Archive | 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.

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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

The ultimate expat-mobile for the beach in Ecuador for $250

motor-bicycle-ecuador

Trust me, I´ve been there.

I mean, living in a small town on the coast of Ecuador.

The town (Manglaralto) was 4 km from Montanita and had a total of 3 streets parallel to the ocean with about 20 streets perpendicular.

Tiny.

You know, I didn´t really need or want a car.

I could use the frequent/cheap buses for long distances.

Plus, with car prices double or triple what im used to in the US, I wasn´t in a hurry to buy one.

But walking 20 minutes just to buy some fish or veggies can get tiring.

So… let me introduce the ideal vehicle for an expat on the coast of Ecuador… the motor-bicycle.

Literally, its a BICYCLE with a little motor on it and a half gallon gas tank.

You can pedal it like a normal bike if you feeling like getting some exercise or turn on the little motor and away you go.

The max speed with the motor on is 40 km per hr (25mph).

Did I mention you can get 100 km (62 miles) to the gallon!?

And don´t worry about parking, just chain it up (its a bike)!

Got groceries? Put a basket on it.

And no special licenses or insurance needed (so the local policia tell me).

Did I mention one of these little motors put on your bicycle in Ecuador only costs around $250?

Obviously not great for long distances or highway riding but great for zipping around your little beach town.

One place you can buy one I know of in Ecuador is in the suburb of Quito called Tumbaco. The shop is named Taller Turbo and one contact number is 02 2373946.

But they sell them on the coast too.

And by the way, all the cool kids have one.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

The secret to finding anything in Ecuador


A friend recently asked…

“Where can I find some duct tape and a tennis ball in Ecuador.” 

Referring to his mom sitting next to him in the case she didn´t shut her trap.  

But seriously, if you´re living in a small town in Ecuador (like me) far from the nearest Supermaxi big box store, how can you find the really random stuff. 

Like an office chair with arm rests.  

A sandwich maker.  

A permanent marker.  

You know, really random stuff.  

Don´t ask on a public forum online, that will just get people annoyed at you.  

Instead, tanslate what you need using a friend or Google Translator and then…

…find a local taxi driver.  

He has to be LOCAL.  

And I can pretty much guarantee if you say the thing in Spanish he will know where to buy it and take you there.  

Taxi drivers are an amazing resource for an expat in Ecuador or anywhere for that matter.  

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

DIY: Ecuador residency visa in 4 hours or less… for pensioners

 

This week, I broke my own record.

About 4 hours of pounding the pavement in Manta, Ecuador.

2 permanent residency visas for friends of mine.

And yes, its something easy enough you could actually do it yourself, or maybe with the help of someone that speaks Spanish.

You certainly dont have to pay a lawyer thousands to help with your visa.

Here´s the whole process I did:

1. First, make sure my friends brought down the following documents from the USA, their home country…

- Proof of pension (for the both of them to get the visa at least one of them needs a pension of $900 or higher, for a single person the requirement is min $800)

- Marriage certificate

- Birth certificates (just in case, although lately they are no longer asking for these)

- Criminial record check from where they ve lived the last 5 years (the document itself can be no older than 6 months)

- Certificate from the Ecuador consulate in your home country certifying the source of pension document. ( Certificado determinando la percepción de dicha jubilación, pensión) This is a new one since I helped someone with this last year! 

All the above documents need to be apostilled by the Secetary of State in the State they are issued, and the proof of pension needs to be certified by the nearest Ecuador Consulate before coming.

2. Then, we went straight to the Immigration police (in Manta its the Immigration office on 4 de Noviembre, in Quito its the immigration office across from the Mall El Jardin), to get a document for each showing all their migratory movements in and out of Ecuador called the Certificado de Movimiento Migratorio. (cost $5 each) Elapsed time 20 minutes.
3. Then, we made color copies of the info page of both their passports and of the page showing their latest stamp upon entry to Ecuador.  We also had passport photos taken of each.  And then we printed off the official visa application form found here so each person could fill one in. I also bought a manilla folder to put all their documents.  Elapsed time 15 minutes.

4. Then I translated the documents they brought from the States and went to a local notary next to the Pichincha Bank in the center of Manta where I had to verify my signiture as the document translator and get something called a RECONOCIMIENTO DE FIRMA.  ($20).  Anyone can translate the documents except the interested party.  Elapsed time 1 hour 45 minutes.

5. Then in an internet cafe across the street from the bus terminal in the center of Manta I wrote up in Spanish a simple letter stating to the immigration department what they want to do (retire in Ecuador) and why they want to retire here (I said the weather).  Example of letter here.  Elapsed time 10 minutes.

6. Went with all the documents and my friends who were applying (they have to be present or you need to have a power of attorney document notarized) to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in the center of town in between the boardwalk area (Malecon) and the big Pichincha Bank.  We got a turn and there was no wait and we turned in the folder with all the above. They also had to pay the application fee of $30 each.   Click here for the official list of requirements.  Elapsed time 20 minutes.

What now?

In two weeks they´ll have to go back to that same office once their visas are approved, pay the visa fee to the window ($320 each one time only) and then they will place the visas in the passports and give you 30 days to get a cedula which is your official Ecuadorian ID card (which (as of June 2014) you can not currently do in Manta, only Quito, Guayaquil or Cuenca).

Then they will be permanent Ecuador residents who can stay in country as long as they like.

Not bad for 4 hours.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Example Ecuador Visa Solicitation Letter

Here´s an example of the official letter immigration in Ecuador asks for when you apply for a visa, just plug in your info and where you are applying and play!
—BEGIN—

2 de junio, 2013.

Manta, Ecuador.

Estimados.

Coordinacion Zonal 4 Manta

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Movimiento Humano.

Por medio del presente, yo, John Doe con número del pasaporte 111111111 de nacionalidad estadounidense solicito que se me conceda visa 9-1 de Pensionista y Visa 9-VI de amparo en mi visa 9-1 a mi conyuge Suzy Q con número del pasaporte 111111222 de nacionalidad estadounidense. Ya que hemos decidido residir tiempo completoen la costa manabita ecuatoriana por cuestiones de clima y salud.

Atentamente,

_______________________

John Doe

Número Pasaporte: XXXXXXXXXX
— END—-

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

8 things to know before you visit Salinas, Ecuador

“It was too cloudy.”

“It was a ghost town.”

I hear things like this all the time when people describe Salinas, Ecuador.

They just don´t know.

Right now I´m checking in from Salinas, Ecuador on a bluebird sunny day.

