Archive | Ecuador Q&A

Will your pet be detained upon entering Ecuador?

Recently a friend of mine brought her pet to Ecuador… here´s what went down…

First, before coming she made sure she had the necessary documents: A vaccination certificate for international travel and a certification from an FDA approved veternarian that the pet was healthy. All of which needs to be done right before traveling and for extra security I´d get all the documents certified by an Ecuador consulate before coming.

The airline in the USA initially caused concern saying she MUST have a “pet broker”, but she got around this explaining she had a friend lined up that was going to help her. Before flying check with your airline on if a broker is NEEDED or not to board the plane, usually not, but some are more strict.

If possible, bring the pet as a carry-on as if they are in the cabin they often can just walk right out with you upon arrival, if they come in cargo, and you arrive late at night the pet will stay detained until the next business day.

Her dog was too big to ride carry-on. So it spent the night detained in customs.

The following morning she went to the Quito airport, where she was told she had to go to the UNITED CARGO pick up offices in the nearby town of Tababela.

There, she was told she had to go to another building near the airport to pay an environmental inspection tax of about $28, from there on to Customs where she had to pay another small fee and wait for another inspection.

After that she had to go pay the storage of the dog for the night which was $15 in order to release the dog. The payments were made in a nearby bank, no bribes, no brokers needed.

In all the spots she was asked for the documents she brought from the states plus the bill of lading and her BOARDING PASS!

The whole process took about 8 hours so don´t expect it to be quick!

T.I.E. my friend, This is Ecuador.

For more specific information on this I´d call an Ecuador consulate in the US. They´ll tell you what you need to gather.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Expansion complete: the surprising difference between a 6 and 23 room hotel

Often, the first business most of us expats think of putting in our new country is a guesthouse.

It´s not a bad idea cause you really don´t need any formal education on the subject to do it. It wasn´t my plan either, I just kind of fell into it.

First in Guayaquil, partnering with a friend to start a small guesthouse, then here in Quito.

But most people start like I did in both Guayaquil then Quito: with five o six rooms.

My advice… don´t!

Unless, you really enjoy it of course.

Why?

Well, a few months back i finished an expansion from 6 to now 23 rooms.

And what´s the surprising difference between running the two, or between a small and a large guesthouse?

Nothing!

Really! The costs are ALMOST the same and either way it´s still a 24 hour business.

Even the email load is about the same.

Time invested… the same! It´s a 24 hour business either way! You need at least one person there ALL the time unless your cheap and want to handcuff yourself to the place.

Before, with six rooms, I had one person at night, one cleaner, and one part timer receptionist in the daytime with a part time cleaner that works when the full timer has off.

Thats two full timers and two part timers.

Now, with the 23 room place I´ve needed to add one more full time cleaner so i now have two cleaners daily, yet the same part time afternoon receptionist and the same night receptionist.

That´s it!

And cause I serve dinner I´ve had to hire a part-time chef cause with that many people one person can´t cook and attend the clients like they could before.

So what´s the difference between 6 and 23 rooms? One more full time cleaner and one part time chef.

But the difference in revenue is substantial.

It´s simple math, if you can charge $50 a room and fill the place, with just 5 or 6 rooms thats $250-300 a day revenue minus all your expenses equalling a bottom line of NOT MUCH.

But with over 20 rooms you can obviously generate over 4 times as much (with minimal increased expenses) if you can keep it full.

So if you are going to do it, do it big. Below is a pic of the new addition that was completed at my hotel near the Quito airport, total build time, roughly 3 months.

hotels-near-quito-international-airport

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The difference between car insurance in Ecuador vs the US

Yesterday, I hired private car insurance for the first time since i moved to Ecuador.

It’s true that most Ecuadorians just go with the state mandated liability insurance that covers damages to third parties (previously known as SOAT) that costs about $45/year. But that still doesn’t cover YOUR car in the case of an accident or theft.

There’s actually a lot of companies to choose from, some international… to name a few: MapFre, Constitucion, QBE, Equinnoccial.

The policies work pretty similar to the ones in North America, as I’m sure the whole concept of insurance was created there.

But in Ecuador things are not always as they seem. The consumer is not nearly as well protected as you’re used to in North America, thus, the businesses down here are noticeably more sneaky.

The biggest difference I see is in the deductibles.

Usually, in North America you have an easy-to-understand flat deductible, any damage past that value the insurance pays, up to that point you pay.

Well, after analyzing several options in Ecuador, the insurance companies all seem to have three values which can serve as the deductible, stating that the higher value one in a particular case will reign supreme.

For instance, my new policy states in the case of an accident, the deductible is 1% of the insured value of the car OR $200 OR 10% of the cost of the damage…. WHICHEVER is higher.

So for my $18,500 car in the case of a complete loss due to theft or crash or whatever I’d be on the hook for $1,850 (10% of the damage which is the highest amount in this case).

Read the fine print in Ecuador!

Here are two English speaking insurance agents in Ecuador that come highly recommended by friends of mine (although I admit I haven’t worked much with either of them yet)…

In Quito… Mauricio Davila email mdavila10@hotmail.com

In Cuenca… Luisa María Castro, BLUE BOX ASESORES, 0983958876 lcastro@blueboxinsurance.com

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Expected returns in Ecuador, and how Ecuadorians double them

A lot of people don’t know this about me… but I actually have an Ecuadorian mentor.

He’s born and raised Ecuadorian, from Guayaquil, self-made, about 50, and currently owns a hotel in Salinas, a rent a car company in Guayaquil, and a few other smaller hotels in Guayaquil.

