I receive many emails each day with various questions about living and moving to Ecuador. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions. I hope this helps you along the way and feel free to send through an inquiry should you have another type of question.
Although I believe the information to be true, it is not guaranteed. Remember rules and regulations change very quickly in Ecuador. If in doubt please consult an Attorney or Financial Advisor.
If you have a question that you would like other expats to answer CLICK HERE
Q – Do I need a Visa to visit Ecuador?
A – A visa is not required for U.S. and Canadian, Australian or European citizens in most cases. However for the rest of the world, if you are not sure, check on your nearest Ecuadorian Embassy or consulate if you need a visa. For all cases, you must carry a passport that is valid for at least the next six months for a stay of up to 90 days during a 12-month period. Your driver license, in case you wish to rent a car (only on major cities) are accepted as long as your visa lasts
Q – What if I want to stay beyond 90 days in Ecuador?
A –.if you wish to stay longer than 90 days you will need to obtain a 12-IX visa or you may wish to apply for a permanent residency visa. I advise that you consult your Embassy or Consulate.
Q – How do I apply for permanent residency?
A – You can apply for a permanent residency visa whilst on your tourist visa. But I would suggest you start it immediately on entering Ecuador as things take longer than they say here to get done. If you are doing the above it needs to be lodged 30 days before the expiration of the visa that you already have.
To do this you will need several document which will be required to be original and in some cases certified (notarized) and apostilled. This you would have to check with your Attorney.
Some documents will need to be authenticated by the Ecuadorian Consul in your country. Documents may also need to be translated into Spanish. To be able to do this you will require an address whilst living in Ecuador. This address can always be changed at immigration later.
Pensioner Visa. Your income needs to be legalized by the Ecuadorian Consulate in USA. The Income has to be minimum $800 per month. An additional $100 per dependant.
For a married couple you will be required to have an apostilled Marriage Certificate.
Investor Visa – If you have $25,000 invested in a property in Ecuador as a single person you can apply for residency. For married couples it is $26,000. (Note: When you are purchasing a property the amount for residency depends on the stamped valuation of the property. In Ecuador they generally stamp about 40% less of the purchase price. Make sure that you have enough in the stamped amount to apply)
You can also deposit the money into a Cash Deposit in Ecuador. You would need to make sure that you can afford to leave it there as once you take it out you would have to reapply for residency.
In all fairness rules and regulations change with the wind in Ecuador and it will always be important that you seek your own advice through one of the residency Attorneys in Ecuador.
Please note: A resident visa does give you residency in Ecuador but you are not to leave the country for more than 90 days in the first two years and not longer than 18 months after your second year of residency. After three years of residency you can apply for an Ecuadorian passport.
For more information contact US Consulate Guayaquil
Q – What can I expect when I arrive at the airport in Ecuador?
You will arrive into Quito or Guayaquil International Airports with modern terminals. After you pass customs, it is easy to get a taxi inside the airport, do not take a taxi outside the airport area. Take care of your personal belongings at arrival and departure (in case you take a domestic flight) especially at bathrooms
Language Spoken in Ecuador
Q – What is the language spoken?
A - Spanish – FREE SPANISH LESSONS Spanish and Quiche are the national languages, but many other dialects are spoken by many indigenous populations. English is widely spoken, mainly on places frequented by visitors and tourists.
Q – Do I need to know Spanish?
A – Many people speak English but it is advisable to have some Spanish words under your belt. A program I have used is Visual Link Spanish.
Q – What is the Currency in Ecuador?
A – The US Dollar is the national currency. All credit cards are accepted in major shopping malls and handicrafts stores all over Ecuador. You can use your credit card to withdraw money from ATM machines located everywhere in major cities, all international credit cards are compatible. The most common credit card is Dinners Club followed by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and some others. Travel checks are accepted with some restrictions. Personally I would not advise bringing travelers checks.
Q – What about TAXES & TIPING?
