Archive | Ecuador for Investors

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:

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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).   

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. 

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.  

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. 

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.

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. 

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).

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.  :)

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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

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. 

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.

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

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.


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…



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;; 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 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, lets you send the fax for free online to US and Canada numbers.  For sending fax to the rest of the world I use

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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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  /  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 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.

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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.

zaruma ecuador

photo zaruma ecuador

zaruma ecuador house for sale


tigrillo zaruma

The Tigrillo in Zaruma

zaruma photos

zaruma real estate

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Why Cuenca is Seriously Overrated


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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Consumer Price Index of Ecuador entering 2013

Parque Machalilla near Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.

At the start of 2013 it was reported by the INEC (Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas y Censo) that the consumer price index in Ecuador was at $595.70 (per month) compared to $578.04 at the end of 2011.

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The Complete Guide to Driving in Ecuador: How to Buy a Car in Ecuador


Most expats in Ecuador don’t own cars. 

It’s just a fact that with all the cheap/frequent public transport having a car is not a “necessity” just merely a “luxury”. 

But several expats, maybe you too, shy away from buying a car cause they don’t really understand the process of both purchasing a vehicle and what’s needed to drive in Ecuador. 

But it’s nothing to fear and actually not that complicated. 

The process to buy a car in Ecuador: 

After agreeing to terms with the seller, you’re going to want to check their registration card (Matricula).  On it there will be the name of the owner and the VIN of the car.  Verify the vin by popping the hod of the car and physically checking and verify the owner by having him show you his Ecuadorian ID card (cedula) or passport. 

Many in Ecuador buy and sell cars and thus are selling a car that is not in their name, all they have is an open contract from the previous owner that they are waiting to put the new buyer’s name on and a copy of the previous owners “cedula”. 

I recommend only buying a car from the person that is the registered owner.

You can then run a check to see if the car has any unpaid leins against it or outstanding fines through the website of the DMV of Ecuador called the ANT, AND through the website of the National Police

All you need is the plate number of the car to do the search. 

To double check you can also go to the office of the JEFATURA DE TRANSITO in your town and verify the car is really owned by the person appearing as the owner on the matricula they are showing. 

With the plate number you can also check to see if the car is stolen online here. 

If everything checks out and you’d like to continue with the purchase the next step is to write up the sales contract and get it notarized.  Notaries usually charge around $50 for this service.

Once you have the notarized bill of sale you can take it to the nearest SRI office (the Ecuadorian IRS) and pay the 1% transfer tax based on the value of the vehicle to put it in your name on both a national and police level. 

The last step would be to go and register the car in your name in the DMV of Ecuador (ANT or COMISION DE TRANSITO).  But if the car still has a bit of time left on the current registration (you need to renew once a year) you can drive with your license (from any country), the notarized bill of sale and the registration (matricula) which is not yet in your name but still current just fine until the current registration expires, according to the Ecuadorian police.  Registration costs around $150 annually. 

You will also need to make sure the car has the basic liability insurance paid required by law (the SOAT).  The SOAT insures all the medical costs people involved in a car accident may have. 

What it does not cover are the cars involved.  For example, the cost of the SOAT for an $11,000 car in 2013 is $27 for one year of coverage. 

Private companies like Generali also provide more comprehensive car insurance in Ecuador.  For example, to insure an $11,000 car full coverage runs about $450 annually. 

So to recap, whenever you drive in Ecuador you will need to bring your license from any country, your matricula card of the car you are driving (registration), and have the SOAT card on hand.  And if the matricula is not in your name you’ll want to have the notarized bill of sale or the rental contract in the car as well. 

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2012 Ecuador Inflation Closed at 4.16% Annual


As reported by the INEC (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Censos) in Ecuador in 2012 the annual inflation was 4.16% compared to 5.41% from 2011. A noticeable decrease.

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Minimum Wage Increase for 2013


The President of Ecuador announced this week the new minimum wage in Ecuador would be raised for 2013 from $292 USD per month to $318 USD per month due to inflation and production figures.

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7 Steps to find the hottest used car deals in Ecuador

“This country never ceases to amaze me.”