I actually partnered with him when I part-owned a hostal in Guayaquil, my first significant investment in Ecuador. I wouldn’t have had the guts to do something like that on my own when I first got here, he showed me the biz.

Anyway, we still keep in touch, and one day we were talking and I asked him what he considered to be a good investment?

He responded, “20%…” OK I thought, that’s good.

But he wasn’t finished… “a month”.

“Wow, really? That’s how rich Ecuadorians think?” …was all that went through my head.

But after being here a while (3 years +) I can honestly say its true, for a lot of investments in Ecuador, that’s about the return you should expect.

Remember, like most places in Latin America, Ecuador should be considered a higher risk investment, and the returns should substantiate that.

So, how do Ecuadorians double their returns?

Rent.

Yea, I learned this here in Ecuador. Rent the property and put the business, or rent the business, redo it and really put it to work and you will often see 100% returns on your now much smaller investment and get your money out within 2 or 3 months!

Sometimes it makes sense, but you don’t necesarily have to own ‘the trains’!

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A, Investor News/Analysis

Keeping your car legal in Ecuador

Got a car in Ecuador?

Worried the papers might not be up-to-date and the next time you´re pulled over might be your last?

I got several friends with cars in Ecuador and almost all of them have cars with expired registrations and are subsequently illegal for transit.

When really, it´s pretty easy to keep your car legal, I think most expats just don´t know how to do it.

Once you have a car in Ecuador, each year you have to pay the annual “matricula” or registration.  It´s more expensive for newer or more expensive cars, yet with each passing year the amount to pay goes down considerably.

For instance a $22,000 new car may have a “matricula” payment of around $600 while the same car 3 years later may only have to pay around $200 in the annual “matricula”.  You can consult by plate number how much you´ll have to pay at the folowing link.

When you have to pay in the year is determined by the last number of your license plate. For instance, plates ending in “1” have to pay in February of each year while “2” has to pay in March and so on until “0” has to pay by November.  You can pay in advance.

To pay the amount due all you have to do is go to any bigger bank in Ecuador like a Banco Pichincha with your Matricula card, hand it to the teller, and they´ll tell you how much to pay.  Make sure you keep the receipt, and that´s it for newer cars, you are done!

Now, every three years or so you will have to go into the ANT (Agencia Nacional de Transito) office nearest you and renew your Matricula card after you have paid the amount due in the bank.

For cars usually 3 years or older, after you pay in the bank you will need to get an annual car “revision” where they will check primarily for emissions, the lights, suspension, alignment and brakes and the cost for smaller cars is around $28.  Pretty straightforward.

For a car revision you will need to apply for a turn in Quito at this site.  For Guayaquil, try here.  Manta and Cuenca also have their revision points, just Google “revision vehicular MANTA” or wherever.

For newer cars, usually three years or younger the revision is not necessary, you can also verify by a sticker on the windshield if a revision is necessary for your vehicle.  It´ll say EXEMPT (Exento) 2013, 2014, 2015 or whatever.  This link helps too for general info on your vehicle and also to see when it last passed a revision.

Also, to register your car for the current year keeping it legal to transit, you will also have to pay any outstanding fines or you will be forced to do so before payng the annual registration payment at the bank, you can see if your car owes at this link.
That´s it!  Now you won´t have to sweat it next time you´re pulled over in Ecuador. You´re legal!

 

 

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Getting Internet (data in your phone) anytime anywhere in Ecuador – Not always as easy as you think

I know, I know, I get it.

Staying connected to the Internet is more important than water, electricity for you.

We´ve reached that point in our society.

Problem is, in Ecuador, the Internet connection is not so good, especially in the small towns.  Even hotels that advertise they have WIFI, often will be having network problems.

But there is something you can do about it.

First, go to BestBuy USA or whever and get an UNLOCKED smart phone with a SIM card slot, BLU are the cheapest starting around $100.

Then once in Ecuador buy a SIM card for $7 that gives you an Ecuador number and gets you on the local network.  There are only two cell phone service providers in Ecuador Claro and Movistar.

OK, once you have the SIM card in the phone, activated, go to any local street store that sells RECARGAS or minutes.  You can add $1, $3, $5, $10 or more.
Once the minutes are added, to activate the credit as DATA INTERNET

For Claro dial: *123# and then follow the prompts.

For Movistar: After loading $5 of credit, Send a text message to the number 334… with the word “siete” then you’ll get a response and respond to that message with the command “INTR7”.  Thats it, you ll get a confirmation of 200mb of DATA surfing over a period of seven days.

When you’re on a limited mega count, try to avoid watching videos or downloading things as this consumes most of your megas.  Social media and email consume very little megas.

This way anyone, even a tourist in Ecuador, can stay connected anywhere, anytime, no matter if the WIFI is down.


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Ecuador dual citizenship myths debunked- How to get around the 90 day rule

There’s really only one simple requirement that qualifies you for an Ecuadorian second passport (aka Ecuador dual citizenship)… you need 3 years of permanent residency after getting any of the resident visas and obtaining your “cedula” ID card.

In fact, I was told by my source in immigration you can actually apply after about 2 and a half years.

That’s it!  By far the easiest South American passport to obtain!

But there is a lot of mis-information out there on this subject, mainly us gringos regurgitating random stuff we read on online forums.

1. Will getting dual Ecuadorian citizenship cause me to lose my original citizenship and passport?  No!  Not if you are from a country that allows and recognizes dual citizens like the USA, Canada, Ecuador and Great Britain to name a few.