The governmental tax is 12% (IVA) and applies on most cases for goods that visitors buy. An extra 10% applies for services at restaurants. By law, the 12% IVA tax is included on all prices for the public. A tip on a restaurant must be no lower than 10% of the total (Applicable when 10% service charge is not considered on the bill). For guides, US$ 10 to US$ 20 per day is expected. Drivers are tipped with US$ 5 - US$ 7 per day. Taxi drivers are not commonly tipped. It is a good idea to have lots of change as most business’s and taxi drivers cannot change a $10 or $20 bill.
Weather in Ecuador and Cuenca
Q – What is the climate in Ecuador?
A – Due to the location in the middle of the world, there are no marked seasons. The country has four regions with different climates.
The Galapagos Islands offer a pleasant sub-tropical climate and an average temperature of 75°F year-round. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the hot rainy season (from December to May) and the colder garua season during the remaining months of the year.
The Coast tends to be dry and hot in the south to more tropical and humid in the north. Temperatures vary from 75°F-88°F. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the rainy season (from December to May) and the dry season during the remaining months of the year.
The Andes climate varies according to the altitude. Although the region is said to experience a sub-tropical climate throughout the year, visitors will find a variation from hot in the south to temperate to cold in the north, especially in the higher altitudes. Temperatures can be between 45°F- 55°F in the north to 55°F-65°F in the south.
The Amazon is generally warm and humid. Although the region experiences rain and mild temperatures between 70°F-80°F throughout the year, it also has a dry season from October through December when temperatures can get into the upper 80's.
Remember always to have a jacket! It is common that you might experience the four seasons in one day! UTC/GMT is -5 and Galapagos is -6. There is no daylight savings plan.
Being on the equator you can pick the climate of your choice. For best results please go to Wunderground
Flights to Ecuador
Q – How do I fly into Ecuador?
A – Travelers to Ecuador from the U.S. can choose from a number of U.S. and Latin American airlines. These are American Airlines, Avianca, Continental Airlines, COPA, Delta Airlines, LAN, Mexicana and TACA. European carriers, Iberia, KLM, Air Madrid and Air Europa flight daily from Amsterdam and Madrid to Quito and Guayaquil. Non-stop flights depart from New York, Miami, Madrid and most Latin-American capitals.
Ecuador's national airline, TAME offers good service between all major cities in Ecuador, operating numerous daily flights between Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil as well as serving the Galapagos Islands. Other national airlines include Icaro, Aerogal, and Saereo which offer flights to several cities and towns along the Coast and the Andes, as well as the Amazon and Galapagos Islands. LAN also now operates throughout Ecuador.
A – You can take a domestic flight from either Quito or Guayaquil to arrive in Cuenca. Alternatively you can also take a bus.
Q – Transportation on Land throughout Ecuador?
A - As most roads are paved, buses are fast becoming a popular and convenient means of transportation. In addition, since the country's main attractions are within a day of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, bus transportation can be the most inexpensive option for travelers on a budget. Most bus companies have modern, air-conditioned buses. Clients should be advised to travel by day, since there's less risk of an accident. Because Ecuador is small and has a good network of roads and highways, ground travel within the country is easy and quick, well most of the time.
In Ecuador, taxis are safe as well as readily available, inexpensive (a 10 minutes ride will cost no more than US$ 3.00) and mostly clean. They are all wired with radio frequencies and might be called by phone from hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers are courteous and most of them will speak at least a few words in English. This mode of transportation is an excellent option when visiting main cities and towns. We highly recommend agreeing on fairs before hiring the service.
When in a city like Cuenca you can even get to know the taxi driver and get his number if he works your area. They are happy to come and pick you up from your residence.
Trains in Ecuador are more of an attraction than an efficient mean of transportation. The most popular journey is from Riobamba to Devil's Nose, where the train climbs through a very narrow path to the top of a cliff and then descends a steep slope zigzagging back and forth-a truly hair raising experience.
