Ecuador: Live Like Royalty on Your Social Security
A Report from International Living on Retiring in Ecuador
Ecuador is gentle…safe…healthy…private…civil.
Ecuador has been one of our favorite locations for overseas investment and retirement for many years. In fact, we ranked Ecuador as the world’s best retirement destination in 1999, due to the amazing values. And 15 years later, we still rank Ecuador among our top three retirement havens…and with good reason.
As one friend of ours put it: “It’s like we are living in the U.S. in the 1950s.” You’re guaranteed a quality of life that just plain doesn’t exist anymore in the States. Up north, violence, materialism, and increasingly intrusive government policies have whittled away the last vestiges of the American Dream. Yet here you’re guaranteed a truly extraordinary lifestyle. And that makes Ecuador the perfect place to retire…or reinvent yourself. You’ll find like-minded company when you do.
Ecuador also offers a high quality of life. This is no isolated backwater. It’s a land of opportunity. In the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, you can enjoy all of the Western conveniences you are accustomed to. New cars abound, including several brands made in Ecuadorian factories. Everyone has cell phones, and Internet connections are just as common. World-class restaurants serve excellent meals, yet you’ll be hard pressed to pay more than $50 for a dinner for two, drinks included. It’s not difficult to live in Ecuador on less than $17,000 per year, and you don’t have to live an unattractive lifestyle in order to do so.
If you’re aged 65 and older and are looking for an incentive to retire to Ecuador, you’ve come to the right country. Ecuador’s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens, so even though there is no official government program for expats, you can enjoy the same benefits as the locals.
From snow-capped volcanoes to dense Amazon jungle to sun-drenched Pacific beaches to the famous Galápagos Islands, Ecuador offers something for everyone. Whether you want to live, invest, vacation, retire, or simply relax in Ecuador, you’ll find the perfect combination of climate, culture, and affordability to help make your dreams come true here.
We have compiled this special report to give you a taster of what Ecuador is all about. Read on…and maybe you’ll fall in love with this amazing country, just like we have.
Publisher, International Living
Ecuador Fast Facts
What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717. The territories of the Viceroyalty—New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito—gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the “Republic of the Equator.”
Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 30 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito contributed to the mid-term ouster of three of Ecuador’s last four democratically elected Presidents.
In September 2008, voters approved a new constitution; Ecuador’s twentieth since gaining independence. General elections, under the new constitutional framework, were held in February 2013, and voters re-elected President Rafael Correa.
Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru.
109,483 square miles (283,561 square kilometers)
15,439,429 (July 2013 est.)
Ecuador is divided into three continental regions—the Costa, Sierra, and Oriente—and one insular region: the Galápagos Islands. The continental regions extend the length of the country from north to south and are separated by the Andes Mountains. The Galápagos Islands, officially called the Archipiélago de Colón, are located 620 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast.
The Costa, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, consists of coastal lowlands, coastal mountains, and rolling hills that separate river valleys. The widest part of the region stretches 93 miles from Cabo San Lorenzo in Manabí Province to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. In the southern part of Guayas Province, east of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the narrow coastal plain is only nine to 12 miles wide. The lowlands of the Costa do not exceed 656 feet in elevation, whereas the coastal mountains extend no higher than 3,280 feet. The coastal mountain chain, known as the Cordillera Costañera, divides the region into the Costa Externa, next to the coast, and the Costa Internal, next to the Andes. The Cordillera Costañera reaches from Esmeraldas in the north to Guayaquil in the south. North of Portoviejo in Manabí Province, the Cordillera Costañera loses its character as a mountain chain and becomes a series of hills and small mountains.
The Sierra consists of two major chains of the Andes mountains, known as the Cordillera Occidental (Western Chain) and Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Chain), and the intermountain basin or plateau between the two chains. Several transversal mountain spurs, known as nudos, cut across the plateau. The Nudo del Azuay, at 14,760 feet the highest of these transversal spurs, divides the Sierra into two sub-regions—the area of modern volcanism to the north and the area of ancient volcanism to the south. The former area consists of newer, higher mountains than those in the ancient volcanism section, which with time have eroded to lower levels.
The Sierra has at least 22 peaks over 13,780 feet in height. Of the two cordilleras, the Cordillera Oriental is wider and generally higher, with peaks averaging over 13,123 feet. The Cordillera Occidental, however, contains the highest point in Ecuador, which is the Mount Chimborazo at 20,560 feet. The Sierra also contains the highest point on the equator, Mount Cayambe at 18,996 feet.
