The Cost of Living in Ecuador

A few thoughts and observations on the cost of living in Quito, now that I’ve lived here for two years.

Europeans and North Americans generally find that their money goes a lot further than it would in their own countries. The essentials cost far less: housing, petrol (gas), electricity and water. An apartment in a good neighbourhood can be had from US$350 a month, or less if you choose to live in the Old Town or a more “popular” sector. Internet, cell ‘phone contracts and cable TV are comparable to the UK I imagine, though I don’t own a television. Because the climate is temperate (we’re on the equator after all) homes don’t have central heating which helps to keep fuel bills down (just throw an extra cover on the bed when it gets chilly at night). 

Public transport is good, though invariably crowded. A bus or trolley ride will set you back 25 cents irrespective of distance. A taxi journey will rarely cost more than $5. Be wary of pickpockets on the trolley bus and know that kidnappings in taxis are not uncommon. I speak from experience on both counts.

The gas truck outside my door. $3 a tank.

The gas truck outside my door. $3 a tank.

The friendly gas man. I get through two tanks every three months. That works out at $2 a month.

The friendly gas man. I get through two tanks every three months. That works out at $2 a month.

There are free public hospitals for those in need of medical treatment, but rather like the NHS in the UK you can expect long waits for operations, and resources are limited. I had an endoscopy in Eugenio Espejo Public Hospital in 2012; a flexible tube was inserted down my throat to examine my lungs and take a sample of tissue. The procedure endured about five minutes and was unpleasant. No sedation was administered, just a few nurses to restrain me. And a friend spent three weeks in a hospital bed awaiting a special kind of pin to fix his broken arm; there were none available in Ecuador at that time.

 Private medical insurance however is a fraction of what it costs in the US. This will give a good idea:

Health insurance in Ecuador (with thanks to Pro-Ecuador.com)

Public hospital Eugenio Espejo

Public hospital Eugenio Espejo

Food is inexpensive if you are prepared to shop in local markets and stores, and buy fresh produce. Street vendors sell whatever is seasonal at great prices, like four avocados for a dollar. Megamaxi is a rather upscale supermarket where you can find imported goods (at a price). I find I really don’t miss anything (perhaps Marmite?). 

Domestically produced spirits (liquor) are good quality and inexpensive. Wine is another matter. Nearly all wine is imported (Ecuadorian wine is unspeakable) and hails from Argentina and Chile. Due to import tax prices are HIGH. A bottle of Casillero del Diablo, a mass market Chilean wine produced on an industrial scale, though good quality, retails for around $15, twice the price you’d expect to pay in the USA or UK. And European wines are exorbitant and limited in choice. Beer is very affordable at 0.80 cents a bottle but there are only a couple of national brands.

Street vendor selling Guabas, a tropical fruit

Street vendor selling Guabas, a tropical fruit

Supermaxi

Supermaxi

Restaurants abound at every price level. I don’t think the packed lunch exists here as everyone heads out at 1pm for an “executive” or fixed price lunch ($1.50 – $3.50). You’ll get a tasty soup, a main course, a glass of juice and perhaps a scoop of icecream or a piece of fruit.

Plato fuerte or main dish of a $3 three course set lunch.

Plato fuerte or main dish of a $3 three course set lunch.

Spanish language books are expensive. Lack of demand I’ve been told. A paperback can easily cost $20 – 25. The solution is to find used book stores where prices start from $2 – 3.

Technology also turns out expensive. Cameras, computers, tablets, Android ‘phones and the like are all imported and heavily taxed. Kitchen appliances are costly too.
 Cinema is inexpensive. A ticket can be had for $4 (and Multicines offers a two for one deal on Wednesdays). Theatre is scarce, but there’s a lot of street entertainment, especially at week ends. I’ve been spellbound for hours by comedians in Parque El Ejido, and delighted by traditional dance displays throughout the main plazas of Quito. I recently saw the Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas in concert for free. Public displays of art and photography are common, and there’s ALWAYS a fiesta! You’ll experience parades featuring marching bands, cheerleaders, indigenous dancing, clowns and floats bearing beauty queens. Very uplifting.

Used bookstore in Quito

Used bookstore in Quito

Photo exhibition, Plaza de San Francisco

Photo exhibition, Plaza de San Francisco

Display of indigenous dancing

Display of indigenous dancing

Display of Quindes or Humming birds

Display of Quindes or Humming birds

Clothes are comparatively expensive and the choice isn’t great. Zara is considerably dearer than Europe and seen as a designer label.



Overall, the cost of living is low for expats in Quito. But bear in mind that the minimum salary is at present $318, and the average salary for workers in the private sector $625. Ecuadorians always seem strapped for cash…


Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll be happy to fill you in!

 Or if you live here and want to add something or disagree feel free to comment.

38 thoughts on “The Cost of Living in Ecuador

  1. Pingback: The Cost of Living in Ecuador | South American Herald - The Voice of South America

  2. Thanks for the local slant. I’m going to visit soon and wondered if you could summarize the best transportation from the airport and let me know which airport (new or old one) l’ll be flying into. I’ll be staying near estacion plaza Marin. Bill

    • You’ll be flying into the new airport Bill. Here’s a summary of transportation from the airport (if you have booked a hotel or hostal in the city they may provide their own shuttle; if you are making you own way I’d suggest taking a taxi for around $30). Have a great time in Ecuador!

