I moved to Ecuador from the USA in June of 2013 after visiting Quito half a dozen times. I live in a condo in Centro Histórico, Quito. Something I would like to see in Ecuador: the reopening of the casinos, which were closed in ...
Where are you from and what were you doing before?
I am a U.S. citizen who has moved to Ecuador. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and worked in many other places during my years in radio-TV news and casino gaming. These included California, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
As a US national, what were the procedures you had to follow to move to Ecuador?
I had already purchased an investment condo in Quito, Ecuador, which was in pre-construction at the time, in 2005. I used the value of the condo to qualify me as a real-estate investor, gaining me permanency residency rights in Ecuador. The rest was just a bunch of paperwork.
How long have you been in the country?
I moved to Quito in June of 2013. Due to health issues, my doctor in Cincinnati said I needed to stop working full-time and should move to a more favorable climate. With Quito offering year-round springlike weather and my having already purchased the condo, the choice was obvious.
What has surprised you the most on your arrival?
I had visited Quito many times, so the main new experience of a surprising nature was dealing with the combined bureaucracies in the U.S. and Ecuador. It took about a year to obtain an EC driver's license off my Pennsylvania license. I finally got the license in September 2015 and have since purchased a car.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What types of housing units are available?
Until the condo was ready, I used to stay at the Ambassador Hotel on 9 de Octubre y Colón. I always found it easy to obtain a room there. Accommodations are available in Quito from humble shared-rooms hostels to fancy world-class hotels with heated swimming pools and spas.
Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
Outside of teaching English, there are few jobs for expats in Quito. The government and businesses have a policy of favoring Ecuadorian nationals. The language barrier is a problem for anything less than true fluency. Ecuador welcomes more expat retirees and investors than job seekers.
How do you find the local lifestyle?
The people are extremely friendly and I think a lot of it has to do with my ability to speak Spanish. An expat could live in a big city like Quito and get by with minimal language skills and just hanging out with Gringos, but that seems extremely isolating to me.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
It has been a big success, again due to learning and knowing the language and to understanding that things are done differently at a different pace. It takes a lot longer to get many things done here. As you develop the patience for that, you discover ways to cope with delays and inconveniences and drop some of the North American get-it-done-now attitude. A Gringo will usually stand out, so if you appreciate your "Gringo-ness" and your special status, you can enjoy such and adapt more easily.
What does your everyday life look like in Quito?
There are some things I like to do at least once a week in Quito: do my fruit and vegetable shopping at a local Spanish-only market, buy my other groceries and specialty items at MegaMaxi Six supermarket in north Quito, get a massage at Dodie's Peluqueria, swim, typically at Academia Valencia and occasionally at the outdoor pool at Hotel Quito, attend a social event at place that welcome Gringos, and/or go to a nightclub or private party.
The QuiCentro shopping mall is world-class, and other malls including El Jardín and El Recreo offer plenty of good shopping too. There are many interesting and quality shops on Avenidas Eloy Alfaro and Naciones Unidas. Every day I also participate in the Ecuador forum of expat.com where I have some special opportunities and satisfactions having been appointed Ecuador expert by Julien in April 2014.
Any particular experience you would like to share with us?
The going rate for massage in Mariscal sector is $20 an hour, so it's a great value compared to U.S. cities I have lived in where it cost two or three times as much. Massage once a week is a great antidote to the stresses of moving to a foreign country and the bureaucratic/cultural frustrations that Gringos often encounter along the way. The two practitioners at Dodie's on Calle Wilson have been doing bodywork for me regularly, four times a month, for the past two years. It's like family down there in some ways, including continuity.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Quito? Is it easy for an Expat to live there?
Prices for cars, major appliances and imported items are higher here. Anything that is labor-based from handyman stuff to massage is low-cost. Taxis are cheap, a bus trip costs 25 cents. You can rent anything, from a $150 simple room in a house to a $1,400 fancy two-bedroom pad in upscale Gonzalo Suárez to a super-expensive mansion with a swimming pool in the suburbs.
Your favorite local dishes...
I only rarely eat Ecuadorian food. It's an advantage to living in an international city and having your own apartment. You can vary your cuisine at will. For a while, I was eating Indian food once a week, usually take-away from Sher-e-Punjab. I've eaten Chinese and many of the chifas and often enjoy the steamy shrimp dish, camarones a la plancha. There are plenty of Italian and pizza places to choose from. The Marriott has a Mexican restaurant and an Argentinian one side to side, with a lunchtime, poolside restaurant downstairs as well.
What do you like most about Quito?
The weather is incredible. It's about 68 F (20 °C) every day all year round. There are plenty of parks, although once in a while you can't beat getting out of the city and to a place such as Pakakuna Gardens out past the new airport with its botanical-garden and Hawaii-style flora.
What do you miss most about your home country?
Between the time I bought my pre-construction condo (2005) and the time I moved into it (2013), El Supremo managed to get all of Ecuador's casinos closed (2011-12). Thanks a lot.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expats coming to Ecuador?
If you drive, get your paperwork done before you leave the U.S., apostilled driving record, in particular.
Don't arrange for containerized shipping. It presents myriad problems involving delays, expenses and bureaucracy. Bring extra suitcases on the plane instead. The baggage fees are a small price to pay not to have your life dominated by shipping issues while you deal with everything else.
If you can afford it, get professional assistance with your residency visa: either an experienced immigration attorney in Ecuador, or a recommended visa facilitator. The exception may be if you are moving to Cuenca where they have helpful bilingual staff to assist the hordes of North American retirees.
Don't buy or build on property in Ecuador until you have lived in the target area for at least one year.
Don't acknowledge strangers attempting to engage you on the street, unless you're extremely lonely, that is, and don't mind giving money away to someone who claims he or she had his passport and money stolen and needs an immediate influx of cash.
What are your plans for the future?
I have a trip planned to Argentina and Uruguay. I plan to find out how my body reacts to being at a lower altitude (Quito is 1.7 miles above sea level with 20 percent less oxygen than at low altitude). I'll do more outdoor swimming and play casino blackjack for the first time in years. I understand the sea air can be good for you in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.