Archive | Ecuador Q&A

Driving In Ecuador Vs The USA: 21 Major Differences

This week I had the chance to sit down with one guy who knows the roads of Ecuador better than anyone I know, Jack Abercrombie, a guy from Atlanta who has been living in Ecuador a few years now.

He has a truck he uses to help new arrival expats in Ecuador move large loads of goods and pets within Ecuador.  You can reach him at journeymanjack.com@gmail.com or 770-828-7913(USA) or 098-743-3009(ECUADOR).

We started chatting about the differences between driving in the USA vs Ecuador.

1. No right on red in Ecuador.  Hard one to get used to.
1A. Lane-challenged drivers who just kind of mesh, its even worse on the coast in Guayaquil where the lanes aren’t even painted on the larger roads sometimes.

2. Pedestrian laws.  Way different in Ecuador too.  As they should be in my opinion.  Like in nature the bigger object has the right of way, hence the car over the walking person.  Pedestrians must yield to cars in Ecuador, not the other way around like in the USA where cars must stop in the middle of no where so a pedestrian can cross the road.

3. Honking.  Also, Ecuadorians use their horn and flash their headlights A LOT.  I think its because there are a lot of dumb drivers who change lanes or pull out onto highways without looking properly.  Also on curves or at stop signs in country towns.  A flash of the lights is good to let other cars know you are there as they may be planning to zoom past their stop sign.

4. The Roundabouts.  Heard they are starting to get more common in the USA but in Ecuador they are everywhere and they’re great in the countryside.  No one has to stop, its just a continual moving wheel with one simple rule, the people already in the traffic circle have the right of way.

5. Lots of one way streets.  In Ecuador there are MANY one way streets, and they are often not marked.  So you have to kind of guess like by how the cars are parked and other small factors you learn as you go.

6. Parking in VERY tight spaces.  Literally, in Quito Ive seen cars parked on the road with one inch between them and the other car on either side.  You get used to it.  Often you have to park your car in parking lots that force you to fold back your side mirrors.

7. More likely to get car stolen.  Take extra little precautions like don’t park on the street at night in Ecuador.  Trust me you’ll be glad you did.  A friend of mine in my little town showed me how he can disarm an electronically locked car and the alarm within about 3 minutes.  Its practically common knowledge in Ecuador.

8. All stick shift, no automatic cars.  I had to go back to driving class to learn the stick.  Very few automatic cars in Ecuador.  Its just a preference.

9. Traffic cops out for “lunch money”.  When pulled over in Ecuador, you’ll often see the drivers standing out of their cars pleading with the traffic cops.  Often the louder you plea the better in Ecuador.  Some cops when they see you are a foreigner will try to scare you into giving them a bribe, the best way I’ve seen to handle this is to pretend like you really dont speak one word of Spanish, even if you do, then they will often get frustrated and just let you go.

10. Different protocol with accident.  When accidents happen in Ecuador it is generally a shouting match, whoever screams louder wins I guess.  The police come, try to let you sort it out among yourselves, if you can’t, then they will impound both cars until guilt is determined.  In the cases of a death or serious injury they will arrest the parties involved until guilt is determined.

11. “The laying down Cops”.  As Ecuadorians call them “chapas acostadas” the laying down policemen or speed bumps are quite common in Ecuador especially in the small towns on the coast.  Be careful for the teeth rattling home-made ones that aren’t marked and blend in with the road at night!

12. Police stops.  The police stops where they may ask you to open your trunk, they are generally looking for drugs or weapons, not something to be worried about if you don’t dabble in that.

13. All the d@mn buses!  As the bigger object rules in nature, so do the bigger objects (the buses) rule on the roads of Ecuador.  They do pretty much anything they want often cutting you off from the far left lane as they drop off a passenger.

Enter Jack…

14….Toddlers playing on side of road unattended along highway in small towns.   I get it that this is a cultural difference, and have no beef w/ the children helping their families, what bothers me is I slow up when I see this off in the distance, and my fellow Ecuadorians speed up and come around and never let up on the gas as they pass by the children & cattle, as well as the school buses & myriads of children just getting off of the school buses, is what gets to me.
15… Buses with little regard for human life.  There is little to know regard for human life, city busses in town, running & gunning with elderly on board, Inter provincial busses speeding & passing / racing each other in dangerous blind curves sometimes 3 deep in a 2 lane hwy with oncoming traffic.
16…Hwy’s with mud slides, torrential Rain down pours w/ very extremely thick fog, flooding, freak hail storms up to 30″ – 36″ deep, seismic activity in dry desert mtn. areas causing land slides w/ boulders & debris, Volcanic Activity Ash fall out, incredible Commercial Truck & Bus Crashes,
17…Speed trap radar cameras spitting out tix that are applied to you license plate, months later, if you slow up or are maintaining the correct speed limit, and as you pass the camera and another driver is passing your vehicle at the same time, you get a tix also. For rental cars, these are applied to your rental car license plate and put on your debit / charge card.

