Archive | Ecuador for Investors

Sample itineraries for the coast of Ecuador


Here you go, my picks for where to go as you plan your next big trip to the Ecuador coast in 2014.

THE SWIMMERS CIRCUIT: Beaches with flat ocean great for swimming, snorkeling, floating.

Fly into Guayaquil, then take the bus to Salinas.  Spend 2 days , 2 nights in Salinas and enjoy the long beach with water perfect for swimming, the expat bars and local seafood cuisine. Then head up the coast 40 minutes to the lazy cove of Ayangue for 2 nights, also known as lobster bay, also great for snorkeling, scuba, swimming and eating from one of the many fresh seafood stands on the beach.  Then head up the coast to Puerto Lopez, another cove with an ocean good for swimming and a more touristy town to boot.  Then take the 2 hour bus to Manta where you can fly out to Quito to catch your flight home.

SURF PARADISE:  The best surf in Ecuador.

Budget permitting, start your surf trek by taking a flight to San Cristobal in the Galapagos and enjoy empty rides on sapphire blue ocean all day long.  Then once back on the mainland from Guayaquil go to Playas and then the town just west of Playas, Engabao.  Then head up the coast 2 hours to Montanita.   Afer experiencing the hustle and bustle of Montanita head up the coast 40 minutes to completely secluded breaks off Ayampe and the more radical Tunas beaches.  From there, head north to Puerto Cayo, and time permitting further north to Canoa and then Mompiche.

PARTY / SINGLE SCENE:  This is where I’d go if I’m single and ready to jingle.

Start by flying into Quito, then after a short stay in Quito Airport Suites (come on, you know I had to plug it somewhere), fly to Esmeraldas.  Once in Esmeraldas go 20 minutes south to the party town of Atacames.  Try to hit the weekends.  Then head south to Canoa for a hippy, low-key, small town party scene, then head to the city of Manta to wine and dine with folks dressed to impress.  Then head south to the energetic Montanita, then on to the more refined Salinas where you can drink with expats and locals from Guayaquil.  Lastly, don’t forget a stop at Ecuadors largest city, and best for singles, musty Guayaquil.

FOLLOW THE SUN: Many beaches in Ecuador are overcast most the year, only a few aren’t.

Fly into Guayaquil and head immediately to one of the sunniest beaches in Ecuador year round, Playas.  Then head to nearby Salinas which also has a lot of sun.  After, head north to Ayangue, a desert cove which I’ve never seen overcast.  From there, you’ll want to buy more sunscreen and head north to San Clemente, another spot legendary for being consistently sunny, then skip oft overcast Canoa and fly home from Manta.


For thrill seekers, start the trip by trying your luck marlin fishing in Salinas.  You could also rent 4-wheelers and cruise around the point and the famous “whirlpool”.  Then head to nearby Ayangue where there is one of the few places on the coast to charter an organized scuba dive. Then head north to Puerto Rico where you can try your luck spear-fishing.  From there head north to surreal Santa Marianita a kite-surfing paradise.  From there head a an hour north to Crucita where you can soar with the birds off the cliffs of Crucita while hang-gliding.

AWAY FROM IT ALL / OFF THE BEATEN PATH:  For those of us that prefer ocean, not people.

Fly from Quito to Esmeraldas and head north to Las Penas, you’ll proably be the only foreigner around.  From there head south and skip the hustle of Atacames and insteaod opt for the secluded yet more refined Same, or the raw, gorgeous secluded beaches of Muisne, then hop a motorboat to Cojimes.   From there head south to the secluded, unnamed coves north of Jama and finish off your trip in Santa Marianita just south of Manta.   Then fly back to Quito from Manta.

EXPAT ROW:  The hottest expat destinations on the coast to date.

Fly into Guayaquil and b-line for Salinas.  Then head north to Olon, the beach just north of Montanita.  From lush, green Olon, continue to Manta where if you time it right you can hit an expat night-out.  From there head to the fastly-growing expat populations of Crucita and San Clemente.  From there head to Bahia and the Canoa area.  From Canoa catch one of the new highways back to Quito for your flight back to reality.

LUXURY/SHOPPING:  When ‘roughing it’ is not an option.

Start your trip flying in to Esmeraldas and heading straight for the all-inclusive resort near Mompiche.  Afterward head south to the city of Manta, where you can rent a luxury, oceanview, vacation rental or stay in one of the more luxury hotels on the coast like the Howard Johnson or Oro Verde.  From there head to the Barcelo of Salinas to dine away the rest of your trip.


Of course any wildlife lover should start their trip to Ecuador with a week in Galapagos.  Once on the mainland beaches go dolphin watching in Playas, or season permitting whale watching in Salinas.  From there head north to the town of Dos Mangas where you can take a nature hike to waterfalls and get chased down by several different types of Monkeys.  From there head to Puerto Lopez where you can take a tour to Isla de la Plata and bird watch.  There you can observe many of the species found on the Galapagos like the blue-footed boobies.

VACANT LAND HUNTERS: A lot of places on the Ecuador coast are already built up or are pricey, others are not.

To start fly into Manta and head south to the areas of Santa Marianita, San Lorenzo and then Puerto Cayo.  This stretch of coast still has some larger vacant lots available at reasonable prices as well as smaller lots as well whereas on the southern coast from Puerto Lopez on south where you’ll find little to no reasonably priced inventory.  Then head north to the area between San Vicente and Canoa to find deals on both larger and smaller beachfront lots.  From there, if you prefer an even bigger, remote lot try north of Canoa on that stretch of coastline all the way to Cojimes and Muisne.


There’s only a few places to find oceanview condos on the rural coast of Ecuador.  Start in Salinas, then try Manta, Bahia and lastly Tonsupa in the north. That’s it.

21 DAY BEST OF THE BEST: Simply the best beaches, but more of them.  This is where I’d go.
Start by flying into Quito and then on to Esmeraldas where you can work from the top down.  Once in the Esmeraldas area be sure to bunk up in nearby Atacames where you’ll find the best and cheapest hotel options in the area.  While sleeping in Atacames be sure to explore nearby Tonsupa, Sua and Same on Tuk Tuk.  After 3 nights in the area, head south to secluded, way off the beaten path Muisne for the largest beach in Ecuador.  From there check out nearby Mompiche, a true hidden palm-laden paradise.  Then eat a seafood lunch on the malecon of Pedernales as you head south to Canoa.   Base yourself in Canoa for 3 nights as you explore and settle into the area.  From Canoa continue south to Bahia to have lunch and look around before continuing to San Clemente.  Rent a condo or house in San Clemente to experience true small town beach life in Ecuador, from there head to Manta where you can buy any modern conveniences you’ve been without the last 2 weeks before heading out to Santa Marianita a true diamond in the rough.  From Santa Marianita continue south through Puerto Cayo for some of the best oceanviews of the coast.  From Cayo, skip Puerto Lopez and istead opt to sleep in more relaxed and picturesque Ayampe or Puerto Rico to the south.  The waves here will impress you.  From Ayampe go south to Olon and eat shrimp on the beach in between horseback rides on the enormous golden beach popular with expats.  From Olon catch a $1.50 cab south to Montanita, a true surf and party mecca on the Ecuadorian coast.  If anything go just to dine and people watch for a day or two.  If youd like to be near Montanita but not sleep in it, try a rental in the small town next door of Manglaralto.   From Manglaralto, head south to Ayangue if scuba is your thing, if not skip it and continue right on to Salinas, a great low-effort place to finish your journey of the coast.


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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Travel Guides

My 2014 Ecuador bucket list: 48 Must dos off the beaten path

Hard to find such variety in a country the size of Nevada.

Yet most travelers to Ecuador get it wrong by going to lame, overpriced places like the Otavalo market.

Below is my personal Ecuador bucket list for 2014.

Things I just got to do just in case this is my last year in Ecuador (not planning on it but you never know).