Driving in Ecuador is also a good option in tourist areas. Outside less frequented parts of the countries drivers can get lost since the road signage is not that adequate. When renting a car, drivers should closely follow a road map. Major car rental companies with offices at the Quito and/or Guayaquil international airports are Avis, Budget and Hertz.
Q – What about Travel Insurance?
A - Ecuador is a developing country; therefore we might suddenly suffer from peaceful minor to major strikes which might include roads blockades that will alter your itinerary. It is recommended to get a travel insurance in order to avoid cancellation fees, in case you decide not to travel, or incur on higher expenses while trying to complete your itinerary, for example, if you must take a flight. Insurance is also recommended for medical reasons; medical attention is expensive at private hospitals. Make sure your travel insurance is valid outside you home country.
Q – Is it easy to get around Cuenca?
A – Yes – you can walk to most places. A cab to most areas around the city is around $2. The most you may ever pay is around $4. Bus fares are around 25cents.
Q – Is there a good bus route in Cuenca?
Yes the bus routes are excellent at 25 cents per trip. A great website to check out the routes at http://cuencabussherpa.com/.
Q – What are communications like with a cell phone or other in Ecuador?
A -For calling from the U.S., dial 0-11 (593) plus the local area code, followed by the number. Local area codes are: Quito (2), Cuenca (7), Guayaquil (4), Galapagos (5), and all cellular phones, (9). Inside Ecuador, each province has its own area code as detailed above but you must add a (0) before the code number. Mobile phone has good reception and is extremely modern, roaming is available for many international phone operators Check with you mobile phone service provider to see if you can use a cell phone in Ecuador. GSM (with or without chip) and TDMA are the most used systems.
Q – What about Cell Phones?
A – There are two different Cell Phone companies. Movistar and Porta. Again it depends on your personal preference although Porta seems to work better in country and coastal areas. You can purchase a cell phone for as little as $30. Then you can buy pre-paid cards for use of the phone with either of the companies above.
Q – Can I get the internet?
A – In Cuenca we have found the internet to be of a high standard. There are several different companies to choose from and you will need to ask around to find out which one will suit you. The cost is approximately $56 per month. But check with the individual providers.
Q – What is the electricity voltage in Ecuador?
A – Ecuador uses 110/120 AC 60 Hertz. Plugs have two flat pins, like the ones in the U.S. Power converters and plug adapters are available for purchase in electronic stores. Main hotels frequented by international tourists use the same 110/60-cycle current as in the U.S. For European and Asian devices you might need an energy converter.
Q – Can I drink the water from the tap?
A – In Cuenca the water supply is excellent. BUT I would not recommend drinking from it if you have only just arrived. Our stomachs tend to have to get adjusted and it is advisable to drink from bottled water. As the water still contains fluoride we drink bottled water which we have delivered once a week. For washing food etc the tap water is fine.
Q – What is the price of gas?
A – It varies like anywhere but the last time I checked it was around $ 1.48 per gallon.
Q – Is food expensive?
A – Fresh produce from the markets is very inexpensive and I have found that most items in the Supermarket is reasonable. You will pay quite a bit more though for imported goods. In the markets you can buy a whole basket full of goodies for around $10. Again it depends on the individual and your lifestyle.
Q – Can I bring my pet into Ecuador?
A – Yes you can. I believe there are certain requirements that you will need to get done, such as vaccinations for your pet etc. I would consult your Embassy and airline that you will be traveling with.
Q – Can I bring my car?
Ecuador has recently passed a law that allows cars to be shipped in the same container as your household goods. You must prove that this is pure personal possessions. This will then allow the foreigner to be exempt from import taxes and fees.
The conditions are that you are already a resident in Ecuador. You then have six months to bring you items in one container into Ecuador without paying taxes.
These rules and regulations change all the time so please consult with a relocation or shipping person for up to date information.
