South America Living

Travel, Dine, Live… Like A Local

Cost of Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Lush, Palm Tree Lined Square in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of Phil Ware who lives in Cotacachi part-time.

Are you thinking of a move to Cotacachi, Ecuador? Here is a run-down of what things cost. More information about the area is on this page: Cotacachi – Cheap Place to Live in South America.

Note: Ecuador uses the dollar as its currency: Money & Currency in Ecuador.


Cabs:  To go anywhere in town $1 USD (a little more if you go out further). To Otavalo (10k, 6 miles 20 minutes) $5 USD. To Ibarra (25k, 15 miles 30 minutes) $12 USD. To Quito (100k, 60 miles 2 hours) $50-60 USD.

Bus:  Cotacahi Bus terminal is next to the market on Leather Street. The bus system is very good and economical. There are several bus stops in town, however you can catch a bus anywhere you just flag it down when it comes by. Busses run every 20-30 minutes to the main destinations of Otavalo and Ibarra.

Bus to Otavalo is 25 cents, to Ibarra 45 cents, to Quito $2 USD (best option is to go to Otavalo Terminal where one leaves every 30 minutes).   Travel Guide to Quito

Note:  From Otavalo you can get busses to Colombia, Peru, Guayaquil and other destinations.


Apartment Rental:  Two bedroom 1.5 bath furnished apartment with all utilities paid including wireless internet costs around $400 USD a month.

One of the Many Vistas Viewed From Cotacachi

House Rental:  Three bedroom 2 bath fully furnished house costs around $700 USD a month.

These examples are for nicer, newer places. Less expensive places can be found but may not be in the best location, furnished, or have good hot water or internet.

Food Costs & Grocery Store Items

A new Tia store recently opened in Cotacachi which is the biggest one in town but still small by US standards.

The town of Ibarra nearby has a SuperMaxi which has a good selection of items and is a good place to buy meat which is 10% off on Fridays.

Best to buy fruits and vegetables at the local Cotacachi market. Sunday is the main day with the freshest produce and biggest selection.

Prices of Grocery Store Items:

Liter of milk = 75 cents Chicken (breast) per kg = $5.39
Rice 9 kg = $7.99 Hamburger (5-6% fat) per kg = $3.69
Cheese (Gruyere) 500g = $4.99 Cheese (fresh white) 500g = $2.79
Toilet Paper 4 rolls = 99 cents Water 5 liters = $1.20

Prices at the Local Farmer’s Market

8 Eggs = $1 Head of Lettuce = 25 cents
Carrots (8 medium) = 25 cents Onions (5 medium) = 25 cents
Large Cucumber = 25 cents Broccoli (large head) = 50 cents
Radish (16 large) = 25 cents Tomatoes (6 medium)= 50 cents
Potatoes 2kg = $1 Green Peppers (3 medium) = 25 cents

Beer, Wine & Spirits

Wine:  Bottle of Blue Nun is $9 USD, cheap brand is around $2.59 USD, medium quality is around $6.99 USD

Beer:  Budweiser 350ml can is 79 cents, Pilsner (local brand) 600ml bottle is 90 cents.

Liquor:  San Miguel Rum Oro (.75 liter) is $4.99, San Miguel Rum 5 year (.75 liter) is $7.99,
Bellows Whiskey (.75 liter) is $7.99, Bellows Vodka (.75 liter) is $6.99, Grants Whiskey (.75 liter) is $17.99 and for all you Jack Daniels fans… a .75 liter will set you back $54.99 USD.

Restaurant Meal

Nice meal without drink is $3.50 – $6.00 (nicer place) USD. Local meal (chicken, potato, rice, small salad) in a typical restaurant without drink is around $2.50 USD.

Internet & Cable T.V.

Internet service is around $35-$45 USD per month for basic service, more for higher speed. Cotacachi has several different types of Internet providers (cell phone, DSL, satellite).

Cable T.V is around $45 USD for a basic monthly package.

Entertainment & Local Attractions

Quicocha Lake a beautiful mountain crater lake at 10,000 just 8 miles from town. The Otavalo market is on Saturdays and is the largest indigenous market in South America.   Travel in Ecuador – Otavalo

Medical Care

There is a basic medical clinic in Cotacachi and a more specialized clinic and Hospital in Ibarra. There are very good hospitals in Quito, which is only 2 hours away.

A basic doctors visit is $5 USD. A cardiologist visit with exam and EKG consultation costs around $50 USD. A visit to a dermotologist including an exam and basic removal treatment is $50 USD.

