The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better for Less-Vilcabamba Ecuador.

The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better for Less

Ecuador—Vilcabamba: From $600 a month

retire in EcuadorJohnny Lovewisdom, a quirky spiritual seeker, first put Vilcabamba, Ecuador on the gringo map in the 1960s. He advocated (among other beliefs) breatharianism—that one can live on air and sunshine alone. (He died in 2000…some say of malnutrition.)

While clean air and constant sunshine are abundant in this lush valley in southern Ecuador, so is fresh, organic food. The healthy lifestyle is just one reason expats are drawn to Vilcabamba today.

Many residents live to be 100 years old or more. That may be thanks to clean water, clean, stress-free living, or the near-perfect climate. Just shy of the equator and at an elevation of 5,000 feet, temperatures average between 65 and 81 F, day in and day out. Estimates put the number of permanent foreign residents at about 150 and part-timers at perhaps another 100.

Although it takes some doing to get to Vilcabamba, it’s a small price to pay. Literally. Vilcabamba is among the lowest-priced retirement havens in the world. John Curran and his partner, Sue, own their home (so no rent paid) and say they live comfortably on a budget of less than $600 a month, although they admit that costs have risen in the last five years as Vilcabamba has gained popularity.

John pays less than $1.25 a month for gas for cooking and hot water. His monthly water bill is just $1.70 and electricity adds another $30 to the monthly utility bill. Thanks to the temperate climate, there’s no need for heat or air conditioning. Gasoline in Ecuador costs less than $1.50 a gallon.

John and Sue are careful with their spending. They don’t go out often, and they do as much of their own vehicle maintenance and home repairs as possible.

“We don’t have household help,” says John (although the going rate for a common laborer is just $10 a day). School teachers by profession, John and Sue are in their 40s, and they’re careful with how they spend. But as John puts it, “It’s not that we have ‘extra’ money because of the low cost of living; it’s that we are able to retire here at an early age because our costs are low.”— Suzan Haskins

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