If you are bringing a car in a container then bear in mind the following. The car can be exempt from all import tariffs and taxes if it is a maximum of four years old and has a current appraised value of $20,000 and a maximum 3000cc motor. If it is older and or more powerful than 3000cc you cannot bring it in. Again check to make sure that this has not changed.
You will need your original receipts of purchase for the vehicle and in the case of a used car it will have 20% depreciation per year.
Ecuadorians are all for bringing in Hybrid cars at the moment. BUT it has to be new. If importing it in then you will pay 20% tax plus 5% import duty. The duty varies according to cc.
A – Once you have become a resident there is a certain amount of time that you are allowed to bring in a container of furniture etc. As we did not do this I would suggest you contact someone who deals with this type of business. For further advice on relocation of goods please CLICK HERE.
Q – Can I expect good Dentistry and is it expensive?
A – Yes you can get inexpensive and good quality work done in Ecuador. For Cuenca CLICK HERE and you can send through an inquiry form.
A – There are many English speaking Doctors in Ecuador and highly trained specialists.
Q – What is hospital care like in Ecuador and is it expensive?
A – Ecuador and especially Cuenca, has some of the most modern state of the art equipped hospitals. CLICK HERE for more information. Surgical procedures and hospital stays in Ecuador are probably far less than you would pay in the US.
Q – Will I be able to buy my prescription drugs in Ecuador?
A – Yes and if they don’t have your brand name there will be a generic brand at a far lower cost than you are probably used to.
Q – Are there Health Food Stores in Ecuador?
A – Yes but they are a little different to how we know the Health Food Stores. There are natural product stores where you can buy all sorts of Vitamins and minerals. I would say that mostly everything is available. Sometimes it just takes a little extra time to find them.
Q – Can I buy Real Estate in Ecuador?
A – A foreigner can buy real estate in Ecuador and receive a free title their new purchase. I would strongly advise that you seek an Attorney to help with your purchase and to make sure that the land is free of all encumbrances and that the person you are buying from actually owns the land.
Q – Should I work with a local Realtor?
A – I strongly advise that you work with a local Realtor who of course can speak English. The reason being is that you are a “Gringo” who is purchasing a property and from a locals point of view you could also be a target for a higher price. A Realtor will get you the price you want to pay in most cases.
Q – How do I know which Realtor to choose?
A – You don’t. But in Cuenca, Cotacachi and the coast I can certainly help with recommendations.
Q – What is the “Buyers Agents Commission” and who pays for it?
A – When we bought our apartment we were charged a 5% commission on the final purchase price which is paid to the Realtor. As we were not used to this we questioned why we had to pay the commission. You pay a commissioner to the Realtor for doing all the leg work and legalities and negotiations on your behalf. Unless you can speak fluent Spanish then I would advise you go ahead and pay it. It is well worth the price as we found out. We would never have been able to do the legalities or negotiations on our own.
You as the buyer do not pay the Sellers commission. That is paid by the Seller to the Realtor or in some cases the realtor does not take it because they are already receiving a Buyers Commission. It depends on who you are working with and I would advise that you ask the questions.
In Cuenca I can certainly recommend a Realtor who only acts on the buyer’s behalf and does not “double dip” and receive a Sellers commission as well. He will work to reduce the purchase price to help YOU the buyer. If you need a referral just send through a contact form.
Q – What are the taxes on a property like in Ecuador?
A – Depending on the price of the property that you have purchased, generally no more than $100 per annum.
Q – What about rental properties?
A – In Cuenca there is quite a demand for rental properties as more foreigners arrive each month. It is a great idea to rent before you buy. This does give you the chance to see if you like it enough to want to purchase a property. Just remember while you are pondering on whether to buy or not prices will change or that much loved property you have had your eye on has sold.
Q – Can I get Direct TV?
A – Yes and I believe it depends of the package you buy as to how many stations you can view. But you do have movie channels like HBO and Max. The news channels like CNS, BBC, and Fox Life. There are also the Discovery channels and I know you can get good sports channels because a friend of mine is an avid sports fan.
