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6 month Conclusions: The Ecuador tiki hut building project

 

OK, so it’s been a bit over 6 months since I finished my Tiki Hut building project on the coast of Ecuador near Montanita.

It’s hard to declare something a success when you finish building it.

You gotta wait and see how it actually rents.  And now, the numbers are in.

3 tiki huts built with oceanviews near Montanita in a little over 6 weeks.  Plus a remodeled ‘budget’ 4 bedroom house with oceanview.

4 VERY different styles.

Well, here are the final conclusions and what I learned renting each and what Id do different next time…

Tiki Hut 1, I bought this All-wooden hut pre-built from a builder I know from the Ecuadorian Amazon, Tena region.  It took 3 days for them to install it on my location elevated a few feet above the ground.  It has a wooden balcony, wooden floor, wooden walls, a “sing”roof, a beautiful oceanview, one bedroom, one bathroom, a sink, kitchenette, mini-refrigerator, WIFI, one queen bed, closet, one full bathroom with a hot electric-powered shower with a tile floor and vinyl-covered walls.

I had to tile the floor myself first laying a small web or rebar, then laying a 5 cm layer of cement, then laying the tile… and then I had to stick vinyl on the bathroom walls with rubber cement as well as install the water and electricity outlets and hook up.   For rent (based on market prices) at $25/ night, $100/week or $250/month, the price is the same for one or two people.

montanita home rentals

wood3

Total build time = 7 days.
Total size = 24 m2 or 258 ft2
Total cost = $3753

Final Conclusions: Should not have included the bathroom within the wooden structure.  Better to build bathroom out back end with cement block and tiling, hut can get very humid and damp after showers.  Size was a bit too small for comfortable living with couples.  At 6m x 4m another meter of width would have helped out a lot.  Would have used different material for roofing cause when it rains it makes a lot of noise and in the sun the metal sing can really heat up.  Amazonian wood holding up good to coastal climate, still cant beat the view from the balcony.  Occupation rate over last 6 months as vacation rental 70%.  A success.

Tiki Hut 2, The budget option with little ocean-view built with a cement floor and cement block with the “Sing” metal sheet roofing so common in this area of Ecuador.  It has WIFI and a mini-stove and bathroom (all in the same room) while the shower is behind a curtain out back.  I hope to rent it to a surfer or backpacker for around $100 a month or $5 a day for shorter time periods.  It’s good enough for me and someone not very picky, I could live there if I needed to live somewhere rent-free.  It is very soviet-esque but comes furnished with bed, table, chair, Wifi internet, electric cooker, sink, and a half bath with the shower around back which does have a curtain.  Currently its listed for rent at $100 a month.


SAMSUNG

Total build time = 6 days. (One Ecuador workweek).
Total size = 16 m2 or 172 ft2
TOTAL COST $892.49

Final conclusions:  This Tiki hut was a bust and by far the hardest to rent.   Occupation rate over last 6 months as vacation rental mainly to younger backpackers, surfers is 12%.  Proves saying if you don’t have the money to do something nice, save your money first.  For most, feels too much like a prision cell with all the cement and lack of windows.  I would not have done this Tiki Hut again if I had a do-over.  At least I have a place I can live rent free if need be.

 

 
Tiki Hut 3, By far the most labor intensive and time consuming, I designed the hut myself based off similar “mixed” models in the area.  Due to inexperience building these types of huts (it was my first time) I made mistakes all along the way that caused me to go about $2k over budget (see the end of this email for details).

By “mixed construction” I mean a building that uses a mix of both eco-materials like bamboo and normal construction materials like cement and brick.  My idea was to build an elevated structure a few feet off the ground with a cement, tiled floor and walls made partially of brick and bamboo.

The roof would have bamboo cross beams and a typical-for-the-area grass roof with a hidden layer of heavy-duty plastic and mosquito netting to keep the bugs out.  The hut would have a balcony, one bedroom, one full bathroom with electric-powered hot shower and a kitchenette area complete with a countertop, sink, mini-refrigerator, one queen bed, closet, WIFI and a dining table for two.  For rent (based on market prices) at $30/ night, $100/week or $250/month, the price is the same for one or two people.


