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Ecuador: A Primer for the First Time Visitor (or, why you don't need a tour)

By Susan Schlesinger

Summary: Susan Schlesinger, our Ecuador Forum moderator and the Manager of the Ocean Hideaway, gives her primer for newcomers and visitors to Ecuador.

Ecuador: A Primer for the First Time Visitor  - (or, why you don't need a tour)

Your first experience with Ecuador should be more about Ecuador than finding the perfect property to rent or buy so a real estate tour or conference is not a great idea in my estimation.

As you read more about Ecuador you will learn we have four major areas, coast, mountains, amazon and Galapagos -- discounting the last two most folks live on the coast or in the mountains. Those are the areas you want to visit.

Keep in mind that the entire country is about the size of Nevada -- and that buses travel everywhere for about $1 an hour. And planes can whisk you from the mountains to the coast in about 30 minutes for about $60.

Next: Land of Eternal Spring... yeah...you've probably heard this right? Here's the catch, spring where? It's not the temperature, it's the daylight -- we have 12 hours of sun every day -- sun up at 6:30 and down at 6:30 with a variation of 15 to 20 minutes throughout the year depending on how many degrees from the equator. Depending on your altitude, you have cooler or warmer temps and rainfall. Also temps on the coast are effected by proximity to the ocean and the Humboldt currents -- or as I like to say the worlds biggest air conditioner. It is cool and breezy most of the time by the ocean -- hot in the sun, cool in the shade and a constant breeze. It is not Florida.

Creating your own "tour" -- the expat community is really quite welcoming and you can find a lot of us hanging out on the internet at places like FaceBook at Ecuador Expats (lots of folks in Cuenca there) Ruta del Sol Mates (those of us on the coast) and other groups for women, gardeners, folks who wanna whine and gripe (Trash Talking). These are the real deal -- real folks who are living here. Join and make friends and get invitations to meet for dinner and ideas of places to stay and how to get around.

About the language -- we speak Spanish here...do you need a lot to get by? Not as much as you used to but enough to be polite, count, know right from left, find the bathroom, and get help if you need it. Face it -- if you are over 5'4", have freckles, blue eyes and anything but straight black hair, you are a gringo -- you will stand out. But you will also be welcomed, it is that sort of place. And smiles are universal and laughing at yourself is a good ice breaker -- this also ain't Paris, they appreciate your trying to communicate in their language and take it as a sign of respect

Another benefit of touring this way is you will learn all about things you may not have thought about in making your leap to live in Ecuador: doctors and insurance and medications for conditions you have; veterinarians for your fur kids; places to do your hobbies; charity work to entertain your time; internet availability and speeds for day trading or ebay side line and skying with the grand kids; discounts for seniors for heading back to the states for graduations and weddings.... things you won't learn on a real estate tour.

...and the truth is you will find out who the better real estate agents are (like say the ECUADOR LICENSED ones who pay their taxes and have positive reputations) from your fellow gringos rather than from an internet site selling a tour.

and now for my self promotion:

It's been 6 years since I first came to Ecuador and in June, 5 years since i moved here permanently. I run a B&B on the coast near Salinas called the Ocean Hideaway and it has been my pleasure to introduce a lot of folks to Ecuador as their first stop and first experience. And i am very proud to say that many expats who enjoyed their stay here in the beach countryside meeting the local folks of our little fishing port have chosen to move here -- and have become shining examples of the very best of who we Americans are (when you are on Facebook, check out Expats Helping Kids In Ecuador -- Tod & Mary's foundation... ). The fur kids, Poochie the intrepid traveling boxer and Gina the reef romping rescue rotti and I would love to introduce you to the southern coast.

...oh one other thing...look for your lodgings on TripAdvisor.com and through your new expat friends. You are looking for hostals, B&Bs and hotels (the difference is the number of rooms) -- "motel" in Ecuador is a euphemism for brothel...

And on that note...go forth and start looking for air fares...personally I love flying LAN.com .... just a suggestion.

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About the Author

Susan is the Manager of the Ocean Hideaway, at casual beach front B&B located near Salinas, Ecuador. She lives there with her two dogs, Poochie the intrepid traveling boxer and Gina the reef romping rescue rotti and welcomes folks coming to visit the coast who would like to experience the Pacific countryside. You can contact Susan for more information about living in Ecuador at TheOceanHideaway@aol.com. Susan is also the Moderator of the sometimes contentious but information packed Ecuador Forum of the Expat Exchange.

