Jason Scott

Author Archives: Jason Scott

After numerous years wandering the globe as a digital nomad, Jason now calls Ecuador home where he lives as part of a mixed Ecuadorian/Expat family. Jason created this blog to give back to the Ecuadorian expat community.

How to Send Money to Ecuador with WorldRemit

Need to send money to Ecuador quickly and cheaply? WorldRemit may be the best provider for you. I've had to transfer cash into Ecuador for numerous reasons and WorldRemit has been my go-to for the majority of these situations. 

Once you've read this article you'll be armed with a step-by-step guide on how to send money to Ecuador with WorldRemit. And, how to get your first transfer for free!

But first, I suggest you check out this article on sending money to Ecuador which covers other options (ATMs etc). This article is specifically how to transfer cash online using WorldRemit and we don't cover other online options such as Western Union or Xoom. 

Why use WorldRemit to send money to Ecuador?

I continue to choose WorldRemit because of the low rates (incl fees), ease of use and transfer speed.

My needs have mostly been for an online service that would allow me to transfer from my US account to my Ecuadorian account. There's numerous options that fulfil this general requirement, but I like WorldRemit because:

Low fees

WorldRemit has a sliding fee structure based on the amount sent. This is always very transparent so there are no nasty surprises. 

Amount Sent

WorldRemit Fee

$500

$9.99

$1,000

$11.99

$1,500 - $5,000

$14.99

You can see the fee basically has an upper limit for $14.99 (sidenote - why not just call it $15? This type of pricing annoys me...) 

This $15 fee is the same if you're sending $1,500 or $5,000. So, it's more cost effective to send larger amounts, less often. 

$5,000 will last most expats 2-3 months. So, you should be able to get away with one fee of $15 to cover your money transfer needs for 2-3 months. 

You can then use your local debit card (I use JEP) to get cash out or pay directly with the debit card wherever it's accepted - ie supermarkets etc, but not local markets. 

Up to $5,000

$5,000 is the maximum that WorldRemit let's me send in one transaction. I've tried to send more, but it would not let me and I needed to send several smaller transactions with separate fees. 

I'm not clear if this limit changes based on personal circumstances. I'm not guaranteeing $5,000 will be available to you - maybe your limit is less. I don't know. 

You can check your limit once you've hooked up your US (or Canada, Australia etc) bank account to WorldRemit and start a transfer to Ecuador. This only takes a few minutes and you don't need to finish the transfer to find your limit.

Transfer speed 

Money is generally in the account the next business day. On several occasions it's been transferred on the same day!

I can tell how long it takes because I receive one email from WorldRemit telling me the transfer is being processed and another saying it's processed. 

Money has been transferred by the next business day. Every. Time. 

It's great to know this speed is consistent as there have been numerous occasions where unforeseen circumstances have arose and I needed funds quickly. Having the cash quickly has saved me considerable heartache. 

Easy to use - 2 minute transfers

The WorldRemit transfer process is easy to use, especially for repeat transactions. It takes me less than 2 mins to complete repeat transactions. 

The main time hurdle is adding new accounts, because you obviously need to enter in the account information for the recipient (ie your account in Ecuador). 

The website UX is clean and it's always clear what your next step is. For example, the very first screen is a simple prompt asking which country you would like to transfer to. This clear process means that it's difficult to get lost at any point. 

Sending money with WorldRemit: Step-by-step

I took some screenshots of a recent transaction to show you how to do the transfer to a local Ecuador bank. The most difficult part was finding the recipient's bank account details in the monster drop down list.

I actually had to email WorldRemit's support team to clarify the recipient bank name. Their support came back to me within an hour to provide my answer. I was happy with this support. 

Step 1: Visit WorldRemit website

Send Money to Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 1

Self explanatory step, but we need to start somewhere!

Head on over to the WorldRemit site.

Step 2: Create account

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 2 - Create Account

Basic details here like name, email address password etc. Shouldn't take more than 2 minutes to complete. 

Step 3: Recipient country (Ecuador!)

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 3 - Recipient Country

Of course, you can also use WorldRemit to transfer to many other countries. For us expats in Ecuador, we'll obviously want to choose Ecuador as our recipient country. 

Step 4: Bank transfer

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 4 - Bank Transfer

We are focusing on transfers to a local Ecuadorian bank account (yours or a friend's). So, leave it as the default "Bank Transfer" option and hit continue.

But, you can also elect for a cash pickup at several bank branches if you prefer cash. Please be careful if you're walking around with large sums of money. 

Step 5: Recipient bank

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 5 - Recipient Bank

There's three options for choosing which bank you want to deposit into:

  1. Banco Guayaquil
  2. Banco Bolivariano
  3. All other Ecuador Banks

This 3rd option is very extensive and covers many, many Ecuadorian banks and cooperativas. This is what I use for JEP. 

Step 6: Amount (& fees)

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 6 - Amount

They've made it easy to understand how much you're sending and what the recipient will receive. If you're transferring from the US, then this won't change because Ecuador also uses USD.

If you're transferring from another country such as Canada or Australia, then this will change and you can see how much the recipient will receive. 

This is also where you can see the fees charged by WorldRemit. If you change the amount to send, the fees will also update. 

I've set it as $5,000 because this is the most cost-effective option when allowing for the $15 fee charged by WorldRemit. 

Step 7: Recipient Details

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 7 - Recipient

Here you'll choose whether your sending another transfer to an existing recipient or adding a new recipient.

Adding new recipients is the most time consuming part of the process. The good news is that once a new recipient is added, their details are saved making it super easy to make additional transfers. 

The ability to save recipients will come in very handy if you're sending regular payments to yourself in Ecuador. 

Step 8: Recipient's Bank

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 8 - Recipient Bank

Choosing the recipient's bank was the most difficult part for me. 