SAMSUNG

brick1

brick2

Total build time = 5 weeks
Total size = 30 m2 or 322 ft2
Total cost = $6557.36
Final conclusions: By far the biggest success of the three.  The size is much more comfortable for a couple as a longer term residence at 6m x 5m, a full meter wider than the wooden bungalow.  Very easy to rent, most folks extend their stay, great for single person longer term or for a couple on a shorter stay.  Average rent 1-2 months as folks explore nearby areas.  Would have built on ground to lower cost of construction by about $1k, would have built balcony larger to convert it almost into a deck for barbecuing, etc.  Occupation rate over last 6 months as vacation rental 84%.

Overall conclusions after renting the huts for 6 months:  If I had to do this project again, I would have built two of the brick/bamboo huts instead of the wooden and cement ones.  I would have hired an architect to manage the building project for me (was very time consuming for me).  And I would have explored 2 bedroom designs cause my far-less-attractive-budget 4-bedroom-oceanview very-Ecuadorian house I found for $15k still rents even better than the huts (at $450-480/mon) because people like the space.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

How I lost $49k overnight in Ecuador

Picture this…

You sell your business. And after paying off your debts put the profit in the bank. A cool $49k.

Then you see on the news your bank, one day working as usual, and the next, closed!

And your moneys gone.

No, its not the 1930s, thats exactly what happened to me this week here in Ecuador.

I had my money in a month-to-month CD making 9% APR in COOPERA LTDA, the “credit union” that closed its doors this week.

What happened was the board of directors was accused of money laundering through several accounts by the government which caused a run on the bank. Then two days later the order came from the government to close shop altogether.

All in a matter of 3 days within this past week.

Didn´t matter the cooperative was one of the largest in Ecuador, had been around almost a decade and had 106,000 accounts opened.

Was this a government take-over or a highly sofisticated, well-planned bank ´buy-in´ where an insolvent bank orchestrates their own sudden demise effectively bailing themselves out? Who knows.

All I know is Im out almost $50k, and it sucks.

But now you know what it cost me about $50k to learn, that you shouldn´t have your money in Ecuador banks or cooperatives, at least any significant amounts.

Don´t do it!

There is a reason Ecuadorians don´t trust their own banks and prefer to store their wealth in real estate.

In foreign countries they´re not dumber or less-developed than you, really, everything is the way it is for a reason. You just gotta stick around long enough to learn it.

So one visa type you should throw out is the investor visa based on a CD worth over $25k… screw that! Best to go the route of real estate.

I´ve always believed it wasn´t how much you had in the bank, but your income stream that can make or break you.

This belief will now be tested considering I just lost all my “liquid” savings and am now starting from zero.

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

The dos and donts of hiring employees in Ecuador

Today is the 6th and final installment in the series “Starting a business in Ecuador”.  

“I’d hire an employee in Ecuador but I don’t want them to sue me.”  I hear a lot.

“Are you dumb or just plain ignant.” I always want to respond.

It’s true, the employment laws are quite different in Ecuador then maybe what you’re used to, and at first glance seem to favor the employee.

But if you hire and fire right like we’ll talk about today you got nothing to worry about.

After you’ve defined your business idea, legally formed your business, found funding, gotten the RUC and permits, now you’re ready to hire employees.

The true beauty of starting a business is that if you can let go a little, you can quite easily form a living entity that will exist and flourish without you.

In Ecuador, like in most third world countries, you can find qualified labor very cheap.

For instance, last year I was managing my business, Hostal Murali, in Guayaquil, until I hired a young bi-lingual local guy to manage the business for me.  All it cost me was a bit over the minimum  wage ($318/month) and I completely extracted myself from the business.  The last few months as an owner I was barely even in the place as I dedicated myself to other things.

And you know what, Murali got even better.

You see, managing nor administration are not my strong-set, in fact, a lot of things aren’t.

It’s important to recognize that and understand there are many folks who can do it better than you.

The beginner entrepreneur always makes the mistake of thinking no one can do their job better than them.

So, what’s the best way to find qualified employees in Ecuador, quick?

– For me, the best way is to publish a ‘wanted employment’ ad in the Sundaypaper where you’re located.  In Quito, try El Comercio, on the southern coast try El Universo, in Cuenca, try El Mercurio. After placing an ad for my newest business, a hotel near the airport in Quito, my phone literally rang off the hook for two full days.

– Publish an ad online at computrabajo.com.ec or multitrabajos.com , those are two local favorites.  But be WEARY, dont put your personal cell number or email on these sites cause they will stay up there forever!  Get an email and a cell number only for the employee search, then ditch it.

How to hire employees legally in Ecuador?

