How To Move To Ecuador
The complete guide!

Find A Job

Ecuador is a fascinating country, and currently popular among retirees, but employment opportunities for expats are limited. You will need a work permit in order to work legally in the country and this can be complex to obtain. Your best option for getting a job in this South American nation will be to teach English, but we will look at some of your options below, including volunteering, for which there is a substantial demand.

You will require a work permit (a non-immigrant work visa or Trabajador) in order to work legally in Ecuador, unless you already have a residency permit, in which case you will be allowed to work. The country has a low rate of actual unemployment, but is considered to have a high rate of underemployment, so finding casual work, for example in the hospitality industry, can be difficult. Recently the lower end of the labour market in Ecuador has seen an influx of Venezuelans, but in addition to this, local companies are encouraged to prioritize jobs for Ecuadoreans.

You may also wish to look at vacancies in international companies with branches based in Ecuador: the low cost of living will be an advantage when offset by an international salary level. If your current employer has offices in the country, you can also consider applying for a secondment.

To apply for a working visa, you will need to supply the following:

  • your passport
  • a written petition in favor of yourself signed by your employer
  • a copy of the employment contract
  • official documentation proving the category for which your job title applies

You may need to supply some additional documentation as well: for example, proof of solvency. If you have an employer lined up, then they are likely to be able to assist you with the application process. You will also need to apply for a working visa if you are self employed.

You will need to pay a fee for your visa application.

Teaching English (TEFL) is in constant demand and language schools in the cities, such as Quito, regularly undertake overseas hire. However, you should note that the pay tends to be low – it will provide you with a salary you can live on locally, but will not give you much opportunity for saving. However, the cost of living is also relatively low (one reason why Ecuador is a popular retirement choice).

Teaching Mandarin is also growing in popularity, so if you have a qualification in this language, you may find vacancies applicable to you.

If you are a member of a skilled profession, such as medicine or the sciences, you may also have an advantage.

Being bilingual in Spanish and English will be helpful. Translation services are also often in demand.

If you want to seek work in the tourism sector, this is limited, and you will need to speak Spanish. Most hospitality vacancies come up in July/August, or in the winter. Eco-tourism is becoming increasingly popular in Ecuador, including jungle tours. Salaries tend to be relatively low, but you may find that accommodation is included, thus leveling out your pay.

In addition, volunteering in Ecuador is popular among gap year students, for example, but you may need to pay a fee in order to become a volunteer and it is unlikely to form a stepping stone into paid work.

Typical working hours are an 8 hour day for a 5 day week, thus 40 hours per week. Working hours vary but will usually begin somewhere between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and extend into the evening. Retail tends to start and end later, and education (in private language schools, for example) tends to begin and end earlier in the day.

The minimum wage is currently $386 per month. Remember that employers will deduct a percentage for your social security each month. As a TEFL teacher, you can expect to earn from $400 – 1500 per month, depending on whether you are teaching in a private school or a university.

You will also be entitled to many of the same rights as an Ecuadorean citizen, including severance pay, which must be made regardless of the circumstances.

You will be eligible for 12 weeks paid maternity leave, with 25% of your salary being paid by your employer and other 75% paid by social security. You will also be entitled to 9 months of shortened work days (6 hours rather than 8).

Annual leave is legally set at 15 days after 1 year of employment. After 5 years of employment, you will be entitled to 1 extra day per year up to an additional 15 days. There are 12 national holidays.

Your spouse will need to make a separate application for a work permit and the same provisos apply to them with regard to the relative difficulty of finding work.

Job Vacancies

You can make speculative applications, but some expats recommend that you seek work when you are actually on the ground in the country, rather than looking for work online.

Applying For A Job

A one page CV/resume will be acceptable but expats recommend that you deliver your details to a company in person, since the personal touch is valued in this country. Make sure that your CV/resume and any qualifications have been translated into Spanish (you may also need to have your qualifications apostilled, especially if you are applying to a university for a teaching post, for instance).