The Sierra has at least 30 peaks of volcanic origin, including six still active. These peaks, which vary in width from 50 to 80 miles, are located in the area of modern volcanism known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. The most active volcano is Mount Sangay, 17,159 feet high. Although its last major outpouring of lava occurred in 1946, specialists consider Mount Sangay to be in a constant state of eruption because of fires and bubbling lava at its crater. Mount Cotopaxi, at 19,347 feet the highest active volcano in the world, last erupted in 1877 and is now listed as “steaming”. Its crater is 2,624 feet in diameter. In addition to the other damage caused by eruptions, volcanoes in the Sierra have melted snowcaps, which in turn generate massive mudslides and avalanches. Earth-quakes and tremors also are common in the region.
The Oriente to the east of the Cordillera Oriental consists of two subregions: the Andean piedmont and the Eastern lowlands. The piedmont drops from a height of 11,000 feet to the featureless lowlands, which spread out at an altitude of 490 to 985 feet.
The Galápagos Islands consist of a chain of large, medium, and small islands that have a combined area of roughly 3,088 square miles. The largest island is Isabela Island, also known as Albemarle Island, which is 75 miles long with an area of 1,650 square miles. All of the islands are of volcanic origin, and some have active cones. Santo Tomás, located on Isabela Island, is the highest peak of the Galápagos at 4,888 feet. Its crater is 6 miles in diameter.
Ecuador lies directly on the equator, so the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year. However, the climate you will experience depends largely on where you are in Ecuador, since there are four distinct geographical areas—the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), the La Costa (Pacific coastal plains), and the Galápagos Islands.
For example, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, lies in the Central Valley between the Andean Mountains’ eastern and western ridges. The equator is less than 20 miles north of the city, yet at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,900 meters), Quito’s climate is spring-like all year around: about 50° F (10° C) at night and as high as 76° F (25° C) during the day. The sun makes the difference. You can comfortably stroll out on a glorious Quito afternoon in shorts and a T-shirt, but you’ll need to take your wool sweater in case the clouds roll in. The equatorial sun is intense, but when it’s obscured by clouds, you realize how high in the Andes you really are. In fact, cold weather gear is needed for high altitude hiking and mountain climbing.
The beaches and rainforests, on the other hand, enjoy the tropical temperatures that one would expect from equatorial lowlands, with highs ranging between 80° F and 90° F. Between these two extremes, just about any type of weather can be found in Ecuador.
Head of State & Government:
President Rafael Correa Delgado (since 15 January 2007)
Three horizontal bands of yellow (top, double width), blue, and red with the coat of arms superimposed at the center of the flag. The flag retains the three main colors of the banner of Gran Columbia, the South American republic that broke up in 1830. The yellow color represents sunshine, grain, and mineral wealth, blue the sky, sea, and rivers, and red the blood of patriots spilled in the struggle for freedom and justice.
Spanish (official), indigenous (Quechua, Shuar)
Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%
UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time and NYC or Toronto, ON during Daylight Savings Time)
The majority of outlets in Ecuador are 110/120V AC (60 Hz).
In case of an emergency, call 911 or 101 for the police only.
Telephone system: Generally elementary but being expanded.
International country code: 593
Cell phones users: 16.457 million (2012)
Internet users: 3.352 million (2009)
Internet country code: .ec
The Internet is very popular in all the cities and towns. There are hundreds of “coffee-nets” in the commercial and tourist areas that offer net2phone, e-mail, Internet, and fax services at very reasonable prices. Internet is expanding very fast and is easy to find at least one computer center in any neighborhood of a big city. Service in these places is better in tourist areas, and the rates may depend on the category of the computer center, but rates are cheap most of the time.
The Economy in Ecuador
Ecuador is substantially dependent on its petroleum resources, which have accounted for more than half of the country’s export earnings and approximately one-third of public sector revenues in recent years. In 1999/2000, Ecuador suffered a severe economic crisis, with GDP contracting by 5.3% and poverty increasing significantly.