1. Relax to the core all day in the hot springs in the high Andes town of Papallacta.  Afterward have a trout lunch.

2. Take a bike tour down the slopes of the Chimborazo, one of the worlds highest active volcanos at 6000 meters.

3. Take a bird watching tour in the world-renowned cloud forests of Mindo with over 400 bird species and get engulfed in thousands of Butterflies at one of the butterfly farms in the area.

4. Have a drink with women about half my age on the infamous cocktail alley of Montanita.

5. Explore the Puyango petrified forest, one of the largest in the Americas along the Peruvian border.

6. See the most remote area of Ecuador, the Yasuni, in the Amazon region before they start their planned drilling, besdies its my best chance to see big Amazonian game like jaguars, anacondas and pumas.  Another less intense option would be to fly to the city of Coca and go in canoe alng the Rio Napo to an  Eco-lodge.

7. Take the train through the high Andes from Ibarra to Salinas (a different Salinas than the one on the coast).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26Get a taste of ancient Incan life by hiking the 10km trek from El Tambo to Ingapirca, ancient Incan ruins and effectively Ecuador’s own “Machu Picchu”.  You can also take a train, taxi or bus which can be arranged out of Canar.  Ruins Entrance fee $6.

27. Get certified as a glider plane pilot in Ibarra through a one month course with a local flight instructor.  They say if you can fly a plane without an engine you can fly a plane with one.  Course starts around $1300. 2013 prices yet to be released.

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

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

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

31. Soak in the odd street water-wars during Carnaval in February in Cuenca where everyone goes around throwing water balloons and soaking random strangers with water guns.  Free.

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

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

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

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

36. Visit the perplexing, friendly afro-ecuadorian community of Chota in the middle of the Andes near Otavalo and have a local Shaman (witch doctor) cleanse away my worries.  Cost: $5 bus fare from Quito.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Sold! How I sold my beach lot in Ecuador. Part 10 Property search series

I know what you’re thinking.

Where’s part 1-9 of this series?

Well, they were released about this time last year and tell the story from step one of how I found an undervalued beachfront lot near Salinas, Ecuador, legalized and resold it.

Well, about a year later, it’s now sold.

First, the specifics… 

In October of 2012 I bought a 500m2 lot right on the beach in a small fishing village 30 minutes south of Salinas near the town of Chanduy for $4000.   The lot was cheap for a number of reasons, the lot was located in a rather impoverished, completely undiscovered area of the coast, the papers of the lot were out of date and needed to be legalized (or attained for the first time), and the previous owner didn’t know much about marketing and sales.  The lot took about one month to legalize and cost around $500.  (No lawyer fees except for the notary.)

Then, in November of 2013, after negotiating I came to an agreement to sell the lot and sold it for $8000, a price where I still made money and the buyer still got a great deal (even for Ecuador) on a front-line beachfront lot.

How I sold it?

Due to time constraints and other priorities, I didn’t spend much time or money marketing it, all I did was post it on my own blog as well as on .  Nothing else!  I didn’t list it in Spanish, or in the local paper (like I planned), or with any real estate agents.  Then I left it be.  And after a lot longer than I thought I had a buyer, a year later.

What I learned from the experience?

– That contrary to popular belief in Ecuador it is possible to take publicly owned “communal” land and privatize it and legally deed and register it in the notary, municipal and property registrar just like any other privately-owned property if you get some knowledge on your side.  But it can be a process and is a bit risky cause you never know.

– That if you buy property in an undiscovered, out-of-the-way location it is NOT a short-term play and will take you a lot longer to turn than you thought, even if the property is nice and right on the ocean (ideal).

– That the quality of the beach and proximity to a legit city with shopping and other services is important.

– That it will be a harder sell if NO other foreigners are in the area.

– That simply being beachfront is not quite enough to ask what other beachfront lots in more discovered, developed places on the coast are asking ($80-$100 per m2) .  If I would have got that I would have sold for around $40-50,000!  I started by asking $20k then I lowered to $16k but I didn’t start seeing any real interest until I lowered the asking price after several months to $12k.  Albeit I didn’t do a whole lot of marketing.

– That stating publicly on my blog how much I paid for the lot doesn’t help to sell it for a profit (duh).

– That using an agent probably would have been a good idea, it’s just that I had a bad experience with an agent previously.

– That there are a lot of areas on the Ecuador coast that are actually pretty stagnant while other areas are moving quickly.  Best find the areas moving quickly (which Ill cover on future newsletters).  For instance, this lot had a ‘for sale’ sign when I bought it that had been there 6 years!

– Not to waste time with all the (dozens) of tire-kickers online, the person who is actually going to buy your lot is probably someone already in Ecuador beit foreiger or local.
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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The forgotten beach party town in Ecuador

Even if you don’t like to party, party towns are good places to base yourself as you explore the nearby areas of the Ecuador coast.

There’s more places to eat.

A larger variety of places to stay at a much lower average cost.

It’s easier to meet more people.

And you have access to services that you wouldn’t have in more remote locations, like laundry, internet, organized activities, etc.

Everyday I ask other foreigners where they plan to travel on the coast of Ecuador.

And they always tell me the same damn thing, “Salinas, Montanita, Manta, Canoa”.

Yet theres one popular party town on the coast that is completely overlooked by foreigners.


For me, Atacames arguably has the nicest beach of all the locations mentioned above.

It certainly has one of the widest beaches of the country, and one of the few white sand beaches lined with coconut palms in Ecuador.

Beaches with good surf are nearby.

And beaches that are coves with flat water great for swimming are just a short Tuk Tuk ride away (in neighboring Sua).

Plus, when the other beaches mentioned above are likely overcast, you can usually count on Atacames to have sun.

Nightlife. Check, Ecuadorians know how to party, trust me on that one.

Accommodations. Cheap and plentiful with budget places starting around $10 per person and the nicer places around $20 per person.

Food. You bet. Each region of the Ecuadorian coast has their own unique blend of seafood gastronomy. But the north coast has the best cuisine out there! Try the seafood in coconut curry (encocados) or the seafood in nut based curry (cazuela) and you won’t be dissappointed!

Foreigners. Almost none to date yet the area has been popular with Ecuadorian tourists for weekend getaways (particularly from Quito) for decades.

Airport/Hospitals. Yes and yes. Atacames is one of the few beaches within just 20 minutes or so from an airport reachable by commercial flights (Esmeraldas). Plus, being just 15 minutes or so from Esmeraldas there are plentiful private health clinics and free public hospitals available.

Safety. This has been the knock on Atacames as most folks think its too close to Colombia for comfort, but actually its still several hours from the border (like a place called Quito), and with the added police force I believe safety has improved greatly over recent years.

The locals. Different from the rest of the Ecuador coast, the locals are mulatos by ancestry. And by far the friendliest and best looking people on the Ecuador coast.

Real Estate. Cheap! The best deal I see this week in the area is a finished and FURNISHED 20 room, 20 bathroom hotel one block from the beach right in the center of town built just 8 years ago complete with reception, oceanview terrace, and cistern asking $170,000 negotiable.

But the owner sounded like he’d go down even lower, I’d try for around $150,000. Its possible, and it would be a steal.

Im a hotelier myself, and I can tell you, to furnish a 20 room place (well) you’re looking at easily $45,000. And depending on the state of the building (which looks good in the photos) at this price it could pay for itself in 2 years if you market it right.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Property holding costs in Ecuador: Not what you’d expect

I get it all the time…

“Well nowadays I can also buy a $40,000 property in Waco, Texas, what’the big deal about Ecuador?”

OK, well, one thing is the holding costs.

Lets take a look at my 4 bedroom, 3 bath house on the coast near Montanita. I currently rent it out.

