I know an answer to all my questions is "Come and see for yourself" and that was indeed my plan but bear with me...
I'm a Brit expat living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I've been here 3 years, effectively retired. It's an easy place to live. Easy visa (for the time being), cheap, very good interest rate on term deposits, not a lot of bureaucracy most of the time, no more crime than anywhere else. People are mostly laid back and appear friendly.
It does have some downsides: endemic corruption, useless police and judiciary, mostly crap healthcare, poor education system, poor but slowly improving infrastructure. When you do have to interact with the bureaucracy it's inefficient and usually requires tea-money to get anything done, especially if you want it done "quickly". Sounds bad but most days none of those are a problem.
The things that wind me up are people don't give a stuff about anyone except themselves and possibly their immediate family. This manifests as careless in the extreme driving, no concern for the environment (rubbish thrown everywhere) and incessant noise pollution from 2-3 day wedding/funeral/party celebrations or any other excuse for playing crap music at maximum volume at any time of day or night. I don't want to spend the next 20-40 years putting up with retarded drivers and selfish neighbours.
International Living (or International Lying as I've seen it referred to around here) would have me believe Ecuador is a shining jewel in comparison with better healthcare, cheaper health insurance, better education systems, better infrastructure and basically better all round. My guestimate is the cost of living and accommodation are broadly similar.
I've already seen plenty of comments on here about the locals chucking their rubbish anywhere they feel like it, dogs barking all the time, incompetent drivers and dodgy drinking water.
In terms of size of country, population, economy, climate there are lots of similarities. I think it would be an excellent idea to come and see for myself and I was planning a 6 month or so trip to take a look at Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and perhaps one or two other Central/South American retirement destinations. If we found somewhere we liked we could potentially just stay.
Then my wife got pregnant and 3 months in she's still not having an easy time of it. Our exploratory trip really isn't looking likely now. A single country trip might be possible. Alternatively we could take the plunge, come to Ecuador with a suck it and see attitude and have the baby there. There could be significant advantages for the baby: automatic citizenship, better medical care, better education system. Obviously harder for my wife with none of her family and friends around for the birth. I speak a little Spanish, she speaks none but taught herself to speak English and to read and write a little too. I'm confident she could do the same with Spanish. We'd be taking on a lot going this route but I think it would be possible. If she or we don't like it it's easy to return to Cambodia.
So some questions:
What don't you like about Ecuador?
What specifically does International Living not tell the whole truth about?
Would you be happy having a baby there, raising children there?
How is the education system? In Cambodia it looks good on first glance, then you realise most of the students bought their exam results and University degrees and most are nowhere near as well educated as they appear. Every school has "International" in it's name but very few offer anything anywhere near International standard teaching and those which do are very expensive. Is the same true in Ecuador?
How incompetent are the drivers? Here they don't generally set out to kill you but they just don't care if their actions or inaction result in you being injured or dead. 95% of road users have no driving licence, motorbike drivers are no longer required to have a licence, 99% have no insurance, 50% drive around drunk or on their mobile phone. They are all total retards and their retardedness doesn't get any more endearing after being here a few years.
Do wedding/funeral/other parties routinely last 2-3 days and involve blocking off the street with a great big tent and playing truly crap "music" at ear-splitting levels from 04:45am until midnight for the duration?
Are they big karaoke fans? Here the same deal as the weddings/funerals except they start and finish later and don't have the tent blocking the street.
Have any of you lived in Cambodia or elsewhere in SE Asia? How do you find the comparison?
How do you see the political situation there developing over the next few years? Anything on the horizon you might be wary of?
How about earthquakes? Not something we need to worry about in Cambodia. But when the icecaps melt a lot of the country could be under water and I don't think the same would be true for Ecuador.
How long's a piece of string but what's a sensible number for a monthly budget for 2 people living a fairly simple existence? We own our house in Cambodia and get by on $1000 per month quite easily. Obviously we'll need more when the baby arrives and probably one of us will need to work again.
Compelling story. Obviously you’re desperate, or close to it, to get out of Cambodia or you wouldn’t be traveling such distance to South America under the circumstances.
Having spent a month in Phnom Penh shortly before I moved from USA to Ecuador in 2013, I’d say this about noise in Quito....
It can be a noisy place, but it’s way better than PP in the duration and extreme noisiness of events such as the weddings you know about over there.
I have been living in a Quito condo where the management and the guards would not allow a three-day wedding with ear-blasting noise .. or anything close to that.
