So What is the True Cost of Living in Ecuador?
The Tale of the Tape for Two Expat Couples
Of all the places in the world International Living covers, Ecuador offers one of the lowest costs of living, hands down.
Your cost of living will depend on your personal needs, of course. If you buy imported goods at the upscale supermarkets, for instance, you’ll spend more than if you shop at the farmer’s markets. If you enjoy fine wines and spirits, you’ll certainly spend more than someone who abstains from alcohol. And if you live at the beach, you’ll probably want air conditioning for part of the year whereas in the highlands you won’t need either heat or air conditioning.
While we know some expat singles and couples who are living quite happily on $600 to $700 a month, I’d say they’re the exception and not the rule.
Just to give you an idea, here is Ron and Terresa Moore’s monthly budget:
Internet $50 in Cotacachi and $130 at the coast
Groceries $350 (includes alcohol)
Transportation $25 (buses and taxis)
Condo dues $130 (total, for both condos)
TOTAL $859 to $939 per month, depending whether they’re in their home on the coast or the mountains—an average of $899 per month!
Plus, says Terresa, whose previous job was as an accountant and business manager, “Twice a year we fly round-trip from Quito to the coast and that costs us $400 or less annually.”
Keep in mind that Ron and Terresa own their homes outright so their budget doesn’t include rent… if you add $500 for rent you can see that you’d still be spending less than $1500 a month.
Edd and Cynthia’s budget runs a bit more. They report that they spend about $1,800 a month.
“We live in a gorgeous two-story penthouse apartment,” Edd says, “It’s about 3,000 square feet, and we have four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, and expansive windows with a beautiful 270-degree view.
“Our budget includes all the regular expenses and more—fresh flowers, gym membership, massages, manicures and pedicures, and hair care for Cynthia.”
Plus, Edd says, this includes doctor visits. “You usually get an appointment the same day you call, and they generally cost $25—and follow-ups are free!”
So what should you budget for rent? In small towns like Cotacachi and Vilcabamba, small furnished rentals start at about $225 a month. Larger homes and apartments will cost more. In Cuenca and on the coast, most expats spend $350 and up for a long-term furnished rental with the average being about $450 to $500.
Why are costs so low in Ecuador? Good question. Maybe the answer is that in Ecuador, goods and services cost what they should cost—and they’re overpriced elsewhere in the world.
Labor costs are low, too—the minimum wage in Ecuador for 2012 is $292 a month. That helps keeps all costs low, and it’s why things like household help, lawn care, hair care and so on are so low. An hour-long massage: $30. A hair cut or manicure: $6.
And food in Ecuador comes straight from the producer… except, of course, for fancy imported packaged items (which you can get in the country’s modern supermarkets).
Also, Ecuador is an oil-producing country, so gasoline and transportation costs are low. Vehicle gas is less than $1.50/gallon. A taxi ride in Quito or Cuenca typically costs no more than $1.50 to $4 anywhere in town.
The government subsidizes propane costs, and a 14-lb. tank to heat your stove and water for a month costs just $2.50. (That’s delivered to your door—it’s $1.60 if you fetch it yourself.)
What about property taxes? Those are low, too.
For Ron and Terresa Moore’s two homes—their 1,100-sq.-ft. condo in Cotacachi and their similar-sized oceanfront condo in Crucita, they pay just $55. And that’s for both homes… together. And yes, that’s per year.”
As you can see, it’s easy to live affordably in Ecuador.