A degree of ethnic discrimination sometimes occurs in the country and there have been calls to end workplace discrimination, but Ecuador has a way to go before this is fully the case.

Qualifications And Training

If you are intending to teach English in Ecuador, you will need a TEFL certificate and a Bachelor’s degree. If you have a Master’s qualification or upwards, it is suggested that you seek work at university level rather than in a private school.

Apply For A Visa/Permit

Ecuador is one of the more straightforward countries to visit, as its visa requirements are minimal. If you are a British citizen, you can enter Ecuador without a visa, although you may be questioned as to why you are travelling there. When you arrive, you may also be asked to provide proof of your return or onward travel. You will be granted 90 days’ stay, but if you intend to stay for longer, you can apply for a visa from your closest Ecuadorian embassy, before your visit. It is possible to extend your 90-day stay for a further 90 days once you are in the country, but this will incur a fee.

If you wish to apply for a visa once you are in Ecuador, you can do so at the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, before your initial or subsequent 90 days expires. If you outstay your allotted time and fail to make alternative visa arrangements, you will be subject to a fine, as per the Organic Law for Human Mobility. Failure to pay this fine will mean that you can’t return to Ecuador within two years.

Visas

Citizens from most countries can visit Ecuador on a temporary tourist visa (T-3). There is no fee for this type of visa, and it allows tourists to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days in a 12-month period – this can be consecutive or non-consecutive. When you enter, a border guard will stamp a dated T-3 visa into your passport.

If you are from one of the following countries, you will require a visa before you can enter Ecuador:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • Senegal
  • North Korea
  • Cuba

If you are not from one of these countries, you will be eligible to enter on the T-3 visa, providing you have a minimum of six months’ validity left on your passport and you have a return or onward travel ticket. You must also have health insurance that will cover any medical expenses you may incur during your stay. You may not need to prove that you have this health insurance, but it is worthwhile to keep evidence of it on you, just in case.

If you opt to stay in Ecuador for longer than the 90 days granted upon entry, you will need to decide whether to apply for another tourist visa or a resident visa. Once you have the T-3 stamp, you can apply and pay for a second 90-day tourist visa, called the Visitante Temporal or VT visa.

Further to this, if you are still uncertain of your long-term plans, you can apply and pay for the Visa Especial de Turismo, which will grant you another 180 days in Ecuador. You may only apply for this visa once you have applied for both the T-3 and VT visas. Visitors from the EU, US and Canada are eligible to apply for this visa without leaving Ecuador.

Any of these temporary visas can be used for tourism, business, volunteering, religious visiting, or studying.

 

Residency

Ecuador’s residency visas fall into two categories: temporary and permanent. Each visa has separate conditions for immigrants and non-immigrants.

In order to obtain a permanent residency visa, you will first need to apply for a two-year temporary residency visa (TRV). This can be renewed at the end of the two-year period for an additional two years, if desired. However, once you have resided in the country for at least 21 months on the temporary residency visa, you are eligible to apply for a permanent residency visa.

Once you have procured a temporary residency visa, you must not leave Ecuador for more than 90 days in each two-year visa period. If you do leave the country for 90 days or more, your residency visa will be cancelled, and the process will begin again when you re-enter Ecuador.


Visa requirements

Temporary residency visas are available in the following categories:

• Work
• Pensioner
• Investor
• Sportsman or artist
• Religious volunteer
• Volunteer
• Student
• Professional
• Sponsor

The requirements for each vary, but for all you will need to complete the relevant application form and provide your passport, with at least six months’ eligibility remaining, as well as a photograph and the correct fee.

Non-immigrant category

Examples of non-immigrant visas are student visas and employee visas. Many prospective permanent residents in the non-immigrant category apply for the 12-VI work visa, which entitles children, spouses and parents to accompany them.

Immigrant category

Many future residents apply for the following immigrant visas:

• Pensioner visa (9-I)
• Investor visa (9-II)
• Professional visa (9-V)
• Dependent visa (9-VI)

Immigrant visas must be applied for in person, in Ecuador. Most large cities maintain offices where visa processing can be managed. All visas, whether immigrant or non-immigrant, can take up to six months to be processed.