The ocean is sapphire blue and very inviting, not a cloud in the sky, and I´m surrounded by women in bikinis (at least thats what Im noticing).

People are on their balconies drinking beer with their friends.

Whats not to like?

But you have to know a few things before you visit (or live in) Salinas to get the most out of it… and be sure to define what you want.

1. Know the weather.  From mid-December to early-May most days are sunny and warm.  From late-May to mid-December its generally overcast.  It makes a big difference!  The ocean turns from blue to grey.  All year it almost never rains on this peninsula blessing it with low humidity.  For me, April is the best month to visit.  Right now!

2. The seasons.  If you like being surrounded by people, come in the high season from late December to early April, specifically on the weekends.  If you like empty beaches come from late April to early December.

3. When to buy.  If you are looking to purchase real estate, be sure to go in low season, when the weather is bleak, and everyone has their ´for sale´ signs out.  The difference in amount of inventory available is astonishing.  The best months to property hunt are August, September, October, right in the midst of low season and when the high season still seems far off.  In high season, almost all the locals and expats take down their for sale signs to enjoy their property. As I speak here in April there is very little for sale.  Ill be back in two months.

4. Where to eat.  People who say they dont like the food here must not have known where to eat.  Try the local treat, fish fillet soup “Chupe de Pescado” at the Restaurante Herminia on the Malecon.  Try eating where the locals eat at the open-air food court Picanteria Super Fausto near the Bank of Pichincha.  Try anything on the menu labeled with ” al ajillo (garlic flavored seafood)” “encebollado”, “ceviche”, ” sancocho” all delicious choices.  For something fried you could always try the “camarones apanados (breaded shrimp)” or the cangrejo (crab).

5. Where to hang out and stay.  Do you want to hang out with other foreigners or the locals?  To find the expat-gringo crowd hang out at the Smokin BBQ next to the El Carruaje Hotel on the boardwalk or try the bar at Hostal Aqui or the restaurants at Big Ralphs or Cocos Hostal.  Go elsewhere if you prefer to hang with the locals.  For cheap places away from the gringo scene you could try any of the many smaller hotels one row back from the ocean like Marvento or Salinas Suites which usually oscillate around $20 per person depending on the season.   For a luxury place try the Barcelo.

6. What to do and where to shop.  Whale-watching is good fun and possible from late-July to early-September.  People dont realize but at the local travel agencies on the boardwalk you can also hire banana boat rides, four-wheelers and even deep-sea fishing or scuba.  For those living in the area to find any household items you may need try the big box stores at El Paseo Shopping Mall.  To get the freshest seafood at the best prices try the Mercado de Mariscos in La Libertad.  For local handycrafts try the handycraft market near the Banco Pichincha on the boardwalk.

7. What its really like.  Take it for what it is.  Salinas from the beginning was built not as a tourist destination but as a weekend retreat for the wealthy folks from Guayaquil.  Another way to store their wealth.  Its a row of high rise condo buildings along the ocean.  If you go one or two blocks back it gets bleak fast as it pretty much looks the same as it did 10 years ago with not much investment.

8. The best beach?  Chipipe vs the main malecon/ San Lorenzo area.  Chipipe, tucked away in a cove, is the nicest beach in Salinas yet most miss it and stay on the main malecon beach area and then come away unimpressed with the beach at Salinas.  Other nice beaches nearby Salinas include Playa Rosada and Ayangue.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

Got mine, now how to get your Ecuador Cedula

After you get your permanent residency visa to live in Ecuador, doesn’t matter which type, could be the investors visa, the pensioners visa, or even the professionals visa…

…you’ll then have 30 days to get your mandatory Ecuadorian “Cedula”, or official ID card.

The visa, or what is stamped in your passport, is the more complex part, the cedula which looks like a drivers license, is just a formality but you NEED it or they won’t let you travel out of the country.

It’s happened to me.

You’ll pass through the airline check in counter, then at immigration they’ll tell you sorry, you can’t board the plane without a cedula (if you are in Ecuador on a permanent residency visa).

Besides, having a cedula qualifies you for a lot of benefits, especially senior benefits in Ecuador if you are over 65.

Even if you are not a senior, you can still get special pricing on certain things, like for one, trips to the Galapagos.

For instance, foreigners pay $465 round trip on Tame to the Galapagos from Quito right now.  Ecuadorians or foreigners which have perm resident status with Ecuadorian cedulas pay only $250.  And foreigners pay a $100 per head park entrance fee, people with Ecuador cedulas pay only a $10 per person entry fee upon arrival.

Getting your cedula is a recently streamlined, easy process and one I just did myself this week in January of 2014.

Once you pick up your visa that same day I recommend you get the document CERTIFICADO DE EMPADRONAMIENTO which costs $5 and only takes a few minutes to retrieve from the same immigration office that gives you your visa, in Quito its the one near the 6 de Diciembre and Colon intersection.

With that document you will need to wait 48 hours and then go to the REGISTRIO CIVIL (Civil Registry) on Naciones Unidas y Amazonas (if applying in Quito).

You will need to bring the Certificado de empadronamiento, your actual passport and a color copy of your passport ID page and a copy of your current residency visa.

Upon entering the Civil Registry, you will have to take a turn and pay $5 to the bank counter that is within their offices there.

You will then go down the stairs and to the windows 24 and 25 and wait for your turn to appear on the screen.

Once you are called they will photo you, take your fingerprints and then in one hour you will receive your brand new Ecuadorian cedula!

No more need to walk around with your passport, in Ecuador your cedula is everything, you can even travel to nearby Andean countries like Colombia and Peru with just your cedula.

And of course, no reason to pay a lawyer to get a cedula for you!

Important changes since early 2013 (one year ago):  

Prefice: About a year ago in Guayaquil I helped a few friends get their cedulas.  And since then things have changed a bit, for the better!

A year ago, after applying for the cedula and getting your photo taken you had to come back in 3-5 days, not anymore, in one hour I got my cedula.

A year ago, they asked for an apostilled birth certificate, they never asked for mine although I still recommend bringing it down.

A year ago, they asked for proof of civil status, a marriage certificate or if you were single you had to do a really annoying hassle of going to a notary and doing a sworn statement saying you were single (declaracion juramentada).  Not anymore.  They didnt ask for me to prove my single status.

PS.  I highly recommend getting yiour cedula in Quito although you can get it in a few other cities in Ecuador.  Just easier.

Keep in mind.  

