Tag Archive | "the Star"

Ecuador Car Rental Review


See below why our recent article about Ecuador car rentals aroused more than just comments about cars. That message evoked a strong reaction to change… a change that must take place…  a change where resistance is futile and in many places a gesture that degrades our chances for happiness, health and a life of ease.  See why below.

We Americans do love our cars.

I know.

I have kept my little Suzuki Samari going for 22 years now… and hopefully will be driving it for another 22 years…. or more.

Our friend, Richard Goebel, who manages our North Carolina farm has a Samari as well.  He just installed a Volkswagon diesel engine in his.

He has another engine… I hope destined for my Samari.

Then with our sunflower crop… we can make bio diesel.

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Four wheel drive from flowers. What fun!

Plus what a great way to beat rising gas prices and help the environment a bit.

However, I have strayed from the point.

I was not surprised that my suggestion in the Ecuador car rental article “get a driver rather than rent a car  in Ecuador” caused some panic.

You can read that article at car rentals in Ecuador

Beware those who try to separate Americans from their cars!  This caused one reader to worry so about the cost of cars that he wrote:

Hi Gary,  what about importing your own car, or buying one there?
From what you are writing, the living seems to be very inexpensive, that is until you want to travel on your own. Try that on $1000 month or a fixed income.
All that shines is not gold. Reading between your lines these past 3 months I have come to conclude that there are lots of “hidden” costs in living in this 3rd world country.

I have lived for decades in many similar countries, and even worse, however never have I encountered such car costs as you describe. These are by far the most expensive car rentals I have heard of.  Doesn’t make sense living there unless one wants to walk or take taxis everywhere. An independent person would be doomed to frustration.  No, thanks…this was the article that opened my eyes.

This reader jumped to some incorrect conclusions. The gist of the article was that people who visit Ecuador should hire a car and driver.

The car rental situation is quite different for a tourist than for someone who has moved to Ecuador, learned the system… knows the roads and is not trying to see the country in a limited  time period.

Many people who live in Ecuador have cars.  Cars are not that expensive…. especially new ones partly assembled in Ecuador.

Gas is really cheap ($1.50 a gallon) and mechanics very inexpensive.

We recently looked at buying a four wheel drive Land Rover Challenger in good shape for our hotel.  The asking price was $15,000.  But we wouldn’t drive it.

GoEcuador says: It is now possible to obtain a used car in good condition beginning at $4000.

I just posted an entire report about prices of used cars for our Ecuador Living subscribers. If you do not subscribe to Ecuador Living and want that report on Ecuador car prices, learn how to get that report here.

Plus that reader says he is independent because he has a car?

He forgets the fact that this means he is very dependent on cheap gas… something he may not have for long.

In Ecuador, the cost of hiring a driver can be less then renting a car and may even less than owning your own car. The availability of drivers with cars can eliminate the idea that we become dependent on others if we do not have a car.

One small piece of technology altered the automobile driver equation… the cell phone. In Ecuador most people have cell phones.   A number of drivers we and many others rely on have cell phones.  A car is always just minutes away from a call… no parking… no insurance… no maintenance… no getting gas.

Another reader wrote:

Thank you!  We would purchase a locally manufactured ‘middle of the road’ (pun) vehicle.  But I’m worried about drivers, accidents, tickets, gringo-problems with the locals and the police as well as the various other road condition, speeders, etcetera other issues.  (We have both driven over 45 years in various countries with no tickets – I’m not worried about our driving.)  We plan to relocate to Ecuador – probably suburban/rural area (but near enough to a city with a bilingual school) so will need a car daily for commuting our daughter to school, shopping, and more.  How can it be affordable to take taxis all the time instead of owning a vehicle ourselves?  Please let me know how others do it.   Do you and Merri drive in Ecuador? Thanks.

These notes conjure several important points about change from living in Ecuador or anywhere abroad…  points that go way beyond cars.

These readers, like so many readers who contact me, projected the old American commuter ideal onto an imagined lifestyle into Ecuador.