Once a permanent residency visa has been granted, individuals are permitted to leave Ecuador for up to 180 days per year, for the first two years. After this period, a permanent resident may remain outside the country for up to five years. Failure to comply with these regulations will result in the visa being cancelled and the process needing to be re-started upon return to Ecuador.

Alongside your permanent residency visa, you may apply for an Ecuadorian National Identity Card, which is an important document that facilitates formalities such as the opening of bank accounts.

Citizenship

Once an individual has held permanent residency in Ecuador for three years, they may apply for citizenship. Additionally, after five years, they are eligible to vote in elections.

 

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

 

Renting Property

If you know where in Ecuador you would like to live, you can walk around the local area looking for signs with ‘Se Alquila’ or ’Se Arrienda’ written on them – these both mean ‘To Rent.’ These signs will likely include telephone numbers, which you can call to make enquiries. Most person-to-person business in Ecuador is conducted in Spanish, so if your grasp of the language is not strong, you may want to find a local translator. You can also search for properties in local newspapers.

There are various websites available that may be able to help you find your ideal home. For example:

Gringo Post
Gringo Tree
Puntosur Propiedades

You will probably need to put down a deposit on any property you decide to rent. You may also be asked for a month’s rent in advance, which may count towards your first or your last month’s payment.

Most properties will come unfurnished, which not only means that they contain no furniture, but also that they have no kitchen appliances – not even a fridge or an oven. You will therefore need to factor this into your budget.

Quito, the capital, has a wide range of rental options, depending on which neighbourhood you would like to live in. A two-bedroom apartment in Carcelen may cost around $300 per month. A four-bedroom apartment in the more upmarket Gonzalo Suarez might cost closer to $1,200 per month. Cuenca, in the south of the country, is much cheaper, and a family home there can be rented for around $300 per month.

Never send money to reserve an unseen property. The property will probably remain unseen, and you may not see your money again.

Written leases are not unknown, but are not standard either. Try to get your lease in writing, and translate it if you don’t speak fluent Spanish. Contracts in Ecuador are not binding unless they are witnessed by a notary (escribano), and you may want to hire your own solicitor to check it for you. This will cost extra, but you may be glad of it in the long run.

Before signing anything or moving in, check the property for problems, such as existing cracks and breakages, and make sure these are noted in writing. Also, establish exactly who is going to deal with them.

Central heating is rare, but given the average Ecuadorian altitude – 1,000 metres – heating is needed. Many properties are heated by propane. The landlord may provide the water heater equipment, but you must hire the cylinders.

 

Buying Property

Ecuador has no outright restrictions on foreign ownership of property, but permission may be needed within 50 km of the country’s borders or coastline (your solicitor should be able to advise you on this). Permission is usually granted when applied for, but it is not automatic.

If you purchase property for $25,000 or more in Ecuador, you are automatically given a residency visa, once you have completed the necessary paperwork.

The process of buying a home in Ecuador is streamlined, and it usually takes less than a month from start to finish.

Once you have found the property you want, survey it to make sure you are satisfied. Local construction standards may not match your western expectations. Verify the person selling is entitled to do so, by asking to see their Cedula (ID card).

When hiring a solicitor (abogado), try to find one by personal recommendation or with verifiable references. They need to conduct a title search to get copies of:

Certificado De Gravamenes (lien certificate) and/or Certificado Simple (simple certificate), showing no one else has any claim on the property in the form of liens, encumbrances and so on
Certificado De Registro De Propiedad Actualizado (property registration certificate), showing the property legally exists
Certificado Del Historial De La Propiedad (property history certificate), listing all transactions dealing with the property
La Línea de Fábrica, showing zoning and potential restrictions on land use, and confirming that legal boundaries of the property match the actual boundaries

Unless you are prepared to make an on-the-spot purchase (which is not unknown, but is not advised), your solicitor will draw up a Promesa de Compraventa (promise of sale). This is a binding promise to buy that outlines the conditions of the sale, including purchase price, default penalties and completion date. This must be signed by you and the seller in the presence of a notary. If you can’t be in the country for whatever reason, then you can give power of attorney to a friend or your solicitor to sign in your stead.

