Route to Ecuador
If you are considering travel, investing in property, a second home, or relocating to Ecuador you will find valuable information below on what to expect. The information we share is pertinent and not readily available, up-to-date, or easy to find. The information will be changing regularly to keep up with the regular changes in rules and regulations.
You will find information on:
- Visiting Ecuador
- Buying Property
- Residency Rules
- Health Care
- What to Bring
- What to Buy
- Shipping Personal items
- Communication with Home
- Buying a Vehicle
There are numerous airlines that fly to Ecuador, so finding cheap flights shouldn’t be difficult. Flights to Ecuador are either to the capital city Quito, or to Guayaquil on the coast. Many people get a simple return flight in and out of Quito, when it’s usually better to buy an open jaw flight ticket to Quito, and back from Guayaquil, especially if you visit the Galapagos Islands at the end of your vacation.
Both the capital city Quito, and the largest city, Guayaquil, are served by various international airlines. Airlines that fly long haul to Ecuador, invariably fly to both Quito and Guayaquil, and in some cases with the same aircraft touching down en route (e.g. KLM and Iberia). Prices are invariably very similar to both destinations, and open jaw flight tickets have a distinct possibility with almost all airlines.
Airlines that have direct flights to Ecuador from North America include; Continental, American, Delta, Air Canada, Copa Airlines, TACA/Avianca, and LAN.
If you are coming in as a tourist you will only need your passport with a minimum of six months left before it expires from your entry date into Ecuador. When you arrive in Quito or Guayaquil, immigration will stamp your passport with a 90 day T-3 entry stamp.
If you wish to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days you have two options. Option one, go to the nearest Ecuador Embassy or Consulate and request a 12-IX tourist or business visa before you leave your country. You normally will need a police check and a health certificate. It is best to ask the consulate in your country because requirements tend to vary from country to country.
Option two is to get an extension on your 90 day T-3 stamp. Go to the immigration office in Quito or Guayaquil. Also, you can usually get a 6-month 12-IX visa in Ecuador close to the time your 90 day T-3 is expiring.
Immigration rules in Ecuador change frequently and without notice. It is always best to check current regulations in your country before you are ready to travel.
The first step is to check your health insurance plan concerning foreign coverage before you leave home. While medical treatment is extremely reasonable when compared to North American rates, it is always safe to protect yourself against major illnesses.
Five weeks prior to traveling to Ecuador, review your immunization history. While many members of our team have traveled to Ecuador for over three years without any vaccinations and have not encountered any medical issues at all, it is best to be safe. If you plan on traveling, especially to the Amazon region, staying outside urban areas, or staying for longer than a few weeks, it is best to contact a medical professional to ensure you are well prepared for the trip. For more information, please visit http://www.cdc.goc/travel/destinationEcuador.aspx.
In general, always drink bottled water, including when brushing your teeth to avoid contaminated water. It is best to avoid eating salads because it might have been washed with contaminated water and the lettuce itself may harbor parasites or worms. Avoid requesting ice for your drinks or cocktails as it may be made from contaminated water. There are some areas in Ecuador, where the water is considered drinkable, including Cotacachi and Cuenca.
When eating out, it is best to ensure your meat is well cooked. On the coast most fish are caught that morning and is generally very fresh. When eating from street vendors, check visual signs for careless hygiene or contaminated food.
A good natural remedy for stomach complaints is grapefruit seed extract. It is available at your local health food store. Most pharmacies in Ecuador can provide you with drugs that will do the job as well and require no prescription. Buscapina works well and costs less than a dollar for twenty capsules.
If you become sick, it is always best to seek a private clinic first before going to the public hospital. Although in an emergency a public hospital will work just fine and they tend to take good care of foreigners. Most pharmaceuticals are available in pharmacies here and require no prescription.
Wear a hat when outside and ensure that you use sunscreen. The sun is straight down and is intense, even though it is not hot, so you will burn quickly without realizing it. Take appropriate measures to protect your skin.
The people of Ecuador are generally very friendly, honest and helpful. Having said that you need to use the normal precautions you would use in any large American city. That is be careful of where you go at night and of your surroundings. Also protect your personal items just like you would when you are in any tourist spot around the world. That is wear a money belt as opposed to carrying a wallet, keep your purse secure over the opposite shoulder and pay special attention to your packages and cell phones at all times. Do not wear expensive jewelry, watches or purses.
The most important piece of advice if something unfortunate happens is to stay calm. Serious crimes are much rarer in Ecuador than in North America. If robbed, let the thieves have what he asks for and let them be on their way. Resisting, hysteria, or fighting back will only increase the chances of something more serious happening.