To hire an employee in Ecuador, first you need to obtain your RUC, or tax ID number form the SRI, like we covered recently in a previous letter.  Than the easiest way is to get an accountant who will draw up the employment contract and register it in the Ministry of Labor (Ministerio de Trabajo) and help you affliate your employee to the Ecuador social security system IESS under your name or company.  I found an account that did both for me for one employee for a total of $50.  From that point on you will need to withhold about 9% of their salary and pay it to the IESS and you as the business owner will have to pay 12% on top of that in their name.  For an employee you have making the minimum wage in Ecuador ($318/month) that comes to around $50 a month you will have to pay for each employee you have.

What are your legal responsibilities to the employee?

In Ecuador, as mentioned above, you will need to pay 12% of the employees salary to the IESS each month, you will also need to pay the employee two bonus payments, the DECIMO TERCERO and DECIMO CUARTO, each are aqual to a full month of salary.  One is paid in December and the other is paid in the “back to school ” month (In the highlands this is August, on the coast it is March).  Also, once a year you will need to pay your employees a fraction of the on-the-books earnings of the business called UTILIDADES.  That’s about it.

How to fire employees without getting sued?  

Many employees in Ecuador after being let go fire their past employers.  It’s kind of an epidemic but they can’t get anything out of you if you follow the above rules and have proof you are current in their regular and bonus payments.  Upon firing an employee, or them deciding to quit, in Ecuador you have to pay them a final LIQUIDATION (liquidación).  The amount of this payment varies on how long they have worked for you and how high their salary was.  To give you an idea a friend of mine making $800 a month got fired from his job where he had worked for 6 years and they paid him around $7,000 dollars in liquidation. There is a formula that an accountant can help you with.

I recommend to do all the above with an accountant in Ecuador and even if a prior employee does sue you, if you affiliated them, paid them and their affiliation on time, paid the necessary bonuses and paid what you needed to pay in liquidation, they can sue all they want but they aren’t going to get anything from you.

That’s it, right from the mouth of an experienced business owner with employees in Ecuador… hire someone in Ecuador, you’ll be glad you did, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences.

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

What you wont be good at in Ecuador

This is the 5th installment in the “Starting a Business in Ecuador” Series.

The next big step in starting your business in Ecuador is a fun one… buying stuff.

Furnishing it… in other words.

And it’s important you understand something before you attempt it.

No matter how long you live in Ecuador, no matter how well you speak Spanish… you’re still a foreigner, and locals will know it as soon as you open your mouth or maybe even when they see you a mile away.

You have to accept the fact that there are certain things we just cant do as well as the locals… like get the best prices on many things.

You can live in denial if you want to, or you can accept this and take measures to protect yourself against it like using a trusted local to do a lot of the shopping for you.

At 5’6, I’m short.

I have to accept the fact I will never be good at reaching things that are high up. I just won’t.

And you and I, being foreigners in Ecuador, very often just won’t be able to truly pay the prices the locals pay.

I aquaint this like when a guy goes into a gay club… they either going to get ya’ on the front end, or up the back… but be sure, they going to get ya’.

Particularly, when a foreigner buys at an open market in Ecuador, unless you really know what you’re doing, they going to get ya’ on either the price or the quality.

Never fails.

Keep this truth in mind before you go spend thousands of dollars on furniture, equipment and other items for your business, you could save yourself thousands.

Trust me, I know, after less than a week of my new business Quito Airport Suites being open, a bed rail broke, causing me to replace all of them with more sturdy ones, I had bought bad, in an open market in Ecuador. And it cost me a few hundred bucks.

Buyer beware, this aint Walmart anymore Dorothy.

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The $200k fu*k up in Ecuador


Today is the 4th installment in the series “Starting a business in Ecuador”.

“Damn, that sucks for that guy.” I said, standing across from a mentor of mine, an older Ecuadorian friend.

“Yep, it does.” He responded in Spanish.

We were in the street looking at a sparkly new hotel finished to the tee, but vacant and empty.

The location was great in the northern part of Guayaquil. The building was nice. They must have invested somewhere around $150-200k just in the construction.

And they could have done very well.

Yet why was the place vacant?

They couldnt get their permit.

You see, in Ecuador, before you start any street-side business that will require a sign, you will need to get a permit from the local Municipality called a “permiso de funcionamiento”.

After you determine your funding source, decide on your legal business type, and get your RUC, the next step in Ecuador when starting a new business should be to get your permit from the municipal.

