The Cons, The Negatives, and What Sucks About Living in Ecuador
Ecuador is awesome. There are so many reasons to pack your bags and head to Ecuador right now. Seriously! Get your wheelie bag, start throwing stuff into it, wash your butt and head out the door!
While I’ve outlined all the reasons to move to Ecuador in one of my past posts. Today, I want to trash talk the country. That’s right Ecuador, you’re not so hot. You’ve got problems and I’m here to point them out like you were on a red carpet and I was an aging plastic surgery addict.
In all seriousness, I love living in Ecuador, but maybe it’s not for you. Are you easily annoyed? Do you have a fear of volcanoes? This is my attempt at covering my ass so I don’t get angry e-mails telling me I ruined someone’s life.
Prefer to watch than read? My cons to living in Ecuador video is just a play button away.
What I hate about living in Ecuador
The import taxes here are so high that what will cost you an arm and a leg will leave you completely limbless. Anything not made in Ecuador could cost you twice as much as it would in Europe or North America. Ordering online from Amazon isn’t an option. Nor is having someone send you anything – even if it’s a gift. Whatever they send will likely get stuck in customs and if you want to free it, you’ll have to pay something outrageous. I believe just an empty envelope costs $50, but the custom taxes can be as high as 50% of the value of the item. Even sending things out is really expensive, so no gifts to your loved ones to make up for you abandoning them.
To get around the high import taxes, most expats will use what’s called a mule service. You can find Facebook groups for this. People will post I’m coming to Ecuador from this place on this date, I have this much room, the cost is this much per kg. So if you want a new laptop, you order it, have it sent to their house, and they bring it for you. It’s a bit sketchy, especially if you need something expensive, but a lot of the mules are regulars that go back and forth between countries a lot and they have a good reputation.
Breaking that $20
I like that Ecuador uses the American dollar, because it’s convenient – it’s the most popular currency in the world – however it also means that Ecuador can’t print its own money. There’s a serious lack of $5 bills in the country, so it’s very common to have a full pocket of change. If you forget to grab it when you’re heading out, or you just don’t want to have to carry around an extra 5 pounds, you’ll find yourself struggling to spend that $20 bill. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wait while someone ran to another store to try and break my $20. Then when they come back it’s a pile of coins. That’s not so much of a concern as it is an annoyance.
There are a lot of street dogs in Ecuador. I’ve certainly had some run-ins with them. I got nipped once, but it luckily didn’t break the skin. I’ve also been chased on my motorcycle many times. It’s a bit scary when a pack of dogs start barking and running you down as you’re driving down a bumpy back road. There are some non-profit programs that are working to fix the dog problem – and when I say fix I mean both solve it and to literally get the dogs fixed – and I think it’s a lot better now than it was just a few years ago, but it’s still somewhat of a concern to people. I don’t really mind the dogs as long as they aren’t assholes. There’s a few dogs I see around town that we’ll sometimes toss some food to. There’s one that we made friends with on the coast that we called Fatty Nips. She was pretty cool.
Late to the Party
The classic Latin American stereotype of being late is alive and well in Ecuador. I try not to let it bother me, but I’m always very punctual so sometimes it just feels like the person thinks their time is more valuable than mine. Which, it probably is. I mean, I spent an hour today watching old pro wrestling matches.
Just be prepared for it and realize that it’s not personal, it’s just the way things work here. You can even ask when you’re told the start time to an event, “is that Ecuadorian time or gringo time?” no one will be offended and you’ll have a better idea when to show up.
Ecuador is much noisier than my home country of Canada. You’ve got roosters, gas trucks coming around blasting some sort of ditty, dogs barking, music being played too loud. I think after living in Vietnam, which makes Ecuador seem like an ASMR video, I’m pretty used to the noise. It doesn’t really bother me much, however it’s definitely something you need to consider when finding a place to rent or buy.
What’s going on now?
Probably the biggest frustration I have is the lack of information, and how quickly the information changes without much of an announcement.
Last year, they announced that the petrol subsidies would be abolished, which essentially double the price of gas. You’d think they would ease people into this a bit, but I think they announced it just the day before it happened (they ended up having to reinstate them after a week long protest).
During the pandemic there have been driving restrictions. When the state of emergency ended they announced that the driving restrictions would not be lifted however they would switch the days, so people who were only allowed to drive Mon, Wed, and Fri would now be only allowed to drive on Tues, Thurs, and Saturday (and vice versa). I was surprised that they gave us almost 15 days notice for this. Then just a couple days before the switch was set to happen, they decided it was too confusing so they wouldn’t switch the days. I don’t really understand how announcing something 15 days in advance is more confusing than announcing it and then telling everyone just 2 days before that the previous announcement was no longer happening.
