Useful Facts About Ecuador

| December 20, 2015 | 46 Replies


Useful Facts About Ecuador

10552656_10203439116531498_5981080685026872390_nWe have a lot to cover today.

Lets start with a few useful facts about Ecuador that just about anyone coming here, or living here, can use. You will find these in the Do You Know section of this post. You will especially want to read about the restrictions that are currently in place on residency visas. These might surprise you.

Then, I have finally written my Secret Agent Man story. I really was intrigued by this guy, and then very surprised, with his candid honesty, during the short time we spent together.

And then we have, the final installment, of my first short story, “I’m Scared.”  I actually received a few emails wanting to know how things turned out. Wow, that is so cool that some of you are so interested.

Hope you enjoy the read and the information.




Just Another Picture of Missy, Just Because She is so Cute.



Do You Know….

I have been keeping notes on some useful facts about Ecuador over the last few month. Anything that came up, I wrote down. Below is my current list. If this is popular, I may do an update every six months.


Do you know the different ways to get to Ecuador from the States?
  • useful facts about ecuadorAmerican Airlines flies through Miami to Ecuador, from LAX and other cities through out the country. I have taken this flight many times. If you enjoy a nice long walk between flights you will love this airport. Connecting flights always seem to be at the other end of the terminal in Miami.
  • United Airlines flies from and to everywhere, but I don’t care. The seats are cramped and you have to pay for everything but the toilet. I will only fly United as a last resort. Sorry United.
  • I have been flying Copa Airlines lately from LAX thru Panama then on to Guayaquil. An added bonus here is that you don’t have to collect your luggage in Panama. It just goes right on thru to your final destination. Upon arrival in Guayaquil, I have a choice to fly or take the bus or van (3 hours) to Cuenca. I don’t fly much into Quito. The connections to Cuenca from Quito are scheduled so that you are often forced to get a hotel room.
  • AeroMexico will get you to and from multiple cities in the United States, but only flies into Quito. I like this airline and have used it a few times. I don’t like the fact that I have to retrieve my luggage in Mexico City for re-inspection. But that is the reality of traveling these days.
  • TACA/Avianca will take you from Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York through San Salvador and then onto Ecuador. I believe they fly into Guayaquil and Quito. This can be the fastest way, sometimes less than 10 hours total from gate to gate. But the connection in San Salvador is not my favorite. Certainly not for a first timer. Security here often borders on oppressive.

Of course, I wasn’t able to cover everything here, but from my most recent experiences, Copa Airlines is certainly my first choice, and I use American Airlines as my number two. The other airlines are good if their fares are low enough to tempt me. And again, I just do not care for United, and will only use them as a last resort.


Do you know the real rules about your residency Visa?

So, you have your visa stamp in your passport, and you now travel with your Cedula in your wallet. Congratulations mi amigo, your documents are in order.

You probably already know that you can only be out of Ecuador for a maximum of 90 days in the first year. The same 90 day rule goes for the second year. But the confusion starts at the beginning of the third year thru the end of the fifth year. Keep reading for a better understanding. This might surprise you and make you a little crazy.

I was originally told that after being here for two years, I would be able to leave Ecuador for up to 18 months at a time, as long as I came back for at least one day before the end of that 18 months. This was going to be perfect for me, because I wanted to have a base of operation here in Ecuador, while I traveled all over South America, and then onto certain bucket list areas around the rest of the world. I was planning 6 months here in Cuenca, and 6 months being a world traveler….

But that is not the rule.

The 18 month rule doesn’t start until you have been here for 5 years. Years 3, 4, and 5 are similar to years 1 and 2, with a bit more freedom as to when you can use your out of the country travel days.

You are limited to a total of 270 days out of the country during years 3, 4, and 5. You can use them anyway you see fit. Take them all in year 4, or spread them out anyway you want. But remember, you can only be out of Ecuador for a maximum of 270 days during those 3 years.

I for one am not happy about this. I am adjusting things accordingly.


Do you know the different ways to get out of town?

In Cuenca, you can either fly, rent a car, take the bus, or hire a private or semi-private van to take you just about anywhere.

The flight option is limited. It is either Lan or TAME. These 2 airlines will take you back and forth to either Quito or Guayaquil for international travel. I prefer Lan, but either one works, most of the time.