In March 2000, the Congress approved a series of structural reforms that also provided for the adoption of the U.S. dollar as legal tender. Dollarization stabilized the economy, and positive growth returned in the years that followed, helped by high oil prices, remittances, and increased non-traditional exports. From 2002-06 the economy grew an average of 4.3% per year, the highest five-year average in 25 years. After moderate growth in 2007, the economy reached a growth rate of 6.4% in 2008, buoyed by high global petroleum prices and increased public sector investment.
President Rafael Correa, who took office in January 2007, defaulted in December 2008 on Ecuador’s sovereign debt, which, with a total face value of approximately US$3.2 billion, represented about 30% of Ecuador’s public external debt. In May 2009, Ecuador bought back 91% of its “defaulted” bonds via an international reverse auction. Economic policies under the Correa administration —for example, an announcement in late 2009 of its intention to terminate 13 bilateral investment treaties, including one with the United States—have generated economic uncertainty and discouraged private investment.
The Ecuadorian economy slowed to 1% growth in 2009 due to the global financial crisis and to the sharp decline in world oil prices and remittance flows. Growth picked up to a 3.3% rate in 2010 and nearly 8% in 2011, before falling to 5% in 2012. China has become Ecuador’s largest foreign lender since Quito defaulted in 2008, allowing the government to maintain a high rate of social spending; Ecuador contracted with the Chinese government for more than $9 billion in oil for cash and project loans as of December 2012.
Labor force: 4.854 million (2013 est.)
Labor force by occupation:
Services: 54.4% (2012 est.)
Exports: $25.48 billion (2013 est.)
Export commodities: Petroleum, bananas, cut flowers, shrimp, cacao, coffee, wood, and fish.
Imports: $26.66 billion (2013 est.)
Import commodities: Industrial materials, fuels and lubricants, and nondurable consumer goods.
Where to Buy Real Estate in Ecuador?
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third-largest city and the economic center of the southern Sierra. It has an intellectual, artistic, and philosophical tradition that matches its colonial architecture. Because of its history and state of preservation, Cuenca is one of Ecuador’s three UNESCO World Heritage Trust sites (the others are Quito and the Galápagos Islands). In 2006, an international association of urban planners voted Cuenca as one of the two “most livable” cities in Latin America, citing its culture, low crime rate, and “middle class” feel.
With the best restored colonial district in Ecuador, Cuenca is the country’s cultural capital. The city has produced many of Ecuador’s major writers, artists and musicians, and offers a rich program of festivals, concerts, parades and art openings. Although the metropolitan population is 500,000, the central city has a small town feel that has proven popular with tourists and foreign students who attend language schools or one of the city’s seven universities
Referred to by one travel guide as “South America’s most European city”, Cuenca is attracting growing numbers of foreigners, many of whom have purchased modern but inexpensive apartments just outside the colonial district. Others prefer to take advantage of bargain houses and views on the hills that surround the city.
Property samples in Cuenca:
- A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with amazing views and private garden. It is 936 square feet plus a beautiful wraparound garden of 688 square feet. Only three minutes away from supermarkets, drugstores, and shops, it also comes with a parking space and storage unit. It has under-floor heating and can be sold fully furnished. Price: $79,900.
- A three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo located close to the Tomebamba River and the town’s historic district. Located on the sixth floor of a seven-story building, the apartment has nice views to the north and west and features tile and composite wood flooring and granite countertops. The building has two elevators and a small gym and the condo also comes with a parking space and extra storage. Price: $98,000.
Quito has been described as the most beautiful city in South America. Spanish influence here is apparent in its stately colonial architecture. Though the city has about 1.5 million residents, traffic is reasonable, except at rush hour and during major road resurfacing projects. The public transportation system, including taxis, buses, and trams, is excellent. The area is ringed by staggering Andean peaks, providing beautiful views from many properties. The city is in the process of restoring the old colonial center.
Property samples in Quito:
- A three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo measuring 1,000 square feet. There are hardwood floors throughout and covered parking. Price $46,400.
- A spacious 1,300-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom, luxury condo in one of the most exclusive areas of the city. Two terraces offer spectacular views of the valley below and distant mountains. The building has 24-hour security and a swimming pool, and is walking distance to the best restaurants and shopping. Price: $89,000.
Ecuador’s North Coast:
Ecuador’s north coast is one of the finest stretches of Pacific coast you will find. Steep, bright green jungle-clad hills rise from the flat blue ocean. In places, rocky coves sculpt sandy beaches. The coastline offers miles of rugged cliffs, beautiful sandy beaches, sleepy fishing villages, and thriving resort areas.
