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Life Startup Costs in Ecuador for Expats

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

expat-startup-costsOkay, so cost of living is one thing. But what about life start-up costs?

When a typical person moves abroad, they don’t bring a fridge, desk or even bedding. Of course there are exceptions. One reader is planning to ship her bed mattress along with her other checked luggage (yes, on the plane). But this is certainly the exception.

UPDATE (May 30, 2014): I just reviewed the costs and they remain current and up to date. Although the post was written three years ago, these prices are reasonable to pay today. Last year we bought a desk and it was the same as 4 years ago. Food and electronics have increased but these types of products are pretty stable. 

You’ll probably bring a set of clothes, a laptop, camera and some personal care items. But you’ll likely have to source and buy everything else. Here are some rough costs, to give you a ball park:

  • $1000 for fridge/stove. Fridge is a full size Frigidaire brand, the stove is medium sized MABE brand (made in Mexico, I believe). If we had known, we would have bought a different brand, or at least a better quality model Mabe stove. The knobs are plastic and have broken (as a set) twice already.
  • $1000 for 2 beds and basic sofa set. There are some great furniture shops downtown that custom make wood/metal furniture. Because they aren’t imported, the pricing is very reasonable. Its great for repairs, or even if you want a custom color fabric. A very nice coat rack is just $20.
  • $500 for desks and basic dining room table (very basic – after a year we bought a “real” dining room set – for around $500). Also, we bought a real office desk and chair after the first year for another $350.
  • $1500-2000 for housewares, including bedding, cookware, propane tanks, propane water heater and the miscellaneous stuff, etc. Many apartments/houses don’t come with a calfone (propane water heater) so expect to pay from $150 – $250 plus $15 installation.
  • $900 for washer/dryer. After our first year we switched from using a laundromat (which is cheap and awesome – by the way) and bought our own gear. They are both full size and LG and Samsung brands. The dryer (like the stove and water heater) are propane.
  • $250-500 damage deposit. Most apartments want a deposit. Often the deposit is equal to firsts month rent. So, to start-up you’ll need a months rent x 2.
  • $40 Internet install. You can often get a deal for a free installation. Just depends on the provider, the month and where you’ll be living.
  • Telephone. We don’t have a landline – almost no one does. We each have cell phones – they cost $40/50 ea, and they cost us $6-20 ea per month. You can bring yours from home – they’ll probably work here. They insert a chip for $5.
  • Legal fees. There is no way to estimate these – there are so many different situations. Its good to take the legal/government fees into account when budgeting. If you are applying for residency or starting a corporation, you should get a price before you move here. We recommend the Cuenca Law Office.
  • $700 Desktop computer. A basic model desktop computer comes well equipped for a similar price to what you would find back home.
  • There are other things we’ve purchased which are hard to identify. Allow $500+ for miscellaneous expenses.

Life Start-up Costs: $7990

To figure out your ballpark start up costs, just deduct the expenses that you don’t require. The total above includes both the nice stuff we have now, and the cheap stuff that we either gave away or threw away.

Now to some this will seem sparse, and to others excessive. This isn’t just what we spent the first weeks, but to get to where we are now.

Advice: If you are planning on making this your home, buy good quality things. We went pretty cheap on a few things and ended up replacing them within a few months. One of our $90 desks didn’t last in our move (to a new apartment) and crumbled as it came off the moving truck.

How about you? What type of costs did you incur? Or what are you planning on spending?

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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 Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

41 comments… add one
  • Bebbe Feb 4, 2018, 1:26 pm

    Hi, I am 49 and disabled, we are planning on moving to Cotacachi Ecuador, do you know much about las bing there? We went n vacation mid December 2017 and stayed for 5 wks. We absolutely loved it there. I hardly felt any pain there, whereas to in the states I’m always in pain. What are the laws to move there 6-7 mo out of the year?

  • Paul currie Sep 6, 2016, 7:02 pm

    HI my wife and I are 40 and 45… recently in a car accident and are hopin to retire abroad with our settlement. We are interested in Ecuador. Can you help with a place to start the process. BTW we are in Canada and hope the have 200k to leave with. Thanks.

  • Diane Brown Jan 2, 2016, 2:02 pm

    We just moved here 2 weeks ago. Furnished apartment w/3 bedrooms, 2 bath, inc security $750. Not sure on utilities yet. Cell phone plans $22 mo, Internet/TV $60 mo. I was surprised at how much a crock pot costs…paid $70.00 for a large size. Looking for a comfy love seat recliner, and saw one for $1400.00. Still glad we didn’t ship a container down here, but everyone is different. We do love being in Cuenca.

  • Mark Wardner Jun 23, 2014, 9:12 pm

    Just retired with 1000 /mo. ss income. Thinking about relocating to EC.

