A Single Female Baby Boomer Expat in Ecuador

We always love it when a baby boomer strikes out on her own. Regina Potenza is a good example. She roughed it as an expat in Mexico, then when that got old, she went further south. It’s worth reading her story about the Adventures of a Single Female Expat in Ecuador.

Why Ecuador? Of all the places I researched when thinking about making a change in my life, this is the country that appealed to me the most.

I was already familiar with Spanish-language countries; I had lived a happy, interesting, and contented life in Mexico since I was 40 years old. However, after 25 years as a single female expat, it was time to move on. As more and more baby boomers looked to Mexico as their retirement haven, too many gringos moved in on my little pueblo on Lake Chapala. Finally, we even got a Walmart in town, and a casino.

While obtaining a “retirement” visa was easier in Mexico, it had to be renewed on an annual basis with an annual fee. In Ecuador, the “pensioner” visa is a one-time proposition. I had to prove sufficient income once and only once, and now it seems I’ll be welcome here in the town of Cuenca forever.

Single life in Cuenca is an easy transition. Since most expats have not been here for long, they seem open and friendly and welcoming of new arrivals. There are many other aspects of life here that I consider good and valid reasons to choose Ecuador as a good place to relocate. I find a lower cost-of-living than in Mexico and certainly in the U.S. It’s lower for everything from utilities, groceries, nightlife, cultural events, and local transportation. I don’t even own a car anymore, so I have no auto maintenance headaches, gasoline costs, nor license and insurance expenses.

Medical costs are lower too. I have already had an experience with a porcelain crown at a cost of $400 and a gall bladder sonogram for $35. A visit and follow-up care with an opthamologist was $25, and the cost of prescriptions is lower than even Mexico.

Of course there are pros and cons to living in any foreign country. In my case, I find airfare back to the U.S. is costly, as are imported food, and health and beauty items. I am learning to substitute more affordable local products.

Weather is a big factor of living in Ecuador. Some may not like the cooler temperatures at higher elevations. We have sunny days but cool nights in Cuenca. The coastal areas on the Pacific Ocean may appeal more to those who don’t like the sound of that.

While Ecuador may not have the infrastructure and services of the better-known retirement destination of Mexico, it offers me some of the greatest natural gems in the world including the Amazon, the Andes, the Galapagos Islands, cloud forests, volcanoes, and more than 600 species of birds. Since the country is about as large as the state of Nevada, it’s possible and affordable to travel and get to know all parts of the nation. The biodiversity is as staggering as the scenery.

I never lack for interesting options for sightseeing, either: colonial cities, lakes, ruins, hot springs, waterfalls, national parks, cobblestone streets, town squares, handicrafts, and traditional celebrations. All in all, my move to Ecuador and my new life here among approximately 500 expatriate residents was the best decision for me.

You might be interested in the video I worked on that was shot in Cuenca this year by Michael Karsh. The subject is what life is really like for expats who live here. There is no advertising, real estate promotion, nor financial advice, just plenty of practical information, plus interviews with expats like me.


  1. What are the income requirements to live comfortably as a single woman in a foreign county that would be safe and cheaper than US?

  2. Loved your article very much. I would never have thought of Ecuador as a place to retire but you have certainly provided food for thought. You are living a brave and adventuresome life. Thanks so much for sharing this and for the information you provided.  Would love to hear more of your experiences down the road as you enjoy Ecuador.

  3. Special Benefits for Retirees in Ecuador
    As a retiree in Ecuador, you’ll enjoy benefits that could save you thousands of dollars a year
    Not only does Ecuador have one of the world’s best climates…lowest costs of living…and top-notch
    medical care at up to one-tenth the cost of the U.S… But it also has a little-known retirement program that
    could save you thousands of dollars a year.
    Ecuador’s senior-citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens. But the country’s
    constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens—so as a retiree, you’ll enjoy the
    same benefits.
    These include:
    ● 50% off public and private transportation within the country (including the Galápagos)
    ● 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events, including movies
    ● 50% off electric and water bills (below certain usage levels)
    ● Free domestic landline phone service (does not include long distance and other services)
    ● You’ll also get 50% off international airfares on Taca, Copa, or AeroGal for round-trip flights
    originating in Ecuador
    Best of all, you never have to stand in line. If you’re a senior citizen, when you make a bank deposit or
    pay your utility bill, it’s the law that you go directly to the front of the line.
    When you’re over 65, you pay lower income tax. And you get any money spent on VAT (value-added tax)
    refunded each month—up to about $250.
    The Ecuadorian government also guarantees senior citizens access to free health care and medication,
    and exemption from notary and registration fees.
    “All expats are able to participate in the Ecuador Social Security medical program,” explains Jack Moss
    who, with his wife Debbie, retired to Cotacachi two years ago.
    “There are no exams necessary for those under age 60. Over 60 there are a series of medical tests, but
    a pre-existing condition is not a reason to be denied coverage. The premium is about $57 a month, and
    there is no co-pay or deductible for physician visits, hospitalization, medications, or dental visits.”

    1. My mother retired in Costa Rica. I loved visiting and was fortunate to visit in the 90’s. I now am contemplating a move to Central or South America. As a single, 65 year old, woman with a small income, I need to know what the lower limits, on income, are for pensioners.

      I would like to learn more a out alternatives for seniors. I took my S.S. @ age 62 to supplement my part time job. Can someone tell me what is required yearly or monthly for an expat to become a pensioner in Panama or

  4. Loved your comments on Cuenca. We plan to move there mid-August and are looking forward to meeting folks, and I certainly would enjoy meeting you at some point. Thanks for the fascinating piece.

  5. Hi Regina,
    I just came across your article and was delighted to read of your feelings about Cuenca. I am recently widowed and was considering relocating to France, a country with which I am familiar and whose language I speak.
    However, after researching possibilities in South and Central America, I
    was intrigued by Ecuador, espcially Cuenca, and came on an exploratory trip of a month last year. I fell in love with the city and am now back and going through the residency application process. Would love to meet you at some point.
    Thank you for an interesting and supportive piece.


  6. Do you know Ed Mills? He has a place somewhere around Lake Chapala, with some other folks, I think. I found you because we know Ed from here in New Mexico, we are also artists, thinking of coming on down to Ecuador in the next? 3 years or so?

  7. Regina i have kown well, she was a customer of mine for many years what a great person, was sorry to see her leave the lake chapala are. I am glad she has found hapiness in Ecuador. I still have a feeling that some day she will return to ajijic.

  8. Hey Regina, Nice to know where you ended up. Our friend Jim is getting ready to publish a book comparing Ajijic to Cuenca. I proofed it for him, so now I know a little bit about where you live. Sounds like things are going well. Enjoyed the article and the video.

  9. Very nice, honest commentary from my friend. She spent many years in Mexico and traveled a lot to find a new paradise for herself. I think I´ll visit her again!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *