Archive | Expat Lifestyle

The Wrong Way To Close A Sale In Ecuador

“You did what?” I asked surprised at my new American friend who told me he just agreed to sell his car to an Ecuadorian girl.

He’s turning down dozens of people calling on his car every day (a car in high demand in Ecuador) because he already agreed with a handshake to sell and was planning on meeting her in a few days. No money exchanged.

“Naw! Man.” I responded.

Maybe that’s how you do business in North America, but that doesn’t work down here.

The first person to pay you in full for the car, get’s the car, that simple. Don’t be holding it for people!

Down here, if there isn’t at least a deposit paid, you got nothing, man!

Words are just hot air.

Handshakes are worse.

Checks are the equivalent of toilet paper, (seriously!) at least, when you don’t know the buyer in a deal like this one.

Particularly, when selling something in high demand down here like a car, if someone asks if they can pay in installments or whatever, tell ’em to f— off, you’re not a bank.

Cash in hand or deposited in bank account… then goods released.

That’s how you do business down here.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle, Investor News/Analysis

The first 10 things gringos notice in Ecuador

 

“T.I.E. This. is. Ecuador.”  I find myself often telling my brother (from the USA) who is currently visiting Ecuador for the first time.

The things he initially notices crack me up when I’m just used to it being here a few years now.

Here were a few things he noticed first in Ecuador, and found strange…

1. Grass growing on power lines in Ecuador.  Unexplainable.

2. Ghetto glass.  Or broken bottles cemented into the tops of property walls to prevent break ins.  Interesting idea.

3. Whole extended families on motorcycles.  Slightly illegal in the USA, he found it strange the sight of a father, mother and two kids and the family dog on one motorcycle in Ecuador.

4. Street dogs humping in the street.  A common part of any Ecuador landscape. This one he found particularly hilarious.

5. Random cars with police-colored strobe lights.  Not exactly legal in USA.

6. Pissing in Public.  The ease with which male Ecuadorians pull up in public was impressive to him.

7. Cars parked on sidewalks making the pedestrians walk in the street.  A common sight in Ecuador.

8.  How close the buses whiz by you when biking on the road in Ecuador, literally they pass just inches away.  This one made him flinch.

9. Cars pulling other broken-down cars with a rope.  Not precisely legal in the USA yet a common sight in Ecuador.

10. No windows (or TP) or any ventilation of any kind in many gas station bathrooms in Ecuador.  The hot, humid stench of one particularly on the coast will make you want to shower right then and there.

T.I.E.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

How to pay for your trip to Ecuador with barter

 

The basics are cheap in Ecuador: food, water, utilities, gasoline, natural gas, shelter.

Consumer goods are expensive in Ecuador (much more so than North America): Clothes, shoes, electronics, perfumes and liquor to name a few things.

The reason is the protectionist import policies the current government has imposed with strict regulations and high tariffs.

But this has created an opportunity for the casual traveler to Ecuador that I think VERY few are taking advantage of.

You see, if you bring just one or two units of any one item the customs officials will deem the items as for personal use only.

No problem.  Wave you on through.

And at the same time there is a BUNCH of people in Ecuador (Ecuadorians and foreigners) running businesses that I’m sure would be willing to exchange their services for an item they want/need brought from the USA.

Pay your trip with barter, basically.  

Instead of exchanging cash for a service you are offering a service for a service.

First, you could plan your trip and decide what you want to do and where you want to stay.

Then, you could email the travel providers you plan to work with (hotels, car rentals, tour providers, AirBnb hosts, etc.) and see if they would like something brought from the USA, they could pay you back just what you paid for the item based on your receipt and give you their service (like a hotel night) free in exchange for you bringing the item (s) down to them.

Some would accept, some may not.  As a hotel owner in Ecuador, I’d know I’d listen to someone offering me this.

 

Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Car accident in Ecuador

“Oh, sh-t” I thought as I sat there looking at the motorcyclist on the ground.

I had tried to make a quick U-turn (where maybe I shouldn’t have) and a motorcycle trying to zip around me on the right clipped my bumper and him and his bike went tumbling down.

He quickly got up and got in my face as I still sat in the drivers seat.

“Give me $1000 now for the damage on my bike!”  He shouted as his bike laid in the street.

“Hey, I got insurance buddy,”  I said in my muffled Spanish.

Then… “Wham”!

A big noise made me cinch my face muscles.  I looked over my shoulder and I couldn’t believe my eyes!

While the motorcyclists bike laid there in the street and he was arguing with me to give him a quick buck, another car came and run over his motorcycle!

It was now completely wrangled around the under-organs of the car that just passed over it.

The bike now totaled.  Before, it was damaged but he probably could have just drove off.

Now, there were two angry Ecuadorians yelling at each other and me to one side.  You see, in Ecuador during a car accident I think the locals think that whoever can yell the loudest will be granted the right of way.

Within a few minutes the police showed up.

Immediately, the police said all the vehicles would be impounded until a traffic court could determine guilt, unless we could work something out.

