10 Years of Blog Archive

Monday, February 27, 2012

What Future Expats Need to Know BEFORE Retiring to Ecuador (Updated)

note: this article has been updated. 
As our readers know, we like to show people all sides of an issue and other opinions, not just what we think they want to hear; and we’re not posting this on the blog to keep anyone from coming to Ecuador; some of these issues may be hyped just to scare people from moving away from the U.S to another country, so keep this in mind as you read through parts of this crime report by the U.S Travel Website.
Some of you may have already gone to the U.S Travel Website and saw this yourselves, nonetheless, for those who have not, we would like to share a few bits of information with you just so you can know about these things and then take your own appropriate measures for yourselves according to your circumstances. 

Retiring In Ecuador

In recent years, Ecuador has become a top overseas destination for retiring U.S. citizens. Bear in mind, organizations promoting Ecuador or any other place as a retirement destination may have a financial incentive to attract retirees, and may not always present a balanced picture. Consider multiple sources before choosing a destination. 

Remain vigilant when contracting professional services for assistance with Ecuadorian visas, real estate transactions, or customs brokering for imported household effects. U.S. citizen retirees regularly complain about unethical practices by lawyers, real estate agents, and others who have taken advantage of their lack of knowledge about local language, laws, and culture, resulting in costly losses and little hope for a remedy through the local judicial system. 

As in any country, Ecuadorian rules governing visas and customs are subject to change with little notice. The Ministry of Foreign Relations and other Ecuadorian government agencies publish little information in English, increasing foreigners’ reliance on lawyers or other facilitators, some of whom have distorted the true cost or requirements for obtaining Ecuadorian visas. Staff members at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not in a position to give detailed advice about Ecuadorian immigration law. 

Women Traveling Alone to Ecuador
We are often asked our opinion about women traveling alone to Ecuador…well, our opinion is this. It’s not the traveling part that is dangerous it is the living part. I would not want someone such as my sisters or mother, or aunt, or any of my females friends to move to and live in Ecuador alone…you may think you can handle yourself and you are independent woman, but many men that travel alone and walk alone are targets of all kinds of crimes, so how much more would be a women? It’s not a matter of “I can take care of myself”, all women can take care of themselves, but not all women can fend off an attacker because she happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you have taken defense classes, how will the perpetrator know that and, how will you defend yourself against a person with a knife or gun?  And why would you want to put yourself in a position of having to do so? The attitude “it won’t happen to me” is foolish thinking at best. 

Update: 2015 - the US Travel website used to say more about women traveling alone but have shortened it to sexual assualts. Below is take from the US Travel website:

Sexual Assault: Incidents of sexual assault and rape have increased, including in well-traveled tourist areas. Criminals generally target women who are alone, and use alcohol or incapacitating drugs, such as rohypnol and scopolamine, on unsuspecting tourists to rob and/or sexually assault them. These so-called date-rape drugs disorient the victim and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems. To lower your risk, travel in groups, do not leave food or drinks unattended in public places, and never allow a stranger to give you a drink.

But anyone traveling alone, man or woman should stay vigilant and walk in pairs and groups just to be on the safe side, especially at night. 

Update: 2015 - We have observed a different kind of people come out after 6PM, shortly before night fall. They dress different, they talk different, and they act different. That means be more aware of your surroundings after dark in South and Central American countries. 

Be aware: Most of the violent crimes against foreigners happen at night. Most of the non violent happen during the day and night.
Ecuador Crime 

Crime is a severe problem in Ecuador. Crimes against U.S. citizens in the past year have ranged from petty theft to violent offenses, including armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, and several instances of murder and attempted murder. Very low rates of apprehension and conviction of criminals – due to limited police and judicial resources – contribute to Ecuador’s high crime rate. 

“Secuestro Express” Taxi Assaults: Robberies and assaults against taxi passengers, known locally as “secuestro express” continue to present a significant safety concern, especially in Guayaquil and Manta, but also with increasing regularity in Quito. Shortly after the passenger enters a taxi, the vehicle is typically intercepted by armed accomplices of the driver, who threaten passengers with weapons, rob passengers of their personal belongings, and force victims to withdraw money from ATMs. Increasingly, victims have been beaten or raped during these incidents.  

(Note: we have never heard of this happening in Cuenca). 

Violent Robberies: Armed or violent robberies can occur in all parts of Ecuador, not just the major cities. Many travelers have been robbed after using ATMs or when exiting banks. Travelers should avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash at one time from banks and ATMs, and should use ATMs in protected indoor areas like well-guarded shopping malls. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and flee the scene. Tourists have also been robbed at gunpoint on beaches and along hiking trails. 

Murder: Since September 2009, at least four U.S. citizens in Ecuador have been victims of murder. In most cases, the victims and alleged perpetrators personally knew each other. Investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators is the responsibility of the Ecuadorian government, and do not proceed with the speed and thoroughness we are accustomed to in the United States. Although the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate Generally monitor and encourage these investigations, our ability to intervene is extremely limited.

What We Think about This Report?

The report is just letting people know what they may be up against if visiting/moving to Ecuador…if they did not make such a crime report and a U.S citizen gets robbed while getting cash out of an ATM in Cuenca Ecuador, the first place the victim is going to go is to their home country complaining that they were never warned. Well…here is that warning.

Some folks take it all with a grain of salt while others take it all in and are diligent and aware of what’s going on around them while living in Ecuador. They take special measures to not be targets of crime. The report is there for anyone to read and then do with it what they will.