Unlike countries like the US, your civil status appears on your ID card, and if you are married then ANY legal transaction you want to do in Ecuador like sell a real property or a car you will have to have your wife sign off on it!

But what if your legal wife or husband is not in the picture?

In Ecuador, you are pretty much screwed if thats what appears on your ID cedula card.  Your transaction will be greatly difficulted or stopped.  So if they arent in the picture go for single if you can.

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

The Myth about Ecuador Border Runs: How to stay longer than 90 days in Ecuador as a tourist

 
Last week, we covered arguably the easiest way to get a residency visa in Ecuador, and how I got one.

The 9-V Professionals Visa, based off your university degree.

No investment, no pension required.

Believe me, compared to most countries in the world, thats easy!

For instance my brother actually married a Thai girl and he still can´t get his Thai perm residency and has to do costly monthly border runs (like a b*tch).

But Ecuador residency does have its pitfalls, like you have to be in-country at least 9 months a year for the first two years or you could lose your visa.

So if a professonal, investor or pensioner permanent resident visa doesn’t work for you the following may be the way to go.

But the wierd thing is even immigration officials in Ecuador will tell you you can’t do it.

But a friend of mine confirmed, in January of 2014, you can.

The prevailing myth regarding Ecuador tourism is you can only be in Ecuador for 3 months a year on the free automatic visa stamp you get when you enter Ecuador.

They tell you you can’t renew your tourist visa.

And that you only have 90 days a year as a tourist in Ecuador, period.

People plan their whole trips (and lives) around this fact.

Bull sh*t!

You actually can stay in Ecuador for up to 9 months a year, or even more, heck, you can stay perpetually as a mere passer-byer or ‘tourist’ with the following strategy…

It’s proven, first hand to me by a close Canadian friend of mine, as of January 2014.

Enter the country initially with just your passport (valid for more than 6 months) and get the free 3 month visa stamp.  With at least 2 weeks left on your visa stamp apply for the 6 month 12-9 ‘Acto de Comercio’ temporary visa.  You won’t have to leave the country.

Then at the end of the 9 months you’ll have to make a border run to either Peru or Colombia, you won’t even have to stay the night just walk across the border, eat lunch, and come back over.

And you’ll get an immediate 3 month free stamp once again.

Then at the end of these 3 months you’re best to get a 6 month student visa (the 12-5) or the (12-10) 6 month tourist visa without having to leave the country.

For instance there are langauage schools in Quito that will give you your registration papers (what you need for the student visa) for as little as $300.

Then rinse and repeat.

Yes, even though immigration officials are quick to tell you tourist visas in Ecuador are not renewable and border runs will not work either.

I got sucked into the lie once.

I still remember my face at an immigration outpost in Loja with 2 days left on my visa when I was told that my visa was not renewable and a border run would not work.  I don’t know why they say it like that with just a shrug.

No solutions.

You just can’t get the free 90 day tourist stamp consecutively.  You have to follow the strategy above.

But no one told me.

So I overstayed.

I had no choice.

And it was a huge hassle to get ‘legal’ again.

Don’t do that.  Stay legal so you can come and go from Ecuador freely and not worry about being able to get back in the country when you please!

Now you know what I didn’t.

So if permanent residency isn’t your thing at least now you know you can stay in Ecuador for much longer than 3 months as a mere tourist!

And for the complete breakdown of how I got my Professional Residency Visa 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, Ecuador Travel Guides, Expat Lifestyle

Ecuador residency visa: No investment, no pension… no problem

I can’t think of how else to put this.

But sometimes I really think Ecuador is kind of like your friends slutty sister.

She may look good from a distance, but the more you get to know her, the less you trust her and although you may have a casual fling with her, chances of a serious comitment are slim.

It may be funny to hear this from a so-called ‘Ecuador expert’, but the truth is Ecuador is a great place for that exciting high risk-high reward 10% part of your portfolio but its certainly not smart to sell everything and invest it all in Ecuador.

Don’t do that! Seriously.

I’m sorry but while (currently) Ecuador is a great place to casually live, and a great place to generate wealth, its not a good place to store wealth and in fact, like many countries in the world, I’m afraid Ecuadors heading in the wrong direction. A lot of factors there. Just my opinion.

Opps, maybe I spilled the beans on that one.

Ecuador, really not much different from any ‘third-world’ country, is certainly not a smart place to park $25k in a CD for a right to a residency visa. This past year alone one ‘real’ bank failed (Banco Territorial), and one ‘coopera’ or credit union-type-thing failed too.

People lost money. Not everyone got paid back.

And contrary to popular opinion, its also not smart to base your visa off a real estate investment valued over $25k, cause if you sell the investment, you lose your visa, and boy would it stink to get stuck in a bad investment and miss an opportunity just cause your money was tied up for your visa.

While many of us, either too young or for whatever reason, don’t count on a steady pension in order to apply for the pensioners visa.

Well, fear not, there’s another little-known option many of us qualify for.

And you don’t have to invest a cent. Nor do you need a pension.

Besides, the only investments you should make are good ones, not ones based on getting a residency visa.

This type of visa is the one I got.

I got it, all by myself, with no help from a lawyer (it wasn’t necessary).

Recently too, I got approved last month.

Introducing the 9-V Professionals permanent resident visa.

All you need to qualify is a degree from an accredited university and to have the degree validated by the Ecuadorian institute of higher education (SENESCYT).

Its actually even easier than it sounds.

You see, Ecuador immigration law is actually quite dated. Written several years ago before there was a sizable demand of incoming migrants. And understandly, countries without much incoming demand have more open doors, cause it doesn’t matter, on the flip side, a country like the US has the doors so closed to immigrants they often have to do illegal stuff just to get in and stay in.

Some countries offer a Professional type visa for college grads, like Australia, but only for certain majors, the specialists they need. Which makes more sense than the current Ecuadorian system if you think about it.

You see, if they’ll approve someone from my major, they’ll take, well, anyone.

Why?

Well, my major was .. duh duh …duh duh… Spanish.

Yea. Damn. Think they got enough Spanish speakers in Ecuador?

If anyone were screwed it’d be me right?

Well, I guess not, I guess they needed one more spanish speaker in Ecuador, and one that speaks with a gringo accent.

Cause I got approved.

But anyway, now you see, any major will do as per the current Ecuadorian law.

So why don’t more people go for this permanent resident visa type?

They just don’t know.

But what if you don’t have a university degree from an Ecuadorian recognized institution, nor a pension, nor the money or desire to invest thousands in Ecuador?

