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Expat Advice about Crime & Safety in Ecuador

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Advice from Expats in Ecuador about Safety, Security and Crime in Ecuador.

Expat Advice  - Crime & Safety in Ecuador

Safety and Security for Expats in Ecuador is critical. Below we have pulled together some thoughts, tips and general strategies for staying safe from our Ecuador Forum and the U.S. Department of State:

From our Ecuador Forum for Expats:

"I've been working on my situational awareness. I had it pretty good years ago but I've gotten slack. On my first trip out, to Basque mall west of the airport, I found myself reverting to stateside behavior. A woman in a sales kiosk handed me a piece of paper and I took it. I chided myself outloud for forgetting to NOT accept things in that way. My friend said... "Here it's ok, on the street it is dangerous." No, better to get in the habit of never accepting something, making it automatic, without any thinking. A thousand times it doesn't matter then one time it does."


"Thank you for the reminder. I know that many on this forum feel the subject is being beaten to death, I disagree. Because, we are talking about deeply ingrained habit, the habit of being blissfully UNaware. A sign of having grown up in a less challenging environment."

"The thread on Guayaquil bus Safety is to be observed in all the major cities. The reason crime rises during the holidays is due due to more crimes of opportunity with the influx of foreigners and foreign family members."


"I have not had anything stolen because I remain aware of my surroundings most of the time. Once while shopping in the tourist area of the Quito Malecon I caught 3 young men following us. There is a reason the Embassy posts warnings for this area. Again, in Ahtacames, 3 young men were following us. Both times I made eye contact and made 'gestures' and they moved on. Both times were during the day."

"Last year we escorted a 67-year-old woman (stranger to us) to one of the street markets for an hour because her husband was too drunk at the casino to take her and she was going alone. That would have been a risk that should not be taken in Quito."


"I got a chance yesterday to practice the good advise presented here. A couple of malls, the square with the presidential palace and Parque Carolina, on the bus. The articulated bus made me think of a pea being shot down a crooked straw. I've seen fair rides that cost more and did less. Plus a lot of bumping of people packed in like sardines.

Not having a fat wallet or anything in the pants pockets is a must (for me) Cash in a tee shirt pocket, atm card well hidden and not obvious. The ton of coins I had at the end of the day were in the front right pants pocket... good luck to the pick pocket on them, I struggled to retrieve them.

The camera, my cheap wall mart digital, $20. When not active it was in a zipper'd breast pock in the shirt worn over the tee. The pictures were ok, but just. I will take the nice camera out when I feel more confident. I keep thinking of a lanyard of some sort for it, back up for the strap."


"When you give people the freedom to share their experiences regarding crime in Ecuador, a picture starts to form. Finally, people are understanding that Ecuador can be a very dangerous place, even if you live there, and think you know the parameters of the culture of crime.

One simply cannot drop their guard at anytime, and must be aware of their surroundings at all times. One has to be careful what they wish for, and who they trust. Unsaveries have learned very quickly, that, "gaming," is the quickest path yet, to wealth and power."

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Comments about this Article

Huntertd
Jan 10, 2011 12:34

I was walking down the street and someone bumped into me and managed to get a hundred dollars out my pocket without me being aware and I am pretty cautious. The next day I left New York City and flew back to Quito. Seriously I have never felt uncomfortable in Ecuador and my wife and I have been to almost every town by now. I am sure there is plenty of petty crime that you must be aware of, but I will always feel safer in Manta than most major cities back home.

EcuadorDean
Jan 10, 2011 12:42

I was pickpocketed in Atuntaqui on Dec 31st a small city near Cotacachi during a parade when a crowd suddenly formed behind me to see at the start of the parade. I even had my wallet in my front pocket. Fortunately I didn't carry my credit cards with me. Wear a money belt under your clothes here, it is especially dangerous on the Metro in Quito. You get lulled into a false sense of security here, because most people are good, but the bad here are really bad!

guest
Jan 10, 2011 14:32

These things are true in the vast majority of the world, especially throughout Central and South America. It can be a bit of a challenge to retrain the Gringo mindset and curb the almost autonomic reflex to accept something handed to you. It can be so easy to flag a taxi rather than call one or go to s designated taxi line. And it is all to often that we say "Nothing can happen in the daytime or in a crowded place." But you only have to be wrong once. SmartSafeTraveler.com

guest
Jan 18, 2011 12:24

We live in Punta del Este, Uruguay. It is very safe there but you also have to be careful. I do not wear my diamond ring, which is worth a lot of money nor do I flash my other jewerly, creit cards or money. I do not think it is any different in any large city in the US. I had my wallet and passport stolen on the train in Amsterdam.

rickally
Sep 30, 2011 15:49

i live in costa rica (8+yrs). we have a petty theft problem here requiring bars on windows, security guards (24/7),etc. outsied san jose at the beach. i did not see any comments on housing theft OUT of the city, ie beaches/country. comments anyone living in ecuador now?

JimmyLew
Oct 11, 2011 06:20

I am strongly considering retiring to Quito July 2012.What cities should I avoid to be as close to 100 per cent crime free as possible.Which cities are ok to travel?My name is Jimmy and email is jlewellen2003@yahoo.com and I will appreciate your replies.

utopia
Oct 20, 2011 00:36

We are coming for a visit in January to look at several areas. I have done lots of research but i was on the Embassy page tonight and was reading about all the crime and now i am having some doubts. Are the rural areas with less population safer then the cities. We are in our mid-50 and i don't want to be afraid and looking over my shoulder all the time. From all my research i thought Ecuador would be a good retirement place for us.

guest
Oct 28, 2011 20:11

What are the stats on crime. No one said a crime had been committed against them.

guest
Jun 23, 2014 22:23

On sabbatical from my job, my wife and I decided to spend 6 weeks in Ecuador, traveling around the country on the best buses available. We left Quito on a bus south to Banos. As our bus approached the southern city limits, a group of about 5 young men were allowed to board the bus to sell stuff to the passengers. I was stupid and unaware that using the overhead compartment for small bags (as on an airplane) is something few locals ever do. A young man was showing my wife some DVDs that she had no interest in buying, but one of his friends apparently pulled her backpack backwards and out of the overhead bin while she was distracted. It contained her laptop computer, camera, cellphone and other valuables (luckily I had our passports and wallet in my pocket).. One of the men called out to the driver to stop and they all ran to the front of the bus and got out the door. The bus continued onward toward Banos. About 5 minutes later one of the Ecuadorian passengers said loudly..something like "Hey man, those guys stole your backpack". Well, thanks for telling us now that it is too late. My guess is that the bus drivers are well aware of this type of crime and may be willing participants. My advice......put your bags on the floor by your feet and loop your backpack strap around a leg, especially if you might doze off. Be on high alert when people come on the buses who are not regular passengers.

First Published: Jan 06, 2011

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