So you have to pick your spot carefully .. get a place where noise pollution is kept to a stadium roar or less .. and check noise levels at different times of day or week to avoid making a bad mistake.
Ecuador’s infrastructure has greatly improved under the ten years of the outgoing president’s administration.
I’d say Quito is at least 10 or 15 years ahead of Phnom Penh at a minimum.
Quito is sometimes criticized for its unpredictable drivers. I drove on and off for a year after buying a car in late 2015 .. and found the drivers tolerable, not bad.
The traffic situation is much better than what I saw in Phnom Penh. My hotel there was near a traffic circle .. and there were constantly scores of motos going by at any instant. It was almost impossible to cross the street for long periods -- no traffic light, no tránsito cops to direct the movement.
I have a hunch your family might be better off here in the Coffee Triangle than in most places in Ecuador.
It’s more civilized, cost of living is low .. and there are a lot of spots where it’s simply not all that noisy.
There's an element of urgency rather than desperation. The pregnancy really wasn't expected and has thrown a spanner in the South/Central America recce part of my plan. We could come before the baby is born and there would be benefits for the baby in doing so. Also risks like Zika which are greater there than here. We have lots of things to think about.
Your answers regarding the noise and infrastructure help. I do think long term we'd probably be better off in Ecuador or elsewhere in that part of the world. Hopefully a few others will chime in and we'll have more information to base our decision on.
OK, so apart from it being a bit colder and wetter than some people expected there doesn't appear to be anything people don't really like. The noise and traffic aren't as bad as Phnom Penh, International Living don't gloss over too many unpleasant truths, politics, earthquakes and Zika aren't a problem.
What do you love about the country? What's the best thing about the town/city you live in?
Your question is the most asked on this forum. People want to be informed in advance of a decision that is both expensive and life changing. The move to a new country, a new culture. Even the recommended "come see for yourself" is a disruption - and from the other side of the world, an expense.
One person's desert really can be another's poison. I have wondered about this the six years I've lived in Ecuador. I go elsewhere every summer and that sharpens the contrast between life here and life in Europe or the states.
but I like change, learning, contrast.
I have never heard even a suggestion for how we would predict any given person's reaction to Ecuador. Statistical data is difficult to obtain here but the consensus is that more than half the gringo migrants who intended to stay, leave after a couple of years.
If there were an informal and voluntary exit interview I bet you'd get a long list. Boil the items down and it would be...."its not like the states". But Ecuador is the same for the person who stays as it is for the person who leaves. Its the same Ecuador for both so the difference is.....between them.
It is easier to characterize a place than a person. It's also more polite. Maybe that's why we continue to ask about the country and my, or your, reaction to it. Rather than delving into the personality and history of the person asking "will I like Ecuador??"
"Try the soup de jour, I had it yesterday and it was great"
Something like that. Success in being transplanted is more a function of the plant than the soil. Same soil every time. Huge variety of plant types, each with its own unique need for nourishment, sun and watering.
I have size 17D shoes. I know better than most that one size does not fit all. In Ecuador my shoes would be 54 if they existed. I shop on line.
Or I just go bare foot and let the mud flow between my toes.
If you have learned to live in another culture and climate....learned too some of another language.....you are not typical of the gringos arriving daily from the states. You know how you feel about culture shock - you've experienced it, dealt with it. Most of the unsuccessful migrants have had no previous experience of another culture.
They've been called economic refugees, those gringos who don't want to retire in the states to a small trailer and dog food diet. But, they can return to their native land. A true refugee can't.
I'm here for the weather and to learn Spanish. As a side effect I loose weight and eat healthy. A refugee from snow.
a human being who isn't struggling for the basics needs a reason for their existence. Religion or a bucket list there are lots of possible reasons. But even for running out life's clock its nice to be somewhere comfortable. For me that is Ecuador.
I would not bring a pregnant woman to Ecuador at this time due to Zika, especially along the coast. If you are serious about coming without visiting first, Ecuador would probably be your best bet among South American countries: relatively friendly and cooperative people, reasonable cost of living, and a large expat community, as you do not speak the language.
Sin, thanks for taking the time to reply. It sounded like a load of philosophical/psychobabble mumbo jumbo on first reading but I appreciate the effort ;-)
If it was just me or my wife wasn't pregnant we'd have been there or on our way already for a look around.