Why?

This mental error is understandable.   We Americans are car junkies.

I am living proof.

Like many Americans I obtained my driving license on my 16th birthday.  Shortly after I found a job and bought my own car… a 58 Chevy Bel Air just like this.

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That was a great car and I just about lived in it.  We boomers in high school were judged by our cars!

I initially carried the burden of the car mentality with me when I left the USA.  I have driven in some crazy places during my time… jungles… war zones… deserts… swamps.  We’ve had our car robbed in Nice … had fender benders in Djakarta and on roundabouts in London and Rome.  Merri had her car bombed in the parking lot of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona…along with everyone else’s car there. (Long live the Basques!) Plus I have had a couple of cars stolen and some serious smashes in the US.  I live with the effects of a broken back, whiplashed neck and busted knee from driving an Austin Healey Frogeye (see below) into an 18 wheeler truck .

So I have experienced the good and the bad of cars.

When Merri and I bought our first hacienda in Ecuador, the seller threw in a really great, old Land Rover… gray… perfect leather seats but so old it had only three switches… one for the lights, one for the windshield wipers and one that apparently did nothing.   You could (and we did) start that vehicle with a hand crank.  The heating and air conditioning system was a flap in front that you could either open or shut.

We loved that car and I drove it exactly once… from our hacienda to Calacali… about a hour ride with only 15 minutes on a paved road.

The rest of the time we had our driver drive us.  This provided one more job in a country that needs employment plus gave Merri and me time to talk… look at the scenery and not worry about parking and all the rest of the hassle that comes with driving.

That is the only one time I have driven in Ecuador in all these decades.

Now let me add… I have always been a driver.

When I lived in Hong Kong I had a car… a great little Sprite Frogeye. Like this…

I loved that car in Hong Kong but hardly ever drove it.  I took the peak tram, the Star Ferry, taxis… the trolley and even jumped on the bus from time to time.

Why?

Have you ever tried to park in Hong Kong?

Ditto for London. I had a number of cars… first a little MG Midget like this.

In 1970, I drove that MG from London to Rome with my wife and two children… one still in diapers… a mistake… having not learned about the luxuries of Eurorail.

Then I had an Audi… a Peugeot… a BMW… and a Triumph Spitfire.

Yet I rode my bicycle many miles through London traffic from my home is Chiswick to my office on Artillery Row near Buckingham Palace.  I was often stopped by the police and even ticketed for riding my bike on a short cut through Kensington Gardens.   I also regularly used the Tube.

Why?

Have you ever tried to drive in London?

Plus riding the bike every day eliminated having to drive the car to a gym… a double savings.

Here is a point about change that goes beyond cars.

Americans are car addicted because of the nature of America.

Americans need and are highly dependent on cars because everything is spread out,  gas has been cheap, there is little public transportation and labor is expensive.

This set of conditions does not apply in all countries.  Cars are an asset in the USA but they can be liabilities elsewhere.

Why in a time when the environment is at risk through pollution… energy prices are rising… and roads are becoming more and more congested… would one want to stick to a lifestyle that revolves around one car per person if that is not the most effective lifestyle?

The one car per person mentality is old thought.

We really need to move onto the new.

Due to high labor costs, Americans have become hooked on DYI.   Yet when we move to a country with great, low cost labor… it makes sense to take advantage of these conditions.  Everyone gains.

When we can do good, why not create a bit of employment and save time, energy and money… why not sit back and enjoy the ride?

Hundreds of my readers have moved to Ecuador.  Almost none have chosen to buy a car because they really are not needed in many places there.

In Cotacachi we walk. Our friends who have moved to Cotacachi report  losing weight, feeling better and having more energy… in part because they walk more instead of driving.

