Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (2023)

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (1)

Loja, Ecuador: A City That Will Surprise You

Loja is the capital of the Loja province in southern Ecuador, accessible via the Pan-American Highway, or by air at the nearby Catamayo airport. It is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador, founded by Field Marshal Alonso de Mercadillo in 1548, who named the city after his hometown back in Spain. At the time of its founding, Loja’s importance was based mostly on gold mining. The region of Zaruma, just to the east of Loja, was the site of rich gold veins, and the Spaniards wanted a fortified town in the area to protect it. Loja also became well known as the starting point for expeditions into the Amazon Basin, looking for the fabled “City of Gold,” El Dorado.

Loja sits near the bottom of the glacially formed Cuxibamba valley, although in this part of the Andes, “bottom” is a relative term. Still, the altitude is a little lower than Cuenca, at about 6,500 feet, giving it a similar but slightly warmer climate. Temperatures tend to range between 60 F and 85 F (even at night, it rarely gets below 60 F) throughout the year, with the wettest months being December through March.

This is a city of art and culture. There is a local saying, “The one who does not play the guitar can sing a song; the one who does not sing a song can write a verse; the one who does not write a verse can read a book.” Popularly known as “The City of Music,” Lojanos prefer “The Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador” since they also have a strong tradition of art and literature.

Loja is home to at least three major universities, including a new technical college. There are many museums as well, the most popular being the Museo de la Musica. It is also a city of parks and squares, with several famous churches to explore, and a lot of greenery to enjoy, especially along the two rivers of the city, the Rio Zamora and Rio Malacatos. Many of the streets are tree lined, or have a lushly verdant median strip.

With a population approaching a quarter of a million, Loja has much of the infrastructure of a city, but is still small enough to maintain that “small town feel” and sense of community that many find to be so important.

Retire in Loja

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (2)

Loja is an attractive retirement spot for those who don’t require a strong expat presence, have some Spanish language skills, and who are looking to live in a mountain town that is not too large, but still provides for an easy lifestyle. There are expats living in Loja, but it is a small community, less than two dozen, and they are scattered around town—there is no “gringolandia”.

This is a safe city, and the temperate climate makes it a walkable one too. The local bus system and low-cost cabs make Loja an easy place to live without the expense of a car. Surrounded by farms and ranches, Loja also boasts several mercados where fresh produce and meats can be found at low prices. Of course, you are not limited to markets—Loja has chain grocery stores like SuperMaxi and Mi Comiseriata, shopping malls, major appliance stores, hardware stores, and everything else a modern consumer might need.

(Video) Cost of Living in Loja Ecuador - Rent a place

The universities and music schools in Loja also add some unique perks for the retiree. Many of the students need to learn English, so there are opportunities for employment. There are schools for doctors and dentists, which means there are teaching clinics where you can find quality healthcare at a discount. And the many schools for the arts provide free concerts, dances, and art galleries.

Speaking of healthcare, in addition to the usual clinics and labs you find in most cities, Loja has several hospitals to choose from. There is a large IESS (government sponsored healthcare) hospital, and a new private hospital connected with UTPL (the largest university in Loja) that provide excellent service.

Lifestyle in Loja

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (3)

There are many things to see and do in Loja, and plenty to keep you busy no matter what your lifestyle. As you would expect in “The Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador,” there are a plethora of museums and venues for dance and musical performances. You can dress up and enjoy a performance at the new and elegant Teatro Nacional Benjamin Carrion Mora, but there are also artists performing daily on one or more of the many beautiful squares in town. Perhaps the most iconic structure in Loja, the City Gates, also houses works of art on a rotating basis. With the restaurant now open for lunch and dinner, you can take in the art and dine with terrific views of the city.

