Ecuador Information

Learn all about Ecuador, including cost of living, real estate tours, Ecuador tourism, most popular expat areas and travel.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are several different types of Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas: Professional, Investor, Pensioners, Rentista/Digital Nomad, Dependent, etc. The qualifications and requirements vary for each type of visa so you’ll need to select the best option for your specific circumstances.

You can apply for an Ecuador permanent residency visa after 21 months of your temporary residency providing you haven’t left the country for more than 90 days during that period. The permanent visa requirements are identical to the temporary visa requirements. The only difference is that the temporary visa is valid for 2 years while the permanent visa never expires.

If you would like to discuss your visa options with Maite and her team at GringoVisas you can contact her at

Several substantial changes were made to the Ecuador visa laws in March 2022. The new visa laws ONLY apply to NEW temporary visa applicants. If you are currently living in Ecuador with a temporary residency visa that was issued prior to March 2022, you can apply for a permanent residency visa at your 21-month mark under the old visa laws and income requirements as long as you haven’t been outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during your temporary visa period.

General Requirements for Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas

There are a few general requirements for all Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas. You can read the detailed list on the government website here; however, here are the main things you’ll want to consider:

Ecuador Visa Passport Requirement

Passport Expiration

If your passport will expire during the 2-year visa period, we recommend renewing your passport before applying for the visa.

Ecuador no longer attaches physical visas to your passport. Instead, they issue electronic visas that are attached to your passport number.

When you renew your passport, you’ll get a different number which means your visa will need to be electronically transferred to the new passport. This requires a $100 fee and an additional trip the visa office to sign paperwork.

There’s no harm in renewing your passport early and doing so will save you a lot of inconvenience.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is required for the pensioner visa and to get a cédula for all types of visas (not the 90 day tourist visa). You will need health insurance from a private Ecuadorian health insurance company.

If you have foreign health insurance that will cover you in Ecuador, the contract needs to state specifically that you will be covered in Ecuador. You may need to request a special contract from your insurance company that specifically states “Ecuador” in the coverage area.

Income Requirements

Each type of visa has different income requirements detailed below.

For the pensioner visa, you must prove monthly income based on statements from Social Security, a pension or other retirement accounts.

For all other visa types, you must prove income based on bank statements from the previous 3 to 12 months, depending on the type of visa and the ministry official.

Self-deposits are allowed because they don’t verify the source of funds. That means you can deposit money into your own account from another account, or someone else like your spouse can deposit money into your account to meet the minimum income requirements.

It’s best to use an account that is only in the primary visa holder’s name rather than a joint account. If you have a joint account that you’re planning to use for the visa application, the Ecuadorian ministry will only consider 50% of the deposits as income for the primary visa applicant. Therefore, you would need to deposit twice the minimum income to meet the visa requirements.

You cannot combine income sources from your spouse or any other source. All the income must be in the primary visa holders income statements and/or bank statements.

Fingerprints & Background Checks

You’ll need to provide a State Police Report for your home state and a Federal FBI background check with your application.

Ideally, your background checks will be squeaky clean, but if you have a minor offense with a reasonable explanation, or if it happened a long time ago, it may not affect your application process. The ministry official has the final say, but a visa agent can help you navigate the process and advocate for your approval.

These reports must be less than 6 months old when you file your visa application. If they are more than 6 months old, you will need to request them again and pay for the new reports, so plan carefully.

Marriage License & Birth Certificates

For dependent visas, you’ll need a marriage license for a spouse or birth certificates for children. The documents need to be less than 6 months old when you send them for apostille; therefore, you will likely need to order new certified copies.

You can register your marriage license in Ecuador at a Registro Civil office so it will always be on file and you won’t need to go through this process again when you apply for permanent residency. Ask your visa agent for help with this.

Apostilles, Translations and Notarizations

ALL documents must have an apostille if you’re moving from a country that is part of the Hague Convention. If you’re from Canada, ALL documents must be legalized at the Ecuadorian consulate or embassy.

Additionally, ALL documents must be less than 6 months old to qualify for an apostille and to be accepted by the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry when you submit your visa application. That means you need to plan the timing of your documentation very carefully.

Once all documents have an apostille, they need to be sent to Ecuador to be translated by a certified Ecuadorian translator and then notarized by an Ecuadorian notary.

A visa agent can help you navigate this complicated and time-sensitive process.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Ministry Fees

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas have two primary fees. The temporary resident visa application fee is $50 per person and is non-refundable. If your visa application is approved, the temporary resident visa fee is $270 per person and $135 per person for those 65 and older.

Permanent Residency Consideration

The temporary visas no longer have travel restrictions, which means you can be outside Ecuador as much as you want during your 2-year Ecuador temporary residency.

HOWEVER, if you plan to apply for permanent residency after 21 months, YOU CANNOT BE OUTSIDE ECUADOR FOR MORE THAN 90 DAYS DURING THE 21-MONTH PERIOD!

In other words, you can be outside Ecuador for a total of 90 non-consecutive days during the 21 months leading up to the application date of your permanent residency visa. If you are outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during that period, you will need to apply for another temporary residency visa rather than a permanent visa.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Types

All temporary residency visas in Ecuador are good for 2 years from the date of issue. You are allowed to apply for permanent residency after living in Ecuador for 21 months as long as you haven’t been outside Ecuador for more than 90 days during that period.

You can review all of the visas types and their specific requirements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility website. The Ecuadorian government websites are all in Spanish, so here is a helpful article showing you How To Translate Websites to English from Spanish (or any other language).

Professional Visa

The Ecuador Professional Visa has the following requirements:

  • There is currently no income requirement for the professional visa
  • An undergraduate or graduate degree from a university approved by Senescyt, which is the entity in charge of recognizing foreign higher-level degrees
  • A notarized diploma with an apostille
  • A notarized transcript with an apostille
  • A notarized letter with an apostille signed by a university official stating the diploma and transcript are valid, and that at least 80% of the classes were taken in-person (not online)
  • A notarized letter with an apostille signed by a university official stating the field of study and level of education according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) of Unesco

My temporary (and now permanent) visa is a Professional Visa, which means I still work, have regular income from outside Ecuador, and a degree from an approved university. Senescyt no longer publishes an “approved university” list. Most universities are now accepted, but they still go through the same approval process that they always have.

Amelia has a degree from The University of Phoenix, but that university is not accepted by Ecuador because the majority of classes are taken online. To qualify as an approved university, more than 80% of classes must be taken in a classroom setting and not online.

I went to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk) for both my bachelors and masters degrees. When I graduated in the 90’s, online courses weren’t a thing yet, so I took all my classes in-person. This means Amelia is here on a dependent visa that’s attached to my professional visa.

We had to get an official diploma and transcript from KU for my most advanced degree (Masters). We also had to get a notarized letter from a university official stating my degree was valid and that the classes were taken in-person. Then we sent all the documents to the GringoVisas office in Connecticut so they could get the apostille before mailing them to Ecuador.

Investor Visa

For the Ecuador Investor Visa, you must show $460/month in income  and you must invest $46,000 in either a CD or property. You’ll need to show an additional $460/month for the first dependent and $250/month for each additional dependent.

Certificate of Deposit (CD): You can invest $46,000 in an Ecuadorian COOP CD for at least 2 years, the duration of your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa.

JEP Guayaquil Downtown

The interest rates on the CD’s will shock you if you’re coming from the US where banks no longer pay meaningful interest. As of this writing, the interest rate on a 2 year CD in Ecuador is roughly 8.0% annually! That’s around $283/month in interest on your $45,000 CD!!!

You can leave the interest in the account so it compounds, but you are allowed by law to withdraw the interest income from your CD without invalidating your visa. However, you need to be careful when signing the paperwork with a COOP like JEP because they will default the application to prevent withdrawal of the earned interest until the CD end date. Be specific with them and tell them that you want to withdraw the interest every month, 3 months, or each year, whichever you prefer.

