trying to verify some information regarding renting properties as a foreigner:

This is what I have been told and wish to verify:

1) you cannot earn income (including rental income) on a tourist visa

2) if you have a Temporal it needs to be Lucrativa and you would need to have a permit from INM in order to rent out your home

3) You can rent out your home on a Permanent visa

In the case of earning income owners are obligated to declare the income and pay the relevant tax.

I am also trying to determine how I might pay said tax on behalf of my clients.

Any insight you have on this would be greatly appreciated.

3)

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Buenos Aires – March 6, 2010

Wide streets in Recoleta neighborhood

We arrived in Buenos Aires very early the morning of March 6 to an overwhelming city!  I was so glad that I had taken the time while in Quito to search out the names of some places to stay. Otherwise I have no idea where we would have gone.  Taxis were waiting outside the arrivals terminal and of course they first question was, “Where to?”  We roughly knew that we had reservations in San Telmo, one of the popular tourist areas in the city. We had no idea which direction and thought that we could take a city bus.  How naive! But the information on the hostel’s website did say take the bus from the airport right to our front door.  It did not say that it would take us 3 hours to get there.  It would have been a lovely ride, but after spending all night on the flight from Quito – Panama – Buenos Aires, I was ready for a bit of a rest before hitting the streets.  Arden had read in one of the tour books about using a cab service called “Radio Taxi” which offered the best rates.  We gave the driver the address and he seemed to think he roughly knew where it was and off we set. The ride into the city was like driving from an international airport anywhere into the centre of the city.  For me it was like driving from Toronto International Airport to my home town of Guelph, Ontario.  The trip was about 45 minutes long and cost us roughly about $30 USD.  When the driver dropped us off at the hostel the first thing I noticed was that the exterior of the building did not look anything like what was portrayed on their website. Ah! The wonders of Photoshop, you can make it look like whatever you want. Never mind that the image does not all at resemble reality. Buyer beware.  Arden climbed the stairs from the ground floor to the first floor in search of the landlord (Yes! Even at 7:00 AM someone was on duty awaiting our arrival). Unfortunately the ancient elevator was out of order. The man took Arden up 4 floors to look at the room and Arden suggested that I might want to take a look for myself. Weary as I was, I was very glad that I made the trip. A dark little room with no windows and no private bath awaited.  Not at all what I was expecting. We thanked him and went on our way; this time without a cab and really no idea of where to go.  I hailed a cab that was passing and gave him another address.  I had a list of several but no idea where they were or what they would be like. After our initial disappointment we trusted our luck in finding something better. Luck was with us!  It turns out that the next two addresses were on basically the same street. We started out on Maipu which became Chacabuco a few blocks further on. Our next choice had no vacancy for a few days, too bad as it looked quite good. But right across the road was Hostel Tango, a real gem!  Right in the heart of San Telmo, close to Plaza Dorrego which has a great market, open air restaurants and Tango!

After settling into our room with double bed and private bath (for $39 USD/night), we slept for a couple of hours and then set off to discover Buenos Aires.  Capital of the Argentine Republic, the city extends over 200 square kilometers and I soon discovered that Arden intended to walk most of it!  Well, to be fair, it is a walking city. What better way to discover all of its many neighborhoods.

Since we were situated in San Telmo, we decided that was a good starting point for our exploration with the goal in mind in visiting as many different areas as we could during our stay in this grand city.  Wandering down Independencia, we made our way to Plaza Dorrego all the while enjoying all the antique shops along the way. It is the second oldest square in town, after “Plaza de Mayo”. Many big houses from the 19th Century were recycled and have become antique shops or restaurants. A huge antique fair takes place here on Sundays that has more than 200 shops. Want to learn to Tango? Classes are offered in the center of the square during the fair.

We noticed a sign in one bar window that stated “bar notable” which turned out to be an historic designation. The bar looks over Plaza Dorrego and is over 300 years old!  Beautiful hard wood bar proudly polished by the staff. Our waiter told us of the many ‘special’ people who had raised a glass over the years. We felt that we were pretty special too just sitting there enjoying our Argentinean Malbec and watching the local color.

