Archive | Ecuador for Investors

2 businesses everyone should be into… in Ecuador

I think everyone should be in two types of businesses… in Ecuador.

Hospitality and agriculture.

Agriculture is self-explanatory.

Some people invest in metals, others the stock market, others rely on their pensions, but I say, if/when the sh-i-t really hit the fan, I think its best to have something real, something people need… like food.  And although small farmers may have been pushed out in places like the US, they still thrive in Ecuador.

And I like hospitality because I like to sleep.

Seriously, I often will sleep in well past 9 or 10am.

Now past 11am I just feel guilty so I usually don’t do it.

And in hospitality it’s one of those businesses where you go to sleep, wake up and have more money than when you went to sleep.

It’s nice.  And its something that doesn’t have to consume you if you can trust someone enough to hire a good person to run it for you (not all can do this).

Plus at least I’ll always have a free place to sleep if I need it.

You can be in both these businesses types and still keep your day job.

There are many types of hospitality businesses.  And you can find ’em all in Ecuador.

Hotels.  Self explanatory, usually places with 20 rooms or more that cater to the short stay crowd.  Before starting beware of the amount of services your guests expect and the number of employees you will need.  A 24 hour business.

Hostels.  Caters to the younger backpacker crowd and usually has rent-by-the-bed dorm rooms.  A 24 hour business.

Bed and breakfast.  Usually a house converted into a small hotel.  More cozy personal feel for guests, some prefer B&Bs while other travelers prefer the privacy of a big hotel.  Like different flavors of ice cream, all good just different.  A 24 hour business.

Vacation rentals.  This is the least hands-on hospitality business where you can easily manage from a distance and do not need to have full time employees like the other hospitality businesses require.  This is when you rent out a whole housing unit (apartment or house) by the day, week or month to vacationers.  A growing international trend.  People who plan extended stays in places like it cause it allows them to cook and feel like they are getting a closer immersion to the local environment than a hotel can offer.  Not a 24 hour business.

Motels.  As it applies to Ecuador, different from the US, these are pay-by-the-hour places you go to shack up.  Usually on the outskirts of the cities in Ecuador.  Profitable yet slightly sleazy and it can be hard to get a permit.  A 24 hour business.

Eco-lodge.  Prevalent in the Amazon, its where people stay in local-style housing among a local indigenous community.  Can be profitable if marketed right.  Email me for help.  A 24 hour business.

Camp sites/RV parks.  Neither are common in Ecuador, due to lack of demand.  Everywhere in Ecuador except the Galapagos you can pitch a tent on the beach and sleep, but most opt to not do it due to security concerns.  Camp sites are few and far between and RV parks simply dont exist.  Not good business ideas for Ecuador.

Boarding house.  Common in Ecuador near larger universities, often a larger building or house with multiple rooms that rent room by room to primarily students who come from other towns to study, usually for around $100-150 a month per room.  Sometimes with ensuites bathrooms, sometimes not.  Not a 24 hour business.

Apart-hotel.  Usually a small hotel made up of independent multi-room apartments with furnished kitchen that can rent by the night, week or month.  A 24 hour business.

Retirement home.  Only the first couple are starting to pop up in Ecuador due to zero local demand.  For Ecuadoreans in Ecuador, it is a huge sin to put your parents in one of these homes.  Demand mainly caused by foreigners in Ecuador.  A 24 hour business.

Can’t say I don’t practice what I preach, come visit me at Quito Airport Suites.
So wheres best for these types of hospitality businesses in Ecuador?  For that dont miss my next installment by subscribing to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The 14 easiest ways to get robbed in Ecuador

“So, they got me for $2000.” My friend said upon recently entering Ecuador 30 minutes earlier.

“Mother f##kers man,” I responded shaking my head with disgust.

You see, he and his friend just came into Ecuador with $13k in cash each, the limit according to the Ecuador customs official was $10k per person.

The official made them put all their cash on the table, count it, and when it added up to more than $10k, they told them that according to the law they would have to forfeit 30% of the total amount, or in other words about $8k.

My friends freaked out, and the official said “Ok, just pay me $1k cash for each of you and I’ll let you through.”

They paid the bribe. And now are out $2k.

Just like that.

There probably is not even a law that states you can’t bring in a certain amount of cash. If you do, its cool, you just have to declare it.

There’s certainly no tax on money entering Ecuador.

The officials lied, and they pryed on easy foreign bait.

When in this situation its best not to bribe, and just let them do what they are theatening to do.

Don’t get visibly rattled. And meanwhile tell them to ‘go f##k yourself’.

OK, maybe not that last part, but force is good… weakness is not. At least down here.

Soon, you’ll find out they got nothing and will simply let you pass after they put on a bit of a show with the purpose of scaring you into giving over a bribe.

Be sure to get their name, so you can file a complaint later, you have rights, but they think you don’t know them, and that being in a foreign country you won’t do nothing, That’s why they try to pull this crap.

Obviously the best way to handle this situation is prevent it, by not bringing in so much cash, a simple wire can cost $45 or so and you can transfer down hundreds of thousands at once.