Different people notice different things or react to them differently. For me noise is a problem, for others it's an irrelevance. Some worry about crime rates or water quality or the weather, me not so much. I was hoping to get positive or negative comments on as many aspects of life in Ecuador as possible. Some might encourage us and others discourage us from going for the bolder "come and have the baby there without a recce first" option. The stakes are higher now so yes, I want to be as informed as possible before we decide whether to take the plunge.
Exit interviews could be informative if the answers were a bit more detailed than "it's not like the States". That by itself sounds like a plus to me.
We can wait a few more weeks and see if her "morning" sickness improves before we have to sh*t or get off the pot.
Glad you're enjoying Ecuador and it's working for you.
Hi, I would advise you to come now. Unless you need the hustle and bustle of the big city, go to one of the mountain valley villages. The people are friendly and helpful by nature. The air and water are good. Medical care is cheap and the quality is good. Number 20 in the world, while the US is number 46. Look for some thing in the 4000 to 6000 foot elevation range. You will find a climate that is comfortable all year. I would avoid the coast, and the big cities at high altitudes. Quito, and Cuenca are cold, wet, noisy and polluted. Public transportation is cheap and excellent here. The cost of living is probably a little higher then Cambodia, but much cheaper then the USA. As for morning sickness, ginger tea, made with grated fresh ginger is probably the best choice. Does your wife have a US visa? If not, you should probably consider taking Aero Mexico. You can hop to Tokyo and then get a flight to Quito. From there you can easily air, bus, or van, any where in Ecuador. You will not need to stop in a US airport, The price is reasonable, The air time is not bad. The quality is good. Good luck with your journey, if you need any other information feel free to contact me. Larry Dennis
Assuming Thailand and Vietnam are not good options for your wife, and if you must go *somewhere* - but don't have enough money for New Zealand or Switzerland - Ecuador makes as much sense as Costa Rica, and more sense than anywhere else. (And Costa Rica is twice as expensive as Ecuador, and too much like the uSa, at least in San Jose...)
Seriously, ur already living la vida loca;), and Ecuador is attracting adventurous/frantic NA families, to Vilcabamaba in particular. for many good reasons. There you would be embraced by the large Counter-Reality Vilcos y Vilcas (whose feet never quite touch the ground), and if, after a couple years of *stable*, inexpensive living (with Midwives and Massage Therapists on alternating corners), you have LOTS of GOOD options: (in order) Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Peru... AND, given the uncertain times we live in, there is a LOT to be said for using the defacto last currency standing if/when the Dominoes start to fall again:( GET OUT FROM UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE PRC! Buenas Suerte, C7
If noise is a deal breaker be careful. The locals in the mountain areas like to party until sunrise. Most weddings for instance last 3 days and have plenty of drinking and music played over the communities PA system. I've lived in a small town on the coast and a small town in the mountains and noise is something that takes getting used to. Also you have the stray dogs that may bark all night. Ecuadoreans don't seem to mind the noise and just pass it off as a way of life, just like throwing trash on the ground. That said, I have grown used to the noise and really like it here. Much more positives than negatives
There *is* something of an Underground Railroad for Gringo Refugees in Vilca, so don't let formalities stand in your way. Look for a man with size 17 shoes and no Ego: he is relatively sane and The Gatekeeper of Vilcabamba on this occassionally Romanesque Forum. LAD is right about not wasting time. and very kind to detail your best route. I'll make sure to meet you in Vilca:)
Jaym - thanks for the reply. If we jump in with both feet we'd start somewhere in the mountains, above the mosquito zone.
Laddied - thanks for the routing and ginger tea suggestions. Many of the flights suggested by skyscanner travel east to west and involve a stop in Asia and one in Europe, often Madrid or Amsterdam. As such no transit visas are required. It looks like Japan does require a transit visa but it's a LOT cheaper than a US transit visa and as you say, the flight durations aren't too bad.
C7 - thanks. Cambodians in general hate Vietnam and everything about it so that's a non-starter. The visa situation in Thailand is not so favourable as here or Ecuador and the Thais don't really like farang. I've lived there for periods of time and think we can do better. I've lived in Buenos Aires and visited some other Argentine cities, wouldn't mind living there again but it's getting expensive and Ecuador is easier. I haven't given a lot of thought to the increasing Chinese presence here but that and the increasingly tense geo-political landscape are certainly worthy of consideration.