Although Cuenca is not a city where there is very much violent crime, this is changing, especially around the stairs area by the river, leading up into the old center of Cuenca. In the month of January 2012 it was posted on a forum on the Internet that there were like 4 robberies of gringos and even some Ecuadorians and the perpetrators (4 or 5 guys) used a knife to get personal valuables from these people…many of these robberies happened during the day!

(Note: we cannot confirm this as being true, however)

Rumored reports on forums state two of the perpetrators were apprehended and questioned by police but then they just let them go. So, to this day, as far as we know, they are still robbing foreigners and even Ecuadorians.

We know personally of a Canadian couple who were robbed of a necklace in Early February 2012 while walking up the stairs (during the day), into the downtown area of Cuenca, right there on Calle Larga. They just snatched the necklace right off her neck and then sped down the stairs knowing they were not going to be followed by this older couple. 

Update 2015 - In 2013 Cuenca Ecuador added 200 new police throughout the city of Cuenca and many new tourist police in the downtown area. 

Thieves work all over in the city of Cuenca and being out after dark alone is not a wise thing to do unless you are traveling in pairs and groups and taking taxis to and from your destinations. Leaving night clubs and bars intoxicated, especially at night is extremely haphazard and we do not recommend it.

The thing about the government report is that like any amount of statistics, they mix it all in and label it “crime in Ecuador”.  Again, most of the very violent crimes are in the big cities.  In the smaller towns this is not an issue, whether at the coast or in the mountains.  However, we say that with caution, because, again, you can make yourself a target anywhere in Ecuador at any time even during the day.

Violent Crime in Wal-Mart Parking Lots in the U.S

Even so, in many cities of the U.S there are violent crimes of robberies and rapes happening in such seemingly safe places as the Wal-Mart parking lot, some of the robberies happen during the day too! So, we’re not saying all this to single out Ecuador, but we think that everyone who is thinking of coming here to live should be aware of what’s happening crime-wise in Ecuador.

We do know that those people who are robbed usually do not take measures to protect themselves and their valuables. Almost all robberies here in Cuenca happen out of randomness and because the perpetrator KNOWS they can get something from a vulnerable looking person or couple.

Who is Vulnerable?

1.    Older expat couples
2.    Disabled persons
3.    Women alone
4.    Flashy donned individuals
5.    Persons that have been drinking and coming out of night clubs
6. Anyone, no matter the age, who is walking out at night

Just because you may fall into the "more vulnerable" category does not mean you should not come to Ecuador, but it means that those people that are more vulnerable need to take special precautions according to their circumstances. 

You do not have to become a victim of crime. Take measures to make sure that no one sees you have anything of value on your person!  Don’t go out at night; never walk around alone even if you are a male; be diligent when getting money from the ATM machines; Call a taxi, never just get into a taxi(in the big cities); and be a careful diligent  traveler/expat.  Don’t just shrug it off, with the –it won’t happen to me—attitude.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, remember?


  1. Another well thought out post. Nice job! I had already read the U.S Travel Websites information, but I'm glad that you took the time to relay the info. there to your readers.

    Just to be clear to others that may feel a little put off by the notice. It's no worse than many other places if you read what what the U.S Travel Website says about them, pick a location, any place pretty much.

    I have been to 49 of the 50 states and it's the same everywhere. I have even gone so far as to drive into a police stations parking lot (the one for police ONLY) and asked a cop where do I NOT want to live before moving there.

    I pulled out a map of the city and 2 highlighter markers one red, and one green, for him to mark the map. He never did mention that I wasn't allowed in that lot. I knew that already and he was happy to help.

    Anyway, hopefully the Ecuadorian Government will take measures to rid the Country of those that take advantage of others by the time I'm ready to make my decision on where I want to be.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to ready your blog.

  2. Hi Tim.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Let's see how many people noticed this: the u.s. report said: four u.s. citizens were victims in all of Ecuador since 2009. -- Well how many u.s. citizens were victims since 2009 IN THE U.S.???? Or in any particular u.s. state???

    1. That would be one very slow weekend in Chicago alone. Helps put things in perspective doesn't it. :)

    2. These comments about 4 americans being killed only address US victims. There are expats from other countries who have been victims of violence. Check out the following link: http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2014/01/03/nota/1977691/ofrecen-hasta-100-mil-asesinos-japones. A young Japanese couple was kidnapped and the man was killed back Dec 2013......in Quito. A $100,000 ransom is being offered for information leading to capture of the assailants.

  3. You're welcome,

    I'm sure that the number in the U.S. might contain the number 4 in it somewhere. It's all the other numbers before or after it that are the problem.

    I do know a couple towns that used to have populations of 4. Even had the misfortune of breaking down in one with a population of 8.

    We'll see if anyone finds some real numbers on crime here, but I doubt it.

  4. @ Frank, Angie, et al....the US State Dept report says four U.S. citizens have been the victims of MURDER since 2009. Hundreds more have been victims of lesser crimes during the same period.

  5. I would have to be out of mi mind for me to move in a place like that !!
    No way Jose !
    The U.s. Has Thousands of places to move / live With out moving to a third World Country like that !

  6. Four murders since 2009. Even Canada has more than that in a year. Actually more than that in most larger cities.
    One needs to be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are.

    1. Freddie, stay where you are.Infact move to a different part of U.S where they only have about four get hurt a week or month.Here four since 09 maybe out of your league and boring for you.

  7. That just AMERICAN victims. There are expats from other countries who have been victims of violence. Recently, there was a particularly bad event in Quito where a young Japanese couple was "sequestrado" and the man was shot and killed. This was in Dec 2012. Read more at the following link: http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2014/01/03/nota/1977691/ofrecen-hasta-100-mil-asesinos-japones

  8. Ecuador has the same rate of violent crime as Washington D.C. Those are statistics; not advertisements for real estate.


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