Taxis are very inexpensive.  Most trips around town are a dollar and they come quickly to a cell phone call.  Though Merri and I do not use the buses, many of our friends do. The system works well.  If we need to take a trip away from the village, we have a number of drivers who have excellent vans and cars who charge between $55 and $70 to take us wherever we want to go.  A ride is  available at any time night or day… with one cell phone call.  Usually on a long furniture shopping trip to many places nearby, we might spend $10-$15….plus we have the advantage of the driver’s help, no problems parking, etc.

We have eliminated the cost of the car… gas… maintenance…. insurance…. parking… security.

Many US and Canadian readers write to us asking about cars…. big refrigerators… washing machines and dish washers.  These are all products that have evolved from North America’s spread out, low energy, high labor cost, nationally distributed, highly preserved food lifestyle.

In many countries you do not need these expenses and burdens.  You can walk daily to the market and get great fresh food.  This is fun!

Why have a huge fridge?  Merri and I love visiting the market. We searched for the tiniest fridge we could find.  We live just like we lived in London for all those years.  Every morning out on the streets looking for THE perfect vegetables, fruits, etc. and then enjoying a morning coffee and back home with everything for lunch!  What fun!

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Here’s the kitchen of one of our condo rentals.  Do you see a fridge?  It is tiny and hidden away. We amble to the food markets instead. Cotacachi market is just three blocks away and we enjoy buying our food fresh from our neighbors.

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Ecuador Visit

The market provides these bicycle carts. For 50 cents or a dollar a happy man will ride all your groceries home for you….and put them away if you like!

The food market is fun and we love having a hot fig and cheese sandwich for breakfast. Not a combination most would ever dream of. They are delicious but missed if you are driving your car though miles of traffic to get to the American style super market!

Why pay a premium for imported dishwashers and washing machines when you can have cheerful, happy people do your cleaning and ironing for you?  You save time, energy and create employment to help the poor.

Which makes more sense?  Spend extra money for a very expensive  imported washing machine that takes up space in your home… and requires effort on your part or spend a LOT LESS money letting these two cheerful mothers, Rosita and…

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and Rosita Elena…

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do your laundry and deliver your sparkling, ironed clothes to you?  I love all natural clothes but they do require startch and ironing…and here’s our delightful answer.

You save space, money and help the Rositas support their families.

There is another important point here.

You help the environment. One washing machine that serves 20 families is better on the environment than 20 machines serving families.

Ditto for cars. Even in the USA, car sharing is growing as explained in the Washington Post in an article entitled “Car-Sharing Merges Into the Mainstream
Not Just for Tree-Huggers: Businesses and Universities Help Drive Growth of Flexcar, Zipcar.”

You can see how Car sharing is growing in Germany and car sharing is growing in Japan.

Car sharing is growing in these industrialized countries because labor is still dear.  In Ecuador you can car share with a driver!

Plus one more really important point.   With rising energy costs, why would any of us think that on a limited budget we can continue to have this wasteful high energy lifestyle?  Why would we even want our old wasteful high energy lifestyle?  Americans have been warned.  Four dollars a gallon gasoline can return.

In fact four bucks a gallon may be low.  In Europe gas can cost seven dollars a gallon.

This note is not about cars.

It is about change.

We’ll be seeing more and more change in our lifetimes… coming faster.

We can profit if we adapt to the change and take advantage of new circumstances by living in new ways based on the local conditions that surround us.

Those who try and stick to old ways in a new environment will lose opportunity and ease in life at best. They may even suffer… sometimes a lot.

Change means we may life differently than before.  Change means we may even choose to live in a country where we were not raised and born.  This change can enhance our lifestyle… improve our health…. relieve our stress… if we adapt and embrace that country for what it is and enjoy its unique attributes.

If we choose to leave one country… why try to reproduce what we decided we no longer enjoy? If you want a mini USA or another Canada in Ecuador… but on the cheap… I expect you’ll be very disappointed coming to Ecuador.

Ecuador is a great place to be… but it is Ecuador… not Canada… not the USA.