Bank deposits are only insured up to $32,000 so that means at least $10,500 of your investment will not be insured. You are not allowed to split the investment into different accounts or different banks to make up the difference, either. The entire investment must be in one CD.

Property: You can purchase property to qualify for an Investor Visa in Ecuador. The only requirement is that the property be assessed by the municipality for more than $46,000.

The ministry will issue a visa lien against your property and if you wish to sell it you will have to forfeit your visa and request a lien release.  (You can apply for a different type of visa or convert to a permanent visa before selling the property.)

The assessment value may be substantially lower than the purchase price. You can request a new assessment if the registered value is less than $45,000.

You are not allowed to transfer the investment without reapplying for the visa. So, for instance, you cannot use your CD to buy property. The investment must remain the same for the entire duration of the Temporary Resident Visa and cannot be changed or transferred.

Pensioners Visa

In order to get a Pensioners Visa, you need to show income for the remainder of your life of at least $1,380/month + $250/month/dependent.

Your income can be from Social Security, a pension, retirement accounts, annuities, etc. If you’re using Social Security for your income requirement, you’ll need an annual statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that’s signed by an SSA official and has an apostille at the federal (not state) level.

Rentista (or Digital Nomad) Visa

The Rentista Visa has been updated to function more as a Digital Nomad Visa as of March 2022. There are now two ways to qualify for this visa.

Digital Nomad Visa: If you are a digital nomad or work remotely for a company abroad or as a freelancer, you need to show an income of $1,380/month + $250/month/dependent, or a yearly income of $16,560 + $3,000/year/dependent (based on bank statements) for the previous 3 to 12 months.

Additionally, you need to prove you work for a real corporation or LLC by providing the legal business documents. If you are a freelancer, you need to have your own legal LLC.

You may also need proof of your work contract or employment that states you will continue to earn an income after you move to Ecuador for at least 2 years.

Rentista Visa: If you own a rental property outright in your home country, you may be able to use that as the support for your visa.

You are required to have a tenant with a 2-year lease agreement for at least $1,380/month in rent + $250/month/dependent. You will need to provide the deed of ownership for the property and the 2-year rental agreement.

Work Visa

For the work visa you must be sponsored by an Ecuadorian company. The company has to pay into the IESS and you need a 2-year work contract.  This visa can now be converted into a permanent resident visa provided you don’t leave the country for more than 90 days during the first 21 months.

Dependent Visa

A Dependent Visa must be attached to a valid Temporary Resident Visa and can be used for your spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, or any blood relative. The primary Temporary Visa must be issued before the Dependent Visa application can be filed.

With the Pensioner visa the primary visa holder must show an additional income of $250/month/dependent and the additional income can come from any source. For the Rentista/Digital Nomad visa, you have the option of showing at least $3,000/year/dependent in lieu of the $250/month/dependent.

There are no other special requirements for the dependent visa. The dependent visa holder has all the same benefits and requirements as the primary visa holder.

Amelia is here on a dependent visa attached to my professional visa. Since our visas were issued prior to the visa law updates back in February 2021 (not 2022), we are stuck under the old rules. That means as long as we stay married, she can maintain her dependent visa, but if I die or we get divorced, she will need to get her own visa and start the entire process over from the beginning. That’s the major downside to the Dependent Visa in Ecuador prior to February 2021.

However, for visas issued AFTER February 2021, dependent visa holders no longer lose their visa if the primary visa holder dies. If you get divorced, you may or may not lose your visa, depending on the circumstances.

If you leave your spouse, you will likely lose your visa. If your spouse leaves you, he/she must file for divorce in Ecuador and you must contest it. If you sign the divorce agreement, you have voluntarily agreed to the divorce and will lose your visa. If the primary visa holder leaves you for a justifiable and provable reason (e.g. abuse, infidelity, etc.), you may still lose your visa even if you contest the divorce. The laws are complicated so speak to a qualified attorney before signing anything!

Other Temporary Residency Visas

The other types of Ecuador temporary resident visas are the volunteer visa, student visa and industrial investor visa.

These are only temporary visa options and cannot be converted to permanent resident visas at the end of the 2-year term. If your goal is to become a permanent resident of Ecuador, it’s best to get one of the other visa types.

These types of visas aren’t popular with expats because they don’t lead to permanent residency, so we’re not going to cover them in this article.

90-Day Tourist Visa

The 90-day Ecuador tourist visa is easy to get. Just come to Ecuador and it gets issued at passport control. It’s only valid for 3 months, but you can apply for a 3 month extension once every 12 months.

The extension application has a fee that has increased from $100 when we moved here to $141.67. You’ll need to apply at the end of your 90-day tourist visa.

Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa Process

There are lots of steps involved with getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa, and it usually takes 3 to 6 months.

It can take 2 to 3 months just to get the background checks done in the US, sent for the apostille and mailed to Ecuador for translation and notarization so keep that in mind when you’re planning your travel.

Step 1: Fingerprints

The first step in the process of getting your Ecuador Temporary Resident Visa is getting your fingerprints taken. We had ours taken in Cuenca Ecuador on our exploratory trip in 2017, but you can also have them taken back in the US at a local police station.

Step 2: Background Check

Once we had our fingerprint forms, our visa agent requested the background checks from the FBI Identity History Summary Checks website.

Step 3: Visa Specific Requirements

Professional Visa

You need to request a notarized diploma, transcript and the official university letter stating your documents are real and classes were taken in-person (not online).

Dependent Visa

If you’re applying for a dependent visa, you’ll need to get a certified copy of your marriage license, and birth certificates for your children and other relatives. Again, all these documents must be less than 6 months old to get an apostille so you may need to order new certified copies.

Investor Visa

For the investor visa, you’ll need to invest in a CD at an Ecuadorian COOP for at least 2 years, or purchase property that you intend to keep for the duration of the temporary resident visa. You can wire funds directly to an Ecuadorian bank from a US bank.

You will need to open the CD in a COOP such as JEP because banks like Banco Guayaquil require an Ecuador government ID (cédula) to open an account. You can open an account at a COOP with just your passport and your investor visa application.

Pensioner Visa

You need to request a letter from the SSA stating your monthly income and you’ll need to provide monthly income statements.

Step 4: Request an Appointment with the Ministry

You can go to any of the ministry offices in Ecuador to submit your application, but some have longer waits than others. Your visa agent will know which office is best at the time.

Step 5: Fill Out and Notarize the Visa Application Form

The visa application form is in Spanish and must be filled out in Spanish. Once it’s filled out, you’ll need to go to a notary to have it notarized. You need to sign the application in front of the notary after showing him or her your identification.

Ecuador Visa Documentation

Step 6: Submit Your Application

Once you have your completed visa application form and all the other required documentation with apostilles as needed, go to the ministry office on the date of your appointment to submit your application. You’ll need your passport as identification.

This process is different if your visa will be issued in your home country. Your visa agent will help with that process.

Step 7: Wait

We submitted my Ecuador temporary resident visa application at the end of October when we first arrived in Ecuador, but didn’t receive it until the end of January. It took 3 months to get approved and printed.

Due to the constantly changing laws and delays when we applied for our temporary resident visas, we were here in Ecuador for several months beyond our 3-month tourist visa without our temporary resident visa. Since the application was in-process, we technically weren’t illegal aliens, but it sure felt like we were! Thankfully we didn’t need to leave the country during that small window or it might have been difficult to get back in.

Step 8: Get Your Visa from the Ministry

Once your visa is approved, the government issues an electronic visa that is digitally attached to your passport number. They no longer attach a physical visa sticker to your passport. Again, if your passport is about to expire, we recommend renewing it first before applying for your Ecuador temporary resident visas.

Step 9: Get a Cédula

After we received our temporary resident visas, we took them to the government office in Cuenca to get our cédula, which is our official government issued identification card. It looks like a driver’s license, only it doesn’t allow us to drive.

