“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” (John Irving)
Ecuador is one of many tropical locations to consider when looking for a new home. Some countries have a low cost of living and some are surprisingly expensive. There are regions where you can’t escape the heat and humidity, others where safety and health care are lacking.
Ecuador has most of the qualities we’re looking for. Even though it’s a small country, especially when compared to our home country of Canada, the diverse culture, climate, animal life, and geography is amazing.
After much research, Ecuador stood out for a variety of reasons. This is not an exhaustive list, only what we consider the top ten.
1. Activities: Lots of things to experience.
- hiking and camping in the national parks and reserves
- snorkeling in the waters of the Galápagos Islands
- white-water rafting in Tena
- floating on a river through the Amazon jungle sounds pretty good
- climbing an active volcano should be on everyone’s list
- walking on the many beaches along the (approximately) 2,230 km of beautiful Pacific coastline
- fishing for rainbow trout in the Andes mountains
- a visit to the Incan ruins at Ingapirca
- shopping at outdoor markets in Otavalo
- riding the train down the “Devil’s Nose”
- soaking in the hot springs of Banos
- bird and butterfly watching in Mindo
- the list goes on
2. Climate: It’s your choice.
- There are many microclimates, but the main factor in temperature is the elevation—from cold high in the mountains to hot on the coast.
- There are dry areas with little rain, places where it rains seasonally, and the jungle, where rain is frequent.
- We’re going to try the coast first since we both love the ocean. If we find it’s too hot, we’ll try the mountains. Too cold and damp? A jungle area may be the answer—we’ll find our ideal place eventually.
3. Cost of living: We can live a healthier lifestyle for a lower cost than here in Canada.
- We’re not the type of people who will try to impress others with our riches—we’ve had no practice. A modest house with functional furnishings in a location that we love is all we want and need. This is totally affordable in most areas of Ecuador.
- We can keep our costs low and live happy and healthy lives. Groceries are available at very reasonable prices in local markets. A bit of haggling—in Spanish—may be necessary…
- The cost of electricity and propane is low and there’s no need for heating in most areas.
4. Culture: Spanish, Afro-Ecuadorian, Incan and other indigenous influences.
- There are many museums, craft sites and heritage buildings located throughout the country.
- 5 Unesco World Heritage sites: Galápagos Islands (1000 km offshore), Sangay National Park (2 active volcanoes), Qhapaq Nan (Andean road system) and the cities of Quito, the capital, and Cuenca (founded 1557).
- There are over a million indigenous people in Ecuador, and about the same number of Afro-Ecuadorians.
- Many festivals take place throughout the country, such as Inti Raymi—the Festival of the Sun and Mama Negra—witches and roast pigs.
- You can enjoy a variety of food including roast Guinea pig, seafood ceviche, and exotic fruits.
5. Wildlife and nature: Ecuador has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.
- 16,000 species of plants
- 6,000 species of butterflies
- 1,600 bird species
- over 300 mammal species
- 138 endemic amphibians
- 106 endemic reptiles
*above numbers are approximate
6. Health care: As we grow older, we’re more concerned about access to good health care.
- Ecuador has modern facilities with highly trained staff at reasonable costs.
- Most of the larger cities have excellent medical facilities with up-to-date technology and qualified doctors.
- The country is also well-known for alternative medicines and natural healing options.
7. Safety: Feeling safe in our surroundings is a must.
- There is crime in Ecuador like everywhere else, with more occurring in the larger centres.
- While there is petty crime such as pickpocketing and “grab and run” thefts, violence is not as prevalent as in some cities around the globe.
- Keep your phone, purse, wallet, etc. in a secure place—use common sense.
8. Transportation and communication: Ecuador has a good transportation system with reasonable costs.
- Some of the best roads in South America wind their way through the country.
- Lots of taxis and buses—airports in every major city.
- Good infrastructure with constant improvement.
- Internet connection in most areas.
9. Top retirement location: Ecuador consistently rates as one of the top countries to retire abroad.
- Permanent residency is fairly easy to attain, with relatively low pension income or investment requirements.
10. Senior (not to be confused with señor) benefits.
- Discounts on airfare, buses, and utilities; goods and services tax refunds.
- You need to have reached the age of 65 and have residency status to qualify.
- The Ecuadorian term for senior citizens is “tercera edad”, or Third Age.
So…that’s our list, and part of the reason we chose Ecuador as our new home…