It’s no secret that many retirees and others have emigrated to Ecuador in hopes that their savings, pensions and paychecks will go a little further. Of course, this shouldn’t be the only thing to consider when making the big move, but in response to the many questions we’ve received concerning the cost of living in Ecuador, we thought we’d offer some insights on the topic, from the perspectives of a permanent resident/retiree and a temporary Spanish student/English teacher in Cuenca.
Teaching English in Cuenca (or anywhere in South America) is not going to earn you a “living.” We found in our experience that we made just enough to pay our bills and basic living expenses, and any extracurricular activities usually came out of our savings. It is therefore recommended to come with at least $2,000 to $3,000 of savings if you want to stay for a year and enjoy some side-trips and nightlife on the weekends and holidays.
As an English teacher you’ll earn roughly $300 per month. Of course, you can attempt to supplement this income by picking up more classes, teaching private lessons or offering other trades or skills you may have, but $300 is what you can expect to make teaching the minimum hours that will be asked of you (20 -25 hours a week). To put $300 into perspective, if you want to live in a modern-ish and furnished apartment in or near Centro, you’ll pay between $120-$180 a month for rent and utilities in a shared-living situation. The other half of your paycheck (with frugal living) will cover groceries, and occasional clubbing, entertainment, and eating out.
During our teaching stint at CEDEI, we tried our best to cook 3 meals a day at home, and maybe once or twice a week “splurged” on a $1.50 – $2.50 almuerzo at one of the many local restaurants. While a $2.50 lunch is dirt-cheap compared to back home, spending that much on lunch every day will definitely add up on an ESL teacher’s salary. Shopping for raw grains and produce at the wonderful markets in town will make your money go significantly further. For about $15-20 dollars you can come home with four large bags of produce and other everyday staples, that should last 2 weeks or more.
In regards to transportation: if you live and work in Centro you can walk everywhere, but buses are only 25 cents, and taxis, $1.50 – $2.50 for anywhere within the city limits. Other expenditures to consider would be visa fees ($60-230), nightlife (beer $2-3 / cocktails $3-5 / cover charges $5), and medicine/healthcare ($10-15 for a doctor visit, generic antibiotics and other meds are generally 50-75% less than in the States).
As a retiree looking for permanent residence, one of our new contributors, Regina, offers some insights by sharing her actual budgetary numbers. As an expat who lives alone and rents a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom apartment in el centro of Cuenca, her monthly spending breaks down as follows:
Food and Beverages $121
Cable TV $17
Cell phone $22
Maid (once weekly) $40
Dentist, opthamologist dermatologist, lab, x-ray, sonogram $23
Yoga, Swimming $8
Entertainment (dining out, tours, theater) $156
Transportation (taxis, buses) $36
In summary, you can live a modern and comfortable life as a student and/or teacher for roughly $350 a month (not including extra travel and side-trips). A retiree in Cuenca can live a very modern, fun, active and healthy lifestyle for about $1,000 a month.
October 20, 2011