It took about an hour to get the cédula and the cost was $5. You are not required to get a cédula; however, your expat life in Ecuador will be much easier and you’ll have more banking options available to you if you have one. You will need a cédula to apply for the public IESS health insurance.

Hopefully, you found this lengthy article about the Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas helpful. If you see others asking about this complex process on social media, please share it with them. And if you spot any inaccuracies or outdated rules, please let us know so we can keep this up-to-date.

HUGE thanks to Maité from Gringo Visas for not only helping us with both our Temporary and Permanent Resident Visas, but for taking the time to answer a bunch of questions for this article about the new visa requirements in Ecuador.

Watch Our Video About Ecuador Temporary Residency Visas Updates



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UPDATED: Our Thoughts About Ecuador Right Now

UPDATED Feb 16, 2024

It has been a little over a month since President Noboa declared a state of emergency and signed the decree he called the Phoenix Plan.

In that time, the military and police have carried out 99,000 security operations nationwide. More than 8,000 people have already been arrested, many of whom are from other countries.

The agents have seized:

  • 2,405 firearms
  • 12,433 explosives
  • 167,024 bullets
  • 1,236 bullet magazines
  • 3,422 knives
  • 979 vehicles
  • 931 motorcycles
  • 28 boats from crime, including a semi-submersible to transport drugs
  • $195,398
  • 47,360 gallons of fuel

Noboa has an 80% approval rating, which is simply unheard of in Ecuador (or most countries) and the international financial markets are responding positively with Ecuador’s bond values jumping on the positive news.

Crime in the worst areas of Guayaquil has plummeted by 50-90% since the first 10 days in January. The murder rate in Guayaquil, Duran, and Samborondon was 28 per day to start the year. It’s now under 6 per day. That’s a 78% decline in just one month.

The notoriously overprotective US State Department still has Ecuador rated a Level 2 Travel Warning (Exercise Increased Caution). This hasn’t changed for the country as a whole in several years and matches other popular tourist destinations like Mexico, The UK, Spain, and France. However, Guayaquil and a few other coastal areas are rated a level 3 or 4 and we still recommend avoiding those areas.

Cuenca, Loja, Cotacachi, Baños, Mindo, and most of the other mountain areas are still safe to visit.

Quito is a big city and our friends tell us there is a lot of military presence on the streets, which can be disconcerting, but they’re doing a job that needs to be done and it’s working.

Original Post

We received dozens of messages on Wednesday about our safety in Ecuador, even though we haven’t been in Ecuador since October 2023. If you haven’t watched our videos lately, you might not know that we’re in Europe right now (January 2024).

If you want to keep tabs on us, we post more frequently on our YouTube Community Tab, Facebook Page, and Instagram. We also write about current events in our newsletter so if you’re wondering if we’re safe or what we think about a current event, these are the best places to check for timely information.

It takes about two weeks for us to research, film, edit, and publish our videos now that we’ve improved the quality of them. We don’t sit down in front of the camera and record rambling, low-quality videos anymore. And we haven’t recorded news updates in almost 2 years.

Our format has changed and, based on the growth of our channel subscribers and views, our audience seems to appreciate the improvement. That’s great news because the more people we reach, the more people we can help live an unconventional life!

It wasn’t “good timing” for us to leave Ecuador. This has been our plan since we launched our YouTube channel in 2018. We wanted to see the world and share it with all of you.

Our original plan was to take several exploratory trips each year throughout Latin America until both our dogs were gone. However, the pandemic put our travel plans on hold and then Daisy’s health was deteriorating rapidly so we didn’t want to leave her for very long (she passed on August 30th).

Ecuador is still our home base, but we’re going to spend a lot of our time each year traveling to all the popular expat destinations around the world so we can share our firsthand experiences and observations with you.

Plus, Ecuador has been in the news for all the wrong reasons way too much lately, and that has caused a lot of you to start thinking about Plan B. We get it.

Our Boots on the Ground Intel

Yes. Taken as a whole from afar, Ecuador is a mess right now and we would have serious second thoughts about visiting or moving there if we didn’t already know it so well.

But like we say every time it makes international news, the whole country isn’t on fire.

We were worried about our friends and viewers after the on-air invasion in the Guayaquil newsroom, the prison escapes, and the new state of emergency, but we’ve since heard from several who live in Cuenca, Cumbaya, Puembo, Quito, Cotacachi, Olón, Loja, Vilcabamba, Baños, Salinas, and Malacatos.

All of them told us they hadn’t seen anything unusual in terms of crime. A few told us that a lot of misinformation was being spread online and people were panicking because of it and the news stories.

Cuenca Mayor Cristian Zamora held an emergency news conference to calm the people. The mayor said, “Nothing is happening in Cuenca. All the rumors are false. There are no criminal attacks here.”

Apparently, what people thought was a gunshot in Parque Calderon that caused a panicked stampede was actually the eves of a building falling to the ground.

According to Kristen, our close friend in Cuenca: “We’re calling it the ‘one day upheaval.’ Pretty much that’s what it was. Things have settled back into a normal routine. I’m not noticing anything when I walk into El Centro, albeit being a little quieter than usual but as the week went on it bounced back to normal.”

(Now we know what it feels like when we see news media reports and we’re not there to witness it for ourselves.)

As a result of the hysteria, schools, stores, and restaurants closed early last Tuesday (January 9, 2024). The CLP Bus to Olón canceled its routes for the day. Some delivery services were also closed for the day. American Airlines canceled flights to the Galapagos Islands (even though NOTHING is happening there).

And by Thursday, everything was back open. Although, there is a lot more police and military presence on the streets in some areas and some schools have reactivated the pandemic-era remote learning policies.

Here’s a quote from Rolando Montesdeoca, a chocolate producer in the rural town of Calceta northeast of Manta: “Foreign and domestic tourists come here, and in reality our zone is tranquil, but what happens is that everything is lumped together when viewed from the outside, so any abnormal situation of a crime, a murder, a hit, ends up affecting everyone.”

The Next Steps for Ecuador

When we moved to Ecuador in 2017 and started our YouTube Channel in 2018, Ecuador was the 3rd safest country in all of Latin America. Now, it’s the most violent in terms of homicide rate at 45 per 100,000 (almost entirely gang/drug-related).

The issues Ecuador is facing started over a decade ago, but have been escalating for the past 3 years and 2 presidents. Very little has been done until now and the issues won’t resolve themselves without serious intervention.

President Noboa took office in late November and seems determined to restore Ecuador to its pre-pandemic level of safety. That’s the major reason he won the election.

On January 4th, Noboa authorized the construction of two new maximum-security mega-prisons using the same company that built the prisons for President Bukele in El Salvador.

According to Noboa, “It is [an] Israeli cooperation in the design of maximum and supermax prisons and the segmentation for minor crimes and misdemeanors. It is a system that was not invented by Bukele…before then it was already in use in Thailand and Singapore. Then came Mexico, El Salvador, and now Ecuador will have it.”

On January 9th, Noboa signed Decree 111 (aka The Phoenix Plan), which declared an official “internal armed conflict,” classified 22 organized crime groups as terrorists, and ordered the Armed Forces to neutralize them by any means necessary (including the use of lethal force and profiling based on gang tattoos, another tactic used by Bukele).

El Salvador went from the most dangerous country in the world just a few years ago, to the safest country in Latin America today. Bukele’s approach is not without its downsides (and critics), but the results in overall public safety cannot be ignored and 9 out of 10 Salvadorans approve of the measures taken by their president.

Some would argue that desperate times call for desperate measures and Ecuador now finds itself in the same position as El Salvador before Bukele took the same steps Noboa is just starting.

The next few weeks and months will be very telling for Ecuador. There’s no way to know how this will play out, but Noboa seems to have enough political, military, and social support to do what is needed to return Ecuador to the peaceful nation it once was.

Shockingly, the National Assembly voted unanimously to support Noboa’s Decree 111. It’s nice to see the National Assembly working WITH the president for the first time since we moved to Ecuador.

