Considering a move to Ecuador, but not sure whether it's an ideal country to raise your kids? We get this question a lot from potential expats. Whilst all experiences will vary, I can confidently say that Ecuador can be a very rewarding country to raise your kids.
But, there's so much to consider before you can pull the trigger on your move to Ecuador. All of which is amplified when you've also got the welfare of your kids to prioritize too.
After reading this guide, you'll understand how raising kids in Ecuador might differ from your home country and hopefully give you the confidence you need to embark on an exploratory trip to Ecuador. From here, we encourage you to dig deeper into any topic you still have questions about.
Why listen to us? Great question. As of writing, we have two children born in Ecuador aged 5 & 8 with another on the way! The 5 & 8-year-old are from Michelle's previous marriage. We're expecting our new arrival around October 2021.
So, our experience mainly comes from children born in Ecuador as we didn't immigrate here with kids. If you're moving here with kids, then you'll have some additional teething challenges that come with any big change. We have moved our kids from Quito (where Michelle's family lives) to Cuenca, so we've gone through many similar challenges that arise from removing kids from a familiar environment to one that is largely unknown.
There are numerous public & private school options in Ecuador to consider. We encourage you to read this detailed article on schools in Ecuador which also provides a breakdown of education costs & runs through your homeschooling options.
Raising kids and family life might be quite different from what you're used to. It certainly was a bit of an eye-opener for me when I first came to Ecuador. Here are the main changes and challenges that I've experienced:
Yes, kids are loved in every culture. But, it seems that Ecuador takes this love to a new level to the point where it can feel like kids are a borderline obsession.
For example, whenever we visit family in Quito, the kids have a very busy schedule just meeting up with the greater family. Everyone bends over backward to spend time with them.
Another example is the grandparents sending bedtime stories to the kids every day via WhatsApp. This constant communication is something we encourage, but it did take me a while to get used to it.
Society echoes these family values in many ways. Some can be subtle, like the fact that kids are not excluded from anything. You'll find very few kid-free zones in restaurants or attractions etc. Crying babies are just part of life here and you'll need to adjust if this bothers you.
There is no stigma attached to breastfeeding in Ecuador. Women don't need to seclude themselves in 'breastfeeding zones' to feel safe from social wrath. The whole country is effectively a breastfeeding zone. It's quite normal to see women from all classes of society breastfeeding whenever they need to, be it public transport, restaurants etc.
Businesses also have a legal requirement to maintain a designated area for their breastfeeding moms to pump milk and store it safely for their kids whilst working. But, like many laws here, it's not one that each business will necessarily follow.
Bottom line is that, as a mother, you're much more likely to have strangers provide tips on breastfeeding than give you cold stares or some other negative reaction.
This acceptance of mothers being mothers is perhaps one of the most positive aspects of raising kids in Ecuador.
Ecuador is not some utopia without its share of issues. One of these that can be a little difficult for new arrivals to properly appreciate is how pervasive the machismo culture can be.
For example, there are still strong gender-based expectations when it comes to what women and men 'should' be doing. One recent example of this was at the kids' end-of-year presentation for their aerial yoga class. Our 8-year-old boy was heavily commended by the school simply for participating in this activity that is still heavily dominated by female participants. I took a look around and it was only then I realized that she was right, ours was the only boy in the class.
Machismo culture can also be seen in our extended family unit when our boy decided he wanted to grow his hair long. It seemed that everyone had an opinion to voice on this and it wasn't always positive - the main pushback related to him not properly conforming to their established gender roles.
The younger generation can be much more open, which is a good sign that these types of biases are slowly dissipating from Ecuadorian culture. But, it's important that you understand they currently do exist, and if you feel strongly enough about it, tackling any machismo-based disagreement with empathy will likely produce the best results. A full-frontal attack is not likely to win you any arguments (or friends).
Empty nesting isn't really a thing. It's still common for 3 (or even 4) generations of family to live in the same house, with younger generations taking care of any elderly.
One practical flow-on effect of this is that you'll find many larger houses to buy or rent, whilst smaller studios or 1 bedroom apartments are not as common.
This concept was pretty difficult for me to get acclimated to as I left home when I was 18. Meanwhile, some Ecuadorian friends have no plans of ever leaving their family home. A lot of this comes down to a general lack of personal financial resources and a government that does not have the resources to pay adequate pensions to their elderly.
Whilst our doors will always be open to our kids, our general plan is for them to leave the house as soon as they've secure adequate employment in their chosen profession. This is likely to be when they are 21-22.
Pre-pandemic, we found many opportunities for our kids to socialize. The main outlets were school, after-school sports, family, neighbors & family friends.
Whilst we're waiting for the world to reopen, we've still been able to provide opportunities for the kids to socialize in safe environments. These have been with carefully selected after-school activities, our neighbor and to a lesser extent, our family here.
You'll be able to find many different after school activities when the pandemic ends such as:
There are also dedicated private 'play centers' with a range of slides and other fun equipment for the kiddos to release their energy and make new friends.
And you'll also likely live close to one or several parks. These are prime meeting spots to meet up with other kids - particularly on weekends.
Some expat families move to Ecuador with the conscious decision that they are not going to learn Spanish. I don't really understand this - particularly when it comes to kids integrating and making friends.
You can definitely get by here with only a very basic understanding of Spanish. But, it's not likely to produce the optimal outcomes when it comes to creating community.
From a financial perspective, you'll be limited to only the most expensive international schools if you don't want your child(ren) to learn predominately in Spanish.
But, I also wouldn't be stressing about the kids being fluent in Spanish before they arrive. They'll pick up the language quickly if you immerse them in any of the private, Spanish-speaking schools.