We planned a motorcycle trip down to Banos. It was a hassle trying to figure out which cantons have driving restrictions and which ones no longer have them. There’s no single source you can go to, and with 221 cantons in Ecuador it’s a real pain having to figure out which Cantons we will be driving through, and then do Google searches or find Facebook pages for each specific canton, then comb through their announcements to see if they’ve mentioned anything about it. It just seems really unorganized to me.
I have a theory that the government doesn’t like announcing things until the last minute because Ecuadorians don’t put up with crap and they love a good protest. By announcing it at the last minute it gives them less time to organize one.
Sticking to the topic of politics, the instability of Ecuador’s political situation is something that you have to at least be a little bit wary about. Since we moved here a curfew has been put into place on 2 separate occasions. There have been a lot of attempted coos here in the past 20 years. The police even took the president hostage just 10 or so years ago. I have a video that’s about the current political situation in Ecuador, watch that and you can hear all about the corruption in Ecuador’s politics. There’s an election coming up in February and I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens, who gets elected, and how the people react to it.
Depending where you live in Ecuador, altitude may be a problem for you. The elevation in Quito is 2850 meters. That’s like almost 10,000 feet I think (metric system rules, imperial system drools!). When I first moved to Quito it took me a month to feel normal. It affects your sleep, your energy levels, how much you can binge drink, how many farts you produce in a day, your body’s overall ability to recover. I remember hearing an interview with a MMA fighter who was having problems recovering from an injury. She tried all kinds of treatment and nothing was working. Then she saw a doctor who told her to move out of Denver. Shortly after leaving the mile high city she got better. Denver is about half as high as Quito.
Of course, not every place in Ecuador is high altitude and not everyone is affected by the altitude, but it’s definitely something you need to be aware of.
There’s also the fact that Ecuador is on the equator. The angle at which the sun hits the earth here makes it very intense. You need to pay attention to the UV levels and you can’t be out in the sun without sunscreen for more than 10 minutes.
The Public Transit
I love public transit. There’s something about rubbing elbows with the locals that just makes you feel real. The public transit in Ecuador is a bit rough though. The local city buses often spew pollution, they’re bumpy, sometimes crowded, and they just feel unsafe at times. The bus is also the number one place to get robbed in Ecuador. I know at least one person that’s been pick pocketed on the bus here. You definitely have to be careful – no wallets in the back pocket, wear your backpack on your front, and just be aware of your surroundings. The good news is, Quito is just months away from opening up a brand new Metro system which will really make things easier.
Crime really isn’t that bad here as long as you avoid certain neighborhoods. I once took a bus that didn’t end up going where I thought it was going, and I ended up in a somewhat bad neighborhood. It was the middle of the day, but I had my DSLR camera on me. I was a bit worried at that time, but generally it’s very easy to avoid the dangerous areas.
I do know people that have been robbed at gun point, but guns aren’t nearly as available here as they are in Brazil, or Mexico. And most the guns here, especially if they belong to a person desperate enough to rob you, probably aren’t even functional, or they don’t have bullets. But of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do exactly what they ask you to. Better safe than sorry.
Another thing you might want to pee yourself about is the potential for natural disasters. I was thinking about it the other day… If the Earth turns on us and something crazy happens, Ecuador is probably the last place you want to be. With all the volcanoes here, the fault-lines, and the fact that we’re on the equator – if shit went down, even my super solid fighting abilities wouldn’t help.
You can head to volcanodiscovery.com to see all the earthquakes that have hit Ecuador in the past year or month – there’s a lot. Of course most of these are just minor trembles, and to be honest, since I moved here
I haven’t felt a single quake yet I’ve only felt one, but the big one could be right around the corner. Towns have been wiped out in Ecuador because of quakes. You have to be prepared for these things. We have an emergency bag packed in case we have to flee suddenly. We also have a volcano kit prepared in case there’s an eruption and we have to seal ourselves up in our home for a while.
Again, not all areas of Ecuador offer the same dangers, so if volcanoes and earthquakes are a concern for you, you can maybe find an area that’s not as threatened by them.
I think these things are something to be concerned about, but just being aware of them might be enough. 17 million people live in Ecuador, and most of them are doing just fine. Personally, I think the positives far out-weigh these negatives.