Restaurants of many cuisines abound in Loja. The fact that this is a college town means there are plenty of reasonably priced places specializing in typical “student cuisine”—pizzas, hamburgers, Mexican, Chinese,and Indian foods are all represented. Ecuadorian cuisine and tastes of other Latin American countries are also waiting for you to discover. As a culinary bonus, because Lojanos also embrace the indigenous cultural heritage, you will find Kichwa restaurants like Kusi Runa, where traditional foods are served. The adventurous can even try pincho de cuy (grilled guinea pig on a stick with vegetables) with wonderful fresh-fruit sangria.

For those interested in the great outdoors, Loja has many places to stretch your legs and enjoy both architecture and nature. Downtown, there is of course the central square with the main Cathedral that hosts the statue of the Virgin de Cisne for part of the year, as well as squares like San Francisco, San Sebastian, Santo Domingo, and more to satisfy the urban explorer. There are tree-lined walkways along the rivers, and several parks, the most popular of which are the long and narrow Parque Lineal, the large Parque de Colinas del Pucara, and the unique Parque Jipiro.

For a more untamed environment, at the southern end of town is one of the entrances to the 565-square-mile Parque Nacional Podocarpus. This nature preserve is classified as a “megadiverse” environment, as it includes four distinct ecological systems: the Northern Andes, Southern Andes, Amazon, and Pacific. It is home to 68 species of mammals and 560 species of birds—in fact, it is estimated that 6% of the birds of the world and 40% of the birds of Ecuador are represented in this park. It is also called “The Botanical Garden of America” because more than 4,000 types of plants grow there.

Popular day trips from Loja include a visit to Zamora to the east, or Vilcabamba about an hour bus ride south of the city.

Cost of Living in Loja

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (4)

Loja is not only attractive to the eyes and soul, living here is also easy on the wallet. It is an affordable city to live in.

Loja packs a lot into a small area. City buses cover the main thoroughfares and cost just 30 cents per trip, 15 cents for those over 65. Since the city is not that big, cab rides are usually between $2 and $3. This allows expats to live comfortably without the expense of owning a car.

The downtown area of Loja has two- and three-bedroom apartments to rent in the $250 to $350 a month range. Even furnished modern apartments can be found between $500 to $700 a month. In the more “upscale” homes in the hills just above the town, rents are still very affordable, for example a four-bedroom home was recently available at $500 per month. Condo prices start as low as $95,000 for new construction, with single-family homes also starting well below $100,000.

Loja has several malls, and two large chain supermarkets. Prices in these are consistent with the rest of Ecuador (imported items are expensive, while local products are more affordable), but bargains are to be found at the three large mercados in town. There you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables cheaply, as well as meats, fish, and other staples. Expats report that they eat well when shopping locally on about $400 a month for a couple.

(Video) THIS CITY IS *BETTER* THAN WE EXPECTED! (Loja Ecuador)

Typically, lunch for two at a restaurant will run less than $10 and dinners less than $20 (without alcoholic beverages). A lower cost, popular lunch option is the almuerzo, which is a fixed-menu lunch option that generally includes a soup, small salad, rice, meat or fish, another side item, and juice. Prices for the almuerzo are between $2.50 and $3.50 per person.

Loja has a large IESS hospital and several IESS clinics, so expats can enroll in the IESS medical coverage plan, which costs about $80 a month for a couple. This gives you access to free healthcare at the IESS facilities. Private clinics and hospitals are also available, with general appointment costs between $20 and $40. Like most of Ecuador, private hospital care is one half to one third the cost of comparable services in the U.S.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the monthly expenses a couple can expect living in Loja:

ExpenseU.S. $
Rent (downtown apartment)$350
Groceries$400
Dinner out$20
Bus fare$0.30
Cab fare$2 – $3
Public health insurance$80

Loja, Ecuador: A City that will Surprise You

Until a few days ago my knowledge of coffee was as follows: buy a bag at the store once in a while and drink a couple of cups to get me going each day. I’ve just returned from an extremely interesting tour, organized by the owner of a local coffee shop here in Cuenca, Ecuador, with a new-found appreciation for my morning beverage.