Here are a few other of the easiest, quickest ways you could get robbed in Ecuador…

1. By putting your bag with valuables in it next to you in a bus, or below your seat, then falling asleep. Low and behold, when you wake up your bag will either be gone or have a hole in it where some slimy dude reached in and grabbed your computer/tablet/iphone.

2. Using an ATM to withdraw money in a secluded area or late night, then have someone else use the machine after you who may look like they are withdrawing money but actually they are inserting a machine that can copy the card details of the last person to use the ATM in order to make a mold of your card and use it online before you catch them. To prevent use ATMs in front of banks that most likely have cameras in the daytime at well-frequented ATMs.

3. Paying for a bus fare with a large bill like a $20, the tenant will probably take your money and conveniently forget to give you your change. Be sure to have exact change before boarding.

4. By getting in a taxi without negotiating beforehand what the fare will be, you will then have a very unpleasent surprise when they tell you the price at the end of your trip. If you didn’t listen to me on this one and this happens to you, just pay what you know the fare should be and walk away, they might yell at you but they won’t block your path (from my experience.)

5. By putting a valuable in one of the outer pockets of a bag, then proceeding to check it under the bus. Yes, I’ve seen bus employees in Ecuador rumaging through bags under the bus, if they know where it is and can get to it quickly you’ll have a problem. Better carry on important stuff.

6. By walking alone on a secluded beach at night, in a small group you are OK but there is a reason Ecuadorians don’t do this. This also applies to getting drunk at the beach and going into a dark area to pee repeatedly, not smart.

7. By paying a lawyer in Ecuador up-front for services rendered, hah, need I say more, that is the last time you will ever see that lawyer again. Pay 20% up front, the rest when the task is complete.

8. By entering into those wierd Ecuadorian low interest car payment plans like at those islands booths in the malls in Ecuador… what they dont tell you is that you are actually entering a raffle and it could be months before you are awarded your car,. And that there is a bunch of extra hidden fees the salesmen didn’t tell you when you signed.

9. By trusting someone just because they are from your home country… bad reason. Make ’em earn it.

10. By commiting a minor traffic violation like not wearing your seat belt in the front seat and getting pulled over by the traffic cops in Ecuador who look for a naive foreigner willing to pay a quick bribe. Act like you don’t speak a lick of Spanish and chances are they will get frustrated and just let you go. If they insist just ask them to write you a ticket. Chances are when they see they aren’t going to get any quick cash in their pocket they’ll not bother writing the ticket.

11. By giving a landlord a rental security deposit equal to 2 months rent. Try to pay a deposit equal to just one month rent or less. Anyone asking for 2 months or more is probably not planning on ever paying you back that money. Just sayin’.

12. By buying any big ticket item from a distance in Ecuador. Chances are you will get took. Best to be present. Again, just sayin’.

13. By leaving your nice cell phone on your table while you eat in a mall. A kid will come up to you begging, then when you look again your phone will be gone. Can you tell this happened to me? You can’t just make this stuff up.

14. Walking through a crowded area with valuables in your back pockets or dangling out of your front pockets or even worse, having an SLR camera hangin around your neck.

But hey, while petty theft may be more common in Ecuador, violent crime is far less common and that you could easily live years here without any incidents.

And to learn how to avoid the most common property scams in Ecuador try my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Sold Hostal Murali, now what?

This week I sold a business I owned and ran for a year and half, Hostal Murali in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

It was going good, in fact, January of this year, 2013, was a record month in sales for us.

It wasn’t even really for sale.

I just got an offer and took it.

Business is business.

You can’t be too sentimental about these things, sometimes its just time to move on.

So what sticks out as big lessons learned?

Well, even if you’re the type, like me, that prefers to do things on your own, when starting a new business in a foreign country you’re not familiar with it sure helps to have a local partner you can trust.

In Murali, I had one Ecuadorian partner, a wealthy friend of mine who I had known for several years prior from a short stint I did in the country as a marketing consultant.

I probably would not have had the balls to throw everything I had into a business in a new country without having the local support network to rely on.

Of course we had our differences but we worked well together, I learned a lot, and we ended well.

You can find trustworthy Ecuadorians, just maybe not your first week or two in the country!

Also, I’d say the best way to learn a business is to just do it. You’re not going to learn it by taking courses (although universities would try to tell you otherwise), interning or consulting (you’re still an outsider).

The only way is being that 9-5 employee or owning the business.

Once you know the country a bit the local partner isn’t entirely necessary anymore, in fact, a month ago I started Quito Airport Suites as a solo operation, a small hotel near the airport in Quito, and everything is going good so far.

So if you’d like to meet stop by my new business and say hello!

So where would I invest on the coast right now in 2013? Which areas are moving and which aren’t? For that, sign up for my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Should you rent or buy in Ecuador?

I get this question a lot…

“Should I Rent or Buy property in Ecuador?”

Complicated question, with a simple answer.

Most people who move to Ecuador wish to at least maintain their standard of living, if not improve it, while seriously lowering their cost of living.

To do that, you should buy on the coast of Ecuador while rent in the highland areas of for instance Quito, Cuenca, Loja, Cotacachi.

Why?

Well, the rentals in the highland towns are cheap and high quality with nice two bedroom apartments usually starting around $300 a month unfurnished.

