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?
When 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 thats 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
- 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.
- We fill our Isuzu Trooper for $20 in Ecuador (its 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 MacDonalds 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.