Then he asked for our documents.

License and registration.

And to my surprise, but I suppose not uncommon in Ecuador, both the motorcyclist and the other car driver had no license nor proper registration.

So the policeman quickly looked to me, the calm, bewildered foreigner with the proper documents and said to me… “give the motorcycle guy $100, give that car driver $150 cash… and get out of here.”

My truck just had a few scratches on it after-all.

“Yes, officer,” I said joyfully and away I went!

That’s how a car accident more or less works in Ecuador.

The wild west?  Yea, with these kinds of things I’d say so.

STORY PROVIDED BY …

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).  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/journeymanjack 

 

Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

How starting a hotel moves you towards your dream

“Oh, man, empty” I thought…

This past week I went to the inauguration of a friends restaurant here in Quito, Ecuador.

Empty.

It’s tough to start a restaurant, he’ll probably be done within a month or two.

Later that same afternoon, I had to rush out of there to go serve dinner to 32 people in my hotel who were staying there.

I don’t even like having to serve food.  I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to, there’s just not many options near me.

But that’s my point.

Maybe your real dream is to start your own restaurant, or transportation service, or relocation specialist, or real estate agency, sell art work, do surf tours, or Hummingbird walks… whatever…

It’s much easier to get clients for any of the above when you have people sitting on your couch staring at you practically begging you to feed them and give them interesting things to do.

So first host them. Then sell them what you really want to sell them.

Start a B&B, hostel, hotel or even just offer lodging via AirBnb.

 

Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Stolen groceries in Ecuador

“That’s strange,” I thought glancing in my rear-view mirror as I parked on a rather vacant street about to walk to the nearby market.

I thought it was strange that a taxi pulled up right behind me and parked within inches of my car when they had the whole vacant street to park alongside.

Anyway, i got out of my car and without looking back I quickly pressed the electronic lock button on my key and off I walked to the open-air market in Quito, Ecuador.

As I walked back to my car with the groceries, I opened my trunk and to my surprise, the trunk was completely empty!

Prior to the produce market I had went to Supermaxi (like a walmart of Ecuador) and bought the bulk of my hotels groceries for the week, about $300 worth.All of those groceries, that once filled my trunk and back seat… were gone.

Robbed.

I figure someone had pulled up behind me and nudged open my back door before I had electronically locked my car which activates the alarm, emptied me out and left.

I imagine it was the guys in the taxi that pulled up right close to me as i parked.

T.I.E. (this is Ecuador)… better always be looking at your car when locking it before you walk away!

 

Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

The 3 Most Visited Beaches In Ecuador

This week I got an email from a subscriber…“Hey Dom, I’d like to put a business on the beach in Ecuador, and from your experience, what would be the top3 most visited beaches in Ecuador, based on visitors and not whether they are foreigners or nationals?”

ME: Well, I don’t have the exact statistics (I don’t think anyone does!) but from my experience I’d say the mostvisited beaches in Ecuador are…

1. Montanita- Been THE big, new hot spot on the coast for foreign and local tourists alike since 2011.  This place is packed shoulder-to-shoulder on weekends and holidays but has tourists year-round, every day of the week.

2. Salinas- For decades this peninsula has been the go-to beach getaway destination for locals from the nearby city of Guayaquil, and also from the Cuenca area, and since about 2011 been growing in popularity with foreign expats.  The problem is the noticeable lack of beachfront hotels because most of the boardwalk is covered by condo buildings limiting tourism growth.

3a. Atacames/Tonsupa- For decades its been the go-to spot on the coast for locals from Ecuador‘s capital and second largest city (Quito).

3b. Playas- Another up-and-comer, its proximity to the largest city in Ecuador (1 hour from Guayaquil and a new road coming) helps a lot.

3c. Puerto Lopez- Popular with foreign tourists due to the whale watching (July-October) and its proximity for day-trip excursions to “the poor man’s Galapagos” The island of Isla de La Plata.  But its proximity to one of the largest cities on the coast of Ecuador (Manta) as well as Porto Viejo helps a lot to attract locals on the weekends and holidays.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle, Investor News/Analysis

Is Ecuador the new American dream?

Dom,

“So, where you from?” I asked.

“Gambia,” the guest in my hotel responded.

“Wow, Gambia, I thought, where the heck’s that?” I thought.This young guy I was chatting with was obviously an immigrant, fresh off the plane, about to try his luck inEcuador.  Just like i was 3 years ago.

You see, Ecuador is the NEW American dream, a place where you can truly come with nothing and hit it big.

So let’s look at what America was and what Ecuador now is:

Accessible to newcomers.  While the US has long since “shut it’s doors” to new immigrants from developing countries, Ecuador remains wide open for about anyone from anywhere in the world.  Foreigners can easily own land and businesses and have the same rights as the locals.

Low taxes.  This was one of the main reasons Europeans left in droves for America, a place that was once a place with a much lower tax burden, just like Ecuador is now compared to North America.  Income taxes (many pay under 10% of their income), property taxes (usually under a few hundred dollars a year per property).  You name it, they’re LOW in Ecuador!

