Ecuador Cost of Living / Ecuador Culture / Ecuador Lifestyle / Living in Ecuador

Aging in Ecuador: The Trials and Tribulations of Tecera Edad

Now that Gary and I have attained the venerable age of 65, we are entitled to a major perk in Ecuador–we get senior discounts. In Ecuador the name for this is tecera edad, which I’m told literally means ‘over the hill’ in Spanish.

While this may not be a reason to break out a bottle of bubbly, it does make this advanced age with it’s bags and sags, gravity-sensitive limbs and thinning gray hair a bit more palatable.

We now qualify for lower prices on such things as plane flights, bus fares, movies and entrance fees.  This means that the bus fare from Cotacachi to Ibarra round trip is $.45 instead of the normal $.90.  Whoopee!

I know . . . You are probably thinking, poor things.  They’ve lived in Ecuador so long that saving $.50 is a big deal to them.

And you may be right.  But after being gouged so often by Ecuadorians who see all gringos as rich philanthropists, it’s nice to balance the scales in our favor for a change, even if it’s only small change.

A half-price movie ticket in Ecuador means we only have to pay about $2.50 each.  Attending a live musical event at Casa de la Musica can save us $30-$50 per performance.

An even bigger benefit is the return of the 12% IVA tax that is charged on all purchases.  Every month, an over 65er can take his/her receipts to the IESS office in Otavalo and get all of the taxes returned, up to a maximum of $150 per month.   The only caveat is that the receipt must be an official “factura” with your name, address, phone number and cedula number written on it.  If it’s not official, don’t bother.

Obtaining these discounted rates isn’t always easy.  Occasionally roadblocks are erected by bus ticket takers, travel agents,  even the sweet young girls selling movie tickets.  We’ve been met with skepticism, frowns, arguments and downright refusals.

Could there be a quota or limit on the number of oldie discounts allowable each day?  I like to tell myself that the doubts arise because of my uncommonly youthful appearance.

One frequently-used ploy is the “you may be 65 but you aren’t Ecuadorian,” bypass.  Presenting our Ecuadorian cedulas hasn’t been enough proof for some.

These documents are assiduously scrutinized as if they’re counterfeit, even if the difference in ticket price is a matter of pennies.  Smiling politely while insisting upon the discount usually wins out.

Saving 50% on plane tickets is a bigger deal but if you think you are getting the senior price because your ticket is noticeably cheaper, better check it out rather than assume.

Gary thought he’d been given the tecera edad rate when he bought us round trip plane tickets from Quito to Manta for $120 instead of the regular $175 fare for two.

He didn’t discover the truth until we missed our return flight to Quito.  The travel agency told us we’d only received a promotional rate on the tickets, not the tercera edad.  We had to pay another $90.

When Gary and I were satisfying our hamburger cravings at a Fuddruckers in Sacramento, California, the waitress asked us if we wanted the senior discount on our meals.  This was such a pleasant contrast to life in Ecuador.  We didn’t even have to pull out any physical proof of elderliness.

But this confirmation of my advanced age swept through me.  I wanted to rush to the bathroom to see if I’d grown a dowagers’ hump.

How did the smiling waitress know I was 65?  Surely this means I’m long overdue for botox and bleach.

The juicy hamburger with jalepenos and cheese didn’t taste nearly as good as I started wondering how much longer I’d have all my teeth. I felt an urgent need to start checking out nursing homes.

Next time an Ecuadorian disputes my claim to a discounted ticket I won’t feel so annoyed.  I’d gladly give up a few dollars to pretend I’m younger than I really am.



  1. hi again,

    just a note about tercera edad. when i signed up last year i found i had to be already entered into some database flying around in the ecuadorian skies. happened quickly. you have to either have a bank account in your OWN name – ladies and gents – to have your money deposited. OR you can go to banco pacifico and get cold, hard cash. saving up your receipts for several months and then turning them in gives one a little “stash”. our attorney told us to hold onto our facturas ahead of time as they are good even if from BEFORE you turn the corner, so we did and received the money. the first time you sign up you can get all the money from your receipts. hope this adds to your day.

    p.s. i know i don’t use caps – oh, well

  2. Loved your story. I’m 75 in July 2013 and hope to get to Ecuador in May with some friends. Like to meet you & your husband. I can see we have a lot to learn

  3. Samuel J. Heffner says:

    Hello Gary: As a new member Pro- Ecuador, I’m in need of information on the Ecuador Tren. I would like to travel from Quito to Guayaquil, cost and travel time. We are planning a trip in the middle of June 2013, and staying about a month. I will be most greatfull for any and all information you can supply. I will look forward to your reply. Samuel Heffner@

    • The train from Quito to Guayaquil was supposed to be open in 2012, now I hear it will start June 4 of 2013,(
      wiki/Empresa_de_Ferrocarriles_Ecuatorianos) but who knows for sure? I wouldn’t hold my breath. (can translate into English)

      Trains currently make only short trips from Quito to places like Latacunga.

      You might like to ride the Nariz del Diablo, Devil’s Nose, train, 12 kms, 2 1/2 hrs. In our area, the train from Ibarra to Salinas and back is fun. Is about 30 km, takes 6 hrs, $10.

      You can take a bus or fly from Quito to Guayaquil, of course. We’ve done both and the bus ride is long but interesting.

  4. It was so funny! My son’s girlfriend & i have been laughing for some time. Thanks for making us laugh. It was a nice relaxation after cleaning over 2 feet snows(wonderful 2013 blizzard on east coast). Enjoy Ecuador, can’t wait to go back again.

  5. Linda! I haven’t laughed so hard for weeks. Thanks for that. I know the first time I rode the bus and the ticket taker gave me back money I just smiled and smiled. Love your writing. We all need to smile more!

  6. Suzy Kurinsky says:

    Thanks for the information on Fuddrucker’s – I just googled Fuddrucker senior discount- “10% off for a senior platter (for those who have 55 years or more). So….you didn’t look 65….

  7. So nicely written, thanks for sharing! I fondly remember a Fuddrucker’s in Orange County years ago…… I’m only 60 but I’m curious what it will be like when I’m 65 and old. :-)