18. Lax DUI / DWI Laws of 3 days in jail / $360. fine / 10 points off of your license. Many Commercial & Private drivers will have a few beers early in the day hauling heavy loads & passengers, and it does not have to be around the holidays.

19…Branches and logs placed in the road in a curve b4 an accident or broke down vehicle is the ecuadorian way of emergency flares / triangles…..

20…Precarious left turns.  Some will put on left turn signal, and pull over to the right hand side and wait until oncoming traffic clears before making the left turn.

21… Random stopping. Some stop right in the middle of the panam hwy and piss on side of rd. right at a Petro EC 500 meters ahead sign. ..or just stop for any reason at all, oblivious to who or what is behind them?
There you have it, a few of the major differences, other than that, its pretty much the same.

You can reach Jack at journeymanjack.com@gmail.com or 770-828-7913(USA) or 098-743-3009(ECUADOR).

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

How Much Does A Plumber Cost In Ecuador?

$2.

Thats how much I paid this week when a toilet broke in my hotel and had to call a local plumber over. And he was a new guy, so it wasn’t like I was getting special pricing or anything.

I happened to be hanging out with a business professor from Penn State University at the time.

I told him.. “I didn’t go to business school or anything, but that sounds like good business to me.”

He said, ” In the States plumbers charge $50 an hour.”

I responded, “In a 19 room hotel do you have any idea how many sinks, toilets and doors break on a daily basis?”

So for me, right now, that’s why Ecuador wins.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Do You Qualify For The “Professional” Residency Visa In Ecuador?

Do you have a four year (Bachelors) degree from an accredited university?

Then you qualify for permanent residency in Ecuador if you want it.

Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that gives away residency to ANYONE with a 4-yr bachelors college degree.  Any degree, any major.

This is how I got my residency.

Its BY FAR a better option than an investors visa if you have a degree, because your residency would be linked to that investment.

But there is one setback though.

You have to register your degree with the Ecuadorian Institute of Higher Learning (SENESCYT) which can take months… not good if you are here on the free 90 day tourist visa stamp you receive upon entry with just your passport.

The last thing you want is for your tourist visa to expire and become illegal.  But in order to extend the visa you are looking at $250 plus an added complication once given the residency visa of having to cancel the visa extension.

However, usually it takes 3-4 months for the Senescyt to validate and register your degree in Ecuador. But it can take longer.

Only after this validation you can start the visa process. Which can take another 2-4 weeks.

Thankfully, you can validate your degree locally in Ecuador from abroad with the help of someone already in Ecuador.

First check to see if your university is on this list.  If it is, you qualify!  You need to send to your Ecuador contact the following items… (easy!)

1. Color copy of your passport.

2.  Original color copy of your degree apostilled (if from a country that does apostles like the USA).  If you are from Canada or a country that does not do apostilles then you need to get this certified by the Ecuador consulate in your home country.  You do NOT need to translate your degree if it appears in English, French, German or Spanish.

3. A brief letter in Spanish authorizing your contact in Ecuador to help validate your degree.

4. This application form filled out and signed by applicant and snail mailed to Ecuador.

If your university is not on the list the wait time just got a month or two longer as first you have to get your school approved then your degree.  In addition to the above documents, except a different application form, you would need to send a copy of your transcripts showing your hours taken, completed, grades, etc. This needs to be apostilled in your home country AND notarized in Ecuador.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

How To Get Free Medical Attention Through The IESS In Ecuador

OK, so the medical services are not exactly free because you’re paying a monthly premium of around $70 or so.

The IESS is the government managed form of Social Security/medical care in Ecuador. All legal residents and citizens of Ecuador can sign up regardless of age. There are no deductibles you need to pay when treated. All medical services are covered (except some medications you may need to pay out of pocket).

You can also affiliate your spouse for a bit less than half the premium you’re paying.

So how do you get service?

Easy.

After at least three months of being affiliated, you call a number in Ecuador 1-800-1000-000 ext 140 to ask for a “cita” appointment and they will tell you a date and medical center location for the appointment (usually within 2 weeks). Spanish only.

They will book you in with a general doctor first to help diagnose you. Then based on that appointment they will re-book you another appointment for a later date with a specialist or for further testing. This is how they work.

And for emergencies?

For emergencies NOT EVERYWHERE will accept IESS patients so you have to go to a specific IESS hospital in the big cities of Ecuador for free emergency assistance, if you go elsewhere they won’t pay it. Every medium to larger city in Ecuador has an IESS center of medical attention.

That’s it, that’s all you really need to know.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

How to get water to your crops in Ecuador

Many agricultural lots in Ecuador, like mine, get their water from a "sei-key-ya" which are tiny canals that have been spliced off a nearby river.  

But to actually get the water to your lot you have to go point by point down the sei-key-ya and redirect the water so it reaches your lot.  

The annual fee to participate is minimal, like $20 a year, but you are required to participate in "mingas" which are "clean-ups" of the mini-canals.  

