A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF
Please scroll back on the site for Part I
January 2012. Our friend Steve sent us this blog update for your convenience. “ECUADOR HAS STARTED CHANGING THEIR IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS. THEY USED TO LET YOU DEPOSIT $25,000 IN A CD IN THE BANK AND GIVE YOU PERMANENT RESIDENCY WITH THAT. SORRY TOO LATE, ITS BEEN ELIMINATED. LIKE PANAMA IT WILL CONTINUAL LY CHANGE UNTIL ITS DIFFICULT TO JUST SLIP IN FOR ONLY A LITTLE MONEY, SO IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE INTERESTED TELL THEM TO HURRY. BEST ALWAYS, STEVE”
May, 2011 UPDATE: Steve has moved out of Cotacachi. For Cotacachi inquiries, please contact http://www.adobemade.com. If you’re interested in a lower altitude, Steve has riverfront undeveloped property for sale at 5,000 ft. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve’s e-mail: email@example.com
For Cotacachi: http://www.adobemade.com
Hello to everyone. Well, you click and I listen. There is a very large traffic jam at my older posting on Cotacachi, Ecuador so I thought you might like a follow-up.
Some of you are trying to make an international relocation decision and have narrowed things down to Cotacachi, Ecuador and Boquete, Panama. This is a difficult decision in that there are some obvious advantages to both but also, some subtle yet important differences which a person considering an international relocation would have trouble anticipating. This publication will address a comparative analysis of Boquete, Panama and Cotacachi, Ecuador. I will provide a view of life in Boquete and my friend Steve, who lives in Ecuador, will provide a view from someone living in Cotacachi. Hopefully, this article will help to clear up some questions.
As usual, cost of living rises to the top of an international re-location consideration and that means housing. We just so happen to be in luck. Steve is an expert in this department, being directly involved in both home construction, sale, and the rental market in Ecuador. You won’t believe the gorgeous adobe homes he and his friends are building. Recently, he decided to add a housing rental office to his list of talents so you now have a contact for rentals should you decide to check out Cotacachi. He is also going to help us understand in more detail his views on the political situation in Ecuador and K-12 educational resources in Cotacachi. For more detail on the cost of living in Cotacachi, please scroll back on this web-site to the original publication on Ecuador. Recently, Steve has been touring the country in search of additional building sites, both inland and on the coast. Recently he wrote, “What do you guys think of beach front properties??? About 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of Panama and the weather is about 10 degrees cooler than Panama beaches? Things that make you go hummmmmmm.”
Back in Boquete on business, Steve joined us for lunch and started our meeting by saying, “I hate to say this but for all the positives you listed about Boquete, Cotacachi is better!” He further described Ecuador as a more advanced and organized society than Panama. Well, that was interesting. Wow, how could we have so mis-calculated? Well, we didn’t. We weren’t considering South America. We needed to be close to the U.S. due to aging relatives. But our curiosity was sparked. So let’s take this point by point.
From my point of perspective, we decided on Boquete, Panama for several reasons. First and foremost, we were looking for a stable financial banking system in the country of our residence. The Panamanian banking system is conservative and well thought out. Panamanian banks hold $0.68 cent reserves compared to American $0.03 cents in reserve. The constitution of Panama prohibits the establishment of a central bank and does not allow the printing of fiat currency. Secondly, we were looking for a thriving economy. Although impacted by the worldwide economic tsunami, Panama’s economy has been carefully managed and is producing, according to Mr. David Saied, one of the founders of Panama’s present-day economy, a robust 2% growth for 2010. Thirdly, we were looking for a stable political system. The new president of Panama, Mr. Martinelli is pro-business and, as such, is respected by the business community. We were looking for an affordable medical system and we certainly found one. Everyone who has utilized the system seems to be happy with it – especially the low-cost of health care. We needed to live in a temperate climate, amongst a friendly indigenous population, and were hoping to be able to live in a more affordable country, closer to the United States in order to visit family and friends. Finally, the Pensionado visa has a lot of very attractive discounts. It is considered one of the best Pensionado visas available. Those were the tangible and measurable factors that enabled us to target Boquete, Panama.