LOTS of opportunity.  Literally, ANTHING you want to do, any business you put, chances are Ecuador needs it.

Cheap land.  With the Oklahoma land rushes a thing of the distant past in North America, land is still cheap inEcuador, its where i bought my first house for $14k 3 years ago when I could only have dreamed of buying something back in Montana, the last place I lived in the US.  For me, it’d be depressing living in a place like Canada or Australia or California where young people can only DREAM of owning their own property without a 30 year nuse mortgage around their neck.

Low labor costs.  Before Ecuador I lived in China where i worked at a factory and I can tell you those guys in inner China don’t make a whole lot less these days then the minimum wage worker in Ecuador.  For instance, my colleagues in China made around $300 a month while in Ecuador the minimum wage is about $350 a month.  Still low for sure, breeding lots of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Low lawsuit concerns.  In the US, its well documented people sue like it’s their job, in some cases it is.  I for one would be paranoid about opening a business there while in Ecuador the inefficiency of the legal system actually prevents most cases from even happening as most settle differences out of court.

So, what’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do that you couldn’t in your home country?

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Where’s best to exchange money in Ecuador?

Got Euros or another foreign currency, or maybe want to buy it in Ecuador getting out of the USD while it's strong?  

So, where has the best exchange rates?

 
First off, for the best rates be sure to exchange your money in one of the only two cities in Ecuador with international airports… Quito or Guayaquil.  

In the smaller towns of Ecuador it may get very difficult to even find somewhere that will exchange money, let alone at a good rate.  

In Guayaquil, where I lived for about a year, I recommend the small exchange houses found in the CENTRO near Av. 9 de Octubre.  

In Quito, this week in June of 2015, I checked all the places I know to exchange money.  

On XE.com while the international rate USD-EUR was $1.128-1…

The buy rate means how much in USD they´ll give you for 1 EURO, the sell rate is how much USD you have to pay them for 1 EURO.  
 

In the airport the rate was …  BUY … $1.07 SELL… $1.39  (by far the worst).

In Western Union in downtown Quito… BUY … $1.09… SELL $1.19 (not so good!)

In the biggest bank of Ecuador, Banco Pichincha, the rates were… BUY … $1.15… SELL $1.22  (good buy rate!)

On the street corner where money exchangers have been for years with big wads of cash on Av. Amazonas and Vicente Ramon Roca they were offering … BUY $1.12… SELL $1.18.  (average)

At Del Bank, a smaller bank in Quito, they were offering… BUY $1.02… SELL $1.23 (worse)

Then, there are the little exchange houses along AMAZONAS in the MARISCAL sector… 

The best rates I found were at MIL CAMBIOS S.A. on Wilson and Amazonas BUY $1.14 … SELL $1.15

and… CAMBIOS NUEVO MILENIO on Amazonas and Carrion  BUY $1.15 … SELL $1.20   

So, in the end, both the best BUY and SELL rates could be found in the smaller exchange houses mentioned above along AV. Amazonas in Quito although Banco Pichincha wasn´t too shabby.  

Also, remember for exchanging larger sums in Ecuador it is accepted to negotiate a slightly better rate.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

That´s cheap!

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

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

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

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

The best driving routes, and driving times in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

MINDO

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


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

THE NORTH COAST: PEDERNALES, BAHIA, ESMERALDAS

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

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

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

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

THE CENTRAL COAST: MANTA, CRUCITA, SAN CLEMENTE

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

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

THE AMAZON: TENA

The Quito Airport Suites to Tena?  

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

The mid-Sierras: BANOS and AMBATO


The Quito Airport Suites  to Banos/Ambato?


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

QUITO AIRPORT TO CUENCA

From the QUito Airport Suites to Cuenca?  


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

QUITO AIRPORT TO GUAYAQUIL

From the Quito Airport Suites to Guayaquil?

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


GUAYAQUIL to CUENCA

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

From Cuenca to Loja?

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

From Loja to Guayaquil?  

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

From Guayaquil to the coast(Salinas, Montanita)?  

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

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

 

 

 

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

Rejected by the cartel in Ecuador

“This isn’t exactly how I pictured it would be.” I thought to myself, as I sat on an uncomfy couch in an office with all white undecorated walls.  The receptionist seemed to be going through the motions of her job.

I expected a scene with hot women in bikinis serving cocktails while men in all white suits sat around a pool smoking cigars, and of course dudes with machine guns in the corner.

Finally, a young guy came out and waved me into the next office.

I sat down, waited some more.

And in came another guy, also young, younger than I expected and in casual attire.

“So why do you want to join our organization?” He asked pointedly.

“Well, it just seems profitable.” I continued.  “I mean, to have a monopoly on a certain business type within a certain area.”

“You know, once you’re in there’s no way out.” He said.

“Yea, I figured as much.” I said.

“So how much?” I asked.