Many medications are available in Ecuador without a prescription, such as antibiotics, birth control pills and anti-depressants.

Note about Health Insurance:  Some expats were checking into getting on the National Medical Care System but ran into complications.

Medical care in general is very good and reasonably priced in Ecuador yet you still might want to consider going back to home country for major procedures, especially if you have medical coverage.

Dental Care

Dental care is very good and very reasonable. Many people come to Ecuador just to get Dental work done. There is a good husband/wife dentist team in Cotacachi for basic work and a very good one in Ibarra for major work. The price of two new fillings and four gum restorations cost $150 USD. To get a crown replaced costs $50 USD.

Montly Cost of Living

A couple should be able to live comfortably on between $800-1200 USD a month. A single person for $650 – $800 USD per month.

Photographs by Phil Ware, all rights reserved.

45 to “Cost of Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador”

  1. Priscilla says:

    I am checking rates in cuenca,quito and outher places. I am a disabled lady 71 looking for a safe interesting place to live with reasonable medical care.

    • Butch Piercy says:

      I’m 56 and a paraplegic looking for the same thing. I want out of America
      due to the last election. I believe in GOD the all mighty, I want to leave
      because I do not want to see the down fall of such a great country. Send me photo and I will send you one to. This could turn into something God may have planed.
      Thank you

      • Molly McHugh says:

        Hi Butch, there are many places to explore out of the U.S., I am not sure what would be best for someone who needs wheelchair accessibilty, wish I had more info on that. I think organized religions are interesting, but am not a member of any – having the right wing Christians not able to force their belief/value system on all Americans I think is a good thing. Hopefully the country will continue to move forward in the next four years with the goal of liberty, justice and decent living for all Americans. That’s what our founders fathers were thinking of, not tax breaks for the filthy rich.

        Best, Molly

  2. Molly McHugh says:

    The best medical care is in Quito, of course, yet Cotacachi is just two hours away. Cuenca is another area you may want to reserch, in Southern Ecuador and very popular for relocation. Best, Molly

  3. George says:

    What is your weather like all yuear round?

  4. ken says:

    okay – I need to rent a place – single male – prefer one bedroom/bath/secure bldg – smoking? Any chance of non-smoking rentals?


  5. Molly McHugh says:

    Ken what is your price range and can you please email me privately at editor (@)

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about the area, and if is too small/quite, you always have Quito an easy bus ride away… Molly

  6. kalo4u says:

    Can you tell me if rentals of homes there in Cotacachi is friendly to cats meaning do the locals allow cats?
    Thanks, Ray

  7. Christina says:

    What are the names of the dentists you are recommending in Cotacachi and Ibarra? Thanks!

    • Molly McHugh says:

      It is a cost of living page, meant to give an idea on what things cost, including medical and dental care. For specific referrals I would contact Phil directly, there’s an email link on his blog or you can leave a comment on his blog. He had an article on a dentist a year or so back, search his blog for more info as well. Best of luck, Molly

      Phil’s blog:

  8. Don Edwards says:

    Molly, you have been brainwashed by the liberals. I am not a fan of organized religion either but I am sick of the existing US administration trying to “spread the wealth around”. They have claimed “tax cuts for the rich” so much that I think that they actually believe it and it is a flat out lie. If you paid taxes you got a tax cut plain and simple. 47% of the people in the US don’t pay any! I am of the belief that if you work hard you should be able to reap the benefits and if you don’t you suffer the consequences. Obama and his administration have enabled a lifestyle of what I call “Career Poor People”. I am ready to escape these “looters” and Ecuador is where I intend to retire.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Don, I’ll avoid getting into a political discussion here, as that isn’t the focus of the site and everyone has different opinions and beliefs.

      Ecuador has many beautiful areas, and the best part is it is so small you can travel within the country very easily and at low cost. Best of luck, Molly

      • Will Ellis says:

        Having lived in several places all around the globe there is a trend which is developing that bothers me greatly. I find that move conservative minded people are moving out of the US and bringing their value system with them. Politics has historically been a topic which is rarely discussed. The bottom line is the new type of ex-pat wants to bring America with them. That’s an idea they will regret as most of us know. If you are seeking to escape a political election you’ll be surprised overseas. Racial statements are simply not welcome. Most people here want to live and let live. Others want to re-invent themselves.

