Ecuador enjoying its fifth straight year as world’s top retirement destination
Is an Ecuador retirement in your future?
For the fifth straight year Ecuador has topped the list of foreign retirement destinations for North Americans, according to International Living’s annual survey. Mexico, Panama, Cost Rica and Malaysia rounded out the top five.. The survey is based on cost of living, property prices, healthcare, climate, retirement infrastructure, entertainment and amenities, ease of integration and special benefits for retirees.
Anyone who has ever contemplated an overseas move will know that the checklist of potential countries gets whittled down pretty fast the more you look into it. Believe me, from having lived in Papua New Guinea for several years, there’s got to be a lot more than great beaches to qualify for the shortlist. This article does not have the room for me to itemize them all the potential downside, but high crime, outrageous prices, terrible food and potentially fatal parasitic diseases all come to mind as pretty good reasons why you might want to look again before you take the plunge.
Taking the plunge
For Americans and Canadians Mexico still remains the preferred destination, at least in terms of numbers. Mexico is close and for the most part familiar. It is high on my list for some very good reasons. I happen to love Mexico, however most people might not be able to take with the same equanimimity as I do being frisked at gunpoint at a military checkpoint and other inconveniences. Like Colombia, Mexico will probably get a handle on the drug wars one of these days but for now it remains a free fire zone and that can be a bit of a disincentive, especially for retirees. The narcos may be mostly killing each other off but it’s still messy. Ecuador retirement doesn’t have that problem.
The Land of Eternal Spring
“The Land of Eternal Spring” as it is affectionately called by its expat population sits smackdab on the equator as its name implies. Despite that it has as close to an ideal climate as can be found anywhere on the planet. The Andean Highlands in particular are blessed with year-round springlike conditions. Anyone who has spent more than two weeks in the tropics can appreciate that the heat can be fine as long as you’re lounging poolside at some plush resort, margarita in hand but if you actually have to get out there and exert yourself, the novelty begins to wear off along with the third change of sweat-drenched apparel by mid-afternoon. That rarified Andean air is so healthy that the Vicabamba region of Ecuador boasts one of highest longevity rates in the world, with many residents living well past the century mark. Who knows? You could even outlive your pension.
For a relatively small country Ecuador boasts a stunning variety of landscapes and bio-diversity, ranging from Amazon rainforest to snow capped volcanoes to Pacific beaches that seem to go on forever. Not to forget the Galapagos Islands, home of the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. More than just a theory… life really has evolved to a higher level in Ecuador.
Here you can literally go from a glacier to the steaming jungle in a matter of a few hours. Without ever having to leave the ground. For the outdoor enthusiast like me Ecuador scores top marks for the sheer extravagance of natural riches that the country has to offer. Ecuador has done an excellent job of protecting its wildlife and environment and is one of the few countries on Earth to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution. Talk about progressive.
Travel within Ecuador is generally trouble-free and most parts of the country with the exception of parts of the Amazon are readily accessable by car, bus or air. Travel to Quito, the capital from the US is usually through Miami or Los Angeles with the typical round-trip airfare being surprising cheap at USD600-700. Flights by major carriers are daily and in many cases, non-stop. Flight times are a mere 4 hours from Miami and 7 1/2 from Los Angeles. At those rates, anyone can go down to check it out without breaking the bank.
Ecuador Retirement – User Friendly Ecuador
For retirees both young and old Ecuador’s affordability is one of the prime attractions and the cost of living typically ranges from USD900-1400 per month. A beer is only 85 cents, a doctor’s visit $25. A house that would go for around $1M in California or Florida can be had for $150K which is incredible value by anyone’s standards.
Gary Scott Ecuador Real Estate Tour
Rents are also extrememely affordable on a limited or fixed budget. It is very easy to qualify for residency in Ecuador based solely on Social security levels of income and work permits or business licenses are readily obtainable. The two most common visas that apply to retirees are:
- 9-I Pensioner Visa: A minimum income of $800 (plus $100 for each dependent) from a stable source, like a state pension or trust fund is required. Your Social Security check will qualify you as well.
