Financial News

Living In Ecuador, A Guide For Expats

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Ecuador is a small South American country that borders Peru, Colombia, and the Pacific Ocean, with a diverse population, geography, and ecosystem.

From the Andes Mountains to the warm, tropical beaches, clean air and stable year-round climate, Ecuador is a destination for expats looking for a quieter life, with a vast range of places to live.

University towns and cities are ideal for families and professionals, whereas peaceful mountain villages are preferred by retirees and those seeking a different pace. However, crime levels and political unrest can be a concern for travellers.

Read on to learn more about living in Ecuador, what to expect, and the best places for British expats.

Ecuador – Quick Facts

  • La Tricolor – the Ecuadorian flag
  • Population: 17.8 million
  • UK expat population: 70,000
  • Capital: Quito
  • Main cities: Guayaquil, Cuenca, Santo Domingo, Machala and Durán

Visas And Residency

British travellers visiting Ecuador for a short trip do not need a visa, provided their stay does not exceed 90 days within one year. Longer and more permanent stays require a visa, with several potential routes.

Most permanent residency permits become eligible for a citizenship application after four years, depending on meeting criteria and police record checks.

Work visas

There are three types of work visas depending on the nature of your employment and whether you expect to take up a role or start your own business:

  • The 12-VI Visa is available to foreign nationals travelling to Ecuador to take up a work contract with a local company.
  • The 9-V Visa is available for professionals with a degree and fulfilling a skill shortage or with sponsorship from an Ecuadorian employer.
  • The 10-IV Visa is available to technical experts with an established contract to provide services to a company already in Ecuador.

The terms and duration of these visas vary, although they can be issued without a predefined expiry date if all conditions are met.

Expats can contact the Consulado del Ecuador en Londres to make an appointment to discuss their professional skills, eligibility and proposed work offer before awaiting a case-by-case decision.

Initial requirements include a copy of your CV, a medical certificate, a police background check, a completed visa application form, and evidence of payment.

Residency by investment visas

  • Rentista visas were created to allow foreign nationals to live in Ecuador, earning above an income threshold through property ownership. This visa category is now available to expats with a fixed monthly income of $1,350 (£1,123) or more monthly plus $250 (£208) for every dependent. The minimum income threshold is subject to change since it is based on three times the minimum wage.
  • Retirement visas are open to overseas applicants with a monthly guaranteed lifetime income. Applicants must prove they have an eligible fund or pension scheme worth $1,350 (£1,123) monthly plus $250 (£208) for each dependent.
  • Permanent residency through bank deposit involves keeping $42,500 (£35,355) or more in the Central Bank of Ecuador for at least four years. However, strict conditions apply, and the money cannot be withdrawn for the entire period.
  • Residency through real estate has the same investment minimum of $42,500 (£35,355) and applies to any property, land, or combination of properties purchased and retained for at least four years.
  • Ecuadorian investment visas require a minimum economic investment of $25,000 (£20,797), including equity shares and other recognised investment contracts approved by the government.

Further information about visa categories and eligibility conditions is available through the Republica del Ecuador immigration pages.

Proof of vaccination

There are no vaccination requirements for British expats travelling to Ecuador, but all visitors and foreign nationals must complete a Traveller Health Declaration form before arrival.

Taking medicines into Ecuador

Prescription medication should be collected before travelling and approved to ensure it is legally permissible in Ecuador. Some medicines may not be available, and your GP can advise on alternatives or South American medications that may be suitable.

All medicines, vitamins and supplements you carry must have a valid prescription with guidelines explained further through the Servicio Nacional de Aduana del Ecuador.

Police certificates

Residency visa applicants must provide a criminal records certificate from every country they have lived in for the last five years. Certificates must be legalised by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to be accepted by entry authorities.

British nationals can obtain a certificate through the Criminal Records Office.

Safety And Security

Ecuador is relatively safe and has lower crime rates than other South American countries, but petty crime is a major issue in larger cities, particularly Quito and Guayaquil.