  • George Mar 14, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Hi Bryan

    Great site you have here. It has answered a lot of questions that I have. One thing that I would like to find out is, if I come over on an investors VISA. What is the limit on Dependents. I see it is an extra $500 per dependent. Is there a limit on the age of the dependent. My one son is 18 and would like to go with me, would just like to know because I saw anor post here on your sit where aguy and his wife said they are coming over as dependents on his mothers VISA.
    Thank you


    • Bryan Haines Mar 15, 2014, 9:13 am

      How I understand it, there is no age limit on dependents. This can change and should be confirmed with a lawyer or the immigration office.

  • Crysta Feb 9, 2014, 8:26 pm

    Can you find storage? Big plastic storage boxes like Rubbermaid, etc?

    • Bryan Haines Feb 10, 2014, 8:45 am

      Yes, we have a number of those. I’m not sure about the Rubbermaid brand, but you can find good quality storage boxes.

  • James Jones Nov 23, 2013, 10:27 pm

    I am a retired American living the past 7 years in the Philippines with my Filipino wife who expects to retire in 2 years. We are interested in relocating to Ecuador. My wife likes to grow our own food and I like the more rural areas where it is quiet and peaceful. Can you suggest an area for us to investigate when we vacation there in the coming months?

  • Crystal Apr 30, 2013, 12:59 am

    Bryan, I am grateful for the information you share. Can you tell me anything about where to get organic produce and fruits? Are they available there? I am (mostly) vegan and my diet is a big deal. I will eat seafood if I know where it comes from (no farms) and meat if they are raised properly. Is it ridiculous to think I might have access to any of that if I relocate there?
    Thanks! –Crystal

    • Bryan Haines Apr 30, 2013, 4:13 pm

      Some expats have stated that all produce in Ecuador is organic, but this isn’t true. I’ve seen chemicals being applied on small gardens and on large farms with airplanes. I don’t really know the situation with organic produce. I expect that it exists but I don’t know how to locate it.

  • Gary Sisk Apr 26, 2013, 10:58 am

    Start up costs of course can vary depending on how much rent you will pay and the quality of appliances and furniture you want to purchase.
    I was fortunate enough to find a great 11th floor 2/2 condo on Rio Tomebamba in a great area of Cuenca. My rent is $280 a month + $55 for security, gas and water. My electricity runs $30 a month, TV cable $44 and internet $34. I spent $3000 for 4-burner stove, refrigerator, Whirlpool washer and dryer, microwave and 42′ LG TV. I found a carpenter who made for me a sofa, coffee table, chair, dining room table, six chairs, a computer desk and two TV stands. All great stuff for $2000. Dishes, pots and pans and other stuff $400. My total cost for my cedula including Attorney fees and 3 day trip to Quito was $1700.
    So my set up cost was around $7400 I am living the good life in Cuenca, Ecuador. Photos and more info can be found at

    • Shannon May 6, 2013, 9:35 am

      Thank you for the details on monthly expenses! I was just about to ask Bryan and Dena about that. I appreciate it!

      • Gary A Sisk Sep 7, 2016, 9:13 am

        Gracias Shannon of course prices have changed over the last few years!

    • Catherine McCreery Aug 13, 2017, 11:20 am

      My husband and I are researching start up costs in the Salinas area. Does anyone have a resent experience to share from this coastal area? We plan on renting before buying.

  • claudia Sep 27, 2012, 6:53 am

    Based on the cost that you show for start up, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just ship a 20′ container?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 27, 2012, 11:27 am

      From Nova Scotia, the cost wasn’t even close. It was half the price to buy new stuff here than to ship our old stuff. I guess it depends on where you are shipping from and how much your stuff is worth.

    • Gary Sisk Apr 30, 2013, 8:32 am

      How much would that cost?

    • Gary A Sisk Sep 7, 2016, 9:19 am

      Many xpats do bring containers because they might have many items they do not want to part with or can’t live without but daily I see people selling those things to move somewhere else.
      If you have high end appliances for an example they might be expensive to replace here etc.!
      I have some friends that just received their container and are very happy unloading their stuff into their new house!

    • Gary A Sisk Aug 13, 2017, 4:10 pm

      Many expats do bring in containers of furniture for a container cost of up to $10,000 and in I see many of them selling that furniture because they are returning. So it is really up to you.

  • kate thompson Aug 16, 2012, 6:36 pm

    Hi: do you know of any teaching opportunites in ecuador around cuenca to teach ESL? I have a 2 masters degrees. thanks!

    • Gary Sisk May 6, 2013, 1:21 pm

      I have a Polish friend who moved here from Indiana, she speaks 7 languages and has 3 Master Degrees. She is teaching English at Cuenca University and loves her students. There are also private schools you can work at, but the pay is not to good!

  • Ken Neufeld Jun 17, 2012, 6:24 pm

    Because of my love for the sea I have picked Manta as a possible starting point> I found on the internet several affordable apts for rent 230$ to 680$, I would be satisfied to pay this instead of buying I am 69 . I am wondering about a social life, I am alone. Are there good outlets so I don,t have to take a bunch of clothes and are there atm,s? THanks

    • Crystal Apr 30, 2013, 12:52 am

      Ken, did you ever go to Manta? Just wondered how you liked it.

