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A month in Ecuador Nov. 2012~help~

Sophie9

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  • Added on: September 25th, 2012
We have saved money for five years to make a pre-retirement expedition somewhere. That somewhere has turned out to be Ecuador.

With some cursory research Ecuador looks like an appealing and doable retirement hideaway. Small, obscure, inexpensive, colorful, with reasonable human amenities. (no pink flamingo condo w/pool required)

So Mr. Sophie9 announced today that he's given vacation notice at work and our departure date is Nov 5.

I have no plans, no place to stay, no itinerary, no plane tickets and no nothing. But I'm going to Ecuador in a month. (Some college Spanish here amounting to little more than donde esta la biblioteca).

Soooo, I'm here looking for advice. The target area as of now for retirement excavation is Cuenca. So we need a place to stay. Pension, small serviced apartment, something like that. Your tips?

Any other useful advice you might like to add. Bus tips, hidden treasures, other towns, expat groups, drinking water safety, local militsia, government boondoggles--anything useful to a couple of gringos looking to live and retire in south American obscurity.

I want to hear it!
Really.

busman7

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  • Added on: September 26th, 2012
Being a Canadian expat in El Salvador who has heard good things but has no personal knowledge of Ecuador is do not buy for at least one year. It's a smart move to retire in Latin America but make sure you are a fit in the area before making a financial commitment.

editing my post so as not to move Sophie9's down. Regarding retirement visas I have heard from a Canadian retirement community investor on another forum, that Canadians`seeking resident visas face the same obstacles as in El Salvador, where it borders on the impossible, due to Canada's immigration policies of keeping Latins out of Canada.

Oh yeah Canadians don't forget that you are subject to a 25% tax :twisted: on your OAS/CPP benefits once (or before) you get residency.
Last edited by busman7 on September 26th, 2012, edited 1 time in total.
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown

Sophie9

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  • Added on: September 26th, 2012
Couldn't agree more. We have no intention of buying anything--anywhere. Ever.
I'm done owning stuff. Nothing but trouble.

But Booties have been very helpful to us before when we were looking for places to stay in Greece and Turkey, and I'm hoping we have an Ecuador enthusiast lurking around here somewhere....

BTW if anybody is interested, Ecuador has a number of very internationally retirement friendly policies, including a retirement visa with a low threshhold of income requirement.

halfnine

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  • Added on: September 27th, 2012
Based on your various posts throughout the years I would thought that Chile would have been a better fit for you then Ecuador. Could be totally off, but just throwing it out there.

EMH

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  • Added on: September 27th, 2012
Was in Cuenca for a few days last year. Didn't really resonate with me though I think I was a bit burned out on Spanish colonial towns at that point.

That being said, I could definitely see the appeal of living there. It is quite popular with expats so you should have no problem finding other foreigners to mingle with. And definitely dirt cheap. I had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant and they fed me so much food I didn't eat the rest of the day (and I had already skipped breakfast!). Cost of the meal was $1.75. There's a really nice national park nearby. I didn't get the chance to go but did see it on the bus ride coming in. And a few bookstores with new and used books in English. I remember I spent one of my evenings at a church watching a gospel group from Texas. Not really what you expect to see in Ecuador! The other obvious advantage to Ecuador, as I'm sure you're aware, is that they use US currency which means you don't have to worry about fluctuating exchange rates.

A quick google search turned up the following website which might be of use:

http://www.captivatingcuenca.com/

2wanderers

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  • Added on: October 4th, 2012
Personally, I didn't appreciate Cuenca as much as Quito. Both have quite attractive old towns in lovely settings, but the traffic is noticeably more choking in Cuenca, largely because the public transit is substantially worse - virtually non-existent as far as I could tell. Everyone travels by taxi or private car in Cuenca, whereas in Quito, the Trolle and extensive bus system take a lot of pressure off the roads. If I were looking to retire there, I'd probably be checking outside of the three major cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca). Nice to visit, but I don't think I could live there.

