15 Possible Issues for Expats While Living in Ecuador
(A Balanced Review)

Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada, July 4th, 2022

On the Pacific side of South America, Ecuador is bordered by Peru to the southeast and Columbia to the north. It is one of the smallest countries in South America, but it’s also just about (if not the) most well-known and diverse in the entirety of all Latin America. Ecuador has a lot of interesting facts, but its circumstances are not always as good as people may think. You possibly were not aware of a lot of disadvantages to Ecuador. Ecuador is a country with a high altitude, which is great for tourists but may be challenging for expats to adapt to. Political issues in Ecuador are a major cause of tension and protests, such as occurred in late 2019 and more recently in mid 2022. Before deciding to migrate to Ecuador, there are a number of possible disadvantages to take into account.

Within this short piece, I'll cover 15 of the biggest disadvantages of living in Ecuador to help you decide whether it is the perfect location for you or not.

Clear Perspective

1. Transportation Scene

Despite the fact that some people prefer public transportation over utilizing one’s own car or a taxi, public transportation in Ecuador is not at all as you may expect. The city bus system is often crowded, unpleasant, rough, and polluting.

If you are not very cautious, the bus is one of the easiest places to be robbed or pickpocketed. Avoid carrying cash in your back pocket, wear your bag over your chest, and keep close attention to anybody nearby. The crowdedness of the bus makes it impossible to discern who is attempting to get an advantage.

2. Noise (‘Ruido’)

If you are visiting Ecuador for the first time from a place like the United States or Canada, one of the first things you will notice is how noisy it is there. With everything from roosters and dogs crowing and noisy music coming from all sides and gas tankers blowing their horns, Ecuador is probably one of the loudest travel places you can visit.

When shopping for a home to buy or rent, you should consider the neighborhood’s noise level if you are a quiet person. If you decide to stay someplace noisy, it is probable that you will not have the most relaxing time in Ecuador.

3. Stray Dogs

It may surprise you to learn that dogs in Ecuador may outnumber humans. The canines do not get appropriate nutrition, and they do not have secure places to live. They often roam the streets in packs, ripping into the recycling garbage bags and consuming everything they can get their paws on.

Animal enthusiasts will be concerned about the conditions in which these dogs are kept. Seeing these underfed dogs may be disturbing for tourists. Sometimes Ecuadorians purposefully poison dogs in an effort to lessen the number of wild animals or ones who bother them regularly.

The street dogs in Ecuador are unlike those in any other country. A wild dog may bite you if you go too close to it. When on a motorcycle as well, it is possible that a street dog may try to catch up with you.

These canines rush in packs and start chasing you as you go down a twisting, rough path, which makes the situation worse.

Thankfully, a number of charity groups are working to solve the dog problem by getting rid of dogs in the cities and taking care of their medical requirements.

4. Natural Disasters

Ecuador is somewhat vulnerable to natural disasters. The country is home to several volcanoes and fault lines in addition to being on the equator. If an inactive volcano begins to erupt, naturally some deaths in nearby areas would likely result.

Not all areas of Ecuador are susceptible to earthquakes or other natural disasters. But suppose you have grave reservations about this. Consequently, you must avoid areas like Guayas, Manab, Los Rios Esmeraldas, Santa Elena, and Santo Domingo, which were formerly earthquake epicenters.

5. Criminalistics Guide

Despite certain areas being safer than others, crime is nevertheless a problem in Ecuador. If you can avoid certain spots, you will be OK.

The crimes, which might be as little as pickpocketing or as severe as robbery with a weapon or kidnapping, seem to never end. People have at times been robbed while being held at gunpoint or knifepoint, even if it is possible that the guns are malfunctioning or lacking ammo. But it is preferable to obey the robber’s orders rather than risk getting fired at.

Travelers who hire unlicensed taxis face a serious risk of express kidnapping in Ecuador. Theft brings victims to ATM booths and forces them to withdraw their money.

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are frequent in certain parts of Ecuador. Although the crimes are often overstated on travel safety websites, reading about them is nonetheless upsetting.

In rare instances, unaware victims have been given homemade variations of drugs like scopolamine to sedate and subdue them. Therefore, you should never accept food, flyers, or perfume samples from anybody while walking outside in the bigger cities of Ecuador, no matter how well-groomed or reputable they seem to be.

6. Language Barrier – Spanglish, Anyone?

A man using a phone while seeming perplexed serves as a visual representation of the linguistic barrier in Ecuador.

For the majority of expats, the main challenge is the language barrier. If you have never studied Spanish, the prospect of mastering another language as a Senior can be overwhelming.

In some regions of Ecuador, there are sizable and welcoming expat communities as well as multilingual individuals who can assist with trivial tasks like opening bank accounts. It could be challenging at first to adjust to daily living without the necessary assistance.

If you could not contact a cab driver online or a shop manager online, it would be difficult to speak with a government representative or other type technician. When you are unable to communicate in the local language, it is normal to feel restricted and isolated.

The majority of people can learn another language, well enough at minimum to get by in another country. Even if your language skills are not as strong as those of the natives, you may be amazed at how far you can go by picking up a few essential words and developing a vocabulary of everyday situations.

If you travel to Ecuador and speak terrible Spanish, you will discover that the locals do not give a damn about your spelling or punctuation. If you addressed them in their language, they would appreciate the effort you made.