2. Will getting Ecuador dual citizenship create an EXTRA tax burden for me?  No. Ecuador like most countries not named THE US…tax only income made in Ecuador, doesn’t even matter what nationality the person that makes it is, if you are given an official Ecuadorian purchase receipt (factura) you have to pay tax to Ecuador on it.  If not, no.  Ecuador does not tax foreign made income.

3. Isn’t Ecuador one of those mandatory military service states?  Actually yes, it is, but T.I.E. my friend (this is Ecuador)… to get out of it all an Ecuadorian male has to do is pay a tiny fine (last I heard it was well under $200).  And truth be told, they would only be interested in you and possibly enforce it if you were 18-21 anyway.  In fact, its not at all like the US, or like you think, there is actually a surplus of demand from locals to join the forces, and many who want to join are left out!  Really!  There just aren’t that many spots.

Now the biggest, baddest two myths that prevent most us gringos from even trying…
4. Isn’t there a new law that states you must be out of the country for a maximum of 90 days TOTAL for the three years prior to applying for residency?  Actually, this is CORRECT, BUT T.I.E. my friend (this is Ecuador), I know you probably think like a gringo and everything is black or white, right or wrong, I get it, I do too.  But this is Ecuador, the land where who you know and what you know often prevails.  For instance, to get around this one in a totally legit, legal way you can right a letter and submit with your application explaining the extenuating circumstances that caused you to be out of country more than the time allotment.  For example, a death, a health issue, etc… of course substantiated by apostilled proof from a doctor or whatnot helps.  Its not a given they would pass it, but its possible, one ecuadorian immigration official working in the Quito citizenship office informed me THIS MONTH, June 2015 in Quito.  I would personally apply in Quito too, not Cuenca, they just seem nicer.

5. Isn’t there a nasty verbal exam of my Spanish level?  No!  The exam is actually WRITTEN, which makes it MUCH easier, yes, it is in Spanish, but with some test prep like the guide I’m offering today you should be fine.  You will have to sing the Ecuadorian hym, but that is when you have ALREADY been accepted and you won’t be by yourself, but with everyone else sworn in that day so I’m sure you could find a way to ‘fake it til you make it’ like you did back in high school choir class.  As for the written exam, the official told me you really have to B#MB it to fail it and yes, they’d let you take it again.  They just want to see some effort.  He also said the older you are the less they expect you to speak decent Spanish.  So NO, there is no verbal exam but yes, some basic Spanish chit-chat would be nice to know going in, you know, stuff you can learn in a few weeks of Spanish lessons.

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Getting electricity to your lot in Ecuador

And on goes my building project on the coast of Ecuador.

Next up, electricity, not necessarily a sure thing in Ecuador.

But in this case, the electricity was about 100 meters away from my lot, maybe a bit less, so it wasnt a huge deal hooking it up to my property.

Total cost $2450 for everything, one guy did it all, installed two posts, one transformer for max 2 houses, and also did the certification with the electric company and got the meter installed.

In a few days he was done.

If I build more houses in the near future i can trade him the transformer i got for a more powerful one and he will discount the full price of the one i have.

As for installing the electrical outlets and breakers in the home itself, normally, I now electricians in Ecuador charge $12 per point, or per outlet installed. We found one recommended local that will do it for a total of $700 the whole house.

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Getting water to your lot on the coast of Ecuador

Before we could even think about building anything here on the coast just south of Manta, Ecuador, we had to get water to the lot.

Electricity can come later.

Like with most things in Ecuador, its usually either ridiculously easy or excruciatingly difficult.

Thankfully, this time it was easy.

Like usual in Ecuador, we asked our neighbors how they got water and found out there was a newly installed city line right near our property.

The expats near us were Ok with letting us plug in but said they invested to bring the line where it was so they asked us to chip in with a one time “tip” of $180.

We paid it, and with their blessings we plugged right in with our “T” as you can see in the pic.

No meters yet in this area of town but they will soon be installed so I´m told.

installing-water-to-lot-in-ecuador

So for now the water is free.

In a previous property I owned south of here on the coast I was plugged into the city line and paid around $4 a month.

Gotta love Ecuador!

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Budget airline arrives in Ecuador, brings lower prices to USA: Get RT Miami-Quito under $400

VivaColombia is a budget airline based out of Colombia that just made getting to the US from Ecuador and vice versa a whole lot cheaper.

And not just once in a blue moon, pretty much anytime you want to go in 2015 you can find a roundtrip flight QUITO to USA (MIAMI) for around $400 with my below method.

I noticed chatting to guests at my hotel near the Quito airport, as of last month, April 2015, VivaColombia has upped its frequency of flights to a few a day (which has lowered the price) from Quito to Bogota.

So first, buy a Quito to Bogota round trip with Viva which is going for around $185 taxes included.

That´s cheap!

Then, use Spirit Air, another personally-preferred budget carrier, to get roundtrip from Bogota to Miami which I´m seeing start around $249 taxes included.

That´s $434 taxes included, roundtrip, everything.

This is currently the cheapest way I´ve seen to get from North America to Ecuador in 2015.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A, Ecuador Travel Guides, Expat Lifestyle

The best driving routes, and driving times in Ecuador

This week I had the pleasure to interview someone that knows the roads of Ecuador better than ANYONE I know.

Jack Abercrombie, an American expat from Atlanta who has lived in Ecuador for over 7 years now and has a heavy-duty truck he uses to help expats move heavy loads of belongings within Ecuador.