Most folks then have resevoirs they fill then water their crops at their leisure.  

You then have to close the "sei-key-ya" to your lot and let it flow through or you could flood your lot, like I already did once cause I forgot to close the sei-key-ya once my resevoir was full.  
 

Sound complicated?  It´s not.  

A pain, yes, a little bit.  Glad I just leased the lot I´m farming until I learned this, much better to have your own direct water source like an on-site river or lake.  

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

3 exotic Ecuador fruits with big-time export potential

“Damn, that’s good.” I remember thinking when I first tried it upon arriving to Ecuador.

“Really good.”

It was sweet and sour at the same time and really refreshing.  And not like any other fruit flavor I had ever tried in North America, Asia or Europe.

1. The “Naranjilla”.  Or “Lulo” as they say in nearby Colombia.  I don’t think there is even an English word for this fruit like most of these things in Ecuador that don’t exist in North America or Europe.

It grows in the rainy foothills of the Andes and along the edges of the Amazon and are not eaten raw but made into juice by the locals.

It has HUGE local demand, but I think could also be exported.

It’s true, like a lot of fruits, they might not make it to their destination without spoiling or getting bruised up.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t export it!

What about as a canned jam, or as a frozen pulp for juice mixes, or even dried fruit?

The possibilities are endless.

Here are two other fruits I think could have a BIG impact abroad if exported widely.   See pics at the bottom of this email of all three.

2. “Tomate de arbol” or Tree tomato, this fruit doesn’t actually taste like tomatos at all and looks like a mini-nerf American football.  They are not eaten raw but made into juice here by Ecuadorians.  The taste is unique, truly indescribable.  This fruit is grown in the highlands near the big cities like Quito and Cuenca.

3. The “Ovo”.  Many ecuadorians don’t even know about this one.  There is only ONE PLACE in all of Ecuadorwhere this fruit is grown, in the dry Chota Valley north of Ibarra.  They are sold usually along the highway that passes through the valley on the way to Colombia and every time I pass I get some.  They look similar to the coastal variety called “Ciruelas” but the taste is completely different.  The Ovo when ripe is bright orange and sweet with a seed inside like a grape.  The taste is unique and delicious.  On the other hand, the Ciruela on the coast is sold green or red and is bitter and often eaten by locals with salt.  The Ovo is the one I think has BIGexport potential.

Of course, Ecuador has MANY more fruits with big export potential but these were the first three that came to mind.

At the very least on your next trip to Ecuador be SURE you try these three fruits as juice or in their native form.

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ovos-ecuador

ovos in ecuador

naranjilla-ecuador

naranjilla in ecuador

tomate-de-arbol-ecuador

tomate-de-arbol in ecuador

Posted in Ecuador Q&A

My 2016 Ecuador bucket list: Must dos no one else knows about

You know what they say, by putting it out there you help attract it to you.

Throughout the year I’ll let you know as I do these things and if interested in joining just hit reply and let me know.

So here it goes… my 2016 (primarily Ecuador) bucket list…

1. Go black panther tracking in the Amazon, and in the meantime visit a local indigenous community in Ecuador and meet with a shaman witch-doctor.

2. Hike, and summit Chimborazo, Cotopaxi and/or Cayambe, 19,000+ ft volcanos near Quito.

3. Spearfish or pearl-dive off the coast from Ayampe.

4. Create passive income (s) of at least $3000 a month online or locally here in Ecuador (and write about how I do it on this newsletter!).

5. If the dollar stays high buy a property on coast of Spain (or in Colombia).

6. Open my first large-scale agricultural-operation in Ecuador.

7. Sell out my ocean-view subdivide in Puerto Cayo.

8. Expand my new Guayaquil business to at least 6 suites, Guayaquil Airport Suites Mall del Sol. luxury suites near the airport in Guayaquil at a budget hotel prices.

9. Visit Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and surf El Salvador. With the new cheap flights of JetBlue from Quito to Fort Lauderdale traveling from Ecuador to the Caribbean and the rest of Central America just got a whole lot cheaper. Plus, applying what I now know and show in my Insiders Guide to Random Importing I’m confident I can at least cover the cost of my plane tickets.

10. Begin importing and/or exporting something with continuity.

11. Visit the petrified forest of Puyango along the Ecuador-Peru border.

12. Have a drink, dance and hang out for a night with the artists/hippies and see if they will show me how to make some of their jewelry along the infamous cocktail alley of Montanita.

13. Hitch-hike on the coast of Ecuador. I’ve heard its easy.

14. See an Anaconda in the most remote area of Ecuador, the Yasuni, in the Amazon region before they start their planned drilling.

15. Take the newly-re-opened train through the high Andes from Ibarra to Salinas (a different Salinas than the one on the coast).

16. Hike arguably the most beautiful area of Ecuador from the Lagunas de Atillo to the largest waterfall in Ecuador, the San Rafael Falls and the Volcano Reventador area.

