Guayaquil, Ecuador Report of what it's like to live there - 06/29/22

Personal Experiences from Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil, Ecuador 06/29/22

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US. The only flights from the United States to Guayaquil are from Miami and New York. If you're coming from anywhere else you'll likely connect in one of those airports, or through Panama. There are flights daily, but the hours of arrival and departure are usually very early in the morning or late at night. Flying to anywhere from Guayaquil is more expensive than you'd think. $500 to Colombia, $1000+ to Bolivia, it is not a convenient location for travel due to the inflated flight costs.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Consulate

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing is mostly excellent. There are some older properties (mostly in the Puerto Azul neighborhood), but overall the quality is good and the management section does a good job of servicing when needed. Everything is located on the same road, in the far west of the city. There is nothing within walking distance of the housing other than a couple of small strip malls. Commute is excellent, about 10-15 minutes. Traffic is not great, but not bad. People complain but it's grossly exaggerated how bad it is.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The availability of groceries is pretty good. You can get most standard produce and meat, and there is a decent enough supply of imported cereals, snacks, etc. It's definitely not like living in the United States, but it's not bad either. The one big standout is the quality of beef here, it is very poor and virtually impossible to find a good steak either at the grocery store or a restaurant.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More cheese, diapers. While cheese is available, there's not a huge variety. Diapers are very expensive.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a handful of restaurants nearby the housing that people tend to use, none of them are particularly good except for one ceviche place. Come to Guayaquil with your expectations lowered when it comes to food. After two years here I gave up looking for new restaurants. Of the 50-100 places I estimate I have been to, I can count the number of ones worth going to one one hand.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants, flies, cockroaches. Tough to avoid them with the humidity. Not too much to handle on your own, however.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO/Pouch are the best things about this post.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very cheap, easy to find. People who have houses get gardeners and sometimes people to clean their pools.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There's a nice gym at the Consulate.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

A lot of places take credit cards, but it's a good rule of thumb to always have cash with you because some places only accept cash. There's an ATM at the Consulate you are highly recommended to use. It is not safe to use ATMs outside the Consulate due to how dangerous the city is.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depends on how much you want to engage with the city. There's not a lot to do in Guayaquil, so there's not many occasions to use the language outside work unless you're very social. There's a language program at post but it's more useful as a brushup for experienced language speakers than beginners, as it's only available once or twice a week.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Again, depends on how much you'd be going out. That being said, you won't be walking anywhere anyways so it may not matter. There are malls that would be accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transportation is prohibited by the RSO due to the security situation. Uber is available but has trouble getting to the neighborhoods.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A big, four-wheel drive, older car. People drive erratically here, it is not uncommon to hear of traffic accidents from officers. If you don't want your car to get scratched or dented, then think about bringing a car you wouldn't mind that about.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I have not experienced any major problems with the internet here. You can get it installed prior to arrival.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone here uses Claro. Some people also use GoogleFi.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I have heard that the veterinarians here are okay, but that the quality of care is significantly lower than the United States.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses either telework from home or work in the Consulate. The Consulate does a good job of opening a lot of positions for spouses.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Standard professional dress at work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, many. Guayaquil is known for being dangerous, and things have devolved significantly in my time here. We have heard of many violent crimes near the housing, although these are not typically broadcast to staff. We are prohibited from traveling to half of the city, and in recent days it feels like it's unsafe to go anywhere other than work. There are murders daily, a few weeks ago there was an unexploded bomb about 10 minutes from the housing. This is an extremely unsafe city and the current 15% differential does nothing to communicate how serious things are here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care seems to be okay. There is a small MED unit at post, but the services available are much less than you'd normally find at an Embassy.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Occasional dust from volcanic eruptions, but these are infrequent.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

I have never worked in an office with morale as low as it is here. A lot of that is attributable to the security situation, but not all. In the last year, several people have departed post early. Certain sections are critically understaffed with no real plans to resolve the issue, leaving the staff that remain overworked and likely to get burnt out. The unhappiness here is a combination of the worsening security situation, the lack of things to do in the city, and, in my opinion, poor management at work in some sections.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's hot all year long, and very humid between December and April. The weather during the other months is quite nice.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School (IAA) is where almost everyone's children go. There's also a German School I've heard good things about. IAA is okay, nothing great but nothing bad.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At IAA there are regular activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

This is a small/midsize post. There's no community except the Americans at the Consulate.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

None. A big reason why single people do not fare well here.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Couples and families.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

The local staff here make great friends. They are incredibly friendly people.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It seems to be very easy for LGBT colleagues. I'm sure discrimination exists but I have not heard any significant issues.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, more for people of African descent and indigenous people.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Honestly, whenever I left Guayaquil. Also Galapagos!

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Cuenca is beautiful, with cool weather if you need a breather. It's a 3.5 hour drive.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Advantages of the city? I cannot think of anything other than the weather. The people are very nice.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I knew about the food. I would have focused more attention on bringing frozen food in my luggage.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely not. It's dangerous, there's very little to do, and work is chaotic and getting worse.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Jackets? Except if you go to Quito or Cuenca on vacation.

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4. But don't forget your:

Suntan lotion. The sun will burn you very quickly here, even if it's cloudy.

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