Most foreigners think there are no zoning laws in Ecuador, actually there are, they just may be looser than what you’re used to in your home country.

Without a permit, yes, they can shut you down.

But…

I’ve seen that on the coast of Ecuador and in the countryside all over the country it is much easier to get business permits and not as necessary as in the big cities like Quito or Guayaquil. But its still a good idea.

The permit is granted based on the tax ID number of the property (predio), so if you’re renting a place that had a previous business similar to the one you want you might already be good.

Specifically in the bigger cities, if the property is zoned residential, like the beautiful, yet vacant building I was standing in front of in Guayaquil, it could be VERY difficult to get business permits for certain businesses.

In this case, someone invested heavily in the building I was standing in front of without securing the proper permit ahead of time. Now due to being zoned residential, it was too late.

To figure out what a property is zoned for request the USO DEL SUELO of the property before you invest heavily.

Now, the use of the property or USO DEL SUELO can be changed, but it can be tedious and expensive to do so.

Money talks in Ecuador, in these cases a good lawyer with contacts just might be worth their weight in gold.

I’ve seen that if zoned correctly, most permits can be very cheap (often under $100) and usually take around 2 months to get approved.

No big deal.

The Municipal is the first place you should start. When applying for their permit they will tell you based on your business type what other permits are necessary. For instance, for a hospitality business you’ll need to pass inspections by the fire department and the environmental board besides getting the Municipal permit.

You would also need to get registered in the Ministry of Tourism, but this isn’t as urgent as the Municipal permit.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

A necessary evil in Ecuador: How to get your RUC

Today is the 3rd installment in the series “Starting a business in Ecuador”.

 

 

 

After defining your business idea, how you plan to fund it, and what type of legal entity your business will be, the next very important step in Ecuador is obtaining your tax ID number, or “RUC”.

If you’re thinking about ever doing any type of business in Ecuador it all starts with obtaining your “RUC”.

To get your RUC as a foreigner you need to be on any type of visa other than the simple automatic 90 day tourist visa stamp you get if you enter Ecuador with just your passport.

Tourists can get a RUC if they are on the 12-IV visa, applied for at an Ecuador consulate before coming to Ecuador.

If in the country on a visa other than the simple passport stamp (12-X) visa, all you have to do is go to your local SRI office in Ecuador (The IRS of Ecuador) and within a few hours you’ll have your RUC for free by taking a few copies of your passport and current visa and a utilities bill of your current residence in Ecuador (doesn’t have to be in your name).

Once you have your RUC you can get official numbered receipts made in your name, called FACTURAS.

Everyone you sell to will ask for a factura, it is the only way they will be able to write the expense off their taxes.

As a business owner in Ecuador its important to know that for most products you are required to collect a 12% sales tax called the IVA.

The good news is that the SRI is not as quite as sofisticated as the IRS in many ways and most people write off EVERYTHING they buy, right down to the KFC chicken for their kids, and in most cases at the end of the month don’t end up paying much IVA.

At the end of the year there is an income tax based on your gross profit on ECUADOR INCOME called the IMPUESTO A LA RENTA an approximate is the scale below:

up to $8910…you pay $0 tax
$8910-11350…you pay 5% tax
$11350-14190…you pay $122+ 10% tax
$14190-17030… you pay $406+ 12% tax
$17030-34060… you pay $747+ 15% tax
$34060-51080… you pay $3301+ 20% tax
$51080-68110… you pay $6705+ 25% tax
$68110-90810… you pay $10963+ 30% tax
$90810-and up… you pay $17773+ 35% tax

Most people, myself included, have an accountant that helps them sort out and minimize their tax liability in Ecuador but its still good to know what you are getting into.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Funding your Ecuador start up through the backdoor

You don’t need money to start a business.

You need balls.

It’s true, for the right idea, the money seems to appear.

I arrived in Ecuador a little over a year and a half ago… a few thousand in debt from years of travel abroad.

Upon arrival I rented a hole-of-a-room in Quito with a shared bath for $60/month.

IMG_0021

So how’d I get the money for my first venture, an intermediate-priced hostal in Guayaquil?

I used the good credit I had established to that point in my life to apply for several low-interest credit cards.  About 6 of them. I then paid a friend to their PayPal account to turn the money on the cards to cash.  It cost 2.2% in fees but cash advances had much higher interest rates than purchases.

Then I got a personal unsecured line of credit from my bank in the US for $15k.  If you’ve been a bank customer for a while just ask and you’ll probably get one too.