  3. Thanks for the reply and mentioning the cost. Helpful stuff for a first timer to your beautiful city Andrew. Bill

  4. I am also an Ex patriot Brit who has lived in Canada for the past 29 years. My Canadian wife and I have just sold our home in Calgary and possession is in 28 days. We are both Real Estate Brokers and owners of Carter & Associates Realty in Calgary. We are going to take a short break of doing nothing at our home in Mesquite, Nevada (which is about an hour oustide Las Vegas). which we shall keep and then, once our papers are all in order, we will be heading to Ecuador as Permanent Residents. That should happen in the next 3 to 4 months. I have so much Marmite to get rid of up here, it’s sickening as Donna doesn’t eat it…..She has never lived. We hope to check out Quito, Cuenca and are leaning toward living on the coast somewhere between Salinas and Manta, but we have never been to Ecuador yet. We will arrive with just two suitcases each and are ready give it a whirl. if we like the coast, once we have mastered the language, we will purchase something. Maybe even go back to selling real estate if we get bored. The nice thing is, we won’t have to work if we don’t want to. Good to read your stuff! Do they have marmalade down there? :-)

    • Yes, there’s marmalade but not as good as the British varieties! I’m thinking Frank Cooper and Tiptree. And you’re VERY welcome to unload your Marmite on me. Just returned from a couple of days in Cuenca which I love, though probably a little too tranquil for my tastes. It has some great bars and cafés however. Ecuador as you probably know is fairly compact and incredibly diverse. Visit with an open mind and see what suits you best. Good luck and keep in touch!

  5. You say Ecuadorian wine is unspeakable ……. just how bad and how much? I am a wino and can and have got by with local plonk. Can’t one go to the vineyard and buy in bulk?

    • Chaupi Estancia is considered to be the best Ecuadorian winery but prices are not cheap ($20-$25 a bottle). Production of wine in Ecuador remains very modest. The majority of wine consumption in the country comes from imported products, mainly from Argentina and Chile..

    • The cheapest would be wine in a carton from Concha y Toro (1 liter = $5). Decent wine fom Chile and Argentina starts from about $10 a bottle. Ecuador doesn’t have a wine drinking culture so demand is not high and taxes are high. It’s swings and roundabouts though; everything else is comparatively inexpensive so I just accept I have to pay more for good wine. I plan to visit Chaupi Estancia in the near future so watch this space!

  6. Thanks – that’s nice to know about the carton wine – that’s cheaper than here in UK. What is the local custom besides beer – I read somewhere they drink Cahaca style rum, so is it a caprihinia/mohito thing in bars?

    • Beer (Pilsener and Club are the two major brands), hard spirits and cocktails are the thing here. There are no national cocktail like Caipirinha or Pisco Sours, rather brands of flavoured aguardiente like Zhumir. Ecuadorians seem to drink to get drunk rather than for pleasure!

  7. Hey Andrew, my girlfriend and I are looking to rent for long term (maybe 1-2 months) somewhere, ideally on the coast, in Ecuador. It will be in the middle of some traveling, so we are just looking for a place to relax for a while. Any tips/suggestions of where to start? I’ve been trying to find info online but seems like the costs are much higher than what you mentioned in your article above. Any help or advice you can give would be much appreciated!

  8. Basic income has now raised to USD 318…. still nto enough to live for 1 person… not to speak if you have a family.

  9. Hi, is that minimum wage a week or month? Sorry for a daft questions but I’m Australian and we always work in weeks wages/rent etc, but have found OS that sometimes things are quoted per month? And is the rent you mentioned for a one bedroom apartment for a month? Any guesstimates on what a 3 bedroom apartment would be for a family? Cheers!

  10. Thanks! A month on $300??? Just as well the beer is cheap is all Im going to say. You need to earn that a day over here to pay a mortgage and feed 3 kids. Maybe we should ditch the kids??

  11. Hi Andrew, I’ll be moving to Quito in a bit and I can’t/won’t/don’t want to/shouldn’t live without a special beer from time to time. Could you give me the name and location of the German bar that brews its own black beer you’re mentioning in your post? Thanks! And thanks also for the blog, very informative!

    • Thanks for dropping by Juan!

      The bar is called Cherusker:
      Joaquín Pinto E7-85 y Diego de Almagro, Quito

      Good luck with the move and dodn’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions!

      • Hello Andrew, I arrived in Quito 10 days ago and I finally get to connect to the internet. Thank you very much for the info, I’ll get there (and in a lot of other places you’re talking about) one of these days!

          • Cherusker is not very good, you will get a bad headache from just one pint. most of the alcohol in Quito is made with homemade alcohol so be careful. i recommend drink the bottle beer.

            Plaza Fosch is just hype. The valley, La Ronda, any of the large hotels and local small business had great drinks, avoid the american/european want-to-be places.

          • Club have just released a black beer! A bit on the sweet side but I’m not complaining…

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