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.

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 SSA.gov, 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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Amelia Basista
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I grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent most of my career working as a sales rep in the commercial lighting industry. I still work online for a company in Denver doing sales CRM administration. YouTube is my part-time gig, but I'm so happy we can share our Unconventional Life and hopefully inspire you live yours!

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