Tucked away between Peru and Colombia on the west coast of the South American continent sits Ecuador, a small country bursting at the seams with immense biodiversity and a vibrant and fascinating culture. Widely known for its territorial possession of the Galapagos islands 600 miles off of the mainland, Ecuador has developed far beyond a simple tourist economy in recent years to become a growing country with many job prospects for foreign employees. Working abroad in Ecuador will be an invaluable opportunity for cultural immersion, international work experience, and the adventure of a lifetime.
At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level on the northeastern slopes of the Andes Mountains, Quito is the highest capital city in the world. It is also the only city in the world to rest in the shadow of an active volcano – the Pichincha, just west of the city. Those willing to brave the altitude adjustment and volcanic activity will find a cozy metropolitan atmosphere to work in Ecuador, which also has been named a UNESCO world heritage site for its amazingly preserved historical city center. With sprawling public parks, a plethora of museums and universities, and beautiful natural surroundings, Quito can be a great place for expatriates to live and work.
Far below Quito on the western banks of the Guayas River and near the Pacific Ocean lays Guayaquil, the country’s largest city and main port of business and commerce. The economic motor of the country offers a nice lowland alternative to the political center of Quito, along with a rich arts scene and many lively restaurants and bars to occupy your free time. Like the rest of Ecuador, Guayaquil is the midst of sweeping infrastructural development – those who work in Guayaquil will experience a blend of new and old, and will also witness a considerable degree of poverty in the big city.
Although the nation’s poverty rate has been nearly cut in half over the last decade it still remains a developing country, so many available jobs in Ecuador are in sectors related to societal development. High paying career paths will be more challenging to come by, although there are some modest business opportunities within the countries’ major cities.
Jobs in education, tourism, or nonprofit work are popular choices for expats in Ecuador, and allow good flexibility in deciding where in the country you want to work. For instance it is possible to find teaching jobs in Cuenca, organizing community development projects in the city, or working at a hostel at one of the country’s many popular tourist destinations. Environmental or wildlife preservation positions are also abundant, as Ecuador is a country of tremendous ecological diversity.
Ecuadorian work culture is fairly laid back and does not place too much emphasis on timeliness, but it is still good to be punctual and respectful in all of your professional responsibilities. Spanish is the national language as well as the language of local business, and most jobs in Ecuador will be for Spanish speakers. There are some jobs (i.e. Teaching English as a Second Language) which do not require Spanish fluency for employment, you will still find that speaking the language is often necessary for navigating everyday life beyond your work abroad.
Average salaries vary greatly between fields of employment, but the good news is that Ecuador is a very affordable country to live in as an expatriate. While you may not be earning a stellar salary, because Ecuador is a developing economy you will still likely be able to save up some money while working abroad in Ecuador. Food will never cost you more than a few dollars, transportation by bus within cities will cost less than a dollar, and housing is generally very affordable as well. Some companies or organizations will additionally compensate foreign employees with room and board, too. The bottom line - money should not be a concern holding you back from seeking jobs abroad in Ecuador.
Depending on the location, you will likely want to rent either an apartment or a house while living and working in Ecuador. Real estate is very affordable but can be more expensive in the major cities of Quito and Guayas, so consider living with roommates to lower the price. If you are working in a rural area than your employer will likely help you to secure housing, potentially renting a room with a local family or living in group housing with other employees.
You will likely need to obtain an employment visa to live and work in Ecuador. There are a variety of different visa options for international workers, so consult your employer about which visa will be required for your stay. Your employer will also likely have to endorse your application for a visa as proof of work.
Living and working abroad in Ecuador will broaden your horizons both in terms of international career prospects and personal development. It is a developing country, so many workers from the Western world should be prepared to embrace a degree of culture shock upon arrival. However, once a routine is established, expats will find that jobs in Ecuador provide a vibrant, fun, and hospitable culture paired with inherent natural beauty. Landing a job in Ecuador will expose you to a truly wonderful country while giving you intimate insight into Latin America and the world at large.