And I picked up a partner.  Not just anyone, but an Ecuadorian friend of mine who also happened to be a hotelier.

And off I went.

Then I sold that business after a little over a year, and started a new hotel near the airport in Quito.  

To buy the furniture, I pre-sold my product before I was open… in the form of coupons for future stays at a discounted rate.

It worked.

So well in fact my long time payment processor closed my account without prior notice cause they didn’t understand the spike in sales.  Big pain.

Then I bought most of my expensive furniture in the same places, giving me leverage to negotiate discounts and payment plans.

I looked into business loans for foreigners in Ecuador.

But the options were slim to none for a new arrival.  The big banks require you spend a certain amount of time in the country AND that you have your residency before they will even touch you.

Ultimately, I did find one institution that would lend a foreigner money for a business start up… my Ecuadorian credit union… Coopera Ltda.  The Coopera typically loans money to small businesses and if you have at least a few months of deposit history with them they don’t care much that you are a foreigner, they’ll lend you money.

Plus, I mean lets face it, your buck goes a lot farther down here in Ecuador.  In the US at my age I would probably be fetching coffee for somebody spending my days in a cubicle surfing sites while planning my next vacation to Latin America.
So there you have it.  You can’t use money as an excuse anymore!  The security you feel as an employee is only an illusion.  Don’t climb the corporate ladder to an $80k a year job or whatever… start multiple income streams that co-exist without you even being there.

And Ecuador is a great place for that!

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

12 must-watch movies to get you hyped for Ecuador

Want to get pumped for an upcoming trip (or move) to Latin America?

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good movie to do the trick.

Here are 12 of my top picks to really get you in the mood for Ecuador (or anywhere south of the border).
yuniol

12. Yuniol – This hilarious Dominican film is based in Santo Domingo and really does a great job showing the cultural divide that separates the rich and poor in a typical Latin American culture and how the two sides interact and in this case how two college kids interact.  Very entertaining.

 

man on fire

11. Man on Fire – This Denzel Washington film gives a great look into one of Latin Americas less attractive sides, the kidnapping trade in Mexico.  Still a great movie for the shots of Mexico.

 

sonar

10.  Soñar no cuesta nada – This Colombian film gives an outstanding look into the corrupt side of Latin America (Colombia in particular) when a group of soldiers finds millions buried in the jungle.  Good movie, a great peek into Colombian culture.

 

get gringo

9. Get the Gringo – This newer Mel Gibson movie is a flick that shows the not-so-commonly-seen side of Mexico from the viewpoint of a gringo inside a jail in Mexico.  Very good movie, highly recommend.

 

rosario
8.  Rosario Tejeras – This classic Colombian film is an outstanding gander into the everyday life of a typical, beautiful, young woman in certain circles in Medellin, Colombia.  Very interesting.

 

motorcycle
7.  The Motorcycle Diaries – Hard not to get excited about South America when watching this film based on a trip Che Guevara took on motorcycle through South America in his youth.  Played by one of the best, Gael Garcia, this film is another must.

 

maria
6. María Llena Eres de Gracia – Another excellent Colombian film, this spot gives a very real, unique look into the world of a female drug runner in Colombia.  No mistake about it, drugs have impacted Latin American culture and this film is a great preview.

 

amor
5. Amores y perros – A Mexican film that is too graphic for most, this movie depicts the underground world of less affluent youth and dogfighting in Mexico.  Still gives an interesting look into mexico Hollywood could never duplicate.

 

once upon a time
4. Once upon a time in Mexico – OK, now the Hollywood action-movie version of Mexico, this film is still a fun look into what we all dream Mexico to be (and it usually doesn’t dissappoint).

 

cantante
3. El Cantante – A captivating film based on the real life of Salsa singer Héctor Lavoe.  I like this movie mainly for the shots of Puerto Rico and the lively Salsa scene in the Caribbean.

 

cap ron

2. Captain Ron – Sincethis movie first came out 20 years ago, every time I watch it gets me excited for my next Latin American adventure.  Based on a typical Chicago family caught in the rat-race who drop everythig to go sail the Caribbean in a crappy boat the father inherited from a little known uncle.

 

 

blow
1. Blow – My all-time favorite movie with a Latin American connection.  This Johny Depp movie is about an ambitious, North American entrepreneur and how he gets neck deep in the drug trade with Latin America.  OK, so he chose the wrong product (drugs), but it’s still an entertaining and almost motivating flick for entrepreneurs going south of the border.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

The first step to starting a business in Ecuador: choosing a business type

There’s a lot of bad information out there on this topic.