7. The Altitude’s Got It

Based on the area you wish to live in Ecuador, you can possibly have trouble with the altitude. In Quito, the elevation is around 2850 meters, or about 10,000 feet. It affects how well your body sleeps, how much alcohol you can consume at once as well as your ability to recover from stress.

Keep in mind that not all locations in Ecuador have high levels, and that few people are affected. However, it is crucial to remember. Ecuador’s placement on the equator is also a cause for concern due to the geometric angle at which the sun strikes the globe. It intensifies the heat to a great extent.

There may be up to 12 hours of direct sunlight every day during the whole year. If you want to be in the sun for more than 10 minutes, it is important to carry extra sunscreen and wear a helmet. Due to the UV levels, which are rather strong, you will burn more rapidly if you spend too much time in the sun.

8. Clouds of Dust & Microorganisms

If you are terrified of germs, Ecuador is not the place for you to reside. There will be a lot of people around you, whether you are at an outdoor market or on public transit, which can make you feel anxious.

Since there always appears to be a coating of dust covering everything where you work, you will likely spend more time cleaning. Another method that expats attempt to overcome this drawback is by bringing a copious amount of hand sanitizer.

9. Bugs Galore

In Ecuador, where it rains often, bugs are more active during the rainy season. Mozzies are one of the most problematic of the many different types of biting type bugs you could come across in Ecuador.

Since it normally takes expats six months to build antibodies to these creatures, the initial days in getting settled there may be a little difficult. You may be bitten by the bugs, which would make you sick.

Taking a couple lengthy holidays there before relocating permanently may help you become used to the area’s physical needs.

10. Fruits & Veggies Need to be Well Cleaned

Ecuador has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. In order to prevent health risks, the majority of places require you to buy and/or heat the water that’s employed for purposes of cooking or washing your fruits/vegetables. You must thoroughly wash your fruit in clean water. A lack of ingredients may make it challenging to prepare meals at home.

11. Bureaucrats & Paperwork

Plan on delays for visits to any office of the Ecuadorian Government, i.e. such as at the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry.

It is difficult to forecast whether or when an application will be processed, noting that the officials at the Ecuadorian Immigration Ministry often change places and posts. This may significantly increase the processing times normally indicated for any relevant Visa process, so as a general rule of thumb, plan on a relatively significant amount of time so as to expect your desired response.

12. Duties & Tariffs

You must pay relatively high import charges on goods from Ecuador. You could pay twice as much for whatever you need to buy that was not made in Ecuador as you would have in North America or Europe.

Never ever contemplate making an online purchase from Amazon or having anything sent to you from another country. The likelihood that the goods may be delayed in customs and cost you a lot of money to get them back is high.

Ecuadorian Customs taxes may sometimes be as high as 50% of the item’s value. Sending gifts to family members back home is an expensive endeavor.

Many expats would use a mule service to prevent needing to pay the sometimes exorbitant import tariffs. There are Facebook groups for this. Examples of frequent posts are “I’m traveling to Ecuador from the US on this day,” “I have room for 25 pounds of additional items,” and “I am charging a cost of $9 per pound.”

You order a new coffee maker from the US, have it brought to your house in say the city of Cuenca, as if you need that additional service, the mule will even bring it straight to your door. It could at first look a little suspicious, especially if you are buying something expensive. However, you will find that many of these mules are reputable and often travel internationally.

13. Health Insurance Matters

If you attempt to save costs in Ecuador by paying for a major illness with your own money, you face the danger of becoming bankrupt.

Waiting for the government to pay for potentially life-ending kidney dialysis or other therapies may be excruciating in certain locations. In order to close any gaps in your health insurance, be ready to secure medical care in varying different places and/or ways.

14. Utility Service Interruptions

When you migrate to Ecuador, you will have access to all the modern comforts. Most Ecuadorians have access to phone, internet, and restroom facilities. Keep in mind that these services might abruptly and at any time cease to exist.

Even while this region has lately made great development, it is still not on pace with American utilities. In case of a prolonged outage, the majority of residents maintain a supply of drinkable water on hand.

Remote employees in Ecuador will be wise to have a wireless modem and/or a backup power source so as to comply with any required online meetings or due dates/times in their country of origin.

15. Resident Visas

When you initially arrive in Ecuador, your foreign passport will receive a T-3 stamp, allowing you to stay in the country for up to 90 days without extending your Tourist Visa. If you desire to stay longer, you will require a Tourist Visa Extension that allows you to do so for up to 90 additional days.

If you want to stay in the country for more than 90-180 days per year based on the immediate above, you must apply for a conditional resident visa. Any violation of Ecuador’s Immigration Law might result in fines and the revocation of your visa.

Balanced Review Summary

It may be exhilarating and challenging to relocate to or go to a new country. If you are considering moving to Ecuador, you should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages before choosing if the relocation is beneficial.

The language gap, sometimes higher crime rate and turmoil in the Ecuadorian Government are a few of the disadvantages of living in the country. Foreigners face several challenges as a consequence of the political upheaval, including the country’s constantly changing visa restrictions.

All of the issues mentioned in this essay should cause some concern. However, it could be enough that you are aware of them given that there are more than 18 million people now living in the country and that they are all doing well. You should carefully consider each point before making a decision.

For assistance contact Sara Chaca, an English speaking Ecuadorian Attorney (principal office is located in Cuenca but services all of Ecuador). Sara is well known for replying to in less than 24 hours (usually much faster) – plus for every Expat, Sara provides a complimentary consultation regarding immigration to Ecuador specific to your circumstances.

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