There was a little gringa in our girl's kindergarten class that only spoke English at the start of the year. Language was no barrier as the two girls quickly became good friends.
Birthday parties are big in Ecuador. Particularly for kids where seemingly no expense is spared with every birthday we've attended going all out with entertainment, kids games, and food. They always end with the crescendo of the piñata - which tends to be ripped open from the bottom as opposed to bashed with a stick. Jumping castles are a common sight too.
Of course, the pandemic has put a lot of these celebrations on hold and we're looking forward to throwing some lovely big birthday parties when the time is right.
Anything imported into Ecuador is expensive because of the high import taxes. Baby & kid products are no different. The best-stocked baby store is called Bebe Mundo and whilst we like their products, be prepared for some sticker shock.
For example, I just did a quick price comparison between Amazon and Bebe Mundo for a baby seat and you're looking at paying approx double for the same product in Ecuador.
Bringing a new baby into the world is generally an expensive exercise, which can be made even more so if you're looking to kit out your new bub with all of the fancy modern monitors and other equipment that we're accustomed to purchasing.
Of course, only a very small percentage of Ecuadorians can afford to spend $600 on a baby seat. So, you can be sure that it can be done considerably cheaper if you're able to stick to the basics.
If you happen to have family in Ecuador, they may be all too happy to chip in and buy many of the essential baby products for you. Especially so if this is your first child.
For us, we've found the happy medium of ensuring family and friends fill up their luggage with these types of products that we know are expensive. This includes baby products, electronics, and some food products.
I've used baby seats in the previous example as they are something that we're accustomed to finding standard in the family car. Not so in Ecuador. Car seats are generally considered a luxury that locals can ill afford.
As such, you're very unlikely to find any taxis or other transport that comes standard with a baby seat.
Many expats will tell you that you don't need a car in Ecuador. Especially those that live in the cities. We lived in Quito without one and we didn't have one for our first year in Cuenca. Yes, it's certainly possible and taxis are cheap.
However, our family has enjoyed Ecuador so much more thanks to the freedom of being able to easily explore the country by car. Running errands is also so much easier and quicker for us.
Owning a car is certainly a commitment and a considerable expense, so it's not something to rush into until you're comfortable with the laws and perhaps even have a local driver's license.
If you aren't super keen on getting a car, one of the safest options can be to just hire local drivers. This can be for day trips outside of the city or even interprovincial travel.
We've generally found the quality of health care for children to be of high quality and reasonably priced. You'll definitely want to do some shopping around and base your choices on recommendations from others.
We're regularly visiting dentists, doctors, and the occasional specialist. A visit to the doctor generally costs around $40 and a filling at the dentist around $30.
The above costs are without health insurance, but we definitely recommend obtaining private health insurance for your kids (and not just the public health insurance - IESS). A ballpark cost for private health insurance is $40/month/child.
Prescription medicine can cost considerably less than you're used to, but you may not be able to find the same brand. Start your medicine search with this pharmacy as they have a wide range.
How safe will your child be in Ecuador? This is a loaded question as I find the answer rather complex. In general, I do find Ecuador to be a safe country, particularly for Latin America. But, opportunistic crime does exist and you'll likely come across this at some stage. We're mostly talking about a phone being stolen on a crowded bus and similar incidents.
Whilst incidences of violent crime are rare, they do occur and you'd be naive to think your family is immune from it happening to you.
Home security, in particular, is taken seriously, with the widespread use of monitored alarms and security fences.
Parents want to provide the best opportunities for their children. But, when it comes to employment prospects, Ecuador certainly has some catching up to do. Even with a good university-level education, the reality is that your child will still likely face a difficult challenge to secure employment that pays anything more than $1,500 to $2,000 per month.
Higher paying jobs are generally given to those that are well connected or have started working in the family business.
For this reason, we're deliberately leaving the door open for our kids to study & live abroad should they choose. We're also making sure they are aware of the various jobs that can be performed remotely from Ecuador so they aren't limited to finding employment within one country only.
Ecuador's visa laws have recently changed, making it more difficult to bring in members of your extended family as dependants on your primary visa. Thankfully, kids are still allowed as dependants. Check out our detailed guide on Ecuadorian visas to find out what visas you may be eligible for.
If one of the parents is an Ecuadorian citizen or resident, then you're also going to read up on Ecuador's custody laws. Some of these laws include:
If you want to leave the country with the child, then you'll need permission from both biological parents. If this isn't forthcoming, then you're going to find it very difficult to legally leave Ecuador with your child. Even if you have full custody, you still need permission from the other biological parent.
If you have child support payments from a previous partner, then you may also find it difficult to leave without paying a substantial guarantee to cover the child support payments until they reach legal age.
Like many countries, you may be required to pay child support if the mother takes you to court and requests that you do so. The judge will assess your income and make a ruling on how much you should pay.
18 is certainly a significant milestone in any Ecuadorian child's life. This is the age they are legally allowed to drink, drive & vote (not all at once...).
Children can work from the age of 15, so long as they have their parent's permission, it's during the day and it's a safe working environment.
One of the key benefits I've discovered from my time in Ecuador is that the pace of life slows down. No longer do I feel the pressure to fit in as many different activities during any given day. This allows me to appreciate what is directly in front of me. And, a big part of that is my family.
You and your family will have time to stop and smell those gorgeous Ecuadorian Forever roses.
Does Ecuador make your shortlist to checkout as a potential country to raise your kids in? If so, fantastic! But, before getting carried away and packing up all of your belongings, we strongly recommend coming for an exploratory visit first.
Ideally, you can spend a month or two visiting various towns across a range of varied environments so you can really get a good idea whether it's right for you.
Please feel free to share any tips you might have on your experience on raising children in Ecuador.