The Real Value Of Money In Ecuador: How Far Does A Dollar Go?

My husband and I just returned from our weekly trip to the Saturday market here in Ecuador. The Saturday market is where we buy all our fresh fruits, vegetables and organic chicken for the week ahead from our friends Anna, Javier, Veronica and Alberto. On our way home, we stopped by to see Gabriel, our fish guy, to see if the fishermen had caught any fish the night before. It had been a great night for fishing last night and so we bought 2 lbs of our favorite fish, Wahoo.

What do things cost here?

Many people have no idea what things cost here in South America so I thought I would show you a photo of what we just bought an hour ago. Keep in mind, this is what $35.00 just bought here in Ecuador

P10800504.5 lbs organic chicken

(The chicken comes from Maria and Javier who raise them on their farm. Many chickens here in the supermarkets are only 3-4 weeks old and totally shot full with hormones and antibiotics to make them grow faster and plumper. We had looked a long time for a reliable source for organic chickens here in Ecuador. When we met Maria and Javier at the Saturday market, we learned thet their chickens were about 3 months old on average. We were so excited to find them that we put in a “standing order” for two organic chickens a week and now each week when we go, we get between 4-5 pounds of fresh organic chicken. Some we freeze and some I make into soup and others we cook in the oven. Obviously we eat a lot of chicken in our home here in Ecuador!)

2 Lbs fresh caught filet of Wahoo

(We always buy fish from Gabriel who comes from a fishing family right down the road here. Normally we pick the fresh fish we want and Gabriel happily filets it for no extra charge.The fishermen go out every day about 3PM in the afternoon and come back about 6 AM in the morning. Today I noticed that in addition to the Wahoo, which is a very special fish to get here, they had also caught a beautiful 15 lb Dorado which had gorgeous ultra marine blue spots. New fun fact: Today I learned that when the Dorado (Mahi Mahi) are alive, they have bright neon green and yellow spots which turn to a sparkly ultramarine blue after they are caught and put into the boats. )

4 Pineapples

4  Avocados

2  Heads Broccoli

7  Tomatoes

3 Pounds Strawberries

3 Pounds Potatoes

2 Pounds Onions

5 Leeks

4 Peaches

1 Green Pepper

1 Pound Fresh Red Beans (hand shelled)

2 Pounds Fresh Haba Beans (hand shelled)

1 1/2 Pounds Fresh White beans (hand shelled)

P1080050All of the above for $35.00! Can you imagine? What wonderful value!  In the US, just the 4.5 pounds of organic chicken alone would have cost that.

Many people say they come to Ecuador because it’s “Cheap” or it has a “Cheap cost of living.” We prefer to think of Ecuador as a place where people really value the dollar, and Ecuadorians will haggle just to get that value of that one more strawberry or one more orange or one more small fish.

Most of the time, the shopkeepers, like our Veronica, will even put one more carrot, or onion or potato into our bag. When I asked her why she did that, she said, “God is watching.” I thought that was very sweet. It’s like our equivalent of, “One more for good luck!”

Value on everything is highly prized in Ecuador

Value on everything is highly prized here. People really respect value. Having time off is earned and valued. People work very hard to earn their time to rest and chat with each other comfortably laying in their hammocks. Time with family is highly prized and people will work a few extra hours a week to have enough money to take their family for a nice meal in a restaurant (Usually about $5.00 per person, per plate. For a family of 4 people, that is one entire day’s work.) or be able to sip on a large beer for $1.50. Keep in mind, people earn approximately $20.00 per day here so our trip to the market this morning is the equivalent of one and a half full eight hour days work.

In the U.S. you will often hear, “It’s only a dollar.”

In the U.S. you will often hear, “It’s only a dollar.” You would never hear that said here. A dollar buys you a lot and people have worked very hard for that one dollar to put it towards something important to them. The buying power here in Ecuador is much higher than anywhere I have ever lived in my life. In the U.S. by comparison, in 1913 the value of a dollar was a dollar. That same dollar today is worth only $.05. Where has the value gone in the U.S.? It seems the value of a dollar never left Ecuador.

Our condo is $600 per month rent and others for rent near here are anywhere between $500-$1,000 per month. You can get an entire house for rent between $300-$500 per month. Our electricity bill runs about $$30.00-50.00 per month, depending on how much we use air conditioning. Internet costs $25.00 per month. It’s slow and it goes on and off often but it is still only $25.00 per month.

Bus transportation is gauged on $.80 per hour trip. If you are “Terceredad,” which means 65 or older, your bus and airport transportation is half price. As an elder here, you are allowed to go to the front of any line at the bank, pharmacy, hospital,  shop or anywhere else. Respecting your elders is considered a normal part of the value of daily life here and I find that very dear to my heart.  I will write about that aspect of Ecuador in a future blog here.

So many people have this idea of Ecuador being “so third world.”

So many people have this idea of Ecuador being “so third world.” If you go to Quito, you will see a “first world” country, every bit as progressive and modern as any great city in the world. The areas of the Amazon and on the Coast where we live? Well, you might call it possibly call it more “rural,” but it is insulting to call it “third world.”

I hope after reading my blogs here for almost a year, you now know that in Ecuador there is tremendous value, freedom and quality of life. For me, living here in Ecuador as a World Citizen, where there is real value, things are getting better all the time. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life or my lifestyle.

Me. Today. Doing my best to enjoy the Journey.



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2 thoughts on “The Real Value Of Money In Ecuador: How Far Does A Dollar Go?

  1. Thank you for your beautiful article about Ecuador. I am heading to Ecuador for the first time
    next week for a 3 months stay on a coffee farm. I have travelled the world and am appreciating
    a sense of value very much. I am looking forward to my stay there.


    • You are most welcome! Happy to help you in any way!

      I hope you enjoy your stay on the coffee farm. We have travelled the world and and the Ecuadorian coffee beats them all. The chocolate too!

      Please write back after your trip and let me know how it went for you! I would love to hear your reflections on your experience if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

      Warm regards,
      Mary Anne Dorward


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