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Comments about this Article

ginarnold
Jan 7, 2013 15:40

I have read Susan’s posts before and I give her high marks for good advice. I would add, if you have never been to EC, then plan a visit for a month. If you don’t have a month due to work, family etc., then you probably are not a candidate to live here----which is fine. EC or anywhere else is not w/out problems. Susan is also correct about places to live and that is beach or mountains and like good food is a personal choice. There is also the choice of small town/village or larger city. Cuenca probably has more gringos than the rest of EC and is a nice old colonial city of a half million. My advice is, to fly into Quito and spend a few days seeing this old city and the capital and getting use to altitude. Some people from sea level do not do alt real well. Remember you also dehydrate more quickly at alt, so drink plenty of liquid. Take a bus to Otavalo----$2 and spend a few days. Sat. is market day and interests most everyone. Take a .25 bus ride to Cotacachi a smaller village where some gringos have settled. Back to Quito and start working your way south. Banos would be my first suggestion. The on to Cuenca, Loja, and Vilcabamba. You can rent a car if you don’t mind driving or a cab to Otavalo for $50. As bus riders through dozens of countries, we like to see the country side and be with the people. The children, especially the indigenous are too precious for words. As Susan stated, Spanish helps but smiles and a few basics are understood. There is no more polite people in the world and we speak and smile at everyone we pass in the smaller villages. Many years ago as a cursing sailor someone said, “no matter where you go you take yourself with you”, so do not leave where you are unhappy, as you will certainly no like it here.

wquam
Jan 7, 2013 17:46

Thanks Susan. Your article is very informative, interesting and fun. All the best qualities to begin the planning phase. Bill Quam

EcuadorDean
Jan 7, 2013 17:47

Nice article well-written and a person can't say enough about all the greedy promoters of conferences, real estate tours etc. by International Livning, pro-ecuador, Gary Scott, the list goes on and on! 7 years ago when I first came to Ecuador there was none of this, the only controversy was Correa. In places like Vilcabamba, Cotacachi a way of life is disappearing for the locals they are being priced out. This such a shame, Ecuador I thought was an idea location to retire for people who wanted to blend in and stand out from the locals in their gated communities, condos etc. And many who come and buy too soon (wait a year!) leave later after they fail to adjust to the reality after the adventure etc. wears off. Learn Spanish or leave...

guest
Jan 7, 2013 18:56

Tremendously enlightening! I do not fancy being herded around from one development to another. Am quite independent as I live in a rural area of southern New Mexico but I want to leave the USA.

guest
Jan 7, 2013 20:22

You make it sound real and not a glossy picture. I plan to come to Ecuador in a few months. No previews--just come. My greatest concern of the moment is being cleanly and quickly admitted to the country. After that I feel comfortable because I have been in several remote and unusual places. I can usually get on with people.

McBean
Jan 8, 2013 15:39

Lovely article Susan, very informative and welcoming. I would love to meet up with you when I come to Ecuador later this year for a 2 week holiday / lookaround.

LovetheBeach
Jan 18, 2013 16:50

LOVED the article! I have been searching far and wide for REAL information rather than sales pitches! I really want to live near the beach, but ran into so much negative info about how hot and steamy it was on the south coast of Ecuador. I'm from Southern Calif. and my internal thermostat can't handle hot and steamy! What is the best place for me to go to find out accurate information on apartment or condo rentals near the coast between about Salinas and Manta? I prefer to be in a small town / village as opposed to a resort setting. Any ideas from anyone who lives in the area? Muchas Gracias!