Why? Because I did not realize that Ecuador had so many banks and cooperativas.

And this may sound silly, but I didn't know the name of my bank. Well, the official name anyway.

The bank I was looking for was JEP and that's the name you see on their ATMs, at branches etc. I did a quick search on their website and found the following official name:

Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito “Juventud Ecuatoriana Progresista” Ltda

So, I had a good lead and tried to find this exact name in the list. But, I couldn't find the exact name amongst the many different cooperativas. As I wasn't prepared to take a gamble, I decided to email support to ask them. One hour later I got the confirmation I was after:

JEP is included in WorldRemit as "COOP. AHORRO Y CREDITO JUVENTUD".

I've included this here as  JEP is popular bank amongst Cuenca based expats. 

If you're having similar issues trying to find your bank amongst the list in WorldRemit, I suggest you also contact their support for confirmation. This is likely to be much easier and quicker than trying to get a refund. 

Step 9: Payment

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 9 - Payment

You'll need a debit or credit card to make the payment. 

It would be nice if they integrated directly with my US bank, and maybe they will in time. For now, you'll need to use a debit or credit card. 

Debit cards

Make sure you've set your card limit to cover the amount (incl fees) that you're transferring. You should be able to do this in your internet banking. 

Credit cards

Paying with credit cards is likely to attract a hefty cash advance fee from your bank. Definitely check your bank's cash advance policy before doing this!

Step 10: Success (& track)

Ecuador WorldRemit - Step 10 - Success

The final step in the process is the confirmation. 

Congratulations. You've now setup the transfer and it should arrive within 48 hours. 

You can also track the transfer by downloading the App or logging into your WorldRemit account (via their website). They will also send you email updates when they've:

  • Started the transfer
  • Completed the transfer

I hope you found this guide helpful. Let me know in the comments below 🙂

You can get your first transfer free with WorldRemit by using my link (I'll also get a free transfer). 

Bringing Electronics to Ecuador

Whether you're just passing through as a visitor or starting a new life as an expat in Ecuador, you're eventually going to ask yourself:

Should I bring electronics to Ecuador?

Indeed, I'm asking myself this question again right now as I'm visiting family and pulling together my latest Amazon wish list.

The price of electronics in Ecuador has decreased over the past couple of years. At long last, the government is slowly decreasing taxes on items such as cell phones and computers in an effort to ensure Ecuadorians don't get left behind in an increasingly digital world

So, whilst a few years ago the answer would have been an easy 'yes', the closing price gap makes it a little more difficult to answer today. 

So, should I bring electronics or not?

Short answer is still: Yes, you should bring in electronics to Ecuador. 

But, you will need to pay close attention to the limits that customs places on electronics for personal use so you don't get pinged with paying import taxes. 

What are the rules on bringing electronics to Ecuador?

The below limits apply for passengers entering the country via airports. If you are applying for a residency visa, you might be better off shipping some of these under the household goods allowance. But, that is a topic for another day. 

The National Customs Service (Aduana) does update limits from time-to-time, so it's always best to check the list before travelling at their official site

Below is a summary that as correct as of the date of writing (March 2020). Note, the underlying premise is that these items need to be for personal use only. So, if you come in with say, a very specialized tool that is clearly only for professionals, you are at risk of paying import taxes.

You can bring 1 new AND 1 old of the following: 

  • Laptop and peripherals (mouse, headphones, stand etc)
  • Cell phone
  • Photo camera
  • Games console & maximum 2 accessories
  • Tablet
  • Multimedia digital receiver / video / sound player. I believe this covers stereos, blu ray players etc. 
  • VCR or camcorder
  • Satellite phone
  • GPS
  • Electronic calculator

So, as an example, you can bring in a total of 2 laptops. One that is clearly old and another that is new.

Ideally, you'd have a receipt for the new laptop as proof and you'd make sure the old laptop doesn't look like you've just purchased it (ie remove stickers and take out from box etc). 

And, 1 new OR old of the following: 

  • Desktop computer and peripherals (mouse, headphones, keyboard etc)
  • Computer monitor up to 24"
  • Printer (up to $300). 
  • TV up to 32"
  • Drone (up to $500)
  • Projector and screen
  • Telephone (fixed) or fax
  • Binoculars
  • Telescope

Notice that you can only have 1 of the above items, regardless of whether it's new or old. If they find 2 of any of these items you are liable for import taxes on the 2nd item. 

The limits on some of these are clearly not great. For example, I really want to bring a 27" iMac desktop computer with me. But, the monitor is clearly over the 24" threshold so if I go ahead and purchase it I am at risk.

Can I possibly wing it and plead ignorance if caught? Yes, but I'd be at the complete mercy of the customs officer.

Importing TVs

Given the personal allowance only applies to TVs up to 32", I don't think I'd bother trying to import a TV. The price of TV's has come down a lot, and you can find a cheap 32" TV for $200 or around $300 for a better quality brand (Sony etc). 

Ecuador 32 inch tv price

Prices for 32" TVs in Ecuador are competitive, even for some better known brands. 

I saw a 40" for $300 the other day too. So, unless you really want a high end TV, I'd save myself the headache and buy once I arrived in Ecuador. 

Importing cell phones

You can bring in one new and one old cell phone. This may seem generous, until you realise you'll most likely have your current (used) phone on you, so you'll be limited to bringing in one spare. 

Should I buy a cell phone in Ecuador or bring with me?

Bring it with you. Especially if it's a high end model like an iPhone. The prices in Ecuador are coming down, but you will still get it cheaper in the US and have more options to choose from. Just make sure to get it unlocked first.  

Should I just have a cell phone muled to me in Ecuador?

There is a thriving muling community that brings in various goods, with a focus on cell phones. In my experience, the mules whack on a premium for cell phones of around $100 to bring in.

