Guayaquil, Ecuador Report of what it's like to live there - 08/08/22

Personal Experiences from Guayaquil, Ecuador

Guayaquil, Ecuador 08/08/22

Background:

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

No. I lived in Costa Rica and have spent significant time in Mexico, China, France and Hungary.

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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?

I am from Chicago and my close and extended family still live in the area. Flights from O'Hare go through Atlanta, Houston, Miami or Panama (primarily) for a total of 7-8 flight hours. For a "northern city" the flights are pretty easy and affordable..

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3. What years did you live here?

2021-2022 (plus a few more coming)

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4. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

Diplomatic Mission

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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 pool is divided into 3 adjacent neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has their strengths and we often do different things in all 3. For example, Puerto Azul has an $8 per year yacht club membership with a big pool and restaurant, access to the mangroves for kayaking, and many restaurants and shops. Portofino has regular community activities. Laguna Club has nice walking paths. These last 2 have quick access to a couple of strip-malls and plenty of restaurants. The housing itself is wonderful... large and spacious, many with pools. I clearly could not afford a house like this if I lived in the States. Quality built with nice amenities and construction finishes. Safe parking, guards all around, and a walled compound with manned entry security gates. Life at home is awesome!

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

Food is widely available, it is fresh, of good quality, and by-in-large cheap. A few items are more expensive than the States, but much of it is not. Our grocery bill is 1/3 of what it is in the US. People complain about the beef, but better grades are available if you want to pay a little more. Healthy and alternative options are available, but it is not as big of a market as in the States, so the choices might be limited a bit.

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

We use the pouch for your special items. There was nothing pressing that we really wished we had shipped ahead of time. I do prefer US brown sugar than the version here. Most of the items we buy are unique things not available in Ecuador.

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

Everything is available and by-in-large, quite good. Restaurants are more expensive in Guayaquil than the rest of the country. Great variety. All kinds of delivery options exist. We eat sushi, pizza, burgers, Chinese, Spanish, Peruvian food in addition to the wonderful seafood options available in this port city (shrimp, crab, fish)

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

NO! It is a warm and somewhat humid climate so the typical appearance of common insects is not expected. A few ant traps strategically placed and a bug zapper in the back yard suffices.

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Daily Life:

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

Local mail is a misnomer. Scooters can deliver items/mail. We get US mail and packages through our post mail room. It takes 2-3 weeks extra time.

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

Widely available for about $20-$25 per day plus government required benefits. Reliable and hard working. Nannies, house keepers, gardeners, massage therapists, pilates instructor.

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

On the compound we have a great gym, tennis and pickleball courts, basketball court (free). In our housing communities we have amenities as well (free). Running, kayaking and the local long bike path are quite popular (free). Other gyms/yoga studios/karate are available too for a cost. I am told they are not cheap but affordable.

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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?

All major places take cards. We have had no problems. Most "mom and pop" places do not so we always carry some cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I am NOT aware of anything in Guayaquil. I wish there was something.

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

You need to know basic Spanish since English is not widely spoken. Sure, some speak English and you could get by without knowing Spanish, but it would be challenging and limit your ability to connect with your neighbors and other connections. Classes and tutors are available.

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

There seems to be a lot of concern for the handicapped with parking spaces and ramps. However, the standards here are different and may present an obstacle on occasion.

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Transportation:

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

We are prohibited from using public transit for safety reasons. We have a select pool of taxis we use. Most also have "a driver" on call in case we do not want to drive somewhere (airport run). There is a small but sufficient pool of these drivers that we will recommend. Uber is available but not plentiful.

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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?

Bring a car, but you do NOT need to bring in a new car, in fact, one that is a few years old would be ideal. Most have small SUV's, the others sedans or a few larger SUV's. The marketplace is quite favorable for us to SELL our vehicles before we leave post. BUYING a vehicle here is quite expensive. Make sure you bring in a car that is serviceable (not all makes and models are in Ecuador) Toyotas and Hyundais are the most common. Fords and Chevys are common. Others too, of course, ask your contacts if your car is a good choice. Insurance is available too. Do not bring a flashy car or one with big rims (lots of speed bumps everywhere)

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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?

Widely available, fast, reliable and much cheaper than the US. Ours was installed the day after we arrived.

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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?

Keep a US number with Google-Fi or equivalent. We make web based calls primarily but at times this is not available. I have a local phone with a local number which is my primary phone. Claro and other companies are available. Bring an unlocked international phone.

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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?

Excellent life for pets. Most have better quality (cheaper?) pet care items shipped in but there is an abundance of vets and places for the critters :-) travel with pets is complicated and more expensive since COVID.

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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?

There are plenty of jobs at the Consulate, often more openings than available EFMs. The management of the consulate seems to bend over backwards to help EFMs. The work opportunities are varied and interesting. A number of EFM's work at home/virtually. I do not know of anyone who works in the local marketplace, which has a much lower salary level.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

IF you speak Spanish, there are lots of opportunities. Make connections and jump into something that interests you.

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

Dress code is quite casual yet formal events are common. Ecuadorians are concerned about their appearance and often wear "good clothes" to and from work, changing into work clothes upon arrival. NICE!

