1. Why do you call Diane the Pocket Babe?
Diane is tiny compared to me and she is definitely a Babe! Shortly after we met, I told her that I just wanted to put her into my pocket and carry her around as my own personal babe…my pocket babe! It stuck and she’s been my Pocket Babe since that moment.
2. Can I really live “like a king” in Ecuador on my Social Security Check?
No, I don’t think so. At least not like any King that comes immediately to mind. Our (two people and a Chihuahua) original budget when we first arrived was based on $1500 per month. We lived on that budget and did fine for about 3 months. That included rent of $450 per month and a small amount dedicated to savings. We did not live like “Kings” but we had (and still have) a nice condo on the coast with a couple of pools, completely furnished, 2 bdrms, 2 baths and a great terrace with a view of the Pacific and our beautifully landscaped grounds. It’s a low-rise complex…not a big high-rise monster. Lots of green space, trails etc. From what I’ve seen and heard, rents along the coast are a bit higher than rents inland. There are many, many Ecuadors and one can most likely live on around $1000-$1200 per month with careful budgeting…much easier in some parts of Ecuador than in the states. We utilized public transportation to included taxis, buses, moto-taxis and the occasional rented van or truck when needed.
We also shopped for food at large open markets and augmented those purchases with trips to the Super-Maxi in Manta. We had (and still have) Internet and Satellite TV. After a few months, our monthly income increased a bit and we added some upgrades to our lifestyle, including a car. One can likely live a very nice life on one’s Social Security income but…living like a king is a bit of a stretch. Certainly, your money goes much farther in Ecuador than in the States.
3. Will I need a car to live there?
“Will I Need…..” No…you will not “need” a car to live in many places in Ecuador but you may “want” one after some time. We arrived and for a bit more than two months, we used buses, taxis, chartered vans, pedi-cabs and moto-taxis to get around. It worked but it wasn’t always convenient…that’s for sure. We were also limited to the “beaten path” where public and chartered transportation would deliver us for a reasonable price. Owning your own transportation permits infinite flexibility. I guess we will admit to being a bit spoiled. We bought a used 4 wheel drive vehicle for a price much higher than one would pay in the states. To compensate for the larger acquisition cost, gasoline is very cheap…regulated at $1.48 per gallon. Liability insurance is about $75 per year and parts and maintenance are dirt cheap, compared to the states.
Also, we live a bit outside the town of San Vicente on the coast. Urban dwellers seem to do just fine with public transportation in the bigger and medium-sized cities. I would find it quite a challenge to live without a car at this point. We love to drive up into the Rio Muchacho Valley, a drive, a bit into a jungle valley, that no taxi could do
After a few months of car ownership, we also bought a new Suzuki Motor Scooter for Diane. She wanted to be independent of me for her transportation. So…now the scooter is the Pocket Babe’s primary mode of transportation. She throws her backpack on, stuffs her tennis racket inside and off she goes. Economical as can be, too. Sips gas and goes as fast as she wants to go with a 125 cc engine. Scooters are a great alternative for local transportation. I’ve been known to ride it myself for quick errands. Easy to maneuver in traffic and parks anywhere. Diane’s has a small trunk box on the back for shopping trips. A great thing!
Getting an Ecuadorian driver’s license is a task! Like many official processes here, there is a “back door” way to get it done.
. 4. Are there bugs/mosquitoes/snakes there?
Yes, yes and yes. There are bugs, mosquitoes and snakes in Ecuador. Some environments, like those at high altitudes have fewer than coastal environments. Having lived in Florida, though, it’s really no problem. When mosquitoes are present, we apply repellent. I’ve personally seen two snakes in the past 15 months, both dead in the road. As to the other bugs….they peacefully coexist. This guy, above, visited us for the better part of a day,hanging around on the terrace. He is a Lichen Catydid.
5. How is the medical care and is it expensive?
Well now, there is the issue! In the major cities of Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil, there are large, well-staffed hospitals with modern, functioning equipment and supplies…for the most part. In smaller towns inland and along the coast, while there may be clinics and hospitals, their ability to deal with “life saving” emergencies is quite marginal. Routine stuff seems to be handled. Even the local pharmacies in our area frequently do not have some common medications on hand.