Heck, my friend rents a decent 3 bedroom house in the highlands in a valley near Quito for $150 a month.

While on the coast the area is more rural, there is less to choose from and you likely will have to settle for a very cheap, very Ecuadorian rental existence usually with cement floors and leaky roofs (which most of us foreigners can’t handle) or pay a premium for a decent rental, usually not under $600-700 a month for a decent 2 bedroom place.

Meanwhile, land on the coast can still be had VERY cheap, starting around a few bucks a meter, especially if you are willing to live a few blocks off the ocean, obviously beachfront would be more expensive.

Yet it can be difficult in the highlands to find a decent 2 bedroom place in a nice area for sale under $50k or cheap land in town either.

That’s why if you ask me this very general question I give you this very general answer.

Buy on the coast, rent in the highlands.

It’s best to buy and build/ renovate something to your own standards on the coast, while consider renting in the highlands.

So where would I invest on the coast right now in 2013? Which areas are moving and which aren’t? For that, sign up for my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The Teakwood Business in Ecuador Uncovered

Teak wood is at a premium.

India craves it.

And Ecuador has it.

And right now the Ecuador government is offering an incentive for reforestation projects reimbersing 75% of the operating costs of any reforestation project for the first 4 years of growth, which happen to be the most costly years of the harvest.

Teak wood is a hard, luxury wood that grows in dry, tropical climates. Specifically it grows well with 9 months of dry and 3 months of wet just like in many areas of coastal Ecuador.

Often Teak trees in Ecuador that are 8 years old look like the Teak in Costa Rica of 12 years.

You see, Ecuador has the dry climate Teak love, their roots are deep roots that reach the deep undertable water making rainfall unnecessary.

Entry costs: Where best to grow?

For me, the most idela areas for this business is the Emalme to Quevedo coastal plain areas… the average price of raw land in the area ideal for Teak farming is going for $1500 per hectare. It’s best to buy vacant land and grow your own plantation. But land ideal for teak is raising in price.

The hottest opportunity area I see for starting a Teak farm is the Pedro Carbo area where the climate is right, a few savvy farmers are already having success and land is still cheap at $800-$1200 per hectare.

Flat land is needed for optimum Teak farming. Plus, the land should never flood.

The harvest:

Trees are usually planted 3 meters apart to all directions meaning you can fit about 1100 trees per hectare of land. To have the most profitable farm it is preferred to have around 100 hectares.

Projected Operating costs:

For a new 100 hectare Teak farm your biggest expense will be the labor costs. You will need one Agricultural Engineer to manage the farm for the first three years. Agro-engineers in Ecuador in this role as farm manager usually make around $1000/month. You’ll also need about 14 minimum wage workers ($318/month) to water the farm and clear the undergrowth among other general farm maintenance work. That’s $5452 per month or $65,424 a year.

Water is attained through wells. Electricity isn’t a significant cost.

On average all inclusive, the first year you can expect to invest about $2000 per hectare of crop, but thereafter you can cutback on farmhands to the point where the most efficient farms spend about $400-600 per hectare annually.

Harvest time:

Your first harvest can be at the 8 year mark when your wood is sold by the cubic meter. 1 tree = 3 “trozas”, 9 trozas = 1 cubic meter = $230 based on diameter min 44cm $110. At the 8 year mark you can expect to have around on average 800-900 trees remaining per hectare. So from 900 trees which are 8 years old we can expect to make 300 cubic meters of wood for sale at the current prices (which are likely to rise) of $230 per m3 giving us a gross income per hectare of $69,000.

The real money can be made if you can wait to the 15 or 18 year mark when each single Teak tree can command $300. But only expect to have around 350 Teak trees remaining of the original 1100 you planted at the onset. This would give you an income per hectare of $105,000.

The sale:

The sale of Teak is VERY easy. No marketing needed, you produce it and the buyers will come hunt you out! You make the deal, they come, they cut and they usually handle the rest including the export.

The potential profit:

Assuming you bought in the Pedro Carbo area for around $800 per hectare, then proceeded to invest $2000 the first year in each hectare, then $600 for each year thereafter for 7 more years, your total investment per hectare comes to $7000. So in 8 years if you can generate an income of $69000 from that same hectare you will have multiplied your investment about 10 times.

Of course, the set-back for this business model is that you need money to play, big money, and time too.

The kicker:

But what makes this business REALLY profitable, right now, in Ecuador, as mentioned earlier is that the government is willing to pay 75% of your operating costs the first four years you are in operation. To qualify for this “type of grant” whether you are Ecuadorian or foreigner you need to fill out the application documentation and submit it to the MAGAP (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Acuacultura, y Pesca) and solicit an inspection of your farm.

Upon approval of the grant you will then need to begin harvest. At the end of one year the MAGAP will once again inspect your farm and refund 75% of the money you have spent on the upkeep depending on what percentage of the original trees remain alive. And for the next three years you can get the refund following the same process.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

My 1st export from Ecuador: the good, the bad, the ugly, + the ABCs

Recently, I completed my first export from Ecuador. 

Ecuador-themed 2013 wall calendars. 

