This is a city where life is lived daily. Nestled between the two major cities of Quito in the Sierra, and Guayaquil on the coast, Riobamba is always bustling with activity.
Because it is so close to Mt. Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak, many climbers, as well as those who simply enjoy the natural beauty and splendor of Ecuador’s mountains, find Riobamba a great place not only to visit, but to live.
Ecuador has been declared as one of the best places to retire to for many years. With a climate that is cool in the highlands, affordable housing and low food costs, and a culture that is easy to adapt to, Riobamba is one of the cities that attracts many as a desirable place for retirement.
Many have the impression that because Ecuador is located along the equatorial line it must therefore be hot. On the coast, Ecuador is no different than Florida in the U.S., with the hot temperatures and humidity for half the year, but cool temperatures in the 70's the other half of the year. It's strange, but those on the coast think this is "freezing!" But in the highlands, temperatures range year round from high 40's low 50's at night, to high 60's mid 70's during the mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Believe me, it makes for great sleeping!
But what is it that attracts people to live here? Why Ecuador? How does Riobamba compare to other cities that have become very popular for retirees from abroad? The answers are really more simple than complicated, but see if you can find the reasons that work for you.
The Centanario Park or "Parque Centenario" in Riobamba!
As most of the smaller cities in Ecuador, Riobamba has a culture of it’s own. Sure, it resembles all the others on the surface, but it’s always the people that make the difference. When you come to Riobamba, you experience what we have left behind, for the most part, in more “modern” cities in the industrialized nations. It’s called “neighborliness.”
In other words, you are made to feel welcome, and there’s no “welcome wagon” to bring you a basket of discount coupons, a few baked goods and maybe a bottle of wine. Nope! But when you go to the local open market you will find the vendors friendly, and willing to cater to your needs.
"La Abuela Rosa" Restaurant in Riobamba is highly rated for typical Ecuadorian food!"
The Restaurant/Cafe "El V.I.P." in Riobamba receives very good ratings from customers.
The restaurants are even more of a pleasant change, as your waiters are courteous, well mannered, and very attentive. The meals can go from simple fare to exotic, and the prices seem like a throw-back to 30 years ago!
The one greatest challenge most have to deal with other than the observance of time is the typical “say what you want to hear” behavior from merchants and service people. They expect money in advance because for the most part they live from hand to mouth. You must learn to observe any work that is being done to assure it is completed the way you want. You can never take anything for granted.
But, in reality, there is very little difference in other parts of the world, as even in the more “progressive” nations it has simply evolved to more sophisticated ways of fraud and not delivering service as agreed. But the legal system seems to offer some recourse in the more “political” nations.
A very common looking home in the country.
But they don't all look that way!
Wood Fired oven used for baking, roasting pork, smoking meat... Cooking is done on a kerosene or butane fueled stove top inside the home.
For many, they will notice the disparity of life in the city compared to that of the country. Life in the country is even less complicated and simple, as all the “necessities” to live a comfortable life can be as simple as an adobe walled home that may have hard dirt floors, no electricity or indoor plumbing, where the oven is outside and wood fired.
Yup, those homes are still very prevalent, and nearly everyone will have a cell phone! So there’s a contrast from the past to the present. Many of the farmers will be wearing stained t-shirts and raggedy pants accompanied by rubber boots and a hat of some sort. While that might be seen by some as poverty, they see it as utilitarian, as the shirt was given free at some point, and why buy new pants if these can still be patched and used? There was a time when that was seen as logical in other more “advanced” cultures.
Now you may see clocks in the city, but you might notice they aren’t always correct. No one gets upset about that. If you have an appointment of any kind, be prepared to wait, because no one is in a hurry. If you’re invited out to eat, plan on arriving at least an hour late and you’ll be right on time.
In other words, it’s about learning to enjoy the moment, and not be a slave to a clock! It’s understanding the “play first” mentality, and the childlike behavior and attitude that prevail most of the time. Work when you must, but play as much as you can. And as a retiree, that’s all the time!
This farmer has a small business making what is known as "panela", which is a form of unrefined brown sugar made into a block.
The "Plaza de los Torros" or Bull Ring!
So this is just a taste and a “teaser” of what could await you should you decide to retire and live in Ecuador, specifically in Riobamba. There’s more! See for yourself. But come prepared to experience the customs, traditions and culture of Ecuador! Leave yours at home.