Think about the quote by Anatole France about change: All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

Through change we may lose the one car per person lifestyle… but gain stronger legs… healthier lungs and cleaner air.  We may not be able to jump in the Chevy, go to the levy and drop off the laundry, do the banking  and get a Big Mac on the way… but in the change we can eliminate our fear of the meter maid.

Plus that ride can still be provided by a wonderful knowing person… just one cell phone call and minutes away.

Do not get me wrong. I still have cars… three right now in fact… all in the US, a Honda minvan for long drives and our old Suzuki and a conservative Dodge pickup for use on the farm.  Conditions warrant each.

Yet I am thinking about creating bio diesel from the farm when change brings the day that gas is not so available or cheap.

We have no car in Ecuador and have never missed one for a second.

If change is bringing a time when the daily one person per car commute must pass… Ecuador is a great place to get started.  For car sharing with drivers, taxis, buses and yes walking… Ecuador is a good place to be. 

Gary

Join Merri me and Thomas Fischer of JGAM and our webmaster David Cross in North Carolina this October.

Learn more about global investing, how to have an international business and early retirement in Ecuador at the course.

Oct. 9-11 IBEZ North Carolina

Or join us in Ecuador and learn more about living and retiring in Ecuador.

Sept. 17-21 Ecuador Spanish Course
Sept. 23-24 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
Sept. 25-28 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour

Oct. 21-24 Ecuador Import Export Tour

Nov. 6-8 IBEZ Ecuador
Nov. 9-10 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
Nov. 11-14 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour

Attend any two Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$949 for one.  $1,349 for two.

Attend any three Ecuador courses or tours in a calendar month…$1,199 for one.  $1,799 for two.

See why we love Cotacachi Market here.

Ecuador visit

Buying Tickets To Ecuador


Buying Tickets To Ecuador

There are many reasons to buy a ticket to Ecuador… miles of sunny empty beach is one.

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When I took my first flight to Hong Kong 41 years ago, I was 21 years old and few on a cheap ticket that was called a student fare.

While in Hong Kong I met a travel agent. Charlie Kwok was his name and he had an office in the Miramar Hotel, Kowloon, not far from the Star Ferry. Charlie was the master of the low cost air fare and over the next half decade he amazed me with some of his great deals…. Especially for people under age  27.

Next decade in London, John Dragonas, a Greek travel agent continued showing the way to get deals. Back then they had VUSA (Visit USA) where prices were really low.

By then Merri and I had met and she became the maven of amazing air fare deals.

In short I have always enjoy incredibly low costs air fares.  However Merri added another dimension because not all low cost air fares are great.

I recall one flight Honk Kong to Portland Oregon that Charlie Kwok arranged… really cheap, because it was a charter with two empty seats and otherwise full of doctors returning from Thailand. What Charlie forgot to mention was that the actual fare went Hong Kong, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco and then I had a connection back to Portland… adding about 24 hours to the flight!

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There are many reasons to buy a ticket to Ecuador… such as the high Andean lakes.

John in London ignored the human part of travel to get the cost down once as well… a special VUSA fare. Merri and I wanted to fly London, Miami, Chicago, Portland, London.

To get the lowest fare, the actual flight turned out to be London -Denver, Miami- Denver, Chicago-Denver, Portland-Denver, London…or something like that… low fare but not a great deal.

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There are many reasons to buy a ticket to Ecuador… including wonderful colonial architecture.

It was about then that Merri took over finding our fares and she is good…  Let me be humble and say she may be the best. Recently our son visited us from London, Charlotte, London for $17.  That is correct, seventeen dollars.

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There are many reasons to buy a ticket to Ecuador… big cities and…

ecuador-air tickets quaint villages like… Cotacachi shown here.

Recently one of our articles Ecuador Air Fare Update mentioned a $316 Miami Quito fare that Merri found and explained that readers should visit www.farecompare.com

So many readers asked for help on how to get this fare that I asked Merri to prepare an article on how she does it.