Note that all documents are in Spanish. If you are not fluent in the language, then by law a qualified translator must also be present to represent you. The notaries may have a brief conversation with you to satisfy themselves that you are sufficiently fluent to proceed without a translator.

At this stage, you may need to make a down payment, which will probably be 10% of the purchase price. Do not make any payment until you have the signed and notarised bit of paper.

Your solicitor then prepares the purchase document, the Compraventa (sale). Two copies of this are signed by both parties and notarised. At this stage, you pay the agreed purchase price, or the outstanding balance. Payment for the property is usually made by bank transfer, while the individuals involved in the process – solicitor, notary, translator – may prefer a personal cheque or cash.

Your solicitor then registers your property at the land registry, which conducts its own searches on the property, similar to the ones you would have made at the start of your search. They then retain one copy of your Compraventa for their records and return the other, now stamped, to you. This is now your Minuta, your final deed to the property.

You must pay the necessary taxes as a buyer at this stage – this is generally 2% to 2.5% of the purchase price, depending on the province. There is also a registration tax of 1% of the value shown in the deed for recording the transfer of any real property, plus a $350 flat fee. There is no VAT on property transfers.

Sellers and buyers are required to pay their own debts outside of the sales process, such as for insurance, real estate commissions, etc.

Sellers are liable to capital gains tax for any gain they make, up to a maximum of 25% of the net gain in municipal value.

The best place to search for property is locally. The market is highly localised; there are nationwide estate agents, but an estate agent in Quito is still unlikely to know about properties in Cuenca. If you are not already resident in the area you want to buy in, hire a local agent. They will have their ear to the ground and a vested interest in having happy customers.

Related to the lack of a nationwide market, there is no central repository for sales data, and therefore no way of comparing historical and present prices. To get a feel for what constitutes a fair price, you will have to do your own research.

If you are living locally, then one method is to approach owners of desirable properties on spec. Many properties are not formally listed, but their owners may still be interested in selling. The sources mentioned in the rental section above – newspapers and websites – also list properties for sale.

There are two forms of purchase:

Derechos y acciones (rights and shares, i.e. rights in a property granted to heirs of an owner who dies with no will)
Cuerpo cierto (literally, ‘true body’, i.e. an outright sale)

Make sure that your purchase is cuerpo cierto. If your purchase is derechos y acciones, then you must make sure, before the sale goes through, that all heirs are accounted for and paid off, making your purchase cuerpo cierto. Otherwise heirs – real and alleged – may start to emerge from the woodwork and claim a right to your property.

Ecuador has a limited market for mortgages, and it is relatively difficult for expats to obtain one. You will need to have been resident in Ecuador for at least two years. Expats therefore often make full cash purchases, or agree to a cash instalment plan over six to 12 months. This can be stipulated in the Promesa de Compraventa, which is binding. Interest rates are high, so being able to pay cash gives you significant bargaining power.

Where banks can be persuaded to provide a loan, they still prefer this to be short-term rather than long-term, in order to limit their exposure. Buyers are free to take out a mortgage in another country, as long as the money reaches the seller in accordance with the terms of the Promesa de Compraventa.

 

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Ecuador health insurance

In 2018, it became a legal requirement that everyone arriving in Ecuador has valid medical insurance and remain covered for the entire duration of their stay.

If you are a visitor to Ecuador, travel insurance with a decent level of healthcare cover will be sufficient. Do check the exclusions carefully, though. If you are planning to go paragliding for example, ensure you are covered for sporting activities.

However, if you are moving to Ecuador for the short or long term, your healthcare cover will need a little more planning. The cheapest option may not cover all your needs at a time when your health (and by association your cashflow) is in difficulty.

Expats Can Join The State Healthcare Programme In Ecuador

Up until 2014, expats living in Ecuador had to purchase private healthcare insurance. There were no other options available.

