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Question
I will be relocating to Ecuador this year to teach ESL.  Can you please tell me if there are:

Places like hair salons to get your hair dyed, nail salons for manicures and pedicures that have things like artificial bio gel nails?
 
What are the best ways to look at real estate without going thru an agent (I heard they are rediculously expensive?

What actually comes in a rental that states "furnished"?

I have heard contradictions in the acceptance of a person who does not speak Spanish, can you confirm this (I am learning Spanish now but will be still pretty moderate)
 
What is the real temperature like there?  Are shorts and t-shirts good during the day?
 
When it is rainy season, how wet does it actually get, floods etc?
 
What are the bugs/insects like?

Answer
Hello!
   I will try to answer all of your questions as best I can. My area of "expertise" if you will is Loja which is south central Ecuador in the mountains or Sierra as they call it there. In pretty much every decent sized town you will find plenty of salons that do everything w/ hair as well as manicures & pedicures. I have had all of those things done myself & have never had any complaints. And the prices are great too! The only thing I am unsure of is the artificial bio gel names. MAYBE is the best I can tell you & if so more likely you would find those in the larger cities like Quito, Guayaquil & possibly Cuenca.
   If you are going to move there I would suggest staying briefly in a hotel or with a friend & then checking out local newspaper classified ads. That is one direct way of finding a furnished (or unfurnished apt.). Another way (& the most common way locals do it there) is to walk around & look for signs on houses saying "Apartment for Rent" (in Spanish of course) & asking people at stores & restaurants "Do you know of any apartments for rent?" To save money most locals rent by word of mouth. It's what you might call a "custom".  I would say if you rent a furnished apt. from a local, not something real high end specifically set up for foreigners & tourists you'd probably get something fairly basic w/ a couch & chairs in the living room, a table & chairs to eat at, a refrigerator & stove (in Ecuador unfurnished apts. do NOT come w/ a stove. Everyone owns their own & brings it w/ them when they move). It would also come w/ a bed & bureau or built in closet. Although I don't know for sure in my educated opinion I rather doubt if it'd come w/ sheets, blankets, towels & a full contingent of pots, pans, silverware etc.  I would suggest that you plan on & expect to have to supplement some items.
   Ecuadorians are extremely kind & helpful. When someone doesn't speak Spanish fluently they are endlessly patient trying to understand YOU & make you understand them. They will do hand signals & gestures. No worries with being accepted because of your lack of Spanish. However that being said I will tell you that unless you are with a lot of ex Pats Spanish IS THE language & you are going to need to try to learn it to live there. Basically in most towns no one speaks English. TV, newspapers, books, signs - everything is in Spanish. It does make it harder if you don't speak it. However I HAVE known people who have lived there 4 + yrs. with little or no Spanish & have survived so it can be done.
   As far as temperature is concerned before I can answer that I would need to know where specifically in Ecuador you are planning on going before I can answer that. I would ASSUME you're planning on Loja because you chose me to ask but I'll wait to hear back from you before I reply to that. There most definitely are places in Ecuador where shorts & a t-shirt would be fine during the day but not ALL places!
    The rainy season in the Sierra and the Oriente or jungle is April - June but while it rains considerably more than usually it isn't a flood type situation. A river might somewhat overflow its banks but as long as you don't choose to rent a house right on the edge of a river you would be fine. I would suggest renting an apt. or house in a residential neighborhood anyway at least until you got more used to Ecuador & decided what and where you liked most.
    Again the bug/insect question would directly relate to where in Ecuador you would be living. Loja is not a buggy area at all. There are bees, wasps & hornets. Plenty of flies, some mosquitos, moths, spiders, beetles, slugs. Kind of just your average run of the mill stuff. Warehouses sometimes have roaches but they're not common in houses there. I saw one centipede in 5 yrs. so they have those as well. And in moist, earthy areas scorpions can be found but to my knowledge they are the non-poisonous variety. Let's see. What else? There are grasshoppers. I'm from Boston, MA. & for the most part (w/ the exception of the scorpion) I've found their insects in Loja to be similar to what we have here. Now the coast is HEAVY on crickets, grasshoppers & roaches. The jungle naturally has pretty much what you would expect in a jungle - a very wide variety of unusual insects, snakes etc. As I said it varies greatly depending on what part of the country you'd be moving to.
     There is great interest in Ecuador in learning English. There are a lot of English schools & I imagine that there is a demand for English teachers but the majority are Ecuadorian who teach English there. I have seen some small private schools run by Americans & Canadians who teach English. I assume you have that aspect well in hand?
     Okay well I think that I've answered as many of your questions as I could without being 100% sure what part of the country you're planning on living in. If you want to drop me a line & let me know where specifically I can give you a little more information about weather, temperatures, etc. And if you think of anything that I haven't covered or if you have any other questions please feel free to ask. I will be glad to help you in any way that I can. And if there is anything I don't know the answer to I will be happy to check with family or friends in Ecuador & get an answer for you. Look forward to talking to you again soon    Patty  

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Patty

Expertise

I can answer questions about the south of Ecuador specifically Loja and the surrounding areas. I am very familiar with the area. Also speak Spanish if that is any help.

Experience

I lived there over 5 years and read, write & speak Spanish about 85%.

Publications
AOL Ecuador Travel Board

Education/Credentials
BS in Social Work

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