The stretch of Ecuador’s North Pacific Coast between Canoa and the area just south of Pedernales is her finest. Previously, the drive time from Quito to this beach took more than eight hours. Now, thanks to a new road, a new bridge, and significant improvement of the road along the coast, you can drive from the capital to the coast in three-and-a-half hours.
Here you’ll find towns like Bahía de Caráquez, an attractive small city of whitewashed houses with tile roofs on the estuary of the Chone River. This area has it all—nice beaches and waterfront restaurants that you’d like to have at a resort, plus all of the administrative services and cultural venues you’d expect from a city.
There’s also Canoa, considered by many to have the best beach in Ecuador. A fishing village just north of Bahía de Caráquez, the town’s beach is exceptionally wide—2,500 feet in places—with relatively safe, straight-in surf. If you prefer something more lively,Atacames, known as a party town, has a decidedly Caribbean feel, often swinging to reggae and salsa beats well into the night. The influence of the largely African population of this area is also evident in the spicy cuisine. The area is the preferred destination for visitors from Quito, a four-hour drive away.
Property samples on Ecuador’s North Coast:
- In Canoa your dream of owning your own hostal or B&B can come true. Here we located a partially-finished building right in town and a half block from the beach ready for your custom touches. The building is 5,200 square feet with eight guest rooms, a kitchen complete with brick oven, and an open upper level offering magnificent ocean views. Price: $100,000.
- In Bahía de Caráquez you can live like royalty in a five-bedroom, three bathroom estate home overlooking the bay. The 3,500 square feet home sits on a huge 19,000 square feet lot with 72 feet along the Bahía Bay and a private boat launch. Plus there’s a separate one-bedroom, one bathroom guest house for rental or guests. Price: $165,000.
Buying Real Estate
Keep in mind that the real estate business in Ecuador bears little resemblance to what you are probably accustomed to in North America or Europe. There is no such thing as a multiple listing service, for example. Agents in Quito will have no idea what’s available in Manta or Cuenca—or even what’s available from other agents in Quito.
You’ll find that buying a property in Ecuador is more straightforward than you may be accustomed to back home. For example, there are no title or escrow companies, and sellers and buyers are required to pay their own debts outside the sales process, such as insurance, real estate commissions, etc. These issues are not brought to a closing, which is strictly between the buyer, seller, and the notary. Your attorney should be able to guide you through the purchase process, and help you to avoid potential pitfalls.
Remember that in Ecuador, as in most Latin American countries, cash is king. Interest rates are still high here compared to the U.S. so if you can pay with cash you will gain significant bargaining power. We’ve seen several shoppers submit offers of half the original asking price who ended up paying 60% or 70% of the original price.
Foreigners and Ecuadorian natives are on equal footing when it comes to real estate. You do not need to be a resident to own property. To the contrary, property ownership can qualify you for residency. There are certain restrictions in the case of “National Security Areas,” which may include the country’s borders, although these areas are not specifically defined in the law. Your attorney or the notary will inform you if your property requires any type of permission.
Renting in Ecuador
At International Living, we always recommend that you rent before you buy. Before you plunk down money on a house or condo in a new place, stay awhile and see if suits your needs.
You can start your search for a rental on the Internet. You’ll find plenty of websites out there; but most promote short-term vacation rentals, and in touristy locations, prices can be high. Sometimes, real estate agents offer rental properties. But not often. Rental management is a time-consuming and low-commission business, and not one a real estate salesperson typically wants to take on.
The classified section of online local newspapers is also a good source (especially to get a feel for prices). But unless you speak the language fluently, we wouldn’t recommend a lot of e-mail back and forth until just before your visit. Plus, unless you go through a reputable agency, you should never send money to reserve a rental sight unseen. Too many things can go wrong.
Also keep your eyes peeled for signs advertising places for rent. This is what expat Kent Zimmerman did in Cuenca: “We strolled past a sign taped to a gate a few days after we arrived in Cuenca. A quick trip up the elevator, a little Spanish, a month’s rent paid in advance…and we walked out with the keys to our new home.”
Ecuador Health Care
One of the great perks for foreign residents living in Ecuador is high-quality, low-cost health care. Here, you will receive personal attention from medical practitioners not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. You’ll have access to excellent medical care. In the bigger cities, you’ll find hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as specialists in all fields and physicians with private clinics.