Here it is:

Buying Air Tickets

Gary often asks me to write about how I buy airline tickets and especially those to Ecuador…so this is the first in a series of hints including safety, price, ease…

Well, first of all…it’s a tricky business for sure. And to top it all off, it rarely is quick and easy.  I start out with that in mind and sometimes days later I’m still at it!  But there is a pattern that I always use that helps me sort from the beginning the good, bad and the ugly.

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, “The Outliers, The Story of Success” clearly states that most people are really good at something, really successful after about 10,000 hours.  Well, for sure I have my 10,000 hours in on travel and tickets.  For over 4 years, Gary and I crossed the Atlantic commuting from our home in London to our home in Naples, Fl every three weeks.  It was always different, always a surprise and very often extremely challenging to buy tickets for Gary’s mom, our 5 children to all our destinations all over the world ON A REGULAR BASIS.  We had homes in London, Gloustershire, Naples, North Carolina, the north coast of the Dominican Republic and…oh, it makes my head spin just thinking about it!

Needless to say, just by the sheer act of plotting, planning and finally buying, I’ve learned a lot…earned my 10,000 hours over the last 25 + years of international traveling.

However, all the rules have now changed…it’s often hard to know which way to jump…some people book for instance a conference and tell me to confirm quickly so they can buy “that cheap ticket” that is 6 months out!  Whoa, I reply…that’s pretty risky…sometimes you can now buy a ticket at a week out for the same price or better than a month out.

Airlines are constantly shifting and changing and hedging their bets…so let’s look at a few things that we can count on.

#1. The internet makes it a lot easier than we’ve had it before.  There is plenty of data and solid information that we can gather from 100s of sources instantly.

#2.  The internet also makes it a lot harder than we’ve ever had it before BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY CHOICES!  We have more information so it is essential that we use this information wisely.

Here are a few ground rules that I am currently using that are working now.

1.    Don’t buy months out.

2.    Sit down with those who are traveling and have a general chat on days/possibilities/flexibilities that might be possible.  Right now, for instance, I am buying for Ecuador.  Gary and I will get a month’s calendar, list our IDEAL flight days and then see which ways we COULD be flexible.

3.    For the past year, it is cheaper (yes, cheaper) in most cases to fly from an outlying airport than direct.  I know a lot of people for instance who drive from let’s say Birmingham, Ala to Atlanta and then fly direct from Atlanta to everywhere.  Don’t do this.  CHECK YOUR POSSIBILITIES.

For example, Gary and I fly mainly from NC to Portland, NC to Quito, NC to London and NC to Copenhagen.  Well, we can fly from Charlotte, Greensboro (Triad) or from a nearby TRI Cities TN tiny airport.  I check out each of these easily and quickly to get a handle on the whole picture.  I don’t just assume that one is cheaper or more expensive, etc.

For instance for years, Charlotte has been very expensive to fly into our area than all the others, and suddenly last fall, it all shifted…now it’s the cheapest.  Well, it could be the aggressiveness of USAir after its near collapse that has caused them to price the lowest since it is their hub and therefore Delta, etc. have followed suit.

When flying from Florida, I look at Tampa (our favorite), Orlando, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, etc.  Takes only a second and sometimes you can really find an el cheapo winner!

4.    Decide whether you are a frequent flyer who needs to accumulate miles or if you are just an occasional flyer.  We for instance are frequent flyers and use Atlanta as our hub to go to our common destinations…Portland, London, Quito, Copenhagen are our patterns.  Sometimes we fly from NC and sometimes from FL (according to the season)…but ALL of these flights are non-stop from Atlanta via Delta.  So, instead of looking at all airlines/all flights, I really just watch Delta.  We accumulate a lot of miles, use them for free tickets for our children and/or for upgrades.  My advice for frequent flyers is pick an airline and stick with it!  This gets the most bang for your buck…although sometimes I pay more for this, in the long run it works out well and suits us.

If you are lucky enough to be an infrequent flyer, then just look for the best deal!

