The cost of living in Ecuador

This month was lucrative for us, mainly because we didn’t do much but work! For the first two weeks anyway – we holed ourselves up in an apartment in Quito because we had loads of work to get done.

Which is great for our new business Red Platypus but not so great for sightseeing!

Thankfully we got some respite by going to the Amazon jungle for four days which was definately a highlight trip. We saw many different species of monkeys, spotted toucans in the trees and went canoeing down the river at night with the sky brightly lit with stars above and the animal sounds of the jungle all around.

Sani Lodge Ecuador Double-Barrelled Travel

The beautiful Sani Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon

We were lucky enough to get this trip complimentary thanks to the kindness of Sani Lodge, which helped a lot with our budget for the month.

Ideally I’d like to get down to spending just $2,000 a month while we’re in Ecuador (we’re here for another two months) but with Spanish lessons booked for six weeks across June and July we’ll have to see how successful we are with that later!

Anyway, I’ve decided to change these monthly budget posts a little so they’re more useful to you – the reader. Starting from this month, I’m going to give you estimates on the cost of living in Ecuador so you can get a better understanding of how much money you’ll need to visit this one-of-a-kind country.

Cut throat shave in Quito Double-Barrelled Travel

A cut throat shave in Quito set Dave back US$5!

Public transport in Ecuador

Public transport in Ecuador is SO cheap. There are two reasons for this – it’s subsidised by the government and fuel only costs US$1.50 a gallon. Compare this to places like Australia where gas is US$1.50 a litre and you can see how they can keep transportation costs so low.

The public bus around the cities in Ecuador costs 25 cents no matter how far you go. And to get a 12 hour bus from Quito to Cuenca only cost us US$11 per person. The journey was horrendous (in typical night bus fashion) but at that price how can you complain?

Laguna Quilotoa Ecuador Double-Barrelled Travel

Me and Dave at Laguna Quilotoa – one of our day trips from Quito

Accommodation in Ecuador

Of course, the price of your accommodation will depend on whether you’re aiming for luxury or budget – and we can only speak on the budget end. We spent a month living in Quito during April and May and this only cost us a little over US$400 via Airbnb. For this price we got a one bedroom apartment in a gated community complete with a doorman for security.

We were staying in Guapulo, a richer area of the city and our friends were staying in an upmarket hostel nearby, paying US$80 a night. You can probably also find dorm rooms in hostels for as low as US$10 a night.

Manicure Double-Barrelled Travel

Pampering is really cheap in Ecuador – this manicure cost me US$8

The cost of eating out and groceries in Ecuador

It always surprises me when we sometimes spend more on eating out than we do on accommodation – like we did this month – but I guess that just shows where our priorities lie.

We splurged and paid about US$120 for a three course meal and a bottle of wine at Zazu, Quito’s highest rated restaurant. It was worth every penny. You have to eat here if you’re in Quito – you won’t regret it!

Trio of creme brulee Zazu Double-Barrelled Travel

Trio of creme brulees at Zazu – delicious!

But normally, eating out for lunch (and even dinner!) can cost you as little as $1.50 for the set menu. In fact, it’s often cheaper to eat out in Ecuador than it is to eat at home.

For example, we went to a vegetarian restaurant in Quito and got a soup and rice and vegetable dish for US$2.50 each and it was delicious.

However, Dave and I are trying to eat healthily and this means going to the supermarket and then cooking our own meals. We recently spent US$13 on chia seeds which is extortionate! Basically, any food that’s imported into Ecuador seems to be taxed heavily and is remarkably more expensive.

Eating in the Amazon Double-Barrelled Travel

My sandwich in the Amazon came wrapped in a leaf

The good news is that organic food is pretty much the same price as non-organic, which after travelling through the US where it’s substantially higher, was good news for us!

In term of food safety, we haven’t had an upset stomach in the two months we’ve been here. The food and hygenine seems to be a lot better than other countries in South America, like Bolivia where Dave got really sick, for example.


Wine is surprisingly expensive in Ecuador, well compared to everything else it is. I guess it’s that import factor coming in to play here, as not much wine is produced in Ecuador.

You’ll pay between US$20 – US$40 for the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu at a restaurant and at least US$10 when buying it in a shop.

Cocktails are also on the expensive side, costing between US$6 – US$10 each. But compared to my hometown in Australia where they can cost up to US$20, I’m laughing here!

Beer is cheap in Ecuador. You pay around US$3 for a large bottle in a restaurant and substantially less in the shop.

Cocktail Double-Barrelled Travel

Delicious Cosmopolitan, my favourite

Attractions and entertainment in Ecuador

We took three day trips from Quito during our time there and they each cost US$35 per person, per day, which I thought was a bargain. Included in this price was a guide, transport and lunch and we left early in the morning and got back at around 6:30pm, so it was certainly a full day.

One day, when we went to the Cotopaxi volcano, this price also included mountain bike hire to come back down the road if you wanted.

Cycling Cotapaxi Double-Barrelled Travel

The gang (minus me!) who cycled down Cotopaxi’s path

Although on one of the day trips to the cloud forest we had to pay extra if we wanted to go ziplining. But this cost US$20 and I thought that was reasonable considering we went on 10 ziplines across the forest and it took around two hours.

Museum trips are cheap too. We visited the National Cultural Museum in Quito and it was free. Our visit the ‘Middle of the World’ museum on the Equator set us back US$4.

Equator Ecuador Double-Barrelled Travel

Me and Dave at the equator

A four day Amazon trip, staying in an eco lodge like Sani Lodge, will set you back around US$1100 for two people in a double cabin. This includes all of your activities, meals and a guide for the entire length of your stay, so I think it’s worthwhile.

Tipping in Ecuador

If you’re going on a guided tour, like ours to the Amazon and the Galapagos, you’ll often be told by the company before hand what’s a normal rate to tip your guide. Of course, whether you stick to this or not is your own personal choice.

For restaurants, it’s normal to leave a 10% tip, but check in the bill that it’s not already included as a ‘service charge’ when you pay.

For taxis, we tend to tip US$1 each time. Considering most of our journeys cost between US$2 – US$3 this is probably a little excessive but it’s so much cheaper than what we’re used to paying that we don’t mind.

Typical Ecuadorian meal Double-Barrelled Travel

Typical Ecuadorian food

Laundry in Ecuador

There are laundromats everywhere so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place to wash your clothes. All of these laundries are drop-off places and you can expect to pay around US$1 – US$1.50 per kilo to get your clothes laundered.

Just count your items before you hand them in, as we’ve had a few items go missing during our washes.

And there you have it – a rundown of the cost of living for Ecuador!

Our ‘other’ costs for the month of May

Our miscellaneous costs for the month of May look high because we bought an external hard drive for Red Platypus which cost US$179 and we also spent an afternoon at the Marriott spa getting pampered, which cost nearly US$90. We gave US$50 to charity, and bought medicine and other extras which made up the expense for this section.

Do you have any money-saving tips to add?

Overview of our spending in May:

US dollars

Public transport (buses and taxis)




Eating out












Bank fees









About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

10 comments on “The cost of living in Ecuador”

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  5. Deirdre Reply

    Hi, interesting comments and suggestions. I was wondering if you went to the galapagos islands and what you recommend if you did

    Thank you

  6. Cannon Law Reply

    You drink too much alcohol guys! 🙂 Anyway that’s a great review, really gonna use your experience in my trip to Ecuador (if it happens someday)

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