Cuenca Car Share (09-880-87261) has great rates for your inside Ecuador travel. They have economy and full size cars, and also a large van for rent. Click on this link. I have heard only good things about this company and I love their personal service.

If you are a seasoned traveler, and don’t mind taking the bus, just jump in a cab and get over to the bus station near the airport in Cuenca. There is a bus leaving for Guayaquil almost every ten minutes, and you can get anywhere in the country via these buses. Most of them are very comfortable and are air conditioned. Last time I checked, the rate to Guayaquil was between $8 and $10.

Lately I have been using a semi-private van service to get me back and forth to Guayaquil. The cost is $12 each way, per person, and they leave every hour on the hour. Get in a cab and ask for OperAzuayTur on Remigio Crespo near (circa) Charles Darwin Road. They will take you from Cuenca to their offices by the Guayaquil airport, or if you ask them, they will also drop you off at the Airport terminal. Very convenient.

As for a private driver, there are many, and once you are living here for a while, you will find one to your liking. A private car or van can get you and your friends or family from Cuenca to Guayaquil for around $100, some a little less and some a little more.

If you are an independent soul, and love to just go at a moments notice, you will have no problem traveling in and around Ecuador. There are so many options.


Do you know that Spanish starts getting easier after the first year?

Are you getting discouraged yet?

So far I have taken two Spanish courses here in Cuenca, beginner one and beginner two. Then I took a break and reviewed my text books, over and over again. I also purchased flashcards, and made lists of commonly used words. I even have a couple of Spanish learning Apps on my phone.


Why Ecuador


And things are finally beginning to click. I am not a fanatic about learning this language. I might learn one new verb each week. Then I will do some review of flashcards two or three times a week while I am watching TV or just waking up in the morning. I leave these learning materials all over the house.

Next month I will take beginner two over again, as a review, and then move onto beginner three.

Let me tell you how good it feels to be comfortable with even a small portion of the Spanish language. I am beginning to love it. So, don’t give up. Lower your expectations if you have to. It will get easier. And you will start to love it.


Do you know that we have a fun day-tour planned in February 2016. We are half sold out already.

I will tell you more about this in my next blog but we have a day-trip planned to take the Devil’s Nose Train. We will have a great big bus with a tour guide. This will be fun, but I will have more information about it next time. The date is set for early February. You should come along with us.


Do you know that citizens from the United States can freely travel to Ecuador but that most Ecuadorians can not travel to the States without a special Visa?

I learned about this because I would like to take an Ecuadorian friend back to the states with me so I can show him my great country.  But I can’t until he gets special paperwork.

Being born in the United States has been a blessing for those who love to travel. We have freedom to travel to most of the world without problems, or the need of a special visa. And compared to Ecuador, we can travel freely to 147 countries without any special paperwork, while Ecuadorians can only travel to 64 countries. This makes it difficult for us to share our country with our friends from Ecuador.

My friend will visit the American Consulate, do the paperwork, and hope to be approved. Then, I can be as gracious to him as he has been to me.


I have more information for you, but I suspect you already know that Ecuador’s population is around 16 million, that Ecuador is about the same size as Nevada, and that you need to wash your fruits and vegetables in a solution of vinegar and water before you eat them.

So I will leave that out of this article, and lets move onto my Secret Agent Man story.



Secret Agent Man

Image 12-20-15 at 1.15 PMAnother red eye flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador. I was not looking forward to this, but at least there was no one sitting in the middle seat. I would be able to spread out a little.

As I buckled up, I turned and said hello to this better than average looking, early middle aged guy, sitting next to the window. We were both very happy about the empty seat between us.

I usually don’t talk much on overnight flights. People usually like to sleep, but James seemed wide awake.

This guy looked interesting.

We exchanged pleasantries, and then we talked for a while about me, and what I was doing in Ecuador. He seemed truly interested.

Then the subject changed to what he did for a living. He handed me one of his business cards. It had a raised, official government gold seal on it. And then he told me about his exciting life as a government agent. He had just come back from the Middle East a few weeks ago, and we talked about that for a while. His group had developed an upgraded “system” that was being implemented by our military. It was his job to train the men in the field. This took him to many dangerous areas in the world. He was often in harms way. This was a very smart man, and his stories were very interesting.

