Retire in Ecuador – Part III: Ecuador Visa, Culture & More

beach town in ecuador

Visa & Benefits * Health Care * Culture

How to retire in Ecuador: from becoming a resident to enjoying Ecuador’s culture and its high quality, low-cost health care.

Ecuador Visa Requirements

Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world where you get an automatic 90 day tourist visa upon entry, no matter what your nationality is.

You can enter Ecuador as a tourist with a valid passport (must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry). Only citizens of the following 11 countries need to apply for a visa prior to their entry: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Senegal and Cuba.

Europeans, Canadians and Americans can apply for a 90 day extension of the tourist visa whilst being in the country.

To qualify for the extension (called a 12-IX tourist visa) you must:

  • Show a balance of at least $1,125 US in your bank account
  • Have either International medical insurance or travelers insurance
  • Pay fee of $150

You can only apply for the 90 day extension once in a period of 365 days.

Related: 15 Reasons Not to Move to Ecuador

If you want to retire in Ecuador, your best bet is to hire an experienced Ecuadorian immigration attorney to help you navigate the red tape and frequently changing rules for obtaining permanent residency.

There are at least six types of permanent residency visas in Ecuador. The two most relevant for retirees are:

  • 9-I Pensioner Visa: A minimum income of $800 (plus $100 for each dependent) from a stable source, like a state pension or trust fund is required. Your Social Security check will qualify you as well.
    Cost: $500 plus $50 application fee
  • 9-II Investor of Real Estate or Securities Visa: Buying a house or land with a municipal value of at least $25,000 (plus $500 for each dependent) will make you eligible for this type of residency.
    Cost:  $500 plus $50 application fee

Once you have your residency visa, you need to stay in Ecuador for at least 9 months per year, for the first two years. After the two years, you are free to leave the country for longer.

What benefits do you get when you retire in Ecuador on a permanent residency?

  • You pay no taxes on foreign income, and
  • You can import your household goods duty free within 6 months after obtaining residency.

For more information about the Ecuador Visa requirements including application forms please go to the website of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana (English and Spanish version).

Health Care

“Great care with a personal touch”, that is how expats often describe their experiences with Ecuador doctors and hospitals. House calls are still common, yet will set you back only $20 to $25. A visit to a specialist costs about $25 to $40 and a dental check with cleaning will amount to $35 to $40. In general, medical costs are about 75 to 90% lower than in the United States.

For specialist treatment, you will need to go to one of the private hospitals in Quito, Guayaquil or Cuenca, as doctors and clinics in smaller towns and rural areas only provide basic medical services.

To find good multi-lingual Ecuador doctors, you can either ask around in the expat communities or get the lists of recommended doctors from the British, American or German embassies.

Health insurance is very affordable too, especially if you choose one of the Ecuadorian providers like Salud, S.A. or Humana, S.A. It is however difficult to navigate through their flashy web sites, especially if you don’t understand Spanish. features a few example policies for health insurance in Ecuador on their site, which will give you a good idea of prices and coverage.

New Immigration Law!

In February 2017 Ecuador passed a new immigration law (“Ley de Movilidad Humana”). Contrary to the old law, you can’t apply directly for permanent residency any more.

You first need to get a temporary residency, which is valid for 2 years and can be renewed once. After you’ve been in the country with a temporary residency for at least 21 months, you can apply for permanent residency.

Ecuador Culture & People

Did you know that besides Spanish, there are ten native languages spoken in Ecuador? Or that you can tell from the dress where a man or woman is coming from, as each region has a distinctive dress code?

Tradition and folklore is still very much alive amongst the approximately 13 million inhabitants. The Ecuador people are a mixture of 65% Mestizo (mix between indigenous population and Spanish conquerors), 25% indigenous Amerindian, 7% Spanish and 3% Black.

Ask the locals about their tales and legends to get a glimpse into the fascinating history and culture of Ecuador and its many native groups and tribes.  If you are into arts and crafts, you will find a wealth of hand crafted goods, especially at the markets of Otavalo or Salcedo. Popular items are weavings, woodcarvings, painted ornaments made of bread dough, dress pins, leather goods and textiles.

Shopping is a mixed experience in Ecuador. From dusty, noisy animal markets and craft markets to sterile, glossy malls, there is something for everyone here. — Ecuador Channel at

What about outdoor activities? Ecuador is famous for its whale watching and bird watching opportunities. Other activities include rain forest trekking, volcano hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and of course the typical water activities like surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving along the 1400 miles of coast line.

Music and dance festivals are also big in Ecuador. Afro-Ecuadorians are well known for their “Marimba” music, played on an instrument of the same name. The guy in white in the video below plays the Marimba.

Did You Know?

Despite its name, the Panama hat originates from Ecuador. Made from the Carludovica Palmata plant growing in Guayaquil, a good quality hat can be rolled up and springs back into shape.

Retire in Ecuador – Part I

Before you retire in Ecuador, learn about Cost of Living * Climate * Infrastructure & Internet Access

Retirement in Ecuador – Part II

Before you retire in Ecuador, get the facts about Education & Schools * Safety * Real Estate