Wandering, window shopping, stopping for a quick nibble or a glass of wine is a great way to experience Buenos Aires.  The next day we walked from 9:00 in the morning to about 9 in the evening. We started our day with a tour to Puerto Madero at the end of Plaza de Mayo which for many Porteños is the heart of Buenos Aires. We walked along the malécon enjoying a very special treat; the Tall Ships from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia and MEXICO were in port.

Next stop…. Recoleta via Calle Florida with its beautiful cobblestone streets, dating back to the end of the 17th Century.  Likely the most important shopping area in the city, there are lots of bookstores, clothing stores, shoe and leather shops, as well as art galleries located in Plaza San Martin. We crisscrossed many streets in order to take in as many neighborhoods as possible. Walking along Corrientes Avenue, we noted what a busy thoroughfare it is with its many cafés, restaurants, shops, pizza parlors… and before long we noticed all the large theater marquees and realized we were in the theater district of Buenos Aires.

The architecture is one of the attractions of this glorious city. There is a real contrast between the areas that have been restored and those that are in need of restoration. But everywhere you go, you will notice outstanding examples of architecture with a European flair.  Many buildings are crowned with domes, the most notable located on Avenida de Mayo and Rivadavia.

And parks!  The city has parks and squares covered with yellow-flowered hardwoods, jacarandas, ceibos, plane and lime trees. What a delight for me to see that the jacarandas were in bloom, especially as I had received an email from a friend that very day who told me that they had just burst into bloom in Ajijic as well. Ah! March and Jacarandas… is there anything more like Ajijic than that?

We ended our long day of wandering with a special treat… dinner at Café Tortoni, founded in 1858 by a French immigrant. It is the oldest coffee-shop in Buenos Aires. It has become the meeting place of intellectuals, politicians and tangueros in Buenos Aires. The food is not the reason for going to Café Tortoni. But do go for the atmosphere and the Tango Show!

I can’t believe that we did all of this on Day 2 of our time in Buenos Aires. More to follow on Day 3 as our goal was to visit the famed area of La Boca and Caminito.  We had read all the warning about La Boca and certainly were aware during our journey there on foot, that we were entering a different part of the city.  Nonetheless we enjoyed our sojourn there.  We walked through Plaza Lezema which is a beautiful park with tree-lined avenues.  Concrete chess tables are set up at one end of the park and I could just picture some old friends spending their afternoons there with a jug of wine and a game of chess.

Tango Dancers in Caminito

A bit of history about Caminito: In the 1950s, a local resident of La Boca decided to recover the land where a stream had originally passed until the railway was built. He shared his dream with painter, Benito Quinqulea Martin. They decided to name the street “Caminito” in homage to the popular tango song composed by Peñalosa and Filberto in 1926. Different local artists contributed to this place where to this day you can see their work on the face of buildings. What a delightful place to spend an afternoon! The atmosphere is casual and festive. Restaurants offer good cold beer and Argentinean wines to tempt the palate, along with steak, seafood and pasta.  You will be attended to by charming waiters always ready with a story and an ear to hear about where you are visiting from.  Entertainers take the time to visit tables for a chat between sets. And of course, tango!

A bit of a whirlwind in 3 days, but we decided that as much as we loved Buenos Aires it was much more expensive than people had led us to believe. Instead of paying $4-6 USD per meal that we had become accustomed to in Ecuador, we were now paying $10-12 USD. We were lucky to find an affordable hostel otherwise accommodations could cost anywhere from $80 USD and up. Since we are travelling on a limited budget we decided to say farewell to Buenos Aires and head to Uruguay.

