Mandatory health insurance scrapped for visitors to Ecuador

Expats that wish to get to know Ecuador before they decide to move permanently, or those who want to make short trips to the country for other reasons (the beautiful nature and delicious coffee, for example), will not need to have health insurance to enter the country. The Latin American country has recently dropped the idea of making health insurance mandatory for visitors in order to remain affordable and attractive for visitors from all around the world.

Unsure when to insure?

It has been a confusing year for those planning to travel or move to Ecuador, so it isn’t strange if you’ve become a bit unsure. For the last few years, the Ecuadorian government has been toying with the idea of making health insurance mandatory for tourists. The decision was finally made in February 2017: health insurance would become mandatory for all foreign visitors. However, as the year passed, the date for actually making the requirement mandatory was continuously postponed, which made the situation increasingly unclear for anyone wishing to visit the country. In the end, the law never actually came into force and now it has been eliminated altogether. Visitors to Ecuador won’t need to have health insurance after all, a decision the Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism promoted as a strategy to foster the country’s tourism industry.

When do you need insurance?

Expats that wish to stay longer than 90 days in Ecuador still need health insurance and are required to provide proof of this at the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs when arranging their visa. Those who plan to visit the country for less than three months do not need to have health insurance – at least for now.

There is still an exception for those who want to visit the Galápagos Islands. For the last couple of years, these Ecuadorian islands have had to spend large amounts of money on healthcare for foreigners, largely because of the many elderly tourists who have required medical assistance whilst visiting. Therefore, from November 2018 onwards, tourists visiting the Islands will be required to have private health insurance from a provider that is authorised by the local government.

In short: if you’re only visiting continental Ecuador for less than 90 days, you aren’t legally required to get health insurance. However, as mentioned, these laws have a tendency to change frequently so, to be on the safe side, it’s definitely worth taking out health insurance for your trip to Ecuador. This will not only protect you from unanticipated health costs but from any unexpected changes to the law as well.