A big 9 kilo box of them. 

What did I learn? 

Well, it’s not as easy as just taking them to DHL and “chao”. 

1. First, you have to check to see if the product you’re shipping will have to pay import tariffs upon entrance to the country you are shipping to.  To do that, you’ll need to find out the HS Code, every product has one.  The fastest way to find it is to “Google it”.  For instance, “HS Code calendars”.  Or in Spanish “partida arancelaria calendarios”.  Or you can go to this link from the Ecuadorian Customs and search it by the name of the product (in Spanish)… http://sice1.aduana.gob.ec/ied/arancel/index.jsp

2. Then, you can use the handy free tool online at macmap.org after free registration to see if the product you are exporting will incur an import duty to the country you are exporting to based on the country you are exporting from.  Register than follow the link that says “Market Access Map” and fill in the blanks with the HS code of your product. 

3. (If applicable) In the Mac Map tool from the last step, if it appears that the product you are exporting would incur a duty yet doesn’t because it falls under a special bi-lateral treaty then in order to take advantage of the benefit you will need to get a Certificate of Origen (Certificado de Origen).  It’s not as hard as it sounds, to get one in Ecuador you will need to register in the website of the Ecuapass, portal.aduana.gob.ec .  Choose the option “Solicitud de uso”.  In the menu choose “Ventanilla Unica” then fill in the form at “Elaboracion de DJO”.  Then choose “Elaboracion de CO” and fill in that form completely, but you will need to pick it up physically at the local offices of MIPRO where you reside in Ecuador.  The cost is minimal.  But my wall calendars according to Mac Map enter the US at 0% duty so I could skip this step. 

4. Then choose your shipping carrier.  For important documents I recommend DHL, you can get items from Ecuador to the USA quick, usually in about 2 days (for about $60).  But for a box that weighs 9 kilos like mine it would cost $350 to ship, while with the general post of Ecuador CORREOS ECUADOR it only cost me $150.  Correos Ecuador does give you a tracking number where you can check the shipping status online and works with the government post services of other nations. 

However, if I register as an exporter at ExportaFacil.gob.ec I can ship internationally with Correos Ecuador at about half the price of the normal shipment of $150.  For me, it cost just $72 to ship the box.  You will need to obtain an Ecuadorian tax ID number (RUC) from the SRI to sign up for the discount program. 

5. Once your goods make it to the final destination the easy way is to pay a friend or relative to ship them off one by one to their final destinations or if exporting to the USA, you could use a service like Webgistix.com.  They receive, unpack, warehouse and ship products to their final destination for a fee. 

My calendars arrived. 

They sold.  All good. 

But I underestimated how long they would take to arrive. 

Allow 4 days to arrive in Miami from Ecuador with Correos Ecuador.  Then allow another 2 days for the package to clear customs, more if your package hits the US on a weekend when offices are closed.  Then another 2 days for it to get to its final destination in the USA.  Then give it 2-4 more days when mailing the items within the US unless you’d like to pay more to overnight them. 

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

What pays in Ecuador and what don’t

“I’d love to offer my marketing service to Ecuador businesses, but what would they pay me?” A friend told me recently over a coffee in Ecuador.

He was right.

Did Ecuadorian businesses need his service, just like businesses in the US do?

Yes.

But were they willing to pay him what the service is worth?

No.

After a year and a half in Ecuador, I feel like I got a bird’s eye view of this s-h-i-t.

Like in most ‘third world’ countries, in order to make money in Ecuador you have to sell a product.

Your own product.

So stop thinking like an American, or someone from a service-based economy, and stop trying to sell services.

I mean…

Don’t start a travel agency… build your own specialty tour and sell it through the travel agencies.

Don’t become a real estate agent… flip your own properties.

Don’t become an ESL English teacher (it doesn’t pay like it does in Asia)… start your own English school.

Don’t offer a service to exporters… export something.

Don’t be a financial advisor… sell shares of your own niche investment fund.

Don’t offer your service as an electrician, plumber or builder… start your own specialty lighting business.

Don’t offer your service as a professional video editor… make your own videos.

Don’t look for someone else to hire you (employees start out making $318USD a month)… start your own business.

I can’t stress this enough, you need your own ‘thang’.

My first few months in Ecuador I spun my wheels trying to sell a marketing service to Ecuador businesses, I learned the hard way, now you don’t have to.

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

22 things that will shock you in Ecuador

There´s a few things in Ecuador that will straight shock you when you see them…

…like when…

1.You see Ecuadorian males drown their French fries in Mayonnaise.

2. You see milk in unrefrigerated boxes on the shelves of grocery stores.

3. You pay $1 for a taxi ride in Quito, Cuenca or many of the small towns in Ecuador.

4. You see resumes in Ecuador with people´s picture, birth date, marital status and more.

5. That 100% of Ecuadorian grade schools require their kids to use uniforms.

6. The price tag of Levis Jeans, iPhones or Apple Computers in Ecuador (about triple that of the USA).

7. The sheer number of policemen in the streets, it may seem as though Ecuador tries to employ their entire male population as police or taxi drivers.