Latest News from Ecuador

The police and military are in the process of taking back control of the prisons where the gangs have ruled almost unobstructed for the past several years.

On Sunday, inmates were stripped to their underwear and lined up in the prison courtyards where they sang the Ecuadorian National Anthem. Meanwhile, the gang murals were painted over in the common areas.

According to the government, 1,327 people have been detained in the 6 days since the Phoenix Plan was initiated.

Final Thoughts…

We will be back in Ecuador sometime this year, but we have several more destinations to check off our travel list first.

We still love our adoptive homeland and we’re not giving up on it! For the first time in over two years, we’re full of optimism for it!

What Still Shocks Us in Ecuador After 6 Years

Living in Ecuador for over six years has been an incredible journey, but at times we still experience culture shock.

In this article, we share some of the cultural nuances that continue to baffle and surprise us, including several things that are shocking in a good way, to help you better prepare for your visit or move to this amazing country.

Watch Our Video About Culture Shock in Ecuador

What Still Baffles Us About Ecuador

Even after 6 years, a few things still trigger culture shock in Ecuador. Here are a few…

Protective Plastic

Ecuadorians keep the plastic on everything, from large appliances such as refrigerators and televisions to steering wheels, and we even saw someone who kept the plastic cover on his watch!

We find this baffling because the plastic can heat up and actually damage the appliance.

This happened to the battery in one of our e-bikes. It wasn’t holding a charge so we removed the battery and were shocked to find it was wrapped in plastic! The battery was ruined.

It never occurred to us to check it because it was delivered and set up by the bike shop so we assumed everything was in proper working order. It has an external charge port so there was no need to take it out of the bike.

No Change for Cash Payments

While many businesses accept credit cards, a lot of places are still cash only. Expect to pay in cash at the Mercado, small businesses and some restaurants.

We are still shocked that they rarely have change! We always try to have small bills and coins on hand but sometimes that isn’t possible. The ATMs rarely dispense anything smaller than 20 dollar bills.

If we buy something and the business doesn’t have change they will go get it and bring it back. Be prepared to wait because they will often have to go from business to business before finding someone who has change available.

Pedestrian Blindness

We are extremely cautious when crossing streets in Ecuador. Drivers do not look for pedestrians. If they do see pedestrians waiting they rarely stop.

We’ve started referring to this cultural phenomenon as pedestrian blindness because, after six years, we realize they just don’t see us.

When crossing the street, do NOT assume they will stop. We try to make eye contact to ensure they’ve seen us before we step off the curb.

Noise Overload

Everywhere we’ve lived in Ecuador there’s been noise. In Cuenca, some of the churches blow off loud fireworks at 6am, presumably to remind people to get out of bed and attend services.

Bars and restaurants blast music to attract patrons. The result is a cacophony of noise! Sometimes the competing music is so annoying you can’t think.

Construction noise is not uncommon and parties can get a little rowdy. You may hear some bad karaoke!

Expect to hear dogs barking, roosters crowing, motorcycles racing down the streets, loud music, and fireworks, day and night.

We got used to the noise but it still gets frustrating at times, especially when we’re trying to record a video.

Information is NOT Volunteered

The cultural norm of not offering information unless explicitly asked  can be difficult when you aren’t sure what questions to ask.

Bring your patience and expect things to take longer because they may only focus on one step of the process at a time.

When the first step is finished, they then provide additional information, but just about the second step. (You may be working on something, such as getting your visa, which has many steps.)

As you get accustomed to the process, it becomes easier to plan and know which questions to ask.

Long Answers to Short Questions

On the flip side of not volunteering information, you’ll often get long answers to yes or no questions! This one still baffles us.

Sometimes we ask what we consider to be a simple, straightforward question, like has our packaged arrived yet, but we get a very detailed and complicated answer.

The Ecuadorians are kind people and perhaps answering with a simple “sí o no” may be considered rude.

Walking Into Each Other

Growing up in the U.S. we were taught to walk on the right and watch out for other people, to walk single file or in pairs and share the sidewalk.

This is NOT the case in Ecuador. They often walk slowly, arm in arm with others, taking up the entire sidewalk, and walking into other people. They don’t move over to avoid other pedestrians.

We also see people walking while looking at their phone and consequently running into other people. No one gets angry, it is just the way it is. They bounce off and keep going as if it never happened.

No Personal Bubble

Those of us from the U.S. are used to a certain amount of space between people, and when someone gets too close it feels weird.

In many countries, including Ecuador, the U.S. personal bubble standard doesn’t exist! We still aren’t used to people standing shoulder to shoulder in line or just too close in other situations.

Poor Service in Restaurants

Unfortunately the service in restaurants isn’t great.  It is common to get your main course first, appetizer second or at the same time, and your drinks last after you’ve finished eating.

We’ve learned to order drinks first, then the appetizer if we’re having one. After we get the appetizer we’ll order the main course.

We also don’t order more than 2 things at once because inevitably one of the items gets forgotten, even if the server writes it down.

WhatsApp Dominance

WhatsApp is used for everything. It is much more popular than email. Some businesses use WhatsApp in place of a website.

It is also common for people to use the voice memo for WhatsApp instead of text (which can make things tricky if you’re struggling with Spanish).

We recommend sending a text so you can hopefully get a text back and you can translate the message if needed.

What We Love About the Ecuadorian Culture

Now that we’ve covered the things that frustrate us about Ecuador, we want to share several things that we really like. The U.S. could learn a few things from Ecuador on these points.

La Tercer Edad

The elderly are revered and treated with respect. They have special lines, they can skip ahead in line, and they get a lot of discounts.

People help them cross the street and people will stop for them when they want to cross the street. We’ve seen many little old ladies walk out with arms extended to stop traffic and it works. Drivers stop for the elderly when they see them with their arms out.

Strong Community

Jugglers in Parque de la Madre in Cuenca Ecuador.Loneliness is a choice in a culture that values multi-generational households, large families, and robust social circles.

Ecuadorians are warm and welcoming. Get to know your neighbors and they will invite you into their home for a meal.

Take language exchange classes to meet locals and other foreign residents. Attend events and get involved in other activities and you’ll meet locals who will make you feel right at home.

Authentic Friendships

When we lived in the U.S. the majority of our friends were work friends. In Ecuador, our friends don’t ask us about work; work isn’t typically a subject of conversation.

Our friends are more interested in our personal lives, experiences, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Politeness and Courtesy

Most of the Ecuadorians we’ve interacted with over the past several years have been very polite and courteous. Everyone always greets each other individually and says good-bye to each other individually as well.

When we do business with vendors in Ecuador, they smile, are helpful, and always say thank you.

Tranquilo (Relaxed) Mindset

The slower paced lifestyle in Ecuador can take some getting used to but we love it, now.

Ecuadorians walk slower and they take longer breaks during the work day than we did in the U.S. Many business close between 1:00 and 3:00 so they can enjoy lunch instead of speed eating to get back to work as quickly as possible.

We appreciate that they slow down, take time for themselves, family and friends, and don’t make work their number one priority.

Nicely Dressed

It is easy to spot the tourists in Ecuador because they are often wearing hiking clothes while walking around Cuenca and other popular areas.

Ecuadorians, however, dress nicely, and not just for work or special occasions. They pay more attention to their wardrobe and often follow the trends.

We both pay more attention to our appearance to blend in and be more respectful.

Fitness Culture

Exercise equipment is available in most of the parks throughout Ecuador and they are free for everyone to use.

You can join a Zumba class in the park and use one of the many walking or biking trails.

You can play fútbol, padel ball, take a yoga class, or try salsa. Not only will you improve your fitness, but you’ll meet new people and have fun.

Accessible Healthcare

Ecuador’s private healthcare system is modern, affordable, and accessible.

We are still amazed at how quickly we can get an appointment with a doctor. Doctor appointments are usually available within 1-3 days.

The same is true for tests and procedures. We’ve gotten tests and procedures done the day after meeting with the doctor.