With all the new roads in Ecuador, his tips are far better than any GPS I’ve seen.
Enter Jack.
Hey Jack, help us out, what’s the best way to get from the Quito Airport or better yet, my place, Quito Airport Suites which is just a few minutes from the UIO Quito airport, to Otavalo?
OTAVALO & COTACACHI

Sure Dom, Exit Tababela onto the roundabout and head towards the airport on the new airport road called the ‘Conector Alpachaca’ until just before the airport and take a left at the mini-roundabout there onto the other new road ‘ruta colloa’ , then watch for the signs to Otavalo after a few kilometers and veer right and up the panamerican highway all the way up.  Don’t go the way through Quinche, lots of traffic, dangerous curves!  AVG DRIVING TIME 2 HRS.

To get to Cotacachi just pass Otavalo and continue up the Panamerican a few more minutes until you see a sign COTACACHI and a turn off to the right which will veer left and go over an overpass.  Continue 10 more minutes, ABOUT 15 minutes from Otavalo.

MINDO

Whats the best way to get to Mindo from the Quito Airport Suites?


Take the new airport road called the ‘Conector Alpachaca’ until just before the airport and take a left at the mini-roundabout there onto the other new road ‘ruta colloa’ until CARCELEN in North Quito and continue you see an overpass and veer right (dont go under it) until the Condado SHopping Mall roundabout, make a right go north on Manuel Cordoba Galarza past Mitad del Mundo the road changes to E28 and hangs left and you ll be in Mindo in 1.5 hrs.  TOTAL DRIVING TIME 2 HRS.

THE NORTH COAST: PEDERNALES, BAHIA, ESMERALDAS

So do you recommend this route to get to the coast?  Pedernames and Esmeraldas?

Yes!  Beats the Santo Domingo route as that road has frequent wash outs and land slides and closures.  Plus they just completed the new road to Pedernales.

Get to Mindo.  Then pass it and continue westbound on E28… past Los Bancos veer left at gas station , stay on E28 to La Concordia, follow signs to La Independencia RUTA LAS VILLEGAS, get to 382 turn right, go north on 15 for Esmeraldas or south to catch the road to Pedernales, look for the roundabout and signs for PEDERNALES.

Once you hit Pedernales head south along the coastal road to get to Canoa or Bahia de Caraquez.  DRIVINGTIME 8-9 HRS FOR EITHER PEDERNALES OR ESMERALDAS.

THE CENTRAL COAST: MANTA, CRUCITA, SAN CLEMENTE

To get from the Quito Airport Suites to Manta and Manta area (Crucita, San Clemente)?

Exit Tababela on to main highway to the right towards Quito, (take E35 south) until PIFO roundabout. Go on  top of offramp to Baeza (or left on 28C), then after a few short kilometers take a right on E35 to SANGOLQUI until big hummingbird roundabout Tambillo E35 bypass Quito and go to E20 Aloag, follow the Santo Domingo signs South E25 bypass around Santo Domingo, tie back to 382 west , eat in Nuevo Israel, then continue until El Carmen bare left on E38 Chone follow signs to Tosagua 383 to Rocafuerte, road turns into E15 hang right follow signs to Manta.  Thats it, easy!  DRIVING TIME 9 – 9.5 hrs.

THE AMAZON: TENA

The Quito Airport Suites to Tena?  

Exit Tababela on to main highway to the right towards Quito, (take E35 south) until PIFO roundabout. Go on  top of offramp to Baeza (or left on 28C), pass Papallacta, Baeza then road forks E45 troncal amazonica take right going south, pass Archidona and hit Tena.  DRIVING TIME 2 HRS 45 MIN.

The mid-Sierras: BANOS and AMBATO


The Quito Airport Suites  to Banos/Ambato?


Whatever you do, SKIP GOING THROUGH INNER-CITY QUITO!  
Exit Tababela on to main highway to the right towards Quito, (take E35 south) until PIFO roundabout. Go on  top of offramp to Baeza (or left on 28C), then after a few short kilometers take a right on E35 to SANGOLQUI until big hummingbird roundabout Tambillo E35 bypass Quito and go to towards E20 Aloag on  AUTOPISTA GRAL RUMINAHUI back to E35 troncal de la sierra… (take the new bypass around Latacunga)… then follow route 493 which enters Ambato… for Banos take the  2 paso lateral to the left until E30 pass Pelileo.  Follow the signs.  TRAVEL TIME 3 HRS 30 mINS.

QUITO AIRPORT TO CUENCA

From the QUito Airport Suites to Cuenca?  


Follow the same route to Ambato as stated above and just continue south on the E35.  That’s the best route.  DRIVING TIME 10 HRS.

QUITO AIRPORT TO GUAYAQUIL

From the Quito Airport Suites to Guayaquil?

Follow the same route as to Manta UNTIL Santo Domingo, then make a left and go south on E25 to Quevedo … AVOID THE RIOBAMBA ROUTE AND THE LATACUNGA TO COAST ROAD lots of fog and rain.  continue to Babahoyo and then Duran then you’ll pop out at Guayaquil after 9-10 HOURS.


GUAYAQUIL to CUENCA

How about getting from Guayaquil to Cuenca?   Take the highway across the Samborondon bridge through Duran to 40A to route 25 to 582 through the Cajas national park, there are other ways to get there but they are not reliable.  DRIVING TIME 4hrs.

From Cuenca to Loja?

Take the one and only highway that connects the two, DRIVING TIME 4-5 HRS.

From Loja to Guayaquil?  

SKIP going through Machala as there is a reason to avoid the roads in this area if possible (security concerns).  Go back through Cuenca and down to Guayaquil.  DRIVING TIME 9-10 HRS.