8. How Ecuadorians can drive while simultaneously leaning on their horns.

9. How Chicken soup in Ecuador will often have a chicken foot floating in it.

10. The mysterious lack of automatic cars.

11. You see the Ecuador delicacy of Bulls Penis soup (Caldo de Tronquito).

12. That in the Amazon there actually aren´t that many mosquitos at all.

13. That gas prices are still around $1.50 a gallon and water bills for a small house can be as low as $4.

14. Things like pay phones and internet computer centers in the street still exist and thrive.

15. How cars retain value. Seriously, you can buy a used car, use it for a few years and sell it for about what you paid for it!

16. How Ecuadorians love to drink beer, I mean a lot of beer, on the beach.

17. The sight of magazines with nude girls on the streets.

18. When you see the Ecuadorian remedy for hangovers… fish soup early in the morning (encebollado).

19. When you see the free public hospitals and free public universities. Like it should be, right?

20. How many Ecuadorian guys believe with every fiber of their being that it’s OK to be unfaithful but it’s a horrible, unforgiveable sin if their woman is unfaithful to them.This is not just an Ecuador thing, but actually more of a belief present throughout Latin America. Not that I mind double standards that benefit me.

21. How getting the internet is not a given if living deep in the Ecuador countryside.

22. How the streets are lined with pirated DVD shops. Want a new copy of Windows 7, sure, $5 please.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

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

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

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

How to Buy your Residency Visa in Ecuador on the Cheap

Man, I wish someone would have told me this a year and a half ago.

Really, sometimes info is worth money.

The door to Ecuador residency really is wider open than it even seems to be.

Now, the easiest way to get a resident visa in Ecuador is to prove you have a pension of over $800/month.

But what if you don’t have a pension?

Then you have to buy your way in with an investor’s visa.

But it’s actually cheaper than advertised.

Sure, you can lock up $25k or more in a one year CD which than qualifies you if you trust Ecuador’s banks.

Or…

You can buy a property municipally valued over $25k.

Here’s where it gets interesting…

You don’t actually have to pay $25k.

Or scowl the earth in Ecuador looking for a property that is municipally valued over $25k, many properties, although worth well over $25k are municipally valued far under that.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

How Will the New Airport Effect the City of Quito?

 

The new airport scheduled to open February 20 will have profound effects on the city of Quito.

Skyscapers will now be allowed to be built higher, which could drive already high (for Ecuador) property prices downward.  The area around the current airport will probably wither on the vine, it already is a seedy area that will not get any better now that the legit airport-related businesses will be on their way out.

Many travelers whose final destination is somewhere in Ecuador other than Quito will probably opt to go through now more convenient Guayaquil or not bother to pass through the city of Quito at all scheduling their connecting flights back to back to their international arrivals.

The short Quito-Guayaquil flight is the most trafficked route in all of South America, but may not be any longer as more people will choose not to travel as often or use the bus considering the increase in travel times.

The area of the current airport will  be converted into a park, convention center and several large roads servicing the different areas of Quito.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Banking it with Wedding Rentals in Ecuador

“They paid …how… much?” …

… I said earlier this week while visiting a wedding on a hacienda (small country home) outside of Quito. 

“$1500, just for the day.” The owner of the hacienda told me. 

“Damn.” I responded, “and they don’t even sleep here.”

It’s true, from my time in Ecuador I’ve noticed no matter how much or how little Ecuadorians make, they spend BIG money on three things…

Clothes.

Beer.

And weddings (Often over $10-12k). 

Big money.

And weddings are a commonly overlooked rental opportunity here in Ecuador. 

Where I’m at now, just outside of Quito, as I check in from my smart phone, the haciendas charge anywhere from $8-12 per person charging for a minimum of 100 people.  (That’s $800-1200 minimum daily rate for the hacienda owner.)

For even larger wedding receptions with up to 400 people, which are common in Ecuador, most haciendas will charge a flat daily rate usually around $1500-2500. 

The only costs to the hacienda owner (you) are what you’ll need to pay to a guard for the day (around $20) who helps park the cars and a cleaner that takes care of the bathrooms and premise in general during the event (around $20 for the day). 

You’ll also have to pay for the cost of running the electricity generator for the day (DJs and weddings use a lot of electricity) and you’ll put the toilet paper (not much). 

Everything else is organized and paid for by the bride and groom or the wedding planner. 

In order to rent your place like crazy, your hacienda needs to be at least 2000m2 in size and have plenty of space for the tents and have well-kept green grass. 

It needs to be excellently gardened. 

Have at least two outdoor bathrooms (the wedding guests won’t even use the house on your premise!)

And an attractive entry gate. 

Plus have an electric generator. 

And a small room with a mirror and couch where the bride and go and freshen up (like an actor’s room). 

Additional extras that aren’t necessary but helpful include… a small wedding chapel, a small pool in the shape of a lake with a small bridge over it (the bride and groom will stand over it while the parents give speeches (a cheesy Ecuadorian tradition)). 

In Ecuador, it’s common to get married in the church around 11am, then go to the reception around 1pm which usually lasts until about 8pm, but can go as late as 12 midnight.  

Folks pay you the hacienda owner the daily rent and must leave by 12 midnight or pay extra.

