The world’s dollar store

Cuantos?  It’s the biggest question of all. How much to rent an apartment, buy a car, purchase internet service, grab a taxi, drink a beer, eat dinner out, eat dinner in, etc.  The answer isn’t always a slam dunk, but with just one more day until we get back on a plane, I’m starting to get a better feel for most of it. 

Your biggest expense of all will most likely be an apartment, condo or house.  We have not been looking to buy right off the bat, so we’ve had more conversations about rental costs.  Here’s the thing to know: the prices you are seeing on the Internet are by and large the sucker price.  We’ve been so confused by the $800, $1,200 and even $2,200 rental prices on the Internet that we really didn’t bother having a closer look.  Then yesterday afternoon, we ran into an expat couple from Lake Tahoe, Nevada.   Sitting on a beautiful reproduction of Venice Beach, California, we talked for nearly an hour while locals kept us supplied with chilled coconuts and beer.   Bottom line: this 50-something couple rents “a great two-bed, two-bath apartment,” just three blocks from the beach we were sitting on for $200/month.   I shit you not.  Apparently, the three bedroom version will set you back $250.   

Given that there are no real heating or cooling costs here, their next biggest expense is Internet, which does pack a punch.  For 10 mb/second broadband they pay $110/month.  That sounds expensive until you tack it on to your monthly rent and realize that all of your fixed expenses are taken care of for a little more than $300.  And it’s good, reliable broadband.  They use it to Skype with their young adult kids as well as teach English for hours at a time, each day. 

That being said, if you just have to have oceanfront with a balcony facing the water, it’s going to set you back some.  Here in Manta, they know a couple that pays $1,500.  In Salinas we talked to an expat who said you can rent a penthouse condo facing the ocean for as low as $800/month.  If you drop down a few floors, you’re looking at more like $3-$500. 

I wish we had spent a little time physically walking through rental spaces to get a feel for the quality available, but regardless I think it’s safe to say there are deals to be had.  Here are some more costs we incurred and/or heard about, in no particular order:

24 oz. Equadorian Pilsener beer (restaurant, bar or beach service)  $1.50

12 oz. Pilsener $1.00

Continental breakfast (coffee, fresh squeezed juice, bread, butter and jam) $2.50

Typical fresh fish or shrimp lunch entrée $3

Typical fresh fish or shrimp dinner entrée $5

One expat’s “week’s worth of produce” $4.30

Taxi ride anywhere in town $1

1 hour taxi ride up the coast $20 (most likely negotiable, although we didn’t)

2-3 hour bus ride up the coast $3

Seat on express van from Manta to Guayaquil International (3 hours) $10

Chicken bus to anywhere it’s going, if you dare $1

Month of basic cell phone service $5-$10

Fresh warm pastries, cinnamon rolls, bread, etc.  .10-.20 cents

2 star fruits from a street vendor .5 cents

Fillet mignon in a nice restaurant $12

Long Island iced tea $4

Any standard mixed drink, except whiskey $3

Whiskey drink $10

Bottle of Jim Beam $99

10 Ibuprofen (prescription required, oddly enough, but we found a guy) $2.50

Now, as far as the cost of visiting/scouting/vacationing here goes, Diana and I spent an average of $100 a day.  That covers a room at anywhere from $15-40 per night, taxi or bus travel almost every day, all meals from restaurants, a few drinks in the evening, and the occasional knick-knack, late night ice cream, cabana rental, etc.   In other words, there wasn’t anything we wanted and did not buy.  All totaled, by the time we’re back on the plane tomorrow we will have spent $1,300 in 13 days (not counting airfare).  If you chose not to travel around as much as we did, you could save much more in taxi fares and, most likely, room rates.  We did not negotiate rooms because we’re on vacation and the language thing was enough to deal with.  But if I knew we were coming to stay in one place for a week or so, my guess is we could have averaged $15-$18 a night for something nice. 

So that’s the story on costs.  For the record, whenever we asked expats what brought them down here, the answer was almost always “Cost of living.”  Bottom line, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re not just dreaming.  It can be done. 

9 thoughts on “The world’s dollar store

  1. John,

    Am thoroughly enjoying your posts; many thanks for sharing your experiences in this adventure.

    I have to say that this is the post I have most been looking forward to as I have read many articles about the low costs in Ecuador and they sound too good to be true. You are restoring my faith in believing I may actually be able to retire in my lifetime.

    The best of luck to you as you make your decisions and change your stars!

    Sharon in Georgia

  2. Wow, sounds like you’re scouting trip was successful! Thanks for letting me live it thru your blog! I really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing where it takes you! Safe travels home!

    • Thanks Bonnie, nice meeting you through the blog. Di and I will try to stop by with Mike some evening to meet you in person and grab a beer. Have a good Sunday.

  3. Look forward to hearing more of your travels. We will do our scouting in December but I now have a few questions already answered! Sherene- in Georgia

  4. Well thanks for the low down. Will begin “saving my pennies” as Teagan says, for a family vacation down there. There is a chance I will be in Peru in the next year, maybe I can work it so I can fly through where you end up!!

  5. John & Diana,

    Thanks for the blog. Thanks also for the information you share. I did not get the chance to move around as much as you did. My wife got altitude sickness in Quito, and never really recovered till we got home. Are you going to move to Ecuador? I wish I could…NOW. Back in the rat race here in the states, longing for Puerto Cayo and Montanita. As I am sure you have also seen, the people are wonderful, the food is good and the costs are little. Good luck to you, let us know what you decide on.

    Ed & Tina

    PS. I started reading the 4 hour work week. We will see how long my job lasts……

    • Sorry to hear about Tina’s illness. Growing up on Colorado, I’ve seen visitors become altitude sick. Doesn’t look fun. To tell you the truth, we’re torn on the moving to Ecuador. There were things that gave us pause. I’m just about done with a “report card” post that will help explain, but for now we’re just giving ourselves a couple day to “feel” the decision.

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