This tells me that there is still a significant price difference in cell phones between USA and Ecuador as clearly the market is willing to pay $100 extra and put up with the inconvenience of arranging for a mule (with the associated risks) rather than buy locally. 

I've purchased several low-end Android based phones such as Xiaomi 7 in Ecuador and the purchase price was around $150. Clearly, it's not worth paying a $100 premium on a phone like this unless I can find it in the US for less than $50. 

A mid-range example is included in the image below:

Bringing a cell phone to ecuador

As you can see, the US purchased cell phone is $91cheaper than the same model purchased in Ecuador. But, clearly this doesn't allow a $100 margin for the mule to bring it in. 

The economics do change with some high end phones such as new iPhones, but then you're entrusting the mule with a significant investment and you aren't exactly covered by any consumer protection laws...

So overall, I would suggest buying a phone in your home country before leaving and not trying to rely on mules once you arrive. 

Importing drones

It is unfortunate that the limit of $500 applies to drones as there are clearly many drones for personal use that cost significantly more than this $500 limit. This is another case where legislation has not kept up with technology. 

I do wonder how many travellers with their drones have been caught by this rule and forced to pay taxes. If this is you please let me know your story in the comments. 

Can I load my kids up with electronics too?

Nope. Sorry. The personal effects rule applies to a 'family group'. Meaning minors are counted with one of their parents. However, only one parent is required to form the 'family group', so if there's two parents, the second is counted as an individual passenger with their own allowance. 

What happens if I go over my personal limit? 

Any electronics that do not fall within your personal limit will be classified taxable goods and will be liable to taxes.

How much will I be taxed?  

This is a little complicated as it will depend on the tariff category the item(s) fall under. But, most consumer imports have a 25% tax, which is subject to an additional 12% VAT and 1% other minor taxes.

So, as a rule of thumb I'd be looking at paying an additional 38% in tax. Pretty steep huh? Yep, welcome to Ecuador's tax system on foreign goods!

Do I get a bigger allowance if I become a resident? 

Sorry, no. It's a one size fits all policy that covers residents, citizens & travellers etc. 

How likely am I to get searched? 

I couldn't find any statistics on this. From my experience and some friends I've asked, we've had a 10-30% chance of our luggage being searched upon arrival at Quito or Guayaquil airports.

But, knowing my luck, my odds would increase to 100% if I decided to chance it and brining in 3 cell phones! 

Do you regularly travel in/out of Ecuador? Would love to hear how often you get searched upon arrival in Ecuador (please comment below). 

Once you've sorted out what electronics you're bringing in, the next step is to understand the best ways to transfer money into Ecuador

Sweet & Coffee – Ecuador’s Starbucks

If you've spent anytime in Quito or Guayaquil, you've come across Ecuador's chain of coffee shops, Sweet & Coffee. The chain currently has over 100 stores nationwide and has a Starbucks feel to it, even the colors have a passing resemblance. However, the pastries have kept to their roots with local treats like torta de choclo. 

Sweet & Coffee - Guayaquil

Sweet & Coffee in Quito

There's approx 27 Sweet & Coffee outlets in Quito. This is where I had my first coffee of theirs; it was in Mall el Jardín and I wondered if there were any more of these in town. Little did I know how popular they were. 

Sweet & Coffee in Guayaquil

With 48 locations in Guayaquil, you can barely walk a few blocks without coming across a Sweet and Coffee. This is where I'm writing this article. Michelle and I are on our way to Galapagos and have stopped over in Guayaquil for a night. 

All Locations

The map below shows the current locations of Sweet & Coffee throughout Ecuador:

Sweet & Coffee Menu

Coffee

This is my main reason for coming here. The coffee is good, predictable and cheap. A regular latte will cost around $2, which is pretty good value compared to some other coffee chains such as Juan Valdez. A summary of some of their coffee offerings are below:

Hot Coffees

Price (Regular)

Price (Large)

Latte

$1.95

$2.65

Cappuccino

$1.95

$2.65

Americano

$1.35

$1.75

Americano with milk

$1.60

$2.00

Espresso

$1.00

Cell

Macchiato

$1.10

Cell

Cold Coffees

Price (Regular)

Price (Large)

Latte Frio

$2.30

$2.90

Flavored Cold Latte

$2.75

$3.00

Iced Coffee

$1.75

$2.00

Sweet & Coffee - Latte

A large latte from Sweet & Coffee ($2.65)

Food

They have a variety of tasty sweet and salty food options such as carrot cakes, three milk cakes, chochlo cake, coconut cheese cake. They range in price starting at $2.00 up to $4.00. You can also buy whole cakes for $15 (carrot cake), with most cakes around the $20-$25 range. 

Sweet & Coffee - Pastries

Founder History - Richard Peet

I am a sucker for founder stories as I appreciate how much effort goes into running and growing a business. There is a great interview with the founder Richard Peet below. One of Richard's previous ventures was running a nightclub appropriately called 'Coffee Club'. Surely a sign of things to come! Turn on English subtitles if you're having issues following.

Are you a Sweet & Coffee fan? Feel free to share your favorite go-to menu item in the comments below.  

Las Herrerias – The Best Tortillas in Cuenca?

When we first visited Cuenca on our holiday / scouting trip, Michelle's mom told us we NEEDED to visit calle Las Herrerías. I had no idea why and honestly it just slipped our minds. 

Then, we ended up staying at an AirBnB right by Las Herrerías and I'm so glad we did. 

Why? The tortillas of course. 

Las Herrerías history

This little street is popular for two reasons. The first gives the street it's name - the blacksmiths and artisans that set up shop on what was the city limits. They strategically placed themselves here because they could be close to the farmers that were not allowed to take their livestock further into the city.

You can still find several iron workshops in action, selling handicrafts such as chandeliers and crosses to adorn newly built houses. 