However, the government has changed the rules. Expats can continue to arrange their own insurance if they choose, but they can now access the state healthcare programme as well.

Ecuador’s healthcare system has undergone significant change over the past decade, and government funding has been increased. Around eight percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on healthcare. New hospitals and clinics have been built, and major improvements have been made to existing facilities. The country now boasts one of the best healthcare systems in South America.

In addition, the cost of healthcare – and as a result healthcare insurance – is much lower than in the United States.

The IESS

The state healthcare system offers two levels of care. The one which tends to be most attractive to expats is the IESS programme. This is administered by the Social Security department.

The majority of people who are members of a state healthcare programme belong to the IESS. Each month, a percentage of a worker’s pay is deducted by the employer and paid across to IESS.

Other members join on a voluntary basis and pay a set monthly fee. A family of two adults and two children can be covered for about $100 a month.

There are no restrictions to who can join the IESS programme. You will be accepted regardless of age or pre-existing conditions.

The programme provides cover for primary and emergency care, including prescriptions. There are no deductibles, although if you want treatment or medicines not covered by IESS, you will have to pay for them separately.

Be aware that the paperwork is in Spanish, so you may struggle if you don’t speak the language.

The Public Health Care System

This is the second tier of the government healthcare system. It is a free system which is available to everyone. Many of the facilities and staff providing the public service are the same as those providing IESS services. It covers primary care and major essential operations.

However, it is a separate scheme and the amount of funding per patient is lower. As a result, some aspects of healthcare are rationed under this programme.

Private Healthcare

Most expats live in or near Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil. These are the areas with access to the best private facilities and medical staff in the country. You will often have a choice of several locations for where to receive your treatment.

If you are using healthcare services in one of these cities, you will often also have a choice about who treats you. You will find it easier to locate English speaking staff here, including those trained in the United States. Your local consulate may be able to suggest suitable English-speaking GPs.

Alternatively, you can join our ExpatFocus Facebook group for expats in Ecuador, where other members will be able to answer your queries about recommendations.

Along with short waiting times for tests and appointments, and a more personal service, private healthcare provision means you won’t have to grapple with the IESS paperwork.

Some private practices have a two-tier charging system, meaning expats pay more than local people. The public systems do not do this.

If you live in a remote area: “access to good levels of healthcare can also be an issue” explains Canadian expat Leigh Anderson.

The amount you will be charged to access private treatment depends on your age, pre-existing medical conditions and any other relevant factors. You may find it more affordable to take out a policy with an insurer based in Ecuador. This is because the medical services, treatment and medicines are cheaper in Ecuador than elsewhere.

You can even take out a policy for a specific hospital, which will offer lower premiums and deductibles. However, if you use a different hospital for treatment, the deductible rate will be higher.

Infectious Diseases In Ecuador

There are a number of communicable diseases which are present in Ecuador including Tuberculosis, measles and malaria. Hepatitis A can also be contracted through unclean water in the country, caused by the unreliable and insecure water supply systems.

Ensure you have received a full course of vaccinations before you arrive in Ecuador and are alert to the health risks, so you can minimise your exposure to them.

You can read more about this important preparation in our article Which Vaccinations Might You Need When Moving To Ecuador?

Risks When Visiting Areas Of Wildlife In Ecuador

With its varied terrain and unique landscapes, Ecuador has many exciting outdoor activities on offer. Unfortunately, some of these can lead to injury and death if you do not fully recognise and respond to risks.

If you are heading for an outdoor adventure, always tell other people where you are going and when you should be expected back, and then stick to the plan. Heading off alone can be dangerous, so always go out with others.

There are several risks to bear in mind when out in Ecuador’s nature.

● While jumping down a beautiful waterfall can be enjoyed as part of a group activity following a safety demonstration which teaches you to do so correctly, attempting this without training is extremely dangerous.

● Flash floods come out of nowhere and are lethal to anyone swimming or kayaking in the areas affected.