You’ve got another option or two we’ll be covering in the next week. So stay tuned.

Now of course, I did run into a few irritating challenges during the visa application process, mainly due to lack of experience, and they almost costed me the visa!

For instance, before you even think about applying for the professional visa 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, Expat Lifestyle

Don’t move to Ecuador before reading this: Moving to Ecuador 101

 

“Man, this dude is clueless!”

That’s a thought that often passes through my head as I meet new arrival expats in Ecuador.

But if I moved to a new country cold turkey, the same would happen to me.

But after today’s primer you no longer can plead ignorance… here’s what you need to know before you go:

1. Handle your assets correctly.

Sell depreciating assets like cars, if you leave them whenever it is you try to sell them down the road they will be worth less, a lot less!  They are just chuncks of metal.  Replaceable.  And DON’T liquidate ALL your assets and properties if they continue to make you money, what are you going to do with all that cash in Ecuador?  Lose it, that’s what.  Ecuador is a good place for you but maybe not for your entire savings.  That’s just being a plain da** fool.

2. Know what to bring.

There’s a lot of things that are grossly more expensive in Ecuador than in countries like the US.  Bring all the electronics, brand name clothes and perfumes you are going to need.  Brand name shoes too.  Big screen TVs are also much cheaper in the US.

3. Know what NOT to bring.

There’s a lot of things you can easily buy in Ecuador for around the same price as in the US or cheaper.  Towels, sheets and things like coffee makers, irons, plates and kitchen utensils can easily be found in your nearest SUPERMAXI or MI COMISARIATO (big box stores in Ecuador).  No need to bring!

4. Cell Phones.  

Before you leave the US be sure your expensive smart phone is UNLOCKED and accepts insertable SIM cards.  If it doesn’t or isn’t, than leave it in the US, cause it won’t be any use to you in Ecuador (which works on SIM cards).  I’d say even if it does accept SIM cards I’d still be weary about waving around one of those big fancy Samsung Galaxies or whatever, here in Ecuador, having a nice cell phone makes you a target for thieves.

It’s true, thieves will judge you based on your cell phone, if you maintain a cheapy ‘dumb’ phone you could live in Ecuador for years without anything happening to you.  I myslef have a simple ‘dumb’ phone (I know Ecuador too well to have anything else).

Once in country, to pick up a SIM card visit any CLARO or MOVISTAR store and ask if they have any SIMs for sale, its the same in Spanish.  Get a Claro SIM if you plan on living in Cuenca or the coast.  Movistar if you plan on living in the Quito/Cotacachi/Ibarra area.

The card costs $7, you insert it in your phone and you have an  instant Ecuador phone number you can add minutes to in any cell phone shop or pharmacy in Ecuador.  Many local street stores also offer the service of adding prepaid minutes (recargas).  To get a cheap phone starting around $40 try a mall in one of Ecuadors big cities before going to your final destination… in Guayaquil try the cell phone shops in the bus terminal, in Quito, Id go to EL ESPIRAL shopping center.  Don’t buy used phones off the street, they may be stolen.

5. Managing your currency.

News flash.. Ecuador uses the US dollar as the official currency.  But it can be very hard to make change in Ecuador, and most merchants simply won’t accept $50s and $100s, so dont bring any bills larger than $20s!  Travelers checks are a definite NO NO.  Bring an ATM card attached to the Cirrus network and you can withdraw from about any ATM from your US account.  For large transfers don’t try to bring it down in cash!  Instead, contact your bank in your home country and commence a wire once you have an account to wire to in Ecuador.

6. Opening a bank account.

Most banks in Ecuador won’t open an account for you unless you have a CEDULA and are a legal resident in Ecuador on a resident visa.  You could have a friend recommend you to his bank (which helps a lot in Ecuador), also try the smaller banks like Banco Promerica which seem t have more lenient policies about opening accounts.  Either way, dont have a lot of money in there, there are only 2 banks I’d trust in Ecuador, Banco Pichincha (the biggest bank in Ecuador and where most the locals have their money) or Banco Pacifico (already owned by the goverment).

7. Finding a place to stay the smart way (don’t make any prior reservations for rentals).

I’m weary about finding rentals online before I arrive in a place, because you really are clueless about the area, accept it.  I’ll never forget a few years back when I moved to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic.  I arranged a rental online before arriving and it was right in the middle of the ghetto, literally on the wrong side of the river in the city.  And like most rentals I had alreayd paid a non-refundable deposit plus the first months rent.  Dumb.

Not just for the price, but for a lot of reasons I recommend you do it the right way and stay in a cheapy hotel until you learn the area a bit and search on the ground for the rental that is really right for you.  You can often strike deals with many of the cheapy hotels in Ecuador to give you a weekly or monthly rate.

8. Getting connected to the internet.

In the big cities of Ecuador, getting connected in your home is easy, just go to your nearest CNT or Claro store and hire the service, within a few days they will be installing the internet in your home, doesn’t matter if you are a renter.  Decent plans start around $20 but if you want a faster interent experience pay for one of the plans around $50 a month.

In the small towns of Ecuador the internet is NOT a given so inquire beforehand!  If no internet options exist you can always get a Mobile WIFI HUAWEI stick you plug into the wall or your PC from a service provider like Movistar.  In that case, if there is cell phone coverage you can connect to the internet.  Plans start around $35 a month you can get unlimited internet, but this last option is by far the slowest (almost similar to dial-up).

9. Paying utility bills.

As a renter, you will most likely be required to pay your own electric, water and other bills.  The easiest way to pay them is go to the nearest SERVIPAGOS or WESTERN UNION office and pay them cash.  Some banks also offer the service, just be sure the bills dont expire or you’ll have to go directly to the provider to pay.

10. Learning Spanish on the cheap.

If you try to learn Spanish in the US or online before coming than you just wasting your time and money.  US universities will charge you thousands, private tutors in the US often cost upwards of $20 an hour and you’ll still forget everything they teach you cause you’re not using it.  Even programs like Rosetta Stone are not a good idea… in the US you probably paid $400 for it, in Ecuador you can find a copied version for $10.  Just sayin…
But I’d pass on all those programs!  Instead wait until you are in Ecuador to learn Spanish, and take a class from a local tutor , many would be happy to teach you one on one for around $5 an hour.  Once you got a hold on the grammar, try to read the paper everyday, once you got vocabulary, try to watch the TV everyday in Spanish for comprehension and try to make some local friends that only talk to you in Spanish.  Any age can learn cheaply following that method.

