With the decision finalized, the project of moving internationally took on a different flavor. The number of details to be arranged was overwhelming. Everything must be done at once, in this phase. 

We realized that impeccable organization would be the only way to survive. We set up file folders for different aspects of the planning process, and put to- do lists within the folders. Gary made lists on his computer. I had stacks of legal pads, each with notes on a different topic. 

The main work of the moment was to begin application for temporary residence visas. After having read about how expensive visa lawyers are, we decided to do all the work ourselves. That silly decision didn’t stand long!

What did it take for us to begin making this a reality?

1. Organization 

  • File folders for everything
  • Pocket Folders to hold several related file folders
  • Outlines of information
  • Solid timeframes within which to accomplish tasks
  • Organized computer files and documents
  • Daily meetings to compare what we’d each done/learned

2. Assignment of tasks

  • I was responsible for certain tasks and taking good notes
  • Gary was responsible for different tasks and taking good notes
  • Then we discussed our tasks and notes, and made decisions for the next step based on what we’d found out.

3. Online research

  • Sign up for a many online expat groups as possible, to learn from their experiences
  • Read the many visa lawyer’s websites to learn about the steps of the process to get a residency visa
  • Find and bookmark Ecuadorian embassy and consulate websites.
  • Watch video blogs on YouTube to learn from the experiences of other expats.  Most useful for us:  Amelia & JP
  • Order a few eBooks written about retiring in Ecuador

4. Back-engineering the timelines

a. Determine when we want to arrive in Ecuador

b. Determine the categories of tasks and when each is due
     1. Obtain Temporary Residence Visas
     2. Get all certifications needed to bring the pets

     3.  Prepare our house and possessions for renters to move in

     4. Shut down two of our businesses
     5. Prepare one of our businesses to function internationally
     6. Arrange for housing for us and animals in Ecuador 

c. Pinpoint when each task would need to be completed, to meet our arrival date. 

d. Build in extra time for the inevitable delays.
e. Create a calendar of all those deadlines. 

In this phase, we brought our ideas into a practical plan of action. We now had a solid foundation beneath our feet.

avenue solano
Looking down on Avenue Solano from Calle Larga

CHOOSING WHERE & HOW TO LIVE 

We chose to move to Cuenca. Others choose other cities/towns for their own reasons. The most popular destinations for U.S. expats to settle in are ( in random order): 

– Cuenca (small cool mountain city)
– Vilcabamba (warm, remote verdant paradise) 

-Manta and Montanita (hot humid beach living)
– Cotacachi (small friendly mountain town) 

-Quito (large cool mountain city)

-Guayaquil (large hot beach city). 

Within each of these regions, there are housing choices to be made:
– Buy or rent (we will rent)
– Apartment, furnished, which means all appliances, furnishings and kitchen supplies.
– Apartment, unfurnished, which means nothing. No stove, fridge, furniture, or dishes.
– House, furnished or unfurnished, yard or no yard
– Center of town, where you can walk to all stores, markets and events
– Suburban, which means you can take a bus or taxi anywhere, or ride a bike
– Rural, which may mean no nearby buses, but taxis are always available and affordable 

After deciding where to settle, the next question is HOW to settle. A temporary residency visa is the first step towards getting a permanent residency visa (if desired). There are many ypes of visas to choose from. Generally a person will fall quite clearly into one or maybe two visa categories, which simplifies the choosing. 

Once we have our visas and arrive in Ecuador, we’ll get our Cédula, which is the national identification card. It allows us to enroll in the national healthcare program and get senior discounts when we are 65. 

CHOOSING A TYPE OF VISA 

The types of Temporary Residency Visas change frequently. Currently:
– Pensioner Visa (for those living on a stable documented income such as pension or social security) 

–  Dependent Visa (for those who receive less than $800/month, thus requiring that they register as a dependent of someone else whose income does qualify.) 

–  Rentista Visa (for those with a monthly income that varies; from non-retirement income) 

–  Investor Visa (for those who invest around $40K in Ecuador) 

–  Professional Visa (for those whose education and profession qualify them) 

–  Amparo Visa (for those who marry an Ecuadorian) 

Gary will be a Pensioner and I will be his Dependent. Although I have professional income monthly, it doesn’t qualify me for a visa.

We’ll look for a house outside of the central downtown district, in a suburban area, with a yard.

There are plenty of houses available, but not necessarily in our chosen part of town. They may have a yard, and accept dogs but not cats. Many landlords won’t take dogs over 30 pounds. Or they may offer all that, but not have functional internet, which we require to run our business’ website. 

The ever-changing requirements for these visas are nitpicky. This took weeks of talking with attorneys and facilitators before it became clear which visas we qualify for. We realize the process will take a long time.

SHIPPING OUR BELONGINGS 

Our original list of what we simply must bring with us listed such items as: 

– Our favorite painting
– Two glass goblets made by a friend
– Art and craft supplies 

-Some favorite books and videos
– A good supply of our daily health supplements
– Several of our best cooking pots (the Instant Pot!) 

— Our favorite cooking knives 

Then we began researching how much luggage is allowed, and what Ecuador’s customs allows in at one time. If we bring in multiples of any item, its assumed that we plan to sell them, and we will be charged a high import duty tax. So forget about the year’s supply of vitamins. We can’t bring more than one new and one used of any tech items per person. So we can’t bring a lot of extra charging cords. It’s not a good use of luggage space to bring our beloved maple syrup, which isn’t readily available there. (UPDATE: Now available in the cities!)  

Just how many suitcases would we need to bring all those items, in addition to two animals and their supplies?

Other belongings are taking on more importance. Ecuadorians are small. Neither of us will be able to find shoes in our size. Gary is a tall man, and will not be able to find shirts or pants to fit. Since we will be walking everywhere every day, our luggage will have to contain several pairs of good walking shoes each, and plenty of the clothing that’s not available there. Our priorities are shifting. Clothing that fits, a few books, our daily-use wellness products, a few business items, one good cooking pot. The artworks and extras will have to wait til a future trip. 

The best sources of information about what to bring are:
– Articles on sites such as Transitions Concierge Int’l
– Visa Lawyer and facilitator and Embassy websites
– Private Facebook pages like “Ecuador Expats” “Cuenca Expats” “Expat Pets in Ecuador” “Gardening in Ecuador”

– Do an internet search for “what can I bring into Ecuador” 

WHAT SHOULD WE BRING AND HOW 

Ecuador does not have a very functional postal service. Packages and letters disappear far more often than they arrive. Innocent packages are often held hostage in Quito until the recipient pays a large duty tax on them, as if they are being imported for sale. Amazon won’t deliver there, so nothing can be ordered online. 

What options are there? 

-Bring things in your luggage. Pay the fee to bring another suitcase of goods. 

-DHL works, but the cost is outrageously prohibitive.

-Ask visiting friends/relatives to bring an extra suitcase stuffed with things you want 

– Hire an Ecuadorian shipping facilitator. Several advertise on all the Expat sites. They can tell you about all the options for shipping small, medium and large containers of goods. 

We have read many posts on the Facebook Expats sites from people who brought nothing but a few suitcases, and have never regretted living with simplicity. We’ve read about other folks who pay multiple thousands of dollars to bring down their possessions… only to decide to return to the US in a few years. What do you NEED and what do you want to spend?  We plan to travel light. On future visits to the US, we will bring back more.

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