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Has the Cost of Living Increased in Ecuador?

Posted in: Ecuador Real Estate, Living in Ecuador

We had a reader question about the increasing cost of living in Ecuador. He asks:

I have been reading your blog for awhile now (great source of info). I found in your blog and several others is that they differ in what the financial requirements for living in Ecuador are. One site states that it is a 1000.00 dollars and another is now up to 2000.00 dollars per month. Can you shed some light on this?

Its a very good question. A year ago, we published our family cost of living in Ecuador. It is still one of our most popular posts. It was one of the things we wanted to know, when we moved to Ecuador more than two years ago. Its hard to plan a move, if you aren’t sure if you can afford it.

Whats the True Cost of Living in Ecuador?

The most important factor to consider is: What lifestyle are you looking to create / maintain in Ecuador?

ecuador-cost-of-livingWhen you move to Ecuador will you:

  • fulfill your dream of having an estate with servants (maid, gardener and cook)?
  • insist on imported foods and brand new vehicles?
  • want a home in the Andes and a condo on the coast and hire your real estate agent on the sole qualification of speaking English?

or will you:

  • live in an average 2-4 bedroom apartment/house, and do your own cooking?
  • take the bus and taxis and shop at the market?
  • house hunt on your own or with an Ecuadorian agent / personal assistant?

There is no right or wrong, no judgement to be passed. But these are the questions you’ll need to answer.

Determining the Cost of Living Abroad

Identifying the cost of living is like trying to determine the best food in the world. Its subjective. There is no doubt that some people can live on $500 / month in Ecuador. Just like some people live on $1500 in the US and Canada. Many people happily live on little, either they have a house that’s paid for or a very small apartment. But many people don’t want to live like that – worrying about having enough money for next weeks groceries.

In regards to cost of living there is no way to please everyone. In our post about what we spend every month in Ecuador we were told both that it was too slim and too much. How can that be? Because its subjective.

Virtually all cost of living estimates are based on basic costs. These estimates never take into account the extras. Think about:

  • Debts (mortgages, kids or parents) back home
  • Business and legal responsibilities
  • Travel
  • Medicare (the in-case-of-emergency kind)
  • Start up costs (furniture, electronics, dishes and bedding…)
  • Emergency / spur of the moment purchases

When reading these estimates, remember that you probably can’t actually live on that much. You’ll need to add more based on your lifestyle.

So to answer the question: Have costs increased in Ecuador? Of course. Like every country in the world. Have costs increased dramatically? No. Over the last two years, we’ve seen costs increase by a few percentage points.

I write this post on a flight from New York to Miami as we return from a visit “back home” to Canada. Inflation is much higher in Canada than in Ecuador. We experienced “sticker shock” every time we walked into a store or restaurant.

For example:

  • We fill our Isuzu Trooper for $20 in Ecuador (it’s just $1.48 per gallon and hasn’t increased in years). We borrowed my brother-in-law’s Saab (sedan) and it cost $74 to fill it in Canada.
  • We eat at the food court at Mall del Rio for less than $8 (3 people, with hearty meal and drinks) . We had 3 ice creams on the Halifax Waterfront for $14. Dinner at McDonalds is around $30.
  • Bottle of water at a tienda (convenience store) in Ecuador $0.30. Bottle of water at Supermarket in Nova Scotia: $1.25

What has gone up? It appears that the crooked gringo real estate agents (*see note) continue to boost prices.

This has caused some resentment among Cuencanos towards the landlords – real estate prices in certain areas are increasing because many gringos arrive and willingly pay (almost) any price.

This is making it hard for Cuencanos to get a normally priced apartment in some areas of the city. If the expats writing about the high cost of living don’t speak Spanish, then their cost of living is high and growing. Its true that food has increased, but like anywhere else.