Q – Can I do Business in Ecuador?
A – Doing business in Ecuador is not as easy as you think. Make sure you get plenty of advice and appoint a good Attorney. I have heard some horror stories about foreigners being ripped off by locals even though they thought they trusted the local person they were doing business with. A good site to visit is “Doing Business” measuring business regulations around the world.
Q – What are the business hours in Ecuador?
A - Public offices are open from 08:30 to 13:00 and from 14:30 to 18:30 from Monday to Friday. Malls and other commercial business are open till 21:00 and some shopping malls operate 24/7.
Q – What is the Ecuador Legal System Civil or Common Law?
A – The Ecuadorian Legal System is based on Civil Law. Most westerners are used to the Common Law System. CLICK HERE for more information.
Q – What about crime?
A – Of course crime exists like in any country all over the world. Foreigners are targets and all I can say is that you need to be aware when moving around. Luckily I have never been robbed and have never felt unsafe walking around Cuenca.
Q – I have children. Do they have International Schools?
A – Yes here are a list.
Santa Ana http://www.santana.edu.ec/
Colegio Aleman - http://www.casc.edu.ec/portal/
Asian American School - http://www.aaschool.edu.ec/home
Bilingue - http://www.mibilingue.com/
Bell Academy - http://bell-academy.edu.ec/
Verbo – http://verbocuenca.org/
Q – Where are the Gringo Nights in Cuenca?
A - The most popular Gringo Night get-togethers of expats and English-speaking visitors in Cuenca are on Friday night at
Zoe, Borrero 7 - 61 at Sucre, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Café Eucalyptus, Gran Colombia 9 - 41 at Malo,
Inca Lounge and Bistro, on the Barranco just east of Malo, and the
Terrace Bar and Grill, Av. Del Estadio 1 - 36 at Astudillo.
Here are some more questions received from Subscribers
Q - Is there a problem with spiders in the higher elevations like Cuenca?
A - Judy, because Cuenca is 8,000 feet above sea level and up in the mountains it is quite hard for insects to survive. In all our time I have seen a fly and maybe a mosquito and I guess there are spiders but never in our apartment and I certainly have not walked through spider webs on outings. Maybe others can let us know their experience.
Q - Banking. If I have a planned presence in and between both countries then what Banks operate in both countries?
A – Carlo, I am not sure there is such a Bank but I suggest you contact Vazcorp as they would definitely be able to tell you.
Q - 1 What is the average high and low temps in Cuenca? 2 Is there a windy season there? I mean a time when the wind blows continually at a high velocity.
A – Albert, 1. In Cuenca you can experience 4 seasons in one day. To put an average hi and low is quite difficult. I know that each day can be very pleasant and some days may go as high as 30 Celsius and I have seen temps as low as 13 Celsius in one day. Around the city there are large Temperature signs and this is how I can see what the temperature is when I am walking around. I know that September and October this past year (2010) was the coldest that I have felt it to be in Cuenca. Locals mentioned the same thing. 2. These and November are known to be quite windy months. Again it seems to be changing as well. It can be windy but then all of a sudden it can be calm. Like I mentioned above we can experience a change of 4 seasons in one day. You need to experience it here to know what I am talking about.
Q - I have heard that most purchases of property requires cash. I also heard if a loan can be obtained, up to 30% down is required and at high interest rates with very sort terms. Not the usual 15 or 30 years here in the US. What is your experience in this?
A - Steve, Yes for a foreigner to buy a property it must be paid for in cash. You mention a down payment of 30%. The only time you pay a down payment of 30% is for a pre-construction. Then over a period of the next 12 months you make monthly installments and a final payment on completion of the project. Currently there is no financing available for foreigners who purchase a property in Ecuador.
Q - Can I get coconut oil and coconut flour in Cuenca? Do you know where one can get a good psyllium powder?
A – George, Unfortunately you are not able to buy Coconut oil or flower in Ecuador. We generally always asked someone who was coming in to bring it for us. I also have not seen Pysillium Powder but could be wrong.