What to bring
Sunscreen, comfortable shoes, maps, information on Ecuador, and sunscreen should be a must and tends to be more expensive in Ecuador. The quality of shoes is less than what is typically found in North America and you should plan to do a lot of walking. English-speaking maps and information are hard to locate once you are in Ecuador. The night-time temperature can fall into the low fifties in Quito and on the coast the daytime temperature can reach the high eighties to low nineties, so layers of clothing to accommodate the fluctuation in weather from the coast, amazon, and the mountains is a must.
Cameras in Ecuador are expensive when compared to prices in North America so it is best to bring one with you.
If you are from North America or Europe you will most likely be categorized as a rich gringo. Bargaining is the normal way of life in Ecuador, so do not be afraid to haggle for clothing and shoes in most markets. Have some fun! In large stores the price is normally fixed just like in North America. For larger purchases, it is always wise to have a trusted Ecuadorian with you to negotiate the deal.
Culture and Customs
Smile and make eye contact as they are a happy and friendly country in general. It is normal to be greeted with a “Buenos dias” (good morning), “Buenas tartes” (good afternoon) or “Buenas noches” (good evening). The normal response is to respond in kind and maybe ask “como esta” which means “How are you?” The customary response is “bien”, which means good.
Ask permission before taking anyone’s picture as it is considered respectful. Slower is a way of life and part of their culture, especially on the coast. So relax and enjoy.
Staying in touch back home
Multiple internet cafes are available in most towns and cities across Ecuador and most hotels have WiFi connections that are password protected. Skype is a good way to stay in touch and make phone calls outside of Ecuador. You can purchase minutes of airtime to call non Skype telephone numbers or as always, connect Skype to Skype for free. If you use Magic Jack, bring it with you and download the app on your smart phone. With an internet connect it works fine and is absolutely free.
Most cell phones, including international phones will not work in Ecuador. If you wish to have a cell phone during your visit, the easiest way is to buy a sim card from one of the two major cellular phone networks and use prepaid service.
Moving to Ecuador
Welcome to the Wild West. The first thing you will learn in Ecuador is that everyone is a real estate agent and looking for a commission or a referral fee. The second is that everyone thinks they are an expert on real estate or knows someone who is selling real estate at a good price. The third is that everyone else is a crook or has a bad project except them.
Here are some things to be aware of:
- There is no reliable multi-listing service in Ecuador and prices on official records of sale normally do not state the actual price a property or home sold for, so getting comparable pricing is difficult to impossible to get.
- Some people who claim to be agents/property owners do not even have the listing or own the property they are trying to sell you. They will tell you a price and then go negotiate a lower price and pocket the difference.
- Many properties are owned by many family members and require everyone’s signature for a sales contract to be legal.
- Beware of squatters on a property you buy. Both before and after you purchase it.
- Ensure that there is access to the property. Some properties can only be accessed by the beach or by very costly road construction.
- Safety. You do not want to be a gringo in a single house or a very small development.
- If it seems too cheap to be real, it probably is.
- Always use an independent lawyer from the seller.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do hire a reliable and skilled lawyer to represent you.
- Do buy from a respected developer.
- Do use a trusted Ecuadorian to negotiate on your behalf without disclosing that you are the buyer.
- Do shop around to ensure that the price is a fair price.
- Talk to many different agents and listen to what each one has to say and offer. That is the only way to ensure you have a fair price.
- Do negotiate hard. Ecuadorians are very skilled negotiators.
- Do be prepared to walk away.
- Do deal directly with the buyer at closing with the assistance of an English translator to ensure the price was not escalated by anyone along the chain.
- Do get title insurance.
- Don’t believe everything you are told. Even when a person claims they have no interest in the deal, they most likely do.
- Don’t listen to an agent that claims someone else is a crook or the project is bad. Do your own due diligence and trust your instincts. They almost always have a vested interest in moving you in a certain direction.
- Don’t build yourself unless you absolutely have to. It will almost always take longer, cost more than you think.
If you would like to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days, get a 12-IX tourist or business visa before you leave your country. Go to the nearest Ecuador Embassy or Consulate. The fee will be $230.
You can get a permanent residency visa while in your own country, but it is a cumbersome process. Before coming to Ecuador you will need a police check, and certified copies of your birth certificates and marriage certificate from the Ecuador Embassy or consulate in your home country.
You will need the 12-IX visa in order to obtain a permanent residency visa after you arrive in Ecuador so it is easier to obtain it prior to arrival in Ecuador. You must register your 12-IX visa within 30 days upon arrival in Ecuador, where upon you will be issued another identification card called a censo. If you fail to register and get a censo you will have to pay a fine and will not be able to leave the country without one.
Ecuador offers permanent resident visas to foreign investors and/or retirees. The process involves many steps, but is relatively easy. Getting a residence visa is a normal step in making Ecuador your first or second home. We recommend that you use an attorney for the process as the visa laws change frequently and you can easily miss required steps or documents. Our legal partners would be happy to assist you through the process. Alternatively, there are several services to help you through the process, but be sure to check references before you decide to use one.