A visit to a general practitioner costs $25 to $35 while a visit to a specialist runs $30 to $40. A psychiatrist will charge $30 to $50 for a half-hour session. Simple, ambulatory procedures are equally inexpensive. For example, the removal of a small lump (under local anesthesia), and a biopsy, costs about $125. Brand name medicines usually cost less than in the U.S. Generics, which are widely available, are also much cheaper.
And don’t be afraid of surgery—many specialists in Ecuador have trained in the U.S. or Europe and have top-notch skills. For example, a shoulder repair for a torn tendon is a two-hour procedure done under general anesthetic. The total bill for the operation, anesthesia, pre- and post-operative care, an overnight stay in the hospital, and all supplies and medications costs just $3,100—about a quarter of what the same procedure costs in the U.S. One of IL’s colleagues underwent this particular procedure and told us that the outcome was excellent, and mentioned that follow-up physical therapy from an experienced therapist with a thriving private practice cost just $25 a visit.
Health insurance is a bargain in Ecuador. A review of comparable insurance policies for a 60-year-old man in the U.S. and Ecuador, tell the story. In the U.S., the man would pay a monthly premium of $1,200; in Ecuador he pays $70. A woman, age 50 to 60, would pay $72 for the same policy in Ecuador while coverage for a dependent child, between 2 and 17 years-of-age, costs $15.69 a month.
There are a number of ways to become an Ecuadorian resident, and the process is fairly straightforward. Although you submit your immigrant-status visa application at the Ecuadorian consulate nearest to your former residence, it is in fact approved through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, so expect the approval process to take six to eight weeks. Visa applications for your dependents, however, can be processed directly by the Ecuadorian consulate once your application has been approved.
We strongly advise that you hire an Ecuadorian immigration attorney to help you navigate the residency process. In our experience, this will save you considerable time and stress. Here are some of the more popular visas:
Tourist visa: When you enter Ecuador you will receive a passport stamp, commonly called a T-3, allowing you to stay in the country for 90 days within a one-year period from your date of entry. Because of changes in Ecuador’s new constitution, residents of all countries, not just those from North America, Europe and other Latin American countries, receive the stamp.
9-I: Pensioner Visa: For retired persons who receive pensions from their native countries (pension from a stable source, of at least $800 per month). This includes Social Security or other government or private retirement sources, an annuity or income from a trust.
9-II: Investor of Real Estate or Securities Visa: This is for real estate and securities investors who are investing at least $25,000.
12-VI: Work Visa: This is for professionals with university degrees recognized by a national university who wish to practice their profession in Ecuador. Should the applicant’s profession not exist in Ecuador, the degree must be locally certified. The applicant must also fulfill the Ecuadorian requirements for such practice, such as bar exams, etc.
- U.S. Embassy in Ecuador, Ave. Auigiras E12-170 y Ave. Eloy Alfaro, Quito; tel. +593 (2) 398-5000; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website:http://ecuador.usembassy.gov/.
- Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.S., 2535 15th Street, N.W.Washington, DC 20009; tel. (202) 234-7200; fax (202) 333-2893; e-mail: email@example.com; website:www.Ecuador.org.
- Canadian Embassy in Ecuador, Av. Amazonas 4153 and Unión Nacional de Periodistas, Eurocenter Building, 3rd floor (one block north of the Supreme Court Building, near Amazonas and United Nations), P.O. Box 17-11-6512, Quito; tel. +593 (2) 2455-499; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website:www.canadainternational.gc.ca/ecuador-equateur/.
- Ecuadorian Embassy in Canada, 99 Bank Street, Suite 230, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6B9; tel. (613) 563-8206; fax (613) 235-5776; website:www.embassyecuador.ca/english/.
Retiree Benefits in Ecuador
If you’re 65 or older and looking for an incentive to retire overseas, take a look at what Ecuador can offer you. Unlike Panama’s pensionado program, which is aimed at foreign residents, Ecuador’s senior citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens.
However, because the country’s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens, you can enjoy the same benefits as locals.
Here are some of the benefits of Ecuador’s over-65 discount program:
- 50% off public and private transportation within the country (including the Galápagos).
- 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events, including movies.
- 50% off electric and water bills (below certain usage levels).
- Free domestic landline phone service (does not include long distance and other services).
