiate a price and stick to it as some taxi drivers may try to take advantage of foreigners and push up the price at the end of the trip. 

The most reliable way of catching a taxi is to use a smartphone application or make a phone call to a cab company who will send out a driver. The companies running these services are usually trustworthy and only hire registered drivers. Uber is operational in Ecuador and can be cheaper than regular taxis.

Driving in Ecuador

Not everyone needs a car in Ecuador, given the interprovincial buses and public transport. Those who choose to drive must be aware of the road conditions.

Driving in Ecuador is improvisational. Rules of the road are often bent, if not outright ignored. It isn’t at all unusual to see someone ignore an orange light, rush through a stop sign or change lanes without indicating – all the while driving at breakneck speeds. 

For this reason, many expats in Ecuador are understandably nervous about driving. Still, cars make it easier to get to remote places and are usually essential for expats in the more rural areas of Ecuador.

The country’s mountainous landscape means that roads and highways are often steep and twisty. The weather has a major effect on driving in Ecuador. Landslides and flooding are both potential problems that motorists might encounter, especially in the rainy season. Travellers should review local news and social media regularly to check the latest reports.

Expats can drive with a foreign licence but we advise expats to get an International Driving Permit, a translation into Spanish, and to always drive with their passport, and proof of vehicle registration and insurance.

Renting a car

Renting a car in Ecuador is simple and large international car rental companies operate in the country, such as Avis and Hertz, as well as local companies.

Bear in mind that rental agencies are unlikely to accept expats under the age of 25. In some cases, it is permissible, but drivers will encounter higher rates. 

Cycling in Ecuador

In recent years, the Ecuadorian government has invested a lot of money in developing and encouraging the use of bicycles as a major form of ecological transport. Bike paths have been established in many of the most populous areas of the country, including Quito. To promote cycling, regular events are held where certain roads are open only to non-motorised transport. 

Be aware that biking can be dangerous in areas without dedicated bike paths. Car drivers often do not obey rules of the road, and roads can be covered in debris. 

Walking in Ecuador

Depending on where people live, cars are not always needed – it may be that workplaces and amenities are within walking distance from one’s home.

That said, due to safety concerns, walking is not always the best way to get around in Ecuador. If expats must travel by foot, they should walk with caution and pay attention to their surroundings. Be extremely careful when walking alone at night, and always secure belongings – preferably put them somewhere they can’t be seen. Muggings and pickpocketing are common in large cities, especially if one stands out from the local population.

There are also many opportunities for hiking and walking trails can be found all around Ecuador. That said, when exploring, always follow designated routes and take necessary precautions and enough water.

Boat travel in Ecuador

Getting around by boat shouldn’t be dismissed given Ecuador’s coastal geography, islands and many rivers – though this may largely be for recreational purposes. Motorised canoes, sailboats, ferries and cruise ships are available and can make for some spectacular experiences.

Make sure to go through a trusted service provider when travelling by boat and always check their safety features.

Air travel in Ecuador

Ecuador’s two main airports are Aeropuerto Internacional José Joaquín De Olmedo in Guayaquil and Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, the latter of which is one of South America’s busiest airports. The main domestic airlines are Avianca Ecuador and LATAM Ecuador, and expats will be able to fly from abroad, cross country and to the Galapagos Islands – Baltra Island and San Cristóbal Island.

Accommodation in Ecuador

When looking for accommodation in Ecuador, expats will need to consider various aspects such as their budget, preferred neighbourhoods and the type of housing they want to live in.

Expats on assignment for a multinational company usually prefer to rent accommodation, but those planning on staying in Ecuador permanently may want to explore the option of purchasing property.

Types of accommodation in Ecuador

Compared to many other countries, renting and buying property in Ecuador is cheap. Large cities with high-density populations such as Quito and Guayaquil are the most expensive, but they are also among the most popular destinations for expats.