5.    Frequent flyers can gain a lot from loyalty…although not everything as recently we found out on an emergency trip to Portland!  But usually, we can get what WE determine is important. (not that this might be your choice in the line of fire.)

What is important to us is not just the price but the Duration of the Flight…very, very important you might say!  I’ll pay a bit more to fly a total of 7 hours instead of a lot less to fly the same route with a totally of 11 hours or maybe 23 hours!

Another thing that is important to us is that we can upgrade.  We have logged so many miles and usually have to get off an airplane and go straight to work that over the years we have decided that if we can go first or business class (more or that later) we should.  We feel better if we are not cramped in and let’s face it (although we don’t drink alcohol and don’t eat on planes) there are some good perks.  Very important to us is that there is simply more oxygen up front than there is in the back…so we arrive in better shape than if we were tucked in on the last row.

Other things important to us is that we have a place where we can be quiet and not listen to a dozen cell phone conversations and 7 different TV stations.  We aren’t used to this type of confusion and noise and so we want to have the use of special rooms that airlines provide (Delta’s Crown Rooms) that allow quiet areas.  Often we travel with our service dog, and she too is allowed in these rooms.  We just rest and wait there.  IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

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Merri even makes sure that we have seats so we see the sunset at night and sunrise in the morning.

But on the other hand, we don’t want to pay for this privilege which can cost big change.

How do we achieve this?  Well, each airline has its own gimmicks, but Delta allows a cardholder of AMEX Sky Miles Reserve (which can cost anywhere from $295 up) to have free access with his/her companions to all Sky Mile Crown rooms at no cost.  You can now have a simple Gold AMEX Sky Miles card (sometimes without a fee) that allows more or less the same privileges.  We find excellent light food (that is fresh) and peace and quiet there.  We also find their quiet desk of agents that will do just about anything to make life pleasant (changing flights/redoing tickets/finding lost luggage, etc.). They will even wake you if you fall asleep in your comfy chair.  That same card allows us to have a free Concierge booking service (that means they will REALLY try everything to help you) as well as double miles for most of our travel…and (and this is a big one) the right to Pay with Miles.

And what is Pay with Miles?  Well, let’s discuss that under Award Ticketing later in this series.

Merri

(Tomorrow’s message continues with more tips.)

Join us at an upcoming Ecuador or North Carolina conference or tour.

ecuador-air tickets

There are many reasons to buy a ticket to Ecuador… like the wonderful people.  This is a dancer entertaining delegates at one of our recent Ecuador tours.

How We Can Serve You

2014 – 2015 Schedule

Schedule 2014-2015  Seminars and Courses

Mt. Dora Photo

Delegates enjoy taking breaks at our winter courses in Mount Dora.

jefferson Landing

We conduct our summer camps at Jefferson Landing in West Jefferson North Carolina.

Join us in balmy Central Florida in the winter and the Cool Blue Ridge in summer… plus this autumn our Multi Currency Investing Course will be in Montreal, Canada.

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Montreal Skyline in autumn.

Join Merri and me for all the courses and seminars that we’ll conduct to help you gain positive solutions to your economic, financial and lifestyle concerns.

Here are the courses we will conduct in 2014 and early 2015.

June 13-14-15  Super Thinking Writer’s Camp, West Jefferson, North Carolina.  ($999)  See details on the Writer’s Camp here.

July 18-19-20 Super Thinking + Spanish, West Jefferson, North Carolina.  Courses are also conducted in Canada, St. Louis and Canada.  See schedule and details of the Spanish courses here.

August 30-31-September 1 Super Thinking Writer’s Camp, West Jefferson, North Carolina. ($999)

October 10-11-12 International Investing & Business Seminar, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. ($999)   See details here.

November 14-15-16 Super Thinking Writer’s Camp, Mt. Dora, Fl. ($999)

January  16-17-18,  2015 Super Thinking + Spanish, Mt. Dora, Fl. ($899)

February 13-14-15,  2015  Super Thinking Writer’s Camp, Mt. Dora, Fl. (normally $999 for a couple).