I pay…

$0 for insurance (with so much concrete construction home insurance is not common).
$0 for condo or association fees (not in gated community)
$102 a year in property taxes
$7 electric bill last month (with one single person living on the property full time.)
$4 water bill last month
$2.50 gas (bought one tank of gas, this is also subsidized by the government)

Now lets compare this to a 2 bedroom condo in my home state of Montana, USA currently valued around $180,000…

$1200 annual property taxes
$583 every 3 months association fees.
electricity $80 a month (varies)
water $125 every 3 months
$180 annual insurance
gas $250 (varies)

How about a 2 bedroom house in Montana valued around $350-400k…

$3400 annual property taxes
$1200 annual homeowners insurance
$0 association fees (not in gated community)
electricity/gas $300 a month in winter
$25/month garbage collection

Now, lets throw in the extra cost of my Ecuador ‘property management’ because I do not live nearby (I live in Quito) and I rent it out short term as a vacation rental.

$20 a month to caretaker who visits property twice a week and lets me know if there are any problems, waters grass once a week and takes out the garbage.
$5 each time the caretaker has to go and turn in key or recover key from an entering or exiting guest.
$10 for each cleaning between guests.

The caretaker also is in charge for paying the energy bills, and does NOT live on the property. All guests prepay online, I do all the marketing myself.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Cocoa farms in Ecuador: An inside look into the Biz

Forget about exporting handicrafts a minute.

Ecuador has some VERY rich people, but they export different things, for instance, the product I’m going to mention today is one of Ecuador’s chief exports… cacao (or cocoa, the seed chocolate is made from).

As the breeze off the plantation whisked past my forehead I sat in a hammock across from a friend of mine who is the plantation owner of a 100 hectare cacao producing farm near the border town of Huaquillas in the South of Ecuador.

I was picking his brain. The business really interests me… here’s what I learned:

Cacao needs a tropical climate and a lot of moisture in order to grow effectively.

Rarely will you find folks with farms in full production willing to sell, because it’s a cash machine. But sometimes we can get lucky.

Cacao requires two full years after planting the seeds to begin to deliver fruit, but once it begins to deliver fruit, it will continue to for a long time as long as you take care of the trees.

When looking at listings for already-producing cacao farms for sale you’ll notice a big difference in prices… right now in the south of Ecuador cacao farms in full production are costing around $20,000 per hectare if they have CCN51 type cacao, and around $9,000 per hectare if they have the local, national type cacao.

Why the difference? The purple colored CCN51 produces a little over twice the fruit as the green colored national type cacao, and both fetch the same prices at market. So if you think you found a bargain, be sure to ask which type cacao is being produced!

For every 3 hectares of cacao farm in full production you’ll need one employee, to whom you’ll have to pay about $300 a month or $3,600 a year. Those same 3 hectares in full production will produce around $15,000 a year in sales, which is a low-ball figure, according to the plantation owner, who was my friend and wasn’t trying to sell me anything.

He said after water, fertilizer and irrigation costs as well as subtracting the above cost for the employee, each 3 hectares will leave around $9,000 in annual profit.

Once in production, you will harvest different sections every 15 days, giving you a constant stream of income, for the rest of your foreseeable life! People love Chocolate. I believe my mom’s actually addicted.

One big benefit to working with Cacao instead of Banana is that if you don’t sell the Cacao for whatever reason, you can store it, dry it, and it becomes even more desirable to the exporters, whereas banana, if you don’t sell it immediately, you lose the whole crop.

It’s actually a much more hands off business than most assume. Most plantation owners have a “Jefe” or farm manager who runs the farm for them, the owner I spoke to rarely visits his farm (maybe once every week or 2).

And as for selling your production, it’s easy, most just sell it directly to an intermediary in their town, who then turns around and sells it to an exporter in one of the ports in Ecuador (like Guayaquil), who then sell it to an importer in the destination country, who then sell it to a distributor who then sells it to the final production plants.

Why don’t the producers try to skip the supply chain and export themselves for higher profits?


The importers require a certain, large amount of the product delivered to them regularly, and most farmers can’t guarantee such a large amount with frequency… so that’s why they use an exporter who gathers the product from various farmers and intermediaries to ensure they always have product on a steady basis for the importers.

You can find cacao farms along the coast and lowland areas of Ecuador, as well as in the eastern Amazon third of the country. To make good money, consider farms only of at least 20 producing hectares or more.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The Galapagos: off-limits to retirees, or is there a loophole?

There’s only one place in Ecuador with Caribbean-like, snow-white sand beaches and emerald green water…it’s a little bit of the South Pacific, and a little bit of Ecuador….

… and it’s the only place in Ecuador that attracts the high-rollers…

…you know, the ones that spend $10,000 for a week-long cruise.

And you’ve never heard it mentioned as a possible retirement destination, until now…

The Galapagos Islands.

Problem is that the whole area is considered a National Park, making immigration and foreign investment laws tight.

Foreigners (not even Ecuadorians who aren´t from the Galapagos) can not buy property in their own name, or spend more than 3 months a year in the Galapagos.

But I think I found a loop hole.

And I’ll share it with you.

Recently, I discovered this loop-hole right from the source, talking to the current manager of the Property Registry Office while I was in the Galapagos.

With at least one local from the Galapagos as a minority partner, foreigners can start a business in the Galapagos.

The local partner can own a small, almost symbolic percentage of the shares, they don’t have to be the majority owner (I asked).

And then you can buy a property in the Galapagos under the name of the Galapagos-founded company.

Foreign companies can NOT buy property in the Galapagos in this manner.

And then the easiest way to become a legal resident is to get a work permit, as investor and retiree visas are not given.

One way to do so would be for your Galapagos company to hire you. Yes, in essence, you’d be hiring yourself.

But that’s the only way I’ve found for foreigners to live and invest in the Galapagos.

Buying in the Galapagos can be a complicated, risky venture. But it just may be worth the risk.

Of course, this theory still has to be proven, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Pay off your next flight to Ecuador with micro-importing

I know you’ve probably heard how Ecuador is cheap, cheap, cheap.

Actually, for many things, it’s not.

In fact, many things in Ecuador are way more expensive than in North America.

It’s due to the ever tighter restrictions on importing many consumer goods.

And with the current administration, its only getting worse.

But of course this leaves the door open to business opportunity. Opportunity that even the casual traveler can cash in on.

For instance, an iPad Mini 16GB was for sale on special in Best Buy (USA) over the Black Friday weekend for $200. It normally sells around $250-300.

In Ecuador, the same 16GB iPad Mini was for sale in the mall I visited for $807.

On Mercadolibre, the eBay of Ecuador, new, sealed iPad Minis are going for around $400-450.

Thats just one example.

Other products that are historically more expensive in Ecuador are usually electronics, name brand clothes, shoes and perfumes.

Other random things like certain brands of spices and pepper sauces, perfumes, body creams, liquors, sugar cubes (I know its ramdom but they’re really hard to find here), large size clothing and shoes are simply not found in Ecuador.

So if you have a business that deals with people constantly coming and going from Ecuador (like in the travel industry), or if you yourself are constantly going back and forth, its quite easy to tap into this and become the go-to guy in your area of Ecuador bringing down things for people and charging to do it.

Why don’t resident expats in Ecuador just order online and have stuff mailed to them?

They do, but there’s a risk in that like what happened to me recently when I had a package mailed to me and it got stuck in customs and generated a steep tax that I had to pay and it was way more than the goods were even worth. It was just random stuff like a few books and clothes. I decided not to pay the tax and I never got the package.

Other items like cell phones have strict import restrictions and may not be released from customs, period. Never know.

Other times, it just doesnt make sense to pay $40-50 to get something like a pepper sauce you like mailed down when you could pay someone else $10-20 to bring it down for you.

Welcome to the concept of micro-importing. And its a real opportunity for some in Ecuador.

Micro-importing is under-the-radar-style importing where travelers take advantage of un-used space in their bags to bring down items that are for personal use only that folks living in Ecuador don’t have easy access to.

At the very least, its something that could help pay off your next airfare to Ecuador.

And to learn what local fishermen taught me about how to find the hottest steals on the Ecuador property market, try my must-read weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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USA to Ecuador flights for $322, how much did you pay?