Tortillas in Las Herrerías calle

The popularity of the iron artisans gave way to the second reason to visit the street. The tourists that came to visit the artisans needed to eat and cafes selling local foods like tamales, humitas, bolones and tortillas sprung up along the street. 

This is the reason I love Las Herrerías and why I think you should swing by.

The tortillas are fresh, tasty & cheap and the street has a cheerful, local vibe.

Las Herrerias Cafe - Cuenca

What types of tortillas & other tasty treats can we buy?

I'm so glad you asked. There's numerous different types. I've taken prices from Cafeteria Las Herrerías:

 Name

Cost

Description

Tortilla de yuca

$0.60

Yuca is a root vegetable. These are white, fluffy & tasty.

Tortilla de choclo

$0.60

These corn based tortillas are dense and tasty.

Tortilla de maduro

$0.60

Maduro is a ripe plantain, so these are sweet. 

Tortilla de verde

$0.60

Made from green or unripe plantains. These are not sweet. 

Humita

$0.60

Steamed corn cake served in corn leaf.

Quimbolito

$0.60

Sweet steamed corn with raisins

Tamal

$0.60

Savory steamed dough with a meat & veg filling. 

Bolon de queso

$0.70

Green plantain mixed with cheese, served as a ball

Bolon mixto (queso & chicharon)

$0.75

Like above, but with pork too. 

Platano con queso

$1.00

Grilled sweet banana with cheese & butter in the middle

Tigrillo simple

$2.50

Almost identical to a bolon, but not rolled into a ball & comes with a fried egg.

Las Herrieras Cafeteria

We all have our personal favorites as you can see from the above picture. You can also see the aji, or mild chilli sauce in the middle. This is a common accompaniment for a lot of different foods in Ecuador.

You can of course get a range of different beverages, with the hot chocolate and juices being our favorites. I've included the various other menu items below including main dishes, but have to admit we don't normally have the mains here - as we generally just stick to snacking on this street.

Las Herrerias Cafeteria Menu
Las Herrerias Cafeteria Menu Fuertes

How to get to calle Las Herrerías

Calle Las Herrerías is a 15 min stroll from Centro Historico along the Tomebamba River. The walk along the river itself is a treat and you can easily visit here after taking in the Ruinas de Pumapungo.

Coffee Beans

A bonus to be found on this street is a little shop that sells good quality coffee beans. It's about half way up on the right. They will sell ground coffee for about $4.30 / pound. But, if you ask for whole beans (granos) they'll take delight in whipping out a secret stash of higher quality beans and sell it for $5 / pound. 

Do you have any other tortilla hot spots to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below. We are always on the lookout for tasty new cafes. 

Should I Buy or Rent Property in Ecuador?

A question that many expats ask themselves on the start of their journey is whether they should buy property in Ecuador or rent first. 

The decision can be made even more difficult when the excitement hits as you learn the price of property is a lot cheaper than in your home country. But, does this mean that buying is better than renting?  

We've put together a simple, but hopefully thought-provoking quiz to answer this question. We think it's particularly useful for those considering taking the plunge and buying property in Ecuador.

Feel free to leave any constructive comments below!

This is certainly not meant to be financial advice. 

Stop Buying (Fake) Vega Ceramics!

Eduardo Vega is an iconic Cuenca artist renowned across Ecuador and Latin America. He is responsible for the distinctly styled ceramics and murals you've most likely seen in museums, galleries and souvenir shops. 

Vega Ceramics Turi

Visiting his workshop and gallery is one our favorite Cuenca activities for new visitors as it's located at one of the city's most popular view points, Turi. You'll pass the entrance to his workshop (and house) just before you reach the Turi lookout. Be sure to be looking on the right.

E Vega Gallery Cuenca Entrance

The fake Vega ceramic problem

Eduardo and his son, Juan Guillermo, are the creative forces behind their authentic line of ceramics and murals. However, their popularity has meant they are under pressure from copycat artisans, and increasingly, big business. 

There are plenty of copycat Vega artisans around and you can often find imitations for sale at various markets across major cities.

Authentic Vega ceramics are only distributed to a select few retailers. There is one in Cuenca and three in Quito.

Fake vs unlicensed

I'm going to make a distinction between fake and unlicensed Vega ceramics as I think the intent is quite different for the purpose of this article. 

Fake

This applies to vendors and artisans using Vega's name that have no relationship with Eduardo Vega and are trying to pass off ceramics under his name. They are clearly illegally and immorally leveraging Eduardo's brand for their own financial gain. 

This applies to vendors selling cheap Vega knock-offs at markets around Ecuador. 

Unlicensed

This category applies to companies that may have a current or previous relationship with Eduardo or Juan Guillermo, but may be selling products that fall outside of this relationship.

Official Vega lookalikes

I may have fallen victim to acquiring a lookalike or unlicensed Vega ceramic when I opened a 12 month CD at one of Cuenca's most reputable cooperativas, JEP. As a thank you for opening the account, I was gifted a 'Vega' cup and saucer. 

I was already a fan of Vega, so I walked away rather happy and excited with my bonus and it quickly became my favorite mug. That was, until my next visit to Vega's gallery...

Vega vs 'Vega by Artesa'

On my next visit I started asking the Vega gallery manager about my recently acquired mug and the penny dropped. I assumed Eduardo or Juan Guillermo Vega had done a deal with JEP and their company was being rewarded for what would have been a very considerable order. I was curious about the deal and was happy for Eduardo for securing it. After all, they are artisans and should be rewarded for their creativity. 

I was informed that the Vega by Artesa mug I was gifted was not made by Eduardo or Juan Guillermo Vega.

Artesa

Artesa was originally formed by Eduardo Vega and a business partner in the 1970's. Vega was the creative force behind the partnership and the popularity of his designs allowed the business to grow quickly.