Where’s best to have your hacienda for wedding rentals in Ecuador?

Keep in mind Ecuador has two main cultures.  The people on the coast live one way and the highland people have their own customs. 

The same goes for weddings. 

On the warmer coast, hacienda rentals is not much of an opportunity, because most folks prefer to get married in the church and have their receptions in air conditioned hotel ballrooms or on the beach. 

In the highlands, its common for folks to get married in the church, then go to a hacienda near the city but in the countryside for the reception. 

By far, the most in demand area for hacienda wedding rentals are the valleys near Ecuadors capitol city, Quito. 

Specifically the Cumbaya or Tumbaco areas. 

How much is land going for in the Cumbaya area?

If you look like the locals look in the way I describe in my full guide to housing hunting in Ecuador you can find haciendas going for around $70/m2.  Many go for more though and I’ve seen prices as high as $200/m2. 

How do you promote your hacienda for wedding rentals once you have it? 

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

$170k, Malacatos Property for Sale

FOR SALE: 11,000m2 proprty with 3 new 1 bdrm houses. Malacatos, Ecuador-1/2 hr from Vilcabamba.Fruit trees,garden,electricity,water, irrigation, easy access.Photos avail.$170,000. Contact: Chris Campbell; clumcampbell@yahoo.com; cell-0993690627.

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Posted in Ecuador Q&A

25 Essential Online Tools Expats Cant Live Abroad Without

I couldn’t even dream about living abroad without the following list of (mostly free) online tools I personally use on a daily basis here in Ecuador…

1. Magic Jack App. for iPhone:  I wouldn’t suggest ever living abroad without a Magic Jack, a little apparatus you plug into your computer that not only gives you a US phone number people can reach you at (VoIP) wherever in the world you are free but also allows you to call for free to any number in the US and Canada.  Cost is a one-time fee just under $100 found in most electronic stores.  But if you have an iPhone you can download the free MAGIC JACK app and have a US number people can reach you at that you can answer from your phone, free.  You can also make calls to US numbers via the app free as well, but you need to be connected to the internet.  VERY useful when staying in touch with friends and family but also in business if you plan on selling to Americans & Canadians from abroad. 

2. Teamviewer: Teamviewer is a free software you can use to “screenshare” or share what you’re seeing on your computer with someone anywhere else in the world, for free.  You can also take control of someones computer mouse and control their computer if they give you permission through the program or give permission for them to take control of your PC.  VERY useful for online working, I used it when developing a software with a guy in India showing him detail by detail what I needed. 

3. Toll free forwarding:  Toll free forwarding is great for small business owners abroad who want to appear bigger than they really are by having a 1-800 number that forwards to their local number, anywhere on the globe.  Very useful. 

4. Webgistix:  If you’ve been wondering, “jeeze, I’d love to begin exporting to the US little by little but who would receive my goods, unpack them, and reship them to my final customers?” Then Webgistix is for you because they do just that!  A game-changer indeed. 

5. Virtual Post Mail: As more and more people flock to greener pastures abroad several companies like this one have begun to offer this important service to anyone living abroad.  They offer you a US address you can have things mailed to, they open your mail and scan it if you request it, or they can shred it if you request that too.   They can also forward your mail upon request to anywhere on the globe. 

6. Skype:  Skype is not a new thing but is still a must for anyone living abroad.  It’s a free way to not only make and receive calls, anywhere, but also it’s a great way to make free video conference calls with up to 12 team members at once.  Great if you live abroad and work online with a team scattered throughout the world. 

7. Pamela.biz:  Pamela is a complement plug in for Skype that allows you to record calls you make or receive via Skype.  Great for doing international business or simply recording something important. 

8. Club Correos:  I had to throw at least one tool in here that specifically helps expats IN ECUADOR.  This service is run through the Ecuador post office and once you sign up you can order stuff online in the US and have it delivered to their PO Box in Miami, once there they will forward your items to you in Ecuador.  Great if you don’t have a mother or relative in the States that can provide the same service.  Thanks mom. 

9. Vocaroo:  If you’re on my newsletter I’m sure you’ve received and sent emails.  But have you ever sent a voice email to someone?  Yes, one where they receive an email from you, open it, then listen to your message (not read it).  With vocaroo you can send free voice email messages great if you better selling verbally than via written text or also if you’d like to break up with someon from a distance but don’t know actually what to write.  “Really baby, it’s not you it’s me… “  I’ve never done this I swear.

10. Faxzero:  I know fax is a thing of the past but every once in a while you will have to send a fax maybe when applying for something or to an old timer who doesn’t use email yet, faxzero.com lets you send the fax for free online to US and Canada numbers.  For sending fax to the rest of the world I use sendfreefax.net

11. Dreaminder:  Dreamminder is great to send yourself or anyone else an email at some point in the future.  In other words, you can schedule an email.  Great for reminders but also business tasks. 

12. Gmail canned responses:  I love this one!  Canned responses for gmail is a new feature you have to activate in the LABS section of your email, but once activated you can set fixed responses you can click on and they automatically appear in your email, you can then modify the message as you need and send, no copy and paste necessary, plus you have the saved standard meesages available to you from any PC anywhere if in a jam.  Huge time-saver, I use it in all my businesses! 

