Working for American clients in Ecuador
May 16, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be living in Cuenca, Ecuador this summer with some travel to Quito, Guayaquil and other cities. I'm a software developer and plan to work for my American clients from Ecuador. Any tips or advice on receiving payments? Or tips on my working from Ecuador in general? I plan to have clients deposit money into my American bank accounts and just using an ATM to retrieve it in Ecuador. Any better solutions ?
posted by jason9009 to Travel & Transportation around Cuenca, Ecuador (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I assume you've already thought of this, but internet access will be different in Ecuador. Most people still use dial-up (I don't even recall ads for broadband when I was there a year ago), usually by buying "internet cards" which are kind of like the cell phone cards sold in some countries. Remember that when you buy the card you still haven't covered the cost of your internet access since you will also be paying by the minute for your telephone access. So your internet costs are the per-minute charges on your dial-up card + the per minute charges on your phone line. Since you'll be earning more than most Ecuadorians, this should still be within budget, but you'll want to avoid treating it as an always-on connection, nonetheless.

Lots of the parks in downtown Cuenca have free wi-fi but it's not a good idea to go flashing your electronics about in the park so this is mostly only useful for downloading email on your iphone (or whatever) which you can read once you're elsewhere.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2010

When I was researching a similar dream (that never panned out, so I wish you the best luck and will be envious if it works for you) is the US-based account and the ATM for most of the money needs would have worked well. But I would suggest seeking out a bank in the US that may not charge or have smaller charges than others. For example, I bank at Bank of America and when I'm in certain countries like Canada, Mexico, France, UK, and Germany, I can use their partner banks for free. If I use any other bank it is $5 a withdrawal. If you're in Ecuador and you need several hundred dollars to pay rent and other larger expenses and the ATMs in there only give you the equivalent of $250 US, you could rack up some serious fees. I was planning on moving to Mexico and so the bank issue was moot. I also found that Wells Fargo had some sort of global rich guy account that waived fees everywhere and even allowed you to get cash and checks from local banks. I was too poor to even consider it, but it might be an option for you.

Also with BofA I would have been able to receive almost all of my bills (and pay any other bill in the US) via the website. As far as my American finances would be concerned I would have never left (you would need to alert some of your banks you're out of the country so they don't cut you off for fear of fraud)

Regarding internet, Mexico isn't as wired/unwired as the US and I suspect (I've never been there) that Ecuador is worse outside the cities. But I found I could get broadband in an apartment via cable or DSL. Even in this little off the beaten path village far from where tourists go, I could get cable modem and digital cable to stay connected. They also offered phone service over cable and the international rates were a fraction of what the local telcos charge. I was going to try and get a Vonage box and see if I couldn't maintain a local US number down there. But alas my plans came undone before I was able to go.

It looks like you can get cable modem from It isn't fast (it tops out at 3.1mbps), but it faster than dialup. And when you're traveling it will probably mean that many cafes will have wifi especially the more gringocentric places.
posted by birdherder at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2010

Be careful using public WiFi. Even if it's encrypted most can be broken these days. You also never know when someone is setting up a fake network (you think it's the coffee shop's WiFi but it's not) and capturing all of your passwords and banking info. This can happen anywhere, I'm not singling out Ecuador... but based on my experience there I wouldn't be surprised if it's more prevalent than in the U.S.

Also, in general, be aware of your surroundings and watch your stuff. The thieves there have big balls and will attempt things you never even imagined to get your goods. Don't flash an iPhone, iPod, or laptop in public. When you're on a bus, keep your daypack (where your laptop, camera, etc is) in your lap. Not under the seat. Not in the overhead shelf. Not under the bus. Do not sleep in public if you have valuables in a bag. Do not hang it on the back of your seat when at a restaurant (under the table between your legs, with a strap around your leg is best). The thieves are tricky.

I'm not trying to scare you. I've just had stuff stolen twice in Latin America, and I thought I was doing all the right things and being vigilant (once, I had my pack on the floor of the bus between my feet [not under the seat] and somehow, I still don't know how, the guy in the seat behind me [I guess!] reached under the seat, opened my bag, and found and took my camera. Yeah, no idea how I didn't notice this. I even had the zipper tied shut with a piece of string, and it was cut.) They will also try other stuff, that I've heard about, like "accidentally" spilling something on you, creating a distraction, while a second unknown person pickpockets you. Be careful! Most people are nice but you do have to be always on alert.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 6:55 PM on May 16, 2010

Don't take having power 24/7 for granted. Rolling blackouts can be common, and even if it's just for an hour or two at a time, it can really mess up your schedule if you're not ready for it.
posted by kcm at 9:23 PM on May 16, 2010

I did this in Quito about eight years ago. I paid an insane amount for cable or dsl for my apartment, and it took about two weeks to get into place. It might be faster/easier/cheaper now, but if you know where you're going to be living now, you may want to see if you can ask a friend get the process started, so you're not working out of cafes while you're waiting. I use a credit union in the states, and just had money deposited into my us account, and pulled from an atm - worked fine, I think it was a dollar fee every time, which seemed reasonable. Don't count on the internet being always there - I lost access for over a week, which seriously messed up some projects, and finally gave up and came back home. However, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Have fun!
posted by korej at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2010

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