And it can cost you thousands.

I for one have been burned due to choosing my business type inconrrectly.

Lawyers are supposed to know the difference, and they’ll say they do.

But most don’t.

The first step to starting any new business in Ecuador is constituting it legally.

So in Ecuador, which business type is best for you?

Here is an overview of your 3 primary options…

Sociedad Anonima:  This is a type of limited liability corporation that is best suited for people who wish to sell shares to raise capital from investors.  This is the only business type permitted on the Ecuador stock exchange.  Shares can be bought and sold without consent of other shareholders and without the use of a notary.  Must have assigned board of directors and present quarterly and yearly balance sheets to government with the aid of a certified accountant.  The legal responsibility of the shareholders is only up to the amount they have invested in the company, their personal assets are not at risk.

Compania Limitada:  Another form of limited liability corporation where a shareholders personal assets are not at risk.  This type of Ecuadorian corporation is usually for family businesses with less shareholders because before one shareholder can sell their shares they must get consent from ALL the other shareholders.  Also, any transfer of shares must be done through a notary public in which case they usually charge around $400 to oversee the transaction.  Must present balance sheets to government and must hire certified account to manage the monthly tax payments who usually charge around $100 a month or more depending on the complexity and sales of your business.

Sociedad Civil:  The easiest form of business to start, this type of business is looked at legally as more of an “entity” and not a “business” for commercial purposes although can be used as such.  The personal assets of the parties involved are at risk if business flops.  In this business type you are given a tax ID number (RUC) like the other business types but you do not have to hire a certified accountant to manage your tax declarations nor do you have to present balance sheets to the government.  Not regulated by the Mercantil Registry like the other business types, the shareholders can act according to what is stipulated in the original contract.

Other fast facts…

Non-resident foreigners CAN create businesses in Ecuador.

For all the above business types you need at least 2 people in the association.

To form any of these businesses a lawyer can assist you from start to finish for the going rate of about $800.

Just like in the US, you can own property in the name of your corporation.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The biggest benefit to being a foreigner in Ecuador is…

Sometimes you just have to play the cards you were dealt.

You have to accept the negatives to being a foreigner in Ecuador (one is that you will NEVER get the same prices for most things that the locals get, no matter how long you live here nor how well you speak Spanish. It is what it is.)

And the positives… like that Ecuadorians tend to trust “gringos” more than they do even other Ecuadorians.

Especially in business dealings.

For me, the biggest benefit of this can be translated to rental deals.

Ecuadorians love to rent to foreigners, particularly North American or European ones, much more than they like renting to other Ecuadorians.

We’re known for taking better care of places and paying more promptly and being more serious about the relationship in general.

And we can use that as a good bargaining chip.

I can often get locals to rent to me without even asking a deposit guarantee, when they normally would ask that. I can get other locals who normally are not interested in renting, to rent to me. Others simply lower their rent price.

Really it works. They want you as a tenant. You have leverage. Use it, ask for discounts, perks, late night massages.

Ok maybe not that last one.

So where would I invest on the coast right now in 2013? Which areas are moving and which aren’t? For that see my full 2013 guide to Property Flipping in Ecuador here (now back online).

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

2 businesses everyone should be into… in Ecuador

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

Hospitality and agriculture.

Agriculture is self-explanatory.

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

And I like hospitality because I like to sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The 14 easiest ways to get robbed in Ecuador

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like that.

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

There’s certainly no tax on money entering Ecuador.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

Sold Hostal Murali, now what?

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

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

It wasn’t even really for sale.

I just got an offer and took it.

Business is business.

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

So what sticks out as big lessons learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Should you rent or buy in Ecuador?

I get this question a lot…

“Should I Rent or Buy property in Ecuador?”

Complicated question, with a simple answer.

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy on the coast, rent in the highlands.

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The Teakwood Business in Ecuador Uncovered

Teak wood is at a premium.

India craves it.

And Ecuador has it.

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

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

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

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

Entry costs: Where best to grow?

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

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

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

The harvest:

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

Projected Operating costs:

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

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

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

Harvest time:

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

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

The sale:

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

The potential profit:

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

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

The kicker:

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

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

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

Recently, I completed my first export from Ecuador. 