However, creative differences ensued and eventually led to the partners going their separate ways in the late 1990's. Eduardo and Juan Guillermo left Artesa to open their gallery in Turi.

Artesa's licence to use Vega

At the centre of the dispute is the licence for Artesa to use the Vega brand. I was informed that the original agreement limited Artesa to reproduce only 7 of Vega's original designs.

Is it possible that the Vega by Artesa mug I was gifted was included as 1 of the 7 original designs in the original licensing agreement?

Sure, it is possible. However, after knowing the history and understanding that Eduardo Vega received nothing from the deal with JEP, I can no longer bring myself to use the mug. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 

To be clear, I am not insinuating that Artesa is creating fakes or that JEP has knowingly done anything wrong. I don't know the full extent of the licensing agreement and it is entirely possible that Artesa is within their rights to make good money from the deal. 

What is important to take away is that Eduardo has a very different view of the licensing deal and objects to his brand being used without proper consent. 

Vega by Artesa JEP Giveaway

How to tell the difference?

So, now you know that not all Vega ceramics are created equal and you have a choice to support Eduardo and Juan Guillermo. But, how do you know what is what? It's actually quite easy once you know what to look for.

Eduardo Vega's signature

The signature for Eduardo's ceramics is E Vega as shown below:

Eduardo Vega Ceramics Signature
Juan Guillermo Vega's signature

Juan Guillermo's design are easily distinguishable from his fathers by the signature:

Juan Guillermo Vega Ceramics Signature
Vega by Artesa

The Vega by Artesa designs can be identified by the following signature:

Vega by Artesa Signature

Final Words

Clearly, we know that buying a cheap Vega knock-off at a local market is not going to support the original artisans.

Even though I don't support it, I'm aware that there is demand at the cheaper end for tourists to stash their bags for friends and families back home that don't understand the difference between an authentic Vega and a knock-off.

If this is you, please consider supporting the original artists instead - the quality is much higher and you'll actually be giving a gift that is going to last longer and has a real history. 

What isn't so clear is the relationship between the corporate friendly Vega by Artesa and the artists behind the brand, Eduardo and Juan Guillermo. This is especially so given the inevitable intricacies of the licensing agreement. 

What I do know is that I will continue to buy my authentic Vega products direct from Eduardo and Juan Guillermo from their gallery in Turi. 

Top 5 Yoga Studios in Cuenca

Can I practice yoga in Cuenca?

Yes! There are numerous options for practicing yoga at different levels Cuenca. 

We’ve included a map and a comparison of 5 different yoga studios that we’ve practiced in at at least once whilst living in Cuenca. This map is not meant to be exhaustive as I’m sure there are other yoga studios in Cuenca that we’re yet to explore. 

Is it expensive?

Nope. Drop in yoga classes are generally $5 and most studios offer discounts and passes for multiple visits. 

But I’ve never tried yoga, is it for me?

Not sure. You may hate it. But what have you got to lose? $5 and an hour of your time is all. 

I never thought I was the yoga type either. That was until I tried it and started to realise the physical and mental benefits it brought to my day-to-day life. 

I’m a guy, are you sure yoga is for me?

Yes. Yes and yes. It’s true that classes are generally skewed towards a strong female to male ratio, but who cares. Yoga is about being in tune with your body and spirit. I’m a guy and when I started yoga I was also a little apprehensive because of out-dated stereotypes I’d grown up with. Just try it and take it as an opportunity for self exploration. 

Yoga Health Benefits

Which Cuenca Yoga Studios Do I recommend?

The 5 different yoga studios that we’ve tried in Cuenca are included in the map. We aren’t saying these are the only studios in town, and we hope there are more to explore. But, we think these are a great place to start exploring your Cuenca yoga options.

OM Healing Centre

OM Yoga Studio Cuenca (1)
OM Healing Center Timetable (1)

This is probably your best place to start your yoga search in Cuenca. 

In addition to yoga classes, OM Healing Centre also offers retreats, yoga teacher training and alternative medicines such as homeopathy and psychotherapy. 

Pros

  • Natural, energetic vibe  
  • Some dual English/Spanish classes
  • $5 drop-in classes
  • Strong expat presence

Cons

  • Ceilings could be higher. You may touch if you're tall. 

Conclusion:

The strong support this centre has from the expat community and quality teachers makes this an easy transition to practicing yoga in Cuenca. 


RumiSol Yoga & Teacher Training

RumiSol Yoga Cuenca
RumiSol Yoga Timetable

YumiSol Yoga provides another soft landing for expats into the Cuenca yoga scene. It's a homely studio with an inclusive, younger vibe.

This popular studio is large, simple and has a good amount of light penetration. The teachers I've had mostly instruct in Spanish, but provide English translations for key movements.  

They also offer 200 hr yoga teacher training if you're looking to dig deeper into the practice. 

Pros

  • Inclusive vibe focusing on positivity  
  • $5 drop in classes with passes for multiple visits
  • Popular amongst younger crowd
  • Modern approach might be more appealing to expats
  • Large practice area

Cons

  • Popularity means it's busy and a little crowded

Conclusion:

This is a strong contender for the best place for new Cuenca expats or travellers alike to start their yoga search. It has a modern approach which might be comfortable with your previous practice and it's a great jumping off point for new yogis. 

Just make sure to arrive 10-15 minutes before class to ensure there's a spot for you. 


Shakti Yoga

Shakti Yoga Cuenca
Shakti Yoga Cuenca Timetable

Ok, I'll admit it. I kinda love this yoga centre. It's set in a large compound with beautiful gardens and an aura that I find intoxicating. 

The teachers at Shakti are not your casual - I'm teaching yoga for a hobby - type that you can come across. These yogis are devotees that live at the house and it feels like a privilege that they welcome the public into their inner sanctum.

