Ecuador Frequently Asked Questions
Purchasing property as a foreigner in Ecuador; Visiting Ecuador; Living in Ecuador; and Related Subjects
1. Real Estate
1.1 Can foreign residents buy property in Ecuador?
Yes-Ecuador allows foreign citizens the same property rights as nationals.
1.2 Are properties purchased in Ecuador fee simple or leasehold ?
Properties bought and sold in Ecuador a fee simple, meaning you own the land and any improvements made to that land outright and in perpetuity.
1.3 Can I get clear title to the land/property?
We purchase and/or provide listings for properties that have a clear, legal title. However, we always advise our clients to hire their own lawyer to represent their interests. When you make a purchase, the deed will be legally transferred from the previous owner's name to yours via a Notary Public and the property will be registered in your name in the Registry of Properties (see below for more details on the buying process)
1.4 What is the buying process like?
As described above, a Notary Public oversees and documents the legal transfer of title from the seller to the buyer. From there, the property is officially registered in the new owner's name. The process from the buyer's end takes between 1-2 days and typically costs less than $1000 (although this varies depending on the cost of the property). Typically, a bank transfer is made from one account to the other. It is possible to make purchases and to transfer deeds without being present here in Ecuador through the use of Power of Attorneys.
A thorough description of the process can be found HERE.
1.5 Can I purchase a property from abroad?
The ideal situation is to be here in person when buying. However, if that is not an option, there are basically two means of purchasing properties from afar.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: One option is to assign a limited power of attorney (POA) to a legal representative in Ecuador who will purchase the property on your behalf. This POA document is drawn up by an Ecuadorian lawyer in Spanish (along with an English version if you aren't fluent in Spanish). The document would need to be notarized and apostilled/legalized in your home country and then mailed to Ecuador using FedEX of DHL. Some US states and countries would also require the document to be translated to English by a certified translator.
OFFICIAL AGENT: Another purchase option is to name an "agente oficioso" or official agent who buys the property on your behalf. The purchase must be legally accepted by the buyer before it may be resold or used for establishing residency, etc.
We've had clients successfully purchase properties from afar using both approaches. The POA requires more paperwork up front to get the POA document legalized for use in Ecuador. The official agent approach is quicker up-front but has more expenses and paperwork later at the time of the legal acceptance of the purchase.
1.6 Is financing available?
Generally speaking, no. Bank interest rates in Ecuador are high, 12% and upwards. Some sellers might be open to an owner-financed option, usually with a hefty down payment.
1.7 Why is the municipal value of the property lower than the purchase price?
The municipal value of a property is specified on the property deed. This value is usually only a fraction of the actual purchase price or market value of the property. The municipal value, or the assessed value, is used to calculate property taxes which explains why annual taxes on a $100,000 beachfront condo come to about $60.
1.8 Are building permits required to build or renovate?
Yes, building permits are required by the governing municipality and setbacks from roads (real and planned) and neighboring constructions are enforced. The architect/engineer in charge of managing the construction can take care of any necessary permits.
1.9 How much would it cost to build a house?
A custom home can typically be built for approximately $65/sq. ft. (including design/material/labor costs).
1.10 How much are property taxes?
You can generally expect to pay less than $100/year in property taxes for a built beachfront property. For bare land, taxes are far less. A description of real estate taxes can been seen HERE.
1.11 Where are your properties located?
We have property listings that span much of the coast of Ecuador; however, the majority of our properties are located in the Manabi province between Manta and Canoa. Please check out our Maps page for more in depth details.
2. About Ecuador's Central Coast
2.1 What is the climate like?
The coast of Ecuador has two seasons: wet and dry. To get an idea of average monthly temps and rainfall for the region, check out our climate blog entry.
The rainy season is approximately December - April and paradoxically this is also the sunniest time of the year (think morning rain with the sun coming out full force in the afternoon).
The dry season is typically overcast yet still warm although there are also many days of full sunshine. Temperatures year-round are 70-90 degrees F.
2.2 What are the beaches like?
The beach characteristics in the region where we work vary depending on location but the waters are swimmable year-round. The best surf in the Central Coast can be found in Canoa. However, good surf spots can be found along much of Ecuador's coast.
Trash on the beach can sometimes be an unsightly issue in some areas. However, a recent national plastics recycling program has reduced plastics dramatically. A growing consciousness to promote investment and tourism has also led to cleaner beaches in many areas.