From Guayaquil to the coast(Salinas, Montanita)?  

Its actually easier to navigate Guayaquil than most gringos make it out to be. Just get to the Mall del Sol in the Garzota part of town.  Then follow the AV. Juan Tanca Morenga north on out of town and follow the signs to LA COSTA.  Once on the coastal highway its a straight shot to Santa Elena, where you’d turn right to go up the coast to Montanita or head straight and veer left to go to Salinas.  DRIVING TIME 2 HRS to Salinas, 3 HRS to Montanita.

Hey Jack, tell us more about yourself and the services you provide?
Sure, as Dom said before, I help expats with heavy loads get from point A to point B in Ecuador.  My truck is designed for heavy loads while most Ecuadorians cars are NOT making them unsafe on with the loads on the slick Ecuadorian highways. In Atlanta I was a Union sheet metal worker and heavy equipment sales, contact me at Journeymanjack.com@gmail.com or call my local phone at 0988066508 (593988066508 from USA) … USA phone 7708287913…

 

 

 

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A, Expat Lifestyle

FBI check now needed to live in Ecuador, really?

I didn´t believe it when I heard it.

In fact, even though it´s not my main business in Ecuador, I´ve helped over a dozen people get their residency visas to live here in Ecuador.

And the last couple I helped just 3 months ago in mid-December.

The last several I´ve helped it just took one day.  So I just charged a daily fee ($150).

One day.  In and out, file submitted.  Approved in two weeks.  Come pick up visa, get cedula (Ecuador ID card).  Stay in Ecuador as long as they want.

It really is that simple.

But now, as of 2015, I confirmed in the Quito immigration office talking to the officials a few days ago in March, it´s just got a bit harder.

Specifically harder for Americans, or people from the States, who want to live in Ecuador.

Americans now need a state-wide police check AND a federal FBI level check, which sometimes can take months to attain.

Before, a simple police check from your local town would suffice.

Easy… actually it was WAY too easy.

And easy to game the system if you know what I mean, so maybe this change is ultimately good for Ecuador but for us people applying to live here it just got a bit more complicated.

So why just for Americans?

Well, the new requirement officially states, people from countries with a federal government need both the state check AND federal police check, but really, as one friend who does this for a living tells me, they are only applying this new visa requirement to Americans and Canadians (for now).
Better time than ever to consider getting a second passport!

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

What to bring to Ecuador? And what NOT to.

This week I´m checking in from Miami, FL.  

First time I´ve been in the USA for a bit over three years since moving full-time to Ecuador.  

And now, it´s quite clear to me what is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper or easier to find in the USA compared to Ecuador.

What to bring with you to Ecuador?

1. Laptops.  In countries like the USA, lap top computers are not just cheaper than in Ecuador, but the variety is much greater.  For instance, want something specific like an i7 processor?  Best buy in USA and bring to Ecuador.  Maximum 2 allowed per person.  

2. Cell phones.  There are very strict import regulations in Ecuador on cell phones thus jacking up the local prices.  Best bring from USA.  You can bring a maximum 2 down per person per trip.

3. Apple products.  Apple computers, iphones, ipads and anything else Apple is best brought from USA.  

4. Footwear.  Name-brand shoes like Nike tennis shoes can be double the price of the same shoe found in USA.  Moral of the story, bring down!  Womens high heels´ are often MUCH less expensive in USA, too.  Bring, the local Ecuadorians already know this!

5. Cosmetic products like specific facial creams, make-up.  Again, these products can be hard to find or double the price in Ecuador.  

6. Lingerie.  The good, name-brand stuff, even Victoria Secret, can be double or triple the price in Ecuador.  

7. Name-brand jeans.  Levi, Tommy, all that can be triple the price in Ecuador, and even still, when buying in Ecuador you are never quite sure if what you´re buying is REALLY authentic.  Know what I mean?

8. Designer sun-glasses.  Much cheaper in USA.  But the cheapies for $8 that break in a few weeks can be found in Ecuador.  

9. Projectors, DVD players, other specialty electronics.  These type of products can be hard to find or simply double the price in Ecuador.  

10.  Video game systems, i.e. XBox 360, PlayStation.  Often these systems can be over double the price of similar systems found in USA, plus, the games are much cheaper if bought in USA.  Personally, Id buy both the system and games cheap in a pawn shop in USA, then bring down.  

11. Musical equipment.  A Keyboard in Fry´s of Las Vegas costs $99, the same keyboard is over double the price in Ecuador.  Nuff said.  

12. Fishing, hiking and other extreme sports equipment.  Its not the price here, its that these type of specialty items are simply hard to find in Ecuador.  Best to bring.

13. Security equipment.  Systems like security cameras and other specialty home or personal security equipment are best brought from the USA.  

14. Baking equipment.  Specialty items like cookie-cutter molds, mixers and other items related to baking can be non-existent or far more expensive in Ecuador.  

15. Designer jackets, leather, pleather, etc.  More variety and cheaper in USA.

16. Specific food spices and sauces.  For instance, stadium-mustard with that unique flavor is hard to find in Ecuador.  

17. Liquor.  Things like Tequila and many other liquors can be much cheaper in USA compared to Ecuador, but you can only bring up to 3 liters per traveler according to this recent article from the Ecuador customs (Aduana).  

18. Big-screen TVs.  MUCH cheaper in USA, a 32 or 40 inch TV is often half the price in USA at a place like Walmart compared to Ecuador.  While a 32 inch, flat-screen LED Sony in Ecuador starts around $440, the same TV or similar can be found in USA for around half that or less!  But according to the Ecuador customs, you can only bring ONE TV up to 24 inches tax-free per traveler unless you´re bringing one down in your one-time-only tax-exempt shipment from USA after attaining residency in Ecuador.  