11. Visas.  

Have a clear idea of what type of resident visa you want before you come.  Ecuador is not a good place to simply border hop continually everytime your visa is about to expire like you can in Thailand or Costa Rica.  There is a limit.  Get a resident visa based on an investment, job, pension or on something more creative like a religious mission.  For any of the above visas bring the required docs with you from your home country… the base are 2 copies of an aposstilled birth certificate, marriage/divorce certificate (if applicable) and an aposstilled police record check.

12.  Getting around like a local.  

Don’t be afraid to take buses in Ecuador as a new arrival, they are plentiful and cheap and their destinations are marked on the front.

I remember as a new arrival in Spain with no Spanish skills I was afraid to get on the city bus to school cause I didn’t want to get lost with no Spanish skills, so I walked over 30 minutes to school and back everyday in the freezing cold Madrid winter.

Taxis are also cheap in Ecuador but ask how much they will charge to your destination before you get in.  Know that the drivers will always say they know where your destination is whether they really know or not, you have to learn to read their body language to see if they really know or not.  Ask locals how much a taxi ride should be before approaching a taxi.  Also, know that airport taxis are always more expensive and especially abusive so if you can get picked up or take a bus from the airport all the better.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

How Ecuador compares to the big boys

The first thing people ask me when they meet me is…

So why’d you choose Ecuador?  

Good question. 

Well, here’s how Ecuador compares to the other countries where I’ve lived or spent significant time over the last 10 years.

Here’s my take based on my own experiences, despite my critique i really did enjoy each place listed below…

Spain:  Lived in Madrid for 8 months studying abroad.  In this part of Spain the climate swings from dreadfully cold in winter to scorchingly hot in the summer.  Ecuador has much more mild and steady weather.  Also, quite a few, not all, of the locals in Spain were a bit xenophobic, or rascist towards foreigners, specfically gringos like me, not so in Ecuador.

Hawaii:  Studied and worked here for 1 year.  Hawaii IS paradise, but it is expensive too and this is another place where the locals don’t think too kindly of white “howleys” (people not from Hawaii).  Hawaii is small and I think most can get burned out quick.  Ecuador has more variety like the Andes, Amazon and coast plus it has more things to do.  

San Diego, California:  Lived and worked here for 4 months.  Nice weather, beautiful city, tons to do, friendly people, good tex mex food.  Great place with lots of money to make, really no complaints but real estate and rental prices are really high meaning I would have to take on a job I really don’t like just to keep spinning my hamster wheel just to make it.  I prefer being able to have the time to do what i really want to do in a place like Ecuador.  


Lithuania:  Lived and worked in Vilnius for 1 month.  Too cold for me, if I’m going to be sitting through a snowy winter I better have some mountains to ski nearby.  

Italy: Lived in Ascoli for 1 month. Stunning little town on the Adriatic coast where I spent time with long lost relatives, but how would I make a living and the high prices scare me.  The Ecuador economy seems to be moving faster and i see more opportunities in Ecuador.  


Mexico:   Lived in Chihuahua  for 1 month.  If I weren’t in Ecuador I would probably be in Mexico, I love the place, the food, the culture, the people but I rarely felt “at ease” in most parts of this country. 


Peru:  Lived in Lima for 1 month. The coastline of Peru is akin to the Sahara Desert.  Seriously, all the way down!  I’m talking sand dunes and trash blowing in the wind, cool to visit, but Ill stick with living in Ecuador.  


Bolivia:  Lived in Santa Cruz for about 1 month. Nice place with a lot of variety like Ecuador but with no beach.  Economy particularly bad, don’t think I could make a living here like Im doing in Ecuador unless I worked online.  Ecuador wins.  


Brazil:   Lived in Rio and Porto Alegre for about 1 month.  Beautiful place, really high prices, even more costly than the USA these days, it kind of squeezes the fun out of everything.  I’ll stick with the low costs of Ecuador for now.  


Uruguay:   Lived in Montevideo for 1 month.  In my month living in Montevideo I coudn’t figure out why anyone would want to live there?  The beaches are not tropical like most northern US beaches, and you’re really far from the States.  More organized than Ecuador yes, but Ecuador is more “latin” which to me makes it more interesting.  


Argentina:   Lived in Buenos Aires for 1 month.  Never saw people party until daylight… regularly.  And the beef is as good as advertised, so is the wine, and the country is incredibly diverse but the increased cost of living over the last few years and hyper-inflation is a concern for me here.  


Colombia:   Lived, worked and studied here for 1 year.  Colombia may seduce you at first sight as it did me but the culture struck me as simply “wierd” and “tense” after years and years of violence, the drug trade, and being closed off from the rest of the world.  I’ll stick to the more laid back Ecuadorians any day.  


Philippines:  Lived and worked online here for 5 months.  Dirty.  Poor.  Usually i don’t mind it but this place is on another level.  Hot and flat.  Didn’t like the food.  Nice people though who really like foreigners and try to make them comfortable.  Far away from US.  Makes Ecuador look like Beverly Hills, Ecuador much more developed.  Like in most Asian countries there are restrictions against foreign ownership of land limiting possibilities.

Thailand:   Lived and traveled here in Krabi area for 1 month.  Too on-the-beaten-track for me, just hoards and hoards of travelers.  Beaches are amazing, but language is too difficult, Spanish is easier making it easier to integrate with the locals of Ecuador.  


Malaysia:   Lived in KL for 1 month.  About the next blandest place I’ve seen after my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.  For me, Ecuador has better food, weather, lower prices and more things to do.  


Dominican Republic:   Lived in Santo Domingo for 6 months.  Beautiful beaches and people, vibrant culture and lively music but the public transport was deficient, food was nasty and there were too many guns.  It seemed as though literally every male member of society had one tucked in his pants.  Didn’t make me feel very safe.  Ecuador outlaws guns which for me makes me feel more comfortable than the other extreme which is the DR.  


Vietnam:   Lived in Mui Ne and Hanoi for about 1 month.  Great food!  But here I really felt like a walking dollar sign most of the time, the locals really try to grossly overcharge you whenever they can.  In Ecuador it is not so in-your-face.  


China:   Worked in Shenzhen and Guangzhou for 5 months.  Dont live in southern China in the winter!  You see, the Chinese government outlaws heat in homes below a certain point but trust me, you need heat, its cold, freezing cold inside the apartments in the winter.  I found China hard to get a grip on, I’ve never been more lost, more often as I was there.  Overall I found it good for westerners to make money, but I bet few would consider it a better place to live than their home countries.  