What is a crooked gringo real estate agent? Who are we talking about?” Please note: I don’t want to imply that an agent is crooked because he is a gringo. That would be bizarre and untrue. What I’m saying is that there are, as in all markets, a few people that prey on both the inexperience and “newness” of others. Some people tend to take advantage of their niche (i.e. being from the same country) – and in all fairness, I’m sure that there are local agents like this too. I’ve seen this pattern among a few expat agents. I’m confident that there are excellent expat agents who use their unique knowledge to help their clients.

There, I’ve said it. Hope I haven’t offended anyone… (its not like I named anyone 🙂 ).

The thing to remember is that costs would have to double or triple to affect most expats in any significant way.

If it cost $1000 two years ago, could most expats handle $1200 now? For sure. But it hasn’t even increased that much. If you are concerned about the cost of living – come and see for yourself. An exploring trip is critical to a move.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

34 comments… add one
  • Wendell Janssen Nov 10, 2013, 9:52 pm

    I am interested in attending spanish classes at Central cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln, Cuenca Ecuador, but I can not find information in English on their web site. Can you please provide me with a link or give me information about: Spanish language programs, Home stays, Prices, etc. in Cuenca.

  • Terry Doyle Apr 27, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I’m looking for info positive or negative about the developments by Cuenca Properties ). They have developed 4 properties into apartments in Cuenca and are doing another, which we’re considering buying into. Those developments were called Casa San Sebastián and Casa Juan Jaramillo
    and Casa de los frutales.

    What we’d like to know is:
    1) have you heard of or dealt with Cuenca Properties or visited the properties?
    2) more specifically, have you or your friends worked with the developer after the apartments were turned over?

    Ashland, OR

  • Bo and Lori Mar 9, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Lori and I are seriously looking at Salinas as a retirement destination. We live in Toronto, Canada and have a 2 to 3 year plan in mind.So far we have just been looking online at various videos and blogs . This is our first attempt at getting more “personalized” information. We look forward to your feedback.

  • Bill Spear Dec 8, 2012, 6:26 pm

    Where can I find a complete list of medical facilities, hospitals,specialty
    Clinics. Due to illness in family must research in more depth than just accepting “drs are educated in U.S. or Europe”. for example, how does climate get along with Renauds Syndrome?

  • Ralph Kinsley Nov 11, 2012, 7:50 am

    PlEASE HELP! I am applying for a retirees visa from here in the US. I am paying $600 to a company called for Apostile and translation work done here. They tell me the paperwork will then be forwarded to a representative in Ecuador whom I have talked to. He tells me he will then take my papers around to different authorities, groups, meetings for further processing and return to me appropriate work to have my passport stamped at the consulate here in the USA. He is telling me that his services will cost $1000. Am I paying too much? Thanks, Ralph

    • Bryan Haines Nov 12, 2012, 6:58 am

      It sounds a little high for one person. But then again, if you can have it all taken care of before you arrive that is worth something as well. I would be concerned if they actually know the current rules and laws here in the country. Things are constantly changing. You may want to speak with immigration lawyers in the country to ensure things are getting done correctly.

  • Max Albin Oct 29, 2012, 12:41 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    We are also from Canada,…. Toronto. We are coming in November for a few weeks. We are mainly interested in seeing property on the coast. We have read your blogs on Salinas, …much appreciated, but we are interested to know if you can provide reliable and honest real estate agents in Manta and Bahia?

  • Dave Baron Jul 23, 2012, 11:28 am

    Hi looking through all write ups interesting I am retired but also sell herbalife products on the side keeps me busy. I am looking to come to Ecuador at least for the winter. I have been living in Phnom Penh Cambodia want a change and a chance to learn Spanish. what do I need for a six months stay there as far as visa’s go? for the six mnth I would like to find a small apartment or small house furnished andnot too expensive as I am on a pension also I am dissabled so can’t walk a long way here I have a scooter to get around in I’m told they don’t work down there.