Ecuador-themed 2013 wall calendars. 

A big 9 kilo box of them. 

What did I learn? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My calendars arrived. 

They sold.  All good. 

But I underestimated how long they would take to arrive. 

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

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

What pays in Ecuador and what don’t

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

He was right.

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

Yes.

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

No.

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

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

Your own product.

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

I mean…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 things that will shock you in Ecuador

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

…like when…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. The mysterious lack of automatic cars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Expat Lifestyle

How Ecuador compares to the big boys

The first thing people ask me when they meet me is…

So why’d you choose Ecuador?  

Good question. 

Well, here’s how Ecuador compares to the other countries where I’ve lived or spent significant time over the last 10 years.

Here’s my take based on my own experiences, despite my critique i really did enjoy each place listed below…

Spain:  Lived in Madrid for 8 months studying abroad.  In this part of Spain the climate swings from dreadfully cold in winter to scorchingly hot in the summer.  Ecuador has much more mild and steady weather.  Also, quite a few, not all, of the locals in Spain were a bit xenophobic, or rascist towards foreigners, specfically gringos like me, not so in Ecuador.

Hawaii:  Studied and worked here for 1 year.  Hawaii IS paradise, but it is expensive too and this is another place where the locals don’t think too kindly of white “howleys” (people not from Hawaii).  Hawaii is small and I think most can get burned out quick.  Ecuador has more variety like the Andes, Amazon and coast plus it has more things to do.  

San Diego, California:  Lived and worked here for 4 months.  Nice weather, beautiful city, tons to do, friendly people, good tex mex food.  Great place with lots of money to make, really no complaints but real estate and rental prices are really high meaning I would have to take on a job I really don’t like just to keep spinning my hamster wheel just to make it.  I prefer being able to have the time to do what i really want to do in a place like Ecuador.  


Lithuania:  Lived and worked in Vilnius for 1 month.  Too cold for me, if I’m going to be sitting through a snowy winter I better have some mountains to ski nearby.  

Italy: Lived in Ascoli for 1 month. Stunning little town on the Adriatic coast where I spent time with long lost relatives, but how would I make a living and the high prices scare me.  The Ecuador economy seems to be moving faster and i see more opportunities in Ecuador.  


Mexico:   Lived in Chihuahua  for 1 month.  If I weren’t in Ecuador I would probably be in Mexico, I love the place, the food, the culture, the people but I rarely felt “at ease” in most parts of this country. 


Peru:  Lived in Lima for 1 month. The coastline of Peru is akin to the Sahara Desert.  Seriously, all the way down!  I’m talking sand dunes and trash blowing in the wind, cool to visit, but Ill stick with living in Ecuador.  


Bolivia:  Lived in Santa Cruz for about 1 month. Nice place with a lot of variety like Ecuador but with no beach.  Economy particularly bad, don’t think I could make a living here like Im doing in Ecuador unless I worked online.  Ecuador wins.  


Brazil:   Lived in Rio and Porto Alegre for about 1 month.  Beautiful place, really high prices, even more costly than the USA these days, it kind of squeezes the fun out of everything.  I’ll stick with the low costs of Ecuador for now.  


Uruguay:   Lived in Montevideo for 1 month.  In my month living in Montevideo I coudn’t figure out why anyone would want to live there?  The beaches are not tropical like most northern US beaches, and you’re really far from the States.  More organized than Ecuador yes, but Ecuador is more “latin” which to me makes it more interesting.  


Argentina:   Lived in Buenos Aires for 1 month.  Never saw people party until daylight… regularly.  And the beef is as good as advertised, so is the wine, and the country is incredibly diverse but the increased cost of living over the last few years and hyper-inflation is a concern for me here.  


Colombia:   Lived, worked and studied here for 1 year.  Colombia may seduce you at first sight as it did me but the culture struck me as simply “wierd” and “tense” after years and years of violence, the drug trade, and being closed off from the rest of the world.  I’ll stick to the more laid back Ecuadorians any day.  


Philippines:  Lived and worked online here for 5 months.  Dirty.  Poor.  Usually i don’t mind it but this place is on another level.  Hot and flat.  Didn’t like the food.  Nice people though who really like foreigners and try to make them comfortable.  Far away from US.  Makes Ecuador look like Beverly Hills, Ecuador much more developed.  Like in most Asian countries there are restrictions against foreign ownership of land limiting possibilities.