He said, “$2500 a month rent plus 30% of all sales.”

“Top line, not after taking out expenses.”

“And you need someone there 24 hrs a day.  And they have to be certified persons only.” He finished.

Wow, I thought, no way I can make money like that.

I said thanks for the interview and excused myself.  I could tell they weren’t all that interested in me, and nor was I in the opportunity.

You see, I was interviewing for a space in the new Quito airport based off a proposal I had sent prior about putting a lugagge storage center.

I referred to the airport administration people as a ‘cartel’, cause to me it kind of felt like one, and I felt on the outside although they are not a ‘cartel’ as you or Hollywood would probably define it.

Sure enough, they took my proposal of a luggage storage center/locker area and gave it to someone else, probably one of their cronies at a discounted price, and they’ll be opening any day now.

You see, things sometimes work different in Ecuador.  People aren’t always motivated by money.  Sometimes its more of a who-you-know or even rich people putting trophy businesses that don’t actually make money, but serve as a place to stash their cash.

I know, it’s wierd.

But they can’t stop me from getting into the business in a different way, a way that would have scared the sh!t out of me if I would have opened paying the high rent in the airport.  From my hotel near the airport, for several months now successfully, I’ve been offering bag storage pick up and drop off service for a fee of $5 per pick up(total) and $1 per bag per day for storage.

You see, paying the airport rent, they are probably going to charge around what they do in the Guayaquil airport, $7 per day per bag, and more for bigger pieces like surf boards.

Of course, there will be people who will pay it for the convenience if leaving bags for 1 or 2 days, but for storage 3 days or longer as long as I provide a reliable service I think I have them beat if I can offer the same thing for less than half the price.

But hey, you know, there’s a reason for everything and this newsletter is not just about my successes as an expat and entrepreneur in Ecuador, but also my failures.
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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

No TVs, no problem in Ecuador

“I can’t believe that just happened, man!” My friend mumbled, still fuming from his experience upon arrival to the Quito airport.

“I just had to pay $250 in import tax for this TV I brought that doesn’t even cost that much in the States.” He continued.

“It comes out to about the same as just buying one here, and I wouldn’t have had to lug it around all day!”

I know.

It’s stupid.

Ecuador doesn’t even let you bring ONE TV over 25 inches with you from abroad, even if its for personal use.

With just about anything else, even cell phones and computers, they’ll let you bring one or two on your person as you travel to Ecuador as they’re deemed for personal use.

But not TVs.

Obviously, they’re trying to protect the raging Ecuadorian industry of TV production.  (Insert sarcasm here.)

Thankfully, technology is always one step ahead.

And on my last trip back to the US about 2 weeks ago, I found a viable option.

It was my second to last day in the States, and as I walked through a Kohl’s store with my mom in Montana, I noticed something interesting.

Originally meant for gamers, I saw these new-age, ultra-cheap home projectors that you can plug directly into your Direct TV cable box, your XBox or DVD player that then project on any surface, but preferibly a white wall, a picture up to about 120 inches.

And the resolution is surprisingly crisp.

Obviously not High-def.

But good.

And they only cost $55 as of the last week of December, 2014.  And if you sign up for a Kohls card, you get 30% off.  Total spent, $38.50.

They are not common in Ecuador, and upon arrival to Ecuador I quickly checked with a few of the biggest electronics stores to see if they carried them.

Nope.  Not yet.  But I think they could be BIG in Ecuador in the very-near future.

Especially if import restrictions continue to tighten on TVs.

What I really like about these are that they are more portable than a normal TV, and for someone with a property on the Ecuador coast… I feel more comfortable leaving this in there when I’m not there for long periods of time then an expensive TV (huge target for thieves).

Here’s one example of one for sale on Amazon complete with USB port for projecting images from a computer or smart phone as well as the HDMI and 3 pronged outlet cords for projecting TV programming from your cable box.

Here’s one example of one I found on Amazon… http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MAH0CTU?psc=1 

In fact, can’t say I don’t practice what I preach… I’m in the market for about 10 of them right now.

So, if you’d like to bring one down with you let me know!

You could bring one or two down with you hassle-free for sure as they would surely be deemed for personal use.

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How I lost 37 pounds in 1 month the Ecuadorian way

When most people move to Ecuador, myself included, they lose weight.

Its not that they get hit by a never-ending case of Montezuma’s revenge, but the food down here is simply more natural, you know, not so genetically altered as in ‘the developed world’.

But recently, primarily due to working the night shift at my hotel near the airport in Quito, I started to ballon up.

Your friends notice, and start to razz you.

You feel down.

So I decided to do something about it.  But a lot of the info and diets I found online were not for someone that lives in a small Ecuadorian town like me.  Good luck finding Quinoa and Chia and other wierd stuff in the tienda on the corner.

I had to find something that would work in Ecuador.

My journey started with a brief chat with a nutritionist from the States that stayed in my hotel.