They also give back to the community with free yoga classes:

- Saturday mornings at Parque de la Madre and

- Sunday mornings at Parque del Paraíso. 

Pros

  • Top notch yogi teachers  
  • Spirituality focus
  • Beginner friendly poses offered
  • Immersive vibe
  • $4 drop in classes

Cons

  • Potentially intimidating for 1st timers.
  • Little hard to find
  • Yoga room is relatively small

Conclusion:

This is definitely the centre I would recommend if your focus is on establishing better form and a stricter practice on yoga fundamentals.


Adhikara Yoga

Adhikara Yoga Cuenca
Adhikara cuenca schedule

Another contender for best yoga centre in Cuenca is Adhikara Yoga.  

The studio is the biggest from all centres mentioned in this list, inviting a level of openness that I valued. 

Like most of Cuenca's yoga studios, their morning classes focus on Hatha yoga and this was the gentlest of all the classes I've visited. This is most likely due to the predominantly older clients that were practicing that day.

This is a good reminder that you should be checking out all the classes mentioned in the list at least once to start your exploration journey and expand on what works for you from there. We are all different and yoga is ultimately about being in tune with your body. 

Pros

  • Gentle practice for beginners 
  • Biggest practice area in Cuenca
  • Car parking on premises
  • Use of props encouraged

Cons

  • Mainly Spanish instructions may put you off
  • Teacher quality has varied a lot during my 5 visits
  • Slightly higher drop-in price of $7. 

Conclusion:

I've mixed emotions about Adhikira. The centre itself has so much potential with a bright, big practice area and I enjoy the improvised use of props. However, the varied teaching quality has made it difficult for me to wholeheartedly recommend it above the other yoga studios. I need to go back here a few more times before making any final decisions. 

Yoga @ Selina Cuenca

Selina Yoga Cuenca

I'm including Selina Cuenca here as a dark horse as the classes aren't as regular as other studios. It's definitely worth a look if you are staying in Centro Histórico as it's the most conveniently located and has a beautiful yoga deck overlooking the river. 

The classes are normally run by 3rd party teachers, so the type of yoga practiced and the quality of instructors will vary. I've only been to one class here and it was a basic yoga for beginners class that I enjoyed. 

For the digital nomads out there, Selina also has a very well equiped co-working space, making it an ideal place to get our wellness and digital work needs done at the same place. 

Image credit: Salina

Pros

  • Great for those staying in Centro Histórico 
  • Gorgeous deck with river view
  • Get some coworking done after class

Cons

  • No set class schedule
  • Quality will vary
  • Class price varies, but expect around $15. 

Conclusion:

Mixing up yoga with some co-working after may be perfect for you. Especially if you're passing through the Centro Histórico and are short on time. The unpredictability of the class schedules has stopped it from becoming a regular studio for me.

Did I include your favorite yoga haunt in my round-up?

If not, please let me know in the comments so I can check it out. I'm always looking for somewhere new to practice and mix up my daily routine.

How to Transfer Money into Ecuador

One of the first questions new Ecuadorian expats ask is ‘how do I send money to Ecuador and is it expensive?’

The answer is, well, it depends. Like many latin american countries, transferring money in and out of Ecuador has traditionally been problematic, expensive and time consuming.

These difficulties arise through the combination of weak governmental oversight, tough anti-money laundering measures and lack of innovation from the banking industry. This can result in a not so great experience for the end consumer.

Hopefully this guide will provide you with the best options on how to transfer money into Ecuador.

Money Transfer Options

$500 or less

You have several options for transferring amounts of $500 or less into Ecuador.

ATMs

If you’re only here for a short period of time as a tourist, or don’t have an Ecuadorian bank account, then ATMs are going to be your best bet.

Pros:

  • Easy and accessible across the entire country (incl Galapagos).
  • Withdrawing small amounts is secure as you don’t need to have large amounts of cash on you.

Cons:

  • Fees can add up. You’ll generally pay about $5-6 to the Ecuadorian bank on top of whatever your home bank charges.
  • ATM issues do happen in Ecuador and the banks don’t have a great track record of helping customers regain their money. I personally had to wait 6 weeks when a Bank of Pichincha ATM failed to dispose of my $600, but still charged my account. However, my bank in the US (Bank of America) was great and immediately credited the account whilst they investigated.
Pro Tip: Sign up for a bank account in your home country that reimburses ATM fees such as Charles Schwab or Fidelity. But, be aware of any fair use policy and I would not suggest telling them you're just about to move overseas...

Online Money Transfer

There’s several services you can use to transfer from your home bank direct to your Ecuadorian bank or for a cash pickup.

This is my preferred method for payments up to $3000. But, I’ve still used it for smaller amounts as it is quick (24 hours generally) and I can transfer straight into my Ecuadorian account, so I don’t need to worry about walking around with a wad of cash after visiting an ATM.

My preferred method is WorldRemit because it offers the cheapest fees and I find it user friendly. Western Union is also quite popular, but is generally a bit more expensive.

Pros:

  • Quick (one business day)
  • Transfer straight into account or cash pickup

Cons

  • Fees for smaller amounts (ie $500) are approx $10. More cost effective for larger transfers (ie up to $3000).
  • Won’t help you out if you need instant cash
Pro Tip: Use my WorldRemit refer-a-friend link and you'll get $20 credit to make your first transfers.

$500 to $3000

Online Money Transfer

This is where the online money transferring services shine. They are quick, safe and cost effective.

I was a long-time devotee to an online transfer service called Transferwise, but they do not operate in Ecuador. Whilst annoying, this did lead me to comparing all of the various online services that would allow me to easily send money into Ecuador.

My recommendation is WorldRemit because they are the cheapest and I’ve found their support to be helpful the one time I needed it.