I finally asked him if it was ok for him to be telling me all these things. He smiled and said I seemed like an ok guy to him.

Then he asked me if I was married, and if I had any kids. I shared with him a little history about my resent past, my surprise divorce, and we talked about how quickly life can kick you in the gut. He still seemed very interested.

It was like we had become close friends in just 20 minutes.

And then he looked over at me and said he was having a personal challenge with his girlfriend of 5 years. He said he loved her very much, but her multiple addictions were causing all kinds of problems, and he didn’t know what to do. Drinking and shopping were the two big ones, but later in the conversation, gambling was mentioned. He then admitted that he liked to gamble too.

He said everything was coming to a head. Five years of spending had turned into more than $60,000 of credit card debt. There had been multiple episodes recently, because of her alcohol addiction. One as recent as two nights ago. He kept saying how much he still loved her, but now this was affecting his job, and his security clearance. He really did not know what to do.

As I sat there, full of empathy for this man, and his girlfriend, all I could do was listen. I think that is what he really needed. Just for someone to listen.

How quickly the subject had changed from our original conversation, which had started with introductions, less than 30 minutes ago.

And we talked for another 30 minutes, and then we were done. We both pushed our seats back, and tried to sleep.

Three hours later we both woke up to the captain saying he was about to land in Quito. Our seat backs came forward, we were back to pleasantries, we touched down, and then I never saw him again.

I hope my listening helped him.

He probably doesn’t know it, but he helped me a lot with his story. It certainly put my current situation into perspective, and helped me, get a little closer to normal again.

And maybe his story has helped you a little bit. Having a little perspective can sometimes make our problems looks so small, compared to the people around us.

Thanks James. It was very nice to meet you.




I’m Scared

Part 3  (click here for Part 2)


I had a lot to think about on the ride back to Cuenca.

You know, I have enough money to fix this. I could go back tomorrow and lend him the money, and find a real nice apartment.

I could just fix this problem for my new friend.

George, the “fix-it man” to the rescue.

As I thought about it, I started to recall the last time I tried to fix something for someone else. It did not turn out the way I had hoped it would.

In fact, I couldn’t remember any of my fixes that ever took. “No good deed goes unpunished,” has been uttered more than once by Yours truly.

So I did nothing. For three days I did nothing but text him a couple of times.

Ricardo would have to rise to the occasion. He certainly had the motivation of urgency. He had close family, and I was not his only friend. I put it out of my mind and went about my own business, checking in once in a while, but only out of concern. I was looking for him to find a solution.

And as it turns out, he slept on the floor for a couple of nights, but then, because of his effort, and his determination, and with a little help from friends, he found a small apartment within two blocks of his grandmother and sister. And the price was right.

I could not have done this for him. He needed to do it for himself.

This was great for his self esteem, and I went from an enabler, to a motivator. This was a win for both of us.


And is there a happy ending to this story?

I think there is, if you keep your expectations at a reasonable level. Ricardo has a roof over his head again. He may not have much furniture, and no refrigerator, stove, or microwave–in fact he only has the basic things. But that is ok. He has all of us, and we will all help to insure a soft landing.

He did eventually find himself an inexpensive bed, so he now has something to sleep on. He does have a bathroom, but no hot water, but that is ok. And we found a hot plate for the kitchen, and his sister gave him a coffee maker and some kitchen stuff. (update: as of December 15th the apartment is complete with refrigerator and a new sofa.)

Now who has an extra air conditioner they are not using?

Did I forget to mention that Ricardo received straight 10’s (10’s are used in Ecuador for the highest grade possible) on his University report card. Pretty good stuff. I don’t know how he does it. The heat in Guayaquil has me going crazy after just a few hours.



These Are Ricardo’s Students. He Teaches Them English.


So, Ricardo is doing just fine. This little bump in the road showed him first hand how many people care about him. It is good for all of us to be reminded of that every once in a while.

Useful facts about Ecuador

Liz and Mark

But what about Mark and Liz?  Those crazy lovebirds who met for the first time at my apartment in Cuenca, after texting each other every 10 minutes for three straight days.