He said, “there’s a lot of conflicting info online and people don’t know what to eat to lose weight.  Just focus on three things…

1. Eat less (Mass can neither be created nor destroyed, want less eat less.)
2. Don’t eat processed food (anything that comes in a shiny rapper.)
3. Eat lots of fruits and veggies (they fill you up but are mostly water.)”

So I combined that with a little bit of a low-carb diet plus a twist of a Paleo diet.  I do agree with the Paleo diet in that a lot of what we put in our bodies our bodies were not meant to ingest.

Think how did the cave-men eat.

That’s a good start.

So I cut out the pasta, potatos, rice and bread from my diet.  I also cut out the sugar, refined sugars, dairy and other foods in the ‘grains’ category. We are, in fact, the only animals who drink milk after infancy.

And I focused on eating foods high in protein and natural fats, like fruits, veggies, fish, meat, poultry, nuts, avocados, olive oil.

Thankfully, fruits and vegetables are plentiful and CHEAP in a place like Ecuador.  If you make that the focus of your diet, you could spend literally cents on the dollar to eat everyday.

So, to prove to myself I could do it, I went the first 24 hours without eating anything.  One full day.  And I was fine.

That proved to myself that we really don’t need as much food as we think we do.

Then I settled on a diet full of Ecuadorian recipes like…

Breakfast- Veggie omelet with fresh squeezed OJ (no bread).

Lunch- Chicken-stuffed avocado (veggies and chicken mixed with a hint of sour cream then placed in an avocado) or Chicken con palmito (Chiken baked with diced Amazonian palm heart), or Grilled Andean-Trout with veggies.  Or maybe I’d have a Ceviche (Ecuadorian-style fish soup minced in lime juice with tomato and onion), or a Corvina fish (not farm raised, but from the ocean) cooked in garlic (al ajillo) or Encocado (cooked in coconut curry Esmeraldas-style).

Dinner – Something light like a vegetable soup, an apple or two, or maybe a salad with a bit of tuna.

Rinse and repeat.

The good news for me is I found exercise not all that important to lose weight, it helps, but more its the diet that matters.

I’m not a professional or anything so what I mention here should be taken with a grain of salt and cross-checked with your local expert, but I can only say what worked for me, in Ecuador, and I can say I lost 37 pounds in about a month dropping from 177 lbs to about 140 lbs.

And let me tell you, if you’ve never done it, losing 37 pounds makes you feel great, like superman or something!  Totally worth it.

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The easy way to bring household goods tax-free to Ecuador

One big perk of moving to Ecuador is for new residents to be able to bring their household belongings tax-free.

Under Ecuador law, any new arrival who just got their legal permanent residency visa, albeit a pensioner, investor or even a professional visa based off a college degree, can bring as much as one container of their personal goods tax-free one time after achieving residency.  It could be as little as a few bags, doesnt matter.

And it’s actually easier to do than you think.  

No pricey import agents needed in most non-complicated, normal cases.  

My friend just did it in Canada, then stayed at my place last night.  

Im talking about this week, in October of 2014.  

All he did was go to the Ecuadorian consulate in Canada (where he’s originally from) and filled out a form, paid $50, waited about an hour and that was it, they then gave him everything he needed to pass his sh*t smoothly through customs upon arrival to Ecuador.  

All they ask for in the consulate is the inventory list of what you are bringing.  Proof of your residency (like your visa stamped into your passport and your Ecuadorian Cedula ID card.)  And for new purchases they may ask for receipts, but it is not fully necessary as stated by my friend.

Upon arrival to the consulate in your home country just say you want the form to bring MENAJE DE CASA to Ecuador.  

Then yesterday he arrived to Ecuador with his half dozen bags and big screen TV and on through he went, no taxes charged.  

No problems. 

Just remember you only have a specific time window after getting residency to be able to do this, so try to bring your stuff down within 6 months AFTER NOT BEFORE getting your residency visa!

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My love hate relationship with Ecuador

I swear man, I have a love hate relationship with Ecuador.

Aww, I love Ecuador… as I wake to the sound of hundreds of birds chirping in my yard, I see why Ecuador is a top 3 destination in the world for bird watchers.  Then my thought gets disrupted by the horrid screech of a neighbors rooster, the same one that was crowing at 2am last night… I freakin hate Ecuador.  

 

I love Ecuador… as I lift myself from bed as the warm, gentle breeze brushes past my forehead.  Then I get bit by a mosquito on the arm cause the window was open all night, da*n Ecuador, how do they live and rent properties without screens on the windows?… I hate Ecuador. 