Next morning we purchased our tickets on the Buquebus (ferry) to Colonia del Sacramento.  There are many options for trips, including a discounted day pass for those who want to visit just for the day, of which there are many. There is a 1 hour trip and one for 3 hours. We opted for the 3 hour ferry ride one-way which cost us $12.50 USD.  Our reasoning being that we might want to come back by bus when heading back to Buenos Aires for our final night before returning to Ajijic in mid-April.

Stay tuned… Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Cotacachi

March 4, 2010

How to go back up north?  The trip from Vilcabamba to Quito would take about 16 hours by bus. By this time we had experienced enough mountain passages and wanted to get to Cotacachi and settle in for our final few days in Ecuador.

It turns out that the airport is not in Loja as advertised, but in the neighboring city of Catamayo. Since we had a very early morning flight we took the bus back to Loja and transferred to Catamayo which is located 30 minutes away. A very pretty plaza welcomed us upon our arrival and we quickly found accommodations. While not posh, the room was clean and the bed comfortable. Unfortunately the water was not hot, but we made do as it was only for 1 night.  We had asked several places about hot water and only one advertised that they actually had it but the rate was about $20 USD more per night.  Not such a hardship.  We had a good night’s sleep and headed off to the airport at 6:00 AM the next morning.

TAME is a very good airline to travel with in Ecuador. We purchased our tickets in the TAME office in Loja earlier in the week. Check-in was easy and we were soon boarded and ready to take off.  50 minutes later we arrived at the Quito airport. Walked out the front door, caught a taxi which took us to the bus terminal to catch the bus to Cotacachi. Timing is everything, remember? We stepped out of the cab, walked into the bus terminal and heard that singsong voice “Cotacachi, A Cotacachi”, stowed our gear under the bus, and hopped on board.  Two hours later we arrived at a junction on the highway where to conductor advised us that we had to get off. People are so helpful that it was not seconds before we figured out that we could catch a bus into Cotacachi on the other side of the highway or take a taxi into town.

I had been in Cotacachi two years ago with Cantantes del Lago from Ajijic, Mexico but really did not see anything of this beautiful little town. Our taxi driver recommended a new hostel for us located on the edge of town. It is one block below all the leather stores in town and a good location from which to walk everywhere. Cotacachi is small, but it has lots going for it. People are very friendly and accommodating. I understand that there are now about 100 (or so) foreigners who have settled in Cotacachi, but it is not obvious that they are here.  If they are, they are blending in very well with the locals. We decided to stay 4 nights in Cotacachi but in hindsight we should have spent 2 nights here and 2 nights in Otavalo.

On our 3rd day in the area we caught a bus to the city of Ibarra, capital city of the province of Imbabura. What a lovely city!  Quite large with beautiful parks, wide streets, clean and friendly.  We spent a delightful 5 hours in Ibarra and wished that we’d had more time to explore. Next time!

Today, March 3rd is our last day in Cotacachi but we really wanted to visit Otavalo. What a surprise we had in store. Again it was one of those places that the choir from Mexico had visited 2 years ago. But our focus was the market and I think for most of us, which is all we saw.  Today, being a Wednesday is just a normal market day. Saturday is the big market day where it spreads over much of the city center. In my opinion, the Wednesday market is more manageable and you still get a good sampling of products from all over Ecuador.  We had fun shopping. But more than that, we had time to explore the city.  This time I was impressed by the cleanliness of the city; beautiful streets, pretty parks. It is a city in which I could spend much more time. We visited a number of hostels along our travels to see what the options are. Many and affordable. You could easily pay $10 pp/night for a double bed, private bath, hot water and Wi-Fi!  Better choices than Cotacachi.  And no problem finding restaurants which are in abundance.   I think that I could easily settle in to either Ibarra or Otavalo for an extended visit.

Tomorrow we head back to Quito for one night which we will spend at the Magic Bean!

Friday we head to Buenos Aires.  Keep posted.  I think this next 6 weeks is going to be very different from the first part of our travels.

