Dodging a shark: The dangers of buying vacant land in Ecuador

“Oh, man, here he comes again.” I said to an Ecuadorian friend as I saw my neighbors big black pick up pull up to my property near Salinas on the coast.

The car stopped, he got out and walked up.

I had previously explained to my friend that my neighbor used to be the owner of the whole hill I was on overlooking the ocean, and that he had sold a lot to the person that sold to the person that sold to me.

But now he was hassleing me because he said on my deed is only 500m2 yet in actuality my lot is closer to 700m2 if you count the downward slope onto the main road from my main lot.

Now, he was bothering me to pay him for the extra 200m2 I was occupying or he would sell that to someone else.

Yet, most of that space is un-usable anyway because it was too close to the main road.

But consulting in the municipal of Santa Elena where the deeds are registered, they told me actually mis-measurements of lots are quite common and don’t mean much.

So, this time as my neighbor walked up once again to hassle me, he was intercepted by my Ecuadorian friend who got in his face and told him to get lost and stop trying to take advantage of a naive foreigner (me, at the time).

That’s all it took.

He never bothered me again.

I learned something from that about how things work down here. Ecuadorians respect force or threat of force, and that’s about it.

Strength, in other words, not necessarily the “oh it’s the right thing to do” ethics that may be enough in places like North America where you can rely a bit more on the legal system and the police to help you out.

So, how can you prevent situations like this?

Buy lots that have CONFIRMED time-tested boundaries marked by older looking fences, GPS coordinates specified in deed, or landmarks outlined in deed. Talk to the neighbors to confirm before buying if possible.

And it sure helps to have some local friends.

Hasta pronto, if you liked this you’d love my Insider’s newsletter on living and investing in Ecuador,

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How to save on your income tax in Ecuador

This week I filed my income tax return in Ecuador due every March (impuesto a la renta).

My accountant charged $30 and was done in 20 minutes.

It was so quick because she already handled my monthly sales tax declarations and already had the paperwork on hand.

Based on the monthly tax declarations for all of 2016 she quickly pumped out the annual return and submitted it.

When you file if you have employees insist that your accountant submits the form declaring how much you pay to employees.  That will lower your tax burden greatly.

If you show less than $11k in profits for the year you pay ZERO income tax in Ecuador.  And it’s a sliding scale on up to the highest tax bracket for folks who make more than $115k profit who must pay 35% tax.

See the 2017 scale and read more here. 

Hasta pronto, if you liked this you’d love my Insider’s newsletter on living and investing in Ecuador,

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How to see the coast of Ecuador without a car

By far the easiest way to see the coast is renting a car, but if you are like me when I first got here and intimidated by driving in a foreign country, I don’t blame you!
The good thing about Ecuador is you can bus it and be just fine.


Most fly into Guayaquil.  From there I suggest taking the shared taxi company for $10 a person, 2 hrs, to Salinas.  They leave from the Ramada in Guayaquil.

Skip Playas if you don’t have a car.  Too off the beaten path.

Head straight for Salinas, the taxi company drops you off right at the malecon (boardwalk) whereas the buses only take you to Ballenita which is a nearby town and you have to catch a $5 cab there to Salinas.

Stay as long as you like then catch a cab to the bus terminal in Ballenita ($5) and catch a chicken bus north to Montanita-Olon (1 HR, about $3).  There are also direct buses Guayaquil-Montanita if you wish to skip Salinas.

From there on up to Puerto Lopez you can hop on hop off buses as you like at beautiful beaches like Nunez, San Jose, Ayampe and Las Tunas. The buses only run until around 7pm though and pass every half hour or so!

From Puerto Lopez you can catch a motorbike-taxi to Los Frailes Beach or in the other direction also minutes away Salango. very nice!

And there you can hop on a bus going north to Puerto Cayo (45 min) which has some great places to eat seafood on the beach and enjoy the view of the islands offshore.

From there the easiest, best route for non-car people is to catch the bus inland to Jipijapa and onto PortoViejo (1 hr).

I suggest sleeping in either Puerto Lopez or PortoViejo as the options in the other places in between are suspect.  From there you can go to Manta to catch a plane back to Quito.


Or from PortoViejo you can venture north.  I’d skip Crucita as it is a bit hard to get in and out of there by public transport if your plan is to beach hop north, and instead check out San Jacinto-San Clemente (1 hr) Beach which is right on the busline from PortoViejo to Bahia.

From there I’d catch a bus north to Canoa (20-30 min).  Another beautiful surfing beach.  That’s where I’d stop my journey as buses heading north from here are few and far between (unless you have a lot of time.)


Head north from Canoa to Pedernales where i would not stay, just connect north, then skip Cojimes (too hard by bus), and go straight to(3 hrs) Mompiche-Portete. 

From there skip Muisne, the Galera area, and even Same (too hard by public transport) and head straight for the Sua-Atacames-Tonsupa (1-2 hrs) area just south of Esmeraldas where when finished soaking up the sun and eating seafood you can then catch a 6 hr overnight bus to Quito.

That’s how I’d do it without a car (and I have many times!)

Other beaches not mentioned here (like Manta!) I’d skip cause they are just too dang hard to access via public transport if you are going north-south or south-north up the coast.

971 Alfonso Tobar y Tulio Garzon Tababela PICHINCHA 593 ECUADOR
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Hasta pronto, if you liked this you’d love my Insider’s newsletter on living and investing in Ecuador,

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