How Much Does It Cost to Live in Ecuador?

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How Much Does It Cost to Live in Ecuador?

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March 11, 2011, last updated June 29, 2017
By ZACH WATSON, Contributing Columnist

Strong Pacific currents move around the Galapagos Islands and into Ecuadorian coastal waters, washing up on white sand beaches below thick secondary jungles full of monkeys, sloths and tropical birds.  And below the disappearing canopy live quiet tribes like the Colorados  who battle assimilation among their newly deforested country and growing lowland cities.  Out of the lower jungles, the ancient mountains climb slowly changing from cloud forests to arid tundra, eventually forming twenty thousand foot active volcanoes.  The glaciated caps of volcanoes can be seen on clear days from the bell towers of the Basilica in Old Town Quito, amid the crazy hum of its streets and the colonial charm of the buildings. 

It is no wonder so many ex-pats are abandoning crowded South Florida retirement communities for grander post-career dreams and that so many college grads spend a year teaching English in Quito. The big question remains. How much is this going to cost? Can you afford to retire in Ecuador?

It is a complex question.  Ecuador can be cheap.  According to the Lonely Planet, busses cost approximately one dollar an hour and the country is small, so a weekend trip to the coast from Quito would essentially cost fewer than $12 one way.  Hostels and Hotels alike tend to cost on average less than $10 a night per person.  Local cuisine is always the cheapest bet and a set lunch would cost anywhere from $2 to $5.  A cold 655 milliliter beer costs, in a restaurant, $1.50 to $3.

The tastes from home tend to be more expensive.  In the middle of Quito is the Mariscal Foch, a beacon of hope for the refined tastes of the Northern brethren.   Expats thrive in the Mariscal Foch sitting at the tables that surround trendy restaurants serving draft beer and California club sandwiches.  Draft beers cost $4 to $6 and food $8 to $15. 

Groceries are cheap.  On, Quito ranks 269 out of 300 for groceries, 1 being the most expensive city for groceries and 300 being the least.  Quito and the other big cities have grocery stores in the western sense, white fluorescent lights and perfectly displayed packaged food.  But the hidden gems are the markets full of fresh tropical fruits and beautifully big vegetables, a bit more chaotic, but incredibly cheap, where a bundle of twenty bananas costs $1.  The meat at these markets may be cheaper than their western counterpart, but refrigeration is not important to the vendors.  It is safer to pay the extra money at the grocery store for refrigerated meat.

Petroleum is subsidized by the government.  A gallon of diesel costs somewhere around $1.20 and a gallon of gasoline around $1.50, yet cars prices vary considerably.  According to, cars cost more than in the U.S. as they become more expensive since the duty percentage is increased with price.  "A brand new Ford Explorer XLT is advertised at $39,950 in Ecuador.  A quick check in the US shows the price in the $29,000 price range."  And on the other side, a Ford Fiesta costs $13,900 in the US but only 12000 in Ecuador. 

The value of a luxury home in Ecuador is less than in the US.  According to, a house outside of Cuenca with two living rooms, two dining rooms, four bathrooms, three walk-in closets, a caretaker's cottage and an outside barbeque, has an asking price of $230,000. 

Cuenca, with its classic European feel, is becoming one of Ecuador's most popular spots for retirement.  A luxury apartment close to the city center costs $42,000.   According to, a higher-end rental company, an apartment costs $300 to $700 in Quito.  For an English Teacher, making six dollars an hour, there are much cheaper finds that are easier found by word of mouth than on the internet, where companies tend to inflate prices because their clients have never been in the country and don't know any better.

According to, health care is free, if not extremely economical, but inefficient at times.  This might be suitable for a short stay if one were teaching English, but if one were planning to retire then it might be wiser to purchase a private insurance plan. said, a policy with a $500 deductible would cost between $3,306-7,404 per person per year depending on their age group. Bear in mind that those of you on foreign state sponsored health plans such as Medicare in the US will not be able to use these plans in Ecuador. Nonetheless, you may want to keep paying your Medicare premiums so that you'll be covered when on those visits back home.

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Ecuador has granted Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame political asylum.