See Also: Our Ecuador Healthcare Experience

Direct Communication with Doctors

We meet directly with our  doctors, not with the physician’s assistants. We also communicate directly with our doctors using WhatsApp or email. They are very responsive and caring.

Final Thoughts…

Ecuador has its quirks and there are still times when some of them drive us a bit crazy but the good far outweighs the bad.

We appreciate the uniqueness of the culture and, now that we are traveling outside the country, we’re feeling a little homesick. Despite the occasional culture shock, we love living in Ecuador.



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Living in Quito Ecuador, The Pros and Cons

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is a popular place to live for expats from all over the world. We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the city and surrounding areas, and we lived in one of the suburbs for almost 2 years.

It’s a big city with almost 2 million people and it has all the amenities you would expect from a big city, including a new Metro rail system.

However, even though Quito is a great place to live, there are some downsides that you need to consider before calling it home.

In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of Quito, Ecuador to help you decide if it’s the place you want to live abroad.

Watch Our Video About the Pros & Cons of Quito, Ecuador

Living in Quito: The Pros

View of Cathedral and surrounding neighborhood in Quito Ecuador

Here are the things that you might love about living in Quito.

Conveniences: Quito is a big city so you can find most things you need. There are  large malls and a variety of specialty shops, plus small mom and pop stores in the neighborhoods making it easy to get what you need without driving all over the city.

Culture: If you love cultural activities then Quito is the right place for you! There is much to experience, from museums, historical sites, art galleries, to the national ballet, and more. Quito is a haven for cultural enthusiasts.

Mitad del Mundo Quito EcuadorActivities: Quito provides a plethora of activities. Explore the historic Centro Historico, take a ride on the Teleferiqo, visit the iconic Mitad del Mundo, or enjoy a leisurely stroll through Parque La Carolina. There’s hiking, cycling, classes, and a variety of day trips.

Global Connectivity: Quito has an international airport with direct flights to the United States, Europe, Mexico, and other countries in South America.

After flying through multiple airports we are even more impressed with the efficiency

and the quality of the airport. It is quick and easy to get through security, go through customs, and pick up your luggage.

There are always taxis outside and they are safe.

View of the city with neighborhoods and high rise buildings in Quito EcuadorDiverse Neighborhoods: Whether you seek the vibrancy of urban living or the tranquility of the suburbs, Quito offers diverse neighborhoods catering to various preferences and budgets.

Some popular neighborhoods within the city are Centro Historico, La Floresta, and La Carolina.

The suburbs are in the valley and they are approximately 20 to 30 minutes from Quito by car. Popular areas include Valle de los Chillos, Tumbaco, and Cumbayá.

Living in Quito: The Cons

Now for the downsides of living in Quito Ecuador.

Safety Considerations: While certain areas are safe, Quito does come with safety considerations. Being aware of your surroundings is crucial, as safety levels can vary across neighborhoods.

Traffic Challenges: With a population of around 2.5 million, traffic congestion is a daily reality in Quito. Navigating the city streets requires patience and strategic planning.

View of Quito, Ecuador from mountain Elevation and Weather: The elevation of Quito is 9400 feet! The sun can be very strong at times. It can also be cloudy, cold, and rainy. You can have strong sun and cold temps in the same day so you’ll need sunscreen and layers.

If you struggle at high elevation or don’t like cloudy and cold weather, consider moving to the valley. In general it is much sunnier, warmer, and drier.

The elevation is still high, around 7000 feet, but the difference is noticeable and much more pleasant, at least to us!

Cost of Living: Quito tends to be pricier than Cuenca, Cotacachi, and smaller cities and towns in the mountains of Ecuador. Depending on your lifestyle, the cost of living may impact your budget.

Clouds over mountain in Quito, EcuadorLanguage Barrier: There are English speakers in Quito, especially in the tourist areas but you’ll still need to learn some Spanish. We’ve found the most English speakers in Cuenca.

Final Thoughts…

The elevation in Quito proper is too high for JP so we decided to settle in the valley. We enjoyed living in that part of Ecuador and being so close to the airport was a big plus, but we still prefer Cuenca for its affordability, safety and high quality of life.

It can be more expensive in parts of Quito so if you’re looking for a more budget friendly option, Cotacachi, Loja, or Cuenca might be a better fit for you.



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Cumbaya Ecuador Pros & Cons

Cumbayá is one of Ecuador’s most popular expat cities and for good reason! It has a lot of modern amenities, including excellent healthcare, shopping, and restaurants!

It’s a suburb of Quito and functions as a bedroom community for many people who work in the city center. A good comparison in the U.S. would be the Denver suburb of Cherry Creek.

We lived in Cumbaya for almost 2 years and loved it, but there are some downsides. In this article, we’ll share the pros and the cons to help you decide if it is a good fit for you.

The Pros of Cumbayá

There are a lot of factors about living in Cumbayá that are appealing to foreign residents, especially from the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Ideal Elevation and Climate

View of fountain and flowering trees in Cumbaya Parque CentralCumbayá’s elevation is 7200 feet / 2200 meters, which is significantly lower compared to Quito proper where the elevation is 9400 feet / 2800 meters. It’s also lower than the popular expat cities of Cotacachi and Cuenca.

Thanks to its location in the Quito valley, the weather is much warmer and drier than Quito, Cotacachi and Cuenca. The UV is still high so don’t forget your sun protection!

Great Location

One of the reasons why Cumbayá is so popular is because it is easy to get to the international airport and the downtown area of Quito.

It takes 30 minutes to drive to the airport and Carolina Park in Quito is a 20 minute drive. The historic center is a 30 minute drive.

There are also a variety of day trips to experience such as Ilaló, Cotapaxi, Quilotoa Lake, and Cotacachi, which is just a 1 ½ hour drive.

Diverse Housing Options

Cumbayá boasts a range of housing options, from single-family homes to townhomes and condos, accommodating various preferences and lifestyles.

You can find luxury apartment complexes and gated communities with pools and private parks. You’ll also find renovated buildings in local neighborhoods such as La Primavera.

There’s a lot of new housing complexes under construction with different price points as well.

Variety of Shops

Street view of mixed use buildings in CumbayaThe suburb offers a plethora of shopping options, including two malls, Scala and Paseo, as well as Megamaxi, Supermaxi, local mercaditos, and even an organic farmers market in El Paseo on the weekends.

There’s also a great organic farm, or huerta, located on the Chaquiñán trail next to Scala mall and you’ll find several organic, bulk, and specialty stores.

If there is something you can’t find in Cumbayá you should be able to find it in Quito proper.

Excellent Restaurants

Amelia reading menu at Paccari Restaurant in CumbayaThere are a lot of restaurants in Cumbayá, from fast food to fine dining. Some of our favorites are Pacari, Zanto, and Noe.

The Pacari located in El Centro has a rooftop restaurant with amazing views of the Ilaló Volcano to the south and Quito proper to the west.

You’ll find a variety of cuisines in Cumbayá, from traditional Ecuadorian food to Italian, Asian, Indian, and more.

Parks and Trails

Surrounded by nature, Cumbayá provides residents with opportunities for outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, biking, and birdwatching.

View of entry to the Chaquiñan trail in Cumbaya

There are small neighborhood parks and the Chaquiñan urban trail, which was converted from an old rail line into a 20 mile walking and cycling trail.

Along the trail you’ll find the Parque Los Algarrobos, a beautiful and peaceful dry forest.

Another popular spot for walking and jogging is the Reservoir. The city has been renovating the trail and amenities making it much more accessible. There are great views of Quito and the surrounding mountains.

Active Community

The community in Cumbayá is known for its vibrancy, with people frequently seen walking, cycling, working, and attending school.

There are a lot of students attending the San Francisco University adding to the liveliness of the area.

Family-Friendly Environment

Cumbayá is particularly suitable for families, offering good international schools and attracting European expats seeking a family-oriented lifestyle.


The city prioritizes safety, with a noticeable presence of police and security guards. It’s common to see women and children walking by themselves during the day and groups of people walking at night.