Recently, we hosted a family of five here for an exploratory trip. After a great lunch, and only a couple of hours before their flight departed from Manta…the matriarch fell on rough ground while carrying her small child, twisting her ankle which immediately swelled and discolored. We were in the small town of Monte Cristi at that time and drove to the larger city of Manta (from where their flight home was to begin) to find a hospital for x-rays and treatment. It was Saturday afternoon. We arrived to a locked emergency room door that was answered after knocking. Their was one doctor and one nurse working. He had to call the “on call” emergency room doctor to come in. When he arrived, he told the patient to come back Monday for an x-ray and to be “careful”. We explained that she was supposed to leave on an airplane in an hour. Finally, a call was made to the x-ray technician and he arrived, “for a fee” to take the x-ray. No broken bones. Ankle wrapped and crutches acquired. Made the plane. I clearly saw that a heart attack patient would have a real problem.
Routine care is just fine. Doctors are wonderful. Prescriptions are not required for most medications and meds are cheap. The problem is with life-saving emergency medical care if you live some distance from Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a young physician who was trained in Cuba and the U.S. He said he was frustrated because he was unable to practice up to his abilities due to the lack of equipment in local hospitals. It was either broken or non-existent, according to him. According to him, patients were dying due to poorly equipped hospitals in small to medium-sized towns.
I have paid cash for all my medical needs. We purchased an insurance policy for Diane and the cost was far less than any similar coverage in the states. So… we are rolling the dice a bit living here on Ecuador’s coast, five or so hours drive to good emergency hospitalization.
6. What are the things you miss the most or wish you had brought with you from the states?
Truly, not much. From time to time, I’ll get a craving for some special food or something. We take periodic trips to the states and use “mules” (folks coming our way) to bring something special if we need it. Mostly, we are doing just fine. Diane has asked folks for Hamburger Helper, for Pete’s sake!
7. I don’t speak Spanish. Will I need to learn and if so, is it difficult? What is the best way to learn? How long will it take to learn to speak Spanish?
Yes, if you are asking me, one cannot expect to live in any country and not communicate with its inhabitants. The notion that some Expats have that Ecuadorians should speak English is an embarrassment to all of us. So, you will need to learn Spanish. It will not be your first language and the learning process comes with some amusements along the way.
Yes, it is a challenge but learn, you must!
As my wife is a certified teacher, she says that not all folks learn in the same ways. We’ve done on-line courses, computer discs/programs and once here, even connected with a tutor. I’m honestly not certain that any of that helped me very much. I think we’ve both learned more through our immersion in the culture…just listening and asking for help from all we meet. After about 15 months, I am, in no way, fluent!!! I can barely get by. I’m guessing after maybe 3 years…or 4….I will be much better than I am today and today I’m much better than the day we arrived.
8. Can I buy: clothing, favorite brand of food, electronics?
If you are small in stature, you can buy clothing here. Bigger folks will have a challenge! And don’t expect large selections like in the states. Electronics are much more expensive here than in the states. Sometimes double or even triple the price. We brought our computers with us and bought a new TV after we arrived. Washers and dryers made in the U.S.A. are also quite high. Has to do with assigned duties and taxes. China goods are favored due to price but quality is inferior in most cases. We surrendered our brand loyalties shortly after arriving. We now live in South America. Just one of the changes to absorb.
9. Is the water safe to drink?
Safe drinking water is available everywhere in Ecuador. Sometimes, however, it comes in a small bottle or big blue jug kept in the kitchen. Not all tap water is safe to drink. The answer, as if often the case, is “it depends”. Some larger cities have great water processing facilities. Others do not.
10. What are the things you like least about Ecuador?
The lack of good quality emergency hospitalization in our area is always on my mind, as a heart patient. We are currently discussing options to address that issue which will likely include a move. I am also frustrated and often frightened by the horrible, reckless driving that I experience on the roads every day. I have become, out of necessity, the best defensive driver EVER!
11. Okay…so there are more than ten questions! Here is a common one: The rules for getting a visa seem to change frequently. What is the latest process?
here is a link to the Ecuadorian Government website relating the latest PUBLISHED rules. Some rules change and are not published. That’s just how it is. 🙂 http://www.ecuador.org/nuevosite/serviciosconsulares_visas_e.php