17. Visit the Saquisili (near Latacunga) thursday market for an interesting more authentic (less touristy) look into indigeous highland life.

18. Go silver bargaining along the main plaza in Chordeleg (near Cuenca) where silversmiths flex their creative muscles.

19. Try hand-gliding for the first time off the cliffs of Crucita or Canoa on the coast.

20. Bike down the entire Ecuador coast from Esmeraldas to Salinas. Hope I get to do this one.

21. Watch the Tungurahua Volcano erupt at night from the look out over Banos. Tours can be arranged in one of the many agencies in Baños. Cost $20 per person.

22. Observe the amazing Pink river dolphins as they frollic in the unique flooded rainforest of Cuyabeño in northern Ecuador. Tours can be arranged once on the ground out of Quito or Lago Agrio. Anacondas, monkeys and sloths are also possible to be seen. Canoe Tours start from $40 per person.

23. Scuba dive in the crystalline waters of Galapagos off Wolfe Island where its common to see schools of hundreds of Hammerheads and dozens of whale sharks. 2 Dives start from around $130. Best arranged once on the ground in Santa Cruz Island near the port in Puerto Ayora with local dive shops.

24. Snorkel with the worlds smallest penguin, gigantic manta rays, big marine iguanas and (friendly) reef sharks off las Tintoreras on the picturesque snow-white sands and turqoise waters off Floreana Island in the Galapagos. Day tours to Isabela arranged in Santa Cruz start around $65/person.

25. Eat two buckets of the locally-famous garlic crab at one of the best crabhouses (Manny’s Crangrejal) in Guayaquil, a city known for its numerous crabhouses. Near San Marino Mall any taxi will know where it is. $12.

26. Hunt for fossils along the banks of the Nangaritza River, the only river that connects the Amazon to the Pacific Ocean, high in the Condor Mountain Ridge (Cordillera del Condor). For more try lindoecuadortours.com $25-50 /person.

27. Deep-sea fish for Marlin and Whale-watch in August off the calm shores of Salinas. Trips can be arranged in one of the several agencies along the boardwalk. Cost: Whalewatching from $20 per person, deep sea fishing price varies depending on amount of people.

28. Visit a coffee farm in the Intag near Ibarra and learn the whole process from harvest to belly.

29. Hummingbird watch and observe thousands of butterflies at a butterfly farm in the cloud rainforests of Mindo. Tours can be arranged once in Mindo. Start from $20/person.

30. Trout fish in one of the surreal apline lakes in the barren Cajas National Park near Cuenca. Tours can be arranged with Terra Diversa in Cuenca.

31. Go way off the beaten path and hike to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) of Ecuador’s Southern Amazon. Extreme adventure available through local guides only out of Nangaritza. Cost: Highly negotiable.

32. Pamper myself with a the natural mud bath in the mud pools in the dry rainforest of Machalilla National Park and spend the night playing volleyball with the local indigenous and later sleeping in one of their tiki huts. From Puerto Lopez hire a motorcycle taxi and pay a few bucks from them to take you to the indigenous community of Aguas Blancas in the park. Cost: $10 for the day tour to the mud baths and $10/person for the night.

33. View thousands of Orchid species and hummingbirds along the well-kept trails of the Podocarpus National Park easily reached in a $4 taxi ride from the town of Zamora. Free entrance to park.

34. Get a taste of ancient Incan life by hiking the 10km trek from El Tambo to Ingapirca, ancient Incan ruins and effectively Ecuador’s own “Machu Picchu”. You can also take a train, taxi or bus which can be arranged out of Canar. Ruins Entrance fee $6.

35. Get certified as a glider plane pilot in Santo Domingo through a one month course with a local flight instructor. They say if you can fly a plane without an engine you can fly a plane with one. Course starts around $1300. 2015 prices yet to be released.

36.Learn to kite surf with an instructor against the strangly barren cliff landscapes of Santa Marianita near Manta. Classes can be arranged on site. Prices vary.

37. Zip-line through a Banana plantation in Machala and learn all the ins and outs of the interesting business with CristyViajes. Tours start around $20 per person.

38. Fish for Pirana in Laguna Pañacocha, a beautiful black wáter lake backed by cloud forests. To get there, hire a local canoe where the Rio Panacayu meets the Rio Napo, to get there you’ll need to take a Nuevo Rocafuerte Canoe hired in the town of Coca. Price varies depending on season.

39. Visit a Chocolate factory in Mindo.

40. Hike the Quillotoa Volcano and witness the majestic, stunning turquoise-colored lake in the volcano’s crater. Can be done solo by taking a bus from Latacunga and getting off near the base. Cost: $4 bus fare from Latacunga.

41. Mingle with sexy locals dressed to the tilt during the 2 hour river-boat cruise on the all-you-can-drink boat ‘Morgans’ which leaves every night from the boardwalk (Malecon) of Guayaquil. $15 per person includes all you can drink.

42. White-water raft and try kayaking for the first time in the lazy to fierce rivers around the city of Tena where the activities have made the town famous.