- Reductions in a variety of taxes, including income and sales taxes (these vary according to income and goods or services purchased).
The cherry on top of retiring to Ecuador is that citizens and residents over 65 never have to stand in line. If you’re a senior citizen, when you make a bank deposit or pay your utility bill, it’s the law that you go directly to the front of the line…so you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your retirement in Ecuador.
Cost of Living in Ecuador
In Ecuador, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well. It’s easy to retire on less than $18,500 per year, and this figure is based on a very comfortable lifestyle. Many foreign residents have their main home in the city, and also have a country home, a beach property, or even property in another country…a feat that would be impossible on a comparable budget in the U.S.
Additionally, this low cost of living allows retirees to increase their travel, take up new hobbies, and generally enjoy a better quality of life. Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe.
Here is a sample budget for a couple living very well in Cuenca. The expenses are, of course, approximate. We’ve erred on the side of extra spending to come up with a budget that allows for a pretty luxurious lifestyle…for less than $20,000 a year for two people.
Sample monthly budget for a couple in Cuenca:
|Housing (rental of a luxury three-bedroom, unfurnished apartment)||
|Utilities (including phone, water/electricity, Internet, and DirecTV)||$155|
|Maid (once a week)||$60|
|Groceries (not including alcohol)||$450|
|Maintenance and fuel for one car||$140|
|Misc. (personal items, etc.)||$80|
|Entertainment (two people dining out six times a month with drinks, dessert, and tips)||$200|
|Health care (four $30 visits to a doctor per year for twopeople, divided by 12 months)||$20|
That’s a total of $1,555 per month, or $18,660 per year.
But you don’t have to spend that much. The truth is, you could rent a modest apartment for as little as $300 monthly, spend $50 on utilities, eat out for $10 or $15, and drive a fuel efficient car.
Taxes in Ecuador
Unless you are running a business in Ecuador, your tax liability as a foreign resident is very low. If you live in Ecuador but obtain your income from overseas sources, there is no reporting requirement. The practice of monitoring and taxing banking transactions in Ecuador has been abolished.
Foreign residents of Ecuador are taxed on their Ecuadorian-sourced income but not on income earned outside of the country. Income taxes are charged at progressive rates, ranging from 5% to 35%. The first $8,570 of an individual’s income is not taxed.
Most of Ecuador’s tax revenue is generated by the IVA, which translates in English as value added tax (VAT). The rate for this tax is currently 12%, and it is added to most purchases.
Residential property taxes are based on a percentage of the municipal value of the property, and city and rural properties are taxed at different rates. Even on large properties it is unusual to pay more than $200 a year in property tax. Homeowners over the age of 65 pay half of these rates.
Capital gains tax:
This tax is based on the change in the municipal value of the property between the time you bought and sold it. Technically, the percentage is 0.5% of the difference between the purchase and sale price. There may be discounts on this fee based on the amount of time between the purchase and sale of the property. A short time span between the purchase and sale will mean a higher capital gains tax.
Currency and exchange: The U.S. dollar is legal tender
Opening a bank account: Opening a bank account is relatively simple if you are an Ecuadorian resident. Since the country is typically not a source of (or a destination for) laundered funds, the banking controls are not as strict as in other Latin American countries. On the other hand, Ecuador is not an international banking center and all banks are Ecuadorian owned and operated. Most banks require that you have a resident’s visa to open a checking account but most will open a savings account for non-residents.
In addition to providing proof of residency, you’ll need a copy of a utility bill and a photo ID to open a checking account. Depending on the bank, you may also be asked to provide references. The process usually takes less than two hours. An attorney, local resident, or real estate agent can assist you in opening an account, and make sure you understand the rules and requirements.
ATMs: ATMs are ubiquitous in Ecuador. You’ll even find them in remote areas such as the Galápagos. Some of the major banks include Banco de Guayaquil and Banco del Pacífico.
Tip: If you’re unable to use ATMs for any reason, you can get a cash advance from inside the bank. To do this, you must provide the bank with a photocopy of your passport
Moving to Ecuador
Moving your household goods: Once you have received your residence visa, you will discover that bringing your household goods to Ecuador represents one of the biggest advantages for choosing the country. Within 90 days of your visa being approved, household goods are allowed into the country duty free. There are rules that must be followed and we advise you to consult an Ecuadorian attorney for details before beginning the shipping process.
