15 Bad Things About Living in Ecuador

Ecuador lies along the pacific coast of South America and is bordered by Peru to the southeast and Columbia to the north. Although it is among the smallest countries in South America, it is one of the most popular and most diverse.

Despite being a country with several interesting facts, things are not always rosy in Ecuador as some people think. There are several negative things you probably didn’t know about Ecuador before. 

Ecuador is a country with high altitude, and while this makes for a great site for tourists, it may take a while for ex-pats to adapt. 

Getting a work permit in Ecuador may be easy, but finding employment is usually a challenge for both locals and ex-pats. It’s even worse getting a job if you can’t speak Spanish to an adequate level. But, what’s the point of being permitted to work and not getting a good job?

Political instability also causes a lot of tension and protests in Ecuador. Guayaquil and Quito are two cities where political instability brings the most concern. 

If you’re thinking of moving to Ecuador, there are several cons you have to review before taking your next step.

In this article, I have reviewed 15 of the most notable bad things about living in Ecuador to help you decide if the country is for you or not.

1. Crime

A photo of crime scene tape symbolizing the high crime rate in Ecuador

The level of crime in Ecuador is problematic, although some areas are less dangerous than others. If you can avoid certain neighborhoods, you’ll be just fine. 

The crimes seemingly never end from minor crimes like pickpocketing to major ones like robbery at gunpoint or kidnapping. People are often robbed at gunpoint, although it’s possible that the guns aren’t even functional or they don’t have any bullets. However, it’s better to obey whatever the robber says than risk getting shot at.

Tourists who use unofficial taxis are also at high risk of express kidnappings in Ecuador. The criminals lead tourists to the ATM stands to make them clear their savings.

Rape and other sexually related offenses are rampant in some parts of Ecuador. However, while travel safety sites usually exaggerate the crimes, they still make for grim reading

There have been instances where homemade versions of drugs like scopolamine were used on unsuspecting victims to subdue them and put them in a compliant state. Hence, you should never accept perfume samples, food, or flyers from anyone on the streets of Ecuador, no matter how well dressed and respectable they look. 

Related: Is Ecuador Safe?

2. Public Transport 

Some people prefer taking public transport over driving, but public transportation isn’t what you expect in Ecuador. The local buses are overcrowded with passengers, bumpy, spew pollution, and generally feel unsafe at times.

If you’re not very careful, the bus is one of the easiest places to get robbed or pickpocketed. Make sure you wear your backpacks on your chest, don’t keep wallets in your back pocket, and watch people sitting around you closely. You can never tell which one is looking to take advantage of the crowdedness of the bus.

3. Natural Disasters

Ecuador is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to natural disasters. Aside from being on the equator, there are several volcanoes and fault lines in the country. If any “sleeping” volcano should become active, there will be casualties.

You can visit volcanodiscovery.com if you’re interested in seeing a report of the earthquakes that have hit Ecuador in the last few months or years. Although most times, what you observe are just minor earth trembles, you can’t be too sure when the big ones might occur, so you should always be prepared. 

Not all areas in Ecuador are prone to earthquakes or disasters. Still, suppose this is a major concern for you. In that case, you should avoid places like Guayas, Manabí, Los Rios Esmeraldas, Santa Elena, and Santo Domingo, which have been the epicenters of earthquakes recently.

Related: What’s Ecuador’s Climate Like?

4. Noise

If you’re visiting Ecuador for the first time from countries like the United States, or Canada, one thing you’ll notice first is the level of noise. From barking dogs to roosters, to loud music from different angles, to gas trucks blasting their horns, Ecuador is probably one of the noisiest places you can visit.

When finding a place to buy or rent, you should consider the area’s noise level, especially if you’re a quiet person. If you end up in a noisy area, chances are you will not enjoy your stay in Ecuador.

5. Street Dogs

You may not know it, but dogs in Ecuador may outnumber humans. The dogs aren’t well-fed, and they don’t live in secure areas. You’ll usually find them roaming the streets in packs, breaking open the garbage bags left out for recycling, and eating anything they can find.

Animal lovers will find the conditions of these dogs disturbing. Seeing these starving dogs can be distressing for tourists. Locals have been known to poison dogs on purpose to try and control the feral population.

Street dogs in Ecuador are not like those of any other country. It is highly possible to be bitten by a feral dog if you are too close. Even if you’re on your motorcycle, there’s still a chance that a street dog will chase you. 

It gets worse when these dogs move in packs, and they’re chasing you as you drive on a rough, bumpy road.

Luckily, some non-profit programs are working on fixing the dog problem by removing the dogs from the street and getting them medical help.

6. Language Barrier

An image showing a man on a mobile phone with a confused look on his face, representing the language barrier in Ecuador

The main setback with most ex-pats is the language barrier. If you did not study Spanish, the possibility of taking up a foreign language at the age of 60 or older is overwhelming.

There are several places in Ecuador with sizable and welcoming ex-pat communities and bi-lingual individuals available for about $10 an hour to assist with mundane tasks such as opening bank accounts. Without getting the needed assistance, adjusting to daily life can be stressful at first.

It’s hard enough when you’re unable to use the internet to communicate with a cab driver or shop manager, so what about speaking with a doctor or a police officer? When you cannot communicate in the local language, it is normal to feel alienated and limited.

However, the fact is that most people are capable of learning another language, at least enough to get along in a foreign country. You may not fluently speak the language like the natives, but it’s amazing how far you can go by mastering a few words and creating a limited vocabulary of things you see and do every day.