I actually needed to contact them because I couldn’t find JEP in their long list of Ecuadorian banks and cooperativas they transfer money into.

Hint – WorldRemit calls JEP “COOP. AHORRA Y CREDITO JUVENTUD” as shown below:

JEP WorldRemit Ecuador

The fees will increase depending on how much you are sending. But, for reference, a $2000 transfer will cost $15 with WorldRemit. This compares well to other services such as Western Union where fees are $20+.

Pros:

  • Transfer into most Ecuadorian banks
  • Setup bank details once and send follow up transfers within seconds
  • Cost effective

Cons:

  • They have a limit of around $3K for bank transfers. So, not a great option for larger one off purchases such as property or cars.

$3000+

For larger transfers you’ll be limited to bank transfers and checks.

Bank Transfers

Each Ecuadorian bank has a different policy and will charge different amounts for wire transfers. Your best bets are the larger banks such as:

Expect to pay at least $50 to your Ecuadorian bank for a wire transfer + the fee from your home bank. If you’re transferring from the US, then you won’t have to consider exchange rates, but if your home bank is an another country, then you will.

Note, transferring amounts $10K or greater will trigger the bank to ask you a bunch of questions around where you got the money from. They are required by law to ensure that the funds were legally obtained (ie not through drugs, money laundering or a scam). This is not normally a major burden, but just adds another step to the process.

Pros:

  • May be your only option for amounts of $3,000+

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Need to open an account at the bank

Checks

Again, you definitely want to check with your Ecuadorian bank on their policy for accepting checks. Pay particular attention to the limits and expected processing time as it can take 3-4 weeks for checks to clear.

Pros:

  • Straightforward process
  • Many banks do accept checks

Cons:

  • Long processing time

Sending Money to Ecuador FAQs

Can I use PayPal to withdraw money in Ecuador?

Not directly, no. Whilst it would be convenient to be able to withdraw cash straight from Paypal into a local account or ATM, that isn’t possible.

You still have a few options to get your cash into Ecuador which are similar to the above, but with the added step of transferring from Paypal first:

  1. ATM
    Transfer from your Paypal account into your US (or other home country) account. Use your foreign debit card in Ecuador to withdraw from an ATM.
  2. Online transfer or cash pickup in Ecuador
    Send from Paypal to an online transfer service such as World Remit, Western Union or Paypal’s own service, Xoom. Then you can choose to transfer to a Ecuadorian bank account or arrange for a cash pickup at a bank in Ecuador.

Is there an ‘import tax’ on cash entering Ecuador?

No, there is not. Moving small amounts of money into the country is relatively easy.

What is Ecuador’s cash exit tax?

Sending cash out of Ecuador triggers an exit tax of 5% if transferring over $1,200. The $1,200 threshold is calculated from 3x monthly minimum wage ($400 in 2020).

Have I covered your favorite method here? Feel free to let me know in the comments if I’ve left anything out so I can update to include.

The Ultimate Guide to Cojimies Beach

Cojimies beach is a popular weekend destination for Quiteños seeking a no-frills beach escape. We arrived at this beach just a few days after visiting one of Ecuador’s finest beaches; Los Frailes. So, our expectations were super high.

Cojimies Fast Facts

Activities

  • Swimming
  • Lounging on a super wide beach
  • Tour of la isla del amor (Island of Love)
  • Surfing? No. Perdernales has some waves though. 

Cojimies Beach Ecuador Panorama

Getting There

Bus: 

  • From Quito: the 300km trip will take 6 hours and cost around $8. Some bus services will take you all the way from Quito’s Quitumbe Terrestrial Terminal to Cojimies such as the Alóag Cooperative, but there are more services that go to Pedernales where you’ll change to a van for Cojimies ($1).
  • From Manta: Your best bet is to take the 3.5 hr trip from Manta’s new bus terminal to Pedernales ($7) and then take a van the final 30 mins to Cojimies ($1). 

Car:

  • From Quito: The most direct route is the 4.5 hr trip to Pedernales, then along the cost to Cojimies for another 30 mins. 
  • From Manta: The 3 hour coastal drive from Manta to Pedernales weaves through dry forest, fishing and agricultural land. Making for a pleasant drive.

Where to Stay in Cojimies

I recommend staying away from the small town of Cojimies as the main beach is busy and I’d argue the town itself is gritty without much charm. There’s numerous accommodation options along the main road coming into town which are better as they all have private entrances to cleaner, less crowded sections of the same beach.

Budget: 

  • Consolo Lodge: Approx $45/night. Beach access with pool. Located approx 7 km from Cojimies town. 
  • La Finquita: Approx $25/night. Private beach access, good sized pool and pet-friendly. 4 km from town. 

Mid-range: 

  • La Playa Lodge: Approx $75/night. Private beach access, air-conditioning, cable tv, wifi and breakfast. 4 km from town. 
  • Hostería Playa Nuestra: Approx $70/night. Private beach access, wifi, breakfast and pet friend. 5 km from town. 

La Playa Lodge Cojimies
Hotels in Cojimies often have private beach access. This is La Playa Lodge where we stayed.

Cojimies Beach

The beach is undoubtedly the main attraction for visiting Cojimies. The super wide and long beach is perfect for endless strolls, taking a dip and lounging on the sand. 

There are very few waves on the beach as they break way off into the distance. You can see them on the horizon. As they never reach the shore, the beach is very flat and has an almost lagoon type feel. 

The main part of the beach does get pretty crowded. It’s so wide that there’s multiple layers of vendors renting lounges, umbrellas and beverages (yay coconuts!). 

I found the main beach to be interesting and good for people watching, but ultimately I enjoyed the beach in front of our hotel more as it was peaceful and more isolated. 