Moving your children to Ecuador: If you’re bringing your children, you’ll be happy to know there are many English-language and bi-lingual secondary schools in Ecuador, including American and British international schools in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil. Keep in mind that using a language preference to pick a school severely limits your choices, which may not be worth it given the short time it takes young children to learn Spanish. In general, you will find the best private schools in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil. There are several excellent universities in Quito and Cuenca.
Moving with your pets: Dogs and cats traveling to Ecuador need a health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian and endorsed by USDA. Dogs need certification of vaccination for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and corona virus. Cats need vaccination for calicivirus, feline rhinotracheitis, rabies, and feline panleukopenia.
Firearms: Although gun ownership is legal in Ecuador, the government has tightened its requirements since 2009 in an effort to deter crime. Carrying a concealed weapon requires registration and a short psychological test, given at a local police station. Permits are available to foreign residents as well as to citizens. Gun clubs and shooting ranges are common in larger cities.
When you move, or if you’re just thinking of moving, somewhere new, it’s a good idea to talk to people who have already done what you’re about to. Get in touch with expats in Ecuador, they’ll be able to help you with any questions or concerns you might have and you’ll be able to compare notes on moving here.
Here are some resources you might find helpful:
- International Living Facebook page:www.facebook.com/internationallivingecuador. This is a great place to meet other like-minded, Ecuador-bound expats and get advice.
- www.ecuador.org. Hosted by the Ecuador Embassy in the United States. It has visa information, but it’s not always up to date. Great site otherwise.
- www.exploringecuador.com. Many links to Ecuador websites.
- www.internationalliving.com/countries/ecuador. International Living information on Ecuador.
Travel Info: How to get to Ecuador
It’s easy to get to Ecuador. From the U.S., you can fly non-stop on American, Delta, Lan, and AeroGal. Flights depart daily from New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Houston in the U.S., as well as from many European and Latin American cities. If you don’t mind a stop-over in Mexico, Colombia, Panama, or Costa Rica, you will have other airline options, such as Avianca, Taca and Copa.
If you are looking for the best airfares, consider breaking your trip into parts: one from home to Miami, and the other from Miami to Ecuador, for example. This can be considerably cheaper at times. Tickets will cost you more around Christmas and from June through August, which is the Northern Hemisphere summer vacation period.
You can fly into either of Ecuador’s international airports, in Quito or Guayaquil, with Quito being the choice if you’re heading to the north of the country, and Guayaquil being the best option if you’re going to Cuenca or the south. If you’re touring the country from top to bottom, we recommend you start in Quito. You will find regional international services from the airport in Cuenca—to Peru—and in Esmeraldas—to Colombia.
Making Money in Ecuador
Getting a work visa:
There is a work visa (Category 12-VI) available for Ecuador. It applies to professionals of high technical levels, professionals of specialized fields, and immediate family members accompanying the professional.
Just some of the documents needed for this visa include an authorization to work, issued by the human resources office from the Ministry of Labor—duly legalized, a copy of the working contract duly protocolized by the Ministry of Labor, a certificate of fulfillment of requirements established by the Superintendent of Companies, and an affidavit from the hiring company or person, assuming the responsibility for expenses incurred by the foreigner as a result of abandoning the country or deportation, accompanied by the appointment, duly registered, of the legal representative—all documents duly legalized.
Setting up your own business:
Over the past few years, Ecuador has made a concerted effort to attract foreign investment by liberalizing its investment regulations. Equal treatment is given to local and foreign investors, so you’ll receive the same rights of entry into any market as Ecuadorian citizens will. Practically all sectors are open to investors. There is a good labor pool, with minimum compensation levels set by Congress (as specified in the country’s new constitution).
If you are considering starting an enterprise in Ecuador, we suggest you look at the following areas:
- Agribusiness and forestry
- Fishing and aquaculture
The Ecuadorian government has singled out these areas for attention, and provides incentives for those entering them.
Making money overseas
If you’re interested in finding a way to fund your life overseas, there are a whole host of “jobs” that you can do from anywhere in the world. These are jobs that you can do from the front porch of your beach house…jobs that allow you to work in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for relaxing, reading, snorkeling, sailing…
These days, the world is more interconnected than ever and the possibilities for a portable paycheck are almost never-ending. You don’t need an MBA or thousands upon thousands of start-up cash to create a business for yourself that can easily fund your life overseas.
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