Remoore2001 - thanks for the noise warning. It really can't be worse than here; my ears are currently being assaulted by the plinky plinky crap that indicates a funeral. Or the 7 day or 100 day or 1 year or whatever anniversary of a funeral. Probably tomorrow morning at 4:45 the damn monks will start with their shouting/chanting. Barking dogs can be attenuated with ear plugs but they have yet to invent ear plugs which can cope with a Khmer wedding/funeral/karaoke.
I would recommend Cuenca. Not as big as Quito and easier to get around in. Cool at night though and rainy at times. Not all day but afternoons during rainy season. Somewhat European in nature. Rent is very inexpensive and a lot of choices to get you away from the noise. Drivers about like New York City but not as bad as you describe. Pretty clean city and a new trolley car system is replacing a lot of diesel busses. We live in Manta which is a ocean side city. Nosier and not as clean with stuff thrown around pretty common. We don't mind that as it is warm here. 80 to 85 daytime from June till October. Upper 80,s rest of the year for day time highs. Highest temp we have seen is 95. 70 to 80 at night Spanish is the language and that takes a little getting used to. I hope that helps.
In the mountain villages, Most of the noise is in the city center. If you stay out side of that area, 15 minutes walking time, the noise is not a problem. The houses are mostly heavy brick and cement, even the inside walls, so noise from outside is muffled. I am not to proud of the foundations on the coast, but in the mountains they have been building for thousands of years. They put more work and material in the foundation then in the rest of the building. The building is not going anywhere. They build each one as though it was going to support a skyscraper.
While trying to get a handle on the visa situation* I'm leaning towards coming in on a T-3 or whatever they're calling it now it's valid for 6 months. Baby is due around the middle of July. Somewhere around 1500m asl sounds like a good compromise regarding warmth, wetness, mosquitoes and altitude sickness. So maybe Vilcabamba or Loja.
Does anyone know what the antenatal and maternity care are like there and how much a normal uncomplicated birth costs? Google only tells us the maternal and infant mortality rates are lower there than here and I guess the costs are similar; the bulk of the costs here depend on how well and how nicely they look after you before and after the actual birth. Would be nice to hear of any first hand experiences although I realise a good part of the forum audience are past all that kind of thing.
How about registering a birth? https://www.registrocivil.gob.ec/ makes it sound pretty easy but theory and practice are often 2 very different things.
* Pro-tip: there is no Ecuadorian consulate in Cambodia. Cambodia falls under the jurisdiction of the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur (not Bangkok if that's what you were expecting). They don't actually process visa applications there, they only forward them to Ecuador, and they aren't good at answering nitty gritty questions.
Use Google translator. When you send emails, type in English, then follow with the Spanish translation. I has taken me a while, 3 years to figure out that when it is in English, they usually will not bother to answer. When I give them the Spanish translation, they usually answer very Quickly.
Thanks. I've tried that in the past with businesses, embassies etc. Never seemed to make much difference but it probably can't hurt. I'll try it again with my next batch of questions to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and see if they suddenly become more helpful.
OK, we're coming. Arriving in Guayaquil at the end of May. Assuming we'll only get 90 days on T-3s we'll have until the end of August to see if and how much we like the country and see if we can find a "favourite" spot.
The extent of the plan so far is probably to make a circuit up the coast from Salinas to at least Esmeraldas, then up into the sierras, Ibarra, Quito, Cuenca etc to Loja and Vilcabamba then back along the coast from Machala to Guayaquil. Or something like that.
At this stage I'm expecting we'll prefer the sierras and to spend up to 2 months in whichever place we like most. Thanks for the information already provided on specific places. Is there anyone else who'd like to toss in recommendations for/against particular towns/cities to try? Any recommendations for places to stay, particularly cheap ones, very welcome.
It would be nice to meet some of you in person if it's convenient to do so.
Thanks, cccmedia. Guayaquil is baked in, the flights there were cheaper than to Quito, although we actually have a stopover in Quito. Go figure! Decided to start on the coast and get the hot sweaty stuff out of the way before the cold breathless stuff. If we had started in the mountains we might not have gotten down to the coast and I want to try to see as much as possible.
In view of the difficulty we had getting straight answers to simple questions about the paperwork we would need if we wanted to stay, and even if that option will exist when they finish working out what the new rules will actually be, we won't be able to stay this time if we really like the place. But we might extend our visit.