● Ecuador is home to a number of species of venomous snake, including the Ecuadorian Coral Snake and Fer-de-Lance.

● Road accidents happen everywhere in the world, and Ecuador has many roads at high altitude.

Women are particularly vulnerable to attack in Ecuador even if travelling in pairs. Avoid going into the home of a stranger or any other private space where you can’t quickly get help.

Ecuador’s position on a ring of volcanoes leads to earthquakes. In 2016, almost 300 people were killed and 2,500 injured by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake which caused buildings to collapse. If a building starts shaking, get under the nearest table and stay there until you are sure nothing will topple over and fall on you.

Keep well away from the border between Ecuador and Colombia. The area is rife with Farc rebels who work with drug-trafficking criminals to attack military targets and anyone else who strays into their path. In 2018, for example, two journalists and their driver were abducted and murdered in the area.

These risks can make you worry about the safety of Ecuador, but if you plan accordingly, you can relax and enjoy the adventure. As Maureen Stimola, who moved from Vermont to Tena in the Ecuadorian Amazon for a year, asks: “Where else could you find a giant snake hissing outside your bedroom window, eat grubs, cross rushing rivers on bamboo bridges, have a near fatal canoe accident and hike through the jungle wearing the Achuar Nation President’s square-toed dress shoes?”

Most people who come to Ecuador as a visitor or expat will have a safe and enjoyable experience. And there really is a lot to enjoy about the country.

Smoking In Ecuador

The regulations about where you can smoke in Ecuador are in a slow process of change. By 2021, smoking indoors in a public place is expected to be illegal.

Smoking is currently banned from the public transport systems as well as from educational establishments including schools and universities. National Parks also prohibit smoking anywhere within their boundaries as discarded butts are a danger to wildlife and could cause fires.

It is unusual for restaurants to allow customers to smoke indoors, but they often have an outside area where you can eat, drink and smoke at your table.

Shopping centres are slowly becoming smoke free, but the rules are being implemented at a different timescale according to the decisions of each mall owner.

As a result, you cannot be certain whether any location you visit will or will not allow smoking. Normally the presence of ashtrays will tip you off, plus you will probably see someone smoking if it is permitted. You can also always ask staff what the rules of their establishment are.

The Ecuadorian government is trying to reduce the number of smokers in the country and the diseases that smoking causes. As a result, cigarette packages will display large and unmistakable warnings about the harm smoking does.

 

Open A Bank Account

Making plans to move abroad can be time-consuming. After all, each country has its own rules, its own regulations and its own processes—including with regard to banking. But the good news is that in Ecuador anybody can open an account with the right documents—including foreign nationals. So, if you’re looking to open a bank account in Ecuador, here’s what you need to know.

What documents are needed to open an account?

You may wish to keep your bank account back home, which many expats choose to do. However, if you’re moving to Ecuador, you will need to open a bank account there, too. This is especially the case if you are planning to work in the country, as employers make it a requirement for salary transfers.

If you don’t speak Spanish, you may want to take a Spanish-speaking friend or translator with you when you go to open your account. You will also need to take certain documents along with you.

The documents (and photocopies!) that you need will vary depending upon the account type you’re trying to open, as well as the bank you’re looking to open it with. But typically, you’ll need the following:

  • A deposit to open the account—usually around 300 USD
  • Your passport and coloured copies (black and white copies will not be accepted)
  • Proof of address—this can be in the form of a utility bill that’s less than two months old or a signed rental contract
  • Your residence card plus a coloured photocopy
  • A copy of your work contract
  • A letter of recommendation from somebody who has an account at your chosen bank

Although the above documents are typically requested, each bank will have its own requirements. So, if you’re unsure what you will need, it’s always best to check with them in advance. This will save you from having to make multiple trips back and forth.

What are the main banks in Ecuador?

If you’re looking for an international bank, there’s only one that operates in Ecuador: Citibank. However, there are numerous reliable local banks to choose from, such as:

If you’re not sure which bank to go for, it’s worth shopping around to see which bank’s requirements you meet, and which has the most suitable account type for your personal finances. Banking hours in Ecuador are short, with most operating between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm. However, some branches do reopen after lunch, so it’s important to check before you visit.

