What's the ultimate destination for the retiree who wants to live abroad? According to the Annual Global Retirement Index of the publication InternationalLiving.com, the answer is Ecuador.
Every year, the InternationalLiving.com editors evaluate information gathered by experts, who explore countries that are the most popular with American and Canadian retirees. Among the factors they weigh are the climate, the cost of living and how friendly the people are. Ecuador scored high on all of them, and then some.
Dan Prescher, Special Projects Editor for InternationalLiving.com, offered his insights into why Ecuador, the country that he calls home, took top honors this year. While he said in an e-mail that the South American country offers amenities that anyone could enjoy, retirees receive discounts that make life there pleasant and affordable.
"Ecuador is inexpensive for everyone, but especially so for retirees," he said. "Seniors residing in Ecuador qualify for half-price entertainment and local transport, discounted airfares, and refunds of sales tax."
Read ahead to find out more about Ecuador, and see if it's the retirement destination for you.
If you want to settle down in Ecuador for good, the process of buying a house is straightforward. "A buy/sell contract is drawn up defining both parties' obligations, a deposit is made, and the deed is transferred by a notario, a kind of super notary public who is also a trained lawyer," Prescher said.
Real estate prices are relatively low. "It is still possible to build new residential construction for under $100 per square foot. But remember, this is local construction... cement or red clay brick. There is almost no wood construction in Ecuador."
Prescher said that he sold his car when he moved to Ecuador, for one simple reason—he didn't need it. "Our village is easy to walk around," he said. "If we don't want to walk, taxis are everywhere, and we've never spent more than five dollars for a ride in the village."
Ecuador also has a good mass transit system. "When we go to Quito or other towns from the village, we take the buses, which run constantly and cost an average of $1.00 per hour of travel," he said.
If a retiree is considering dropping anchor somewhere, it had better have easy access to modern health facilities. Luckily, Prescher has nothing but the highest praise for those in Ecuador.
"I've had occasion to use the health facilities in Quito, and they are world-class, as are the hospitals in Guayaquil," he said. "I'd stack up the facilities and doctors in Quito against any place in the world, including the U.S."
So how's the food? According to Prescher, you would be hard-pressed to go hungry here for lack of options. "In Quito and Guyaquil, you can get any type of food in the world," he said. "Up here in the mountains, we rely on the local mercado for fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, and pork in abundance."
The cuisine varies slightly closer to the water. "On the coast, the same fresh fruit and vegetables are complimented by a huge variety of fresh fish," he said. "Ecuador is a small enough country that we also get very fresh fish up in the mountains, brought up daily, and there is also trout raised locally. In short, the food is great."
As much as a retiree may want to get away from it all, a little homesickness is inevitable from time to time. Prescher said that there are enough English-speaking people and American franchises, such as Burger King and Subway, to stave this feeling off should it arise.
"There are several hundred expats who live in and around the village, and many of them operate businesses such as restaurants, bars, translation services, and of course, real estate sales," he said. "This is even more true in Cuenca, another mountain town, which now has a few thousand English speaking expats living there."