Once we got here, we found things we couldn’t have anticipated. Boquete has a very well-organized and productive ex-pat retirement community. It’s easy to make good friends. They have had a positive impact in many ways on the town of Boquete. Some of the wonderful people have become our friends and that means a lot when you live in a foreign country. One of the important subtle stresses that I was unable to anticipate before moving to Panama is that of “dislocation”. Dislocation is a very disruptive stress and having a friendly and helpful community surrounding helps in that regard. When you move to a foreign country, having the referrals from ex-pats, who have lived in the area for a long time, is invaluable. Having the social contacts of other people like you is inestimable. You feel a sense of fellowship.
Since cost of living is the primary motivation for an international re-location, Steve, Jim, and I spent quite a bit of time on this matter. Generally speaking, is seems like Ecuador nets out to close to one half the cost of living of Boquete, Panama.
Real Estate: For instance that gorgeous house (and yes, we have fallen in love with this top quality building project) runs at about 96K. Building costs run about $55.00 a square-foot including an 11,000 square-foot lot. In the overall Cotacachi market, you can buy a basic small 1,000 square foot home with three bedrooms, one bath, and a small back yard for $35,000.00. A beachfront lot will run you $17,000. You couldn’t possibly achieve that here in Boquete. Boquete real estate has already run up, come down somewhat but you’re looking at a developed community. You’ll never find those kinds of deals here.
Property Tax: If you buy a home for $100K in Ecuador, your property tax will run $100.00 a year.
Rentals: An apartment in Cotacachi can be as inexpensive as $150.00 – $400.00 a month. You can get a $150.00 apartment in Boquete but you wouldn’t get much of an apartment, more like a studio. I’ve seen some relatively decent apartments in town for $450.00 here. House rentals in Cotacachi are available for $400.00 furnished. In Boquete, you can get an unfurnished house for $300.00 but you’ll be installing a hot water system and buying all your appliances and furniture. The landlord will not provide any appliances at that cost.
Utilities: Propane in Ecuador is $2.00 a tank and they deliver. Here in Boquete, it’s $5.50. The Ecuadorian Cable TV provider is Direct TV and running around $60.00. Internet is running at $65.00 and is dependable as it is run off of a DSL land-line. When you buy 1 meg. you test out at 1 meg. Steve has only had two interruptions of service that only lasted a couple of hours in the last six months. Once, it went out for a week. There are three ISP providers and the biggest one is the Phone Company. Panama has a relatively unreliable Internet. It goes out and can stay out for weeks. The service providers are not very impressive in skill and timeliness. While I don’t have a number to give you, I can report that Ecuadorian electricity is reliable whereas Panama’s is expensive and isn’t quite as good. Normally, you can expect a $50.00 electricity bill in Panama unless you run a de-humidifier, which can run up to $50.00 a month more. Since propane is so inexpensive, we try to run as much on propane as we can here in Panama. We get a lot of power outages although they do get the electricity up and running rapidly. Water in Ecuador is potable. Some areas of Boquete are not. Finally, Ecuadorian garbage is picked up three times a week, a lot better than Boquete.
Banking: Banco Guayaqil is the best bank for Cotacachi. Steve reports that so far they offer great service and there is no waiting. He doesn’t advise putting all your eggs in one basket however. He advises people to maintain another account out of country, just to be safe. Actually, this is a common practice all over Central and South America. They all bank in Panama. Many people use HSBC as they are worldwide. Unfortunately, there isn’t one in Ecuador.
Furniture: Is very inexpensive. Steve bought a very nice Armour for $150.00! Furniture in Panama is more expensive but still less expensive than the U.S.
Car: Well, here’s a downside to Ecuador. Cars seem to be about 30% more expensive than Panama.