With such an abundance of coconuts on the coast you would think someone may go into the industry of manufacturing coconut oil. This is definitely a business waiting to be done.
Q - How do you transfer money to Ecuador before you have opened a bank account in Ecuador?
A – George - the only way you can transfer money safely is to have an appointed Attorney in Ecuador who will take your funds into their trust account. For more information you may wish to contact Vazcorp who are a banking institution in Ecuador. At the bottom of the page is an inquiry form. Send it through with your request.
Q - Is it dangerous to take a taxi in Cuenca? I have read that you need to call specific companies ahead of time and not to hail a taxi on the street. Another question: Is it safe to travel along the coast in Ecuador, safe from a health standpoint. We have read about Dengue fever and malaria, etc., etc. Thank you so much for your help.
A – Susan, In the two and a half years that I have lived in Cuenca I have never worried about stepping into a taxi alone. I do have a special driver who we use if he is available as he speaks English and works around the area we live in. But normally I go out alone a lot and am happy to hail a cab and hop in.
As for traveling along the coast. Again we have never had any problems but that does not mean things don’t happen. I think it is a matter of knowing where you are and what transport you are taking etc. As for Dengue fever and malaria, there are signs along the coast with these warnings.
I lived on and off on the coast for 4 months and traveled sometimes on my own back to Cuenca in public transport and never felt unsafe or in any danger. If you take the big bus operators you should be fine. I believe if you worry too much then you won’t have a good time. It is not as if you are going to be robbed on every corner. Far from it. But of course you must always be aware of your surroundings and be careful with what you carry on your person. Foreigners are targets where every you travel.
Q - Is it possible for a U.S. licensed acupuncturist and RN to practice acupuncture in Ecuador.
A – David, I am not a qualified professional to advise you about this and I would suggest that you contact the Hospitals or an Attorney to advise you.
Q - Because it can get cold, can you buy a room heater or what do you recommend? Can you buy flannel sheets? Where can I buy good bedding? Can I buy a printer for the computer?
A – Yes is the answer to all the questions above. There are many stores where you can buy these products. I would suggest checking out the Coral, SuperStock and Sukasa stores for bedding and you have small electrical stores around the city where you can buy heaters and printers. Two great shopping malls are Mall del Rio and Monay Shopping centre.
Q – Paul – Where are the natural product stores in Cuenca?
A – You will find quite a few stores in Presidente Cordova (left side of street before you get to San Francisco square) and Presidente Borrero (right hand side of street past Zoes – there are more further towards Calle Laga).
Q – I want to come to Cuenca. Where is it best to fly to Quito or Guayaquil?
A – This depends on what other travel you are deciding to do whilst in Ecuador. If you are interested in looking at the coast then fly into Guayaquil first and then come to Cuenca. If you want to see Quito, Otavalo, Cotacachi and then come to Cuenca go to Quito first.
Q – How do I get to Cuenca from Guayaquil?
A – There are a few options. You can take any of the domestic flights with Lan, Aerogal or Tame or you could take a Mini-Van (3 or more hours of scenic driving to Cuenca) or hire a private driver. A Mini Van is $12 pp and a private driver is about $140.
From Quito I would suggest a domestic flight but you can also take a bus which is about a 5 ++ drive depending on the traffic, road works and who knows what else J
Q – I fly into Guayaquil at night can I come straight to Cuenca?
A – Probably not the best idea. Domestic flights on leave Guayaquil for Cuenca in the morning at lunchtime and early evening. Not a good idea to drive through the mountains at night. So I would suggest you stay in Guayaquil overnight and leave for Cuenca the next day.
Q – Where do I stay in Guayaquil?
A – There are many places you can stay but one that I do recommend is the Hampton Inn. If you book online in advance you can pick up some great deals. Also I like that they have a free shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. You then don’t need to worry about a cab. Of course you can Google and find your own accommodation.