Tips & Advice
What items are available here?
A piece of advice I would give to anyone moving down is if you really can’t live without a product that you are accustomed to back home, bring it with you. My fiance and I took a list with us of things that we really like back home like certain coffee creamers, spiced almonds, protein powder, Organic Peanut Butter, Quaker oats, etc. and checked to see if they sold them here. When we found which products they had and didn’t have, we made sure to bring some extras down here with us.
This also goes for your favorite spirits as well. Alcohol down here is a bit on the expensive side because all the regular brands are imported, and that’s if they have your brand at all. I for one like Jameson but it isn’t sold in Ecuador. Because of this I have to bring back bottles when I am traveling to the States or ask a friend who is traveling to bring me back a couple bottles from Duty Free. All that being said, there are plenty of other brands sold here that are actually very good and very inexpensive. For example, if you like Vodka, they have a brand that is 5x’s filtered (same as Belvedere and Grey Goose) and it is under $10 per bottle!
If you are in need any of any legal assistance for property, residency, visas, contracts, vehicle registration or more, then Ingrid Rodriguez is a great lawyer to know. She not only has many years of experience but she is very well connected and speaks perfect English. She is very prompt, attentive and knowledgeable and will be happy to assist you with anything that you need. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 099-843-8829 with any questions or ideas that you may have.
This is something that I get asked about often. People tend to think that Ecuador, because it’s South America, is a hot spot for theft and violence against foreigners. This simply couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my opinion it is no different from many places in the states and in many cases even safer. Now I’m not saying that you want to throw on a bunch of gold, diamonds, sport your biggest Rolex and then go walking through the poorer parts of the area (you wouldn’t do that in the States either), but for the most part you are perfectly safe all over this beautiful country with nothing to worry about at all.
The Language Barrier
With Spanish of course being the national language, if you don’t speak any of it will you hate living here? Not in the least. Now I’m not saying that your living here wouldn’t be even better if you learned some additional Spanish, but you won’t starve if you don’t speak a lick of it. My advice is at least try to adopt the native language, or at least learn the basics, just as you would prefer a foreigner in the states to do. It will not only help you get around and enjoy more of the lifestyle, but the locals will appreciate it as well. And don’t be scared to learn or even ask a local how to say something, they are very friendly and always inviting to help you learn their language.
You have a couple choices for this. The first is to just keep everything in your accounts back home and take out cash from the ATM’s as you need it, use debit and credit cards for any large purchases, and do electronic/wire payments to anywhere else you need to. The other choice is to open an account here in Ecuador. You can do this by either opening an account with $25k and also qualify for obtaining your residency at the same time, or open a small account with as little as $200 dollars and do with it as you wish. This option will run you around $50-$200 to have a lawyer set it up for you and it is recommended to have one help you.
It's not what you know it's WHO you know
This is something that will make your life even better here. In other words, don’t be afraid to get out and meet people, yes even the locals, actually especially the locals. Unlike back in the States where if you ask someone for help they look at you like you have three heads, here it is common practice and everyone is happy to assist you! If you need something, ask someone if they know where to find it or how to do it. You will be surprised at just how friendly people are and eager they are to help you. In my opinion getting out it is a great way to get familiar with the area and the locals by reaching out to them and making new friends and acquaintances.
If you need any additional assistance with things like getting a vehicle registered, drivers license, extended visas, residency paperwork etc I know a couple great people who can help you.
Buying a vehicle
This is really a personal preference. Many people move here and never buy a car. Taxi’s can take you anywhere in town for $2-$6 dollars and buses are plentiful as well for 50cents.
That being said, if you would like to purchase a vehicle you may of course do so. Vehicles here are one of the few things though that are a bit more of a premium here. Because they are mainly imported, they will have a much higher tax added to the cost. For example: A car selling for $25k in the states, will probably run you around $35-$40k here.
The main website I would use when looking for cars is called www.patiotuerca.com The website is in Spanish but still easily navigated if you don’t speak Spanish. There you will find anything from new cars to used cars and pretty much any make and model you are looking for. The best area to buy a car would probably be Quito or Cuenca in my personal opinion due to the vehicles in those areas generally being in better condition.
When we originally moved here, we hopped a plane bound for Quito the very next day to go truck shopping. I had previously set up a few appointments with owners of vehicles I was interested in seeing, I hired a personal driver in the area to take us around for the weekend (only $45 for 2 days), and by the end of the trip we found a great truck at a great price. Plus it was a great experience driving back home and all the interesting things we saw along the way.
