Articles Related to Ecuador



A poll conducted by Ecuador's expat link GringoTree asked foreign residents who moved to the country before Correa took office in 2007 if they supported the amendment that would allow him to run again. Of the 19 long-time expats who responded, 14 said yes, although many of those had reservations. When asked if Correa has improved their lives as expats, 18 of 19 said yes.

One respondent who described himself as a libertarian said that things were "definitely" better because of Correa. "Ten years ago, the highways were full of potholes, you had to keep a generator for when the electric service went down, the campesinos were blocking the highways with protests, hospitals were in bad repair, and sometimes you had to bribe government employees to do any official business—basically, it was typical banana republic business as usual. That's mostly all changed. Today, the main highways are good and there are no protests blocking them, hospitals are a lot better, you can get things done with the government without paying off somebody. Public services in general are better too."

The respondent, a Cuenca expat, added: "Even though I worry that Correa is making Ecuador a 'nanny state,' I understand there are lots of poor, uneducated people who may need a nanny. They've been screwed over for years and now things are better and I've come to understand that it's in my best interest if the poor folks are happy."

One expat from Quito admitted that she has serious reservations about "life-time presidents, a la Venezuela and Nicaragua. On the other hand, I worry about someone from the 'old guard' being elected again and the country going back to the way it was before. There have been so many improvements and I would hate to see those stop."

Others reported that they benefit directly from new programs introduced during the Correa administration. "My husband and I joined the new social security health plan and pay about $80 a month," said one respondent. "We had to use the services of our local clinic two times and the services were very good. Before Correa, we always worried about what we'd do if one of us had a serious health problem. Now we don't."

The main complaint about Correa from several of those answering the survey was the rapid growth of government and what they considered "overreach" in some cases. "I don't like all the government authority going to Quito and I don't like all the socialist jargon," said an expat from Loja who has lived in the country for 22 years. "But I also know that I need to focus on the things that are important to me personally, like property rights, taxes, personal liberties, and infrastructure. Those things are all good in Ecuador."

He added: "I have to ask myself the question you hear in the U.S. elections, 'Are you better off today than you were four years ago?' Or, in the case of Ecuador, seven years ago. My answer is yes, absolutely."

David Morrill

Editor's Note: Ecuador is the top place in the world right now to retire well on a very limited budget...even to live the adventure of your lifetime on a Social Security check alone. If you're serious about this part of the world, don't miss our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference. Registration is now open (with an easy payment plan)…

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June 9, 2014

"Ms. Peddicord, I would first like to thank you for all of the information regarding overseas retirement options. You have opened my mind to the possibilities outside of the USA. I am a 63-year-old single woman and only have a retirement income of US$1,500/month. I would like to find a place where I could exist comfortably on that. I have a very adventurous spirit but also wish to be cautious as I would be venturing out alone.

"Are there any places that stand out as best options for someone such as me? Any advice would be truly appreciated."

--Debbie B., United States

Indeed. On that monthly income you have several good choices, depending what kind of lifestyle you're in the market for, including:

  • Ecuador—you could retire anywhere in this country on US$1,500 per month...
  • Nicaragua—again, your budget would buy you a comfortable, interesting, and adventure-filled retirement anywhere in this country...
  • Panama—not in Panama City but in the mountainous interior of the country or on the coast outside the most developed regions...
  • Thailand—in most of this country, your monthly income would support a top-shelf retirement
  • Vietnam—more exotic but also even more affordable
  • Philippines—where you could get along with English only if you wanted

This is the kind of thinking we'll do during this year's Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, August 29–31. Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines are all on the featured haven list for this special event...along with 15 other countries.

Details are here.

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The first opportunity that jumped out at me was in real estate.

I spent several days looking at properties available for sale in the city, reading newspaper ads, photographing signs in windows, and combing the streets. Never did I find a single English-speaking real estate agent in downtown Loja.

And the Spanish-speaking agents I worked with were nothing to write home about. They couldn't keep appointments. In one case, I persisted for three days but ended up seeing only one house...despite having made my initial appointment more than a month in advance. Another real estate agent had more than 20 listings...but only 3 homes that had not already been sold.

The first North American who opens a real estate business here will have a wide-open market. Team up with an energetic and well-connected local entrepreneur, and you could grab a good share of the local market just by running a tight ship and providing good service.

Granted, there are not a lot of North American clients in Loja right now. But remember Cuenca. The first professional English-speaking real estate agency in this city pre-dated its discovery as a top expat retiree destination. In fact, to some extent, CuencaRealEstate.com helped to enable the expat migration that followed.

The second opportunity I noticed was for a good Spanish-language school.

Loja is known throughout the country for its Spanish. The version spoken in Loja is crisp, clear, well-enunciated, and true to form. Lojanos take pride in the quality of their Spanish. I've seen bumper stickers calling out their linguistic purity.

Yet I couldn't find a Spanish-language school. I went to the department of tourism to ask about this, and the best their agent could come up with was a tutor I could hire privately. (She was the young lady's mother.) I asked at a couple of English schools (there are plenty of these in Loja). They all said they could fix me up with private lessons with a freelance tutor, but none offered actual Spanish courses.

So, again, the first person to open a quality Spanish school in this city will have the market to himself. As with the real estate idea, there is not a huge pent-up demand for language study in Loja right now, but one big reason is that there's nowhere to study. With a good quality school in place, I think Loja's linguistic reputation (and maybe some smart international exchange student agreements) would bring plenty of students.

My final observation was in the area of short-term rentals.

On my most recent visit, I looked at a good bit of real estate, again, both for sale and for rent. But I found only one quality furnished rental. It wasn't bad, but it wouldn't be among the finalists for a Good Housekeeping Award either.