Winter is coming up north.

And expats are on the move.

In fact, most expats in Ecuador like the freedom of flying on one-way tickets. You know, not being locked into a return date. I know I do.

Even though on the government sites it says you need a round trip ticket to enter Ecuador, I’ve flown here various times on one way tickets and have been stamped right in, no problem. Sometimes it depends on the airline and departure point so best to inquire first. But on the Ecuador side, Ecuador immigration doesn’t seem to care much.

For this coming December (2013)-January (2014) most round trip air tickets from the USA to Ecuador are running around $600-800.

But the dilemma is most one-way tickets are generally about the same price as the round trips if searched through the major travel sites and airlines.

After extensive research I did for an upcoming trip back home to the USA, the cheapest one-way ticket I’m finding this upcoming holiday season is to fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL) to Panama City (PTY) for $78 (all taxes and fees included) with Spirit Airlines purchased directly through their site (in early January).

Then from Panama City (PTY) to Quito (UIO) there is a Tame flight for $244 found doing a search on (Also that second week of January) .

Even directly in the Tame offices here in Ecuador they are quoting prices higher than what’s offered by Tame through Kayak.

Total Miami to Quito with all taxes and fees included = $244 + $78 = $322.

And buying the one way fare going back comes out to about the same. If you try and it comes out higher play with the dates, know the days and weeks around Christmas and New Year prices on travel always jump.

So how much did you pay for your air ticket to Ecuador?

Did you beat my find, where’d you buy your tickets? Offline, online (which website and for what dates)?

Share by hitting reply to this email. Thanks. We´d all love to know!

And to learn what local fishermen taught me about how to find the hottest steals on the Ecuador property market, try my must-read weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Hookers unveil truth about cause of coastal Ecuador title issues

“Man, I haven’t done that since I was a 20 year old in college in Waikiki with nothing to do.” I responded as my friend and I walked the dark streets outside a bar we just visited in Quito.

You see, in the US, for a 20 year old, there isn’t much to do at night except get into mischeif on the street, because almost no night establishment will let you in the door.

So one of our favorite past times was to go to this one street in Waikiki where hookers hung out and chat them up. They are some of the wierdest people you’ll ever meet which always made for interesting conversations.

Now here I was, years later in a dark street in Quito with a friend getting egged on to do the same thing as we approached a corner that always had streetwalkers.

“OK, lets do it.” I was never a match for peer pressure.

We picked one particularly hot looking one to chat up. And as we approached we quickly realized this gal was actually a dude (as is usually the case).

Then when she spoke it was obvious. She was a dude. “Hola mi amor.” she began in her deep raspy voice.

“Hey.” I started in Spanish. “So where you from?” I asked.

“I’m from Esmeraldas.” She said.

“Cool, beautiful area, I was thinking about buying a house there.” I continued, trying to break the ice.

“I have a house there.” She followed.

“Oh really, how much you pay for it?” I asked matter of factly.

“I didn’t, it was a land invasion.” She boasted.

Then two of her friends walked over and joined the conversation.

One of them said… “I also have a land on the coast.”

“Got it through a judgement.” She said. (Which is basically a more legal way to claim unclaimed lands in Ecuador.)

The third one piped in… “me too, I have a land in Esmeraldas also.”

She continued, “My father was a comune member, and was gifted the lot, then he died and left it to me.”

Wow, I thought, so there you have it, on the coast of Ecuador it seems like only foreigners actually pay money for the land.

So when you’re about to buy a property, it’s even more important to research the title history, and look smart by asking for the following documents right away so you don’t waste time on a property with possible title issues with various people making claims of ownership (which is COMMON)…

-Copy of the notarized title (Escritura)
– Copy of the property taxes receipt (Predios)
– Certificate from the Property Registry (Certificado del Registrador de la Propiedad)
– Certificate from the Municipality (Alcabalas)
– Receipt of the Fire Department tax (Certificado de Bomberos)
– Municipal appraisal (Avaluo Municipal)

So there you have it, how streetwalkers in Quito enlightened me about Ecuador real estate.

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High-season’s coming: Leaving money on the table on the coast of Ecuador

As we enter November here in Ecuador.

And all the leaves on the trees are exactly the same color as they were the rest of the year…

As the owner of vacation rentals on the coast of Ecuador I’m being constantly reminded of one fact as the email requests start to flood in.

That the demand for home rentals on the coast of Ecuador really spikes upward from late December to early April when all the folks from the northern hemisphere try to escape the winter.

The difference in demand is huge and shouldn’t be overlooked if you own a rental on the coast of Ecuador.

You really can charge double, maybe even triple the rent that you could during the rest of the year.

And you’ll get it! Just be patient.

Especially if you market to both Ecuadorians (who also want to be on the coast more in those months due to the nicer weather) and English-speakers (escaping the winter up north).

A lot of renters will want to enter starting in November and drag into the high season paying the same low-season prices, or pay you months in advance for the whole high season at a discounted rate.

Don’t let them, or you will be leaving serious mu-la on the table.

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Hostal El Viajero died, what happened?

You got to be careful in Ecuador when investing in property, man.

You see, you´ve probably lived your whole life taking for granted a right in the US, Canada or Europe that simply is not held as dear in countries like Ecuador.

The right to sleep in peace.


I remember from my time living in the US if a neighbor was making noise at an unpleasent nightly hour the cops often would beat me to the punch and be over there quieting the people down. If not, a simple call and they’d be there within a few minutes.

Not in Latin America. And not in Ecuador.

Call the cops on a noise complaint. Chances are they don’t even show up.

And if they do show up, the locals probably won’t even take them seriously.

Different culture, different place, different values.

The last 4 months I was leasing Hostal El Viajero here in Quito and using it as an auxiliar second location to my primary business Quito Airport Suites, a small hotel near the airport in Quito.

At the beginning, I saw El Viajero struggling so I swooped in and made a deal with the owner who initially didn’t have plans to lease but instead run it himself.

After a few days I realized what I got myself into.

Right next door was a makeshift, illegal (without permits) dog kennel.

As the weeks passed the kennel grew and at any given moment, at any hour, the dogs could be ticked off and trust me, no amount of sound proofing can help against the thunderous roar of about 50-100 dogs yelping.

We filed the complaint with the Municipal.

We complained to local authorities including the police.

We talked to the owner of the kennel.

Nothing helped, months later the kennel remained, and the hospitality business next door just wasn’t feasible.

I really felt bad for the owner, who must have invested well over a hundred thousand in the construction of an otherwise nice building in a good location. As a renter I simply turned the keys back to him and left.

His problem.

Its absolutely essential before you invest in property in Ecuador to study the surroundings and see if the noise level is to your liking. Cause your surroundings are very hard to change later. You’ll also need a little bit of vision to also see what could be in your surroundings later that may be problematic.

Spend time in an area at different times of the day, and actually spend significant time there before investing. Talk to neighbors. Get the real scoop, you’ll be glad you did.

At the very least, noise level is something you may not even think about before investing in countries like the US because its a non-issue, but its something you should think about in Ecuador.

Especially in some areas the countryside of Ecuador… dog barks and roosters are real noise makers.

In the cities, impromptu parties from a rowdy neighbor or car alarms, vehicles braking and horn beeps can also be an issue.

For instance, is a speed bump right in front of your house? If so, then be prepared to listen to the squeel of brakes at any god-awful hour.

Pass on that property.

In third-world countries across the globe, as in Ecuador, you and your investments are just not as well protected as they are in places like the US.

But not one tells you this before buying.

So due diligence is even more important.

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2013 Ecuador property transaction records: Cuenca, Vilcabamba, Loja and the Ecuador Highlands

The responses are in…

We asked how much you actually paid for property in the highlands area of Ecuador.

And you answered.

These aren’t asking prices, but actual recent values people opened their wallet and spent.