Excellent Healthcare

Access to excellent healthcare facilities, such as SIME in Mall del Paseo and Hospital de los Valles, ensures residents have quality medical services available.

You can typically see a doctor within a few days (or less). You can also get tests done within a couple of days and the results are usually available the same day.

The Cons of Cumbayá

While living in Cumbayá does have a lot of benefits, there are also some drawbacks.

Cost of Living

The major drawback to Cumbayá is its relatively high cost of living. The locals call it Cumbayork (as in New York) or Cumbayami (as in Miami) because the costs are much higher compared to cities such as Cuenca and Cotacachi.

Expect to pay more for housing, food, and services such as haircuts. Private schools can cost up to $1000/month. Our cost of living in Cumbaya was about $1000/month more than it was in Cuenca.

However, the prices are still low compared to places like Cherry Creek in Denver.


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The suburb faces increasing traffic congestion due to ongoing condo construction. There are simply more people with cars than there are roads for them to use.

The malls, restaurants, parks and trails are often full of people making the experience less enjoyable. We avoided the trails on the weekends due to the overabundance of cyclists and joggers, which made walking difficult and often dangerous.

High Elevation

Despite being lower in elevation than some other cities, Cumbayá still maintains a high elevation, which may pose challenges for individuals sensitive to such conditions.

Dry Climate

View of mountains and valley from Cumbaya ReservoirThe arid climate in Cumbayá can be a challenge for those who prefer a more humid environment. It can often be windy as well.

The combination of wind, dust and abundant plant life meant our allergies were worse in Cumbayá than other areas in Ecuador.

Limited Activities

As a bedroom community, Cumbayá might not offer as many activities as some expats desire. You’ll need to go into Quito proper for more cultural activities.

We also found that not as many locals speak English in Cumbayá, which means there aren’t as many English-speaking activities as there are in Cuenca.

Final Thoughts…

Our experience in Cumbayá was undeniably enjoyable, with its vibrant atmosphere and diverse amenities.

We felt very safe there and we loved the weather and the community. However, the higher cost of living took a toll on our budget.

Looking ahead, when we return from our extended travels, we’ll probably move back to Cuenca, our favorite place, primarily for its affordability and enduring charm.

See Also:

Watch Our Video About the Pros & Cons of Cumbaya Ecuador



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Can I afford to live in Ecuador on Social Security?

Ecuador is a popular destination for retirees, particularly for Americans and Canadians. The low cost of living and warm weather year-round are among the main reasons why people choose to live in this beautiful country.

One of our most frequently asked questions is, “Can I live in Ecuador on my social security income?” So in this article, we break down the cost of living in Ecuador and give you an idea of what your life might look like on the average social security check, which is just over $1,700 per month (as of August 2023).

Before we dive into the details, we want to remind you about our Ecuador Relocation eCourse. This course has over 60 videos, written content, and links to more information. It provides a detailed checklist that you can download, and once you check the last item off the list, you will be living in Ecuador.

Visa Requirements for Living in Ecuador on Social Security Income

The first thing you need to do is make sure you qualify for a visa. The great thing about Ecuador is that you only need $1350 per month (3 times the monthly minimum wage) from your social security or other forms of income to qualify for a two-year visa and you can combine income sources to meet the income requirement.

The income requirement for the pension visa in Ecuador is lower compared to other countries that are popular with expats, like Mexico, which requires almost $2,600 per month to qualify for a temporary residency visa.

Housing Costs in Ecuador for Social Security Recipients

Regarding housing, experts recommend spending about 30% of your income on rent. Based on the average monthly social security income, that equates to around a $500 per month rent budget.

There are plenty of affordable housing options, including renting a room in a house or hostel for as little as $100 a month. However, this option means you’ll have less privacy and fewer amenities.

Luckily, there are lots of condos and single-family homes that rent in the $500 to $600 per month range throughout Ecuador. You can check Plusvalia for current listings (this is not a sponsor nor an endorsement).

Your rent may include some utilities but you may have to pay some on your own. We spent less than $100/month for electricity, water, propane, and internet everywhere we lived.


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Health Insurance & Healthcare

Ecuador has high quality, low cost healthcare. We’ve found that doctor visits and procedures are 1/3rd to 1/10th the cost compared to the United States.

Public and private health insurance is available. The public plan, IESS, costs approximately $83/month per person.

With this plan, all your costs are covered, including your medications, but you have to stay within the IESS network of doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. You need to have your cédula before you can apply for the public health insurance and there is a 3 month waiting period for pre-existing conditions.

Private health insurance costs vary depending on your age and the type of coverage. In general, costs range between $$50 to $150/month per person.

Some benefits of private health insurance are that you can find more English-speaking doctors and you can get appointments within a couple of days. Plus you’ll have a direct line of communication with your doctor via WhatsApp.

There are a lot of private hospitals with the latest technologies available in the major cities such as Quito and Cuenca.

Groceries & Restaurants

Ecuador grows amazing produce! Buying fresh produce from the mercado saves a lot of money.

We buy most of our food from the mercado and buy packaged food and other products (such as cleaning supplies), from the grocery store.

Expect to pay more for imported and specialty goods. Meat is also more expensive.

During our 6 years in Ecuador, we’ve spent between $250 and $350/month on groceries for the both of us.

Dining out is affordable. Meals on average cost between $10 to $50 per person depending on the type of restaurant.

Many restaurants offer lunch specials, or almuerzos. These are big meals for a surprisingly low price, sometimes as low as $2! Almuerzos typically include soup, the entree, rice or potatoes, a small desert, and a juice.

Transportation in Ecuador

Transportation in Ecuador is affordable, with options such as buses and cabs costing between 35 and 50 cents for local travel. Interprovincial buses can cost around ten dollars or less.

While cars are an option, they are much more expensive due to import taxes, making public transportation a more economical option.

Note that bringing a car to Ecuador is not allowed unless you are a returning Ecuadorian citizen and meet specific criteria.

A monthly budget of around $50 should suffice for transportation costs.

Other Living Expenses in Ecuador

You’ll probably have some additional expenses that will impact your budget. Set aside extra funds to cover medications, entertainment, pet care, clothing and shoes, and travel back home.

Social Security Checks in Ecuador

According to, it is now possible to direct deposit your social security checks to a bank account in Ecuador. This could take some time to setup and may only work with certain banks.

We recommend keeping your US bank account and credit cards, and use those cards to pay for as many expenses as possible rather than transferring your money into Ecuador. But this is a personal choice.

We also recommend opening an account with a bank like Charles Schwab or Fidelity, which do not charge fees for worldwide ATM use and refund fees charged by local banks. You can take out cash to pay for additional expenses.

Living on the Coast or in the Mountains of Ecuador on Social Security Income

If you’re on a tight budget or want to save as much money as possible, you might want to consider one of the mountain towns like Cotacachi, Cuenca or Loja. These options are more affordable than living on the coast. If you have a roommate or more money to spend, higher-end rental options are available for less than $1,000 a month.

If you want to live on the coast, keep in mind that anything right on the beach or with beach access will be more expensive. However, going one block off the beach will save you a substantial amount on monthly rent.

Some expats choose to buy a home in Ecuador, which means you rent won’t be a factor in your monthly budget. However, you will need to pay taxes, insurance and possibly HOA dues, but they’re very low compared to the U.S. Taxes are often under $100 per YEAR on most properties.

Final Thoughts…

Ecuador offers a cost-effective and welcoming option for retirees looking for a new place to call home. With low visa requirements, affordable housing, and reasonable living expenses, it’s possible to live on social security income alone.

From the picturesque mountain towns to the stunning coastlines, there are plenty of options for retirees looking for a change of scenery.

It’s important to remember that costs can vary depending on the location and lifestyle choices, but with proper budgeting and planning, living in Ecuador on social security income can be an excellent choice for those seeking a higher quality of life for a lower cost of living.

