South America Living

Cost of Living in Quito, Ecuador

Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of Jena Davison, a Travel Writer and Editor based in Quito, Ecuador who publishes the blog “Everyday Musings From Across the Equator.”       Travel Guide to Quito

Plaza Grande in Quito

Want to move to Quito but have no idea how much cash per month you may need? Use the information below to help you figure it out. Then that can be you walking in Plaza Grande (view photo)!

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

Transportation

Cabs:   Cabs are readily available, though they can be difficult to flag down during rush hour or when it is raining (or when it is raining at rush hour!). Legally, they are supposed to use meters before 10 p.m. and the meters start at 35 cents.

There is a $1 USD minimum on all rides with most rides costing between $1.50 and $3.50 USD. Exceptions are going to the airport ($5-8 USD) or the Quitumbe bus station ($7-10 USD). At night taxi drivers are known to tag an extra 50 cents or so to the cost. If taxis do not have a functioning taximetro (meter), be sure to negotiate the price before getting in or you will likely be ripped off.

At night it is usually safer to call a cab than to catch one off the street. Many times these cabs are not yellow, but the company usually tells you the color, model and license plate of the car coming to pick you up and they will always know your name. One good company to call is Taxi Amigo (Tel: 02-222-2222).

Bus:   Within the city, there are three major local bus lines, in addition to lots of blue buses that provide routes throughout the city. The Ecovia line runs along Avenida 6 de Diciembre, the Trole line runs along Avenida 10 de Agosto and the Metrobus line runs along Avenida América. A ride costs 25 cents, no matter your destination.

View of Basilica from Parque Itchimbia

There are several bus stations in the city. Quitumbe is a major, modern bus station in the South of Quito, servicing towns to the south of Quito, like Baños, Riobamba, Guaranda, etc. The Trole line runs all the way to Quitumbe. Carcelén is a major station in the north, providing service to towns in the northern Andes such as Ibarra and Otavalo.

Ophelia is a smaller station in the north, though not as far north, that has busses to Mindo. Most of the busses that go to the coast leave from either Quitumbe or from the individual company’s office in the Mariscal. The same is true for busses to Cuenca and Loja.

Rental Cars:   Most of the major rental car companies such as Budget, Avis and Hertz have locations in Quito. All three have offices at Mariscal Sucre International Airport, as well as downtown pick-up and drop-off points. Renting a small car costs about $30-50 USD per day and renting a SUV costs about $70-135 USD per day.

Freedom Bike Rental, which is located in the Mariscal, rents mountain bikes, scooters and motorcycles by the hour, day or week. Mountain bikes cost about $3 USD per hour, $15 per day or $75 USD for the week.

Housing

There are lots of different types of housing available in Quito, ranging from home stays and residential hostels to unfurnished or furnished apartments.

House Rental:   There aren’t many houses, per say, in the city of Quito, but you can rent or buy a house in one of the valleys outside of Quito, like in Cumbayá or Tumbaco where gringos have set up camp.

Apartment Rental:   Apartment rental prices depend on the location in the city, but tend to cost about $80-$450 USD per month. Cheaper apartments are located in Quito’s Old Town, in the South and in the very north of Quito. El Bátan, González Suárez and Parque Metropolitano neighborhoods tend to be more upscale and pricey.

Apartments in La Mariscal, La Floresta and Parque Carolina area fall somewhere in between, and vary depending on location and how modern the buildings are i.e. whether it is typically rented out to gringos (and priced accordingly). I pay $175 USD a month – all utilities included – for a private room with private bathroom in a fully furnished five-bedroom rent-by-the-month place in the Mariscal.

Some apartments come furnished, others don’t, and if they are unfurnished that usually means it doesn’t come with major appliances like a refrigerator, oven or dishwasher. Many places that rent by the month do come completely furnished, and some even include monthly cleaning services.

Residential hostels are good for young volunteers or people living temporarily in Quito for a few months or longer. These are more communal in nature and usually house a mix of international people, with frequent turnover.

Food Costs & Grocery Store Items

Their are two major grocery store chains: Santa Maria and Supermaxi. Both have outlets scattered throughout the city in addition to the fruit stands and small shops that seem to populate every corner.

Santa Maria is cheaper but doesn’t have as big of a selection. Supermaxi is more modern and sells more “gringo” brands. There is also one superstore – Megamaxi – on Avenida Seis de Dicembre, near the Ecovia stop Benálcazar. It is comparable to a Target (in the U.S.) with clothes, homeware and electronics as well as a large selection of food items with many imported products.

 
Prices of Grocery Store Items:

liter of milk = 75 cents – $1.30 dozen eggs = $1.75-2 USD
chicken (per kilo) = $8.30 toilet paper (4 rolls) = $1-2
rice (per kilo) = 90 cents Quinoa (per kilo) = $4
canned goods (per can) = $1-1.30 cheese (local) = $1.50-3
cheese (Gouda, Gruyere) = $3-7 bottled water (5 liters) = $1.05-1.50

 
There are two major produce markets in Quito: Santa Clara and Iñaquito where you can buy fresh produce, spices, fish, etc. There is even a local cooperative called Zapallo Verde that sells organic fruits and veggies, homemade breads and marmalades, locally produced cheeses and vegetarian alternatives, such as quinoa burgers, vegetarian empanadas and tamales, etc.

It is important to realize that anything imported costs significantly more than local brands. For example, if you buy a cereal like Honey Bunches of Oats it could cost up to $6 USD, while Special K may only be $2. Same with imported fruits; a banana costs 5-10 cents, but an imported apple costs 25-50 cents.