Civil unrest in 2022 in Guayaquil also caused disruption and warnings for travellers, with political protests leading to surges in other criminal activity and violence.

Muggings are common in busy tourist regions, and foreign nationals are advised to remain alert, avoid walking alone at night and be wary of motorbike thefts. They are also advised to carry a copy of their passport, keep the original in a secure safe, and avoid having more cash than necessary.

The UK FCDO advises against non-essential travel within 20 km of the border with Colombia, where organised crime and drug trafficking are common.


British drivers can use a UK licence or an International Driving Permit for six months from arrival. Drivers must always have their licence, passport, and registration documents in their vehicle.

Some cities have varied restrictions, and road conditions can be hazardous. Mudslides and heavy rains can make rural roads impassable, and accidents are more likely. Ecuador has a high rate of road accidents, which are often fatal.

Cost Of Living

Living costs in Ecuador are low, and expats who shop in local mercados can buy fresh groceries and produce for a fraction of the average price in the UK.

Imported brands, often from America, are more expensive, but expats can use public transport for around $0.30 (£0.25) a bus trip and between $2 and $5 (£1.66 to £4) for a private taxi. Many people do not own a car since imported American vehicles attract steep customs charges.

In comparison with the UK:

  • Consumer prices in Ecuador are 42.3 per cent lower.
  • Rental costs are 68.2 per cent less expensive than in the UK.
  • Groceries cost 31.8 per cent less.
  • Restaurant prices are 60 per cent cheaper.

On average, one person spends around $785 (£653) a month, including rent, utilities, food, transport, and other outgoings, increasing to roughly $1,952 (£1,624) for a family of four. Average monthly salaries are $536 (£446) or $6,432 (£5,351) a year.

Buying Or Renting A Home

Properties for rent in Ecuador are often advertised locally, with signs erected outside saying se alquila or se arrienda, which both mean for rent.

Most communications are in Spanish, so you may need a translator if you wish to rent a property from the owner and are not fluent in the language.

Expats can search for properties in newspapers or via websites such as Gringo Post, Gringo Tree and Puntosur Propiedades.

There are no rules that prohibit foreign nationals from buying property in Ecuador. Still, you will need formal approval to buy a home within 50 kilometres of the border or coast.

Properties purchased for over $25,000 (£20,797) may qualify the buyer for a residency visa and citizenship after four years, subject to conditions and meeting all the applicable criteria.

Cost of renting and buying a home

Property TypeAverage Rent Per Month
One-bedroom city centre apartment$366 / £304
One-bedroom apartment elsewhere$251 / £209
Three-bedroom city centre apartment$595 / £495
Three-bedroom apartment elsewhere$463 / £385
Property TypeAverage Price A Square Metre
City centre apartment$1,248 / £1,038
Apartment elsewhere$1,078 / £897

Where Do British Expats Live In Ecuador?

The most popular places for expats to live include:

  • Quito, the capital city
  • Guayaquil, the largest city in the country
  • Cuenca, popular with retirees


The Ecuadorian healthcare system is good within the cities but can be limited in more rural areas. Public hospitals provide free treatments, and private healthcare is also available, with varied costs.

Expats living in Ecuador must have comprehensive medical insurance, a mandatory requirement for all foreign nationals. Many private hospitals will only treat a patient with advance payment.

Healthcare is managed through the sistema nacional de salud and overseen by The Ministry of Public Health, which covers hospitals and health centres.

British nationals can find English-speaking doctors and treatment centres through the FCDO medical practitioner listings.

Working In Ecuador

Any foreign national planning to work in Ecuador will need a valid work visa, depending on the nature of their profession, the duration of their work contract, and whether the employer is based in Ecuador or an international company.

The largest sectors are oil and agriculture, but the four free trade zones in the country are an opportunity for foreign multinationals to trade in South America with customs exemptions and logistical access to airports.