  • gerry symington May 9, 2012, 2:25 pm

    hi brian i have been reading your blog on and off for a few months we currently live in the dominican republic my wife is a citizen here and speaks perfect spanish and decent english knowing the language is a huge plus and understanding the latino mindset is extremely helpful we have been living the island life for several years now and are no strangers to the goings on in these islands living in the b.v.i. st.maarten and a few other places prepared us for pretty much anything that comes along i am really interested in moving to ecuador but i want and need to work i have been in the construction industry for 40 years is there any work available? i want straight talk no nonsense pretty scenery pleasant surroundings and nice people can only go so far i need hard info not rosy pictures if you can assist me i woulkd greatly appreciate it thanks GERRY S.

    • Jason Jan 1, 2014, 9:37 am

      Unless you are going to set up your own construction company and have the money to do it, chances are slim to none that you will find work.

  • Shelly Apr 19, 2012, 11:08 pm

    Your website has lots of very helpful information. Thank you! I have more to read and explore on your site, so perhaps I am asking prematurely, but I don’t see much information about obtaining employment in Ecuador (specifically Cuenca). I am very interested in moving there, but I am not independently wealthy and would need to earn a living there. I am in my 40’s, I have a Bachelor’s degree, and have experience working administrative jobs, and also as a veterinary assistant. Are there opportunities for people like me? I am an American. Are there any agencies, or other resources that you are aware of thru which I might find employment?

    I appreciate any information and suggestions you might have.

    Thank you. Take care, Shelly B. (Colorado, USA)

  • Chris Jan 13, 2012, 3:21 pm

    Bryan & Dena-

    I really enjoy your inspiring story & blog. Our story is not very much unlike yours-we are tired of the GRIND, and are looking for a change. I’d like a change that allows us to live a comfortable life, and, like you, work LESS and enjoy our kid’s childhood before it is too late…I am on a stable government pension, at a young age, and my wife & I would like to find an opportunity to work occasionally or part-time, and still maintain a nice lifestyle primarily on my pension.

    In researching a potential move to Ecuador to allow us to realize this dream, I am closely trying to determine a realistic budget that we can expect to need to live on. We may be interested in other locations in Ecuador other than Cuenca, but we have not necessarily decided on that yet.

    I have a reasonable grasp on many costs, but some are not as clear. I have a couple of potential costs that you may be able to guide me on, or we may find from others here—educational costs for our kids (we want our kids to continue in an American-style, and accredited, school), vehicle expenses, domestic services, and health insurance costs.

    It seems that we MAY be directed toward Quito to find the schools that I described for our kids. It seems that with tuition & fees, we might expect to spend @ $8000/yr. for each child. Would that sound like a reasonable estimate? I saw that you home-school your child…What type and cost might we expect for some extra-curricular activities? Little League Baseball, dance class, etc.?

    I saw on your blog that you had a unique experience in obtaining a driver’s license, but you did not include any vehicle expenses in your estimated cost of living. I figured that you may have obtained the license, but only use it when you rent a car & travel….Obviously, vehicle costs can vary greatly. BUT, ballpark, what might one expect to spend on auto insurance? Likewise, does auto insurance work there like it works in the US/Canada? Vehicle maintenance costs similar to those in the US/Canada (oil changes, brakes, etc.)?

    I saw that you plan to discuss health insurance costs later, so I will watch for that discussion…

    What might we expect to pay monthly for a live-in maid, who cooks, cleans, does laundry, etc.? I’ve read that we could probably get this for @$200-250/month (in addition to food for her, as well). Accurate? Likewise, what are your thoughts of the reliability/honesty of domestic help? We have read varying accounts. If we retained these services, that is something that we would probably pay a service to help us screen/recruit potential applicants on. Can you find bonded maids, who are less likely to victimize us?

    We appreciate any input we can get on these subjects. Perhaps I will become more active in commenting on here more.


    • Bryan Haines Jan 26, 2012, 12:19 pm

      Hi Chris, you’ve got lots of good questions – many of which need to be addressed as individual posts.

      I don’t have experience hiring domestic help. Minimum wage just increased here to $280 (or $290, I can’t remember) on January 1st for full time work. Full time employees are are required to be enrolled in social security.

