The Reality Of Expat Life In Ecuador

South America’s fourth-smallest country, Ecuador is a top expat destination, especially for retirees. Many foreigners choose to settle down here due to its low living costs, colorful culture and easy accessibility. There is also plenty to see and do in Ecuador.

However, living in a foreign location permanently can be hard, especially when the lifestyle is very different from your home country. Many expats from Western nations move away within three to five years of emigrating to Ecuador, after reality sinks in.Below are a few aspects of Ecuador that you should consider carefully before you decide to make the move.

Paperwork

Getting a tourist visa to Ecuador is quite easy, but obtaining a residency permit is a different story altogether. The immigration laws have been undergoing several changes in the last few years and are getting more stringent. Foreigners can apply for a professional residence visa, an investor residence visa or pension residency. However, there are strict criteria in place for each category.

It is also common for officials to misplace visa applications. On average, it takes around 15 months or so for the entire procedure to be completed. Many applicants have to make numerous trips to the capital, Quito, or back to their home countries before receiving their permanent residency visas.

The best way to speed up the process is by being in touch with a professional immigration lawyer and coming prepared with all the required paperwork. .

Crime rate

Cities like Quito and Guayaquil have a high crime rate and foreigners are often targeted by criminals. Many expats have suffered burglaries, muggings and assaults.

This is because a significant portion of the local population believes that it is alright to take from those who are richer than them. The country’s economy and unemployment rates make matters worse, and there is a limited amount law enforcement can do to help.

Many foreigners have learnt the hard way that they should never count their money, use fancy phones, or wear flashy jewelry in front of others. In fact, it is best to avoid letting anyone know how well off you are financially.

Pollution

Due to low environmental awareness among the local population, it is common to see garbage dumped on the roads, beaches, or in open lots all across the country. The lack of a proper sewage system also aggravates the pollution problem. However, this issue has had a negative impact on tourism, and the government is therefore taking steps to improve its waste management system.

Cost of living

It is true that the cost of living in Ecuador is much lower than the US and UK. However, in the cities in particular it is often not quite as low as many people believe. A couple will need at least US$ 1500 (£ 985 or € 1368) for rent, utilities, groceries, traveling, eating out, and entertainment to lead a comfortable life in one of the cities. If you have children, this amount will increase significantly, depending upon the type of education you opt for. Of course, expenses can be minimized if you choose to live in one of the smaller towns.

Driving

Even the most experienced drivers will probably find it stressful to maneuver a car on Ecuadorian roads. Speed limits and basic traffic rules are completely disregarded by local drivers and pedestrians. To make matters worse, the roads are in poor condition and signs are often nonexistent.

Language

Contrary to what most travel guides tell you, most Ecuadorians do not speak English, unless they are a part of the tourism industry. The knowledge of basic Spanish is essential in order to get around without difficulty. This is especially important if you would like to get integrated within the local community.

Experiencing a bit of a culture shock is an inevitable part of moving to Ecuador, especially if you are traveling to the country for the first time. It is therefore best for you to stay in this region for at least a few months before deciding to make the move. However, the country has much to offer and many expats make their homes here successfully. Like any major life decision, moving abroad requires a certain amount of planning and a realistic outlook.