Expats moving to Ecuador will be overwhelmed by this compact country’s diversity and natural beauty. From its beautiful coastline and large swathes of Amazon jungle to the stunning peaks of the Andes, Ecuador is a breathtaking experience for all who visit.
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.
The natural landscape lures in expats who 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.
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.
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.
Despite the many positive aspects of living in Ecuador, not everything is as rosy as it is sometimes painted to be. While getting a work permit is relatively straightforward, finding employment can be difficult – for both expats and locals. Job opportunities for those without an adequate level of Spanish tend to be limited though there is a demand for English teachers and translators.
Political tension and protests, as well as personal safety, are also concerns in Ecuador, especially in cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, where foreigners have been the target of violent crimes. 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 a worry for those who relocate to the Galápagos Islands.
While recognising the risks, dangers and downsides, it's important to have an open mind. Accommodation in Ecuador comes in all shapes and sizes, the cost of living is refreshingly affordable for those from more expensive destinations 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 expats from North America and Europe would be accustomed to.
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.
Population: 17.6 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 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.
►See Expat Experiences in Ecuador for first-hand accounts of living in the country
"At first I thought these “Enchanted Islands” were called enchanted because the animals were all so spellbound, so fearless/friendly and other-world-like. I thought maybe it had to do with how enchanting it felt to be here." Read more in the Expat Arrivals interview with Rick, an expat living in San Cristóbal, on of the Galapagos islands of Ecuador.
"In terms of nature, Ecuador is a fragile paradise full of surprises. You will need to adjust yourself, but once that is done, there is plenty to enjoy and discover. Life in Ecuador is definitely an adventure, and you will never be bored." Read our interview with Heidi for a full picture – the reality of Quito and Ecuador, the good and the bad.
Are you an expat living in Ecuador?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ecuador. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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