  9. Don says:

    Molly, not trying to get into political discussions either but I was responding to your comments to “Butch” which were definitely political opinions. There are many that I know in the US that are looking for an escape route out of the US due to the current administration. We are tired of being taxed and regulated to death while the “career poor people” continue to live off of the government.
    I have been investigating Ecuador for the last 12 months and I am pretty certain that this is where I plan to relocate. At the moment I have narrowed it down to either Cotacatchi or Cuenca. I am a hot air balloon pilot and I would like to be in an area that would permit me to take an occasional balloon flight. Calm winds are needed and weather will be a deciding factor as to the final location. If you know of a source that provided weather history for these areas I would love to hear about them.

  10. Molly McHugh says:

    I understand, just think it is better to refrain from now on, as it isn’t the focus of the website. Hope that makes sense!

    Hot air balloon pilot? How cool is that! I can tell you right off one person who would know exactly the information you desire about Ecuador – an expat from the U.S. who has a paragliding/adventure company in Canoa – Greg of Canoa Thrills, located in the town of Canoa on the Pacific coast. It is a great place for a visit, you would definitely like exploring that area I am sure, here is their website for you to contact for more info:

    Hope that helps & Happy holidays, Molly

  11. Lillian says:

    We have been in Cotacachi for five weeks and have spent all of our time looking for reasonably priced rentals. Our budget lilmit is $350 per month, all in. That is no longer possible here. One must remember that banks, mortgage lenders and other financial people estimate credit based on 30% of your income being used on shelter costs. If the average pensioner has $1300.00 a month to live on then their shelter costs should not exceed $390.00 per month (shelter costs included utilities, taxes, etc.) If the average Ecuadorian earns $300 per month then their shelter costs should be $90 per month. Average in the costs of bringing an Ecuadorian type rental up to North American standards and you will still be a lot less than $390 per month. Just sayin….

    We have been to seven cities in Ecuador and Cotacachi has the highest rents of the seven. Even higher than Quito and Cuenca.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      That is excellent information Lilian, and sorry to hear it on your account, we do not live in Ecuador, moved back to the U.S. after a 3 month stay (Montanita, Galapagos) last May.

      It is what can happen when an area becomes popular and expats set up shop buying property, rentals, etc. – costs rise. I’m sorry you spent time trying to find something within your budget and it didn’t work out (believe me, we had many disappointments in our travels and attempts to live in various areas).

      I’m going to check with my on the ground guy Phil Ware and update the info for the area if need be. Molly

  12. Chesley Lydekker says:

    Lenox, Mass. 2-9-2013

    Att: Molly McHugh.
    Fm: Chesley Ann Lydekker

    Hi Molly,

    What a lovely name, sorry you moved away. Would like to know what towns are left that aren’t esp. USA developed. It’s epensive to go there, rent a car to find out, and wase time and money. Quito is huge, and Cuenca has a Relais Hotel, + major US bases now in the North. Just point me in any positive agricultural direction, that isn’t Cottacachi now in devlopment-ed.

    Many thanks.

  13. Molly McHugh says:

    Hi Chelsey, I think that is a really smart question, as it is expensive to travel around and try to find somewhere you may like if on a tight budget… travel is getting more expensive everywhere, and not everyone will put up with crappy hostals and street meals to cut costs like we did on numerous occassions.

    But so hard to direct you without more info. Do you want beaches or mountains? Small or large area? That said, I would maybe head to Bahia de Caraquez and check out areas near by (lots of options) – is a central hub for that area – or research online areas near Quito, there are many. Banos is quite popular and beautiful (but small), maybe somewhere around there for a year or so.

    Best plan is to plan a year, enjoy it as much as possible and be open to maybe living in more than one area, then make a decision. I’ve wasted tons of time when we were abroad trying to ‘find the perfect place to live’… was a bit silly now that I think about it!

    best of luck, Molly

    • Frank Agiato says:

      Hi Chesley Ann Lydekker in your response to Molly you spoke about major US bases to the north. I think you were referring to the north of Cuenca. Can you please elaborate on the bases and the town(s) they are located in. Has the area they’re located in been developed like Cottacachi?
      Many Thanks

  14. David says:

    Hi, All. I’m new and just discovering Ecuador (and hope I’m not too late!). I am single and not nearly at retirement but planning ahead. I love a beach area but do NOT need it! I am from a rural area in US and have ability and desire to grow many things of my own. I would like to get some ideas of a small to medium sized city to be near enough for hospitals and shopping for necessities yet comfy “out of the corporate limit” if possible. (As I am still young, it would be pleasant if there yet remained the possibility of meeting locals, as well!)
    Many gracious thanks…..