How to open a bank account

To open a bank account, it’s best to head into a branch in-person and ask an advisor to help you set one up. You’ll need to let them know whether you’re planning to open a savings account or a checking account. Bear in mind that you can only open a checking account if you are a resident, or if you have made an investment into Ecuador, such as through purchasing property.

If you’re opening a checking account, then, in addition to the documents mentioned previously, you’ll need to take a notarised copy of your real estate deed (known as Escritura Publica) or proof that you have invested at least 25,000 USD into the country. You may have done this through either a bank deposit or a business enterprise.

If you’re in Ecuador temporarily, you’ll be able to open a savings account without these documents.

It’s important to note that queueing at the bank is somewhat of a national sport in Ecuador, and you’ll need to practice endurance—especially as mobile phone use is not allowed whilst you are standing in line!

Once your contract is signed and your account has been opened, you’ll receive your debit card—this will be about a week later. It is important to ensure that you have access to other finances until you can take out money from your account.

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

Save On Money Transfers

Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers

Learn The Language

If you are intending to live and work in Ecuador, one of your first questions will be regarding your ease of communication. Which languages are spoken in Ecuador and how widespread is the use of English? We will answer some of your questions below.

The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, but many different languages are spoken here. Many of the Native population speak Quechua, which is an Incan language and which has a number of dialects of its own, but in addition local people may speak other indigenous languages such as Awa pit and Shuar. Some of these are on the UNESCO endangered list and you may not even come across them. Quechua itself was imposed on the population by the Inca, and displaced a number of local languages: only traces of these now remain.

However, over 90% of the Ecuadorean population speak Spanish, held by some linguists to be the purest form of Spanish in South America although some dialects have nonetheless been influenced by Quechua and other tongues. Spanish has been spoken in Ecuador since the 16th Century and is the main language of commerce. It does have several regional variations:

• Amazonic
• Andean
• Equatorial Coastal (a form of Spanish which has Andalusian characteristics)

If you are Spanish speaking, however, you should have little difficulty in making yourself understood. It is recommended to have at least some basic phrases:

• meet and greet
• numbers
• directions
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)

You can survive in Ecuador if you do not speak Spanish, but you may struggle. English is not that widespread in the country and many locals do not speak it. Thus it is important to learn some Spanish, preferably before you go, not just for the sake of politeness but also for practical reasons. If you are working for an Ecuadorean company, you will find that Spanish is the language of commerce; you are most likely to find English spoken in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Local people have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming, so your efforts to speak Spanish will be appreciated.

You can use digital methods, but take a good phrasebook along as well in case you find yourself in a region with limited wifi or mobile phone reception.

You will find plenty of opportunity when it comes to learning Spanish in Ecuador, as language training is to be found across the country: in Quito, the Amazon jungle, Guayaquil, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands. Expat learners report a preference for choosing Quito for language training: locals have a reputation for speaking slowly, thus making it an ideal location for people who are coming to Spanish for the first time. Costs for language learning are also cheap, and you will find yourself in an immersive Spanish environment.

If you have a TEFL certificate, you may wish to explore the option of teaching in Ecuador. Most jobs will be in Quito but if you are adventurous, you may wish to explore the possibility of teaching in other regions: Ecuador is extremely diverse geographically and teaching is an ideal way to explore. Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil all have universities and you may consider approaching these for work, but university towns also tend to have opportunities for private tuition. If you have a Master’s qualification or upwards, it is suggested that you seek work at university level rather than in a private school. Guayaquil is a big port and commercial centre, with opportunities to teach business English, and Cuenca is a major tourist centre with a steady demand for EFL teachers.

It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). You will require a work permit (a non-immigrant work visa or Trabajador) in order to work legally in Ecuador, unless you already have a residency permit, in which case you will be allowed to work.

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.

