Moving to Ecuador
by J. F.
I recently purchased a few systems / books of yours. I am very interested in gold or other adventure(s) in South America. I have a small savings put together for equipment / travel expenses and I can put together as much time as is necessary to begin. I am semi-fluent in Spanish. My gold hunting experience is fairly limited... I've read a lot... grew up with a parent involved a lot... and have a basic idea of the what is needed.
But my questions for a Ecuador / S. America trip would be:
Visa... I read that I am only allowed like 90 days and that without prior planning on a different visa plan you can not renew down there? (plus it says I HAVE to have a flight out planned? I'm not real sure how to handle that if I really don't know if I want to be there a month or several years?) Should I then rather fly into another country and come across by land? Or take the time to go thru consulates prior? What if I get down there and don't want to return? :)
Kids? My younger kids love to go camping with me. 9 & 11. Should I dare bring them with me? (mom is not up to the adventure but says she would come visit if I set up "shop" down there?) They are quite used to travel all around Mexico? They are excited as I with the prospect of such a trip? What extra issues do you might foresee in bringing them with me?
Shipping? / Packaging? What equipment should I bring with me? I mean should I make the purchases for good equipment costing up to 3,000 plus? and then bring it with me? and/or how else could I get or do you get equipment down there? Theft? Storage? Or is good / normal modern equipment for sale down there already in the bigger towns?
Permission? What about permission? Can I just roam around and if its not "private" land just explore/dig and gather? or do you need to update the authorities to your plans ahead? I read about concessions I gather that is much like a "claim". In Mexico I've found it very very complex to find out ownership i.e. it could easy be hard to know one is on a claim. Also I've lately been hesitant with the added "drug" problems / killings in and around the rich gold areas of Chihuahua.
Banking? How about getting/keeping cash safe? Can I open bank accounts or safety boxes as a foreigner?
Budget? ( How much would you budget to do such a trip?.... $5,000 $10,000 $25,000? ) How about converting your findings to cash down there? How do you convert your gold findings into cash to keep you going?
Travel on the cheap? Can I use the "public" system to get around effectively to a "small" town and then buy/rent horses and go off? I looked at jeep rentals and thought maybe personal driving/ responsibility might not be the way to go?
Are there any people, you included, that I could tag along with to feel more comfortable / learn more about the basics...? i.e. schooling formal / informal?
I'm sure I could flood you with more questions but these seem the most pressing...
Depending on answers, I might be interested in a trip as early as January 2010 or later say? June. Would there be a better time to visit i.e. weather conditions? etc...
I've also thought of English teaching on the side? to help me accustom to the area? but I'd rather find what at rates today 1/4 oz a month? (i.e. equal rates that a month wages would gather).
I'd better stop... but thanks in advance for both the information I've learned in your reading material and in your hoped answers to my questions.
( I don't need to become rich... but having enough to eat and eventually a return might be nice. : ) ... )
Stan's response: Hi J.F.
Wow, that is quite an email you sent me. Thanks for your purchases. I will do my best to answer your questions.
Since the last president (Correa) was elected here, many laws are changing, sometimes monthly. The local lawyers are even having a difficult time keeping up with all the changes. Therefore, unfortunately, I can not appropriately answer your questions about the current rules on visas and immigration. Once you are here, I know of a good lawyer or two that you might consult with.
Here is what I strongly recommend and this is exactly what I tell everyone in your situation...
You should come to Ecuador for a several week or month visit (vacation). During that time, you can travel around and see what Ecuador is really like. As a place of residence, it is not for everyone. You could talk to lawyers, North American expats, and locals to get a true picture of life here and what it takes to be happy and comfortable. The fact that you speak some Spanish is extremely helpful.
Bringing your kids down here should be no problem. However, integration for them would be more difficult, not impossible, if they don't speak Spanish. There are English speaking schools here but they are expensive. I am sure your kids would love Ecuador and all the diverse nature we have. Since your kids already have some experience in a 3rd world country, they should already know that life is quite different here than in the U.S.
If you do come for an exploratory visit, I would leave most of your equipment at home, except for the light stuff, like perhaps a metal detector. If you decide to come here permanently, you could ship your stuff to me or any other appropriate address that you find while you are here. I have several new friends in the process of making the move here and going through this entire process.
There are no prospecting, mining or treasure hunting equipment stores in Ecuador. The fact that you even asked this question is a strong sign that you should follow my advise and only come for a visit first. Storage facilities are possible, but somewhat difficult to find. There is a lot of petty theft and pickpocketing here. If you are not extremely vigilant with your possessions, they will quickly be stolen. Violent crime exists, but with some care and intelligence exercised on your part, it is not a big factor.
In Ecuador, you are quite free to roam around on public lands. It is also almost always easy to get permission to roam around on private lands too. There is a certain freedom that explorers feel here that they do not feel in North America. Digging archaeology and prospecting test holes is a little more of a sensitive subject. It can be done freely under the right circumstances. Mining concession ownership is very transparent here and the information is freely available on the internet. It is in Spanish under the department of Ecuadorian Energy and Mines.
To open a bank account here, you must have a Visa and proof of residence, ie. phone bill, electric bill, etc. I do not normally keep much money in the bank. The banking system is a bit unstable and you never know when something might happen to affect your funds.
It is possible to travel about the country on a relatively low budget. You might consult the Lonely Planet Guide or something similar for a good idea of costs. A clean hotel is usually not more that $10 or $15 per person per night, often less. I regularly eat a good meal for $2. Bus travel costs about $1 per hour per person.
Vehicle rentals are expensive, about $80 per day. It is much better just to hire a local pickup truck when you want to go where the buses don't go. Horses are often available in remote areas. I do not own a vehicle and do not want one. I get around the country easily.
Gold is easily sold in many places around the country. I do not depend on gold sales to support myself. As I suggest in my e-packages, it is always better to establish a residual income before getting into the gold prospecting or treasure hunting business. When you depend on supporting yourself with your finds, you are 99% doomed to failure.
You might consider joining the South American Explorers Club in Quito to find travel companions and great travel reference information. I also know many people that might be interested in adventuring with you if the chemistry is right.
Teaching English doesn't pay very well here. You would be better off with an e-commerce business such as information sales, flower exports or e-Bay exports. If you are an entrepreneur, there are many other possible income opportunities to explore here.
Let me know what I left out,