Just like back in the states it’s not what you now it’s who you know and a good mechanic is hard to find. Long story short, if you buy a car and ever need a mechanic, just let me know and I will introduce you to mine. He is by far one of the best mechanics I have ever had in my life. He is very reputable, honest and hard working. He goes out of his way to make sure that his clients are more than satisfied and he also guarantees his work.
Getting the best prices for goods and services
This section is to inform people that just because a price is marked or given doesn’t mean that is what the final price is. Unlike in the States where there is usually no discussion when it comes to the price of an item or quote for a job, here it is expected and done regularly. For example, if you see an article of clothing you wish to purchase and the vendor tells you $10 dollars, don’t be afraid to throw out an offer of $6 and see what happens. Most of the time if you hold your ground they will go ahead and give it to you at a discounted price.
Understand as well that most locals know what most other locals elsewhere in the world know about gringos…we will generally pay more for an item and have no problem with it. That being said and don’t take offense, but they might be giving you a bit of a gringo price because they think you have extra money and can afford it so why not try to make a couple extra bucks.
So whether you are buying some extra clothes, souvenirs or getting a bid to have your condo painted, go ahead and negotiate until you feel you got the best price. Not only will it help to save you a few dollars, but just as important it will also ensure to help keep prices reasonable and not get out of control just because the gringos decided to move here.
This is one I get pretty regularly when we are out and about. (First thing to do is check your bill to see if they already charged you a tip.) The typical Ecuadorian establishment already pays their workers to serve you so usually there is no tip needed. However my personal feeling is to at least throw an extra couple dollars to a good waiter or service provider if they did a good job. If you are at a fine dining restaurant then it is usual to tip 10%.
I know many of you will want to tip more than that just because we are used to that in the States and you want to be extra nice to those less fortunate but you could do more harm than good. One of the things that typically happens in situations such as these is that as Americans start tipping more and paying more the local business owners realize they can charge more for goods and services and then the prices everywhere start to increase. So best to just not mess with the system and keep things cheap for not only other experts but for the local Ecuadorians as well.
When in Rome right? Exactly! Your best way to really enjoy the area is to start learning Spanish. There are two main choices you have to learn the native dialect: #1 you can practice and learn by immersing yourself into your new surroundings. Get out as often as possible, listen to the locals and try to converse whenever and wherever you can. You will be surprised just how much you can learn and how quickly you can do it. #2 is by enrolling in Spanish classes. There are several good schools that will be happy to help you and the best part is they are very affordable. Most private classes only run about $5 per hour and you can pick the days and times that work best for you.
Some people move here and never learn any Spanish at all so it is of course up to you just how much you choose to participate. But my honest opinion is that if you don’t learn at least some of the basics, you will really be missing out on much of what is available here.
What to pay taxi drivers?
Taxis usually cost no more that $1-$5 to take you anywhere in the city. The best way to handle it is to only use the yellow taxis. They just recently installed meters in those taxis and the meters are very fair. If a driver does not turn on his meter when you get in the cab simply ask him to turn it on for you and he will. Taxi drivers for the most part are great so fear not, but just in case you get one that wants to try to charge you a bit more for the ride then you think is fair, simply tell him “no”, tell him what you think is fair and pay that. On the off chance that he still wants to stick with his story, just tell him to call the police and watch how fast he just takes what you are offering.
If you prefer, we know and deal with a few English speaking taxi drivers that are great guys and will be happy to help you. Feel free to ask me for their phone numbers and I will gladly pass them on. Call them at anytime and they will come and get you and take you wherever you need to go.
Getting a cell phone set up
Getting a cell phone set up here is really pretty easy. There are only two main companies that provide service and they are Claro and Moviestar. Both are good but I have found that most expats use Claro and that is what Tiffany and use as well.
My recommendation on cell phones is to bring one with you. Customs will allow one per person without any additional taxes. Make sure that whatever cell phone you bring with you is available to work outside the US. Providers like AT&T, T-Mobile are the best.
If you don’t currently have a cell phone with one of those two companies don’t fret, I had the same issue when we were getting ready to move down. All I did was sell my Sprint phone (via craigslist.com) and then purchase another used T-Mobile phone (again through craigslist.com). When we got here we took both our phones (one T-Mobile and one AT&T) to the Claro store in the mall and they unlocked them for use here in Ecuador. The price for cell phones can be a bit steep here if you want a smart phone like the Galaxy S5 or I-Phone so I would recommend you get them in the States and bring them with you. If not, you can find a basic phone here with frills for around $40-$50 dollars.
Once you have you phone connected you can choose between a yearly contract or pay by the minute. Most people do the pay by the minute as it is the easiest way to go. Plus the local Supermaxi grocery stores do a special on Saturdays whereby you get 50% additional minutes for every minute you by. For example if you put $30 dollars on your phone they will give you $45 worth.