Thailand:   Lived and traveled here in Krabi area for 1 month.  Too on-the-beaten-track for me, just hoards and hoards of travelers.  Beaches are amazing, but language is too difficult, Spanish is easier making it easier to integrate with the locals of Ecuador.  


Malaysia:   Lived in KL for 1 month.  About the next blandest place I’ve seen after my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.  For me, Ecuador has better food, weather, lower prices and more things to do.  


Dominican Republic:   Lived in Santo Domingo for 6 months.  Beautiful beaches and people, vibrant culture and lively music but the public transport was deficient, food was nasty and there were too many guns.  It seemed as though literally every male member of society had one tucked in his pants.  Didn’t make me feel very safe.  Ecuador outlaws guns which for me makes me feel more comfortable than the other extreme which is the DR.  


Vietnam:   Lived in Mui Ne and Hanoi for about 1 month.  Great food!  But here I really felt like a walking dollar sign most of the time, the locals really try to grossly overcharge you whenever they can.  In Ecuador it is not so in-your-face.  


China:   Worked in Shenzhen and Guangzhou for 5 months.  Dont live in southern China in the winter!  You see, the Chinese government outlaws heat in homes below a certain point but trust me, you need heat, its cold, freezing cold inside the apartments in the winter.  I found China hard to get a grip on, I’ve never been more lost, more often as I was there.  Overall I found it good for westerners to make money, but I bet few would consider it a better place to live than their home countries.  


India:  Worked in Bhopal for 1 month.  I’ve never seen so many guys just standing around in the streets all day.  Like most foreigners working in India, one moment I loved india, the next I hated it.  Generally, I felt like a walking dollar sign here while many locals tried to hussle me.  Others were incredily nice inviting me into their home upon meeting them.  Too much of a challenge for me, and too hot, I’ll stick to Ecuador for now.  


Egypt/Israel:   Lived here for almost 1 month.  Countries of extremes and it starts with the people.  Met some incredibly friendly people and the exact opposite, usually within the same day, would not consider this place as one to live in near future.  Politically and socially unstable making me weary about investing.

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

Where’s best for you on the coast of Ecuador?

Like flat oceans good for swimming?  

Or maybe rockin’ waves?  

How about lush green jungle right to the water’s edge?

Or dry-as-a-bone landscapes with low humidity?  

For such a small country, the Ecuador coast has it all… so where should you begin?

Here are my top picks…

flat ocean good for swimming, snorkeling– Salinas, Ayangue, Punta Blanca

surf towns/ good waves– Montanita, Ayampe, Playas, Canoa, Mompiche

Sunniest beaches– San Clemente, Playas

wide, flat beaches good for walking– Playas, Olon, Atacames, Muisne

scuba / hand gliding / kiteboarding / fishing– Ayangue (scuba), Canoa, Crucita (hand gliding), Santa Marianita (kite boarding), Salinas (fishing)

green, lush right up to water edge– Olon, Ayampe, Jama, Mompiche, Muisne, Same, Puerto Cayo

dry, brown, low humidity and less mosquitos– Salinas, Playas, Punta Blanca, Ballenita, Santa Marianita, Manta, Crucita, Machalilla, Cadeate, Valdivia

Quiet spots near the action and shopping– Ballenita, Crucita, Manglaralto, Olon, Canoa, Atacames, Tonsupa

Bigger cities with health care– Salinas+ Santa Elena, Manta, Esmeraldas, Bahia, Pedernales

White sand beaches– Playa Rosada, Muisne, Atacames, Tortuga Bay (Galapagos), Isabela Island (Galapagos)

Palm tree forests to waters edge– Cojimes, Muisne

Established expat community– Salinas, Olon, Puerto Lopez, Manta, Crucita, San Clemente-San Jacinto, Bahia

Off the beaten track/ no foreigners– La Libertad, Chanduy, Palmar, Valdivia, La Entrada, Tunas, Pedernales, Cojimes, Muisne, Esmeraldas

People watch/ women in bikinis, men in thongs/ party towns– Montanita, Canoa, Atacames

Beachfront condos in highrises– Salinas, Manta, Bahia, Tonsupa

Large lots of vacant beach land– Jama area, Cojimes, Muisne

Gated beach communities– Manta area, Salinas area

Beachfront property on smaller lots– Same, San Clemente-San Jacinto, Ballenita, Cadeate, Canoa

Bird and wildlife watching– Isla de la Plata (Puerto Lopez), Everywhere in Galapagos

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

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