Three Cities... Three Different Experiences

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Aside from having a fun vacation, we went to Ecuador with the express purpose of checking the country out as a possible place we may consider moving to should we tire of Costa Rica.  Our goal was to combine fun with a lot of due diligence.

There was a method to our madness when we put together our Ecuadorian itinerary.   We wanted to explore a wide diversity of the local culture while being able to compare a potential expat life there with one we already know.


QUITO - Ecuador's Capital City

In human population, Quito is the second largest city in Ecuador with over 1.6 million residents while Guayaquil claims the number one spot at 2.3 million. 

Located directly on the Equator at an altitude of 9500 feet, Quito's weather is consistently moderate with average daytime highs of 69 degrees and 48 degrees at night.  You will need to dress appropriately! 

The first thing that struck my attention when we landed at the Quito airport was that it was only a single runway, located right dab smack in the center of the city.  But that is going to be changing very soon for a new airport, located about an hour north of the city, is under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2013.  I guess that's good news, but guests should expect to see a sizeable increase in taxi fares to and from the airport.

Quito, like most other large cities, is crowded, densely pack with people and buildings, and congested with way too much automobile traffic.  I'm really not sure why an expat would want to set up residence here because Quito suffers from all the same problems as do most other large metropolitan cities. 

For more information, check out my video HERE


ESMERALDAS & ATACAMES - Northwestern Beaches

Because we are beach people, we wanted to explore a typical Ecuadorian beach community.  Not really knowing where to go, we started looking at maps and reading web articles and decided to check out the towns of Esmeraldas and it's neighboring town to the south, Atacames.

Esmeraldas is a port city, and home to Ecuador's petro chemical industry.  It is NOT the sort of place a gringo will want to live nor vacation.  However, it is a town one should stop by and visit.  We enjoyed touring the town, especially under guidance of our accomplished taxi driver and lawyer, Carlos. 

While in this area, we experienced the best weather conditions since we left the U.S. for our expat adventure.  Even though we were at sea level, and on the equator, we were not experiencing scorching hot and humid weather.  Instead, we had to endure 82 degrees, sunny skies and low humidity.  At light, it dipped down to a bone chilling 68 degrees. 

Our un-air-conditioned condo (on the beach) received constant breezes off the ocean, forcing us to sleep under a light blanket at night. HOW AWESOME WAS THAT!

Housing was quite abundant, provided you want to live in a "resort" toe of environment.  Condo apartments were plentiful while single family homes were almost non existent.  The priced fort beachfront living was dirt cheap, when compared with similar types of accommodations either in the US, Panama or Costa Rica.

While we love (and crave) the beach life, Atacames was not for us.  It reminded me of the early days of Miami and Ft Lauderdale with it's rampant high-rise developments springing up like summertime dandelions.  That coupled with rising crime, virtually no police presence, lackluster emergency medical services and only a handful of gringo residents (maybe 10-12), Fran and I took Atacames off the list of potential places we would consider.  However, it just might be the spot for you. 

For more information, check out my video HERE


CUENCA - A Little Bit of Europe

If you like Europe, specifically Spain or Portugal, you will love Cuenca.  Situated 9000 feet high in the Andes mountains, weather patterns are mild.  Daytime highs average 82 degrees while the nights get down to the mid 60's.   And if you think rain is going to be a problem, think again.  The average month sees only 2.9" of precip.

Cuenca is the most popular of all Ecuadorian towns for expats and claims the highest per capita number of expat residents.  It's population, nearly 500,000, holds title to about 1300-1500 expat residents.  Mostly are full timers.

We set out to find out WHY Cuenca was so popular.  Here is what we found.

Incredible weather.  Clean.  Low crime.  State of the art medical facilities.  A fully functional EMS/911 system.  A well manicured, walk able town.  Inexpensive public transportation.  Low real estate prices (purchase and rent).  Excellent gringo community.  Fabulous restaurants with equally fabulous prices.  Our only problem (AND THIS IS OUR PROBLEM - NOT YOURS) we are 4 hours from the beach. 

Time for a startling confession...  Had we known about Cuenca before we made the decision to move to Costa Rica's Central Valley - in all likelihood, we would have moved to Cuenca!

For more information, check out my two videos HERE and HERE. 


IN SUMMARY

If you are contemplating an expat lifestyle and think Costa Rica or Panama are the best places to go... think again.  You owe it to yourself to investigate Ecuador.  It is worth the time and the expense to travel down to South America and see just how good a retirement life you could have and very little cost.

By the way... if you are the slightest bit curious, we have no intentions (at this time) of uprooting ourselves and moving.  Yes we can save at least a third over what we are currently spending.  Hell, we can probably save even more.  BUT... we can pick up and be at the beach anytime we want in less than 5 minutes!  For us, there is no beating that.  Pura Vida.



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