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Moving to Ecuador

A good understanding of the country you are relocating to is vital: Ecuador’s regions are quite diverse and offer a variety of opportunities for expats. Our article gives you a better idea of what to expect.
Welcome to the nation in the Andes.

At a Glance:

  • Ecuador has three inhabitable regions — Costa, Sierra, and Oriente — each of which has some distinct differences.
  • Its exotic location means increased risk of various natural disasters, which should be considered before making the move.
  • Both Guayaquil and Quito — Ecuador’s two largest cities — are popular expat destinations.
  • There are several different visa options for visitors and expats who wish to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days. You can apply for these before you arrive.
Located on the northwestern end of the South American subcontinent on the equator — hence the name — Ecuador might seem like a tropical paradise. This is true not only for the world-famous Galapagos Islands 1000 km off the coast, but also for the mainland. However, expats relocating to Ecuador should be aware that not every part of the country is actually inhabitable.

The Ups and Downs of Ecuador’s Geography

The mainland is split up into three distinct sections — CostaSierra, 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 bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes in the east. Popular with both Ecuadorians and foreigners, half the population lives in 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: located in the Andes, Sierra’s biggest draw for newcomers is the capital, Quito, and Cuenca. About a third of the population lives in this area.
  • Oriente: the easternmost part of the country and the least densely populated, 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.

At the Mercy of Mother Nature

Located on a plate boundary, Ecuador is susceptible to some fairly active forces of nature. Ecuador is home to 27 active volcanoes and floods can be fairly common. Most recently, in April 2016, the country suffered its worst natural disaster for decades when a large earthquake struck the northern coastal region.

Despite all of this, there is no need to live in constant fear. Following the 2016 earthquake, a number of early warning systems have been installed in high-risk regions. Getting to know the region you live in and its emergency procedures will help you be prepared for everything the Ecuadorian climate might throw at you. 

The Capital: Quito

The Ecuadorian capital, Quito, is unquestionably the center of the nation and consequently the most popular location for expats. Most Ecuadorian companies have their headquarters in the city, and many multinational corporations who want to establish themselves in the region open branches here. Wherever you choose to live, all expats will have to visit Quito at some point to register their visa; for more information on this topic, take a look at our article on Visas and Immigration.

The Biggest City: Guayaquil

With a population of more than 3.5 million, Guayaquil is both the largest city in Ecuador and the nation’s most important seaport. As the country’s economy is highly dependent on foreign trade (see our article on working in Ecuador), this makes it one of the cornerstones of economic growth with many opportunities for expats. It’s also a significant city for the financial sector. The city is also popular with Ecuadorians from more rural regions who are drawn to Guayaquil in search of better opportunities.

The Cultural Center: Cuenca

Moving to Ecuador’s cultural center is not particularly popular with expats —other cities have more employment opportunities. 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 center, Cuenca has made a name for itself with its traditional crafts. Anyone relocating to Ecuador should definitely pay Cuenca a visit!


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


Jaromir Novy

"InterNations provided me with all the necessary information about Ecuador. It really helps to settle as expat in South America."

Adriana Rodrigues Zon

"With InterNations I met other Portuguese women in Quito quickly. We even play tennis together once a week."

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