  15. Molly McHugh says:

    Cuenca in the highlands is a good choice, the beach is close to everywhere in Ecuador, and sometimes more fun taking trips every few months than living right in the midst of it! But do your research on altitude, that is an issue with that area.

    Canoa on the coast is a hot spot – have a write-up on the site as well as a travel guide: (there is a link to the living in Canoa page) – and where there are retirees as well as younger, under-retirement age folks, some with children. It has many outlying areas and inland areas, may be a good hub for you. You really have to take some time traveling around a bit (not very expensive in Ecuador) to get a feel for an area and what may suit you for long-term living.


  16. David says:

    Thanks, Molly!
    I thank you for the quick reply.. I will look at Canoa more closely and do plan to visit soon..My only regret is not being fluent in Spanish yet and of course “How to visit so many places at once”.

  17. Robert Lawrence says:

    Iam trying to get in touch with Dr Bayardo Bolanos Ruiz who has an office in Ibarra. Can you have him contact me or provide a phone # or email address?
    Much obliged.

  18. Molly McHugh says:

    Note on April 18th: there were a couple very offensive comments on this page that I just got to… and the person has been banned from this website. Sorry to anyone who read the garbage that was posted, any additional offensive comments will be deleted immediately, will try to be more diligent in checking.


  19. lyla says:

    hi we are a 50 plus couple from canada would like to rent a house in a compound if possible from jan 2014 to april 2014 very clean good references am willing to pay around 700.00 to 800.00 per month with everything included would appreciate any feedback look forward to your reply

  20. Brian says:

    Hi Molly:
    My wife and I are looking at retiring to Ecuador in about 5 years. We are starting the process now so that we can be very prepared when it is time. We plan to take vacation time in a couple of years to look around. How much cash on hand should a couple have when they move there if they are looking a rentals around 700 a month? We want to make sure we are completely prepared for the move.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Sorry a bit late reply, I missed this before. Your plans are very smart, a vacation first, then long-term planning – kudos to you (we weren’t so smart at times, but it all worked out :)

      I can’t say what costs will be then, only that they are rising. But I can’t imagine them increasing so much that you couldn’t find a rental at $700 USD, most folks are looking in the $300-400 range and that is getting tougher and tougher. Other costs/expenditures are just what you spend money on (do you like to eat out often? do you need to have entertainment such as concerts/movies? do you buy expensive alcohol regularily, etc. etc.) and what you can afford, pretty individual.

      Join the ‘Ecuador Expat’ group on Facebook, lots of folks who can share more info and for you to connect with who live in Ecuador. best of luck, Molly

  21. Mike Walker says:

    We are moving to Otavalo OCT/NOV this year.
    We were in the area last year and loved it!
    Medical care, what is avaiable in the area?
    Thank God we have no issues and because of that we didn’t do any research on the subject when we visited last year.
    I know Cuenca has world class hospitals/clinics. Don’t much in the Otavalo area.
    What would we expect??
    Thanks !

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Awesome Mike and how exciting for you – best of luck with the move. You’d have to ask an expat in the area about that, but my guess is if you are going to be living in that area of the country, of course the best and most options for care would be in Quito.

      There is an ‘Ecuador Expat’ group on Facebook, just click on the ‘ask to join’ tab in upper right corner, don’t get put off as it says it is a closed group, that’s how most FB groups are. The moderator will then just approve you and you can ask questions there, those folks are the experts, they are living in Ecuador now. Molly

  22. jodie says:

    Hi i am looking to come over to Cotacachi in early december for 5 months with 2 friends we will be looking for a 3 bedroom furnished house could anyone please help as we are having no luck looking online
    thanks jodie

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Jodie, you should get on the Facebook page ‘Ecuador Expats’ and ask for advice there, some live in that area. The other thing to do (what I always recommend) is if you do book something book it for a week or two when you arrive, but then have the option to find somewhere else.