For more import restrictions for travelers to Ecuador, try this article.  

What NOT to bring to Ecuador?

Almost as important as what to bring is what NOT to bring, in my hotel near the airport in Quito I meet a lot of foreigners everyday that haul things to Ecuador unnecessarily due to the fact that they are readily available or cheaper in Ecuador.  

Like…

1. Sheets, pillows and bed linens.  One set of sheets for a double bed in Ecuador start around $18 and are of good quality.  

2. Towels.  Dont bring towels, they are cheap and plentiful in Ecuador.  

3. Furniture.  Ecuador has some very nice and reasonably priced furniture.  Most are happy acquiring here.  

4. Sweaters, hats. Also plentiful and reasonably priced in Ecuador.  Alpaca is the norm.  

5. Belts, wallets, other leather objects.  Also cheap and readily available in Ecuador.  

6.  Designer lamps, lighting.  Ecuador also has some beautiful designs not available in USA.

7. Jewerly.  Ecuador has some very nice, unique gold, silver and other options available at reasonable prices.  

8. Peanut butter.  It´s a myth peanut butter is hard to find in Ecuador.  Actually in any big box store like Supermaxi you can find it.  
 

 

Now, how to find the best-priced properties in Ecuador? For that and more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Hopelessly lost in Ecuador – The best free Ecuador GPS maps

“Oh sh*t.” I thought as I looked at my friend who I was driving to south Quito main bus terminal.  

Now, anyone who knows Quito knows don’t go to south Quito.  

Its rough.  Locals joke with reason,  ‘go into south Quito and you’ll come out naked.’  

In fact, there’s only one reason I can think of to EVER go to south Quito, and thats to go to the main bus terminal in Quitumbe, where we were going.  

And it was 10pm at night, pitch black.  

I pulled the car over and told my friend, “man, sorry but we are really lost.” 

Should I even try to ask someone for directions in my broken Spanish or is that not a good idea?  I thought.

As we sat there pondering what to do next, among the shadows we saw this figure, it looked like a baby.  A baby selling something.  As it noticed us and started walking towards us my ecuadorian friend from Guayaquil pulled out his phone and opened the WAZE app.  

He said, hey look at this… my friends and I use this all the time.  Its a free GPS with great, detailed maps of Ecuador.  Just plug in where you want to go and it will tell you how to arrive and where you are.  

“And we better get out of here cause that baby is about to rob us,” he finished.

So we did just that and plugged in the Quitumbe Terminal and zipped out of there, and a guided U-turn, and two rights later we were at the bus terminal saying our goodbyes.  

The road detail complete with street names of WAZE, even deep in the ghetto of South Quito, is amazing.  And even the smallest towns on the coast appear too.  

Other users called Wazers even upload info about police stops and traffic problems in real time.  

And its much better than buying GPS hardware like a Garmin for which you then need to buy an Ecuador map chip which may or may not be out of date.  

Plus, try pulling out a Garmin while walking in the middle of the street.  Think not.  Talk about looking like a tourist.  

Or just pull out your phone and open Waze and you can get a quick look at where you are and where you need to go.  Very nondescript!

And its free!  

And by far the best maps of Ecuador I have found!  

So go download Waze to your phone and check it out before you come to Ecuador!

To learn where to find more free maps of Ecuador subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

When to fly cheapest from Ecuador: Quito-Miami RT $354

Now’s the time to buy your flight if you plan on flying back from Ecuador to visit the US/Canada in the next few months!  

Wait a month to buy and any reasonably priced fare from now until May will be long gone.  

Working next to the Quito airport in my hotel for over a year and a half now, I’ve got a good feel for whens best and least expensive to travel to/from Ecuador.  

For an expat living in Ecuador, we often have the luxury of picking and choosing when to fly back to North America.  

So why not go when its cheaper?

Right now, its cheaper.  

The high season, and when the flights are more expensive, is late December to early April.  Then again from Late June to early September.  

The low season when you’re most likely to find deals is in May, October/November (now), and until early December.  

The highest of the high season and when you are least likely to find flight deals is in January and July.  (Don’t ask me why, it is what it is.)

Right now, TAME, Ecuadors national airline, has a few low season specials available until the end of this week.  

-Quito to Fort Lauderdale USA for $455 round trip with all taxes and fees included.  Travel whenever you want over the next few months if you buy this week.  (New route special).  Normal price Quito to Miami area around $6-800 USD. 

Quito to Baltra (Galapagos) round trip $268 (for residents of Ecuador) all taxes and fees included except park fee.  This is the CHEAPEST I’ve ever seen, usually the flights are in the $450 range round trip.  

I recommend buying one of these flight specials NOT online, but in one of the TAME kiosks in the big malls in Ecuador.

LAN, a Chilean airline that flys extensively to Ecuador has an even better special from Quito to Miami, but with restricted dates.  This is the BEST price I’ve seen in two years!  

$354 Quito – Miami round trip all taxes and fees included… but must fly from DEC 10-16 and fly back between JAN 13-24.  Doesnt get any cheaper than this, wait a few days and this price will be gone!   I recommend buying this deal QUICK via kayak.com .  

$429 Quito – NEW YORK Roundtrip, all taxes and fees included.  Promotion offered this week by LAN on their site.  

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A, Ecuador Travel Guides

Are $100 bills worthless in Ecuador?

I see it everyday.