Well, I am not suppose to say anything, but Mark is flying back out in January to see her. And if you check their Facebook status, it says they are in a relationship. Oh, my god. I will never be cynical again. This could very well be the real thing.

And what about me? What do I get out of all of this?

I think I might have a new family here in Ecuador. It sure feels like it. Ricardo and Liz have met some of my family, and I have met Liz and Ricardo’s grandma, and uncle, and two of their cousins. I have been invited into their home where dinner was served, and really bad karaoke was preformed in two languages. I even held a couple of babies.

If that isn’t family, I don’t know what is. And I am very grateful to have them. It was just what I needed.




Last Thoughts for 2015

This certainly has been a challenging year.

I’ve been told I over think things, and that I wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes. Guilty as charged.

I have visited a fortune teller, gone to a drag show, and spent a little too much money on retail therapy this year. (Loving my new MacAir)

Last week I found out I might have sleep apnea. I had to look that up to see what it is. Wonder if the high altitude is the cause of this?

I have talked to a lot of very happy people this year, but I have also talked to just as many unhappy people.

A good friend of mine reminded me that we are all responsible for our own happiness. I believe that is true.

So go out and have a really good holiday.

Next Year will certainly be the best year ever. (unless “you know who” gets elected President…)

Now get to it. I’ll be watching.


I’ll leave you with my favorite Christmas song from the movie White Christmas. Of course this is an inside joke. Many of my friends know these lyrics by heart.

Now that’s funny.




You know you want to leave a comment…

See you next year.


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Category: Living in Ecuador, Random Thoughts, Retiring in Ecuador, Visiting Ecuador

Comments (46)

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  1. Joanne says:

    Happy Holidays, George.

  2. Rob Hertzenberg says:

    Great stories, George, with good outcomes! Be happy in 2016. I know I’ll try my hardest to do that, too!

  3. Claire says:

    Hi George, I love your stories! A little while after reading the above I was going through my email and found the following, from Domenick Buonamici:

    “This week it became official, JetBlue (finally!) got its permit to fly in and out of Ecuador, and has begun selling round-trip Quito-Fort Lauderdale, from either direction, direct from $252 round-trip all taxes and fees included!

    I personally doubted for a while they would get the permit because Tame, an airline of the government of Ecuador just opened the Fort Lauderdale-Quito route in 2015 and for sure appealed for some protectionism help.

    I thought they’d get it, but they didn’t, and now all us consumers can enjoy cheaper flights to Ecuador with JetBlue Airlines!

    Specifically the new flight starts last week of February 2016 and is $252 round-trip if booked now if going and coming until about MAR 18, then after that the fares seem to level out around $284 RT.

    It has NEVER been this cheap to get to Ecuador RT from the USA!

    This could be a game changer as one big knock on Ecuador was the high relative price it cost to get here from North America compared to other possible retirement destinations like Mexico or Panama.”

    I know that since you prefer to fly into Guayaquil, but you can’t beat the price! I can’t even get to Nicaragua for that (well, maybe if we don’t count the part from L.A. to Houston or Miami, San Salvador or Mexico City!)

    Keep living and keep writing, George, you are a joy to read!

    • Ecuador George says:

      Great info Claire. TAME is not my favorite carrier. JetBlue will be great. That price will make it worth while to fly into Quito. Good news. Have a Merry Christmas my friend.


  4. Dale Morris says:

    Merry Christmas, George and Missy, thank you for sharing so much with all of us. Keep writing, we will keep reading! p.s. I think Missy really wants a pair of reindeer antlers for the holidays! See you soon, I hope!

  5. Michael says:


    Thank you again for another wonderful post. I heard recently that Jet Blue will soon be flying from Ft Lauderdale to Quito for less than $300 RT. This is something you might want to confirm.

    Enjoy the holidays!!

    • Ecuador George says:

      I am getting reports of JetBlue from other readers too. Thanks for the heads up. I will do more research and report next time. Have a great holiday and thanks for reading. George

  6. bo says:

    George, Hope all is well. Where did you get the info on the 3rd year being like the first 2 If what you say is correct I just blew 2 years of forced internment in Cuenca. I have been out of country for 5 months dealing with legal and personal issues. (I think you are aware of what it is I am referring to)

    • Bo,
      I am aware and I keep double checking that info and it keeps coming up true. But if you completed your first 2 years, then you could take all 270 days in your 3rd year if you wanted to, but then no leaving Ecuador in years 4 and 5.