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Health & Safety:

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

All of us take extra security measures when we are out and about, especially at night. There are sections of the city that are fine, but larger areas are not safe (nor is there any reason to visit them). We drive with safety in mind (proofing WAZE routes before we follow blindly). In the neighborhoods where we live and work, the concerns are present but minimal. The main parts of town and central tourist area are quite safe during the day, but always be mindful of petty theft. In a number of parts of the city where we do not normally need to go to, the crime and violence is worse. To be honest, my hometown in the US is quite unsafe in many areas. There is no difference! Every big city has these issues. As for discrimination, I have not seen much other than economic disparity (upper class gets treated much better than the poor).

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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?

The quality of heathcare is quite good, with skilled and experienced doctors of all types. The hospital recommended is a little old, but the equipment seems up to date. Newer hospitals exist which I would recommend. I would go to the States for unusual or complex cases (unique surgery, cancer radiation/chemo), but we have a good understanding of Spanish that helps us in the local options. It is NOT as hot and humid as one might expect for living on the coast at the equator.

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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?

Pollen and a modest amount humidity seem to be the biggest issues. A little vehicle smog too, but otherwise it is fine. An occasional volcano eruption may add a layer of dust for a few days. Thus far we have had no issues.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are meds for allergies as in the US. Food labelling is extensive here. Share your concerns at restaurants and make sure they know what you are talking about (confirm it).

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

Not that I am aware of

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

I would say warm with some humidity... with extra rain/heat/humidity in Jan - April. It is actually quite comfortable all year around and not as hot/humid as we expected. We are warm climate people though.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most of the children attend IAA, close to where we all live. I am not more familiar with the school since we are not involved with it.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but I do not know the details.

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

Yes, seems like a good variety (especially "soccer")

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Expat Life:

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

It is not a large community beyond the consulate, but we have made a number of friends from other countries and Ecuador. It is a good life here with many options for activities. Travel around the country, to the mountains, beaches and regional sights is a true gift. This culture is fascinating. The people are warm and friendly. We have lots of helpful interactions and thoroughly enjoy living here. Low cost of living. Put the hardship differential in your pocket. Phenomenal quality of life and home. We live quite well and would not have the lifestyle we have if we lived in the States (housekeeper, gardener, massage therapist, yogi, etc.).

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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?

Our CLO offers a lot of opportunities. Cultural activities are abundant and once you get involved in something, you start learning more and more about other opportunities. The local food court on the weekend is a good place to socialize with other expats. Additional, if you have an interest you can join Facebook pages or Twitter... and find out what is going on. For instance, we like concerts. We attended one, signed up for their email notices of future events, and now get these invites regularly. Then when our co-workers seem interested, we share the news with them. We are not bored and there is a lot of variety.

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

Although I am not single, I imagine it would be harder to be here unless you are an extravert. Women also have an additional challenge as they do in most all cultures (safety). Couples have great opportunities. Families seem to do well here too. You make your life like you want it.

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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?

I would not say easy, but it is possible. You have to work at it though and take the first steps. I have not seen or heard of any prejudices, but I do not fall into this category so I cannot speak to it personally.

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

I have met a number of LGBTQI+ community members and see others around the city. It appears that there is a nice acceptance of all people here.

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

There is some racial diversity here but not a lot. Where we live and work, I suspect it is fine, but I am not personally able to answer this question in the rest of the area or country. There is a celebration of diversity at the Consulate and a nice mixture of people. We are a diverse community here and I sense that there is complete support for all. This is a Catholic country so that flavors a lot of tolerance and acceptance, with no discrimination towards non-Catholics or non-religious.

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

Galapagos excursions by land or sea are top notch and much more affordable than rates from the US. Cuenca, Manta, beach towns, Quito and other cities within the country are well worth one or more trips. Trips to Columbia, Panama and Miami are affordable and very interesting. Trips elsewhere in South America are harder to plan and more expensive than expected, but still well worth the effort and cost.

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

Interests like cocoa, banana farming, wine, essential oils... all have tours. Regular exhibitions (flamenco, orchids, local art, chocolate, etc) and fairs are common.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really but the Andean crafts in the local artisans markets are beautiful. Panama hats are made here, alpaca wool, beautiful pottery....

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

Big city with all of its perks, most of it 30-45 minutes away (including the airport). There is art all over the place (even the underpasses are beautiful). Lots of green spaces and water.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Use your UAE well to supplement the welcome kit... it may take 2 months to get your HHE and POV. The houses are well furnished, use your weight limit for your personal items. We brought in a better quality mattress and have not regretted it.

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

MOST CERTAINLY! There is plenty to do here and within a half day drive. This is the best traffic I have seen in Latin America. It is NOT the US (rules are suggestions, not requirements) but the flow of traffic for a big city is quite good. Good roads, wide lanes, nice lighting... I cannot complain. As in anywhere, it takes a little longer during rush hours. Our commute to work is about 15 minutes door to door.

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

Winter clothes, blankets, 220 volt appliances

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4. But don't forget your:

Imported items are more expensive here so bring what you need (bikes, workout equipment, kayaks, thick luxurious towels, Kitchenaid appliances, hobby materials, etc.)

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The typical travel books were helpful, none stand out as being extra special though.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Tourism and eco-friendly activities like this exist, but they are not as well developed and advertised as in other places. They exist. They are incredible. Within a few hours drive there are plenty of options.

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