Traveling Ecuador

2 months Traveling in Ecuador

ecuador quito teleferico

Tom and I spent 2 months in 2015-2016 traveling the small but diverse country of Ecuador. On Tuesday of this week, as I was leaving the gym, a woman from my dance class asked, “Why did you choose Ecuador? It is an unusual choice.”

We loved the variety of experiences and enjoyed many of the local people we met in Ecuador.

Why choose Ecuador? 

Here are the reasons to visit Ecuador: 

International Living has rated Ecuador the number 1 place to retire for the past several years. This year it is #2. So we decided to see the diverse country and assess its draw for us. Insights magazine, from Insel Air, features Ecuador – Discover South America’s Jewel, Ecuador, in its Jan-Mar, 2016 edition on page 15 (which I read after we returned). Note that the magazine article is published side-by-side in Spanish and English.

Why Ecuador? 

Ecuador is a very small country with quite a bit of biodiversity, from the Pacific coast and beaches to the Andes, volcanoes, and the Amazon, it has so much beauty. Also World Heritage sites abound throughout the country.


ecuador galapagos boobie penguin iguanaGalapagos, while 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific, is part of Ecuador, and has been on my bucket list for a number of years. The remote lands, the nature preserve islands, the wildlife – some that looks prehistoric – as well as the diving opportunities were all part of the draw.


ecuador quitoSome of Ecuador’s cities are UNESCO World Heritage sites, including its capitol, Quito, which is one of the first UNESCO sites. Quito’s historic district is the least altered in all of Latin America.


Ecuador enables people to live and visit more economically, and it offers many of the conveniences desired in retirement. Travel can be very reasonable, although some of the more luxurious, US-type accommodations can be expensive. If you are willing to travel for less, there are many clean, comfortable, friendly accommodations throughout the country. We did not choose the high-end accommodations, except for our Galapagos cruise, and most places we stayed were nice and between $16 pp to $30 pp, including breakfast.

We often used buses to go on various excursions for 3-4 day trips, and the cost was $6 – $8 RT from the bus station. More was spent on the cabs to get from the bus stations back to our apartment in Quito (ranging from $8 – $15; from the airport, it is $25 to Quito in a taxi).

I understand that if you are over 65, airfare is half price and buses cost $0.12/pp.

While we are not ready to relocate, it is an option for those on a limited retirement budget. I will be happy to answer your questions about it.


We even experienced the healthcare system, both on this trip and our trip 4 years ago.  Ecuador provides impressive quality of care, and low cost! I had a bicep injury, which healed in 1 week with the care that was recommended. The whole thing was quite inexpensive for X-rays, MRI, 2 doctor’s visits and 7 Physical Therapy sessions (no exercise, just treatment modalities); it was under $500 without insurance, and our insurance will cover most of it.


ecuador llamaEcuador has indigenous peoples who still live like their ancestors and are hunter-gatherers or work the land.

So much to experience in such a small place! I will share some of the highlights in my next post, and then expand on each of the areas in future posts.

What did we like the most?

Everyone asks us about our favorite part of the trip or place. Tom and I both say, “The scenery.” Ecuador is exquisite with its varied land and seascapes, modern buildings, and historic sites, many with the Andes as the backdrop.

Stay tuned for the next post highlighting the distinct areas within Ecuador.

5 thoughts on “Traveling Ecuador

  1. Hi Wendy,
    My wife and I are thinking about spending September-October in Ecuador as a potential place to someday retire. We’re considering either Cuenca or Quito and was just wanted to know your thoughts. I’m interested in the “vibe” of these two cities, comparison of cost of living, healthcare, infrastructure and friendliness to ex-pats.
    Love your blog and thanks for any insight,

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for asking. We have spent time in both cities and like them both. Here is my 2 cents — if you are considering retiring in Ecuador, you should spend time in both cities.
      Quito –
      It is a big city, with lots of sections. Safety-wise, it is more like NYC, where you need to walk on busy streets at night (and during the day) or better yet take a cab at night (although I think Cuenca is the same at night). There are lots of parks, great sites, lots of culture, and a nice group of expats. I can make those introductions since we spent time with them and stay in touch.
      Quito has extreme beauty surrounding it with the Andes as the backdrop.
      It is easier to get to many of the destinations in and from Quito due to its transportation systems.
      Healthcare is excellent!
      Good infrastructure – great roads.
      As in any big city, people tend to keep to themselves and go about their business. However, I found people to be very, very friendly if I was friendly first. There are places to go where expats get together – you need to find them. For now, I can help with some of that.
      Buses and cabs are plentiful and cheap.
      Quito is a little more expensive than Cuenca but still very, very affordable.
      There are many modern condo apts. as well as more traditional housing. Pricing varies, and I suggest you look when you go. I can refer you to an owner who rents apts. in the historic section of Quito. You should also look in the modern section – around Mariscal (on the outer edge). If you get to that point, I will give you more specifics.

      There are some things to be careful of and if you decide to go, we should have a conversation.

      Cuenca –
      A culturally rich small, manageable city. Lots of expats and they are friendly, but can be cliquey. Also, expats have driven up prices, and if they are involved in a business transaction, it’s likely to cost more than it would otherwise – so watch out for that.
      We met some local Ecuadorians who were friendly. You need to speak Spanish, and take time to get to know them.
      The whole city is walk-able, but not to the airport.
      There is a a tram being built, and hopefully that will help the extreme pollution from all the diesel fumes. Buses and cabs are plentiful and cheap.
      Healthcare is very good!
      Infrastructure is good and improving.
      Cuenca is a bit less to live in than Quito.

      You can live very nicely on SS in both cities. You don’t need a car in either city.

      I liked Cuenca a lot, but Quito grew on me since there is so much to do, and it is close to many other places that are lovely to visit. You have to travel a lot further from Cuenca to get to other spots. But you have to like living in a city to like Quito (I am a country person, but I think I would choose Quito).

      No matter what you do, spend time in both places! And don’t buy anything until you live in a place for at least a year. Most expats rent. I will send you more on cost of living later – but know that you can live nicely in either city (with travel) for $2500 month or less. Some people live on $800/mo. in Cuenca, but that is only when they have to.

    • Michael,

      If you are planning to go to Ecuador and do not speak Spanish, start learning now. Practice as much as you can with Spanish speakers before you go. It is the best way to enjoy your experience, and interact with locals. I took a Spanish class before going, and also had 1-1 tutoring. I practiced with everyone who had the patience, and was willing. I still did not have enough Spanish to understand locals upon arrival, but I could communicate what we needed (for the most part). Once in Quito, I took 1-1 classes 3 times a week to learn more and to practice. At one point, I realized that I understood what was being said. It was a happy surprise!

      My husband did not learn Spanish, and rarely ventured out without me. He was not comfortable taking a cab or trying to find out prices at the store.

      Do you have more specific questions? Do you need more info on cost of living before you visit?

      Happy travels! Wendy

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