13. Boomerang for gmail:  This little complement plug in for Gmail is great for doing the task I enjoy least in business… bill collection.  That’s right, when my Italian-American forefathers might grab a baseball bat to collect an outstanding debt, I use Boomerang with Gmail, a simple app that lets you send a recurring email, once every day to a certain recipient until you decide to cancel it (once they’ve paid).  Its also great for cyber-stocking that special someone. 

14. Drop box:  Yes, I have actually spilled a wine glass clear across the keyboard of my lap top.  My lap top survived but if it hadn’t I wouldn’t have cried for the machine, but for the info I would have lost.  Now, with a free service like DropBox you can automatically back up important files you’d like to back up securely online. That way you have access to them from anywhere and can download them in the case of a PC crash.  Useful if traveling a lot and living abroad. 

15. Wetransfer:  Sometimes when living and working abroad you will need to send a file that is TOO BIG to attach normally to an email.  In those cases, I use WeTransfer, the free service works great for file transfers.  Important when working online or from abroad. 

Breaking the language barrier-
16. Google translator:  Still the most accurate tool online to quickly translate sentences or paragraphs of text from one of dozens of different languages. 

17. http://www.verbix.com/languages:  Anyone who has studying languages knows the backbone to any language is VERBS.  This handy tool online will give you the full verb conjugations of any verb in several dozen different languages. 

18. Forvo:  Is a great online dictionary of PRONOUNCED WORDS.  Just search the word and listen to the pronunciation.  Very handy. 

19. Wordreference.com:  When the word is so technical that Google Translator fails you, I use WordReference, similar to one of those fat Webster dictionaries but available for free online, works with English to French and Spanish.

20. livemocha.com:  A great, free program for studying languages online and having pen pals in forwign countries that help you along the way. 

21. Google Chrome:  The official free internet browser of Google that allows you to automatically translate entire websites in foreign languages to the language of your choice.  You may have to activate this feature in the settings.

22. Google alerts:  Are you a news junky?  Or just want to stay informed on a specific topic while abroad?  Then sign up for a free Google alert.  Every time your topic of interest is mentioned somewhere online Google will email you the exact link so you can check it out.  For instance, a lot of people use it to monitor the rep of their business name. 

23. timeanddate.com/worldclock:  When living abroad it’s great to know the time of another point in the world almost instantly, great tool.  Specifically good for when you’d like to watch sporting events in your home country and need to know when you need to tune in. 

24. XE.com:  Great free online tool updated every few minutes that allows you to convert any currency to any other instantly.  Important when living or doing business abroad. 

25. USTVNOW  / FirstRowSports.eu:  First Row Sports is a free service that streams live sporting events from around the world, don’t miss your favorite sporting events just cause you live in a country that lives and dies the mindless sport of soccer.  USTVNOW is great for watching live American TV shows online. 

Can you tell I’ve lived abroad a while now? 

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

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

1 undiscovered mountain town in Ecuador with true “eternal spring-like” weather

zaruma real estate

I hear it all the time.

“I don’t like the heat and humidity of the coast of Ecuador but frankly, Cuenca is too damn cold.”

I know, I understand.

I usually respond just like I did in my last email… “A lot of people try to push Cuenca as “eternal spring” but actually it’s more like eternal ‘late fall’ “.

Now, I’ve lived in places with true eternal spring-like weather.

Example, Hawaii and Medellin, Colombia.

You know, places that have constant year-round weather where you can walk outside with a t-shirt and shorts and not even think about the temperature cause you are neither hot nor cold.

The problem with Medellin? It rains too much.

The problem with Hawaii? Not much, but if you press me I’d say it’s too expensive and many locals really don’t like “outsiders” or people not from Hawaii even though the ones that work in tourism well try to hide it.

In fact, Ecuador does have places with eternal spring-like weather.

Places just high enough to avoid the muggyness, mosquitos and humidity of the coast while not being as high as Cuenca or Quito.

One such place is one you’ve never heard mentioned before.

Zaruma.

Zaruma is a cozy town of about 20,000 folks built into a cliffside with a wooden-spanish-colonial style old town surrounded by lush slopes of coffee plantations in southern Ecuador about 3 hours from Machala, 4 hours from Loja and 6 hours from Guayaquil.

The town was founded hundreds of years ago by ambitious miners in search of gold.

Further downstream the mines still run rich, but up in Zaruma the mining has stopped.

All that’s left is a stunning, little, undiscovered place to live.

The town is perched at an elevation of 1200 meters (3937 feet(about half the elevation of Cuenca)) and the year round temperature hovers around 22 degrees C (72 F) and drops just a bit cooler than that at night so you can sleep comfortably with a blanket over you (no AC or heat needed!).

The nearest airport is Santa Rosa, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours by car away.

Most the locals shop in the fresh produce market right in the middle of town and get their bare necessities from the little street stores that dot the town.

The town has a free, public hospital that is known for having good service.

The locals are friendly and quick to strike up a conversation with one of the few foreigners in town.

Within Ecuador, Zaruma has a great rep for it’s amazing coffee, particularly beautiful people and sweets.