Imported cheeses are available, with the bigger selection being at Supermaxi and Megamaxi. I’ve seen Gouda, Brie, Goat Cheese, Feta Cheese, Gruyere Cheese, etc., but they are pricey, around $4-7 USD and up. Queso Fresco, however, which comes in blocks of all different sizes is locally made and sold everywhere, costs only $1.50-3.50 USD.

Buying fruits and veggies is typically a bit cheaper at the small fruit stands but not always. It is easier to get ripped off when buying at one of the small produce shops if you don’t know your prices, while the prices at the grocery stores are fixed.

Beer, Wine & Spirits

Beer:   There are two national-brand beer companies in Ecuador: Pilsener and Club. Pilsener is always slightly cheaper and is the one on tap in restaurants. Many cheap restaurants and schwarma places have beer combo promotions throughout the week and weekend, which can be as cheap as three large Pilseners for $2.50 USD.

Imported beers are harder to find and cost significantly more. A glass of Guiness at the bar can run up to $12 USD. Corona and Budweiser are commonly sold in supermarkets. There are also a few microbreweries in townSanta Espuma in the north and Turtle’s Head Pub and Cherusker in the Mariscal.

A small bottle of local beer (Pilsener or Club) costs 65 to 75 cents. A small bottle of Corona costs $1.55 USD. A large “tres cuartro” (3/4 litre) of local beer costs $1-1.10 USD plus a 25 cents refundable deposit for the bottle.

Wine:   A bottle of wine costs between $7-20 USD on average, plus the availability of more expensive imported wines available that can run over $100 USD.

Restaurant Meal

The standard fixed-price lunches cost between $1.50 and $4 USD. They usually come with a bowl of soup, a main plate with chicken, fish or beef with white rice and a salad, a small dessert and juice.

Some of the gringo places in Mariscal even offer fixed-price lunches, but they cost a bit more, usually $4-6. For dinner, it really depends. You can go to a local Ecuadorian place and spend $3 or $4 USD, or dish out some more cash for international fare. Main courses usually go for $4-8 USD, and coupled with a few beers, you can easily run a bill of $10-15 USD.

You can always pick up an empanada or tamale on the street for around $1 USD if you are strapped for cash. In the Mariscal, you can find all sorts of restaurants, including those serving sushi, Indian food, American food, Mexican food and Arabic food. Lots of cheap beer places offer chicken schwarma sandwiches for $1.50-3 USD as well.

Ceviche, which is a coastal specialty, is found abundantly throughout town and usually costs between $4-7 USD. For a great foodie experience, head to one of the large produce markets, like Mercado Santa Clara which has lots of cheap fast-food stalls serving up fried pork, llapingachos (fried potato pancakes with cheese) and various soups with mysterious ingredients; live on the edge and give one a try!

Internet & Cable T.V.

Cable T.V.:   Basic cable costs around $30 USD per month and includes English-speaking American channels like ESPN, E! Entertainment, Warner Brothers, MTV, TNT and A&E. Of course, there are also premium packages, which cost more and include more channels, such as HBO and Showtime.

Internet:   WiFi is pretty common in Quito, especially in the touristy areas where lots of restaurants and bars have it. Outside of the big cities, though, it is hard to find.

In Quito there are many Internet cafés that charge as little as 75 cents to $2 USD per hour. If you want to set up WiFi Internet in your apartment, expect to pay around $30-40 USD a month. In general, the higher the speed, the higher the cost. You can also buy USB modem sticks through companies like Movistar or Porta for WiFi; they tend to charge around $30 USD per month as well.

Entertainment & Local Attractions

See the Quito Travel Guide for what’s hot at night and for activities read Travel Destinations & Things To Do Around Quito.

Medical Care

The good thing is that if it is an emergency, you can go into any public or private hospital in the city for emergency care and even if you do not have insurance the visit should be less than $50 USD (minor ailments). Most local insurance plans have certain hospitals in its plan that it covers. Hospital Metropolitano is recommended and located on Avenida Mariana de Jesus (Tel: 593-2-226-1520 / 226-9030).

Private doctors typically charge $30-50 USD for a consultation. Many expats go to see the English-speaking American implant Dr. Rosenberg, who doesn’t take insurance and charges $40 USD for a consultation. His office is located in the Mariscal, on Mariscal Foch between Diego de Almagro and 6 de Diciembre (Tel: 593-2-252-1104 (office) or 09-973-9734 (cell). The South American Explorer’s Club, which is an expat organization, also has a list of recommended doctors, so you can stop by there for suggestions.

Unlike in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, it is possible to walk into any pharmacy, tell the pharmacist your symptoms and receive treatment. Many common medicines don’t need prescriptions at all such as anitbiotics and birth control pills but heavier medications like those to treat depression or sleeping disorders do.

Dental Care

Two recommended English-speaking dentists in the city are: Dr. Luis Flores Gomez (Av. Mariana de Jesús Calle A, Tel: 593-2-246-2651, E-mail: luflores@accessinter.net) and Dr. Diego Arcos Bronenberg (República de El Salvador 525, Edif. Rosania, Tel: 593-2-245-7268).

Dental work is significantly cheaper than in the United States with a cleaning typically costing only around $30 USD.

Montly Cost of Living

I think $750 USD per month is definitely doable in Quito as a foreigner but costs can be higher depending on where in the city you live, how often you eat out and how often you travel.

Jena Davison is a Travel Writer and Editor based in Quito, Ecuador who writes about her adventures in Ecuador on her blog “Everyday Musings From Across the Equator“.

Photographs by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.




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