In a country like Ecuador with no MLS standardized system, nor publicly recorded comps (or comparable sales records) and with historically low and unrealistic municipal appraisals knowing how much people are actually paying can be very useful.

And thanks to all those who responded to this inquiry… below are the responses!
Loja area

1. 24 hectares (60 acres mas o menos) en La Paz, a small rural town about half way between Cuenca & Loja. We were able to get it for 60k. It has a pristine biew of the valley, two narrow waterways that supply the water for the towns in the valley, Wild Blueberry treeas all over it & maybe 350ft of roadfront property on the main highway.

Vilcabamba area

1.  Malacatos, near Vilcabamba that I bought in May,2011 for $6.83 m2 that is 11,000m2.

2. bought a house in Vilcabamba for 165K in March 2013, land 3,500 sq m. construction 140 sq m, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms , 2 years old, American standards. Sloping land, landscaped, excellent view.

Cuenca area 

1. Cuenca, South side on Rio Tomebamba. 2 floor penthouse condo with 2000 sf. Bought in Jan 2010 for $70K. Found it in the local paper. Condo is 7 yrs old.
2. Cuenca, 10 min (by taxi) from Plaza de Armas.  $67,000.  apartment, 2 bed/2 bath with (solar) heated water, washer/dryer hookups. one of the bedrooms is en-suite. apartment complex was built in 2011.  apt. is 80 square meters, on the 2nd floor of a 4 story apt. complex.

3. on the Tomebamba River in Cuenca El Centro. $175000.  Penthouse condo – brand new.  150 sq meters – includes 30 meters sq of terrace.  October 1 2013

4. Lot 45 minutes from Cuenca, near Paute $40K gental hill side over looking Paute river.  4295 sq mtr, about 1 acre,  January of this year.  has power and water to it

5. 7 hectare (about 17 acres) finca near Guachapala (it’s halfway between Paute and Guachapala) earlier this spring (2013). It has a 3BR/1bath house (in pretty good shape), lovely rock outcroppings, small pine forest, 800 producing fruit trees of several varieties, large spring-fed pond stocked with tilapia, and the access is excellent. The asking price was $165k and they got it for $150k.

6. Cuenca – edificio fronting Rio Yanuncay $89,500.  Apartment, built in 2010 , 116m2 + parking space & small storage area Bought Jan, 2011.  3 br, 2.5 ba.

7. Chordeleg – rural  $160,000.  Orchard, garden, House, empleada      Constructed 20 years +/-  Land = 5945m2 Main house = 180m2 2nd “house” 65m2 Bought May  2009
8. Cuenca.  first floor three bedroom two and a half bath condo for 100,000.00 USD at the corner of Premier de Mayo and Avineda des Americas in Cuenca. The purchase was made last October and the unit is rented out at $875.00 per month

9. Cuenca. 3 blocks from Tomebamba river away from El Centro at Solano and Crespo $174000.  115 sq meter condo built in 2009 Bought October 2013.


Quito area and valleys

1. Centro area, one of the few condos facing Calle La Ronda near the Sur Arco.The purchase price was $38,000. The age of the complex is about 42 years old. The 3 bdrm unit itself is approximately 90sq. metros. The purchase date was in July of 2012.
.2 La Carolina/Quicentro area, across from the Mega Maxi on 6 de Decembre. This 12 floor penthouse suite (1 bdrm) is in a brand new complex. The purchase price was $85,000 and is about 50 sq. metros. The purchase date was May, 2013.
3. Quito, La Carolina $104 000 dollar US condominium under construction, delivery on April 2014.  flat of 60 square meter + parking Bought April 2013

4. Checa: For $ 180.000, in Nov. 2011, I bought a 2 bedrm house, in a triplex, with a third of a wall attached. Gardens to be enamorred by, but at that stage, no Internet nor the promised swimming pool etc… Today, with some of the amenities better established, the same house sells for $230.000. The development will soon include a medical center, the covered and the open swimming pool, a mini-market, and high speed Internet,  well as several other conveniences. By then, it will probably be worth closer to $250.000.
5. Cumbayá in Urbanización Meneses-Pallares near Colegio Menor. The property has 1,360 mts2 of land and the house has 760 mts2 of construction. It has some 17 years of being built. I sold it for $500K.
Ambato, Banos areas

-the actual purchase price – 125,000
-the type of property and age – RESIDENTIAL HOME /1994
-meters squared of land and construction – 300 / 344
-approx date of transaction 2006

2. BANOS   three bedroom house in  Banos ( near ambato) for $42,000.  it sits on a large lot but had no wall around it.  the house is brandnew but was not well made. white washed walls,no kitchen cupboards

Otavalo, Ibarra, Cotacachi, Atuntaqui areas (north of Quito)

1. Atuntaqui $31,000 . lot.  5,000m2.  6/2013 with irrigation water [4 blocks closer,  property starts at 25 per meter to 50]

2. North and west of Cotacachi.  $18,000.  Raw land some primary forest 1 hectarias flat, 9 hectarias steep from river to Peaks of mountain, accross river from dirt, drivable road. No buildings, electric, or phone.  We do have our own springs and reliable good quality water.  slightly less than 10 hectarias.  march of 2011

Amazon region
1. Between Tena and Archidona, Napo Province. $17,000 for 2.3 hectares of rural land, adjacent to a river (fertile). Cafe and cacao trees on 1 hectare, no construction.  Bought February 2013.

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RE: How much did they pay for coastal Ecuador real estate?


You can ask whatever you want for a property in Ecuador.  Doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

In fact, some are quite ambitious when they price properties in Ecuador.

But in a country like Ecuador with no MLS standardized system, no publicly recorded comps (or comparable sales records) and with historically low and unrealistic municipal appraisals seeing how much people ACTUALLY HAVE PAID recently for property in Ecuador can be very useful.

Today you’ll get to see just that.

Or actual property transaction records for real estate in Ecuador.

This is how much someone actually opened their wallet and paid.  (Not the asking prices!)

And thanks to all those who responded to last weeks question…

-On Ecuador coast, No area specified
100,000 (500m2)  Purchased JUN 2013
ocean front  new gated community   lot on front row  ($200/m2 of land)

Puerto Lopez

1. Ocean view on a hill, road dirt access
$6000 USD (320m2) Purchased May 2013  ($19/m2 of land)

2. 26sq.m suite in the Piedra del Mar hotel in Puerto Lopez we bought last May. We have about $33,000 in it now including appliances and furnishings.  ($1269/m2 of construction)


1. $19,000 (June 2012)
Lot in urbanization, roads, electricity water pipes installed
400m2   ($47.50/m2 of land)

2. 5 kilometers west of Canoa and  kilometers north on a dirt road …..location:  17 Hectares @ $1800. per Hectare
Purchased in June 2013

3. Briceno, between San Vicente and Canoa on the coast
$30,000 usd
vacant beach front lot on Pacific ocean
360m2  ($83 per m2)
Purchased 05/2013

4. House with oceanview, 2 bedr 1 bath on 1000m2, poor condition
$22k, FEB 2013.   ($22/m2 if taking into account only the land)

1. We purchased an apartment in Chipipe 4 years ago for 230k. 4 bedroom direct beachfront + Maid Quarters, fully furnished + 1 covered parking space.
2. Salinas. 1 block from beach in San Lorenzo. 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with 900 sf. Bought in Feb 2011 for $49K. Condo is 10 yrs old. ($583/m2 of construction)

3. Salinas. New construction. 3 blocks from beach in Chipipe. 2BR, 2BA, 1000 sf with pool and rooftop spa and BBQ. Bought in Mar 2012 for $70K. Brand new. ($753/m2 of construction)

4. On the Malecon of Salinas, 4 buildings up from the Hotel Barcelo. A 15 unit condo, and we are on the top floor of an 8 story, 6 year old building. Our unit is just under 89 square meters, is 3 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath with an ocean view. With it came a 2200 square foot finished terraza, with a rest room, and wet bar that is ours, and not part of the common area. We paid $95K. It was purchased April of this year. ($1067/m2 of construction)

5. I bought a house & 2 lots in La Malina (Salinas),$49,000 house is 120 mtrs, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 2nd lot has 18X36 ft pool.