      Hope things are going well for you my friend. My little hiccup was much simpler if you don’t count the hit in the gut.


      • anasha says:

        hello there… In sept 2013 i got my visa and was told at the office that for 2 years i could only leave the country 3 months for each year, then i needed to come every 18 months, even if it is just for 1 night.. so maybe your saying applies only for new visas, The authorities cannot just change rules as important as this just like this… i heard about it and went to see a lawyer who told me that this rule is if you want to apply for citizenship.. so maybe you check out and share again.. thanks..

        • George says:

          After the holidays I will go back and check again. I know about the changes for citizenship. I also know some people that have told me they have to start all over for citizenship because when the rules change it made them ineligible. Let me go back and I will ask again.

          Have a wonderful holiday.


  7. Scott Simmerman says:

    Good stuff, and the stories are good and so are the factoids. All of these things tend to give people a better handle on the country and the culture. Gail and I look forward to our trip there, with some time in Quito and a week or so in Cuenca.

    Things to do, places to see, people to meet. It sounds like it will be fun and the stories all help to set some expectations for how things will flow. It is NOT South Carolina, that seems evident.

    So, keep up the writing, and keep your chin up and your head down!

    For the FUN of It!

    • George says:

      You and Gail will like Quito, but you will love Cuenca. Lot of great site seeing in both cities.
      Make sure we connect while you are here. I would love to meet for coffee or lunch.
      Have a great Christmas.

  8. Flash says:

    Hey I just stumbled upon your website while looking for information on Ecuador. I live up in Alaska and looking around at retirement options.
    Love the writings. Happy Holidays

    • George says:

      Please tell me the story about your name…
      Thanks for the comment. Get in touch with me when you are in Cuenca. Love to meet Flash for a coffee.

  9. Helen McKellar says:

    Love your posts. Your posts are like small gifts in my inbox that I eagerly open. As I look out at all the snow and ice here in our Canadian winter, I can’t help but think you are living my dream.

  10. Wildhorse says:

    Thank you George for a great write-up. It is appreciated very much. For the time being I will be working in Virginia. Sounds tropical doesn’t it? My sights are set on Ecuador, sooner than later; no matter who becomes president. Thank you and Merry Christmas, sir!

  11. Wildhorse,
    Ecuador might have a new President too.

    Virginia is a beautiful state. I sometimes miss my little town but Cuenca is very nice. I hope to travel to more places next year. I will let you know what they are like.

    Merry Christmas my friend,


  12. Rose says:

    Feliz navidad, George. It’s so good to hear from you. For me it’s a bittersweet time of year. I do love the way you share.

    • Rose,
      I am learning how to write so I try to express myself through sharing some of my experiences. I have a few friends that have told me I share a little to much, but that is just what I do. I think talking about common threads in each of our lives makes for interesting reading. And Rose, I so understand what you mean about being bittersweet.

      Merry Christmas,


  13. Tom Gallagher says:

    Excellent job, as usual, George. Thanks for all the information. I hope you have the best Christmas ever and topped by the best New Years. Wish I could make it to the Devil’s nose. Stay safe, have fun and laugh a lot.
    Tom Gallagher

    • George says:

      The Devils Nose trip should be fun. If that is successful we will do more day and overnight trips, then maybe a week long adventure.

      Have a great holiday and thank you for being so supportive.


  14. dj says:

    I know you said you will post more next time about the day trip in Feb. but you also said it was half sold out already. How do we get prices on the trip and book it now. Thanks D.J.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Hi DJ,
      You would have to go to the magazine site and book it there. Cuenca Expats Magazine is the one sponsoring the trip. I’m just the eye candy. Google “Cuenca Expats Magazine” and get to the webpage or Facebook page and you should be able to contact someone at the magazine. Good luck and if things don’t fall into place, use my contact link on top of the blog page and I will get more info for you.