      We drive everyday – I have a post planned about the costs so watch for that.

      About public/private schooling, I’m pretty ignorant. We continue to home-school our daughter, so I’m not able to comment about costs. Although $8000 / year does sound very high. You can attend university for a fraction of that here.

      We’ll be clarifying much on our site over the year. Sorry I can’t answer in more detail.


  • Guy Nov 8, 2011, 11:22 am

    Hello Bryan, After living in Ecuador for the last 5 years and being a father of a 4 year old daughter, I noticed that you did not mention educational & health care insurance costs in your yearly budget. These costs can be significant. If you choose to send your child to private school (which I recommend highly) the costs can be above $500 a month. Also, the cost of quality health care insurance is high as well. This is something you would not want to be cheap on in case you were seriously injured or diagnosed with something severe. My daughter was hospitilized for a possible hip infection (which turned out to be negetive) but, after a 4 night stay at the hospital (near the university), doctor costs (one being a family member) and tests, the bill was well over $3000! These are things that can be over looked but, living in a foregin country with your family … we need to be cognizant of these type of unforseen costs.

    • Bryan Haines Nov 10, 2011, 11:45 am

      Hi Guy,

      You make a good point. There are certainly costs that this budget doesn’t include. The snapshot that I posted last year was just that – a rough amount. It can’t cover big expenses, it was just meant to give a rough idea of some basic expenses. As we home school our daughter, the private schooling costs aren’t an issue, and it can be hard to budget monthly for one-off medical expenses (like your unfortunate incident with your daughter). This is more an issue of having savings or health insurance. Sounds like you had a pretty scary time with your daughter.

      Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. I agree that there are more factors than just the basic ones we covered here. We will be covering health insurance in a future post.

    • Jim Cohoon Nov 10, 2011, 11:54 am

      Hi Guy, I must admit I have mixed feelings with the content of your post, but only because I come from different thinking than you do. I’ve had the good job with the health care coverage and all that good stuff and those jobs and the good stuff that comes with them eventually come to an end with a lagging economy or for some other reason. One of the reasons we came to Ecuador is the low cost of living( I can’t afford to live in Canada or the US) I live here without health insurance, why, because I don’t make enough to afford it. Private school for $500 per month?, not in our books, ever. Simply bringing your children to Latin American is an education in itself. Life experience has much more value than most of the curriculum offered in N.A. schools. Much can be accomplished with home schooling or cheaper private schools or even Ecuador public schools. Don’t sell them short. I’ll be having our oldest daughter work on a portfolio which can have far more value than a grade 12 certificate from Canada. Of course my comments are not meant to be confrontational, it just that there are a wide variety of people with different financial means, bringing their families to Ecuador.

      • gerry symington May 9, 2012, 2:30 pm


  • Eric Lutz Oct 19, 2011, 9:49 am

    Brian this is something of importance that need to be made aware of:
    This has to be a rare case but dreadful to think it could happen and I had to be the one to find the wire..

    Throw out your wire brushes you use to clean the BBQ right away, and pass this email on to as many people as you can or tell everyone you know!!

    I’m not in great shape right now… had a piece of wire stuck in my throat from a wire brush that a neighbour used to clean his Bar-B-Q. It was in a hamburger I was eating.

    I had a 2 hour operation in Peterborough the other night (Thursday from 9 till 11) and the surgeon could not remove the wire because of its proximity to a crucial part of the tongue. It’s one of the sorest things I have ever experienced.

    They are worried that it will travel somewhere else in my body. My tongue was so swollen and they had to stop the operation because of the area the wire was in; they would have had to do a tracheotomy on me if they proceeded. Not very nice.

    I have been on high doses of antibiotics and morphine. Actually, today was the first day I ate something solid. I think and hope I am getting better. I’m off the morphine right now.

    The doctors want to see if it’s going to move around, or if it remains in the same area.. they decided to leave it alone and maybe I’ll be able to live with it if it doesn’t move around. If it does move, they may have to send me to Toronto (if it moves or gets infected). There , they will have to do a tracheotomy and split my tongue to get it out (last resort). Let’s hope I will not have to go there.