Folks arrive in Ecuador with stacks of $100 dollar bills only to be surprised NO ONE will take them.

Why?

Well, for many years Ecuador has had a problem with fake $100 bills floating down from Colombia. So most merchants are afraid to accept them.

Also, almost no one has change for big bills, not even $20s in Ecuador.

Even local banks will NOT change your $100 bills if you don’t have an account there.

Exchange houses are also out of the question since Ecuador uses the US dollar.

After living here for a few years now, I’ve only found one place nationwide that will reliably accept your $50 and $100 bills…

The big box supermarket stores in the major cities of Ecuador.

So before you head deep in the countryside, hit up that MI COMISARIATO, SUPERMAXI or MEGAMAXI.

Any of those as long as you buy something, even a candy bar, work just fine.

For much more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Will your bags get stuck when moving to Ecuador?

“But I was told if I bought a first-class bus ticket i could take as many bags as I wanted under the bus free.” A friend of mine recently implored at the Quito bus station on his way to Loja.

“Nope, sorry, thats not correct.” The bus attendent flatly stated.  

He and his wife had about 20 bags.  And they had been given bad information, but it was too late.  

Like many these days, they were moving to Ecuador.  

Final destination: Vilcabamba.  

Touch-down point: Quito International Airport.  

You see, Ecuador only has two international airports… Quito and Guayaquil.  

Once you get your things from your home country to Quito or Guayaquil, what are your options?  

How can you move your things both cheaply and securely once in Ecuador?  

Here’s the best 6 options I know about:

1. Airline checked bags.  When connecting domestically, the local airlines only allow one checked bag of 20 kilos (44 pounds) and one carry-on of 8 kilos (17.5 pounds).  

After that, you have to pay $1.50 extra per kilo and maximum you are allowed only a second checked bag with TAME.  With Aerogal, you can have more checked bags but there is still the $1.50 per kilo excess fee.  

So with the airlines, for an extra 20 kilo bag you are looking at $33 to move it to your final destination in Ecuador.  

2. Airline Cargo.  Or just outside the airport in Quito or Guayaquil you can mail the bags through TAMEs Cargo department paying $.70 per kilo.  No limit to how many bags you can send.  They arrive the same day if sent in the morning. So that same 20 kilo bag would cost $14.  

LAN, another domestic Ecuador airline provider, does not provide cargo services except from Quito to Guayaquil or to the Galapagos.

3. SERVIENTREGA.  You could also mail that same 20 kilo bag via a nationwide service called SERVIENTREGA for $15 for the same 20 kilo bag or $17.50 for a 50 pound bag.  The difference is Servientrega delivers your goods to a specific address anywhere in Ecuador door-to-door.  And if they cant find the address you can still track the bag with a tracking number and go to the nearest office for you and pick your bag up.  The nearest SERVIENTREGA office to the Quito airport is in the next small town over about 15 minutes from the airport called PIFO.  In Guayaquil, Servientrega has offices right next to the airport heading towards the bus station.  Usually the package arrives the next day after mailing.  

4. The Ecuador Post Office.  Ecuador does have a postal service that is getting more reliable called CORREOS ECUADOR.  But you can only send packages or bags within Ecuador with a max limit of 30 pounds.  Not doable for this situation.  

5. The Local Bus Lines.  Another option would be to do like most the locals do and send your bags as cargo with the bus lines in Ecuador.  Pick a bus line with your desired destination and send it with them under the bus.  They give you a receipt and then the person you name as the recipient will need to go and pick the bags up upon arrival.  For instance, if arriving to Quito, the bus line LA LOJA with offices diagonal to the Hotel Marriot offer cargo service from Quito to Loja for $10 per bag up to 80 pounds.  The bus line Reina de Camino was the cheapest I found to ship bags from Quito to Manta for just $6 per bag up to 60 pounds.  They have their cargo offices on 18 de septiembre and Manuel Larrea near the Parque Ejido.  

The PANAMERICANA bus line with offices near COLON y AMAZONAS in Quito ship cargo to Cuenca for $8 per bag.  For many other destinations in Ecuador Id go straight to the cargo docks at the enormous Quitumbe Bus Station in South Quito.  

6. The Freight Companies.  Another interesting option would be to send your bags with the freight trucks in Quito although it is not necessarily cheaper than shipping with the bus lines.  There is CITAL on Eloy Alfaro at the ENTRADA AL COMITE DEL PUEBLO in North Quito which goes to Loja, Zamora and other destinations in the far south of Ecuador daily from Quito… the cost is $10 per 50-60 pound bag to ship with them.  And there is ORTIZ, currently the cheapest option I know of to get numerous bags from Quito to Cuenca, at just $4 per 50-60 pound bag.  

So what did my friends do?  

They paid the $10 per bag to ship their excess bags under the bus.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Why Playas is a dud

I got an interesting article from an “expert” forwarded to me this week about how great Playas, Ecuador is.

Insert YAWN here.

My response…

Are you serious? Have you actually been to Playas?

Spent significant time there? Done business there?

I have.

Trust me, there are much better options on the Ecuador coast for investors in 2014.

Sure, Playas looks good on paper… a small beach town near the big malls, hospitals and international airport of Guayaquil, the biggest city in Ecuador.

But the truth is… Playas was the place to invest… 5-6 years ago.

Not now.

Its still the crappy place it was then… but at least then it was CHEAP.

If you´re going to sell me a turd, it better be cheap!

The truth about Playas circa 2014 is that the town is still unattractive, lacks infrastructure for a comfortable expat existence same as it was 6 years ago.