India:  Worked in Bhopal for 1 month.  I’ve never seen so many guys just standing around in the streets all day.  Like most foreigners working in India, one moment I loved india, the next I hated it.  Generally, I felt like a walking dollar sign here while many locals tried to hussle me.  Others were incredily nice inviting me into their home upon meeting them.  Too much of a challenge for me, and too hot, I’ll stick to Ecuador for now.  


Egypt/Israel:   Lived here for almost 1 month.  Countries of extremes and it starts with the people.  Met some incredibly friendly people and the exact opposite, usually within the same day, would not consider this place as one to live in near future.  Politically and socially unstable making me weary about investing.

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Where’s best for you on the coast of Ecuador?

Like flat oceans good for swimming?  

Or maybe rockin’ waves?  

How about lush green jungle right to the water’s edge?

Or dry-as-a-bone landscapes with low humidity?  

For such a small country, the Ecuador coast has it all… so where should you begin?

Here are my top picks…

flat ocean good for swimming, snorkeling- Salinas, Ayangue, Punta Blanca

surf towns/ good waves- Montanita, Ayampe, Playas, Canoa, Mompiche

Sunniest beaches- San Clemente, Playas

wide, flat beaches good for walking- Playas, Olon, Atacames, Muisne

scuba / hand gliding / kiteboarding / fishing- Ayangue (scuba), Canoa, Crucita (hand gliding), Santa Marianita (kite boarding), Salinas (fishing)

green, lush right up to water edge- Olon, Ayampe, Jama, Mompiche, Muisne, Same, Puerto Cayo

dry, brown, low humidity and less mosquitos- Salinas, Playas, Punta Blanca, Ballenita, Santa Marianita, Manta, Crucita, Machalilla, Cadeate, Valdivia

Quiet spots near the action and shopping- Ballenita, Crucita, Manglaralto, Olon, Canoa, Atacames, Tonsupa

Bigger cities with health care- Salinas+ Santa Elena, Manta, Esmeraldas, Bahia, Pedernales

White sand beaches- Playa Rosada, Muisne, Atacames, Tortuga Bay (Galapagos), Isabela Island (Galapagos)

Palm tree forests to waters edge- Cojimes, Muisne

Established expat community- Salinas, Olon, Puerto Lopez, Manta, Crucita, San Clemente-San Jacinto, Bahia

Off the beaten track/ no foreigners- La Libertad, Chanduy, Palmar, Valdivia, La Entrada, Tunas, Pedernales, Cojimes, Muisne, Esmeraldas

People watch/ women in bikinis, men in thongs/ party towns- Montanita, Canoa, Atacames

Beachfront condos in highrises- Salinas, Manta, Bahia, Tonsupa

Large lots of vacant beach land- Jama area, Cojimes, Muisne

Gated beach communities- Manta area, Salinas area

Beachfront property on smaller lots- Same, San Clemente-San Jacinto, Ballenita, Cadeate, Canoa

Bird and wildlife watching- Isla de la Plata (Puerto Lopez), Everywhere in Galapagos

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Where to sleep for cheap in Ecuador? My budget picks.

Want to know where to sleep for cheap in Ecuador?

Considering I don’t really have an official home, it’s safe to say I spend a lot of time in hotels. 

So, here are my value picks for all over Ecuador, in other words, where I stay. 

You won’t see the Hilton or Marriot on this list. 

Yes, they’re in the big cities of Ecuador, but if you’re going to stay in a Marriot, why not save yourself the flight and do it in your backyard, cause they’re all the same anyway.  Not much of a way to experience a country.

Most of my picks you won’t find on the net, nor will you be able to reserve beforehand, so just show up and maybe I’ll be there. 

And you’ll quickly notice that rates on the coast and in the smaller towns are much cheaper than in the bigger cities.

Except for my new place in Quito that opened this week and my place in Guayaquil, I dont have any affiliation with any of them except maybe friendship… here goes:

Cotacachi: 
Hostal El Arbolito, Calle Imbabura N 911.  Right on the main square of Cotacachi, spacious well cared for rooms starting at $25/single $40/double.

Otavalo:
Hostal America Inter, Sucre y Quiroga.  Right on the main indigenous market everyone goes to Otavalo to see, renovated rooms with WIFI and private parking suffice starting at $10/person. 

Ibarra:
High end: Hotel La Giralda, Av. Atahaulpa y Juan Francisco Bonilla.  The rooms are cramped but borderline luxury and the assortment of crepes available in the restaurant is to die for, really good, I eat there whenever I pass by Ibarra.  Has pool.  Rates start at $44/single, $58/double.

Budget: Hostal El Dorado, Oviedo 5-41 y Sucre.  Simple, bland, clean place right in the old town center with WIFI, hard to beat the $10/person asking price.  Even better, eat at the Giralda, sleep here.

Quito:
In town… Hostal Veintimilla, Amazonas y Veintimilla.  Whenever I have to stay in town I usually gravitate here, love the location near both the Mariscal traveler/nightlife district and the old town.  Right where a tourist wants to be.  Good cable TV channels in English, Wifi in some of the rooms, and newly refinished bedrooms.  Some may not like the location for the occasional night walkers looming on the city streets outside.  Rates start at $13 per person.

Near new airport:  Of course I’d have to recommend my new place that opened 3 days ago, Quito Airport Suites.  Set a few blocks from the entrance of the new airport, relax in an old Spanish Hacienda setting with WIFI internet, room service, an English speaking staff and airport transfers available 24/7.  Avoid the hour and a half drive to Quito and sleep better while you’re at it.

Mindo:
Dragonfly Inn:  This hotel is my pick for budget travelers, right where you want to be within walking distance of most of the points in the town with wooden rooms. Clean, safe, simple rooms starting around $20 per person.

Latacunga:
Villa de Tacvnga:  An old Spanish colonial turned hotel, the rooms have WIFI and heaters (needed here) and the restaurant has some great dishes (try the trout).   

Banos:
Hostal Nomada, diagonal to the bus station.  Love the location in town and near the bus station and within walking distance to the spas.  The rooms are surprisingly nice for the price ($10/person) but there is no WIFI. 

Puyo:
Hostal Las Palmas, 20 de Julio y 4 de Enero.  This colorful hotel has macaws walking around the lobby and has a character all its own.  Right in town, my pick when in the area.  Rates $15/single $26/double.  

Cuenca:
High end:  Casa del Barranco, Calle Larga.  Right where a tourist wants to be in Cuenca, on the gorgeous Tomebamba River in the Old Town and on the street Calle Larga where most of the cities best restaurants and bars are just a few steps away.  Rates $30/single, $44 double.