As for accomodation, I really can't recommend the place I stayed in Cuenca, nor can I remember the name. Suffice it to say that it was on the top floor of a building (maybe 5 floors up) by Plaza San Francisco, and the elevator didn't work...avoid top floors.

If you're stopping in Quito, I can definitely recommend the Hotel San Francisco de Quito. It's a lovely building in the old city, reasonably priced ($45/night) and the restaurant there has the best filet mignon $5 can buy. Just don't tell your taxi driver the hotel name. In both cities, taxi drivers were pretty good about using their meters except when we were picked up or dropped off at that hotel.

Getting around Ecuador is tricky. There's lots of buses, but they can be really terrifying in the Andes, particularly on the Panamericana, where they seem unusually prone to speeding. Indeed buses going over cliffs is a significant cause of death in Ecuador. If you're going a significant distance, splurging on a plane ticket can save you a lot white knuckle moments. Unless things have changed in the last 5 years, flights between mainland cities were pretty cheap thanks to strict regulation...at the time, only Galapagos flights had tourist prices that were higher than the locals paid. Again, not sure if that's changed.

Water-wise, we always bought bottled water, but also drank fresh juices, ate salad and homemade soups. Didn't have any noticeable problems beyond the usual, expected, adjustment to foreign food. The food is fantastic, and a lot of places offer set menus for $2, particularly for lunch (Almuerza).

Spanish is definitely useful, but not indispensible. In most places, particularly the cities, you can find someone who can speak English. I also found that Spanish is a close enough relative of French (which I speak fluently) that I could pick up on most of what was happening around me with the help of a dictionary. If you have any other romance language skills, they're pretty transferable.

Unfortunately, the focus of my trip to Ecuador was to see the Galapagos, so our mainland travels were fairly limited, mostly hitting up popular tourist spots (Quito, Cuenca, Cotopaxi Nat'l Park, Banos, and Chugchilan (on the Quilotoa loop)). But if do have any specific questions I might be able to help you out.

Sophie9

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2012
@2wanderers--spaciba bolshoi! (gah, my Russian is much better than my Spanish and I get the two of them confubulated till I can't tell which is what I want at the moment), your post was very helpful. :)

I must tell you, my original plan was to explore two SA countries with easy retirement visas, Uruguay and Ecuador. But health insurance in Uruguay for retirees is a BIG problem, so I cut it from the itinerary. We have limited travel funds. So now it is a solo focus on Ecuador.

I still have some real reservations about Ecuador, one you mentioned, and that is the altitude. Quito is at nearly 10,000 feet! Cuenca about 8,000. I have never lived at altitudes in that range (used to get ridiculous nosebleeds in Denver at 5,000 feet--and that was thirty years ago when I was a spring chicken).

Your thoughts about extreme high altitude living?

Your post was very welcome, thanks so much for putting together a reply to my queries. More please.

2wanderers

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  • Added on: October 5th, 2012
Altitude is really personal. When I was preparing for Ecuador I read some literature on altitude sickness, and found that a small but measurable (maybe 1 in a thousand or something) number of people experience it as low as my home city (a little over 2,000 ft). Personally, I had no problems in Quito or Cuenca, but did have mild symptoms (headache, fatigue and drowsiness) in Chugchilan.

How long were you in Denver? Supposedly people adapt over time, so living somewhere isn't usually a problem. The biggest problem I found with altitude was that it's not good for combustion engines, and car exhaust was noticeably smellier than most places I've been.

There's plenty of low-altitude locations in Ecuador, too, but outside of Guayaquil, you run into malaria risks and will have to manage that instead. The rises are so sudden, there's not many places that are in between - too high for malaria, but low enough for good oxygen. Puyo is pretty much the only city I could find that fits that description, and it would probably be a bit lonely as a gringo there.

On A Junket

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  • Added on: October 9th, 2012
Cuenca is a better suited locale if you wish to remove your self from the smog and traffic of Quito.

