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Ecuador Safe?

Is Ecuador safe? This must be one of the questions we are most asked. My answer after living here for six years is “Yes. Ecuador is safe as long as you take precautions”.

  In 1992 after the marriages of her two sons Charles and Andrew broke down and Windsor Castle caught fire Queen Elizabeth  refered to that year as “an annus horribilis”.

  So far,  you might think that 2008 is shaping up to be an ‘annus horribilis’ for Ecuador. Or at least you might garner that impression if you only focus on the buzz from the media. You might ask yourself “is Ecuador safe?”

  Amongst other newsworthy events there have been floods, an intermittently belching volcano and the ‘war’ that never was with Colombia. Only the floods have had a long lasting effect.

  And now, anyone with half an ear cocked towards Ecuador will have no doubt heard or read about two news-worthy incidents in recent days. First, 5 young British girls died in a bus crash on the coast and then there was a fire in a disco and 15 young Ecuadorians died at the weekend.

  These are truly regrettable incidents yet I’m tempted to put them into some kind of perspective because media reaction tends to sensationalize these events.

  Ecuador is often compared to the state of Nevada in the USA because they are of comparable size but if we look to compare population then Ecuador is most similar to Illinois, both have around 13 million population. No doubt every day there are car wrecks in Illinois and although there have been no fires in discos there was an outrage at the university where 25 people were shot and six died including the crazed gunman.

  Is Ecuador safe? Is Illinois safe? Again, a lot depends on fate and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet reason tells us that if we exercise caution and the Gods are with us then our chances of a safe trip to either Ecuador or Illinois are certainly good. This is certainly borne out by tourism figures. At least 1 million people a year are currently counting on Ecuador being safe for them.

  In 2005 Ecuador received over 800,000 tourists and although no figures are yet available for last year the projected trend is sharply upwards and it’s likely one million plus tourists descended on this country during 2007, the vast majority have a wonderful time and leave with overwhelmingly positive sentiments about the country. For them, Ecuador is safe.

  Contemplating the bus accident it is undoubtedly a tragedy yet the parents themselves have realised the unusual nature of the accident and stated that they would never warn off other teenagers from travelling to exotic locations because the benefits far outweigh the risks.

  Myself, I’ve travelled thousands of miles on hundreds of buses all over Ecuador. Perhaps it’s tempting fate to say that I’ve never once even been close to being in an accident. Buses are the main way to get around in Ecuador for 90% of the people. Millions of safe bus journeys are made every month (no exaggeration). They are mostly comfortable and secure and my only complaint is that I’ve now seen all the Jackie Chan and Jean Claude van Damme movies that are invariably shown on the longer journeys.

  Then last week-end there was a fatal fire in a Quito disco. This was obviously not safe and it was perturbing because fireworks were let off at an un-authorized rock concert inside a building seemingly built with inflammable materials. One interesting consequence was that the well-respected  mayor of Quito (ex armed forces officer) promptly tendered his resignation to the municipal councilors because “although I don’t feel I am to blame, I do feel responsible”. His offer was just as promptly refused.

  I have said for years that I see the economy of Ecuador and especially Quito growing and one trend as a result is earnings are increasing among the employed and then more money becomes available to spend on entertainment. As more money is generated so more will be spent on safety

  The centers of the large cities are buzzing at the current time and many locals as well as foreigners are doing very well by opening restaurants, cafes and entertainment centers. Every weekend, just in Quito, tens of thousands of people go out to enjoy the nightlife.

   Of course there are some incidents. You have to be careful to avoid pick pockets and the like in downtown Quito. What precautions are necessary in downtown Chicago?

  Closer to Cotacachi there is nightlife in Otavalo and Ibarra. Ecuadorians and tourists alike love to go out to theaters, international cuisine restaurants, multi screen cinema complexes, art exhibitions, cafes and discos.

  So although Ecuador hits the headlines occasionally, often times a reality check can provide another perspective. As Gary might say; in the market place there is always the daily buzz and associated volatility caused by the latest news and rumors but real value can be found by determining the underlying trends and distortions.

 Could that be true of countries too?

  Let’s finish by looking at sentiments expressed in a recent email to Gary by a Florida native – you are unlikely to read these types of sentiments in a newspaper. Having read the whole letter which I cannot repeat in its entirety here, one of the points this reader felt was that Ecuador was undoubtedly a safe haven, almost idyllic in fact, with a heavy onus on family and unity.

  “Dear Mr. Scott,

   I have been enjoying the postings on your Ecuador Living web site for sometime now. You see, my father is Ecuadorean and my mother is American. I was born and lived most of my life here in the States, but when I was 10 years old my family moved to Cuenca where we lived for 5 years.

I’ll never forget that the day my family arrived in Cuenca, my young aunt took me by the hand and walked me to the corner “tienda” and bought me a bag of “suspiros”. I’ve been hooked ever since.

There we were surrounded by a large contingent of immediate family members, distant family members and an endless supply of friends. All on my fathers side of course. I was young then and did enjoy our stay, but now I look back and realize what a truly special place it is.

After retuning to the states in 1978 I finished my education and am now an architect here in South Florida. Two children, a career, and a number of hardships later, almost twenty years have passed and I have not returned to my beloved Ecuador. It’s certainly not a lack for want.”

  The American reader above knows Ecuador and carries a piece of her in his heart and yearns to live here.

   But also Ecuador is becoming increasingly attractive as a tourist destination. By 2010 Ecuador is expected to receive 1.7 million visitors a year.  We here in our tiny corner of Ecuador receive hundreds of guests to Meson de las Flores every year. Just recently we received this compliment from the leader of a tour group:-

“Well, I’m glad to be home and sad that home is not Ecuador. I just wanted to thank you guys again for such a great trip.  It definitely went down in our history books as the best event EVER!  I’ve written about it several times in the e-letter already. Also, I’d like to set dates for another workshop in August.”

   We’ll be busy helping people gain a perspective on life in Ecuador on the following courses and seminars, and instead of reading about headline inducing tragedies they will come to their own conclusions at to whether Ecuador is safe.

  I have no idea yet just how many people will be arriving in June but judging from the email enquiries it seems likely we’re getting close to a full house.

May 13-17 Ecuador Import Export tour


June 6-9  Coastal Real Estate Tour


 June 11-15, Super Thinking + Super Spanish


June 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour


June 19- 21 Ecuador Shaman Tour