If you visit Ecuador and speak poor Spanish, you will discover that the locals are unconcerned with your poor pronunciation and bad grammar. They would appreciate your efforts to communicate with them in their native tongue.

7. Bugs and Mosquitoes Infestation

Ecuador experiences lots of rain, causing bugs to come out during the wet periods. Mosquitoes are among the biggest challenges you’ll face in Ecuador, amongst several other types of biting insects.

It usually takes ex-pats about six months to build up immunities against these creatures, so the first few weeks can be a little miserable. You can get bit by the bugs and fall sick as a result.

Spending a couple of long holidays in the country before a permanent move may help manage the physical expectations of living there.

8. Import Taxes

You’ll have to pay outrageous fees on import taxes in Ecuador. If you have to buy anything not made in Ecuador, it may cost you twice as much as you’d pay in North America or Europe.

Don’t even think about ordering online from Amazon or asking someone to send you anything from another country. Chances are, the items will get stuck in customs, and you’ll have to pay large amounts of money to claim them.  

Sometimes you have to pay as much as 50% of the item’s value as custom tax. Sending gifts to your loved ones at home is also very expensive as well.

Many ex-pats would use a mule service to avoid paying the heavy import taxes. You can find Facebook communities for this. People will post stuff like, “I’m flying to Ecuador from this location on this day,” “I have this much space,“ and ”the cost per kilogram is this much.”  

If you need a new juicer, you order it, have it delivered to their house, and they bring it to you. It might be a little questionable at first, especially if you’re buying something expensive. Still, you’ll find that many of these mules travel between countries often and have a decent reputation.

Related: Cost of Living in Ecuador

9. Altitude

A photograph showing the sculpture of the Virgin in Panecillo Quito Ecuador. The image is taken from the bottom of the hill and show many homes on the slopes

Altitude can be an issue for you, depending on where you live in Ecuador. Quito is 2850 meters above sea level, which is nearly 10,000 ft. It affects your sleep, stress levels, how many drinks you can consume in one sitting, how many burps you generate every day, and your body’s overall recovery ability.

Keep in mind that not every place in Ecuador is high, and only a few people are affected by it. However, it’s something to keep in mind. The fact that Ecuador is on the equator is also a concern because of the angle at which the sun strikes the earth. It makes the heat very intense.

You can have as much as 12 hours of direct sunlight every day, all year long. If you are staying under the sun for more than 10 minutes, it’s advised that you have plenty of sunblock available and wear a hat. The UV levels are very strong, and you’ll burn faster if you’re exposed to the sun for too long.  

10. Clouds of Dust and Germs

If you’re germaphobic, living in Ecuador is not for you. There will be large crowds of people around you, whether you’re in an open-air market or using public transit, which may make you feel uncomfortable.

No matter where you work, there is a coating of dust that appears to descend on everything, which means you’ll likely spend more time cleaning. Expats also attempt to mitigate this drawback by taking a bottle of hand sanitizer with them.

11. Bureaucracy Level 

When you need to process an annual visa, expect things to come to a halt during a crisis or an election.

Since the immigration department’s director changes regularly, it’s difficult to tell if or when an application will be processed. As a rule of thumb, you can triple the quoted processing times, so you have a fair idea of when to expect a response.

12.  Gaps in the Health Insurance Sector

If you’re paying for a severe illness with your own money, hoping to reduce costs, you’re likely to go bankrupt in Ecuador.

In certain communities, waiting for the government to provide cancer or other potentially terminal therapies can be unbearable. From a public standpoint, you’ll want to find the gaps in your health care coverage so that you can fill them with private options.

13.  Frequent Policy Changes for Residency Visas

An image showing a printed visa application, a pen, and a passport

When you first visit Ecuador, your passport will be stamped with a T-3 tourist sticker, allowing you to stay in the country for free for up to 90 days. If you want to stay longer, you’ll need a special tourist visa that allows you to stay for up to 180 days.

If you want to stay longer than that, you’ll need a conditional residency permit, which means you can’t visit the country for more than 90 days per year. Any law violation will result in fines and the revocation of your visa.

Related: What is Ecuador’s Visa Requirements?

14. Utilities Can Go Out at Any Time

When you move to Ecuador, you’ll have access to all of the necessities of modern life. Most Ecuadorians have access to electricity, sanitation, telephone, and Internet facilities. Keep in mind that these services may go out any time without prior warning.

There has been some improvement in this aspect in recent years, but it isn’t like the utilities in the United States. Most residents keep a supply of clean water close in case there is a prolonged blackout.

People working remotely in Ecuador will need a backup power source and a wireless modem to meet deadlines.

15. You’ll Need to Clean Your Vegetables Carefully

Ecuador has an abundance of fruits and vegetables. To prevent health risks, most places require you to buy or boil the water used for cooking or cleaning vegetables. Cleaning your fruits and vegetables with clean water is important. As a result, cooking at home can be challenging due to a lack of supplies.

Conclusion

Visiting or Moving to a new country can be both adventurous and challenging. If you’re considering moving to Ecuador, you have to diligently compare the pros and cons to decide if the decision is worth it. 

The level of crime and political tensions in Ecuador are among some of the bad things about living in Equador. The political instability is also responsible for several complications that expats face in the country, including the constantly changing visa policies. 

All the cons mentioned in this article are something to be concerned about. However, it might be enough that you’re aware of them since over 17 million people are living in the country and they’re doing just fine. Carefully consider each point to guide your decision.