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

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

It’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

37 Absolute ‘Must dos’ in Ecuador for 2013

lake ecuador
A lake just south of Quito near the Ilinizas National Park.

It’s the end of the year.

You’re probably making your New Year’s resolutions and planning what you’d like ot do, be and have in 2013.

I know sometimes it can be hard to find the time, but you never know how long you’ll live, and I’d make a case that Ecuador is one of those few countries in the world that is really worth seeing.

So stop putting it off.

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

Below is my personal Ecuador bucket list for 2013.

Things I just got to do.

1. 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.

2. Visit the gold mine in Zaruma where resident Spaniards found a 2 and ½ pound piece of gold and gifted it to King Felipe II several hundred years ago, causing the king such joy he decided to lower the taxes for everyone living in Ecuador. The mine is called “El Sexmo” and is now open to tourists with guided tours from actual nearby miners. Free.

3. 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. Canoe Tours start from $40 per person.

4. Scuba dive in the crystalline waters of Galapagos off Floreana Island with hammerheads and 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.

5. 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 Isabela Island in the Galapagos. Day tours to Isabela arranged in Santa Cruz start around $65/person.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Bike on a rented bicycle from the city of Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos to the deserted, idyllic beach of El Garrapatero while passing through over a dozen micro-climates and witnessing the giant Galapagos tortoises grazing in their natural habitat. Cost: $5.

10. Visit a chocolate farm near Guayaquil and learn the whole process of how to make chocolate from harvest to belly. Get more info here.

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

12. Climb Cotopaxi, one of the worlds highest active volcanoes at 19347ft / 5897m with a guide arranged in Quito, I’ve been told even beginners can do it!

13. Explore the massive, underground lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. Free.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. View the thousands of Orchid species growing wild 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.

18. Hike 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.

19. 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. For more info write me here.

20. Visit the worlds only birds that live in a cave, in the only cave they live in at the CUEVA DE LOS TAYOS. Tours arranged out of Macas. Prices vary.

21. Tailgate, then enter a game in Quitos rowdy Atahaulpa Stadium as the National Soccer team attempts to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil. The cheap seats start around $10.

22. 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.

23. Party with fun locals along the infamous Plaza Foch in Quito during Quitos Festival Week “Fiestas de Quito” the first week of December. Free if you can find a sugar-momma/pappa to buy you drinks.

24. Take a tour of a Banana plantation in Machala and learn all the ins and outs of the interesting business with CristyViajes. Tours start around $20 per person.

25. 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.

26. Bike the wonderful 7 hour (60km) downhill ride from the high Andes to the mouth of the Amazon in Puyo and witness the furious waterfall of Baños “Pilon de Diablo”. Bike can easily be rented in Banos. Cost: $5

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. Experience the naughty, packed, full-moon-style New Year’s Eve party in Montanita. Free if you sleep on the beach in a tent (doable), just don’t bring valuables.

30. 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. Can be arranged out of my B&B in Guayaquil. $15 per person includes all you can drink.

31. Follow the rarely-visited path of the world-famous indigenous Shuar who were the ones that originated the practice of shrinking the heads of their conquered enemies. Tours now available with local guides through Macas or Zamora. Prices vary.

32. Learn to kayak in the lazy to fierce Andean rivers around the city of Ibarra with Natural Adventures. Prices vary.

33. Devour delicious seafood at the locally-famous “Parque de Mariscos” along the beach in Manta heading towards the airport. Specifically I want to eat a ‘Cazuela’ Soup, an amazing nut-based fish soup truly unique to Ecuador. Cost: $6.

34. Have a 10 minute long conversation in Spanish with a local after a month long Spanish crash course at the highly recommended Galapagos Spanish School in Quito. Cost: one-on-one classes with real teachers start around $6/hr.

35. Dance salsa to afro-latino beats on the white-sand beaches at moonlight in a beach bar near Esmeraldas 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, Ecuador Travel Guides, Expat Lifestyle

How to Fly to Ecuador Dirt Cheap in 2013

fly cheap to ecuador

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

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

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

For some it’s a deal-breaker.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I’m spoiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it! You made it!

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

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

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

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

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