43. Explore the rarely-visited beaches north of Esmeraldas while at night dancing salsa to afro-latino beats after eating the local delicacy of Shrimp cooked in spiced coconut milk (encocado de camaron). I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m in the Caribbean. Cost: $5-6.

44. Just for fun one day try panning for gold in Yantzaza with the locals in the southern Ecuador Amazon.

45. Volunteer in one of the animal shelters in the Ecuadorian Amazon (or start my own here in the highlands.)

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

What Russians do in Ecuador

“Hey Dom, so what do Russians do in Ecuador?” My friend asked, astonished by three sets of Russian guests in a row checking into my hotel near the Quito airport.

“Of the ones living here I know, Russians are in the flower exporting business, usually exporting them back to Russia.” Irked by the thought that even with a dozen roses Russian guys are still more masculine than me, I responded.

I continued…”After three-plus years here working with new arrivals, I could break it all down for you if you want?”

Americans sell Ecuadorian real estate to other Americans.

Canadians get into mining, usually in the Amazon region.

The Japanese minimize each minute they have to be in Ecuador, tourists in transit on a visit to the Galapagos.

The Chinese own shrimp farms in the Machala area, or dollar stores with cheap imported goods previously from China, now from Vietnam.

Europeans start an Eco-lodge, or Bed-and-breakfast-type guesthouse deep in a mountain somewhere in Ecuador.

Colombians usually get into the loan-shark business and drive around on intimidating motorcycles.

Cubans walk around wearing funny-looking bleached-out jeans and work at barber shops, or start a sandwich shop.

Indians (from India) start a slightly-above-average shawarma or Indian food restaurant.

Israelis film reality TV shows in the Amazon, really, they do!

Australians are usually 20-something backpackers who could quickly list you all the best pubs in Ecuador, but probably won’t recollect anything about their time here if you ask in a year.

Argentineans are usually hippies juggling under traffic-lights for coins.

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

8 items you can “carry on” for profit in Ecuador

We all know, or at least you should if you follow this letter, that Ecuador has many high import restrictions and duties causing many items to be more expensive here than in the US, which also creates a lot of business opprtunities for the casual traveler.

As we’ve already covered, TVs, especially big screen ones, can fetch a nice profit in Ecuador. Even after paying the import duty upon arrival.

But I get it, for most, bringing down a TV is too much of a hassle.

Too big, too bulky, too heavy, maybe too expensive.

Also, upon arrival to Ecuador by land or air, you are guaranteed to have to pay an extra tax (in cash) for the TV, even if you are bringing just one unit. AND there are restrictions, the same person can only bring one TV down per year.

What about some items you could easily fit in a carry-on that would be nice re-sell opportunities? Here we go…

8. Name brand make up. For instance, Loreal Cream Visible Lift is available online in the States for $3.99 per unit… in Ecuador, the same cream goes for $18.60 online! In the stores it often goes for even more. Obviously, you can’t bring down too many units or your intent will look commercial, and taxable, but each one you pack is like packing a $20 bill.

7. Pack of 10 pairs of fake eyelashes. How much could a bit of hair weigh? I mean, really? Like almost nothing. Yet in the US, nice sets like this one can be found for $1.67, while in Ecuador the same or similar as seen here goes for $7 or more!

For the other 6 items in this list and a whole lot more very interesting ideas try my weekly newsletter, revealing everything you need to know BEFORE you invest in Ecuador. Unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

Crossing the border into Ecuador

“If they try to stop you, just punch the accelator.” My friend said as we inched closer in our car to the border, about to enter Ecuador from Colombia.

I have never crossed a border by car so I really didn’t know what to expect.

Even my adventures down to TJ (Tijuana) for the day from San Diego were by foot, never by car.

There was a lot of traffic, and my nerves were staring to flare, I had an item I knew would incur a tax if they saw it.

As we inched closer to the border guards I saw them wave some cars through, others had to stop while they checked their trunk.

I was next.

I got the hault sign from the guards.

I started to press the pedal.

The brake pedal. Looking over to my friend, “come on man, you didn’t think I was going to do it, did you?”

They saw the item. And then waved me over to the window where I had to pay the corresponding tariff. $108 USD, ouch.

Got the receipt, and that was it.

The guards didn’t even want to look at it. No one checked that I had paid. But I kind of wanted them to cause I actually did pay.

When you come in by land they don’t seem to care about the small things, but the big things like TVs and refrigerators they are sure to catch and insist you pay the tax.

When coming in by air its different.

You might get chosen for a deep cavity search, but chances are you’ll just walk right through, even if you have some larger items. But TV’s they’ll always catch.

Either way you don’t have to pay the taxes ahead of time, just wait and see if they catch it, because you actually CAN’T pay ahead of time, I tried. They need to see the item and weigh it to charge you.

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

3 Things All Ecuadorian drivers buy in Colombia

“This place is a mad house.” I said to my friend.