Watch Our Video About Living in Ecuador on Social Security



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Loja Ecuador Pros & Cons for Expats & Tourists

Nestled within the picturesque landscape of Ecuador lies Loja, a city that has increasingly captured the attention of both tourists and long-term residents.

Having lived in Ecuador for several years, we finally made it to the city for a deeper exploration to discover why so many people recommended we spend time there.

In this article, we provide an overview of this beautiful Andes mountain city and cover both its strengths and its areas for potential improvement.

Advantages of Visiting or Moving to Loja, Ecuador

Here are the advantages we noticed that make Loja a compelling destination for both settling down and short-term exploration.


Loja Yellow Church and ParkOur experience in Loja underscored its cost-effective nature. Specifically, our centrally located Airbnb and the day-to-day expenses like food and restaurants were similar to Cuenca.

For instance, a typical “almuerzo” or lunch special, encompassing a substantial soup, arroz con vegetales (rice with vegetables), potato, and tea, cost us just $3.25.

Additionally, our visit to the local mercado highlighted affordable prices reminiscent of Cuenca. We purchased several things like regional coffee and fresh produce for less than $8 in total.

Architectural and Natural Beauty

Loja boasts an elegant blend of natural and architectural sights. The streets, adorned with trees, also showcase diverse architectural styles from old colonial to 20s Art Deco and 60s boxy utilitarian.

Historical sites, such as Plaza de la Independencia San Sebastián, commemorate pivotal moments like Loja’s Independence Day in 1820.

Recreational Spaces

Parque Recreacional Jipiro In Loja EcuadorThe city offers an array of recreational spots. The iconic “la Puerta de la Ciudad” stands in proximity to the bustling mercado, while numerous parks pepper the urban landscape.

Noteworthy is the Parque Recreacional Jipiro, which offers serene nature trails and scaled-down versions of globally recognized structures like the Taj Mahal and The Eiffel Tower.


Loja prioritizes urban hygiene, with the ‘Green Team’ street cleaners ensuring streets and pathways remain pristine.

Buses are not allowed in “El Centro” or the historic center, which not only improves air quality but also reduces noise levels.

Family Orientation

Loja exudes a family-friendly aura. From recreational areas like Pucará to schools catering to various age groups and prominent universities, it’s evident that families are a core consideration in city planning.

Pedestrian Accessibility

The city’s design inherently promotes walking, which might account for the general fitness enthusiasm among residents.

Additionally, amenities such as gyms, dance studios, and public outdoor exercise equipment are easily accessible.

Retail Diversity

Loja Centro MercadoWhether it’s boutique malls, organic stores, or fashion outlets, Loja provides an expansive shopping experience.

The pedestrian-friendly outdoor mall in El Centro is a popular place to shop and hang out.


The city is reputed for its healthcare facilities, with renowned institutions like Solca, specializing in oncology.

There is a public IESS hospital near the park in the center of town, as well as several other general clinics and hospitals located around the city.

Local Hospitality

Engaging with the locals was a heartening experience, marked by their genuine warmth and friendliness.

Downsides of Loja, Ecuador

No place is perfect and Loja has a few drawbacks that might cause some challenges.

Geographical Constraints

At times, natural events like landslides can disrupt connectivity between Loja, Cuenca, and the nearest airport located 45 minutes west of the city in Catamayo.

Limited Options for Special Diets

Restaurants in Loja could benefit from a broader spectrum of dietary options. If you’re plant-based, vegetarian, or gluten-free, you might find it difficult to eat at most restaurants.

Water Consumption

In the video, we talked about tap water not being potable. However, since posting this video, several viewers who live in Loja told us that the water is drinkable out of the tap in most parts of the city.

If you’re a tourist on a short visit or staying in an older building, you might want to err on the side of caution and drink bottled or filtered water.

It Can Be Rainy

Loja Cloudy Sky with Mountain ViewDuring our week in Loja, it rained most days, and sometimes it was a hard rain. As a result, it’s lush and green, and you’re likely to see a rainbow or two.

Lack of English-Speakers

If your Spanish is rusty or non-existent, you may want to start studying or download a translation app because we met very few locals who spoke English during our time there. You’ll find a lot more English speakers in Cuenca.

Final Thoughts…

Loja, with its myriad attractions and minor challenges, is a city that’s worth experiencing firsthand.

Whether you’re considering a short visit or a more extended stay, Loja has its unique charm, echoing the diverse beauty of Ecuador.

We still think Cuenca was the right choice for us, but life in Loja would have been amazing as well.

Watch Our Loja Ecuador Pros & Cons Video



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Exploring Cuenca Ecuador: 10 Things That Make This City Unique

Cuenca, Ecuador is not just a city; it’s an experience that combines history, culture, and a vibrant community into one captivating package.

If you’re considering a visit or even a move, there’s much to know about what makes this place unique.

From the local food and architecture to the day-trip adventures that surround this Andean city, here are the top 10 things we miss most about Cuenca that stood out during our visit there.

#10 Diverse Culinary Landscape

Cuenca offers a rich array of dining options that range from international to local cuisines. One notable example is Paradise Indian Restaurant, owned by our friends Chinnu and Abin.

The city also provides choices for those with specific dietary needs, like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.

And for those on a budget, the traditional Ecuadorian ‘almuerzo’ lunch specials start at just $1.50.

See Also: Popular Expat Restaurants in Cuenca Ecuador

#9 Historic Architecture

As you wander through Cuenca, you’ll be struck by the diverse architectural styles that reflect various periods of the city’s rich history.

The blend of colonial, baroque, and modern elements tells a multi-layered story of cultural influences and changes over time.

While there are contemporary constructions and modern condos, Cuenca maintains a harmonious balance with its architectural heritage, ensuring that the city’s historical charm remains intact.

#8 Local Markets: Mercados

One of the most authentic experiences in Cuenca is visiting the local mercados.

Beyond just shopping for fresh produce, these markets offer a lens into daily Ecuadorian life. Regular visits also allow you to get to know local vendors and practice your Spanish.

#7 Small-scale Retail Experience

The shopping experience in Cuenca is far from generic. The city abounds in small, specialized shops, which often turn shopping into an adventurous scavenger hunt.

While larger malls do exist, these small businesses offer a more personalized experience and are a significant part of local life.

#6 Green Spaces

Cuenca is home to a variety of parks, each with its own unique character.

From prominent parks like Parque Calderon to smaller neighborhood green spaces, these areas are community hubs that often host activities and events.

The city is also expanding its green footprint with new botanical gardens.

#5 A Multitude of Activities

The city’s cultural fabric is rich, offering activities from music and dancing to festivals and parades.

For those interested in more structured activities, there are classes available in everything from Spanish and dance to yoga and crafts.

Opportunities for volunteering and community involvement are also plentiful.

See Also: 48 Hours In Cuenca Ecuador: FUN Itinerary to Experience the Gem of Ecuador

#4 Day-Trip Opportunities

Cuenca’s location in the Andes makes it a great base for various day trips.

For nature lovers, Cajas National Park provides scenic views and hiking trails.

Other nearby places worth exploring include Girón with its waterfalls and the artisan towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg.

#3 Hot Springs in Baños de Azuay

Just a short cab ride away, the hot springs in Baños de Azuay are a local favorite.

Not only are they affordable, but many find the waters to be therapeutic.

For a unique experience, try the cave at Piedra de Agua.

#2 Reasonable Cost of Living

Though the cost of living can vary depending on lifestyle choices, Cuenca remains relatively affordable, especially when compared to other Ecuadorian cities like Cumbaya and Manta.

However, it’s worth noting that there are now more high-end restaurants that cater to tourists, which can be pricier.

See Also: Cost of Living in Ecuador

#1 Community and Friendships

One of the most enriching aspects of Cuenca is its welcoming community. Both locals and expats are generally open and friendly, making it easy to forge new relationships.

There are numerous events, language exchanges, and communal activities where you can meet people.