Ecuadorian coffee is of excellent quality and often organic, but you won’t find it at your grocer or Starbuck’s. Production is nowhere near the level of, say, Colombia or Costa Rica. After observing the hard work of artisanal growers and processors I’ll never complain about the price of coffee again!

I also came home quite impressed with Loja, the city where we overnighted during our trip. It’s the capital of the Loja province, has a population of around 200,000, and sits at about 6,800 feet. That’s 1,400 feet lower than Cuenca, so it enjoys a warmer climate year round.

Loja hasn’t gotten a lot of attention as an expat destination, mainly because of a perception that hardly anyone there speaks English.

But actually—I was in the liquor store next to our hotel after the first day of travel. I asked, in Spanish, the cost of a bottle of wine. “Twelve dollars,” the proprietor replied, in English. I inquired about good restaurants nearby. “What would you like to eat?” the customer behind me said—in English.

Somewhat flummoxed, I stopped by the front desk of the hotel and requested, in Spanish, a map of the city. “Where do you want to go?” asked the clerk—yes, English again.

Now maybe by some fluke I stumbled upon the only three English speakers in town, but I kind of doubt it. I’m not suggesting that one should consider expatriating to Loja without reasonable Spanish skills, but the claim that next to no English is spoken there is a myth.

So why would you think about moving to Loja? I came away thinking of the city as “Cuenca Lite.” You can find most everything Cuenca offers—just less of it. Loja has a lovely downtown historic area—a gorgeous park—a mall with multiplex cinemas—even a Supermaxi (Ecuador’s largest grocery chain). You’ll find lots of restaurants, gyms, and auto dealerships. Both SOLCA, the country’s premier cancer treatment center, and IESS (Ecuador’s Social Security system) have hospitals in Loja, and there are numerous private medical facilities as well.

Housing runs the gamut from brand new mid-rise buildings to single family homes rising up the hillsides surrounding the city. A modern airport less than an hour away has flights each day to both Quito and Guayaquil.

And, yes, there’s the climate. Many expats love everything about Cuenca except they find the weather too chilly for their tastes. (Cuenca enjoys average highs of 70 F to lows of 50 F.) Loja offers a similar, although scaled down, city environment plus warmer temps.

(Video) Cost of living in Ecuador

If you’re considering relocation to Ecuador and the attributes I’ve described resonate, I encourage you to take a close look at Loja. It just might be your cup of coffee!

The 5 Top Things to Do in Loja, Ecuador

by Jim Santos

The city of Loja (also known as “The Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador”), in the southern Andes of Ecuador has long been overlooked as an overseas retirement destination. Slowly that is changing, as more people are discovering this interesting and friendly town. Currently hosting a small expat community, Loja continues to attract notice with its great climate, beautiful scenery, and rich cultural heritage.

With a population approaching a quarter of million, three large universities, technical schools, museums, parks, and more, there are no shortage of things to see and do in Loja. But let’s take a look at some activities beyond the free concerts and art museums. Here’s a list of five suggestions to get you started.

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (6)

1. Lunch With a View at the City Gates

Any visit to Loja must start at the famous City Gates. This beautiful structure, built like a medieval castle, is found where the rivers meet and spans one of the main routes into town. Inside, you will find art displays that are changed and updated frequently. You can also walk up to the different levels and enjoy views of the valley. Recently added to the Gates is a restaurant on the third level where you can enjoy local cuisine and admire Loja, stretched out along the Cuxibamba Valley.

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (7)

2. Take a Walking Tour of Old Town

After lunch, step out to the front of the Gates and look for the orange stripe painted on the sidewalk. It points the way to a self-guided walking tour of eight important sites in Loja. The route is just over two miles, and will guide you to places like the Museo de la Musica, Parque Central, and Plaza San Francisco.

You will learn much about the town, and will spot several restaurants to add to your “must try” list as you walk the portion on the street of 24 de Mayo. You will also enjoy the colonial architecture and colorful buildings on Lourdes Street, one of the oldest streets in the city.