Living in Ecuador’s cities, expats will find many options for apartments for rent. These vary greatly from unfurnished studio apartments with basic standards for expats on a budget to luxury and modern apartments in more affluent neighbourhoods.

Arranging flat-shares and renting a room in an apartment are also popular options in Ecuador. This can be a great way to meet people and make friends, especially as a young new arrival, but is not necessarily for those who prefer their own space.


Like apartments, condominiums can be found for a range of prices and at varying standards. Many condos have upgraded features compared to apartments, and Ecuador offers relatively affordable beachfront condos – some with swimming pools and private security.


Many houses are available for rent both in Ecuador’s larger cities and smaller towns. For those on a budget, house shares are common. Alternatively, the occasional townhouse in a gated community, called an urbanización cerrada, is also available, though they may be on the pricier side.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Both furnished (amueblado) and unfurnished (sin amueblar) apartments are readily available, although unfurnished apartments are much more common. Take this into consideration when looking for accommodation and scoring a cheaper rent: unfurnished may be completely unfurnished, not just missing tables and chairs but large appliances such as ovens, stoves and fridges too.

Tenants should also factor in the potential costs of a water heater or electric shower. Ecuadorian buildings are generally not heated, and although one may find tile roofs romantic, they often leak.

Finding accommodation in Ecuador

Expats can find housing in Ecuador by looking online or reading the local newspapers. MLS-Ecuador, LongTermLettings and Ecuador Home Sales provide online listings and allow expats to search for a place before arriving in Ecuador.

It may be helpful to arrive in the country with short-term accommodation set up before settling on a property. It allows expats to take a hands-on approach and personally inspect various places, especially as only a small portion of the properties up for rent will appear on online listing sites. We suggest scouring neighbourhoods by foot or car, looking for signs that read ‘Se Arrienda’ (for rent), or finding accommodation by word of mouth. It's an excellent way to find a good deal, so don't be shy to talk to locals and ask around about places to rent. Otherwise, accommodation can also be found by going through a real estate agent.

Living near the city centre is preferable since the transport options will be much more robust. Supermarkets and small family grocery stores are usually conveniently located in most Ecuadorian neighbourhoods. It's also a good idea to speak to locals to find out which are the safer parts of town. 

Beware of price inflation and fraud – expats might run into what is wryly termed as 'gringo tax' (higher prices for foreigners). To avoid this, expats should bring an Ecuadorian friend along when viewing accommodation and negotiating contracts and prices.

Renting accommodation in Ecuador

Ecuadorian construction standards are often low, so it's also important to carefully check the premises before signing the lease or paying a deposit. Make sure the lights, shower, sinks, toilet, doors, windows and electrical outlets all function.


Leases are most commonly for a year, but longer contracts are also possible. 

While most rental agreements are made and maintained hassle-free, some expats report experiences with greedy landlords. These landlords try to excessively increase their rents, withhold deposits or ask for rent if notice is not given early enough.

Fortunately, Ecuadorian property legislation favours tenants in many respects. Landlords are not allowed to increase the rent during the period stipulated in the lease, nor can they simply increase the rent each year – they must usually apply to the municipality to do so.

To avoid conflicts, it’s essential to notarise, register and legally bind the rental contract, and have it written in Spanish. Do seek the help of a professional translator or friend to translate the lease before signing. It’s important for expats to know their rights and explain this to the landlords, otherwise, expats may get cheated or need to face legal fees from lawyers to resolve disputes.


Before moving in, a deposit equivalent to one months' rent is generally required, along with the first months' rent up front. When it comes time to make the deposit, don’t be surprised if the owner asks the tenant to pay in cash as Ecuador is a cash-friendly society. Alternatively, they might ask for a deposit directly into their bank account.


Some housing will include all utilities in the monthly rental fee but in most cases bills such as gas, internet and electricity are for the tenant's account.


We recommend expats check their notice period. Landlords must normally give three months’ notice and tenants should give at least one months' notice before ending the lease early. If this is followed, early termination fees should not be charged.