 

I love Ecuador as I get up to go to the bathroom as I’m feeling good cause I’m noticably lighter than I was in the states, and my clothes fit loosely… then my mood changes as I have to literally walk through my front yard to go to the one and only bathroom in my two bedroom house.  And this is new 2014 construction, what were they thinking detaching the bathroom from both bedrooms?  I hate Ecuador.  
I love Ecuador I think as I get in the nice, hot shower powered by a tank of natural gas that lasts a couple weeks which cost a mere $3 due to subsidies provided by the local government.  But my feeling shifts as i tweak the shower knob and the temperature goes from scolding hot to ice cold due to a millimeter shift, really people, you can’t figure this one out?  I hate Ecuador.  
I love Ecuador.  For any man, sitting down with a paper while taking a morning shat is a nice moment of the day… But having to wipe and put the paper in the bin on the side of the toilet is still not easy to get used to, I mean, its hard not to sneak a peak at the skid marks after wiping.  I hate Ecuador.  
I love Ecuador, I think as I walk out to catch a cab and start my day as I’m greeted by friendly neighbors who all wave and acknowledge my existence.  I hate Ecuador I think as the damn roof dog next door starts to bark like he does every time i walk out of my own da*n house.
I love Ecuador, I think as i catch the $1 taxi to the bus stop 10 minutes away… I hate Ecuador when I arrive and the driver changes the agreed upon price on the fly and asks for $2 because the main road was closed and he had to take a detour.
I love Ecuador as I catch the bus after just 2 minutes of waiting, and I had the good fortunate on this day of getting the last seat in the bus.  I hate Ecuador as within 5 minutes the bus packs up and due to all the human mass gets scorchingly hot yet the Ecuadorians at my side happily ride along without even so much as cracking the window.  Really people, were you born in an oven?  Then to top it off within 5 more minutes the people standing in the aisle next to me due to getting more and more squished start to lean in and their buttocks starts to wisk past my cheak with every turn of the bus.  But hey, I think at least this guy wasn’t standing in the other direction or his crotch would be tea-bagging my scalp every time the bus rolled over the slightest bump.
I love Ecuador as I arrive at the mechanic to pick my car up and discover how little I’ve been charged for the work.  I hate Ecuador as I discover the main job I brought the car in for which was supposed to be done last Thursday, now being the following Monday, still isn’t done.  So after waiting 5 hours for them to finish the job, im off to the store.
I love Ecuador as i drift through the aisles of the grocery store admiring and selecting all the delicious exotic fruits… I hate Ecuador as I find out the bathroom cleaning solution that I always buy is no longer available because of some new import restriction… yet im offered no alternative… which prompts me to wonder, “am I the only one who cleans his bathroom in this country?”
I love Ecuador as I then meet up with some friends, boy do Ecuadorians know how to have a good time.  I hate Ecuador as not only our first choice of restaurant, but then our second and third and fourth are all closed because its the day after a holiday weekend.  I guess after a holiday everyone needs a recovery day in this country.  So we ended up buying a bottle and parking in a vacant street to hang out.  Like back in High school.
I love Ecuador while driving home past pedestrians waiting patiently on the side of the road, where they should be, as they do NOT have the right of way in Ecuador… I hate Ecuador when the slightest little drizzle starts and the roads turn into a gridlock worse than LA at rush hour, then as I try to change lanes 26 cars pass before one lets me over.
I love Ecuador as I arrive home and glance at the moon which seems way brighter than any moon I saw growing up in North America.  I hate Ecuador as I realize the moon seems so bright cause all the lights are out in my neighborhood, we’re without power.  Da*n it!
I love Ecuador as I walk in my front door and am warmly greeted by my beautiful girlfriend.  I hate Ecuador when I realize shes being so nice cause shes about to tell me her sister and her sisters kid just moved into our spare room (permanently).
I love Ecuador as I lay down to sleep as the temperature cools down just enough for a great sleep under blankets, I hate Ecuador as my neighbors then begin to blare music until 4am cause one of them just had their sixth baby this year (if thats possible)… thank God for earplugs as calling the cops on a noise complaint wont get you very far in this country!
Aww, just another day in paradise.

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5 must-have apps before you go to Ecuador

 

Language used to be a barrier when traveling or living abroad in a place like Ecuador.

Not anymore.

Not with todays technology.

Even 2 or 3 years ago had nothing on what we got today.

Here are my favorite 5 apps for your smart-phone that will seriously break any communication barriers you have in foreign countries…

Without you having to study the local language even for a minute!

5. Word Lens.  This is a truly amazing free app you download to your phone and afterward you just hover your phone over text written in a different language, and this app will make the text magically appear in the language of your choice.  And its accurate too!  Amazing.

4. Translator App from Google.  This free app is amazing!  Want to say something in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese or in one of several dozen other languages supported by this app?  Thought you had to study, and actually learn that sh·t? , take courses?  Hahaha, not anymore man.  All you have to do is say the sentence or words you want to say in English and this app will put your words to text, then translate your words to text in the other language AND then it will say the words you want to say in the other language.  And its amazingly accurate!  You may look wierd talking through your phone to someone but its still cool to hear yourself say anything you want in a language like Arabic or Chinese, let alone an easy one like Spanish.  And yes, you can turn it around and have people speak into your phone in their language and the app can spit out what they´re saying in English too!  Love this one.