The beaches in Canoa and "the Boca" area of Crucita/San Jacinto are sandy, flat and there is lots of wide , even during high tide.
In the southern end of Crucita, the beach often contains rocks and pebbles (although the amount changes substantially throughout the year). There are tide pools along rock shelves during very low tides where fishermen collect lobsters and oysters. It is uncrowded and undeveloped for miles until you arrive to Jaramijo, just north of Manta. Just be sure to time your walk as the tide is falling.
Similarly, there is still very little development north of beautiful San Clemente until you reach Bahia de Caraquez, promising miles of coastal solitude (again, only at a falling tide!).
2.3 Is there good fishing?
Yes-In fact, Manta is known as the tuna capital of the world. Other fish commonly available are mahi-mahi, swordfish, seabass and other tasty delights, usually costing somewhere around $3/lb or less for steaks, fresh off the fishing boat (and often skillfully filleted with a machete). Sport fishing is still an untapped niche along much of the Ecuadorian coast.
2.4 Are there lots of mosquitoes and other bugs?
If you live along the beachfront where there is a consistent onshore breeze, bugs aren't a real problem, especially compared to other places we've lived, like Florida! That said, insects such as mosquitoes can be a nuisance, particularly during the rainy season (Dec-May).
2.5 When is whale watching season?
Humpback whale-watching season is from June-October.
3. Health and Safety
3.1 Are these areas safe?
These small coastal communities tend to be very safe. However, as always, it is important to practice common sense. Women should not walk alone at night in isolated areas. You should keep expensive belongings out of sight on your person, in homes, and in vehicles. Flagrant displays of wealth attract unwanted attention.
3.2 Are there hospitals nearby?
There are small government and private clinics and/or hospitals in most rural towns in this area (Charapoto, Rocafuerte, Crucita, San Jacinto, San Clemente, Bahia).
Better equipped and higher quality care is available in hospitals and clinics in Manta and Portoviejo. Clinica San Antonio is a nice, private clinic in Portoviejo that we have used on several occasions.
Both Guayaquil and Quito have modern hospitals. We once used Hospital Metropolitano for a medical emergency in Quito and were very impressed by the quality of care and affordability.
3.3 What would I do about medical insurance?
The cost of medical treatment in Ecuador is extremely inexpensive or even free if you receive care at a public hospital. However, many people choose to ensure that their insurance covers them while they are living and/or traveling abroad. Here is a link with a few different international insurance plans: http://www.internationalcitizens.com/health_insurance/
We currently use IntegraGlobal which covers us worldwide, including the US as a PPO. There are also many Latin American based policies, some which offer coverage in the US as well.
3.4 Are there any vaccines that are necessary?
There are no required vaccinations to enter the country but it is s a very good idea to have vaccinations for tetanus, Hepatitis A/B and typhoid.
Malaria is not an issue along the central coast of Ecuador. However, if you plan to spend time in the Oriente (the lowland jungle) you should consider purchasing anti-malaria meds and getting a Yellow Fever vaccination.
While Malaria is not an issue along the Central Coast, be aware that there are incidences of dengue fever and chikungunya, both of which are mosquito-borne diseases so be sure to bring mosquito repellent and consider wearing long sleeves and pants in the evenings.
3.5 Can I get vaccinations in Ecuador?
Vaccinations are very inexpensive in Ecuador so you might consider getting them here to save money. Clinica San Antonio in Portoviejo offers them at very affordable prices. They are also available for free in most "sub-centros de salud," which are government-run health centers that are in each town. However, each clinic has certain days when vaccinations are given so you have to coordinate in advance.
4.1 What is the currency used?
U.S. dollars is the currency of Ecuador.
4.2 What are your suggestions for bringing money?
Cash –bring money in small denominations, nothing over 20 with plenty of 10s, 5s and even 1s. You will quickly discover that it is difficult for taxis, restaurants, vendors, etc. to provide change for 10 and 20 dollar bills.
ATMs are by far the best way to get money. Be sure to let your bank know ahead of time that you will be in Ecuador so they don’don't block your account. Be sure to ask what foreign transaction fees you will be charged. To limit these charges as well as the number of bank trips you need to make, you may want to consider asking your bank to raise your daily withdrawal limit (although sometimes the maximum withdrawal might end up being dictated by the specific ATM machine you are using).
