When you prepare family and friends for your move to Ecuador, the news will likely generate mixed reactions. Your closest confidants may not be surprised, but you’ll hear exasperated questions from others.
Some may try to make you think that moving abroad is a mistake, especially to a Latin American country like Ecuador.
Their perception of Ecuador may be based on what they see in the movies or dramatized news coverage, which is exaggerated reality and often relating to a specific event or location.
You may field questions about safety and healthcare options. However, you may also be asked if Ecuadorian houses have dirt floors, electricity, indoor plumbing and Internet access!
Some may never accept your expat dream of living abroad, but you can at least prepare your friends and family for your move to Ecuador.
A lot of people who haven’t travelled outside of their home country, or specifically to Ecuador, have a notion that, as soon as you step foot off the plane, you’re liable to become a drug mule or you’ll die in an earthquake or perish in a volcano eruption. Perhaps you might contract some horrible, rainforest disease and pass away in a dirty, fly-infested hospital cot.
A horrible death was a common theme shared by several of our family members before we left home, which is one reason we started Our Unconventional Life YouTube Channel where we answer expat questions and show you what it’s REALLY like to live in Ecuador.
While the culture may be different, we can assure you that life in Ecuador is very similar to most other Constitutional Republics with a Democratically elected government.
Crime (Updated March 2023)
One of the first things people want to know about is the overall safety of Ecuador. In our article on crime in Ecuador, we noted that the government has worked to combat crime throughout the county. However, things changed significantly after the pandemic. Drug trafficking, gang violence, robberies and homicides have all increased.
The majority of crime tourists and foreign residents experience is pickpocketing and most places in Ecuador are still safe. We don’t recommend visiting Guayaquil, Portoviejo, Carchi, Sucumbíos and some areas on the coast due to issues associated with drug trafficking.
For more information on crime in Ecuador, be sure you check out our article: Is Ecuador Safe? The TRUTH About Crime in Ecuador.
Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Extreme Weather
Ecuador is located on the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific Ocean, which causes earthquakes and volcanoes from Alaska to Chile and Japan to New Zealand. If you grew up in the western United States, volcanoes and earthquakes may be just a normal part of your life.
Having grown up in Kansas (JP) and Chicago (Amelia), these phenomena are new to us. However, Ecuador doesn’t have extreme weather like tornadoes or hurricanes that affect the midwest and eastern United States. Flooding during the rainy season often washes out roads in the mountains, but Ecuador’s many rivers are effective at channeling the water away from major cities.
The last major earthquake in Ecuador occured in 2016, causing a lot of damage to older structures and low income housing. Newer construction was minimally affected and the damage was limited to the coastal region. We’ve experienced several small earthquakes since 2017, but nothing noteworthy.
The Sangay Volcano 80 kilometers northeast of Cuenca is one of the region’s most active volcanoes with occasional eruptions that have spread ash as far away as Guayaquil and affected air quality in Salinas. However, most of Ecuador’s volcanoes are dormant and haven’t erupted in thousands or millions of years.
Ecuador has both a private and a public healthcare system. Private health insurance can be more expensive than the public IESS plan, and it also has a 2-year waiting period for pre-existing conditions with total spending limits, but you’re able to choose your own doctors and hospitals. You can expect to pay $50 to several hundred dollars per month depending on the plan and your age.
With the public IESS plan, you can only visit IESS hospitals or doctors, but there is only a 3-month waiting period for pre-existing conditions and all of your medical expenses are covered at 100% without copays. You can expect to pay $50 to $100 per month depending on your age.
Most hospitals in the major cities are very modern with updated equipment similar to what you’ll see in the United States or other developed countries. Many of the doctors speak multiple languages, including English, and have been educated in the US or Europe.
According to CEOWORLD Magazine, in 2019 Ecuador had the best healthcare system in the Americas south of Canada. They looked at Overall Healthcare, Infrastructure, Professionals, Cost, Medicine Availability and Government Readiness. Ecuador ranks 25th among the 89 countries they evaluated, barely losing to Canada (23rd) and beating the US (30th). The top 9 countries are in Asia and Europe, and number 10 is Australia.
While the medical care at rural hospitals and clinics may be lacking in Ecuador, your family and friends can rest assured that you’ll receive top rated care in the bigger cities like Guayaquil, Quito, Manta and Cuenca.
If you would like more information about healthcare in Ecuador, we discussed it in detail in our blog post: Our Ecuador Healthcare Experience.
If your family and friends have watched any movies about traveling to South America, they probably have a vision of a small propellor plane landing on a dirt runway. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Guayaquil and Quito are home to Ecuador’s two international airports with direct flights from the United States and other countries around the world. They are both modern and well-appointed airports with plenty of dining options, stores with familiar brands, and runways capable of supporting the largest jet airplanes.
Ecuador also has numerous regional airports in Cuenca, Loja, Manta, etc. They mainly support smaller jets or propellor planes, and you may need to walk down stairs to get off the plane, but they’re also very nice, modern airports.
Quito and Cuenca have rail systems, while all of the major cities feature an intricate bus system that extends out to the rest of the country. Many people also travel by taxi or private drivers.
The main highways are mostly two lanes with sections that are four lanes, but they have all been paved during the past several years so travel is easy between cities.
For more on traveling to Ecuador and between cities, check out our Traveling to Ecuador from the United States blog post.
Housing in Ecuador
If your family is concerned that you’ll be giving up modern luxuries like plumbing, electricity and the Internet, they’ll be happy to learn that those are available in ALL expat-oriented housing in Ecuador.
Some of the locals, especially in rural areas, still don’t have electricity or running water, but that is not the norm for most Ecuadorians. Expat-oriented houses, condos and hotels throughout Ecuador have reliable electricity, indoor plumbing and high-speed Internet. Many also have granite countertops, tile floors and stainless steel appliances.
And here is the link to the real estate tour video we did in Olón Ecuador, a rural beach town.
These tours demonstrate just how nice and modern the housing is and will help set your friend and family’s minds at ease!
We hope this article helps you prepare family and friends for your move to Ecuador. The key is education. If they’re afraid about you leaving, it’s likely because they are unfamiliar with where you’re going and that uncertainty triggers their protection instinct.
While researching our plan to live abroad, we couldn’t find a lot of positive, realistic videos about life in Ecuador, so we wanted to break the myths by showing what it’s really like for expats who live here.
Now, our subscribers tell us that they share our videos with their concerned family and friends to show them that living abroad in Ecuador is perfectly safe and perhaps even safer than some places back home.
If your family and friends are worried about your decision to live abroad in Ecuador, share blog posts and videos with them so they can see what it’s like to be an expat here.
And remind them that the things we see in movies and news programs aren’t accurate representations of reality. Thank them for their concern and tell them you can always move back if you feel unsafe, or you don’t like living abroad.
Watch Our Video About Cuenca Ecuador Crime and Safety Tips
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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!