If you had the chance to transform your office into a paradise, would you? With its new visa for remote workers just starting to take its first applicants, the small South American country of Ecuador is betting this lifestyle sounds pretty dreamy to remote workers used to setting up shop in a spare bedroom.
Picture this: you're sipping fresh, local coffee from a hammock as you sign in to your remote job overlooking the rainforest. After answering a few emails, you plan a weekend getaway to hike one of Earth's highest-altitude active volcanoes. Next week, you'll move to a new apartment with a view of the ocean to work on your next remote assignment.
The concept of a digital nomad visa is nothing new. From countries like Portugal and Greece to tiny island nations like Barbados and Dominica, similar visas entice foreign workers to settle for a few months or even years. So what makes Ecuador's digital nomad visa better than all the rest?
Ecuador's Enticing Offer
Ecuador quietly launched its digital nomad visa in September 2022 among an avalanche of countries doing the same. While already popular digital nomad hotspots like Portugal might have stolen a bit of Ecuador's shine with their long-awaited visa announcements, Ecuador's visa is a hidden gem among the rest.
While most other countries offer digital nomad visas that last for one year, Ecuador's digital nomad visa allows for residency for up to two years. Applicants can file the paperwork online from anywhere in the world. Remote income isn't subject to income tax.
Plus, a unique benefit of Ecuador: it uses the U.S. dollar. No money conversion fees here, allowing remote workers to make the most of Ecuador's famously low cost of living. Ecuador has long been a top destination for foreign retirees for this exact reason. Younger remote workers are finally catching on.
A Perfect Fit
Applicants need to show just $1,275 in income per month from a source outside of Ecuador, like a remote job or their own remote business – three times Ecuador's minimum wage of 425 USD per month. Or, show that you make at least $15,300 in a year.
Such a low threshold for income earned remotely is rare in a digital nomad visa. Most other countries require a much higher income threshold for digital nomad visa applicants. Estonia, the first country to announce its intentions to create a digital nomad visa, requires an income of €3,500 per month. The emirate of Dubai offers a remote work visa only to applicants making at least $5,000 per month.
For new digital entrepreneurs, budding freelancers, or part-time workers with digital nomad jobs, Ecuador's digital nomad visa is an accessible possibility.
If you're looking to cut back your work hours or scale up a passion project into a remote business in a country where you can live very comfortably on $1000 to $1500 a month, you won't need to pinch pennies like you would at home. Take advantage of a little financial breathing room, or instead, save those funds to travel and explore Ecuador.
The Country of Four Worlds
The most significant benefit of holding Ecuador's digital nomad visa is, by far, Ecuador itself. In a tiny country the size of Colorado, you'll find the Amazon Rainforest, beautiful Pacific coastline, the Andes Mountains, and the Galapagos Islands: four unique destinations, all easily and affordably accessible. The perfect background for your next Zoom call.
Ecuador's highlights include fresh ceviche on the beach in Puerto López, exploring the historical center of Quito, multi-day treks through gorgeous mountain landscape to the volcanic crater lake at Quilotoa, and adventure sports in Baños sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
Most digital nomads settle in the mountainous, historic cities of Quito or Cuenca, both boasting beautiful colonial architecture, affordable, delicious foods, and nearby national parks. Both cities also offer an array of coworking spaces, including branches of the popular Selina coliving and coworking spaces.
Plan Your Stay
Don't book your ticket for an extended stay in Ecuador with rose-colored glasses. The cost of living is low, but it's easy to blow a budget with a fancy apartment or comfort foods from home. While the country has a lower crime rate than many of its neighbors, Ecuador can sometimes get a bad rap for petty crime.
You'll also want to be wary of internet speeds in certain areas. You'll find an excellent internet connection in cities, but if you plan to venture out to the coast or the Amazon, you might find areas where speeds lag, making remote work more challenging.
While Ecuador might just be making its foray onto the scene of remote work hotspots, it's showing up with a bang. You will find fewer remote workers in Ecuador than in remote work hotspots in Latin America like Medellin and Mexico City, so if you're determined to find a robust digital nomad community, there might be better choices than Ecuador. But with its enticing offer to digital nomads, it's not long before it's on the map.
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Carley Rojas Avila is an avid traveler, writer, and creator behind Home to Havana. Having traveled to twenty-five countries and spent years living abroad, she shares destination guides, travel tips, and hacks to help travelers and digital nomads feel at home when traveling off the beaten path, whether their travels take them to Havana or beyond.