There are several different types of visas available. If you are planning to move to Ecuador you will need a residence visa. A resident visa is required before you can bring your things into the country. There are five common resident visa categories that are frequently used; investment visa, retirement visa, business visa, work visa and religious visa.
Investment Visa: With this visa you have to invest $25,000, plus $5,000 for each additional dependent including your spouse. Invest in land, a home or a certified deposit in a savings account in a bank are the normal means of satisfying this requirement and must be in place the entire time you have your visa.
Retirement Visa: With this visa you require proof of at least $800 of income per month, plus an additional $100 per month for each dependant.
Business Visa: Requires a capital investment of $30,000 in a business. We do not recommend this one unless you are planning to operate a business in Ecuador due to the stringent reporting requirements.
Work Visa: If you are comfortable with your employer then this is a good option. But be aware that you are at the mercy of your employer and will have to leave or find an alternative should you become unemployed.
The regulation that required you to be in the country for at least nine months in each of the first two years.
Visa rules in Ecuador change frequently and without notice. While we undertake to ensure our information is current, it is always best to check current up-to-date requirements in your country before you are ready to come.
Health Care and Insurance
You will have access to an excellent level of medical care in Ecuador. In the bigger cities, such as Quito, Cuenca, Manta and Guayaquil, hospitals are equipped with the latest in medical technology and staff are fully trained and qualified doctors and nurses in all fields. In fact, many have trained in the US and the UK. The cost of the average visit to a doctor’s office is in the region of $20, with a visit to a specialist costing a little more at around $25. This price is considered to be reasonable as Ecuadorian doctors spend on average between 30 and 45 minutes with each patient.
Bahia de Caraquez is also has a fully equipped hospital which located just 10 minutes from Las Olas Ecuador.
As a general rule, you will find that the average health care in Ecuador costs approximately between 10% and 25% of what you might be expected to pay in the U.S. To purchase health insurance in Ecuador you will pay only a fraction of the cost of similar policies in the UK or the US. The dentists are well-trained and professional and treatment is much cheaper than private dental treatment in other countries.
Your local embassy can help you to find medical professionals who are English-speaking so that if you do not speak fluent Spanish you can have peace of mind that your illnesses are not getting distorted in translation.
The Ecuadorian government also guarantees senior citizens access to free health care and medication and exemption from notary and registration fees. “All expats are able to participate in the Ecuador Social Security medical program,” explains Jack Moss who, with his wife Debbie, retired to Cotacachi two years ago. “There are no exams necessary for those under age 60. Over 60 there are a series of medical tests, but a pre-existing condition is not a reason to be denied coverage. The premium is about $70 a month, and there is no co-pay or deductible for physician visits, hospitalization, medications, or dental visits.”
What to Bring
- Electronics – While most products are available, they are significantly more expensive in Ecuador.
- Sheet, towels and blankets – The quality in general is poor when compared to North America and the price of better quality items is significantly more expensive.
- Pots and pans – The quality in general is poor when compared to North America and the price of better quality items is significantly more expensive.
- Name-brand clothing – There are name brand stores in the large cities however they tend to be more expensive with less variety than in North America.
- English language books – If you like to read consider bringing a tablet book reader. English written books are not readily available.
- Sports Equipment – Generally speaking the quality, selection and price of sports equipment is more expensive in Ecuador.
What to Buy
- Cars – can no longer be brought into Ecuador from North America. While most makes and models are available, the price is generally at least 25% higher than what you are used to paying in North America. Further, higher end automobiles have extremely high surcharges attached to them. With taxi’s costing as little as $5.00 to go from one side of Quito to the other and buses costing 75 cents to travel larger distance. Many expats choose to eliminate a car from their lifestyle.
- Good quality furniture – there are many local carpenters and wood-carvers to custom build your furniture at reasonable prices.
- Pillows and mattress – You can get good quality pillow top mattress too much cheaper varieties at lower prices than can be found in the United States.
- Pharmacies – The cost of prescription drugs is generally significantly cheaper than the same drug in the United States and can be obtained without a prescription.
- Tools – Generally handheld tools are much cheaper than similar items in North America.
- Small and large appliances – are reasonably priced and of good quality.
Shipping Personal Items
When moving to Ecuador you can bring your personal household goods for a period of six months from the date you receive your residency. There are many companies that are available to help you with your shipping arrangements. The cost will vary depending on the weight, size, and location of the shipping container.
Many expats decide not to go through the process of transporting their possession from North America or Europe but rather purchase new furniture and household goods while in Ecuador. However, there are some items that are either hard to find, expensive, or of inferior quality when compared to North America.