We were across the border from Ecuador, in Colombia, at a tire shop, and it was choke full of Ecuadorians buying tires for their cars.

I soon found out why.

A set of 4 Goodyear tires in Ecuador in the Quito area for my jeep/SUV would set me back $691 USD. I got the quote in September of 2015 a few days before I came to Colombia cause I had heard whispers.

In Colombia, after converting the Peso to the Dollar with the current favorable exchange rate, the same Goodyear tires came to about $45 each! Total $180 USD!

Wow! Big difference, hard to believe I’m only 4 hours from Quito.

So, as you can imagine, a lot of drivers will drive over the border for the day, get new tires placed on their car, throw the old ones out and drive back over.

As long as you’re not bringing new, unused tires back loose inside your car the border patrol rightly assumes the tires are for personal use and don’t try to charge the steep import duties importing tires would normally incur.

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

Irrigation system installed in Ecuador, hard lessons learned

This week I finished installing the irrigation system for my one hectare (2.2 acres) Stevia lot.

There were a few different options… install a drip irrigation system or a sprinkler system. My part-time farm manager with experience in Stevia said for this crop a sprinkler system is fine.

The quotes I was getting for installing the drip systems were $3-4,000 USD for the hectare.

The spinkler system about half that.

All said and done the sprinkler system came to $1,400 materials, $300 for the 5 horsepower Briggs-Stratton American gas pump, and $250 for the installation. Total $1950.

Duration of installation: 3 days.

There were cheaper Chinese pumps available in the $200 range but I went with an American brand.

But as soon as my manager saw the installed system as per the photo below, he said I should have used more powerful sprinklers and I would have put fewer lines and saved a lot, for a hectare he says I should have spent around $800 in materials. Overspent there. Live and learn.

Also, after a week of irrigating the land pre-arrival of the plants I´ve learned an important lesson, DON´T buy a gas pump! Go electric if humanly possible even though the electric pumps may cost triple that of the gas pumps, and it may be a hassle to get an electric connection nearby. It is not only cheaper in the long run but much less of a hassle also to not have to be going to gas stations every other day and filling up the 5 gallon jug.

Little things my manager probably should have told me but hey, now I know.

Only 4 more days left in the HALF PRICE special on my new Insiders Guide to Random Importing to Ecuador, a brief yet useful guide of the most profitable items to bring back from Colombia or the USA to Ecuador for the casual traveler or expat in Ecuador. This guide is ideal for ANYONE looking to travel to Ecuador (or for an expat living in Ecuador) that goes back frequently to the United States or Canada looking to make a few extra bucks.

Why not have your trip pay for itself, and more?

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Where I’d start a business in Ecuador right now

After 3 days here on the border of Colombia and Ecuador it’s become evident where in Ecuador I’d start a business right now.

Ipiales, Colombia.

I know, technically it’s not Ecuador, but it’s close enough, it’s a smallish town about 5 minutes from the border of Colombia and Ecuador.

Why Ipiales?

Ipiales offers a chance to sell to Ecuadorians without actually having to import to Ecuador.

Each weekend a sea of Ecuadorians swarm the shops and fill the hotels and restaurants of this small town.

In just 2 days I’ve spent over $800 USD and of the thousands that come each week to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, which is currently one of the most depreciated currencies of the last year against the dollar, I’m sure I’m below the average spend.

What specifically would I sell?

I cover that and more in my new Insiders Guide to Random Importing to Ecuador, a brief yet useful guide of the most profitable items to bring back from Colombia or the USA to Ecuador for the casual traveler or expat in Ecuador. This guide is ideal for ANYONE looking to travel to Ecuador (or for an expat living in Ecuador) that goes back frequently to the United States or Canada looking to make a few extra bucks.

Why not have your trip pay for itself, and more?

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Why you should never take cash to Colombia from Ecuador

Day 2 here in Colombia, and I´m quickly learning the ropes.

What´s cheaper than Ecuador, what´s not, and what´s a LOT cheaper.

But I´ve learned that just as important as knowing what to buy is HOW to buy?

To get the best deals in Colombia pay for EVERYTHING on credit card!

Why?

If you take dollars to exchange to pesos you will get a really lousy exchange rate, right now on the street and in the banks its around $2680 pesos to $1 USD.

If you take out of the ATMs using your Ecuadorian or international bank card like I did directly into pesos you will get hit with several nasty surcharges.

To be specific, I took out $100 USD worth of pesos from my Ecuadorian Banco Pichincha ATM card and I got nabbed with about $10 in fees!

But… if you buy things with a credit card you will get without a doubt the best rate once the purchase is converted over to your currency, actually, you will get the official exchange rate of $3125 pesos to $1 USD. No extra fees.

So forget the cash, and take a few credit cards on a side trip from Ecuador to Colombia and take advantage of one of the most devalued currencies in the world over the last year!