6. Salinas 45K 8 blocks from beach. 4bd 3ba

7. April 15,2013 we bought a 2000 sq ft, 4 bed room, 4 full baths, 19th floor, 5 year old  condo on the Salinas Malecon for $220,000. We are right on the Pacific with  fabulous panoramic views of the Pacific from every room. The building has a swimming pool, kiddie pool, hot tub,2 designated parking spaces, sauna, gym and full 24hr security.  ($1182/m2 of construction)
8. Salinas Malecon Beach View Condo Salinas
$105,000 Purchased Dec. 2011  170 Sq M interior 50 Sq M exterior terrace
Penthouse Suite – Full Floor 8 floor building 2 units per floor except penthouse level
2 parking spaces in garage
3 bedroom 3 bath total with a separate lock-off suite with 1 bedroom 1 bath and living, dining, kitchenette
Condo required total gut and remodel.  1975 construction ($618/m2 of construction)

9. Chipipe Beach View Condo Salinas
$123,000 Purchased Sept 2013 163 Sq. M includes ‘interior’ terrace with sliding doors
3 bedroom 2 bath w. separate maids qtrs.  1974 Construction
7th floor of 11 story building.  2 units per floor.  Condo requires total gut and remodel  ($755/m2 of construction)

1. Jama Campay which is a residential resort complex (in process) located north of Jama, south of Pedernales. The preconstruction price of my home in May 2012, with 3 BR, 3 BA, one row back from oceanfront, including appliances, basic furniture and a jacuzzi off the MB was under $140,000.  Prices have increased a little since then.  It is now scheduled to be finished in the first quarter of 2014, which is behind the original completion date (oh surprise.) The condo is approx. 1600 sq. ft. ($940/m2 of construction)

2. -the approx. location  JAMA CAMPAY
-the actual purchase price  $89,500
-the type of property and age NEW CONDO
-meters squared of land and construction 2 BED 2 BATH OCEAN VIEW
-approx date of transaction   COMPLETION END OF THIS YEAR

3. Coco Beach Village – just outside of Jama, Manabi
$200,000 for beachfront lot with shell of house – put $100,000 into it this year (3 bedroom, 3 bath)
1,000 sm of lot and 2,350 sf of house (ground floor) w/roof terrace   ($200/m2 of land) ($459/m2 of construction)
Purchased May 2012 – Moved here August 2012

4. Jama / El Matal
$123,000.  Oceanfront lot
Land only – approx 1900 square meters
Nov. 2008  ($177/m2 of land)
all infrastructure in place, ready to build, gated community with club house, pool.

Santa Maranita 

1. $217,000
4 bedroom infinity pool yard done in paveing stone gated outdoor kitchen. Built about 5 years ago.
approximately 660 sq meters double lot . House is roughly 1800 sq feet on two levels.


1. Colope Esmeralda ,  actual purchase price:$ 30,000.00   type of property : 4ac. / 1 1/2 ac. flat land . Approx date of purchase: Aug. 2013  Any other pertinent facts regarding purchase: Top of hill with ocean view .

2. playa provincia esmeraldas
usd 45,000.  casa 20 years old, 3 floors 4 rooms 2 bathrooms
129 sqm land  180 sqm building
summer 2012

Bahia de Caraquez

New Ocean Front Condominium, custom built, 4th floor of 8 story bldg. with balcony, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths.  The living room, dining room and 2 of the bedrooms all have fantastic ocean views.  Inside parking garage and bodega.  197 sq. meters, around 2,000 sq. ft.  (2011).  Pre construction pricing.  ($888/m2 of construction)

1. in Tonsupa, in September, 2011. I found everything that I had ever hoped for and more, at Playa Almendro Resort. It was new construction, 95% completed, and I was able to choose everything inside the doors, including custom wood cabinets and bathroom vanities.  There is 6 pools, with a 7th under construction, 2 spas,a commercial laundry, mercado, 2 tennis courts, 2 volley ball courts.  My condo is 94 square meters, and the cost was basically $1,000/square meter.  We have agreed to lease our condo on an annual basis for $900/month.

2. Lot near beach but not right on it.  $ 35.00 a square meter….total for 1200 square meters is $ 42.000

San Clemente

1. San Clemente  $75,000
“Townhouse” / condo (Vistazul) Built 2008
130 m2 on two floors, 60 m2 roof terrace, May 2011
(6) – 3 floor buildings (5 to 7 units per building), 1 hectare gated community, 100+ meters to ocean ($577/m2 of construction)

2. 820 sq mts beachfront with 10 ft concrete fence; 12 year old about 2600 sq ft 2 story house, 5 bedrooms 4 bathrooms, large patio and balcony.  $110,000. North San Clemente

3. San Jacinto, Carchi, 98 hectares, 4 hectares in platanos and coffee, cacoa, two bedroom, two bath house up, one bedroom one bath down. 2 kitchens, big patios, beautiful views, cloud forest, four streams, river frontage, tilapia pond, $132,000, purchased in Dec 2012.  ($1346/hectare of land)
4. San Clemente
-the actual purchase price:  $85,000, including parking space and storage locker
-the type of property and age: condo, pre-construction, estimated completion March 2015
-meters squared of land and construction: 1.5 acres of land, 1 unit in 54 unit complex, 1,250 sq. ft, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, plus 250 sq. ft balcony
-approx date of transaction: Oct. 2012  ($733/m2 of construction)

5. Beachfront 3 bedr 1 1/2 bath house $100k Sept 2013.

Vacant land right on the beach
600sq meters
approx date of purchase: 9/11/13  ($125/m2 of land)
Puerto Cayo

1. Lot in Gated Community.  $82,000
beach front property (new subdivision)
1250m2 (May 2012)
lot is right on the water… community has pool, club house, tennis courts, street lights, sidewalk etc.  ($66/m2 of land)

2. Mirador San Jose NEAR PUERTO CAYO
I paid around 24000$ but I’ve received 15% off on the original price because me and my friends bought 3 lands.
nobuilding yet, I have 5 years to built something
lot is 2160 meters squared.  (May 2013)
gated community, 400m from beach, board walk, 40 min from Manta   ($11/m2 of land)

3. puerto cayo 4000 square meters … cleared…city water…..1/4 mile from ocean with 180 view of pacific and 180 view of foothills….14.50/square meter….buying now.

4. 1. Lot in Gated Community.  $140,000
beach front property (new subdivision)
1000m2 (Sept 2013)
pool, club house, tennis, paved roads, common areas, social event center.   ($140/m2 of land)


1. beachfront lot
$45/m2,  4400m2 total $198,000.
Nov 2012

2. 2 bedr/2 bath condo on the beach right next to Montanita in a gated community with amenities for $112,000. It will be finished in August 2015.

3. 800 metros Via Dos Mangas, Manglaralto, Santa Elena. One km from beach
actual purchase price: $20,000
Bare land, 2000 M2 land, no construction
December, 2012   ($25/m2 of land)



17 room Hotel with stunning oceanview near the point in Montanita
Listed at $390,000… sold $230,000, APR 2012.