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3. Shop the Mercados

Loja has three major mercados, the largest being the Mercado Central, where your walking tour finishes up. This two-story structure is the oldest market in Loja, and was completely renovated in the 1980s. The first floor displays mostly fruits, vegetables, and flowers, in an almost overwhelming abundance. The second floor has many eateries, along with clothing, household items, chocolate, and hair and nail salons—really almost anything you can think of, you will find at the Mercado Central. Prepare to be pleasantly shocked by the low prices for fresh produce of superior quality.

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4. Take a Walk Around the World at Jipiro

On the south side of town you can take a tour of the world without ever leaving the 25 acres of Parque Jipiro. Dedicated to cultural diversity, this park features areas dedicated to more than eight different countries and peoples. There’s also a small zoo, a paddle boat course, skateboard park, pony rides, and of course several places for snacks and beverages. This is a great place to walk for exercise, play a game of chess on the lawn-sized chessboard, or just sit and relax on one of the many benches.

(Video) COST OF LIVING IN ECUADOR - How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Ecuador?

If you run out of things to enjoy in the park, stop by the north entrance and take a swim in the large public pool. With a plastic retractable roof, the Piscina Municipal is available regardless of the weather.

Loja, Ecuador: Retiring, Cost of Living and Lifestyle Information (10)

5. Enjoy Nature at the Podocarpus National Preserve

Just outside of town you will find an entrance to one of the largest public parklands in South America. The Parque Nacional Podocarpus covers 565 square miles, and includes four different ecological systems: The Northern Andes, Southern Andes, Amazon, and Pacific. Hiking trails are available for short explorations as well as all-day adventures.

Podocarpus is home to 560 types of birds and 68 varieties of mammals, including some that are on the endangered species list. If you are the outdoor type and have some time to spend there, you can visit the Lagunas del Compadre, where you can camp and fish the series of small lagoons. The park is a great place for nature photography, hiking, and mountain biking. There are also places where you can rent horses to explore from the saddle. The park is open 365 days a year, and there is no charge to visit.

So what are you waiting for? Vibrant and charming Loja is waiting for you to come see what makes this off-the-radar place so special.

Resources

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FAQs

Is Ecuador a good place for Americans to retire? ›

Specifically, as we've been pointing out, you could retire comfortably in this country on a budget of as little as US$800 per month… or even less. And you could qualify for residency here simply by showing a minimum income of US$1,275 per month. Bottom line, we say Ecuador is the cheapest place to retire overseas…

Where do most Americans live in Ecuador? ›

Most expats live in the capital, Quito, or Ecuador's most populous city, Guayaquil, while Cuenca is popular among retirees.

Is Loja Ecuador a good place to live? ›

Loja is one of the safest places to live in Ecuador. Residents walk the streets after dark without fear. The valley in which Loja sits is not known as the Valley of Smiles for nothing. It isn't a big city which could be a reason that the crime rate is so low.

Is healthcare free in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador has a universal healthcare system. It is funded by the government and provides treatment to all. The major cities, such as Quito (the capital) and Guayaquil, have public hospitals. Treatment is free, and anyone can visit for examination by a general practitioner or a specialist, depending on the malaise.

Can I collect Social Security and live in Ecuador? ›

Additionally, United States citizens are allowed to collect Social Security retirement benefits while living in Ecuador. On average, Social Security pays out $1,389 per month to each retiree. A couple in which each person is getting that amount every month can live quite well in the country.

How long can a US citizen live in Ecuador? ›

The maximum validity of this travel authorization is 365 Days and the maximum duration during which you can stay in the country is 90 Days. You can obtain this document by applying to the nearest Ecuador embassy.

Does Ecuador tax Social Security benefits? ›

So, payments from sources such as social security benefits (USA), IRA payments (USA, but also similar investment options in other countries) and private/public pension funds are received tax-free, from the Ecuador side of the equation.