Olon11
Jan 28, 2013 11:55

Great article, Susan! Very well said and written! Leigh

selenasM
Jan 28, 2013 13:40

Great article! Im going March 1, 2013!! very excited to go!

guest
Jan 28, 2013 18:36

Susan.Thank you for info.I cant wait to visit from Montana!

bboaz1944
Apr 15, 2013 17:30

LOVE Susan! A fountain of knowledge Thanks Bo Nashville, Tn

Mikeisforfaceless
Apr 19, 2013 17:34

Great post Susan.

guest
Apr 20, 2013 17:30

Lots of sensible and commonsense ideas and a far cry from the real estate tours and other not-great ways "to discover Ecuador "cluttering up the Net. From Susan S. in Quito, Been an expat here for 14 months What I can tell you is the honeymoon is over - I can tell you about my REAL Ecuador.

emboof1
Apr 24, 2013 08:23

Do you mean the REAL Ecuador that International Living doesn't show or report about? Stray dogs everywhere barking all night, raw sewage smells, garbage & litter alongside the streets and on the beaches, cannot wear jewelry for fear of being robbed..just to name a few.

jkjoking13
Jun 2, 2013 13:09

Will be looking for a place to stay for my wife, myself and Zoe (10lb Chinese Crested) probably the second week in Aug. Actually arriving the 30th of July but plan on spending a week in Guayaquil to get the visa process started (translations etc.) Your article was excellent and will look up your website. Jerald & Marianne Koenig

sherriermiller
Jan 21, 2014 21:18

What a delightful overview of your area, Susan! I will definitely come to Ocean Hideaway when I visit Ecuador! I am interested in learning more about the areas of the coast that enjoy the Humboldt Currents! I worry as much about the humidity as I do the heat! My daughter, husband and 2 granddaughters are considering a move and they like the coastal areas. I have leaned toward the mountainous areas because the climate is a bit cooler. Any information you can provide that will help us to compromise as we look for our final destination will be gratefully received! I love what I read about Ecuador and its love of tradition and preservation! And, the people are described as smiling and friendly! Wonderful! New friends we just haven't met, yet!

sbetts1000
Dec 3, 2014 02:40

Nice article. In all the Ecuadorian forums, I have never seen the coast called the 'worlds biggest air conditioner'. That's huge if it's true for Salinas. I am looking for a B&B on the beach for between 4-500/month. I will be in Salinas Jan 16-Mar 9, first trip. At first AC was a huge priority, but if it is not needed, that's great. I do need reliable wifi and to be in a safe environment. I'd sure appreciate any ideas or recommendations. Thx. Steve Betts Betts48@gmail.com

Anciana
Feb 9, 2015 10:47

Very, very sensible advice, Susan... though, I am afraid, it won't be headed by those who tend to define themselves by their property, primarily real estate property - and most expats I met sadly seem to belong to that category. Who cares what part of the world, as long as it is as close as possible to their "dream home"? Sad. I have been a voluntary nomad for about half of my life, when I decided to turn a personal tragedy (my spouse died young) into an opportunity to explore the world. I opted for shorter or longer overseas assignments in my professional carrier and later in my so called encore (=retirement) one, just the locations of the countries changed: southern USA instead of northern USA, southern Europe instead of Northern Europe, underdeveloped Central America instead of overdeveloped Far East. Changing countries when employed by an international company was easy: everything was arranged for you: travel, lodging, car, health insurance etc. etc. In retirement all of it changed, so I learned that - having an incurable (but manageable) health condition, before I even pick a country to try on, I needed to check health care quality and affordability of a really good health insurance first. Second, since I want my money to last, and have retirement income from three different countries, I choose to check pertinent double taxation treaties, then climate (I LOVE tropics and warm weather is good for my health - cold or rainy climate and high altitude aren't) I discovered that the "dream home" crowd, people who never lived in another country, tend to assume that the whole world functions like their home country. Property tours' organizers won't tell them otherwise - it is not in their interest. Do people like to be deceived? Or at least distracted with non-essentials?

withoutego
Mar 29, 2015 08:30

Susan, Good advice to anyone thinking about joining us in Ecuador. I have been here nearly five years and I can second all the points you've made. Folks should come first to get a feel for the country, its people and culture. Do not come having decided you'll buy property. This is like going to dinner on a blind date with the expectation that you'll marry the person. You might not get past the soup course before excusing yourself and fleeing. People have very different reactions to the country. The first date is for fun without any expectation - come to Ecuador with that attitude too. sinego

gman1361
Jun 17, 2016 09:25

My wife and I have been talking a lot about retiring in Ecuador , I just like to thank you for the bit of information you have posted . We look forward in preparing ourselves and our two dogs in visiting the country. We appreciate any of your experiences and information about Ecuador. Thank You

First Published: Jan 02, 2013

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