If you plan to purchase property during your visit in Ecuador, you should check with your bank to determine whether any arrangements need to be made in advance for making international wire transfers from abroad.
4.3 Can I bring traveler’s checks?
Don’t bother with traveler’s checks—it is extremely difficult to find banks that will cash them.
4.4 What credit cards are accepted?
Higher-end hotels, restaurants and stores will usually accept credit cards with Visa and Mastercard logos; however, they will usually charge an additional fee. Diner's Club is also widely used.
4.5 Is tipping common?
In Ecuador, tipping is not common nor is it expected, especially in the cases of taxis and waiters (except for higher-end restaurants where it is often added as 10% service charge).
For other cultural norms and etiquette in Ecuador check out the useful and enlightening book, CultureShock Ecuador: A survival guide to customs & etiquette.
5. Costs of Living
5.1 What is the price of gas and electricity?
We pay about $0.06/kW-hr for electricity. Propane is currently sold for about $2.50 for a 30 lb tank and is commonly used for kitchen stoves, clothes dryers, and on-demand water heaters because of its affordability. However, gas prices may increase sharply in the future when gas subsidies are eliminated in favor of expanding the country's hydroelectricity.
5.2 What is the price water?
We currently pay $0.80/cubic meter in San Clemente and use roughly 30 cubic meters per month.
5.3 What does gasoline cost?
Gas prices are regulated by the government and is $1.43/gallon; diesel is $1.03.
5.4 Is it cheap to buy a vehicle in Ecuador?
It is considerably more expensive to buy a new or used vehicle here. The good news is that used vehicles if they're cared for tend to hold their value so you can sell the vehicle for about the same price you bought it for a couple years prior. You will be charged high import taxes for bringing your car from abroad and only relatively new cars (4 years old or less) are allowed. For more details, check out: http://ecuadorrealestate.org/how-to-import-a-car-to-ecuador/
5.5 Can I live on a $1000/month?
It is possible if you live frugally and we do know a couple of people who do but depending on your lifestyle, about $1500-2000/mo for a couple would allow you to live comfortably.
6. Daily Necessities
6.1 How is access to potable water?
Water access: Each home has a cistern that is filled a couple of times per week with city water. In more remote areas not yet connected to city water, cisterns are filled as needed by a water truck.From the cistern a water pump is used to deliver water to the home under pressure. The water comes from a treatment plant but precaution is advised and the water should not be considered potable! For a more detailed description, check out our blog post about the Water and Wastewater Scene along the coast of Ecuador.
6.2 What voltage is used there?
The voltage used here is 110V (same as U.S.). For higher loads, like air conditioning, 220V is available. Outlets are typically compatible with US 3-prong plugs (although you might see 2-prong outlets as well, so carry an adaptor for laptops, etc. if needed).
6.3 Is internet access fast and reliable?
For the last five or so years, there used to be just one small satellite-based internet company. The connection was very slow and unreliable and the service was expensive ($50/month for ~0.7 Mps). Now the country's national telecommunications company (CNT) has expanded its reach and offers 4 Mps for around $20/month in most areas between Manta to Canoa. Internet speed and reliability will continue to improve with Ecuador now building the largest fiber optic cable factory in Latin America.
6.4 What do you do for making and receiving phone calls?
You can purchase a basic cell phone for around $40 here and then use prepaid calling cards (no plan or contract is required). There are 2 main companies: Claro or Movistar.
If bringing your own phone, make sure it has a 850 or 1900 MHz frequency or else it won't be compatible with local SIM cards.
For international calls, we recommend either Skype or magicJack, both of which allow you to make and receive calls via internet anywhere in the world.
6.5 Where do you go for buying food?
Many towns have weekly markets for buying fresh produce, meat, etc. There are also "roving markets", e.g. trucks or carts selling produce on a regular basis. Once they know you're a regular buyer, they'll stop by roughly the same day and time each week. Very handy!
For mid-week shopping of basic supplies you can visit the small "ma and pop" shops available in any town. These shops often sell their goods through a window and have a deceptively large amount of inventory on hand that you just have to know to ask for, including milk, eggs, chicken by the pound, flour, sugar, instant coffee.
And finally, for buying less common or higher end foods (think dark chocolate, whole grain bread, good coffee, goat cheese, plain yogurt, ground beef, etc.) there is Supermaxi which in our area has stores in Manta and Portoviejo. There are also large groceries in the El Paseo shopping malls located in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo, and Bahia.
