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Mistakes expats make in Ecuador

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Ecuador? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in Ecuador to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!


Don't buy or build on property in Ecuador until you have lived in the target area for a minimum of one year.  Due to visa rules, this may not be possible to do in one trip.

The classic boner was what's-her-name from the Pacific Northwest who put a deposit on a 'fixer-upper' in San Clemente on the beachfront during her first week visiting the EC coast.

The deal went sideways when it turned out that the property owner was actually multiple heirs of a deceased owner .. and they lived in three different countries. 

If Missy had hired a proper lawyer, she might have avoided the deal-disaster by being aware of the ownership complications before she signed the contract.

Once it all went South, we never heard from her again.


A related mistake is reading 'Live and Invest Overseas' and 'International Living' magazine .. and thinking you can buy property in Ecuador, then profitably rent it out with a property manager taking care of the details while you sit back in North America and watch your bank account grow.

In reality, you're signing up for property headaches that include repairs, unexpected maintenance issues, flooding, vacancies, attempting to evict deadbeat non-payers from the property, re-tenanting .. and a variety of other issues.  :cool:

The biggest problem of all can be the realization that you have to sell, except you can't find a buyer for years. :dumbom:

There may be turnkey properties you could buy into in Medellín, Colombia, and some resort areas in some countries.  But you better know what you're doing .. and you better have money to burn! :o


Here's one you encounter from time to time...

Expats erroneously thinking they're getting deliberately ripped off.

Sure, there's Gringo pricing .. and you may have to pay 20 percent more than the locals for your fruits and vegetables.

But the truth is that most Ecuadorians are honest.  Most of the alleged ripoffs are due to misunderstandings -- cultural and transactional -- and outsized expectations based on minimal experience living in South America.


I think one of the biggest mistakes that some people make is having unrealistic expectations. It’s especially detrimental when such unrealistic expectations involve money or supplementing their income in Ecuador. A friend of mine with a dream to be an expat thinks he can supplement his income by day trading. Now of course this makes me roll my eyes because he hasn’t been consistently successful, yet unrealistically expects that to change as an expat. The same with other people who think they will be able to publish successfully and earn some money. My point is if you are not successful in earning money in your own country then do not think things will be any different here.

Another unrealistic expectation is expecting life in Ecuador to be much better for a fraction of the cost of living in developing countries. This is a fallacy if we objectively compare similarities whether they’re groceries, residence, entertainment, education, traveling and so on. If one understands PPP or purchasing power parity they will understand my point. Yes Ecuador’s PPP is approximately at a 1:1.75 ratio but this is true for all of Ecuador including some of the poorest areas and includes free public education and subsidized healthcare.

However if you take into account those free services, and you don’t want your standard of living to drop then the PPP will certainly be nowhere near the official ratio especially in nicer parts of cities. Just have realistic expectations because for the most part you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you underestimate the reality of cost of living. Have a budget that has a little breathing room to take a break once in a while, a trip back home or wherever. One person stated he was living on less than a $1000 in a one bedroom cabin by the river. If someone lived in a cabin anywhere and watched TV all day and ate $3 almuerzos then they could probably live on less than that anywhere else. So it's all relative but let's not disparage the reality of cost of living based on specific lifestyles. If anything let's just compare. 

I had a Gyro for $7, no soda, no chips, no nada. I bought bedsheets from Sukasa the other day and they costed $86, an Ecuadorian friend visited Baños for two days and it costed him $200 a day. A sushi lunch/dinner will be no less than $50 for two, and that’s with a little bit of Sashimi. The culture and language is difficult enough and the last thing a person wants is to be on a tight budget in a third world country. If you do that then after a year or two or three you might be looking elsewhere because of unrealistic expectations.   

Last but not least is failure to adapt and in some cases life here might consume you. I used to think it was an age thing, ya know you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that is clearly not the case because I come across young people who can’t adapt as well and can’t wait to leave after completing their obligations. And adapting is easier said than done but I truly believe if a person is content with their life then they could be happy just about anywhere.

Judging Ecuadorians based on limited interaction with locals.

Passing judgement on all Ecuadorians based on commercial dealings. It doesn’t get more skewed than that. This is especially true in the services sector that caters to foreigners because there are some people who will take advantage of naiveness and this is true everywhere and in every country. So someone feels they got cheated or were actually cheated and they conclude that Ecuadorians are all cheaters. Again that’s a skewed perception.

It seems that there are those who seek to take advantage, this is true for both gringos and Ecuadorians.......beware of gringos with business cards.


It seems that there are those who seek to take advantage, this is true for both gringos and Ecuadorians.......beware of gringos with business cards.

True, and Ecuadorians from developed countries are also to be wary of. And in general it's not so much of cheating, but more so of offering higher prices to expats because they think they can afford it, and also to maintain their own standards of living here.

I remember when looking for an apartment initially and saw this one place which was nice but was a bit small and didn't enjoy as much sunlight. The owner was a western-Ecuadorian and she wouldn't budge from her asking price and I tried to reason with her that there are similar apartments in much better located streets, to no avail.

Quite frankly I was uneasy with her to begin with because that's how it is in many countries when dealing with people who moved back from the developed world. A lot of these people will only rent to extranjeros (foreigners), and their places reflect that taste, and only settle for locals when the market is down, and of course this is purely for monetary reasons as they perceive foreigners as having a good steady income.

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