Most institutions prefer at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work, although schools in Ecuador may not insist on it. Salaries are not high – around US$400 – 800 per month – but are commensurate with the cost of living.

If you want to seek work in the tourism sector, this is limited, and you will need to speak Spanish. Most hospitality vacancies come up in July/August, or in the winter. Eco-tourism is becoming increasingly popular in Ecuador, including jungle tours.

There are opportunities to work in Ecuador as an interpreter and translator, but your Spanish will obviously need to be of an extremely high standard and it is preferable to have qualifications in interpretation and translation.

 

Choose A School

The government of Ecuador spends around 4 – 5% of GDP on education, which is average by OECD reporting standards. However, the education system is seen by many as perpetuating the disadvantages faced by the rural/poorer population. That said, the literacy rate still stands at around 94%, and there has been a significant government-led effort to create extra vocational qualification opportunities for Ecuadorian children. However, many still drop out of school early, especially in rural areas where they are frequently required to work on the farms and plantations.

State education in Ecuador is compulsory for ages 6 – 14 and is provided free, although families generally have to find money for materials and transport. The curriculum at all levels is set by the Ministry of Education. The system has undergone massive reforms, with ongoing government-led drives to improve equality and standards. Alongside the state system, there are a significant number of private schools, many of which are run by the Church. There are roughly 60 universities and colleges, and many technical/vocational institutions.

There are also a few independently run international schools, where multilingualism is strongly encouraged, and generally classes are given in English and Spanish.

If you are coming to Ecuador, you will find that the education system here is of course very different from the UK or US systems. For a start, all lessons in state schools will be conducted in Spanish. If your child needs Spanish tuition to be able to enter the state system, this is best arranged beforehand or locally on arrival.

State education provisions, controlled by the Ministry of Education, are divided into several levels:

• pre-primary (optional before age 6)
• primary education (from 6 to 10)
• middle school (from age 11 – 14)
• upper secondary school (from age 15 – 18) or
• technical/vocational programs (from age 15 – finish)

After completion of compulsory middle school, students will have to choose whether to continue with general academic studies in upper secondary school with the ultimate aim of going on to university. Alternatively, they can enter a technical school or vocational program, where subjects would include teaching, medicine, construction, engineering, IT, agriculture and many other fields. The duration of tuition will depend on the field chosen, but is typically 3–6 years.

Tertiary education is provided by colleges or universities. The Universidad San Francisco de Quito has a recognizable two-tier program and a business school, plus added online learning facilities. Although it is well thought of locally, USFQ is not necessarily held in high regard internationally.

Homeschooling is an increasingly popular option with expats for a number of reasons, including flexibility. Homeschooling is legal in Ecuador, but the regulations surrounding it are under review, so it is vital to research thoroughly, and to contact local expat support groups if you are considering this route for your children.

Private schools will generally have a similar curriculum to that in state schools, but are increasingly used by middle class locals and foreign nationals who feel that they might give their children a better education than that provided by the state.

There are also a number of international schools, situated mainly in Guayaquil or Quito, mainly bilingual English/Spanish. These run various US, UK or European curricula, with several offering the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). The IB is widely recognized throughout the world by further education institutions, for those wanting to go on and attend foreign universities.

Here are just a few of the international schools in Ecuador:

• American School, Gauyaquil (bilingual, IBDP)
• Inter-American Academy, Guayaquil (US to high school diploma)
• Colegio Aleman, Guayaquil (German curriculum, with added langages)
• Alliance Academy International, Quito (US, ACSI accredited)
• American School, Quito (US, IBDP)
• Colegio Sebastian de Alcazar, Quito (bilingual state-funded IBDP)
• British School, Quito (English National curriculum, with additional Spanish, IBDP and American SAT1)
• Lycee Franco-equatorien La-Condamine, Quito (French)

There are others to choose from depending on your eventual destination in the country and your needs and budget.

You need to be aware that international schools are in general very popular with expats, so it will be necessary to contact them as soon as possible to secure a place for your child. Fees can also be quite expensive, which may need to be factored in to contract negotiations with your employer.