Life as a digital nomad in Quito, Ecuador
Ecuador, nestled between Colombia and Peru, is a South American country on the Pacific Coast. While Ecuador isn’t a country that immediately comes to mind for those wanting to work and travel as nomads, it is growing in both attention and popularity. While many tourists head straight to the Galapagos Islands and a lot of North American retirees settle in Cuenca (and who can blame them), we chose Quito for our month of living and working abroad in this beautiful country.
Unlike, Guayaquil, the country’s bustling coastal capital, Quito sits inland, high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850 meters, a whopping 9.350 feet! While the elevation results in milder, cooler temperatures, the altitude can definitely take some adjustment.
While there is plenty to see in Quito, it is not necessarily a top destination of tourists. This is just fine with us, as it keeps the place feeling authentic and unspoiled. What others see as a bit boring, we found refreshingly easy paced.
We lived near Parque La Carolina, a massive 165 acre (nearly 700,000 square meter) park that features botanical gardens, paddle boats, sports fields, fountains, a skate park, and more. And honestly, this felt like the perfect place to be situated. In a city that is not the most walkable, after an easy and beautiful walk across the park, we were met with supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, bars, and even our favorite coworking space.
With a consistent daytime temperature of 68°F/20°C year-round (due to the city’s equatorial location), the park is a constant draw for visitors and locals alike. On Sunday, it can feel like nearly half the city arrives to take in the fun. Great people watching!
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When it’s time to knuckle down and get some work done, Quito offers some first-rate coworking options sporting modern, new facilities. We worked at IMPAQTO, located close to Parque la Carolina in the lively and hip area of Benalcazar. Other choices include WorkingUp and Innova Center.
What’s also great about Quito is its affordability. As of 2018, Nomadlist puts the average cost of living at $1159/month. This is considerably lower than Guayaquil on the coast, so Quito is worth considering if you are still trying to determine how to travel the world on a budget. The lower cost of living allows you to live rather comfortably in Quito, which can be a bonus if you are just becoming a digital nomad or world traveler.
For all its advantages, we were a bit disappointed by the food options, so this is also something to note if you don’t tend to cook for yourself at home. One thing you can count on, however, is the ever-present and delicious shawarma, much like many other cities we’ve lived in. And when you want something more upscale, head over to the swanky La Floresta area. You’ll find a spectacular dinner at Urko, which features a unique and high quality regional tasting menu.
On days that you would rather take a day off and explore, Quito has a well-known historic area (“old town”) which is one of the earliest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Take advantage of getting to know this area by joining a free walking tour to learn about the history and buildings in your midst.
Most of the younger digital nomads and backpackers settle into Plaza Foch. While certainly worth a visit for an afternoon or evening out, be aware that it can be very much a party zone in the evenings, with a fair number of shady characters waiting to make their move. Stay alert and you should be fine.
If you would like to venture further afield and you’re not quite ready for the Galapagos, try, Mitad del Mundo (or the middle of the world), a.k.a. the equator. This pretty area is a short drive away – accessible by both tourist bus or by local transport options pending your adventure threshold. Make sure to check it off your bucket list and snap a picture of yourself standing in both hemispheres at the same time!
We also visited beautiful Mindo, known for the many bird species, butterflies and orchids found in the surrounding cloud forest, part of the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve. At under 40 km from Quito, it’s definitely worth a visit. If you do go, try out the Mindo Ananaw, a short walk to town but surrounded by nature.
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