What is the safest city to live in Ecuador? ›

Cuenca: Best city for retired expats & safest city in Ecuador. Cuenca is one of the gems from the Spanish colonial period and is another of Ecuador's UNESCO recognized heritage cities.

Which US banks have branches in Ecuador? ›

Citi has been operating in Ecuador since 1960. There are two main branches – one in Quito, the other in Guayaquil.

Is Ecuador friendly to Americans? ›

There are an estimated 10,000 Americans living in Ecuador.

Ecuador has been voted the best overall country for expats, and it's not too hard to understand why – the beautiful landscapes, security, good-quality free healthcare, and friendly locals for a start.

What is the number 1 place to retire in the world? ›

1. Panama. Not for the first time, Panama tops the list of the world's best places to retire. Located away from Central America's hurricane belt, its warm tropical climate is tempered by breezes from the Pacific Ocean on one coast and the Caribbean Sea on the other.

What is the average temperature in Loja Ecuador? ›

In Loja, the wet season is comfortable and overcast and the dry season is cool and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 48°F to 70°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 74°F.

Can a foreigner buy a house in Ecuador? ›

Nationals and foreigners can invest in real estate in Ecuador, since the Ecuadorian constitution grants foreign citizens the same rights as nationals. The right to private property is one of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution for both nationals and foreigners.

What city in Ecuador has the best weather? ›

Their claim to fame is that they have “el mejor clima del mundo,” which means “the best weather in the world.” Playas has a dry, tropical climate so it's very desert-like, similar to Salinas, Manta, and Ayangue.

Can I use Medicare in Ecuador? ›

Remember, you can have Medicare while you live abroad, but it will usually not cover the care you receive. Most people qualify for premium-free Part A, meaning you will pay nothing for coverage. If you must pay a premium for Part A, be aware of the high monthly cost for maintaining Part A coverage.

Does Medicare work in Ecuador? ›

Traditional Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States (although Medicare does cover residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands).

Can I get my US pension if I live abroad? ›

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the U.S. as long as you are eligible for them. However, there are certain countries to which we are not allowed to send payments.

How long can you live outside the US and still collect Social Security? ›

Generally, we cannot pay Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefits to noncitizens after their sixth calendar month outside the United States. However, you might qualify for an exception, which could allow you to receive benefits without visiting the United States.

Does dual citizenship affect Social Security benefits? ›

Allowed Nations – The U.S. has agreements with a number of nations to ensure U.S. citizens and individuals that hold dual citizenship are able to receive SSDI benefits even while residing outside the U.S. The list of “allowed countries” is subject to change and varies based on the type of benefits you receive.

Does US allow dual citizenship with Ecuador? ›

If a traveler enters Ecuador as a dual national then he/she must also depart as a dual national by presenting both passports. Dual citizens (Ecuadorian/U.S.) should also understand that as citizens of Ecuador, their U.S. citizenship is considered secondary to their Ecuadorian citizenship while they are in Ecuador.

Can a US citizen open a bank account in Ecuador? ›

After all, each country has its own rules, its own regulations and its own processes—including with regard to banking. But the good news is that in Ecuador anybody can open an account with the right documents—including foreign nationals.

Can I drive with a US license in Ecuador? ›

Tourists and temporary visitors are allowed to drive for 30 days in Ecuador on a valid U.S. driver's license and the passport showing the entry date stamp. Permanent residents of Ecuador need to apply for an Ecuadorian driver's license in: Agencia Nacional de Tránsito.

Do foreigners pay tax in Ecuador? ›

Non-residents are subject to tax on their Ecuador-source income regardless of their domicile or place of residence. Non-residents are subject to 25% income tax on income received from local sources, which is withheld at source.

Do you pay property taxes in Ecuador? ›

The city governments assess an annual municipal property tax, which ranges between 0.25 per thousand and 5 per thousand (0.025% to 0.5%) of the commercial value of the property, as determined by valuation carried out by the city government, for both urban and rural properties (rural property is taxed at a maximum of ...

How much are property taxes in Ecuador? ›

In Ecuador on average $3,00 USD are paid for each thousand USD of the property's municipal appraisal in urban areas, while in rural areas the value paid is USD 2 per thousand USD of appraisal.

Is Ecuador a good place for Americans to move to? ›

Ecuador is a truly unique country, and although it has only recently shown up on many people's radars, moving to Ecuador should be a definite consideration if you are thinking about moving overseas. In Ecuador, you can find inexpensive but high-quality real estate and a good quality of life.

How good are hospitals in Ecuador? ›

The major cities in particular, such as Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil, have excellent medical care. From top-notch facilities to highly skilled doctors, Ecuador earns its spot as having the 20th most efficient healthcare system in the world.

What is the most common crime in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador's proximity to major cocaine producers, dollarised economy and corruptible state institutions, as well as COVID-19's devastating impact, have turned the country into Latin America's latest hotbed of drug trafficking and other violent crime.

What age can you retire in Ecuador? ›

To qualify for an Ecuador retirement visa, you must meet the following conditions: You must be at least 65 years old. You must have a monthly income of at least $800.

How hard is it to get residency in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador is one of the easiest countries to obtain a long-term visa. There are multiple pathways to residency and the investment is relatively low. After reading this guide you should have all the Ecuador visa information you need to decide whether Ecuador is a viable long-term option for you.

What happens if I stay more than 90 days in Ecuador? ›

If you wish to stay more than 90 days within a year, go to an Ecuador consulate in your home country and apply for the 12-IX visa. Often referred to as the Tourist, Commercial or Sports Visa, this allows you to stay in the country for up to 180 days in a year.

What is the minimum monthly wage in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso decreed an increase in the monthly minimum wage to $450 for 2023 from this year's $425, keeping a campaign pledge, Presidency said in statement sent by text message late Wednesday.

What is the average income of an Ecuadorian? ›

In the long-term, the Ecuador Gross Average Nominal Monthly Wages is projected to trend around 480.00 USD/Month in 2023, according to our econometric models.

Is electricity cheap in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador, June 2022: The price of electricity is 0.096 U.S. Dollar per kWh for households and 0.085 U.S. Dollar for businesses which includes all components of the electricity bill such as the cost of power, distribution and taxes.

Are taxes high in Ecuador? ›

Personal Income Tax Rate in Ecuador averaged 32.60 percent from 2003 until 2022, reaching an all time high of 37 percent in 2022 and a record low of 25 percent in 2004. This page provides - Ecuador Personal Income Tax Rate - actual values, historical data, forecast, chart, statistics, economic calendar and news.

Do expats pay income tax in Ecuador? ›

Non-residents are subject to tax on their Ecuador-source income regardless of their domicile or place of residence. Non-residents are subject to 25% income tax on income received from local sources, which is withheld at source.

What is the retirement age in Ecuador? ›

To qualify for an Ecuador retirement visa, you must meet the following conditions: You must be at least 65 years old. You must have a monthly income of at least $800.

What is the most popular job in Ecuador? ›

Ecuador: Oil and Agriculture

The oil sector is still the most dominant by far. Ecuador's oil producing sector has not only given many Ecuadorians a secure job, but is also a large factor in drawing expats to the country. Other growth sectors include chemicals, machinery, construction, and electronics.

Is there a middle class in Ecuador? ›

The office of the United Nations Program for Development (PNUD) located in Quito, just released data showing that there has been a growth of the middle class of Ecuador from 14% of the general population to a very respectable 35% in the last 9 years.

What is poverty like in Ecuador? ›

MEDIAN INCOME

Low economic growth translated into weaker labor market and social outcomes. Poverty reached 25 percent of the population in 2019 accordingly to official figures, affecting more than 4 million Ecuadorians.

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