Vilcabamba

March 4, 2010

The next morning we hopped on a bus back to Loja to connect to Vilcabamba which is located about 40 minutes southeast of Loja.  I must say again that bus travel in Ecuador is fantastic!  Our trips have ranged anywhere from $0.15 to $6.00 maximum for a distance of about 260 km.  You pay your fare depending on your location. Don’t worry about purchasing a ticket. If you see the bus you want, hop on board and the conductor will collect your fare some time during the journey.  People have told us not to stow our gear under the bus, but so far we’ve not had a problem.  The conductors have been very helpful even when they are in an obvious hurry.  They don’t waste time as they have to punch a time clock during the journey to prove that they are on time.  Hustle, hustle… no delays.  It is fun to hear them sing out the destinations (A Loja, Loja, Loja, a Loja!)

Timing is everything and we seem to have had incredible luck all along our journey. As we arrived in Loja, the bus to Vilcabamba was waiting for us.  As the bus travels through many small towns on the way, we had a chance to see some of the surrounding towns.  The bus was full of school children of various ages travelling from Loja at the end of their school day, heading home. How the conductors know who is new and who was already on the bus I have no idea. But they do an excellent job; helping people down of the bus.; moving people back to make room on an already crowded bus. But everything is done with good humor and kindness.

We had pre-booked accommodations at a hostel called Rendezvous, owned and operated by a young couple – French/Ecuadorian.  There map was a little unclear but we asked lots of questions and easily found our way.  Located only about 5 minutes from the bus terminal, it was all downhill and an easy walk allowing us time to take in our new environment.  Vilcabamba is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley with the tops of the mountains set in the clouds.  We were delighted with our accommodations which turned out to be like cabanas, with hammocks on the porch.  We were well situated close to the village where there are LOTS of restaurants.  We settled in and went walking.  The town is very small but the atmosphere is so tranquil, it was like being at the cottage for a few days.

The tone of the town is starting to change with the influx of foreigners, mostly American whom we found wandering around town. But there are also lots of European back packers who are taking advantage of the mountains, horseback riding and climbing, extreme sports.  Vilcabamba has become a Mecca for people looking to get away civilization. But like many such places, they are bringing ‘civilization’ with them and changing the community. Real estate prices are climbing and there are some not so scrupulous people taking advantage of people looking to move there.

That all being said, it is still a lovely spot and I would encourage you to take a trip there to explore it for yourself.

Zamaro

March 4, 2010

Next stop… Zamora.  I was not quite sure why we were headed there, but it was a place that Arden had read about and thought it was worth seeing. The trip was spectacular, over mountains, down into valleys, up into the clouds.   When you arrive in Zamora there is not much to see until you start exploring a bit.

We really wanted to go to Podocarpus National Park. And so once getting settled in a comfortable hostel for $20 USD per night, we hired a taxi to take us to the national park.  Interesting trip through the country. The taxi driver asked us what time he should come back to pick us up. Interesting concept, but it really is out in the middle of nowhere and if you do not pre-arrange a pick up, I’m not quite sure how you would get back to town.  Fare both ways was $8 USD and the driver wanted to be paid up front. One would wonder if you might pay and be stranded, but sure enough we arrived back at the pickup spot about 20 minutes before the designated time and a few minutes later, there was our taxi.

When you arrive at the drop off spot, there is a path that is designated as the path to the park. The sign says that it is a 30 minute walk; it took us about an hour. And then we figured that it was another hour to return. So… we really only arrived at the actual entrance of the park when it was time for us to turn around.  People did tell us to leave a full day for the park, and I guess in hindsight we should have listened. Nonetheless we enjoyed our walk through the Amazon jungle… our only real opportunity to see it.