  15. Sheila Gold says:

    Hey George! Another great blog and enjoyed it very much! We’re finally settled in fairly well here in South Carolina but really miss our Cuenca friends. I hope you’re enjoying your morning gallon of coffee! LOL! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • Sheila,
      I can’t believe I forgot to answer the rest of these comments. I have been studying Spanish and dropped the ball.

      Glad you are settled in. Hope all is going well in South Carolina. Happy New Year to you too.

      Hope you will stay with me. I am going to be doing some travel come the end of the year. It should be fun.


  16. Lavonne says:


    I so enjoy your posts. Your writing style is so distinctive, honest, and from the heart, that I always hear whatI I imagine your voice sounds like as I read.

    Feliz navidad y muchas cosas buenas en el 2016!

    • Lavonne,
      I am sitting down to write my next blog post but forgot to answer all my comments from last month. I am so sorry. Hope you had a great holiday and that your new year is off to a great start. Thanks for the nice thoughts.


  17. David Forgues says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Uncle George. We love reading the updates!!

    David and Chalea and Anwei and Ellie.

    • George says:

      I love that you read my blog. I miss you guys so much. This adventure has made me realize how much I love all you guys. I will be sure to be in California next year at Christmas time.

      Take care and give my love to the girls and your beautiful wife.


  18. Jean McCord says:

    Muchas gracias, Jorge. Tu blog es muy utile y admirable.

    • George says:

      Estoy felize conoserte. I know this is not correct, but I hope it is close. Me gusta hablar Espanol.

      Thanks for reading the blog. Have a great holiday.


  19. Angie says:

    We were surprised to hear from friends just how hard it is for Ecuadorians to visit the states. Hope everything gets approved and you can share your home with your amigo. Merry Christmas George!

    • George says:

      Some people I have talked to say it is the luck of the draw. I hope it is not like that. We will go through the process and then I report about it back here. Happy holidays.


  20. Jane Miner says:

    Hi George and Merry Christmas,
    Steve and I are awaiting our pensioners visa and anticipate arriving in Cuenca sometime in Feb. Your information regarding Jet Blue and TAME rates are timely, thank you. Also your clarifying the dots about travel out of Ecuador for years 3-5 is good to know, and we realize that rules can be subject to change. We enjoy your writings and sharing your experience and insights. We have stayed in touch with some folks we met there in 2012 and look forward to meeting you, too. Getting excited about starting our next adventure. Wishing you all the joys of the season! Keep on keepin’ on and we’ll look forward to your next post. Jane

    • Hi Jane,
      I am still checking on the visa requirements for years 3 to 5. Trying to get a group to go with me this time so we can all get the info at the same time. No one wants to believe me…I don’t want to believe me. But by February I should have the answer.

      Look me up for a coffee when you are here. I would love to meet you and Steve.


  21. Annette Brennan says:

    Hey George
    lovely to hear from u again…Mark and I are heading to our favourite place in the world..San Clemente early January…wish we had the energy to make it to Cuenca, but we dont so will say all our best wishes for a merry Christmas and New Year.

    • Thank you Annette,
      I have not been to San Clemente yet but my friends have and they say it is wonderful. Hope you are having a great time. Next time I might come to the beach to meet you both. Happy New Year.


  22. Cecil Wilson says:

    Feliz Navidad!
    Not sure where you came up with the notion that you have to wash your vegetables with vinegar and water!! We don’t do that, just down the road from you, and we shop at Mercado 27 de Febrero. Creo que no es necesario.

    But you’ve come up with other goofy stuff in the past. Soon after your arrival here you declared taxi drivers don’t drive and text here!! Dude! George! YOU have to get out more . . . 🙂

    Anyway, DO have a great xmas and new year. Caio!

    • Hey Cecil,
      Are you here permanently now??? We should get together for lunch or coffee. I’d like to catch up. Let me know and wash your vegetables and fruits. What is the matter with you.


  23. Ynelda says:

    Merry Christmas and a happy healthy New Year!
    Looking forward to more of your adventures.

  24. Ynelda,
    Thank you and Happy New Year to you. We have a little trip going on in February and the first 34 people to sign up will be going on the Devils Nose Train. More info in the next blog. Thanks for the comment.


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