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Expat Life

Ten things to know before moving to Ecuador (part 1)

By Sara Chaca

If you are reading this article, then you have either already decided, or are soon to make up your mind to go for it and take the Ecuador plunge!

Yes — for the most part — everything you have heard about the wonderful climate, inexpensive living, the U.S. dollar as the national currency, the colorful festivals and the fact that Panama hats are made here is true.

If that were all there were to think about before you move to Ecuador, then there would not be any point for me to write this article. But nothing in life is ever clear-cut.  This brings me to the title of this article.  There are certain things that you must consider and plan to do before making your move.

The following is the first part of my “Top 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Ecuador.” Because of the detail necessary for explanation, I have broken the article into two parts. Look for part 2 in this space next week.

1. As an American, Canadian, European or Australian/New Zealander, you are automatically permitted to enter Ecuador on a T-3 Visa (90-day Tourist Visa). You do not need to do advanced paperwork to obtain this visa. If you are flying into Ecuador, the immigration police in either Guayaquil International Airport or Quito International Airport will simply stamp your T-3 Visa in your passport. There’s no charge and no documents required. Simple, right?

Not necessarily. If you have not purchased a round-trip airline ticket (or an itinerary that shows your departure from Ecuador to another country) you may run into problems in your home country, before you depart for Ecuador.  Without either of these, you may be required to buy an exit ticket before you are permitted to board your Ecuador-bound flight.

So, as a good rule of thumb, call your airline prior to your upcoming travel date to Ecuador to see if they require you to have pre-purchased a return (or exit) ticket back to your home country. Otherwise, you may end up buying a last-minute ticket prior to your flight at a drastically higher cost.

2. There are others things to be aware of with your T-3 Visa. With this visa, there is a very important 90-day rule: if you exceed a 90-day count in Ecuador during either a single trip, or in a combination of multiple trips during the 365 days after you receive the T-3 (i.e. any consecutive 12 month time range), then you can become illegal in Ecuador and therefore are required to pay a large fine upon leaving Ecuador or returning to Ecuador.

However, if you have already applied for a T-3 Visa extension or your Temporary or Permanent Residency Visa before your T-3 Visa expires, you will be allowed to stay in Ecuador legally.  [There is now an exception that allows one to acquire a Tourist Visa Extension of up to 30 days after the T-3 Visa of 90 days expires.]

If you overstay your T-3 Visa, it is unlikely that the Ecuadorian Immigration Police will come looking to deport you from the country. However, when you go to the airport (or other border crossing) to depart Ecuador, Immigration Police will tell you that your T-3 Visa has expired and that you are now illegal in Ecuador.  You will be told to pay a fine of nearly $1,000 or and/or obtain a new visa from the Ecuadorian Consulate in your home country.  If you do not do this you will be not be allowed to enter Ecuador at any time within the next 24 months.

There are other expensive, nerve-wracking ways to correct this problem that we do not recommend.  Rather, we strongly suggest that carefully keep count of the days you stay in the country on a T-3 Visa.  If at any time you are unsure of the number of days you have left on your T-3 Visa, be sure to contact an Ecuadorian Immigration Attorney to be informed of the law and how it applies to you and your personal situation.

3. The third thing to know before you visit Ecuador is to not bring lots cash and/or precious metals with you on the plane or in your checked luggage. Do not bring more than $10,000 in cash or precious metals per person or per family party. It is not illegal to bring more but you must declare it to Ecuadorian Customs Agent immediately upon arrival to Ecuador. Failure to do so can result in a substantial fine and/or forfeiture of your cash.  It can also trigger the filing of a legal case by Customs of Ecuador (though that type of action more typically involves cases of very large amounts of cash and/or gold or where criminal activities, such as drug-running, is suspected).

4. If you are taking your pets with you to Ecuador, you must have a health certificate from your veterinarian that shows proof of required vaccines, and treatments for tapeworm and tick. There is a limit of to two pets per person or family.

You will also need to check with your airline as regarding written forms, costs and/or flight travel or destination requirements that apply to the import of pets.  The process of bringing your pet(s) into Ecuador is relatively easy if your paperwork is in order.  [Note: The importation of birds, rabbits and other pets to Ecuador does not fall within this process and is typically not allowed].

5. Next, when you arrive to the airport in Ecuador (either Guayaquil Airport or Quito Airport), it is best to already have booked your transportation / transfer from the airport to your final destination hotel or apartment/house. Keep in mind that criminal taxi drivers who prey upon unsuspecting foreigners in can be found any foreign city; remember, you are marked by your inability to speak the native language.

Especially at the airports, Ecuadorian taxi drivers are usually only Spanish speaking, not very patient with newcomers, and can sometimes overcharge (e.g., charging over $200 for a 3-hour taxi ride through the Cajas mountains that should cost no more than $120).

To be continued……