Health Insurance/ Medical: $35.00 a month. Although many don’t even bother with this as health care is so inexpensive. I know someone who had a 40 minute visit with a doctor (and he actually drove that person to the pharmacy) all for $20.00. The three medications this person bought from the pharmacy were $37.00. Stem cell treatments run $65.00. Vitamin C (30 grams) IV runs $25.00. Hyperbolic treatments run $25.00 (But you have to get them in Quito) Health care insurance in Panama is about $50.00 a month. Pharmacy visits are expensive although quite a bit less than the U.S. There are two doctors in Cotacachi. You have to go to Ibarra for a life-saving ER and hospital. It’s the same in Boquete, ER services are forty-five minutes away but Boquete has a lot more doctors.
Public Transport: Excellent. Steve hasn’t bothered with a car as he lives in town. Taxis are quite cheap. Panama has a very good public transportation system too, although the local “collectivos” can be downright torturous. But for $12.00 you can ride on a new double-decker bus from David to Panama City. They even play movies on the bus.
Food: In Cotacachi, the vegetable markets are full of a wide variety of inexpensive produce. Any food staples common to the indigenous population is also readily available. If you want other food or American style food, you go to Ibarra to the Super Maxi where they have a large variety of products. Often we take the things that make our lives comfortable for granted. Here in Boquete and in David, forty-five minutes down the volcano; we can pretty much get whatever we want. Well, except an English language laptop. David offers a Costco equivalent called PriceSmart and a Target equivalent called Conway. The grocery stores in both David and Boquete offer many of the same products we’re all used to buying, albeit if you deviate from a traditional Panamanian diet and buy American imported food, you’ll pay American prices.
Weather: Cotacachi has two rainy seasons with a two-month duration. The rain usually comes in the late afternoon and lasts about two hours. Boquete, by contrast, has an eight-month rainy season and the rain usually starts around two in the afternoon until well, who knows when. Boquete has a huge amount of rainfall. It’s located in a tropical rain forest 3,800 feet up the side of a volcano. In January and February, Boquete has wind of mega-proportions. Cotacachi has none. Boquete’s humidity runs 80%-90% for most of the year resulting in a lot of mould. Cotacachi’s humidity runs about 60% and there is no mould. Cotacachi’s temperature runs about 70-74 degrees in the day and 45-60 degrees at night. Boquete is close to that. Maybe not quite as cold at night although we do sleep under blankets here.
Crime: Cotacachi has none! There is no violent crime and no robberies. Boquete has had crime but has a new Police Chief and he’s very good. He’s made huge inroads and we are not experiencing the robberies that we had a year ago. Some people have actually left their doors unlocked in Cotacachi and have never been robbed. Now once you get to Quito, it’s like every big city. You have to be more careful for pickpockets.
Earthquakes and other natural phenomena: Cotacachi has volcanos, just like Boquete. Both communities get little tremble-rs from time to time. Panama is outside of the hurricane belt. Cotacachi also, is free of hurricanes. In certain areas of Panama (like Boquete) substantial flooding occurs. You have to be careful where you settle. Cotacachi is outside the flood plain.
Spanish language schools: Cotacachi does have Spanish language schools. Steve knows someone who is about to conduct a small-scale language class so send him an e-mail if you’re about to visit Ecuador. Boquete has a plentiful variety of Spanish language schools.
K-12 education: The public schools are not very good in either country. Everybody sends their children to private schools (as I was sent to private schools having been raised in South America). The good news, it’s not very expensive. Private schools run about $30.00-$60.00 a month and your children will get a good education and wear uniforms. It appears that the best school choice for the children of ex-pats or foreigners who come to Cotacachi to live is a school called Las Lomas.
Please visit: http://blog.pro-ecuador.com/?p=1078 for pictures and information.