    The surgeon told me the week before a wire dislodged from another person’s tongue and ended up in that person’s thyroid; which then had to be removed. Sunnybrook also had somebody else this year where the wire dislodged from the throat and ended up in their stomach. The breast bone had to be split to get to it.

    Remember to get rid of those wire brushes and use something else ~ I do not want anybody going through what I am going through right now (especially a child).

    My Doctor is going to an ear nose throat specialist convention in Victoria BC this weekend and those Doctors will be suggesting to the health journals that these wire brushes be banned in Canada . Please pass this letter to everyone you know.

    Note: Similar incident reported by Snopes.

  • Eric Lutz Oct 19, 2011, 9:41 am

    Hi Folks I like your remarks on the small percentage points of the in crease of living. From last spring the in crease of living here in NS has gone up by 5% so we have been told. bit if you check meat prices, they have gone up by 30% 12.50 a lb for T bone.On T bone will weigh at least that much.

  • Eric Johnson Oct 15, 2011, 5:57 pm

    Bryan, I completely agree with your points about norteamericano lifestyles driving up prices. On another point I will ask for more caution, that being the generalizations about “gringo real estate agents”. Please make careful distinctions between those agents who buy up land and promote developments, separate from other agents (few, perhaps) who fully integrate themselves within Ecuadorian life. At the same time, I enthusiastically applaud your exposure and critique of the charlatans that exist.
    Cuenca has great architectural beauty, which should not become polluted with gringo macMansions. Also, the surrounding rural countryside should not be bought up and fenced off for gringo enclaves. We expats must NOT turn Ecuador into what we have chosen to leave.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 15, 2011, 6:40 pm

      Hi Eric – appreciate your thoughtful comment. I agree that there is an need to be careful about generalizations as well. When I wrote the article, I was a little frustrated with a couple of companies in Cuenca that are marketing $200 apartments for $700/mo. It upsets me on a number of different levels. After I wrote the article, I went back and clarified (you’ll see my add’l note in the blue box towards the bottom) to ensure that it wasn’t too broad of a comment. I know that just like anywhere else, there will be good and bad agents.

      Thanks again!

      • David Ralston Nov 13, 2011, 3:04 pm

        Really pleased with this Blog post. It keeps it real and is not selling some fantasy. It does good service to your readers.

        I would only like to add one thing. Ecuadorian Real Estate agents are Licensed BY LAW. If your expat Realtor cannot provide a Real Estate License to your face with their face on it or that face of someone with financial interest in their business, turn around and walk away. Expats will tell you that you don’t need a license to sell Real Estate in Ecuador. That is patently untrue. 100% I can post the exact laws for the inevitable gringo that comes here crying foul.

        Keep up the good blogging.

  • Mary and John Oct 15, 2011, 6:04 am

    Another great post Brian. You definitely hit the nail on the head when you said that the gringos / expats are driving up some of the costs. We receive emails from International Living , Ecuador Living and Pro-Ecuador and the biggest increase that we’ve seen since our visit 2 years ago is the cost of real estate, especially on the coast. The re-sale prices of Expat purchases seemed to have almost tripled. Since we don’t plan on buying , we weren’t too concerned until we started to check out rentals. Makes sense since if an expat buys at a higher price they’ll want a higher price to rent. It’s actually less expensive to rent in Salinas than in a San Clemente ( a very small fishing village) where we’ll be starting out.
    It’s still a lot less expensive to live in Ecuador than the States. We certainly wouldn’t be able to retire now if we stayed here in Ohio and definitely not be able to live by the ocean ( even if we continued to work).
    Agree with the previous two posts, learn about the different areas , acclimate and follow the examples set by the locals. We’re at less than three months and counting. Keep up the great work ! Your info has been a blessing.