Rents for a 2 bedroom house/apartment just outside the old town start around $150-300/month and plate lunches start around $2.

A local specialty is the TIGRILLO, a breakfast dish made of mashed plantanes, cheese and eggs.

A cool thing many visitors do is take a guided tour of the town gold mine, now extinct, it was an actual mine for hundreds of years and the tour is done by an actual miner and is very informative (and free!).

I’d stay in the Cerro de Oro Hotel in the town center, nice, clean rooms for only $10 per person. Ask for a room on the top floor for some spectacular mountain views but watch your head on the way up the stairs. Any taxi in town knows where it is and can take you for $1.

Buy your coffee at the local distributor, an 80+ year old man with a great sense of humor, Don Marcelo Valverde, he has his shop in the town center, just ask around for the “tienda de Don Marcelo” and folks can point you the way.

The only negatives of the town I see at this point for expats wanting to take residence are the distance to a major city and the fairly steep town roads.

Foreigners? Not many, yet.

There you have it, one mountain town in Ecuador with a steady, warm-yet-comfortable climate year-round.

But before you make any investment in Ecuador, you’re going to want to sign up for my Ecuador Insiders weekly newsletter filing in the blanks below, youll learn everything you need to know before you invest to Ecuador:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Photo Diary of Zaruma Ecuador

Here are a few pics from a recent trip I made to Zaruma Ecuador.

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zaruma ecuador house for sale

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The Tigrillo in Zaruma

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zaruma real estate

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Why Cuenca is Seriously Overrated

Opps.

I let the cat out the bag on this one.

Don’t get me wrong.

I like Cuenca. It’s a nice place that’s attracting a lot of expats.

But…the world’s top retirement destination?

Child, please.

Are you outta your freakin’ mind?

It’s not even the top destination for retirees in Ecuador.

It was obviously chosen by people who’ve visited maybe a couple spots in Ecuador and who are interested in primarily selling seminars.

Let’s examine Cuenca further:

Climate: Forget eternal spring, I’d call Cuenca weather more like “eternal late fall”. It’s chilly, especially at night with lows in the mid 40s F, yet its just warm enough so that most dwellings don’t have heat, making many places indoors downright …cold! And it rains a lot too, and it’s more humid than the high elevation (8400 ft above sea level) would predict.

Cost of living/ Real estate: Yes, food is cheap like all over Ecuador with multi-course lunches starting around $2, taxi rides start at $1-3, bus rides $.25, 2 bedroom condo rentals start around $250/month, BUT due to several factors real estate in Cuenca is notably more expensive than most other places in Ecuador.

Food: Whenever “guinea pig” is a local staple, you know you’re in trouble. Hands down the variety of seafood and even the BBQ meats on the coast of Ecuador beat the local eats in Cuenca… any day of the week!

Local people: The local “Cuencanos” are friendly to foreigners, no doubt about it, but with so many foreigners around, most locals are de-sensitized and are really quite neutral to the sight of a foreigner. Being a foreigner alone won’t win you any brownie points like it does in other areas of Ecuador and the world where foreigners are a rare sight. But at least foreigners aren’t frowned upon. Ecuadorians as a whole are friendly, laid back people.

Old town/ Spanish colonial architecture: The Cuenca old town is OK, but it can’t compete when compared to the old towns I’ve seen in Cartagena (CO), Guanajuanto (MX), Colonia (Uruguay), Santo Domingo (DR), or even Quito.

Health care: Its a bit more pricey than the healthcare service in nearby Loja, and the variety of services offered is better in Guayaquil or Quito.

For singles: For single guys, its hard to beat Guayaquil, it just is, trust me on that one. For single women (and gay men), I’ve heard Manta, Guayaquil and Machala have some of the countries best looking and most enjoyable men.

Crime: While notably more safe than the other two big cities in Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), it’s still not quite as safe as the smaller towns in Ecuador if this is really important to you. Remember Ecuador outlaws guns so gun violence is a rare sight anywhere.

Cultural events/nightlife: For cultural events like classic music concerts and plays, Loja beats Cuenca. For pure raucous nightlife, Quito and Guayaquil beat Cuenca once again any day of the week.

Expat community: If you’d like to be around a lot of other expats, Cuenca has built the largest expat community in Ecuador (rumored to be between 3-5,000 permanent residents) but there are also significant expat communities in Salinas, Manta, Cotacachi and Quito. But none are yet to the levels of hot spots in Mexico like in San Miguel.

Business opportunity: For businesses focused on selling products or services to expats it’s hard to beat Cuenca due to the large flow currently coming to the area on a daily basis, heck, I might even put a business there soon, but overall, coastal Ecuadorians are known to be more “free-spenders” than their highland counterparts and boy does the coast still need about, well… everything.

Overall: Unless you’re looking for a larger, established expat scene, Cuenca can easily be beat in all the categories listed above by other spots in Ecuador.

It’s overrated.

In fact, in my next letter I’ll share one unknown, alternative destination in Ecuador that has most of the benefits Cuenca has but with a true warmer-yet-not-too-warm eternal-spring like climate. To get it sign up for my list below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

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