There has been a ton of text written about security risks in Colombia and Ecuador and even the U.S. State Department has issued travel advisories for certain areas of the country.
Thus it was no surprise when I received the letter below. Read it and my reply to understand better what is going on.
Dear International Friend,
Here is a letter received from one of our readers questioning safety in Ecuador.
My husband has just returned from a two-week stay in Quito. We have been “toying” with the idea of retiring there, and so he went to more or less to scout things out and see what the country had to offer. Like so many others, he loved the scenery, the people, the shopping, the weather, and so many other things. He spoke to US embassy officials, realtors, expats, teachers, businessmen, all of whom had grown attached to the lifestyle and beauty of Ecuador.
One thing, however, soured his experience and has caused us much concern. Unwilling to totally give up on this dream, I am hoping you might be able to share some of your experience and insight on this one issue: crime in Ecuador.
My husband encountered many, many tourists and expats who had been victims of robbery and burglary while living there. My husband was attacked and robbed at knife-point by a gang of ten youths, who pushed him down and left him on the street injured. Expats have told us that this is common, and that even secure gated-communities are not immune to criminal intrusion. One woman who has lived there 13 years has had her gated and secured home robbed twice; both times, her dogs were poisoned and killed during the break-in. She, and others have told us that Americans are easy targets and will probably continue to be. My husband was never at ease on the street, even before his victimization, and he believes it would not be safe for a family to live there.
My question is this, if you care to answer it: Is it different in Cuenca? Is it differentanywhere in Ecuador? Do you think this is a concern to be taken seriously?
I know you are a busy person, and may not have the time or inclination to reply. If that is the case, please feel free to ignore this inquiry. Nonetheless, since I have read many of your accounts through the International Living sites and emails, I believe you may have a unique perspective on this issue. I would be most interested in hearing it.
Thank you for any thoughts you may care to share.
Here is the reply sent to her.
My Dear Friend, Security is a concern in Ecuador as it is everywhere and part of the problem is that tourists (as everywhere) do not know where to go and how to behave.
Having said this I have been disturbed at the number of stories I have heard about crime this past year. Dollarization has created real inflation in basic necessities of life and this has put enormous pressure on the urban poor and for the first time ever Merri and I had a pick pocket try to rob us in Quito while we were there this year.
Normally I would have said that this is just a problem in Guayaquil and Quito, but while in Ecuador this winter I heard stories that crime is moving to Cuenca also. What is said is that Guayaquil has really cracked down on crime and now there is less there, but the criminals have fled to Cuenca. I was not in Cuenca this trip so can only pass on this hearsay.
As to feeling safe in the city, I rarely feel safe in any big city and Quito is no exception. As mentioned, only once have I had an incident, But I know where to go, what to look like and we have had several delegates over the eight years we have been there that have had their pockets picked. (Though keep in mind we were robbed in London last November and have had delegates robbed in just about every of the dozens of cities where we have taken them.)
Having said this, we felt no danger whatsoever during the time we were in Ibarra (the fourth city of Ecuador) and smaller villages. Nor have we felt risk when in the country side. We spent a great deal of time with many American families while there (ranging in age from a 25 year old couple with a three year old daughter to and 85 year old couple who are farming). They all love Ecuador and feel freer there than in the U.S.
My last message about Ecuador shared the writing of a young woman who recently traveled Ecuador’s countryside with no problems at all.
Country people have enjoyed increased prosperity from dollarization (as the cost of foods they grow have risen in real terms) and I have received stories from readers that rave about the friendly helpful nature of their Ecuadorian neighbors, though they do have to be on the lookout for theft (as we do in North Carolina too. Recently someone swiped our chain saw right from the middle of our 250 acre farm).
Rather than sway your decision however my suggestion would be the same as I advise everyone. Security will be an issue just about wherever you go, and things are worse in big cities. Ecuador has a lot to offer at very affordable prices. If you have to have security it’s a lot better to be able to buy it cheaply. But to begin rent a place and stay there for an extended period.
This is the best way to get a feel of whether this is the right place for you to put down roots or not.
Good luck in your travels! Gary