Thanks for the reminder about govt. travel advisory sites. I saw some stuff about the flooding on facebook yesterday. Didn't know they were experiencing quakes as well. Maybe we'll head up into the mountains from Pedernales. I want to have a bit of a plan before we arrive but will mostly be winging it once we get there.
I do get itchy feet. My routine is to go somewhere for the northern summer. Maine usually, its cheaper.
I might be relieving the pressure that makes many wanabee migrants from the north leave Ecuador early. Its not just cost that keeps people from being transients.
It might be considered more respectable to root somewhere. Not totally natural though, not for all of us.
Very few couples (though more loners) can drift from place to place. I encounter them in Vilcabamba as they pass thru. Some have back stories of decades and scores of countries living this way. That's rare though. Most travelers have school or work to return to.
The vagabond with just a backpack carries everything any of us possesses - our selves. Just about everything else is in transit from a store to a landfill, cluttering our rentals briefly on their way.
Anyhow, for us old folks (seventy-one in a month) its a hospice and the wrong time of life to fidget. By now we should have reached some equilibrium in ourselves - found comfort in our wrinkly skin. All passion not spent but down to loose change.
Place is just a detail.
Part of the answer to life's universal question is motorcycles. The sun is out so its time to buzz the town again on mine, or zip over to Malacatos for gas. Its a buck-fifty a gallon.
Not sure if you have looked into where to have the baby. I have been in Ecuador since 2012 and my wife has had two children.
One in the local public hospital. Everything was fine, they were very accommodating, I was allowed in to the theatre for the caesarean operation. Only problem was during recovery and the next few days the head nurse was a bit awkward about letting me in to the womens lounge. Understandable as there were about 8 or so women there being checked on and they didn't want a man there making them uncomfortable. However the wife had no other family there to help her go to the toilet hold the baby, the other women said they didn't mind and I was allowed in for some hours a day, the rest of the time I was outside, sitting / sleeping on the concrete floor until another of the womens mother or someone would call me for something.
The 2nd was at Grenados in Salinas, this is a private clinic, we were going to use the same public hospital as before, but the theatre was closed so we could not. The total cost was about $700, 3 nights, private room. Very professional. Similar to UK standards (our first child was born in the uk before we came here)
Differences Cambodia to Ecuador. Hard to say exactly, but during my time in Asia I always found the cultural differences very different meaning I never really made "friends" with the locals, there was always some kind of disconnect, some kind of not understanding each other. Whereas Ecuador as a Christian country (for the last 1/2 millenia anyway) there is that shared background - even more so if you are in a town / city where the people are more mixed / Spanish descent
Not sure if my last post went through. But if you are looking for some where to have teh baby, can recommend Grandos in Salinas. The wife had our 3rd child there a year ago, cost was about $700 for a caesarean and 3 nights stay, private room, great staff. Probably the best out of all 3 (1st in the UK, 2nd in a public hospital in Ecuador)
The wife stills goes regularly to see the paediatrician, so can get the contact details if interested.
We know 3 or 4 couples of have had their children there and everyone says good things about it. If you are on the coast I think it is the best place. The wife did research about Guayaquil, but was too far and would be too difficult with the other kids and she did not think it was any better (facility wise) than Granados
Although am not sure if they speak English (or if that would be a requirement).
I don't mean to be facetious in any way, but what you're describing sounds idyllic and wonderfully pleasant. Reminds me of the 1960's my hippy days when I thought we could simply just all get along and share peace and love, plus if I could just get one dollar from every human I wouldn't have to work for the rest of my life. Am I secretly still idealistic, yes because I'm a damn romanic and can't help myself. However, it's my belief until you rid the world of religion, greed, power struggles, poverty, racism, far right conservative fear-based "alternative facts" we'll continue to live in somewhat of a chaotic world. I am not a world traveler and have no expertise in anything but can appreciate your "lotsa questions" especially with new family member [congratulations!] Thanks, by the way, I felt young for a few minutes, lol. I find it helps to be accepting of differences without judgments, that way I don't have to file it in a "not right or bad category. I think your child being born as an Ecuadorian citizen might have some merit. I think you're brave as well for thinking about making the leap, I am not a wealthy human and ideally, would like to visit first, but it may be one or the other. Best of luck with life's adventures ahead of you!
Expats in Ecuador appreciate the cost of living, the friendly people, the beautiful weather and warm culture. The bureaucracy can be very trying, petty theft an issue and driving downright dangerous. (more)