Employees pay tax directly through their payslips, although their obligations vary depending on whether they are permanent or long-term residents or a non-resident working temporarily in Ecuador.

Taxpayers are assigned an RUC tax code and can find further tax information through the Gobierno del Ecuador information portal.

Foreign national non-residents pay a flat rate, whereas residents pay tax according to their income bracket, which for 2023 are as follows.

Up to $11,7220 per cent
$11,723 – $14,9355 per cent
$14,936 – $18,66610 per cent
$18,667 – $22,41812 per cent
$22,419 – $32,78315 per cent
$32,784 – $43,14720 per cent
$43,148 – $53,51225 per cent
$53,513 – $63,87630 per cent
$63,877 – $103,64435 per cent
$103,645 and above37 per cent

Social security contributions are split between employees and employers, with an average deduction of nine per cent.


British nationals may be entitled to a UK State Pension when retiring in Ecuador, although this could depend on whether you have made sufficient National Insurance Contributions. Most eligible recipients receive benefit payments fixed at the current rate at the time of their change in residency.

There are no Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes in the country, so it is not possible to directly transfer a UK private pension fund within the HMRC requirements. However, expats may potentially be able to transfer a pension to a neighbouring South American country.

Professional financial advice is advisable before making any decisions.

Ecuadorian residents may be entitled to a public pension through the social security system, depending on their circumstances and finances.

The Jubilación Ordinaria por Vejez, social insurance scheme, provides a pension for residents with 480 months of social security contributions at any age or for retirees aged 65 with 180 months or more of contributions.

Local Laws And Customs

  • Illegal drugs are strictly prohibited, with harsh penalties and prison sentences for drug-related crimes.
  • It is a legal requirement to carry your ID with you and a photocopy of your passport, including your photograph and immigration stamp, at all times.
  • The Ecuadorian Constitution recognised homosexual equality in 2008, and hate crimes based on sexual orientation have been illegal since 2014. The Constitutional Court legalised same-sex marriages in 2019. However, discrimination still exists, particularly in smaller towns.

Education And Schooling

Children in Ecuador begin primary school at age six in first grade and continue to age 12 when they complete sixth grade. They move on to secondary school, split into two three-year segments called the basic and diversified cycle.

After secondary school, pupils can choose to progress to higher education, although schooling is only mandatory from age six to 14.

Pre-primary schools in Ecuador accept students from age four, and nurseries provide places from two years until children reach six and attend first grade.

Most Ecuadorian schools teach predominantly in Spanish, which is the national language, and many British expats opt to send their children to a private school. The average monthly cost is between $50 and $200 (£42 to £166).

University fees range from $800 to $1,500 (£666 to £1,248) a semester or half-term term, lasting 15 to 18 weeks.

Living In Ecuador FAQ

What is the currency in Ecuador?

Ecuador uses the US Dollar, excluding locally minted coins in five, ten, 25 and 50-cent pieces used at the same rate as US coins. £1 is worth roughly $0.84.

Is Ecuador a warm place to live?

Areas in the valleys have a subtropical climate with a stable temperature year-round. Coastal regions and rainforests have greater humidity. Ecuador does not have distinctive seasons but is split into rainy and dry periods.

Can foreign nationals move permanently to Ecuador?

There are several visa routes, and regulations have been updated since 2018. British expats do not need a visa for a short-term stay but must have a valid permit or residency card for visits of over 90 days in any year.

Is Ecuador a safe place for UK expats to live?

Ecuador can be politically unstable, and protests in 2022 escalated into violence. Areas away from civil unrest can experience high levels of petty crime, and muggings are common. Foreign nationals are advised to stay away from borders with Colombia, where organised crime and drug trafficking pose a high risk.

How do I apply for an Ecuadorian visa?

The first step is selecting the relevant visa category, completing the documentation, and paying the fee. Applicants must then contact the consulate in London, arrange an appointment, and bring their paperwork with them.

Below is a list of related articles you may find of interest.

Leave a Comment