Ecuador at a Glance
Moving to Ecuador
Located on the northwestern end of the South American subcontinent, right around the equator – hence the name – Ecuador might seem like a tropical paradise to many. While this is definitely the case, not only on the world-famous Galapagos Islands some 1000 km off the coast, expats relocating to Ecuador should be aware that not every part of the country is actually inhabitable.
Ecuador: A Country Overview
The mainland is split up into three distinct sections – Costa, Sierra, and Oriente - based on their geographic features. Most expats in Ecuador, however, settle in either the Costa or Sierra regions, as the main cities are located there.
- Costa: this is the coastal area of Ecuador, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes in the east. The ongoing interest of Ecuadorians and foreigners in moving to Ecuador’s westernmost part is the reason why half the population lives on a quarter of the nation’s area. The Costa is particularly interesting for expats, as it is not only home to the nation’s largest city, Guayaquil, but also to various free trade zones.
- Sierra: the portion of Ecuador which is entirely located in the Andes. Once the heart of the nation, today, the Sierra’s biggest draws for newcomers are the capital, Quito, and Cuenca. About a third of the population lives in this area.
- Oriente: the easternmost part of the country, and also the least densely populated. This is not at all surprising, seeing how it is mainly covered by rainforest. If you are not planning on doing scientific research or working in the crude oil production sector, there is probably little reason to move to Ecuador’s share of the Amazon.
Force of Nature
If you are planning on moving to Ecuador, it is important to realize that forces of nature, be they in the form of earthquakes, volcanoes – Ecuador has the highest number of active volcanoes of any nation in the world – or floods are fairly common. There is no need to live in constant fear of collapsing buildings, but you should be aware of these phenomena so as to not be completely caught off guard.
Oftentimes, relocating straight to a nation’s capital is not the worst idea for expats, and Ecuador makes no exception in this regard. Quito, unquestioned center of Ecuador and dwarfed in size only by Guayaquil, is by far the largest expat magnet in the entire country. Most national companies have their headquarters in the city, and many multinational corporations who want to make the move to Ecuador’s markets also opt to establish branches here. Even if you are not moving to Quito, you have to pay the city a visit at least once: not only because chances are that you will arrive at the city’s international airport, but also because registering your visa – one of the most important steps when moving to Ecuador – is only possible here. We have looked at this matter in part two of this article.
Guayaquil is both the largest city in Ecuador, with a population of more than 2.6 million, and the nation’s most important seaport. As the economy of the country is highly dependent on foreign trade (see our article on working in Ecuador), this makes it one of the cornerstones of economic growth, thus offering many incentives and opportunities for expats moving to Ecuador as their next career step. Guayaquil is also a significant city for the financial branch.
Furthermore, moving to the largest conurbation in the country has long been one of the first options for Ecuadorians from rural parts of the country who are looking for a new life in the city.
Moving to Ecuador’s cultural center, a distinction Cuenca has definitely earned for a number of reasons, is not particularly popular with expats, as the other main cities in Ecuador simply have more employment possibilities. Nevertheless, the Parque Industrial has prompted a fair number of expats to move to the nation’s third largest city. Apart from having been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its beautiful historic architecture in the city core, Cuenca has made a name for itself with the many traditional crafts that come from this city. Anyone relocating to Ecuador, no matter what region, should definitely pay Cuenca a visit!