Cojimies Beach Manabi

Cojimies Beach Ecuador

Tour of la Isla Del Amor

Love Island is a large sandbank that stretches from the mouth of the Cojimies River. You can easily organize a tour from operators in Cojimies town or find one on the beach.

A popular tour option is to include the mangroves and then dropped off on a beach for a few hours to chill, check out the various crabs and other marine life (depending on the season you may be lucky to see some turtle’s nesting). 

The below video gives a good overview of the Isla Del Amor – but it’s in Spanish so turn on English subtitles if needed. 

Food

The food options are limited to seafood and local food such as plantains, meat and corn. The main beach has lots of cabana seafood restaurants and it can be difficult to know which are best. 

My rule is to never visit an empty cabana and I normally try to eat in the busiest one. Is this foolproof? No, but given there’s little else to differentiate one cabana from another, it’s the best I’ve got. 

My favorite fish from the area is camotillo, but it’s also one of the most expensive. 

Cojimies Food Camotillo and Ceviche

Note – Cojimies is not a resort like town with a lot of western friendly options. 

Coffee

It’s difficult to near impossible to find quality coffee in Cojimies. Like a lot of smaller towns in Ecuador, you’ll be given a cup of hot water or milk and provide with the container of instant coffee to make your own cup. For addicts like me it’s better than nothing. 

Drive from Pedernales to Cojimies

The 30 min coastal drive from Pedernales to Cojimies was really enjoyable. You’ll come across several view points with beach access, lush coconut palms, shrimp farms, dry and tropical forests.

Pedernales to Cojimies Drive Coconuts

Cojimies to Pedernales Drive Beach

Cojimies Shrimp Farm

Final Thoughts

Cojimies popularity largely comes from it’s relative closeness to Quito and the super wide, safe, lagoon like beaches. I’d recommend it for expats based in Quito that are short on time. 

But, if you have more time and willing to travel a little further, then you might find the beaches in the Esmeraldas or south of Manta with more tourist facilities more appealing. 

Have you been to Cojimies or thinking about visiting? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Is Los Frailes Ecuador’s best beach?

Playa Los Frailes sits inside the Machalilla National Park in Ecuador’s coastal province of Manabi. 

Los Frailes Beach Panorama

Los Frailes Fast Facts

Getting There

Bus

  • From Puerto Lopez: the 10km ride will take 15 mins to arrive at the entrance to Machalilla National Park. Cost approx $0.5. 
  • From Montanita: 53km journey will take about 1.5 hrs and cost $1-2.

Car

  • The roads, including inside the national park, are suitable for all cars. The coastal roads are ok quality, but I’m always careful when driving at night because the lighting is poor and there’s no markings or reflectors to help guide. 

Parking 

There is a limited number of car parking available (60 spaces) right next to the beach. You will need to pay $2 for parking. Try to get there early (ie before 10am) for the best chance of getting a car park – else you’ll need to leave your car near the highway and either walk the 3km or get a tuk tuk mototaxi ($2-$5). 

Cost

Free to enter. Showers are $1 and bathrooms $0.25.

Open times

8am to 4pm

Camping?

No. 

Surfing?

No. It’s a bay with only small, family friendly waves. 

What to bring

  • Shade. There is very little protection from the hot sun. Most families rent an umbrella ($4) from just outside the beach entrance. 
  • Sunscreen, hat, glasses, towels, books (ie normal beach goodies)
  • Food & water (but there is a kiosk if you forget)

So, is Los Frailes the best beach in Ecuador?

I’m putting Los Frailes down as one of the best beaches in Ecuador because:

1. Protected within a national park

This prevents unrestrained commercialization and ultimately the destruction of the sand vegetation and habitat. 

2. Accessible to all

The main entrance is right on the main highway that runs through Ecuador’s costa del sol – the main coast road. This means most buses will drop you off at the entrance and you can either walk the 3km to the main beach or grab a tuk tuck motorcycle for $2-$4. 

3. Free entrance

You no longer need a permit or pay an entrance fee. Car parking costs $2. 

4. Clear, blue waters

We visited on Christmas day and the water was just lovely. The turquoise color and goldilocks water temperature (ie just right) made swimming for hours a pleasure. Some families were in the water for the entire 6 hours we were there!

5. Crisp, white sand 

The white sand of Los Frailes is some of the nicest along the coast. The sand along Ecuador’s coast often consists of heavy, black minerals. But not here! Enjoy the white sands between your toes.

6. Rocks & caves

The cliffs and caves make for some wonderful views, photos and provide some much needed shelter from the sun. 

Los Frailes Beach Ecuador
Los Frailes Beach Waves
Playa Los Frailes Manabi
Playa Los Frailes Ecuador
Los Frailes Beach Hut

Did you go to Los Frailes? We’ve love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

Where to next?

Puerto Lopez

The closest town with tourist amenities is Puerto Lopez. This town has some decent restaurants and a very relaxing beach. Featuring both a local vibe (incl functioning fishing fleet) and tourist offerings such as good hotels, beach side restaurants and some souvenir sellers. 

Salango

The next village south from Puerto Lopez is a small fishing town of Salango. Even quieter than Puerto Lopez, Salango has a quaint beach, a few local restaurants and an island (Salango Island) which is a popular boat ride amongst day-trippers that don’t want to spend the hour each to visit Isla de la Plata. 

Puerto Cayo

Bordering Machalilla National Park is the town of Puerto Cayo. This growing expat retirement location has a long, wide beach and plenty of seafood restaurants. 

Ayampe

Perhaps my favorite spot in all of Manabi is the small village of Ayampe. Good surfing, yoga and an expat population focusing on wellness is what Ayampe is known for. 

Montañita / Olon

Montañita is the party and surfing scene of Ecuador. Here you can dance and drink until all hours of the morning or surf and chill. It’s your choice.

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