3. Busuu.  If you do feel like actually studing a foreign language then the best FREE program Ive found that you can download right to your phone is the Busuu app.  Dozens of colorful interactive courses await you, a great way to kill time while on a plane or bus.

2. OneSpeak.  OneSpeak is an interesting little app that is meant to get you out of a pinch in a foreign country by communicating for the basics by pointing to universally understood pictures.

1. WhatsApp / Viber / Skype apps.  I grouped these together because for most they all do pretty much the same thing.  Once installed on your phone (free) WhatsApp is a free instant messaging service based off your phone number which is quite popular in Ecuador.  Viber is a service you can use to call for free to other Viber members from your phone over the net.  Skype is the old-timer but stil arguably best VoIP service for free internet calling to other members and calls to other numbers outside Skype.

There you go.

Now you can communicate with non-English speakers… today!

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Why I left Cuenca…

 

I hear it all the time…

“Man, Cuenca was too da** cold and rainy.  I came south to get away from that.  But the coast is too hot and humid for me, I think Ecuador is not for me.”

You’re right.  It’s freakin cold!

Cuenca doesn’t have eternal spring weather like what you’ve probably read elsewhere online, for me, its more like eternal late fall.  I’m talking late October early November in the midwest here.

Cuenca, Quito and Loja are simply cold.

The coast is hot.

But this is the tropics man, all you have to do is find the right elevation that gives you your ideal year round climate.

Like instead of Cuenca, try nearby Gualaceo, Paute or the Yunguilla Valley.  They all are mountain towns that have warmer, yet not too warm, weather.  For you, maybe just right.

Instead of Quito, which is too COLD for me, try living in one of the lower valleys nearby like Tumbaco or thr Valley of Los Chillos, both have much more pleasent truly eternal spring-like weather.

Instead of chilly, overcast Loja, try more mild, sunny nearby Malacatos, Zaruma or Vilcabamba.

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21 Things you can ONLY see in Ecuador

That’s the reason we travel, right?

To see stuff we can’t see in our home country.

Well, here are 21 things you could never see in the USA or Canada (or elsewhere for that matter) but you CAN see in Ecuador.

1.  When pulled over by the cops, Ecuadorians tend to get out of their cars and walk over to the cops and try to reason with them.  If you tried this in the US you would be shot dead on sight and left to lie there in your own pool of blood.

2.  Getting honked at while sitting at a red light.  I’ve only seen this happen in Ecuador, and a lot.  If you tried this in the USA you would make the evening news as a victim of road rage.

3.  Self-made speed bumps.  Thats right, especially along the coast, a lot of folks in small towns decide from one day to the next they’re going to make a speed bump.  Usually they are perfectly camouflagued and right at the end of a speedy curve, yes, they’ll rattle your teeth all right.

4.  Unrefrigerated Milk in a box.  I never seen this in the USA, but its commonplace in Ecuador.

5.  Women in high heels in a grocery store.  No, they are not on their way to a wedding or something, Ecuadorian women will put on heels to go grocery shopping.  Better than the other extreme, boy, did I get tired of watching lazy American college girls who roam around all day still in their pijamas.  I for one hope that trend stays in the US.

6.  At 5’6 getting on a crowded bus I can often still see over the tops of everyones heads.  In the US I would be catching the draft of ‘silent-but-deadlies’ on my forehead.

7.  Love motels.  Maybe I was too nerdy but I never saw one of these in my first 20 or so years of life while living in the USA.  Love motels in Ecuador are pay-by-the-hour places with heart-shaped beds, no windows, and all the channels on the TV are p orn.  You go there to do one specific thing and leave.  My first time in one they looked at me funny when I asked if there was a 10 minute rate.  Seriously, in 10 minutes I’m done, showered, shaven and smoking my second cigarette.

8.  Gas station gas pumpers.  This is a long extinct career in the USA.  But every gas station in Ecuador has them.  I guess they think pulling a lever is too complicated for people.  But what is the training like for these people that help you pump your gas?  I can see it now, “OK men, easy and steady, aim high, don’t go crazy with it, if you get it on the rim you’ll hear it from the misses.  And if you shake it more than 3 times you’re playing with it.”  Maybe thats why only men seem to be qualified for this one.

9.  Coca cola in a bag.  So what happens if you order one of those famous, standard $1.75 Ecuadorian plate lunches to go?  That’s right.  They will give you the coke in a bag.  To look as Ecuadorian as possible you need to proceed to bite the corner of the bag and “suck that titty”.  Come on, don’t be a baby, (no pun intended) we’ve all done it at one point, or various points, in our lives.  Other wierd things in bags can also be seen like ketchup, mayonesse too.  Strange.

10.  Carrots larger than a grown mans forearm.  At the sight of one of these massive carrots one female tourist asked me if everything in Ecuador was that big?  Why yes mam it is.

11.  Cars with 100% tinted windows and police-style strobe lights.  This seems to be permitted in Ecuador cause I see it eveerywhere.  Too bad its not permitted in the US or I would have lost my virginity 2 whole years sooner in that parking lot that one time.  Men understand, this is an important monkey to get off your back.