2 story house one block off ocean 4 bedr, 3 bath with balcony
1. Cuidad Del Mar, 100 meter condo, Plaza Del Mar
Overlooking the ocean, best subdivision on the Coast, Fully Furnished
2 bedroom, 2.5 bath, storage, parking space
Built 2012.  $154,000
2.Central Manabi near Pichincha.
$165,000 us
Farm land no livable structure (has primitive costal farm house with open air type construction…. Stilt house is the best way I can describe it, but not livable to US standards)
90 HA
Purchased April 2013


3. Manta
condo, 3 years old
90 m2
Aug 2011
4. Condo with oceanview in highrise beachfront
new construction
$225,000 (1800 ft2 or 167m2)  ($1347/m2 of construction)
5. Manta
condo on the beach, new construction
150m2  ($1200/m2 of construction)
Aug. 2011
6. Manta
condo, ocean view, new construction
78m2  ($872/m2 of construction)
Feb 2012
7. Manta
Condo on the beach, new construction
153m2 ($1340/m2 of construction)
Dec 2012
8. Manta
Condo on the beach, new construction
150m2 ($1333/m2 of construction)
Dec 2012
9. Manta
Condo on the beach, new construction
150m2 ($1500/m2 of construction)
Dec 2012
10. Manta
condo, ocean view
78 ($1026/m2 of construction)
Mar 2013
11. Manta
land in development
Apr 2013
12. Manta
Condo on the beach, new construction
70m2 ($1571/m2 of construction)
July 2013
13. Manta
Condo on the beach, new construction
150 m2 ($1666/m2 of construction)
Sep 2013
14. Manta
land in development
Aug 2013
15. Manta
condo, construction just completed
Aug 201316. Manta.  $169,000
6th floor condo, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 1 garage & storage, big deck of the spare bedroom, giant deck of living room
living space 118 MS, decks 105 MS
August 2012
2 blocks of the beach, fantastic view


Punta Blanca

900 m2
close to, but not ocean front
land only
$45 K   2013 APR  ($50/m2 of land)
 Santa Elena (near Salinas)

$80,000.  concrete house 3/3 con casita y piscina grande, appx. 30 anos
5000m2 lot.  Oct. 10, 2011 house is beautiful with fruit trees.

1. $21,000
Beachfront lot gated community
374m2 ($56.15 per m2)

2. $65,000
4 bedr, 2 bath house
15 yrs old
beachfront, good condition
APR 2012


1. PLAYAS Duplex 2000sq ft 2 units 3 bed 2 bath. Beach front  concrete built 5 years ago. Purchased 2012. $105000

2. 4 bedr 3 bath house 2 blocks off beach, small oceanview.  20 years old.  $38k.  Purchased APR 2012.

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The top 7 can´t miss ´bargain´ hotels of Ecuador

Come on.

Just admit it.

One of the main reasons you are even interested in Ecuador is because you want to improve your lifestyle while at the same time lower your cost of living.

At least the possibility of such intrigues you.

Well, here are my hand-picked top 7 best-value hotels in Ecuador.  Bargain, nice places that should charge a lot more than they are.

Places where you can feel pampered and pay a small fraction of the cost you would back home.

But most of these aren´t easy to find nor easy to book beforehand (many of them don´t even have websites!)

Maybe these aren´t the cheapest choices out there, but they are the best bang for your buck in their given area.  Here goes…

7. Hotel Prado Internacional (Loja, Ecuador).  This hotel conveniently located right on the other side of the river from the old town in Loja is a four star quality hotel at two star prices.  There is an elevator, an elegant, open full time yet often empty rooftop restaurant with amazing food (try the bacon-rapped Filet Mignon in mushroom sauce for $6), a very friendly staff headed by the owner, Lucia, who speaks English.  The hot water is good, WIFI in room and the rooms are elaborately decorated.  Can´t beat the value for price, singles start for $26/night and doubles start around $39/night.

6.  Hotel Canoa Mar (Canoa, Ecuador).  This hotel is right on the beach in Canoa within walking distance of the town center yet just far enough away not to hear the discos blaring music.  The style of the hotel (laced with bamboo) is just what you´d expect from a hotel in the area.  There is hot water, WIFI in room and each room has its own carefully thought-out design… all for $10 per person.  I stay here when I´m in town.

5. Hotel Hugo´s Place (Montanita, Ecuador).  One block from the beach and a girl´s throw from the center of town, this 2013 newly inaugurated hotel in the center of Montanita is hard to beat for the price.  The rooms have a beautiful oceanview and are nicely finished with cement (to prevent noise and critters from entering), WIFI and hot water are available and rooms start at $10 per person ($12-15 on weekends).

4. Copalinga Nature Lodge (Zamora, Ecuador).  No trip is complete to Ecuador without venturing into the Amazon, yet most eco-lodges (like Kapawi) charge upwards of a hundred dollars a night.  Copalinga has beautiful cabins available right in the thick of the rainforest and within a short walk from the National Park Podocarpus.  Amazing for bird watchers, as dozens of Hummigbirds often buzz around you as you dine for breakfast in the morning.  Prices start around $23.50 per person for one of the older cabins available, newer more luxury ones are also available for about double the price.  Worth every penny.

3. Posada del Rio (Cuenca, Ecuador).  For me, the most stunning area of Cuenca is where the old town meets the Tomebamba river.  Thats where I want to be whenever I go to Cuenca, plus you are right in the middle of everywhere you want to go.  Built into a refurbished old colonial, just as you´d expect from Cuenca, the Posada del Rio is right along the river and several rooms have stunning views of the trickling brook.  This is another lodging option with rooms much nicer than what you would expect they rent for, hot water, WIFI and room service is available.  Rooms start around $15 per person.

2. Izhcayluma (Vilcabamba, Ecuador).  As a hotel owner myself in Quito I have the chance to chat with travelers almost everyday, and almost everyone I talk to who has stayed in Izhcayluma has nothing but great things to say about it.  Pamper yourself getting a treatment in the Spa, soak in the pool, horseback ride, bird watch, hike the trails through the green hills or even visit a sugar farm and watch the process of sugar making.  The service is top notch, the grounds well maintained… single rooms with private bath start around $28, doubles $38, shared dorm beds are also available for $12 each.  Hard to beat the value for your buck in Vilcabamba.

1. Hotel Gala (Baños, Ecuador).  This hotel, mainly frequented by local Ecuadorian tourists, has gorgeous mountain views and is right on the edge of the quiant town of Baños.  Its my pick whenever I´m in the area.  The rooms are borderline luxury, some may even hint at four star quality, and are very spacious.  The hot water is good and plentiful and the decoration is elaborate.  You are also within walking distance of the town center and the spas in Baños.  The only drawback is as of writing there is no WIFI, but sometimes its good to disconnect.  All for bargain prices starting around $12 per person.

Got a suggestion for this list?  Submit it here to the Q/A forum…


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


“Man, this dude is clueless!”

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

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

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

1. Handle your assets correctly.

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

2. Know what to bring.

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

3. Know what NOT to bring.

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

4. Cell Phones.  

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

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

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

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

5. Managing your currency.

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

6. Opening a bank account.

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

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

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

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

8. Getting connected to the internet.

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

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

9. Paying utility bills.

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

10. Learning Spanish on the cheap.

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

11. Visas.  

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

12.  Getting around like a local.  

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

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Ecuador Q&A

You’re fired! – What happens in Ecuador

“Hey, step into my office for a minute.”

“Don’t sit down, this will only take a second.” I continued.

“You’re fired, get the f**k out.”

OK, so this wasn’t exactly how it went down eariler this week.

But can’t blame a guy for dramatizing once in a while.

If you’ve met me, you know Im a soft-spoken guy, don’t think I could do it like that.

But due to a change in business circumstances, I unfortunately had to let someone go.

In Spanish, as in Ecuador, its very clear cut. Someone either quits (renunciar) or you fire them (despedir).

Theres no wishy washy middle ground like “laid off” or “let go”.

And when you have to let someone go, as I did this week, its a little different down here.

You have to “liquidate” them meaning pay them a final one-time “severance” payment equal to 25% of all the salary you’ve ever paid them plus any unpaid bonuses due to them.

But first, when you fire someone in Ecuador, or if someone leaves your business voluntarily, you have to go see an accountant who makes the official document (Acta de Finiquito) that needs to be filed with the Social Security Department (IESS) and Ministry of Labor (Ministerio de Trabajo).

Then, a date is scheduled when both you and your employee will have to go in front of an inspector where you will have to pay your employee their liquidation (severance) settlement and both sign off.