Budget:  Hostal Majestic.  Just a block or two from the center of the old town and Parque Calderon, despite the creeky floors and dark rooms this is my pick when I want to save money on a sleep in Cuenca with rates from $8-10 per person. 

Loja:
Hotel Prado Internacional, right on the edge of the old town in Loja this hotel is one of the best value picks in all of Ecuador with luxury-class rooms, an elevator, and a rooftop restaurant with delicious food like the filet mignon and t-bone while enjoying the stunning view of the town for very reasonable prices (approx $25/single, $40/double).  Ask for the owner Lucia, very helpful, tell her Dom sent you.

Vilcabamba:
High end: Madre Tierra.  This hotel-spa doesn’t skimp on the spa portion of the business offering a full array of relaxing treatments at very reaosnable prices.  The restaurant is particularly good, once again try the filet mignon. 

Budget:  Hotel Mandango.  I know the name of this hotel sounds like it should be the name of a male p-o-r-n star, but its actually a decent budget place to sleep right on the outskirts of town with no frills rooms but at $6-8 per person you can’t expect much.  My pick, but Ill go eat in Madre Tierra. 

Zamora:
Eco-lodge Copalinga: A hydro-powered nature lodge great for hummingbird watching right at the entrance of the beautiful Podocarpus Natural Park. (From $25 per person).

Guayaquil: 
Murali Hostal, Garzota 2 Calle La Salle y Tercer Callejon Mz 135, V 7.  At just 2 blocks from the airport entrance and 1 block from the vans to Cuenca and bus terminal this is the ideal place to stay in the more affluent and less noisy north of town if just passing through Guayaquil.  OK, plus I’m the owner.  :)

Playas: 
Hotel Nevada with rooms from $20 per person per night, mainly because of the proximity to both the beach and center of town, also you’re right across the street form some delicious restaurants.

Salinas:
Hostal Aqui is the top expat hangout/bar/hostel in town with rooms starting around $20 per person its a clean, safe, friendly option.

Hostal Marnier, nothing special, but it is also a good pick if looking for a cheaper, safe place to crash for the night somewhat near the beach with prices starting aroud $10 per person. 

Ayangue:
Oasis Ayangue.  Relax between scuba dives at this friendly Canadian-owned hostel/bar/restaurant.  One block off the beach, has pool and some good thin crust pizza.  Tell Paul and Denise I said hi.  Rates start at $15 per person. 

Montanita:
The OCEANVIEW HOTEL on the outskirts of the main town just out of the heavy noise and right on the beach with newly finished rooms with WIFI starting around $10/person per night.  Friendly owners who should charge more, just dont tell them, ask for Tony or Evelyn, tell them Dom said hi.  For longer stays consider my bungalows with oceanviews, WIFI and kitchenettes. 

Ayampe:
LA BUENA VIDA Hosteria… American owned, they also offer surf classes upon request, the rooms are elegant and well sealed against bugs and they feel like they should cost more than they do. Rooms start around $20 per person.

Puerto Lopez:
Im not a big fan of Puerto Lopez so when I get stuck in the area I will usually sleep in the bungalows of the friendly indigenous community just a quick cab ride away in Aguas Blancas in the Natural Park Machalilla.  Hike, take mud baths, mix with locals, sleep for around $10/person. 

Manta:
Not a big fan of the overpriced manta hotels, so i stay in the no frills Hotel Leo: This hotel is my pick for budget travelers, right in the center of town and across from the bus terminal.  Clean, safe, simple rooms with TV and fan await you starting around $12 per person.

Crucita:
For a clean, safe, Spartan, budget option right on the boardwalk I recommend the Marlin Hostal, $15 per person.

Canoa:
My top choice for a quiet, clean, safe place right on the beach is the Hostal Playa Azul, at $8 per person for a private room with a shared bath or $10 per person for a private room with a private bath. 

Bahia:
High-end: La Herradura Hotel, the only hotel right on the boardwalk, ocean front in Bahia.  The hotel has an upscale restaurant and prices start from $20 for the single room, $40 for the double.  Ask for one of the few rooms with an ocean view! 

For budget travelers I recommend y personal fav, La Bahia Hotel, right in front of the Puerto Amistad Bar-Restaurant or the expat hang out of town.  The rooms are Spartan but clean and the price is right, $8 per person and $16 for a double.

Pedernales:
Hotel Arenas, a few blocks from the beach with cable TV and well kept rooms starting around $10 per person.

Machala:
For budget travelers I’d stay at the Hotel Mosqueto, 2 blocks from the main plaza right beside Hotel Montecarlo, singles with fan $12. Acceptable, simple place.  For bigger budgets looking for nice AC rooms, I’d try Hotel Montecarlo (all the taxis know it) 2 blocks form the main plaza. Single $30, Double rooms $40.

There you have it, my picks, as you can see you dont have to break the bank to sleep in Ecuador!

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

Where’s the hottest long-term rental market in Ecuador?

“This is insane, feels like a job interview.”

I thought this week as I found myself being interviewed for the “priviledge” of renting an apartment in Quito.

Next to me was another guy who was being jointly interviewed for the same apartment.

“So why should I choose you?” The owner of the apartment asked.

As I sat up in my chair I replyed… “Well, I’m clean, quiet and pay on time.”

Then she asked the other guy the same question and said OK I’ll call you tonight if I choose you.

As we left other folks interested in the apartment were entering.

She never called back.

I didn’t get it.

Now, I’ve rented in hot rental markets like San Diego, Honolulu, Madrid and China, but I’ve never seen a place where its so competitive to find a decent rental at a decent price.

The demand is huge. Certainly one of the best opportunity areas to own a rental in Ecuador.

It’s definitely not like the vacant, abandoned buildings in many areas of my home city, Cleveland, Ohio.

Quito is at capacity.

But I’m not surprised.

The planes to Ecuador are packed.

People are coming in droves.

The price is right.

Like one friend told me Brazil was like 10 years ago.

Now, the planes to Brazil are practically empty.

It’s too expensive due to the exchange rate. Nice country, but they’ve priced themselves out.

The sweet spot right now, or the rentals that get taken the quickest in Quito are the ones in the north of the city anywhere from the Mariscal/Floresta/Catolica area of Quito up until about the area of the “Y” and the Jipijapa area.

The most in-demand area is the very centric Carolina Park area near the biggest malls in Quito like Quicentro.