Loja

March 4, 2010

Puerta de la Ciudad

Well it has been quite a while since I’ve had steady internet access in order to update my blog.  Last I wrote, we had visited Machala and were heading to Loja.  We spent arrived in Loja on a Saturday afternoon and were very surprised to find how quiet it was.  We had the name of a couple of hostels and had the taxi driver take us directly to La Orquidea which we had found advertised on the internet. Unfortunately they did not have a vacancy and so Arden went in search of something else. There are lots of hostels in the Old Town of Loja but most do not have private baths.  You can find a very decent room for about $5.00 USD per person per night if you are prepared to travel down the hall to a shared bathroom.  We found a place with a private bath, cable TV and hot water for $20 USD per night for the two of us.  Only trouble was it was located on a very busy street! Next day I went in search of ear plugs which nicely solved the problem. Loja is a pretty city with lots of parks BUT very few restaurants.  I don’t know if the citizens of Loja do not eat out but there was a real shortage of restaurants. We did find a couple of nice restaurants that suited. After Cuenca, we really noticed the difference.  Sunday was much busier with most shops often for business. And Monday it seemed like a completely different city with lots of activity.  It was not until we climbed on the bus on Tuesday to head to Vilcabamba that we saw the upper part of the city where the university is located. It is like two completely different cities.  After spending 3 days in Loja we figured we had pretty much seen it all. Not much to do although we did discover that by looking at the Municipal billboards we could find out about concerts and other entertainment offered throughout the city.

Cuenca to Machala

February 25, 2010

Well it has been one week now since we left the beautiful city of Cuenca. Somewhat with a bit of trepidation as we did not know what to expect. Especially as we had received mixed reviews about our next destination, MACHALA.  Some told us not to waste our town; others said to be sure we visited beautiful Machala. Well, I’ve learned one thing over the short time we’ve been here, Ecuadorians are very proud of their country, and especially proud of their hometowns.

Off we set by bus. There are many bus lines to choose from and our taxi driver gave us a good tip when suggested Linea Orenses. He took us right to the departure gate and dropped us off in front of a bus about to pull out of the terminal.  Whew! But that is how things work here in Ecuador.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a ticket, just stow your gear and hop on board.  There is a conductor on every bus and they will collect your fare at some point during the journey.  Imagine paying $5 USD to travel 176 km.  Comfortable travel along scenic routes.

Mountain Valleys on our way from Cuenca to Machala

People who were staying in our same apartment building had told us about the valley of Yungilla. Turns out that we drove through it on our trip to Machala and I have to say that it is a beautiful valley. A little isolated for my liking as the nearest town is Santa Isabella which did not appear to have much in the way of supplies to offer. Only about  40 minutes from Cuenca and easy to make a trip into the city to buy anything not locally available. I understand that there is a lot of real estate being sold there at present.  About $15,000 USD for an acre of land; $35,000 USD for a pre-fab 2000 sq ft. house. So with all services, construction etc. the house could be yours for about $50,000 USD.

Machala is the capital of El Oro Province and the commercial heart of Ecuador’s main banana-producing region. Despite its economic importance, Machala is also one of the largest Banana exporters in the world and as such is often nick-named the ‘Banana capital of the world’.

So while not a ‘pretty’ city, it is very important economically to Ecuador.

Parque Central, Machala

It has a nice ‘parque central’ where people congregate to chat, have an ice cream, sit under the shady trees and listen to piped music.  A nice respite from the oppressive heat of the day.

We made several trips out to Puerto Bolivar to enjoy seafood dinners and especially enjoyed the langostinos, cooked to perfection!

But I have to say one day in Machala was more than enough. Unfortunately, not knowing that ahead of time, we actually booked 2 nights at a charming hostel that even had air conditioning! Good thing.  We were able to while away the hours until our departure for Loja!

Was there a best part of this trip?  You bet… The trip was a delight.  We travelled through some of the most beautiful mountain passes that I have ever seen. We crossed over the Andes to get to the coastal town of Machala. I will always remember being so close to the clouds. It was like we could reach out and touch them. At one time the top of the moutains were in line with the tallest trees.  And we kept on going up.

I am looking forward to more of those mountain journeys over the next weekas we make our way to Loja on to Vilcabamba and then eventually back to Quito before heading off to Buenos Aires and Uruguay.

River Valley