See Also:

Final Thoughts…

Cuenca, Ecuador is a city rich in diversity, from its culinary options and architectural styles to its community-oriented atmosphere.

Whether you’re there for a visit or planning a more extended stay, the city’s unique blend of historical charm and modern amenities offers something for everyone.

And perhaps the most invaluable aspect of Cuenca is its people—both locals and expats—who add layers of depth to the city’s already captivating aura.

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How to Avoid & Treat Altitude Sickness in Ecuador

You might be drawn to the breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture of Ecuador, especially in high-elevation cities like Cuenca (8,500 feet / 2,560 meters) and Quito (9,400 feet / 2,865 meters); however, you may experience a unique challenge: altitude sickness.

Similar conditions are found across various mountain cities in Ecuador and throughout the Andes, so if you’re planning a trip, you may be wondering how to prevent or treat it.

This guide provides you with insights into the symptoms of altitude sickness and offers practical remedies and preventive steps.

With this knowledge, you can ensure your visit or move to Ecuador remains both comfortable and enjoyable.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult a doctor for medical advice, diagnosis and treatment if you experience any of these symptoms or others.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

It’s crucial to understand the symptoms so that you can distinguish between altitude sickness and other potential ailments.

View of Cuenca Ecuador from Turi.

Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Racing heart
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little

The tricky part is that it’s unpredictable; some people may feel the effects immediately upon arrival, while others may take a few days.

Preventing and Treating Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is no joke. The adjustment, often underestimated, can play a significant role in your acclimatization to life in this beautiful Andean nation.

Whether you’re contemplating a visit, a move or you already live in Ecuador, understanding the implications of altitude and how to combat its effects is vital.

Here are a few tips to best prepare and adapt to the heights of your new home:

  • Ascend Slowly: Ideally, take a few days to adjust to the altitude. If you’re driving in Ecuador, be prepared for rapid altitude changes. The pass through Cajas National Park reaches 13,000 feet / 4,000 meters before descending to Cuenca’s 8,500 feet / 2,560 meters.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water. The high altitudes and dry air can cause dehydration, worsening symptoms.
  • Diet Matters: Eat dark leafy greens to increase oxygenation of your blood. Avoid fatty foods, as they can decrease oxygen levels in your blood. Also, abstain from alcohol since it can lead to dehydration.
  • Rest and Adjust: Don’t overexert yourself when you first arrive. It’s not advisable to engage in strenuous activities like running, biking, or mountain climbing until you’ve acclimated.
  • Amelia and JP holding a packet of Mate de Coca TeaMate de Coca: This tea, made from the leaves of the coca plant, is a natural remedy known to help with altitude sickness. However, be cautious, as it can result in a positive drug test when you return home.
  • Breathe Properly: Deep breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth, can be beneficial.
  • Consider Prescription Medication: Diamox is a drug that some travelers obtain before their trip as a precaution.
  • Relocate to Lower Elevation: In severe cases, the best remedy might be to move to a lower elevation. It’s a drastic measure, but for some, it’s the only way to find relief.

Our Experience with Altitude Sickness

One of the main reasons we left Cuenca back in 2020 was because of the elevation.

I’ve had episodes of altitude sickness both in Ecuador and previously in Colorado when we went to Summit County to go skiing. Sometimes, the symptoms were so severe that descending to a lower elevation was the only remedy.

However, after years of eating healthy and living the tranquilo Ecuadorian lifestyle, I no longer have issues with the elevation. In fact, we’re living at high elevation now and I haven’t had a single issue for over a year.

Most people adjust to the elevation in 3 to 5 days. That’s typically enough time for your body to increase the production of red blood cells, aiding in acclimatization.

If your body has difficulty adjusting, try one or more of the remedies listed above. Most importantly, drink lots of water and rest.

Watch Our Video About How to Treat Altitude Sickness



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Cotacachi Ecuador Pros & Cons

Nestled amidst the majestic landscapes of Ecuador, Cotacachi emerges as a destination that’s loved by travelers and expats alike.

Whether you’re intrigued by its affordability, captivated by its culinary delights, or drawn to its tranquil beauty, Cotacachi promises an experience like no other.

Before you embark on this journey, let’s dive into what makes this place truly enchanting, and also touch upon a few aspects that might require a bit of acclimation. Here are the pros & cons of Cotacachi, Ecuador.

Watch Our Video About the Pros & Cons of Cotacachi Ecuador

Affordability: Live More, Spend Less

Cotacachi offers a lower cost of living that is especially evident in areas like:

  • Housing: Though it’s the priciest aspect of living here, it’s still more affordable than the coast and other big cities in Ecuador like Quito and Guayaquil.
  • Utilities: Say goodbye to expensive electricity bills. The temperate climate means there’s no need for heat or air conditioning.
  • Local Markets: The Mercados teem with fresh, locally-grown produce at prices that won’t break the bank.

A Culinary Journey: Restaurants Galore

From local delicacies to international flavors, Cotacachi is a haven for foodies. Some must-visit spots include:

What’s more, the city layout ensures that most of these gastronomic wonders are just a short walk away. And for caffeine aficionados, the town brims with cozy coffee shops.

Activities Aplenty: Never a Dull Moment

There’s a plethora of activities to indulge in:

  • Join the expat meetups.
  • Embark on invigorating hikes.
  • Plan day trips to nearby attractions like Laguna Cuicocha, Peguche, Lago San Pablo, Otavalo, Cayambe, and Ibarra.
  • Volunteer for local initiatives to help dogs, kids, and the elderly.
  • Immerse yourself in bird watching or photography.

Safety First: Peaceful Living

Cotacachi is tranquilo. Its safety features include:

  • Low crime rates.
  • A community-centric environment brimming with locals and indigenous folks.
  • A tendency to wind down early, making late-night activities sparse.

Retail Therapy: Shop ’til You Drop

From high-end boutiques to mom-and-pop stores, shopping here is an experience:

  • Find budget-friendly gems like the local’s favorite shoe stores.
  • Weekly organic markets offer fresh produce.
  • Tia and the Mercado provide daily necessities.
  • The world-famous Otavalo Indigenous market is a one-stop shop for everything you can imagine.
  • And yes, there are ATMs dotted around town for convenience.

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Expat Haven: Find Your Tribe

The burgeoning expat community is a testament to Cotacachi’s appeal:

  • Fellow expats are always eager to assist newcomers.
  • With many English speakers, communication is a breeze.

Nature’s Best: Beauty Everywhere

Cotacachi is a portrait of pristine beauty:

  • Clean streets and fresh air.
  • Mesmerizing views of the Cotacachi and Imbabura volcanos.
  • A plethora of bird species around town and in the nearby natural areas.

Commute Simplified: Get Around with Ease

Navigating Cotacachi is straightforward:

  • Most places are just a stroll away.
  • Buses and taxis are readily available at the bus station and the taxi stop next to Parque Central in the center of town.
  • It’s a 10-minute drive to Otavalo and 90 minutes to the Quito airport.

The Flip Side: A Few Cons

Every rose has its thorn, and Cotacachi is no exception:

  • At 8,000 feet / 2,400 meters, its high elevation can be challenging for some.
  • The weather tends to be on the cooler, cloudier side like Seattle in the early fall.
  • Medical facilities are limited, with just a small private clinic and an IESS hospital to cater to health needs. If you need any serious medical care or specialists, you might need to drive to Quito.
  • It’s a small mountain town with around 9,000 people so its size might not be suitable, especially if you prefer a bigger city.

Final Thoughts…

Our adventures through Cotacachi, Ecuador have unveiled a destination rich in culture, beauty, and community spirit. This gem of Ecuador beautifully encapsulates the reasons why so many are drawn to its vibrant streets and serene landscapes.

Whether you’re considering a brief visit or pondering a longer stay, Cotacachi promises memories to cherish and experiences to relish.

As we continue our journey, remember that the heart of exploration lies in the stories we gather and the connections we forge. Dive into Cotacachi and discover your own story.

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