I'd say there is a market for a handful of modern, short-term, furnished apartment rentals, built and equipped to higher-end U.S. standards, apartments of the type that are so popular in nearby Cuenca.

A skeptic might say that, if there were a good market for these kinds of units, there would already be a supply of them. In a more developed market, that would be the case, but, in Loja, we're at a pre-market stage. The demand for these kinds of short-term rentals is coming. As Loja becomes more popular as an expat destination, this demand will grow. At the same time, the existence of these kinds of rentals will create their own demand.

I'll use Medellin, Colombia, as an example. In Medellin, the existence of these high-quality units has actually changed people's habits and enticed many travelers away from hotels. In my case, I'd never used short-term rentals for business travel. But when I found out that I could get a luxury apartment, all to myself, for less than the price of a hotel, I switched to short-term rentals right away. And I'm not alone.

Lots of expats like Loja. I hear from more and more people each year who find Loja's cultured, low-key lifestyle to be just what they're looking for. But, in the end, almost no one actually moves to Loja. And I think I know some of the reasons why.

I'll use Cuenca's success as an expat destination as a benchmark.

Of course Cuenca is a great city to start with. But when a potential expat comes to check it out, they can stay at their leisure in a quality, furnished, short-term rental, equipped with cable TV and high-speed internet. They can shop for real estate on an English-language site with a good inventory, and they can view properties with an English-speaking agent. Meantime, then they can master Spanish at one of Cuenca's excellent language schools.

In other words, they can pretty much just show up and rely on this infrastructure to get them going.

In Loja, none of these things exist yet. But once they are available, the scene will change. And it will be a handful of expat entrepreneurs who are paying attention right now who will help to make that happen.

Lee Harrison

Editor's Note: We'll explore business and entrepreneurial opportunities available in Loja and elsewhere in Ecuador at our Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito Sept. 17–19.

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You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader, 

Where is the best place in the world to retire?

That's a tricky question to answer, so I suggest coming at this from a different angle. Rather than trying to identify the world's top retirement haven, consider instead who's best suited to retire where.

A short list of top retirement options in the Americas right now would include:
  • Cayo, Belize
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • El Cangrejo, Panama

Which one of these places is the best choice? It depends on who you are.

Who Should Retire To Cayo, Belize?

Belize is a retirement, a tax, and an offshore haven. This is a sunny country where the folks speak English and value their freedom and privacy. Belize is easy to get to from the States, and the people living here are welcoming and hospitable once you've arrived.

On the other hand, this is a small country where the infrastructure is most kindly described as "developing."

The cost of living can be affordable, even low, but not if you want to live a more developed-world lifestyle that would mean buying lots of things not produced locally. Anything imported comes at an inflated price.

My favorite part of Belize is its Cayo District. No infrastructure, limited services and amenities, and little market demand could be interpreted as negatives, but, in Cayo, these things are a big part of the appeal. Once you get to Cayo, you don't mind that there's no infrastructure. You don't mind that the culture is more concerned with country living than consumerism.

You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord
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Introduced to Latin America by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, the Pase del Niño is a Christmas celebration in which likenesses of the infant Jesus are carried through towns and villages. In Ecuador, the tradition remains strongest in the Andean region. Organizers of the Cuenca parade claim that theirs is the largest Pase del Niño in all of Latin America; as many as 50,000 will participate in the procession, with about 200,000 more watching from sidewalks, balconies and rooftops.

The parade is actually a collection of hundreds of smaller parades, according to José Washington Noroña, one of the event's organizers. "Every neighborhood and nearby town will have its own parade with its own entries. Each will carry its own statue of the Christ child. This is something that communities plan for the entire year. Although most entries are from Cuenca and the surrounding area, some come from as far away as Loja in the south, as well as Otavalo and Ibarra in the north," says Noroña.

Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing until Carnival in February. The tradition also includes Novenas, nine consecutive nights of song, food, and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches. On Christmas Eve, the Misa del Gallo, or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches. Besides Pase del Niño celebrations, Christmas in Cuenca also features nightly firework shows, concerts and craft sales.

Organizers say that the parade has a strong connection to the United States. Ecuadorians who live in the U.S. are major financial contributors, says Noroña. "Those who have done well there send money as thanks for their safe passage and future success.""

The U.S influence is evident in many of the parade entries. Children wear cowboy outfits and such personalities as Bart Simpson and Richard Nixon, dressed up as Santa Claus, have made parade appearances. No matter the origin of the characters, Noroña says that the organizers try to keep the focus religious. "We don't dictate what participants can do, but we try to keep the focus on the birth of Christ. Last year, I saw a man dressed as Sponge Bob and thought he was a little out of place."

The centerpiece of Cuenca's parade is an 1823 sculpture of the infant Jesus that was commissioned by Cuencano Josefa Heredia from an unknown local artist. When the sculpture came into the possession of Cuenca Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo more than a century later, he took it to the Holy Land and Rome in 1961, where it was blessed by Pope John XXIII. After the journey and the anointment, the statute became known as Niño Viajero, or Traveling Child, and has been the parade's main attraction ever since.

The parade begins at Iglesia Corazón de Jesus on Calle Gran Colombia at about 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve and continues well into the afternoon. It winds its way down Calle Simon Bolivar, ending a few blocks east of Parque Calderon.

Along the parade route and in nearby parks and plazas, hundreds of vendors sell traditional foods, cotton candy, ice cream, and candy. There are also several distribution points for chicha, a traditional holiday beverage. It's free, but beware: the alcohol content is high.

Although the sidewalks and balconies around Parque Calderon are considered prime parade-viewing areas, anywhere along Simon Bolivar will provide a good vantage point. The best looks are probably from the upper-floor balconies of homes and businesses along Bolivar.

David Morrill

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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