  • RG Oct 14, 2011, 1:35 pm

    What really bothers me regarding increase in cost of living are the Gringos. What happened in Costa Rica might happen in Ecuador if the ExPats won’t adopt to the lifestyles of the Ecuadorians. When we were in Salinas, we did not know whether we should give a tip or not to the waiter. We were eating at a restaurant very popular among the locals. Although not 100% sure but we observed that no one among the locals left or gave tips to the waiter… so that’s exactly what we did. We hang out with the locals most of the time and did what they were doing.

    The major reason why we are moving to Salinas (once the condo is done in 2014) is the cost of living. If we stay here in the US, we may not be able to sustain our lifestyle after 10-15 years on SS pension (company pension exclusively for emergency fund). There in Salinas, even with a moderate annual increase, we could outlive our SS pension and at the same time maintain the lifestyle we want.

    I hope that those who are already there and those who are planning to move would be able to learn from Costa Rica and not allow it to happen in Ecuador.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 14, 2011, 1:41 pm

      You make a good point RG. We need to fit into the way of life thats already here. If we create a new way of doing things, it will increase costs for the people who let us come in the first place.

      All the best on your plans!

    • Jim Cohoon Oct 15, 2011, 7:15 pm

      Hi RG,
      Thank you very much for your lesson on tipping and the info on Costa Rica. I know my landlord, an Ecuadorian definitely see’s Gringo’s as “cash cows”, a little bit of info the previous Gringo tenant didn’t share with me. But, I must say, it’s all a part of the cultural lesson. It’s just better to learn the lesson sooner than later.

    • magdalena Oct 31, 2011, 2:40 am

      I would like to get all the information about buying a property or a condo, we have just a little bit of money and planing to move in 2 years with kids. I just do not know where to start. we will be in ecuador in november 23rd. Any suggestions.

      • Mary and John Nov 10, 2011, 12:18 pm

        Hola Magdalena,

        Hubby and I started our plan to retire internationally a little ove 5 years ago. The first two years we did tons of research and got a short list of countries we may be interested in..Ecuador topped the list, so 6 months later we traveled to Ecuador to see if what we read was true..We did what is called a real estate tour, not wanting to go on our own first time in the country. Traveled in areas north of Quito and along the coast between Manta and Bahia. Ecuador exceeded our expectations, we fell in love with the sweet people and a little fishing village San Clemente. Now just had to wait for hubby to get “old ” enough for pension. Five 1/2 years later our dream is being fulfilled as we are leaving for Ecuador on Dec. 11. We started with getting connections through International Living and Ecuador Living. They provide a lot of info, suggestions, recommendations and referrals. Enough info to start making decisions and a plan.
        So first off, have a plan with lists of specific questions ( in pencil, cause it will change) then start getting your answers.
        good luck, safe travels

    • Baryon Jun 3, 2012, 6:52 am

      Hello RG!

      I am pretty much in the same boat regarding retirement (hopefully, in 2 – 3 years from now) and Salinas is on my radar for sure. Could you please share with us your experience buying pre-construction condo there? Obviously, at least you have to know about the good and bad developers…
      To me, the purchase makes sense when you are getting a discount for taking on the risk, the uncertainty and the three- or four-year wait rather than purchasing a resale condo and taking possession tomorrow. Did you find the prices for pre-construction significantly less than resale in Salinas quality buildings like, for example, The Alamar or The Phoenix?


      P.S. In case you would prefer to take this discussion off-line, please contact me at
      BaryonBac [at] gmail dot com.

  • Jim Cohoon Oct 14, 2011, 9:39 am

    Very subjective post Bryan. We certainly dont have any dellusions about life here in Cuenca. You can spend lots if you have it to spend and you can live here cheaply after spending some time here and learning about the area. Learning Spanish will help a lot. Though I still havent figure out how to get 15 mandarins from the Quechua women on the sidewalks…lol.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 14, 2011, 1:44 pm

      Hi Jim – glad to hear you’re doing well here. It takes a bit of time to get the basics of Spanish down, but after that it just gets easier. Knowing Spanish will keep life less expensive – and more importantly it makes life more fun.

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