The beach is not attractive comparatively to many other beaches in Ecuador. The beach is horrendously big to the point of just walking across it reminds me of crossing the Sahara desert by foot.

The water. Well, its murky. Playas is situated right where a huge dirty river delta meets the ocean. Its also a bit choppy for comfortable swimming yet the waves aren´t that nice for surfing.

The beachfront… overpriced and all developed due to all the money the wealthy Guayaquil folks have poured into the place.

I know these people. To them, all they know for beaches are Playas, Salinas and the new kid on the block, Montanita. Thats where their beach universe ends.

Nowadays, for a beachfront property in this area you are looking at a six figure investment for even a small house on a tiny lot.

I know of one 3 bedroom 2 bath place beachfront but still far from the water due to the boardwalk out front and big beach that sold for a bit over $100k. Another 2 bedroom crumbling place I know of two blocks back sold for $40k.

Go to the north or south of the city and prices go up even more as many Guayaquil folks have their beachfront villa there.

Playas is actually the same distance to Guayaquil as Salinas in travel time although on the map it looks closer. You´re still looking at 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours but the buses that service Playas are chicken buses compared to the nice air conditioned ones that service Salinas.

Unlike most coastal Ecuadorian towns Playas is so spread out you better have a car to live here!

Also, for land or property purchases the municipal in Playas is a royal pain-in-the-arse if you´ve had the displeasure (like myself) to have to work with them.

Other municipalities on the coast like in Manta, PortoViejo or even Santa Elena (Salinas) are MUCH nicer and more efficient.

The seafood is good, but so is it in about anywhere else on the coast of Ecuador.

Basic services like water, electric and Internet… iffy at best. In other words they come and go. Much better on a lot of other beaches in Ecuador.

Also, in Playas, you are REALLY far removed from everything.

Think REMOTE.

You are still an hour to an hour and a half from the next nearest town or city.

In the winter months of January, February and March it rains a lot… its humid and boy are there a lot of mosquitos. Place reminds of Guayaquil (where I lived for about a year.)

Playas also lacks the nice onshore breeze the rest of the more west facing Ecuador coast gets.

Its true the sun comes out more here than on other beaches in Ecuador but I also find it more intense, burning white skin like eggs on a skillet. Plus with the beach so wide theres no where to take cover.

As for Playas, leaving it off your beach property hunting itinerary is a good bet.

The “value” price-quality just isn´t there.

So where is a great investment on the coast right now?

Stay tuned to this newsletter and soon you´ll find out.

And to learn how to find the unpublished property deals no one else knows about, subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

How much to make your own road in Ecuador?

I’ve been there, man.

I still remember that day about 2 years ago.

I had a chance to buy a whole mountain with an oceanview behind the quaint little coastal town of Olon, Ecuador.

For $4,000 dollars.

But I passed.

It was rainy season.

And when my Ecuadorian friend and I started walking towards the lot, we didn’t make it cause the road was SO muddy access was impossible.

In fact, some of the cheapest lots still out there are ones that are currently not accessible.

So how much does it cost to cut or lay your own road in Ecuador?

Well, this week I talked to a friend of mine who bought a beachfront mountain himself in Ecuador and cut his own road near Jama on the north coast.

He said upon purchase of his lot he had to cut a 250 meter (820 ft) road just to access his property.

First, he had to hire a dozer with driver that for $90 a day cleared off the shrubs and top soil to make the road. The dozer worked for about 11 days. Total $990.

Then, he had to buy rocks to cover the road.

$35 per truck load. Each load brought rocks for 8 cubic yards.

For his 250 meter road he needed 200 truck loads. Total $7,000.

Then after the rocks where placed he had to hire a dozer again for 3 days to compact the rocks. Total $270.

That’s it!

He had his road and his property just doubled in value for $990+$7,000+$270= $8260!

One tip he mentioned for anyone having to cut a road in Ecuador is to make sure they make the road with a crown shape so the water runs off along the sides and not overtop it.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Whats your perfect altitude in Ecuador?

I´m spoiled.

I´ve been in Ecuador, a tropical mountainous country, too long where you can pick the elevation for you.

And wherever you pick has the same climate all year round.

For instance, where I live in a valley of Quito the elevation is 2398 meters (7867 ft) above sea level.

The climate is just perfect for me.

23-27 C (73-80 F) in the daytime, 15 C (59 F) in the night all year long.

And there´s no mosquitos.

Too high.

However, the next town over is 50 meters higher at 2450 meters (8038 ft) which is about 3-4 F cooler and is too cold for me!

But the town on the other side of where I live back towards Quito (Tumbaco) is about 150 meters lower than where I live at 2268 meters (7440 ft) which is WAY too hot for me, particularly at night when the temperature only dips to around 20 C (68 F). And the mosquitos start coming out!

Now, Quito city proper which is about an hour from me to the east, forget about it, WAY too cold for me. It is about 400 meters higher than where I live at 2800 meters (9186 ft) and WAY TOO COLD. Especially at night or when its raining when Quito drops to 9 C (48 F). Thats cold, especially when most homes dont have heat installed.

So if Quito, Cuenca or Loja are too high and cold for you, try the surrounding areas where you just might find your perfect altitude!

For instance, warmer, lower areas near Quito include… The Valley of Los Chillos, Cumbaya, Tumbaco, Checa, Pifo, Puembo, Tababela and more.

Warmer areas near Cuenca include… Paute, The Valley of Yunguilla, Gualaceo, Chordeleg.

Warmer areas near Loja include… Zamora, Zaruma, Malacatos, Vilcabamba.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

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