After your attorney tells you that your permanent resident visa has been approved, he will need your original passport to stamp the visa on it at the Foreign Department (Extranjeria) in Quito. This procedure takes from 2-3 weeks. As you won’t have your original passports with you for this period of time, my advice is that you have your attorney notarize at least one color copy of your passport as a “faithful copy of the original” so you can have some identification document with you while you are waiting for your original passport to be returned.
But do not ship your belongings yet, because you could lose your duty-free rights. For your household goods to be duty-free, they must arrive in Guayaquil within six months after the date that your passport is stamped with your permanent resident visa. If your household goods arrive no more than one month after the deadline date, you will have to pay a 33% tax on declared amount. If your household goods arrive more than one month after the deadline, they will be refused.
There are a few different banks down here: Banco Pichincha, Banco de Guayaquil, Banco del Austro, Banco del Pacifico, etc. Banco Pichincha has a program just for expats. Here is what you’ll need to open an account.
- Opening deposit of USD$300
- Opening Application (they fill that out during your meeting)
- Passport or color copy of Identity card (only color)
- Residence Card (Censo of registration from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Bill (copy) of a basic service: water, electricity or phone (home, not hotel). Must be less than 60 days old.
- If the foreign citizen is a member of a company, attach copy of contract or letter from the company stating its duties and the same time in the country. (foreign workers)
And even though it isn’t officially included on the list – a letter of recommendation is also required. The brochure they had out in branch notes that you need a letter from someone who also has an account there, who will vouch for you. A recommendation that says that you are an upstanding and all around great person. And they must sign it, with their bank account number and cedula or passport number. Not sure of what it actually means, but it is required.
Communication with Home
Local phone service is similarly priced to what can be found in North America. While it is best to bring your cellular telephone the services standards of cellphone service are relatively good. This means that staying in contact is fairly easy. Magic Jack works well in Ecuador and with a Magic Jack cellphone app you can make and receive calls free of charge as long as you have internet or a data plan on your cellphone. Skype also works well and is free for Skype to Skype calls. For a reasonable price you can also call landlines and cellphones directly.
The people of Ecuador are generally very friendly, honest, and helpful. Having said that you need to use the normal precautions you would use in any American large city. That is be careful of where you go at night and of your surroundings. Also protect your personal items just like you would when you are in any tourist spot around the world. That is wear a money belt as opposed to carrying a wallet, keep your purse secure over the opposite shoulder and pay special attention to your packages and cellphones at all times. Do not wear expensive jewelry, watches or purses.
The most important piece of advice if something unfortunate happens is to stay calm. Serious crimes are much rarer in Ecuador than in North America. If robbed let the thieves have what he asks for and let them be on their way. Resisting, hysteria or fighting back will only evaluate the chances of something more serious happening.
Be prudent when selecting living quarters. By being North American or European, most Ecuadorians see you as being a rich gringo. So when choosing a home it is always best to pick a secure condominium unit or a gated community. Stay away was remote areas and small developments with no or limited security. Better to be safe than sorry.
Buying a Vehicle in Ecuador
Step 1: Locate vehicle and agree to the terms with the seller. (see popular websites below)
Step 2: Check their registration card (Matricula). Verify the owner by having him show you his Ecuadorian ID card (cedula) or passport. If the name is not the same we would suggest that you move on.
Step 3:Verify the VIN by popping the hood of the vehicle and physically checking, also check the door frame and dashboard to ensure all are the same.
Step 4: Using the licence plate number, run a check to see if the vehicle has any unpaid liens against it or outstanding fines through the website of the DMV of Ecuador called the ANT, http://www.ant.gob.ec/index.php/consulta-de-multas and through the website of the National Police http://www.policiaecuador.gob.ec/index.php?id=infracciones_de_transito . Also check to see if the car was stolen online at http://www.policiaecuador.gob.ec/index.php?id=vehiculos_robados .
Step 5: Check at the office of the JEFATURA DE TRANSITO in the town the vehicle is registered and verify the car is owned by the person appearing as the owner on the matricula they are showing.
Step 6:Write up the sales contract and get it notarized. Notaries usually charge around $50 for this service.
Step 7: Take the notarized bill of sale to the nearest SRI office (the Ecuadorian IRS) and pay the 1% transfer tax based on the value of the vehicle to put it in your name on both a national and police level. Go and register the car in your name at the DMV of Ecuador (ANT or COMISION DE TRANSITO). Registration costs $150 annually.
Step 8: Get insurance for your vehicle. The vehicle requires basic liability insurance by law (the SOAT). The SOAT insures all the medical costs of people involved in a car accident and costs less than $50 per year. For more comprehensive vehicle insurance in Ecuador, private companies like Generali also provide more comprehensive insurance for between $300 and $1,000 annually.
Popular websites to search for used vehicles.