That’s where most locals and foreigners alike want to be.

The long-term rental apartments that go the fastest are the 2 bedroom ones in the above area in the $250-400 a month range.

Literally, for decent rentals in the above-mentioned area in this price range if you publish an ad in the local paper by the afternoon you’ve found a long-term tenant.

Really its the quick.

And the wait is only a bit longer if your rental is higher-priced.

Now, you could buy in this area starting around $35-45k and if renting long-term for the above prices would generate a 10% annual return not to mention the capital gains the market is experiencing.

Annual property taxes for an apartment in Quito of this value usually run less than $100. And condo fees are usually less than $40 a month, and the tenant usually pays that.

Nicer and newer 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in the same area can go for around $60k and you could command a bit more rent.

Quito rentals are hot indeed.

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

7 Steps to find the hottest used car deals in Ecuador

“This country never ceases to amaze me.”

I thought when I saw a 2009 model of a vehicle just $1000 less than the 2012 version as I used-car-shopped earlier this week.

Due to the high import tariffs and restrictions on vehicles, cars are not only more expensive than they are in the US, they also retain their value.

It’s true.

It’s not uncommon for folks to buy a used car, use it for a year or two and sell it for about what they paid for it (especially if they got a bit of a deal).

Based on the advice of several locals and my own experience in Ecuador, here’s what I did to find the best deal on the car purchase made this week.

1. Establish what make, model and year you are looking for and browse a few of the most popular websites in Ecuador to determine market value of the car in Ecuador. The most popular sites in Ecuador to find used cars for sale (and where I found the best deals) are:

PatioTuerca.com – Website dedicated to the sale of cars nationwide in Ecuador. Vendors must pay to advertise.
PatiodeAutos.com – Website dedicated to the sale of cars nationwide in Ecuador. Vendors must pay to advertise.
MercadoLibre.com.ec – The eBay of Ecuador.

2. Go to Quito. Here you’ll find the largest selection and the highland people in Ecuador are renowned locally for taking better care of their cars (and belongings in general) than the coastal people in Ecuador. Plus, it helps that the car hasn’t been eroded by the salty, ocean air.

3. Skip the used car lots. I went to about 10 and they were an enormous waste of time if you are looking for something very specific. Chances are they won’t have it, or if they do, the deal isn’t that great or the car is not in very good condition.

4. Visit the car fairs. In Ecuador, these fairs are open to not only dealers but the public too. The most popular ones are in POMASQUI near Quito on the road to the Mitad del Mundo and GUAMANI exiting the south of Quito on the Panamericana on Saturdays and Sundays from 9a-5p.

5. Check the El Comercio Quito paper on Sundays. The other days will have very thin car listings at best.

6. If a deal still hasn’t been found continue searching on the net on the sites mentioned above and always be sure to ask “Cual es lo ultimo?” (What’s your best price?) All the cars I found in Ecuador were negotiable by about $200-1500 off their asking price on cash purchases.

7. Remember it’s a common practice in Ecuador to fiddle with or set back the mileage on a car. Focus on things like the wear on the tires and brakes or have a mechanic check the car to determine true mileage.

Using the above strategy I helped find, and pull the trigger on a 2011 Chevrolet Aveo with AC in ‘like new’ condition with under 30,000 km for $11,000 after a friend and I had determined the average market value of the same car with AC in Ecuador to be $11500-13000.

That’s how you find a used car deal in Ecuador.

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

How to Fly to Ecuador Dirt Cheap in 2013

fly cheap to ecuador

People often complain about how expensive it is to fly to Ecuador.

But it’s true when compared to closer destinations like Costa Rica or Mexico.

Flights from the US/Canada to Ecuador can often cost $1000 or more.

For some it’s a deal-breaker.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I’m spoiled.

I often get to Ecuador from the US for under $180 and now you can too.

Here’s how… But first, remember I said “cheap” not necessarily “comfortable”.

To start, you have to get from where you live in the US to Miami or New York City.

I buy two separate flights. One to Miami/NYC and another to South America.

Or I do it even cheaper and hitchhike, AMTRAK or take the Greyhound bus to Miami.

Then once you’re in Miami (or New York) buy a one way flight from Miami to Armenia, Colombia on my favorite budget airline (that doesn’t yet fly to Ecuador) Spirit Airlines.

Armenia in western Colombia is the closest city to Ecuador they fly.

If you buy at least a month in advance you can get a flight often less than $150, for instance, now I’m seeing flights in late January and early February on the Spirit website for around $135 to Armenia from Miami with taxes and everything included.

In fact, you’ll find Colombia to actually be a nice place to visit.

Plus, Colombia is a place that doesn’t require a roundtrip ticket to enter. Whereas Ecuador officially does require the return although most the time they don’t enforce it yet sometimes the airlines will not let you on the plane to Ecuador without the return passage.

I know, it’s confusing but it is what it is.

Colombia is far removed from the bloody 80’s, 90’s and Escobar years. I should know, I lived there for a year recently and learned of this strategy because I wanted to visit some old friends and get from the US to Ecuador cheap.

A really nice area to visit near Armenia is the “Coffee Triangle” or “Eje Cafetero”.

Once in Armenia take the 2 ½ hour bus ($4-5) to Cali, another interesting town and a famous salsa dance Mecca.

Once in Cali hop a little crop-duster-type plane to Tulcan on the Ecuadorian border with one of the several tiny Colombian airlines that aren’t well advertised on the net like Satena. I’ve caught flights as low as $65.

Or to it even cheaper hop one of the frequent daily buses (15 hours, $20-30) from Cali to Tulcan.

It’s a scenic ride and one beautiful stop along the way is Popayan, a pearly-white colonial town in the southern hills of Colombia.

Then from Ipiales, Colombia cross the border to Tulcan (Ecuador), get your passport stamped and hop one last bus 4-5 hours ($5) to Quito.

That’s it! You made it!

If you’ve been keeping track, if you fly to Colombia and bus it the rest of the way you can get from Miami, USA to Ecuador one way for around $175 in 2013.

Especially great for people who are coming to Ecuador one way!

OR if you are over 65 and have an Ecuadorian Cedula meaning you are an Ecuador resident OR Ecuadorian citizen, you can buy national or international flights for HALF PRICE, any time of the year with the Ecuadorian airlines of Aerogal, LAN or TAME. Preferably buy in person at the airports or by over phone to get the senior discount.

To discover some of my other creative strategies to get to Ecuador cheap please fill in the blanks below, thanks:

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

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