6.6 Can you recommend a Spanish Language Program?
There are lots of programs out there that vary greatly in price and quality. We recommend the Rocket Spanish program. For under 100 bucks, it is a great value especially when compared to Rosetta Stone.
7. Travel Logistics
7.1 How do I arrive to where you are located?
You can arrange an international flight into either the Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE) airport.
Arriving to San Clemente from Quito: You can take a flight into the Manta (MEC) airport which is ~30 min in duration and ~$40-$75 each way. From Manta it is about an hour drive north to San Clemente. You can take a bus, rent a car, or hire a taxi ($20).
From Guayaquil to San Clemente: There are no flights to Manta from Guayaquil. It is roughly a 3.5 hour drive by either by express shuttle, rental car, or taxi. We are happy to help you make travel arrangements to come view any of our properties (and no, we don't charge you a fee for this service).
7.2 What airlines fly from the U.S. to Ecuador?
Delta, Continental and American Airlines have regular flights to Ecuador. Latin American-based airlines like LAN and Avianca are excellent, comparably priced, and tend to provide better service.
7.3 Do I need a visa to visit Ecuador?
All you need is a valid passport which entitles you to 90 days in country as a tourist. You can request an extension of another 90-180 days. You can also apply for residency (for details see below).
For a detailed list of different visa options and their requirements, check out the following link: http://ecuadorrealestate.org/ecuador-retiree-visa-requirements/
***IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure you have at least 6 months left on your passport before it expires or else you may not be able to leave your home country, even if you plan to be gone for only a couple of weeks!***
7.4 Can I rent a car in Ecuador?
You can rent a car at or near most airports in Ecuador but it is generally far more expensive than in the U.S. once you add on insurance and GPS. Having GPS is a very good idea since signage here tends to be poor. We tend to recommend using international rental companies like Budget due to client stories of additional credit card charges made using a couple of smaller, local companies. Another option is to hire a driver to avoid having to deal with the chaos of city driving.
7.5 Is there a place we can rent while we are in the area?
Please check out our Rentals page.
7.6 Can you recommend some helpful resources for traveling in Ecuador?
We definitely recommend you purchase a guide book to help you make the most of your visit with recommendations for hotels, restaurants and tours, maps, etc. We like Lonely Planet's Guide to Ecuador and Galapagos, especially if you plan to do some exploring on your own. The latest version of Lonely Planet's Ecuador and Galapagos was just released in September 2015.
Lonely Planet also has a super handy pocket-sized phrasebook that is worth having with you if you speak little to no Spanish. It is specific to Latin American Spanish which can differ quite a bit from the more formal Castilian Spanish spoken in Spain.
Also, once you join our mailing list, you will receive our Resource Guide which is full of useful logistical information for planning your visit including a packing list.
8. Relocating to Ecuador
8.1 How do I get my Ecuadorian residency?
There are many options for obtaining Ecuadorian residency. The two most common options are a pensioner's visa (requires proof of receiving a monthly pension) and an investor's visa (requires an investment of $25,000 in either in municipal property value or a bank account).
The specific visa requirements tend to change regularly and depending on who you talk to which can be a frustrating part of the process but there are a few fundamental items, like birth certificates, marriage (or divorce) certificates, and police records that you will always need to bring from your home country. For details, check out: http://ecuadorrealestate.org/what-you-must-bring-to-ecuador-to-get-a-residency-visa/
8.2 How do I bring my pets?
There are 2 options for bringing in pets: (1) as cargo and (2) as baggage. For a thorough description of the process, check out our Moving Your Pets to Ecuador blog post.
8.3 Where can I find information about relocating to Ecuador?
Ecuador was recently ranked as the #1 country in the world to live as an expat. There are LOTS of resources available on the web to learn more about relocating here but here are a few links to explore:
8.4 What about retiring in Ecuador?
Again, there is a lot of information out there especially as Ecuador continues to be rank as a top retirement destination in the world. Here are a couple of places to start learning more...
8.5 Is Ecuador a good place to invest?
Ecuador is considered one of the top locations in the world for overseas real estate investment. Not only do foreigners have the same property rights as Ecuadorian citizens and pay minimal property taxes but property values are still low while infrastructure has improved dramatically.
We first came to Ecuador in 2005 and purchased a home in 2006. We continue to marvel at all of the changes that have taken place since that time and how much potential that remains untapped.