12.  Roosters that crow at midnight.  Anyone that has lived in the countryside of Ecuador can sympathize with me on this one,  Must be the equator, but rooster in the countryside of Ecuador have a seriously messed up internal clock.

13.  Watching the Metro door close with so many people packed in that someones arm is stuck out the door as the tram starts to pull away.  Only in Ecuador.

14.  Beer and dogs on the beach.  Ah, I remember in when I lived in Southern California dogs were quarantined only to a few very specific beaches and beer was a big no no and could even get you arrested.  In Ecuador, Ecuadorians don’t go to the beach to surf, or jog, or any of that lame stuff.  They go to drink beer, and lots of it!  It would be tough to find an Ecuadorian beach without beer and at least a half dozen stray dogs roaming the cuff.

15.  Chicken feet soup.  theres just some parts of animals we’re not used to seeing in our food, or for sale at the grocery store, like chicken feet, bull balls, kidney, and more.

16.  Screwing screws in with a wrench.  Thats right, I’ve seen Ecuadorian construction workers screwing in screws with a wrench.  I swear, give them a shovel and a hammer and they can build you a house.

17.  Leaving your dirty food tray on your table at the mall.  Thats right, just get up and leave it, if you try to throw it away in the bin you may be tackled from behind.  OK, maybe not, but you are putting someones job in jeapordy who is in charge of cleaning the dirty trays.

18.  Watch as an old lady tries to get off a moving bus.  Ahh, only in Ecuador.

19.  The Drivers Ed class where they teach Ecuadorian drivers that stop signs at night really mean, “flick your headlights, honk twice and then drive right through”.  I guess they couldn’t fit all that text on the sign.

20.  The freelance eye-drop seller that tries to sell on the bus, but when he actually puts it in his own eye to show how to use the product he has to brace himself and wince to get it in.  Can I see that health registration again, please?

21.  The floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the handycap stalls in La Escala Shopping Mall in Cumbaya, a suburb of Quito.  I’ve never seen this anywhere and whoever thought of this should be shot.  I mean, come on, who wants to watch themselves and they’re ‘giving birth’ faces as you re sitting there on the pot?  There’s a certain amount of self-respect you lose for youself after watching yourself in this position.

I know, please don’t rush over to Expedia and buy your ticket to Ecuador too fast now, ok?

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What Pablo Escobar taught me about life in Latin America

Many people don’t know this about me.

But my first ‘living’ experience in Latin America was when I lived almost a year in Medellin, Colombia.

I was young, 23 years old in fact.

And I have to admit I was mainly focused on going out, partying and chasing women.

But in the breaks from that, I picked up an internship with the Medellin Chamber of Commerce, export division.

While there, as an advisor to Colombian export businesses, I couldn’t help but notice one thing.

There was MAJOR opportunity in Latin America for a ‘gringo’ like me.

You see, day after day I met folks with great products and great ideas, but they needed help penetrating the North American market.

They were clueless.

Heck, they needed a ‘link’.  Someone that knew the culture and knew a bit about marketing to Americans.

No where can I illustrate better this fact than from a 4 minute movie clip from one of my favorite movies, Blow, when the main character (a gringo) meets Pablo Escobar, and goes into business with him.  Watch it here. 

No, I never met Escobar personally, but I did meet quite a few people who were fatherless because of him.  Not good.

And of course, I don’t suggest getting into illegal businesses like the main character did, why when theres plenty of legal ways to make money?  But the lesson is the same.

Which brings me to my point for today.

I’m actually a pretty average guy, average intelligence, was an average athlete, 5’6, soft-spoken, usually not a leader, chances are you’ll have trouble hearing me even when you are 3 feet away… in the USA I’d probably be someones ‘office b*tch’ aka ’employee’.

But I can attribute any successes I’ve had in Latin America to 3 superpowers.

By superpowers I mean things that set you apart from the pack.

1.  “Being” a gringo.  As mentioned above, many people in the business environment of Latin America will ‘listen’ to you just because you are from up north, many have a respect that is visible.   You really do have an innate sense of how other gringos think, what they want, and what makes them tick.  Knowledge that someone trying to sell something to them is certainly going to covet.

2. Speaking Spanish.  Take a few months when you first arrive and learn that sh*t.  Really, in order to get the most out of living here like the friendships and business opportunities you’ll need to learn it, without it you can’t be ‘the link’.

3. Knowing marketing, specifically Internet Marketing.  This is undoubtably where the world is going, where the world is, its how businesses get clients, cheaply, and many Latin Americans are not as schooled on this topic as North Americans.  That’s the key in literally anything you want to do down here, import, export, tourism, real estate, etc… Don’t believe me, just check out an Ecuador airlines’ website, (like Tame) even those multi-million dollar guys don’t get it.  The good news is you can learn this skill, often by self-teaching yourself online like I did.

With those three powers you can do some serious damage down here!

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