Residence Visa: While Panama has about the best visa going, it is a long and tedious process to secure that visa. You have to have a good lawyer and it will take about a year. Ecuador, on the other hand, has about a two-week time frame to achieve residency. You’ll need to hire a lawyer for this visa as well. On the Panamanian “pensionado” visa (retirement) you can’t operate any businesses. Ecuador allows you to work or to legitimately own a business. Put $25K in a bank account and you get a residence visa. Or buy a $25K property and you have a visa. While Ecuador’s residence visa can’t compete with Panama’s, it does offer bus fare discounts and half price on airline tickets. For the “hubilado” (retirement) visa, you have to be 65 years of age and have an income of $800.00 a month. A word of caution. Please refer to the following link containing visa information. If you are considering an Ecuador move, you need to know this information: http://internationalliving.com/countries/ecuador/visa/
X-pat Community: There are about 100 ex-pats living in Cotacachi. There are Americans, Canadians and some Europeans. The community is not nearly as organized as Boquete. Give it time. Boquete has about 500 ex-pats that have lived here for years. Steve likes the Cotacachi community because a lot of them are very aware of alternative medicine.
Postal System: You buy a P.O. box at the local Cotacachi post office. Half of them are rented already. Customs is in Guayaquil and duty is 40%. As I understand it, you have to go to Guayaquil to pick up your parcels. No small matter. Guayaquil is quite far away. So Internet ordering is not really the thing to do.
Politics and Culture: It’s the indigenous people that run the country, not really the government. As a result, freedom abounds. If the indigenous people don’t like something the government is doing, they will block all the roads until the government changes its mind. Many of you have been wondering about the recent events in Ecuador. A search on the Internet will bring you up to speed. During the uprising Steve, however, was peacefully touring the country in search of promising building sites. What I’m trying to say is that generally, political unrest in Central and South America is usually limited to the capital cities. If I was considering an Ecuadorian relocation I would be on the lookout for the dissolution of the Parliament. If that were to happen, I’d keep shopping countries. If that doesn’t happen, things will likely die down. As a child, I lived through four revolutions in Venezuela and I’m alive to tell you that life goes on. I was never hurt, our property was secure, and we got to eat special “gourmet” food that my Mother saved for just such events. We didn’t have to go to school so, revolutions were well received by the children. We did live in Caracas, the capital. I’m sure that if you got fifty miles outside of the capital they might not have even known there was a revolution going on. That’s the way it is in South America. As to the culture, the Ecuadorian indigenous people are the best part of Ecuadorian culture. They are sophisticated, very well-informed, and run the local towns like Cotacachi. They are naturally happy and friendly towards ex-pats.
Economy: According to the Wall Street Journal, Ecuador’s gross domestic product in the second quarter expanded by 2.74% compared with the same period in 2009, the central bank said Friday.
GDP rose 1.87% in the second quarter of the year, compared with the first quarter, the bank added.
All in all Cotacachi is a very attractive option for an international relocation. However, we do know of one single lady who moved there and came back to Boquete. Reason? She got lonely. As a single person, she missed the network of friends she had already established in Boquete.
In closing, I would like to tell you a short story I read about. It was about someone who was taken out by a real-estate broker who showed him some great deals at very attractive prices. At the end of the day the broker asked him if he was interested in any of the great options and the customer replied, “Show me the same properties when they are more expensive.” What he was talking about was infrastructure. The more of it – the more expensive the properties. This is the question that needs to be answered for yourself as you consider Cotacachi because everybody’s needs in this regard are different. Some people are pioneers by nature and do fine without their special imported goods and some don’t. Some thrive on the local brew and some just “gotta have” that latte just the way they like it. Secondly, as I see it, dislocation is different for everybody. Some people are very self-contained and don’t need a community around them while others do. Cotacachi has a lot to offer in addition to its physical beauty and attractive cost of living. Why not do a little exploration and hop a plane to check things out in both communities? Send an e-mail out to Steve and I’m sure he’ll be happy to show you what’s available in Cotacachi and a few more communities that he has been recently scouting.
So, all you pioneers – head over to Cotacachi for the best land deals. Those in search of creature comforts and infrastructure – come to Boquete. I will say this; Cotacachi sounds tempting. Even to us!