  • Bill Riordan Mar 30, 2012, 5:12 pm

    Thanks Bryan, this article is very helpful. Your blog is really the best. I have already given some thought to what I would want to have shipped. Pretty much a few boxes (standard “Ühaul”type moving boxes) of clothes and also a few boxes of framed photos. If they get shipped to either Quito or Guayaquil, how difficult (and expensive) would it be to then have them delivered to Cuenca?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 30, 2012, 5:47 pm

      Once they are in the country, you can ship them via Servientrega. They are very reliable and inexpensive. Also, you can send freight via the airlines. It isn’t expensive either and arrives within hours.

  • Derek Estes Oct 2, 2011, 12:57 pm

    Great information which is much appreciated. Might I respectfully inquire as to the names of appliance and furniture stores that correspond to your quotes? We have an apartment to furnish in Cuenca and your “boots on the ground” experience is invaluable. Cheers.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 2, 2011, 6:40 pm

      Hi Derek – we bought all our appliances at Chordeleg (the store, not the town). Its near the airport, on Héroes de Verdeloma y Luis Cordero (I think). Its on the corner, with a large sign. They will give a discount for cash, and of course, you’ll get a little gift for purchasing – like a telephone, rice maker or a set of dishes. It a standard way of doing business here and a very nice touch. They should deliver for free within the city. Sometimes you’ll pay a $10 fee.

      For furniture, we’ve used Moblime. They have good prices and solidly made stuff. They make it themselves so they can customize it for you. We bought a huge dinning room table with 8 chairs. While we were looking at it, the saleslady asked if we liked the fabric color (which we didn’t really). She said they would change the color for no charge – and even matched it to a swatch that we had. They are just off of the center at Sucre 4-64 y Mariano Cueva. You’ll find other options and we bought our office furniture at another shop on the same street.

  • John C. A. Manley Aug 10, 2011, 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the detailed account. Very much appreciated. More expensive then we were expecting. It’s making us rethink our three-month visit in December. I think we’ll be looking for a furnished place for the three months.

  • RG Jul 31, 2011, 1:04 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    I love sports especially boxing and billiard. I’m already 65 and retired but I still pound on my punching bag and play billiards at home. When I was there in Salinas (just this month), those are the two things that I tried to look for and unfortunately I could not find it. When I got home here in Florida, I Googled it but got nothing at all. Maybe I’m not doing it right. Do you know of a dealer or store in Ecuador who sells those items? Thanks!

  • Tracy Jul 12, 2011, 11:23 pm

    What about moving all your (growing) household belongings each time? Is it difficult to find a truck, labor, etc, for moving day? What have the distances been when you have moved, just local or has it ever been a longer distance? Thanks!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 13, 2011, 5:53 am

      Good questions. We hired a truck for $20 for the local move and just asked our friends. It really wasn’t a big deal. Took just half a day (the moving part) to get it done. Packing, of course took a lot longer.

  • Melanie Christner May 27, 2011, 1:22 pm

    Thank you for the detailed start-up costs. When changing locale and changing your lifestyle, it is good to get as much real information as possible and to count the cost. May I ask what you know about the farming climate in Ecuador? And are farmers supported by the community? Farmer’s markets and CSA’s and the like?

    Thank you ,

    • Bryan Haines May 29, 2011, 6:17 am

      Hi Melanie,

      Good question. Every town has a market – with one to three main market days. In small towns, its the only place to buy produce and meat. In cities, like Cuenca, you can chose from supermarket or the open markets. The open markets are not overpriced elitist hangouts (like they have become in some cities in Canada). They are traditionally where the average person shops, while the Cuenca “elite” shop at the supermarkets. Kind of a cultural reverse. This isn’t a rule, but a general trend. We really enjoy the open markets, but they can take a little longer than a supermarket.

  • Mike May 25, 2011, 3:48 pm

    You might want to include the cost of fixing up an apartment/house. Our house is in a very nice area ad perfect for our needs. But we had to spend some coin to get it fixed like we wanted. It’s just an expense that we hadn’t counted on. Renting here has a whole different level of expectations than in the States.

    But I thought you were dead on with the expenses. It can come as a surprise to people arriving.

    • Bryan Haines May 26, 2011, 7:10 am

      Hi Mike, you make a very good point. Some of the homes and apartments need significant upgrades just to be safe or livable. Others are good as is. Sometime landlords will negotiate – and sometimes its a like it or leave situation. Agreed that renting is different here, than we are used to.

  • Sandra May 25, 2011, 2:54 pm

    How about if you rent a fully furnitured house? If you just want to live a few years in Cuenca (I`m planning on 2 years) that would be the cheaper option, right? Or is there a market for used funitures/ household items?

    • Bryan Haines May 26, 2011, 6:34 am

      Guess it depends. A furnished place could be $700/month and up. We’ve paid from $180 – $280 per month for an unfurnished place. So it really depends on how long you’re staying and how simple/complicated you want things to be. If you are leaving after two years, I’m sure you could find another incoming Gringo to buy your stuff.

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