Ecuador is a small South American country straddling the Equator. It is well known for its Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountains. The capital city, Quito, features one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Ecuador also governs the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of unique wildlife endemic to the Islands, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution.

The official language is Spanish, reflecting the 300 years of Spanish rule until its independence in the 1830s. The currency since the year 2000 has been the US dollar. Most immigrants to Ecuador are from the surrounding countries of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, and are people in search of higher wages. There are around 95,000 American and 30,000 European ex-Pats with a few immigrants from Asia. Most people visit Ecuador short-term for its wildlife, and natural wonders but there is little to attract foreigners to put down roots here.

Visas are generally required for stays exceeding 90 days, so check out the information carefully before you travel. Most job opportunities for foreigners are centred on teaching, charity work and tourism. Most transport is by bus, and there is a railway through the Avenue of the Volcanoes.

Although Ecuador lies on the Equator, the altitude and cool ocean currents keep temperatures lower than you might expect. The highlands are temperate and dry but the coast suffers from a severe rainy season.

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Ecuador is quite a different culture which makes it quite difficult for those from a first world country to integrate. Many of the Ecuadorians live in poverty. Educational standards are not high as only 76% of children complete the 6 years of compulsory education. There are 61 universities and 300 higher educational facilities offering vocational training for those wealthy enough to be able to send the children there.

Healthcare is good in the cities, but almost non-existent in the provinces, so check what is needed in terms of health insurance, should you need to be repatriated back to your homeland in the event that serious healthcare and treatment be required.

Gauyaquil is a large coastal city with a large community of Arab-Ecuadorians who are prominent in business and industry. The main commercial enterprises are based upon fish, shrimp, timber and gold, along with agricultural crops such as bananas, flowers, cocoa and sugar. Oil is a huge natural resource in the Amazon region of Ecuador, making it the second largest exporter of oil in South America. This has considerably helped the economy since 2000, when inflation was running out of control. At that time more than 70% of the population was living below the poverty line. The Government is again having financial problems and is currently defaulting on its global bonds and repayments to the IMF.

Most Ecuadorians inhabit the central provinces in the Andes Mountains including Quito, or along the Pacific coast. The Indians buy and sell at the many markets spread throughout the country. Each community can be identified by the type and design of their hats. The Roman Catholic faith largely influences the culture of Ecuador. Most festivals and annual parades celebrate religious festivals, and incorporate many traditions, icons and rites. Ecuador is a wonderful country to visit, but moving to Ecuador would involve adapting to a very different lifestyle for Westerners.