Theres really no way to get around this legal process nowadays in Ecuador or your employee can sue you.

Except if you hire the right way.

Which I didn’t this time around. In my case, for an employee I hired making a bit more than the minimum wage who worked for me for 3 months, Im going to have to pay her around $450 for her liquidation.

For instance, one loophole i recently discovered that will allow you to legally not pay the extremely costly 25% lump sum severance payment to your employees in Ecuador when you let them go is to hire your employees on a temporary limited time contract… say for one year.

At the end of the year you let them go for reasons of “contract ending” and then you don’t have to pay them the 25% lump sum liquidation of all the salary they’ve earned while under you. You will only have to pay a much smaller amount equal to any unpaid bonuses due to the employee for that year.

You can then do like most and maybe give them a few weeks off and then hire them back.

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Why dont I receive my mail from abroad in Ecuador?

Since moving to Ecuador, I´ve had quite a few things mailed to me from my original home, the USA.

Problem is… at first, the packages never got to me!

Online the tracking numbers indicated they had arrived to Ecuador. But they still never arrived at my home.

So what happened?

Finally, I figured it out.

Whenever someone mails you something from abroad using the general post, even if they mailed it to your exact street address in Ecuador, it doesn´t matter, it will most likely never make it there.


Once you´ve verified the package is in Ecuador via a tracking number that is checkable online…

You have to go to the main office of the post in Ecuador (Correos Ecuador) in your city to pick it up. They may tell you that your package is in the head offices in Guayaquil or Quito.

Go with your passport or cedula, be prepared to pay at least a small fee, usually around $5 and you will be able to pick up your package. Having the original tracking number helps but isn´t absolutely necessary.

But careful, if you don´t go to pick it up within a sort time they will send it back to the original home country.

And they will NEVER inform you of any of this.

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Growing palm oil in Ecuador, profitable or not?

“Jeeze, I’ve never seen a road like this,” I thought, this week, as my teeth rattled and face winced along one particularly trying road deep in a palm oil grove.

I was in one of the top places in Ecuador for palm oil growing, La Concordia, a small town tucked deep in the sticks about a half hour from the rough and tumble city of Santo Domingo, Ecuador.

You gotta put your money somewhere.

Keeping it invested in paper US dollars is a well-documented no-no.  Gold may be a better bet, but lets face it, if sh#t really hit the fan, people don’t need it, they need food, they need water.

That’s why one of my next plays will probably be in an agricultural investment, and honestly, its hard to  beat Ecuador for that.

The land is so fertile (and relatively inexpensive).  And farm hands come cheap.

There’s so much water.

Need a specific temperature?  Just find the right altitude in Ecuador, cause its there.

My Ecuadorian friend, and also active palm grower, who I met at a conference I was teaching at this week in La Concordia began to explain…

“Palm Oil is one of the most profitable crops Ecuador has to offer.  At least in this area.”  He started.

Palm Oil is mainly used for cooking, and primarily exported.  The oil is obtained through the fruit this particular variety of palm produces.

palm oil farm ecuador la concordia

The harvest…

Palm oil trees begin to give fruit around year 2, and continue to do so until they are about 25 years old.

Once harvesting begins, you’ll continue to harvest every 20 days for the life of the plant.

One big plus of this product is that it is relatively NOT very labor intensive.  No constant watering is needed.  There is a rainy season, starting in January which then goes for a few months, and that is when the plants receive the water table they need for the year.

The costs…

Most small to medium sized palm farms (20 hectares or less) don’t even have any full time employees, just one live-on watchman.

All farm owners do is hire two guys to come to harvest every 20 days.

One plucks the fruit off the trees with a hook, the other one loads the fruit on the donkeys which take it to the trucks which then take it the nearest factory that proceeds to cook the plant and extract the oil.  They are paid based on output ($15 per harvested ton).

This is another one of those products where no marketing is needed.

You make it, you’ll have a buyer, which is usually the nearest production factory.  As a marketing guy I appreciate that.

The only thing that changes is the market price.  Which for this product doesn’t fluctuate too greatly which usually resides between $150-250 per ton.

Farms start to become particularly profitable when they are at least 20 hectares large.

Each hectare can fit 140 palms.

You can buy the palm trees an inch tall for $1.  Or you can buy them already a year old for around $6.  The best time to plant new palms is in late December or January when the rainy season begins.

You’ll need to invest about $1 in fertilizer per plant twice a year to keep the plants healthy.

You’ll also need to pay a worker $.15 cents per plant to clean the shrub away from around the basin of the plant.  Three times a year.  This comes to about $63 per hectare per year.

You’ll also need to fumigate 2 or 3 times a year which costs around $50 per hectare.

You’ll also need to pay the trucks (considering you dont have one) about $5 per ton for them to haul your product to the processing factories.

“My costs usually run around 20% of my sales in this business.” My friend continued.

Why palm oil?…

One big benefit is that palm is not something that is often stolen, like other crops, due to the weight of the product and also that the factories will not buy stolen product.  They will only accept product with registered tax Id numbers (RUC).

Also, due to the low maintenance and lower risk of robbery, being an absentee owner is more than commonplace, it is the usual.

So no, you don’t have to live there,

Possible sales and profits…

Each hectare of producing Palm can produce on average 2-3 tons of product every 20 days.  The really effcient farms, like a few in Ecuador and many in an experienced Palm oil producing nation like Malaysia, can often produce up to 5 tons of product per hectare.  Each ton sells for the market price which fluctuates around $200… leaving $150 in profit per hectare for the farm owner…

So for a 20 hectare farm that means in the worst case scenario with low market prices ($150/ton) and a farm producing a mere 2 tons per hectare would produce $6000 in monthly sales and leave a profit of around $4000-$4500 a month.

For that same 20 hectare farm at the best case scenario with higher market prices (around $200/ton which the factory pays you the farmer) and a highly efficient farm producing 5 tons per hectare the monthly sales can be as high as $20,000 per month.  With about $13,000-15,000 of that being the estimated profit.

The investment and ROI…

Land ideal for palm growing in the area that is not harvested can be had starting around $3000 per hectare.  But you’d have to wait 2-4 years to start harvesting.  Producing farms with plants in full harvest in the area start to sell for around $5,000-8,000 per hectare.

This week I’ve visited a few 20 hectare sized farms for sale with producing plants for sale in the $6k per hectare range.  So assuming even the low ball figures gathered from friends in the area, that same farm acquired for around $120k could get its money back within 2.5 years.

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1 Costly Mistake when Buying a Business in Ecuador


When I first bought the Guayaquil hotel business with a friend of mine 2 years ago I made this mistake.

And it was costly.

And I see a lot of foreigners who buy in Ecuador do the same thing cause they’re ignorant of Ecuador employment law.

The mistake I made was I didn’t ‘clean house’ and start new with my own employees when I bought the business.I inherited one employee from the past regime who stayed on.  For a while.

I didn’t realize the mistake I made until I had to let him go.You see, in Ecuador when you fire someone, or lay them off, or they leave, you have to “liquidate (liquidar)” them.Meaning you have to pay them a lump sum severance payment equal to 25% of all the money they’ve made while working for you.

For instance, for a minimum wage worker in Ecuador making $318 a month, letting them go after one year of work would mean a mandatory severance payment of about $900.

So what most Ecuadorians do, and what you must do too when buying an active business in Ecuador, unless someone is actually vital to the business, when you buy a business in Ecuador have the previous owner liquidate and get rid of everyone.

It may not feel good, but “negocios son negocios” (business is business).

Because if you keep them on whenever it is they leave you will now have to pay them the liquidation payment for the entire time they have worked for the company, even though the company changed hands, doesn’t matter.  And the employee can sue you if you refuse to pay it.

But the person selling you his business won’t tell you this!

Oh no, he’ll say things like you should keep the employees, they’re great workers and very loyal… yea, yea, yea.  After all, it’s better you liquidate his employees after he’s out of the picture than him now.

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