So far so good, I already bought one item I need for my business in Ecuador that in Ecuador costs $700, here I got it for $265! Learn about it and many more of the most profitable items to bring back from Colombia to Ecuador in my new Insiders Guide to Random Importing to Ecuador, ideal for ANYONE looking to travel to Ecuador (or for an expat living in Ecuador) that goes back frequently to the United States or Canada looking to make a few extra bucks.

Why not have your trip pay for itself, and more?

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Why Ecuadorians are lined up to get into Colombia

Today, I´m checking in from the border of Ecuador and Colombia, where I´ve never seen anything like this!

There is currently a 3 hour line up of cars on the Ecuadorian side waiting to get into Colombia!

Why the incredible mass exodus from Ecuador?

When I lived in Colombia 7 years ago, the peso-USD echange rate hoovered around $2200 Pesos to 1 USD.

Last year, when I visited Colombia in October of 2014 the peso was at around $1800 to 1 USD or around where it´s been for the last decade.

Now, as of the last few weeks, the peso is at a record low against the dollar, $3125 pesos to 1 USD.

In other words, the dollar has almost doubled in value, or another way to think about it is that you can buy twice as many pesos as a year ago!

No sense sugar-coating it. Overall, for the last decade Ecuador was cheaper than Colombia, but now, on most things Colombia has Ecuador beat!

And Ecuadorians know it, as the border is only 4 hrs from one of Ecuadors largest cities, Quito, many are making weekend trips to go shopping.

Which is a great idea right now for anyone living in Ecuador.

Heck, I´m here.

So, specifically what is best to bring back from Colombia or the USA?

Why not have your trip pay for itself, and more?

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1 item all Ecuadorians bring back to Ecuador

Living abroad my philosophy is simple… ‘if I see all the locals jumping off a bridge, I’m jumping too!’

There must be a good reason.

So, working in an airport hotel in Quito, I can’t help but notice that literally ALL of my Ecuadorian clients are coming back to Ecuador from abroad with one big rectangular box…

A TV box.

So I noticed, and researched it.

Now I see why.

A 50 inch Samsung LED Smart TV like this one at Walmart in the USA for sale at $597 costs roughly $1500 USD here in Ecuador both at the stores (I checked) and online on the Ecuador version of eBay Mercadolibre.

Or a generic 50 inch LED Smart TV like this one can be had for $348 at Walmart. A generic one in Ecuador goes for around $900.

Big difference!

But nothing is ever that simple. The reason for the difference is the import restrictions/ taxes.

You can only bring ONE TV down per year per person.

And after speaking to a client of mine at the hotel that just brought a 55 inch TV down 3 days ago, he said for TVs over 50 inches you pay $250 cash in taxes upon arrival to the airport in Ecuador. For smaller Tvs you may pay even more, he said. he continued, the deal now is bringing a TV over 50 inches.

And if you are moving here you are allowed one in your previously approved by the Ecuador consulate shipment of household goods tax-free.

If you do bring one down I’d bring a brand Ecuadorians know like LG, Samsung or Sony as I think it’d be easier to sell.

Also, I’d bring a big screen Tv over 50 inches large as I think the margins are better.

Even paying the tax, there’s still a margin there of $500-600 dollars of you sell it locally!

Enough to cover a plane ticket!

Hey Grant (a friend of mine coming down tomorrow) you get this?

Why not take advantage of Ecuadors STRICT import regulations raising many prices locally?

Let me show you how.

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How to get free workers for your farm in Ecuador

Hiring employees scares even the best of us.

And it will probably be your biggest expense when it comes to your producing farm in Ecuador.

But it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, I’ve met quite a few entrepreneurs in Ecuador that get free volunteer help from the websites workaway.info and helpx.net .

Workaway is a new way travelers are opting to see the world, instead of your typical tourist route, you can really dig into the local culture by working in exchange for free room and board.

And Ecuador is exotic enough to have a nice draw, good luck trying to get people to work for free in Wisconsin!

All you, as the farm owner or host, have to do is provide cheap lodging and food for these travelers and they will work a specified number of hours per day.

So once you have your farm, build a lodge or even easier, rent a cheap one nearby where these people can stay. Then post your “project” to these sites.

Then sort through the applicants and select.

No employments contracts or messy social security payments, liquidations since its not a standard salaried job.

Also, this is great if you prefer to work with people that speak your language, and Spanish isn’t one of them yet.

You’ll be surprised at the quality, you can also opt for a minimum stay requirement of at least one month or whatever you decide.

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Confessions of a cattle baron in Ecuador

You don’t realize it until you drive from the highlands of Ecuador down to the coast, like I did this week, but Ecuador has a lot of good cattle land.

Ecuador has miles and miles of lush, green foothills leading up from the coast that get tons of rain. And anyone who has had to maintain a lawn knows with a lot of water grass grows fast! Just what you need if raising cattle.

And down here it’s year round, no winters!

So at a routine stop buying cheese I met the owner of the cattle farm I was at, and struck up a conversation.

And as usual, I’ve found agro-business people to be very open with information, unlike most secretive business-folks.