Cost: $320 plus $30 application fee
- 9-II Investor of Real Estate or Securities Visa: Buying a house or land with a municipal value of at least $25,000 (plus $500 for each dependent) will make you eligible for this type of residency.
Cost: $320 plus $30 application fee
Once you have your residency visa, you need to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months per year, for the first two years. After the two years, you are free to leave the country for longer.
One of the prime attractions of an Ecuador retirement is the friendliness of its people and the welcoming culture. This is remarked upon by everyone who sets foot here. Expats feel at home in Ecuador and integrate very easily into daily life. Spanish is of course the main language and the more Spanish you can pick up the better your experience will be. So learn Spanish already. Its not that difficult.
If you are the slightest bit horticulturally inclined there are few places on Earth that can rival Ecuador. The richness of the volcanic soil combined with the climatic conditions are incomparable. The land abounds with small farms and agricultural properties which can be bought very cheaply, especially if they need a bit of work. Many newcomers buy coffee or mango plantations as a source of income and hire the locals at very reasonable rates. Others grow export crops like roses or orchids. Ecuador’s uniquely life-enhancing growing conditions ensure bumper crops year after year and the markets are overflowing with fresh produce of all kinds. Ecuador’s natural fertility makes agricultural enterprises of all kinds surprisingly safe and profitable investments, especially in these times of declining food security when prime agricultural land is at a premium. It is always reassuring that you have the ability to feed yourself and your family and this can easily be done on even a modest hobby farm anywhere in the country.
For those more inclined towards urban amenities, an Ecuador retirement has plenty to offer. Quito is a large bustling city with a vibrant core which is also a historical UNESCO World Heritage Site. Smaller cities such as Cuenca and Cotacachi support large populations of Americans, Canadians and Europeans with all the gated communities and golf courses that you might expect. Yes, you can get by without knowing hardly a word of Spanish and never venturing beyond the confines of the expat community, but who would want to? The real thrill of being an expatriate living in a foreign land is being able to get out there and hobnob with the locals. If you don’t have a spirit of adventure you wouldn’t be in a place like Ecuador in the first place now would you?
Land of Adventure
So get out there and experience a life that is so far eluded you in the workaday mortgage-paying existence that passes life for back in ‘the world’. Smell the smells of a foreign land, get your hands dirty. Take the chicken bus. Live life to the fullest. Ecuador is an ADVENTURE and an opportunity to make these golden years (whatever age you’re at) the best and most abundant of your whole life. It will make you marvel at the waste that passed for life in your previous existence. And make you want to kiss the ground under your feet. Yes, chico you have arrived! Welcome to the rest of your life.
This is the chapter when you discover that life is indeed elastic. That you can savour and experience infinitely MORE by slowing down. Thought life’s libido had kicked you in the groin and left you permanently desexualized? Think again! I don’t care how old you happen to be, the party’s just getting started. You have kissed adios forever to that corporatized prescribed netherworld back in the USA or wherever you happen to launch from. Life begins, not ends, around that next bend in the road.
You thought you were over the hill and suddenly you’re reborne in a place that overwhelms all the senses and leaves you reeling with the sensory overload of your adopted land. And to think you could have missed all this by staying home. Bienvenidos a Ecuador, your new life.
Now let’s go have a cerveza, its getting hot out here!
Gary Scott and Ecuador Living
The formost authority on relocating to Ecuador is Gary Scott. Gary, an American, lives and maintains two residences in Ecuador and writes extensively about the country on his website EcuadorLiving.com. Unlike most would-be experts, he is the real McCoy. An economist, he has taught the financial side of overseas living and investing to a dedicated following, including myself, for at least the past 30 years. This is covered in far more detail in his other website garyascott.com.
He regularly locates and posts to his websites the best real estate bargains in Ecuador, both rural and urban properties. His recommendations are trustworthy and reliable and unbiased by vested interest. He teaches classes on Ecuador retirement, purchasing real estate, writing on the internet, setting up businesses in Ecuador and learning spanish, all highly recommended.
The other source of information on living in Ecuador that I can recommend is International Living’s country report on Ecuador that covers all aspects of travelling to, investing in or living in Ecuador. This free report can be found here.