Places to visit...North of quito: Mindo. A beautiful small town that reminds me of the Golfito in Costa Rica.
Also, do yourself a favor and visit the amazon...The huaorani...a life changer...
Travel Stories: http://onajunket.com
Strangers asking Strangers for Favors: http://bringbacksomething.com

i_d_

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  • Added on: October 16th, 2012
Cuenca would probably be the most appropriate place for retirement - nice climate, not too high, not too big, but a city nonetheless... In case you don't mind the heat, you might consider the coast as well - many expats like it there, and also, there are no earthquakes (lots of them in the mountains).
On a different note, have you considered Panama? It is also one of the top retirement places, with numerous benefits for people who spend their pensions there, also using US Dollars, etc. Boquete seems to be one of the most popular places.

Sophie9

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  • Added on: December 23rd, 2012
Brief report of our month in Ecuador--

We went freefall as all we had was a $10 map of Ecuador and two wheelie suitcases and no itinerary.

Quito, Cuenca, Guyaquil, Manta. We liked Quito, plenty of buzz. We didn't like Cuenca, found it a snore. Guyaquil was a crazy, totally under construction boomtown, hot and humid. Manta on the mid-coast is in the throes of becoming an industrial powerhouse--lots of local poverty with a sliver of gated wealth in the better neighborhoods. Beautiful coastline.

Plenty of surprises. Ecuador, especially the colonial highland cities are closed and locked up tight at dark, by 8 PM there is nothing open. Nightlife in Ecuador is nearly naught unless you're down on the coast. The entire country is closed on Sunday, period. By law, liquor cannot be sold from stores on Sunday and bars are required to close by 4 PM. All kinds of western style smoking prohibitions have been implemented in the last couple of years and tobacco products of all kinds are expensive and hard to find. More lifestyle restrictions are on the way I fear. Progress marches on..... :(

Ecuadorans are really really nice people. Not a single bad experience did we meet.

Ecuador is apparently not as cheap as it used to be. I've paid less for low end accommodations in Greece and eastern Europe. In the desirable expat areas--Cuenca, Salinas, the Esmeraldas-- north American real estate sharks abound. Plenty of expat retirees are going to find themselves drained of their savings by these numerous property scammers.

All in all we liked it well enough to live there, but the real edge goes to the Ecuadoran people. They are Ecuador's best asset, just a pleasure.

annagm

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  • Added on: July 3rd, 2014
I realise this is a bit of an old thread, but I was wondering if anyone could clear up some of this mosquito business! 2wanderers suggested that once you got out of Guayaquil on the coast then it was pretty much a necessity to get anti-malarials but unfortunately the link he posted isn't working. I'm also a bit worried about yellow fever in Ecuador - http://www.realworldholidays.co.uk/ecua ... dvice.aspx seems to suggest that the yellow fever/malarial areas are essentially the same, but I'm sure I've read that you don't need yellow fever for places like Manta?

If anyone can help, that would be brilliant!

Anna

Sophie9

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  • Added on: July 3rd, 2014
@annagm

The area around Manta is predominately desert. And a very odd looking desert at that, strange plants I've never seen before. Desert is not mosquito country. There are little valleys and coastal inlets which are greener and tropical looking but they are limited pockets of greenery.

But farther north up around the Esmereldas it is wetter and more humid and more conducive to bugs. When we were there a pair of Canadians kindly gave us a map of the malaria/dengue zone on the coast. It is all north of Manta.

I believe yellow fever is mainly found on the other side of the mountains in the Amazon area.

Anyway we had no problems. I did see the biggest beetle I've ever laid eyes on in Cuenca. He was about 5 inches long and rambling up the sidewalk.

annagm

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  • Added on: July 10th, 2014
@Sophie9

Brilliant! Thanks for that - that's a real weight off my mind. No nasty jabs for me, then!

:D

(although not so keen on the sounds of those beetles...)



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