      You never know what you are getting when you book online, fine for a night or two but can be a huge deal if it doesn’t meet up to expectations for a long-term stay and you paid a bunch of cash upfront. Visit first is always best, and then look around for the best rental to suit your needs.

      best of luck, Molly

  23. gin arnold says:

    I just found this site looking for something else, and see pics are by my pal Phil Ware, who just walked past my window. :) My wife and I first came to Cotacachi 4 years ago, spent a total of 5 months and moved permanently in 2012. Interesting comments on America, and we do have some right wing people here for sure but they tend to stay behind a walled complex. Having been over the last 40 years in more countries than I can remember, Cotacachi and Ecuador is certainly one of my favorites, but it is NOT everyone’s cup of tea. It is not as cheap as those that promote Ecuador, as some things are more expensive than America; cars, appliances, electronics, any brand item from ketchup to Nike. The reason to move here, is the beauty of the country, climate and people. Remember, if you are not happy where you are, you will bring that unhappiness with you.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      I agree, nice photos – Phil is credited at the bottom of page as all photographs on the site are. And it was incredibly nice of him to provide the info, I used to refer folks to his blog, etc. but he stopped posting so I removed the link.

      I disagree with your ‘unhappy’ assessment – many folks move abroad to make a life change, to leave circumstances that were unfullfilling. Maybe, yes, they were unhappy. That doesn’t mean moving to a new area, changing their lives won’t improve their outlook on life, quite the contrary it may help their disposition greatly. Living abroad is fun for many folks, myself included.

    • JENNIFER says:

      gin arnold: The statement of “if you are not happy where you are, you will bring that unhappiness with you” Consider this: The reasons for being unhappy may just be that the basic necessity of life – food – comes with an insane price tag:

      Yesterday, I bought:
      4 3/4 lbs bananas, 2 lbs black grapes, 1 lb box raisins, 42 oz box oatmeal, 10z can chunk chicken in water, 1 lb butter, 11/2 dozen eggs, 2oz salt/pepper and a 2oz cinnamon/sugar spice. Total cost: $36.24 !!!!

      That has to last 10 days, and there’s nothing else in fridge or freezer or cupboard to go with these items. WHY?
      1. Mississippi is THE poorest state in US and has HIGHEST prices for food.

      2. The new OCA for MS is also now the highest cost in US – for me $921.99 month! with 6300. out of pocket deductible! I am 1 person, widow, age 63, income $1032. month that is non taxable as it is death benefits from husband-and OCA says non-taxable income means actual income is a very big fat ZERO! and if you don’t have to pay taxes anymore, you don’t get the tax breaks on the health system. BUT the law says you have to pay it. They don’t tell you how.

      So with a budget like this: rent $600., elec 150., internet+tel $50., medications! $611.29 what’s left for food??? ZERO. But I buy just enough food to stay alive, skip 3 most important and expensive meds, and haven’t paid rent for 2 months, so I can save enough to leave US and have a life with food, health care and medications. Ecuador so far seems to be the only place on Earth where I will not become a homeless statistic or a suicide. I see that is already happening with elderly in this country. I believe the reason why is crystal clear.

      Anyone who has not read the complete 1000+ pages of OCA really should read it. Hope I haven’t wandered into political territory here, just want to address the facts of why someone who is no longer happy with the country they live in may have very good reasons for wanting to find a better life. And isn’t that exactly why everyone immigrates to US in the 1st place? For them, it may be better. For me, and others like me, it is not.

      Thank you.

  24. stephen says:

    WOW what a site. just found this one. I am retired with limited income and single and my spanish is very poor but would like to learn. Is there a good area in ecuador that you could recommend for me to live? I really don’t like city life but if it’s the cheapest i can try it. A place where the people are warm and friendly with the live and let live attitude. As far as politics go, i don’t hear these other people complaining about corporate welfare.

  25. Kim says:

    Like so many making comments on this site, I am new to the idea of relocating to Ecuador. I’ve jokingly made references to moving there for years, but over the last year the idea is becoming more and more appealing. I have a question though .. my partner and I have differing likes when it comes to climate. I enjoy the beach and warm weather while he perspires profusely if it gets above 65. I love everything I’ve read about Quito and Cuenca, but worry that it will be too cool (though certainly not as cold as Pennsylvania in January) or that it will be too rainy/humid. We plan to go down to Ecuador for a visit later this year, to check things out and start making definite plans, but I’d appreciate any comments or advice anyone can give us. Thanks!

  26. Laurie Pahdopony says:

    I am looking to make the move to Ecuador in the next couple years, but I’m concerned about the availability of prescription medications. Is this a problem for Americans in Ecuador? I have 4 or 5 prescription meds that I must take daily and it may be a deal breaker if they are not available!

  27. Greg Basso says:

    Looking for rentals in Cuenca and cotacach.We will be buying this trip.


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