Friday, February 12, 2010

Ecuador: Top retirement destinations

Several South American countries top the chart of best places for retirement and Ecuador leads them. According to a story published in Liberasion American and European retirees who want to run a quiet life should pack their bags and head to Ecuador. At least this is what proves the Annual Retirement Index of the U.S. magazine International Living. France is in 6th position for one of the best places to retire and appears as the second ranking European country after Italy (5th).

The magazine has a story about how a one U.S. dollar can go a long way in Ecuador. "Everything is so inexpensive that no-one wants to deal with bills larger than ones. Using a $20 bill in Ecuador is akin to trying to use a $100 bill in Colorado to buy a candy bar; it can be done but it’s not easy. As for using $50 or $100 bills--don’t even try!"

Latin America seems to be a haven for retirees. Mexico comes second after Ecuador and is followed by Panama (3rd). Uruguay takes the fourth best place for retirement.
After Italy and France, Brazil and Argentina tie the seventh place in rankings. Much hyped Costa Rica shares the 8th place with Australia.

In Europe, only Italy (5th) and France (6th) manage to find a place in this Latin America plebiscite, writes the paper. The United Kingdom gets the 30th place. This is the last place in the rankings of best places for retirement that UK shares with South Africa, particularly because of the cost of real estate in UK.

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Living Styles
You might consider several different living style options in Ecuador:
1. Live on the Beach. One of International Living’s experts says that a favorite beach in Ecuador beach is found in the surfer town of Jama. According to him, quarter-acre beach lots cost only $50,000.  Because of low construction costs, you can spend only another $50,000 to build a high-quality, 1,250-square-foot home. Thus, for only $100,000 you are set up with a beach front property for easy full or part-time retirement living.
2. Retire in a Lush Valley. Another popular destination for U.S. retirees is in southern Ecuador, the region of Vilcabamba. This area is called the Valley of Longevity. Apparently, there are lots of centenarians there. Tis region is surrounded by mountain peaks rise in all directions. Crystal clear streams from the nearby forest provide the area with clean water. You can buy a 2-acre farm in this region (including a house) for $75,000.
3. Rent a Penthouse. Another International Living reader Kent Zimmerman lives in a penthouse apartment overlooking the colonial city of Cuenca. He pays only $300 a month in rent. If a retiree wanted something upscale in Ecuador, a four-bedroom, two-floor penthouse rents for only $1,050 per month.

According to other International Living readers, new three-bredroom condos with ocean views sell for less than $100,000 in Salinas, Manta, and Atacames. Small beachfront houses can be purchased for $65,000 to $80,000 in villages such as Punta Blanca, Olon, and Canoa. In fact, it’s hard to pay more than $225,000 for real estate in Ecuador.

Great biodiversity
Ecuadorians live in jungle river towns, coastal fishing villages, isolated cattle ranches, the grounds of ancient haciendas and large colonial cities. The country's compact size makes it possible to experience many of these different lifestyles in a single day.

This is a place of astounding natural beauty. Despite covering a mere 0.02% of the world's land mass, Ecuador is home to 10% of the world's plant and animal species. The country also has substantial oil reserves, which account for 40% of the Ecuador's export earnings. Fluctuations in global oil prices can have a substantial impact on the domestic economy, but the central government is making slow progress on reforms intended to reduce Ecuador's vulnerability to oil price swings.

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Transportation
Because Ecuador is only the size of Nevada, its remarkable diversity is easy to reach.  You can loll on the beach in the morning and take a $65, half-hour flight to the mountains, arriving in the afternoon.  Both a home at the beach and one in the mountains can be purchased for the cost of a vacant lot in many countries!

Good transportation comes in the form of buses so numerous that you can travel without having to make reservations.  Travel by bus costs about $.50 for every 15 miles or $1 an hour.  Cabs cost more but a 1½-2 hour trip from Quito to Cotacachi can be had for $50-55.

Affordable Living
One attractive aspect of retirement living in Ecuador is that the U.S. dollar is not losing value there. Following its debt default in the late ’90’s, Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency. This eliminates currency risk for American retirees. Labor costs are a tremendous bargain and are not rising appreciably. This makes it easy for U.S.  citizens to afford help around the house.

It's not just properties that are affordable in Ecuador -- nearly everything is. Some examples:
  • Taxi ride (25 minutes) from airport to Quito $4
  • Sushi lunch $4.50
  • Night in 4-star hotel $75
  • Full-time household help to cook and clean $30 a week
  • Haircut $3
  • Gourmet meal for two, with wine and dessert $25
In major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, you won't have to forgo first-world conveniences, either. New cars abound and, in fact, Ecuadorian plants make Chevrolets, Mazdas, Kias and Ladas. Nearly everyone has cell phones, and Internet connections are just as common. And you'll be hard-pressed to pay more than $50 for a dinner for two, drinks included.

It's not difficult to live on less than $17,000 per year here; you don't have to live a restrictive lifestyle to do it. Many foreign residents have a main home in the city but also have a country home, a beach property, or even property in another country.

In Ecuador, you'll have access to excellent medical care. You'll find hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment in the bigger cities, as well as specialists in all fields and physicians with private clinics. The average visit to the doctor's office runs just $15, with a specialist costing about $17 to $20. A root canal is around $120, fillings for $18. A bridge is around $150.

For example, a sparkling new medical clinic has opened in Ibarra with 22 specialists.  An office visit is $20 and the doctors are personable and helpful.  X-rays are $5 - $10.  Lab blood tests are typically $1.50 per item tested.

Daily flights connect Ecuador to major hubs throughout the hemisphere, and the flight to Miami is shorter than four hours.

Do you thrive on the hustle and bustle of the city? Or, are you drawn to high mountain valleys where cowbells are more common than car horns? Do you crave sun, sand, and crashing surf? Have you always wanted to have your own horse—and ride it into town for lunch? Any of these is possible. Your problem in Ecuador is just deciding where to live.

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Retirement Visas
If you can provide documented proof that you have an income of at least $800 per month, plus $100 more per month for a spouse or dependent, you can receive a retirement or pensioner visa.  This is just one of the ways you can become a resident of Ecuador.  A retirement visa will grant you all of the benefits of an Ecuadorian citizen except the right to vote.

If you don’t have a pension, a $25,000 real estate investment or bank CD deposit here will suffice.  You do, however, have to live in-country for 9 months in each of the first two years you are here.

With the savings that retiring in Ecuador brings, the wise retiree is then free to travel more, relax more, invest more.  Engage in new hobbies or indulge a new passion.  The good life in Ecuador is waiting for those who choose to retire in Ecuador’s welcoming and sunny environs.

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