There’s just so much to go around I guess.

Afterall, in 3-plus years living in Ecuador and serving food to Ecuadorians and foreigners alike, I have yet to meet an Ecuadorian vegetarian.

Maybe one exists, but I doubt it, Ecuadorians love meat!

The good thing was this guy wasn’t trying to sell me something, so you have a feeling his numbers would be more accurate.

He started, “you buy the baby calfs for $150, and after about a year you can sell them weighing 1000 pounds at the going-Ecuador-rate of $2 per pound, but some cuts fetch $5-7 per pound.”

I continued, “Wow, thats a great return, $2000+ dollars for each after one year, how many can you fit per hectare (2.2 acres)?”

“In this rainy climate with fast growing grass, we can fit 2 or 3 per hectare.”

I followed, “How big is your farm?”

He said, “it’s a small farm, of about 25 hectares.”

“So, what are your biggest costs?” I asked.

“Well, the help of course, the water comes from an on-site stream, the grass grows on its own. But we have just 2 full-time farm hands, the rest of the workers are just temp help we hire for special tasks and pay by the day ($15 a day).”

“So, what does good cattle land around here go for?” I continued.

“My friend just bought a small 4 hectare lot for $20,000 USD.” He stated.

Not wanting to get too nosy, I concluded, “so is this your primary source of income or day job?”

“No,” he said, “I’m a lawyer in Quito, But I come here on the weekends.”

There you have it, a brief but intriging look at the cattle biz in Ecuador.

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Prepping the land for success in Ecuador

Next up after tractoring the land came digging out the on-site resevoir which had been overgrown by weeds.

The resevoir is fed by a “seikia” or a shared irrigation system common in Ecuador where rivers are split off into canal-like things to farm certain areas.

My lot has rights to part of the “seikia”.

I had to hire an excavator truck to come and dig the resevoir out.

This guy charged $30 an hour. And he was finished in 4 hrs.

Total cost $120.

After that, next came the organic fertilizer of hen droppings and rice shells.

Two truck loads for my hectare (2.2 acres), each truck load had 9 cubic meters of material.

Total price of both loads $480.

When you buy fertilizer in Ecuador, be sure it doesnt have too much wood mulch in it, and that it is HEN droppings (gallina) as chicken (pollo) droppings are not as good a quality.

After getting the fertilizer I had to pay 3 guys a total of $100 to spread it around, it took them about a day and a half.

See pic below.

tractor

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Growing Stevia for Cash in Ecuador

OK, so after a whole lot of research, the product I´m going to harvest first in Ecuador is… drumroll please:

Stevia.

Stevia is a plant that originates from the South American Amazon (Paraguay region) that is used as a natural sweetener with zero calories used in the place of sugar.  It grows in the tropics up until 2,400 meters of altitude provided it has a steady, almost daily water source.

I know first hand that sugar is dangerous (especially for your waistline) and addictive.  The less you have the less you want it.

Why Stevia?

I like that it´s a South American plant, so it´s not like you´re forcing something on the land that shouldn´t be there.

Also, I know first-hand through serving food at the restaurant in my hotel, sometimes we serve as many as 40 people in one night, that people are getting more and more sugar-carb-gluten-lactose conscious than ever before and any product that fits in with those diets can be a winner.

In the west, Stevia is still relatively new on the scene, and on the come-up.  In 2008 certain extracts were approved by the FDA, in 2011 it was approved by the European Union.

The demand for the plant worldwide is growing exponentially.  According to El PAIS, one of the largest newspapers in Spain, Stevia consumption worldwide has grown from 35 tons in 2008 to 916 tons in 2013.

I also like that the harvest cycle is short, every 3 months you can expect a new harvest.  So I should know quickly if this is a true money maker.

Expected production and income.

80,000 plants can enter into one hectare.  I´m going to start with 40,000 plants.  Each plant is expected to produce 40-120 grams of dried leaf product each three months.  The kilo sells here in Ecuador for around $4 per kilo.  So for 40,000 plants at the low end of 40 grams per plant thats 1,600 kilos each 3 months.

Total expected income from 40,000 plants each three months= $6,400.  Total per year= $25,600.

Plus, if I grow, in the future I could export for potentially higher prices.

What will I really make?  Stay tuned to this newsletter to find out.

Expected initial costs.

I’ve been covering the costs as I go.  So far I’ve spent about $600 in prepping the land and $1250 in the annual lease paid up front.  This week i hope to install th irrigation system which could be a few thousand more dollars  but I may have found a way to minimize that cost.  I don’t plan on hiring anyone fulltime, just part timers to help weed, prune and harvest.  The average cost per day of temporary help is $15 per day.

This is still an unknown but I’ll cover this every step of the way, stay tuned!  And in the near future I may be interested in taking on an investor for a bigger plantation so if interested let me know.

So which crops are the most profitable options in Ecuador?  For that and more, you’d love my weekly newsletter, revealing everything you need to know BEFORE you invest in Ecuador. Unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

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