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2015 Update

The 2015 "Everything You Need to Know about Cotacachi, Ecuador Kit" is available!  Receive a 30% discount using the discount code "escape"

Cotacachi Living

Did you hear about Cotacachi, Ecuador while looking for a low cost overseas retirement destination and wanted to know what it is really like to live there?  Do you wonder if it is as inexpensive as some articles on the internet claim?   After living in this small Ecuadorian mountain town for three years and experiencing all of the changes that an influx of expats have brought, my wife and I created Cotacachi Living to give others a true, unvarnished perspective on what life is like in the Ecuadorian Andes.  No place is a paradise, and the experience of living in Cotacachi has both positives and negatives.  We hope we can give you a more complete perspective of this life in a way that you can't find anywhere else.  A good place to begin is on our Cotacachi blog page or check out our Everything You Need to Know about Cotacachi, Ecuador Kit.

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A Comprehensive Guide for Moving to Cotacachi

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The following is a guest post and contains a great deal of useful information for those interested in relocating to Cotacachi, Ecuador...


If you are considering making a move to a place that is relaxing, scenically beautiful and has a low cost of living then Cotacachi is the place for you. Cotacachi is a town in Ecuador that exudes peaceful serenity not only with the majestic scenery but also with an exemplary climate, friendly residents and a cost of living that is well below what most people are used to, especially those that are moving from the west.

Cotacachi is a mere hour and a half from Quito, the capital of Ecuador where locals tend to travel for shopping in large department stores or dining out on weekends. Cotacachi itself has several small locally owned craft shops and shops where you can purchase locally made clothing, handbags, jewelry and other crafted merchandise as well as fishing and swimming gear, groceries and other items. Where else in the world can you walk into a grocery store with ten dollars and walk out with enough fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other food items to last a whole week? Cotacachi has several shops that are open daily and you can find a great selection of organic foods as well as spices, flowers and even clothing and other items that you need for the home. Sunday is the best day to go to the market as there are usually more vendors which allow for a far better selection of everything that you may want to buy for the week ahead.


Things to Do in Cotacachi

There are many fun, yet very relaxing things to do in Cotacachi including fishing, horseback riding, candlelight dinners on a quiet balcony or socializing with friends while a happy mariachi band plays throughout the night. Cotacachi even offers several places to stay overnight in comfort. Local hotels include a few 5-star hotels including Rancho Santa Fe, the Hosteria La Mirage and the El Mason de las Flores as well as several hostels and smaller hotels. Between the great blend of luxury living space as well as affordable rates with hostels and small family owned hotels, you will find a great selection of dining preferences, spa treatments, swimming, nightlife and entertainment and a very comfortable place to spend the night especially when you are new to the town and need somewhere to stay if you have not yet rented or purchased a permanent residence.

Something that you will not find in Cotacachi is congested traffic, loud and boisterous bars or large retail outlets. The town is very quiet and laid back unless you count the occasional music drifting from a neighbor’s balcony or friends gathered for lunch or dinner at a small café’ or one of the local music or cultural festivals that are held annually. If you like to indulge is the noisier side of life or need a little retail therapy every once in a while you will be a quick 20 minutes or so from Ibarra and other cities where there is more of a nightlife and large shopping districts.


Local Transportation in Cotacachi

Getting around in Cotacachi is often done on foot or bike. It is roughly a 30-minute walk from one side of town to the other. If you know that you will be travelling to other areas for shopping or going out, you may want to have a personal car with you to make things easy. There is public transportation that you can take from Cotacachi to other areas of Ecuador, and while the bus system is fairly inexpensive, the rides can be quite a wild ride. Drivers usually play movies for long distance rides and many of them seem to prefer watching action and adventure movies. While they not only drive, but also watch the movies, the ride may get a little action packed as well. Be prepared to hang on to your seats as you travel across the country.

For traveling locally in Cotacachi you can usually travel across town for $1 (USD). Traveling outside of town to other cities and towns will run anywhere from $5 (USD) up to more than $75 (USD) depending on the distance you need to travel. There are also taxi cabs that can take you anywhere within the town as well as to neighboring towns for shopping and going out. A personal car will however, make travel much easier as well as quicker. Buses can be very packed with people and they are frequently very uncomfortable to ride.


Shipping Your Car and Personal Belongings

Once you know that you want to make the move to Cotacachi, you are going to have to do a little research to determine how you will move your car and personal belongings to your new home. All of your personal items may be brought to the country. This includes items that you normally use around the house, furniture, clothing and accessories and other typical household items. You can also bring work tools or tools that you use for arts and crafts and will need to use once you move.

You must hire a reliable international auto transport company that has a great deal of experience with shipping vehicles to Ecuador. A company that is reliable will be able to provide the necessary information that you need to know to pay the tariff’s and import duties as well as to know exactly what you may or may not be able to ship with the vehicle.

For cars, there are a few restrictions that you need to be aware of. If you own a luxury car that is valued at more than $80,000 (USD) it will be taxed at 100%. For a car import, a 100% tax is more than a little steep. However, Ecuador seems to be encouraging people to move to the country by offering people to move their personal belongings including a car in one shipping container without the worries of paying any taxes at all. This must be done within 6 months of relocating to the country and will only be available one time per family.

To ship the car inside the same container with personal and household items, the car must be within 4 years old or newer and not have a value of more than $20,000 (USD). Customs agents will determine the value by seeing your sales receipt and also by checking vehicle values in Ecuador. For vehicle import purposes, customs agents will apply a depreciation of 20% annually to determine the value. When it comes to paying import taxes based on the value of a vehicle, this will come in quite handy. The vehicle may not be permitted if the engine size is larger than 3000cc

In order to import a vehicle, you will be required to have import certification that you will need to obtain from the Ecuadorian Standards Institute (INEN) a branch of the government in Ecuador. You will also need to provide the following:

  • Resident Visa

  • Passport

  • Tax Receipts

  • Driver’s License

  • Original Title

  • Original Registration

  • Bill of Sale/Sales Receipt

To be exempt from the taxes you need to make sure the vehicle as well as your other personal belongings are shipped in a container and that they arrive 2 months prior to or within 6 months after your arrival.


While no place on earth can be considered absolutely perfect, Cotacachi is definitely one of those that would come very close to perfection. When you are ready to get your move started be sure to check out the Cotacachi blog page to see the many great things you can do once you arrive and to see what others think about their day to day experiences living in the beautiful town of Cotacachi.


Cotacachi is at the top!

Moondrop over Cotacachi, Ecuador

HISTORIA MUSICAL y Discografía Completa de Rumba Habana

History of a musical group the formed in #Cotacachi (in Spanish) Includes some nice pics of Cotacachi

Cotacachi is the Ideal Destination

Good article in the Ecuadorian newspaper about why expats choose to live in Cotacachi

2015 Fiesta de la Jora

Scenes from the recent Fiesta in Cotacachi (in Spanish)

Expats in Fiestas de la Jora Parade, Cotacachi, Ecuador

Fires around Cotacachi

Officials are working to contain fires that are burning out of control in the mountains surrounding Cotacachi.

Get to Know Cotacachi

Wonderful overview of the city of Cotacachi, Ecuador.

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