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16 Things to Do on Your Expat Scouting Trip

Are you planning on taking a scouting trip before you move? Have you traveled internationally? If not, there will be some new things to get used to. We went on a scouting trip to Margarita Island, Venezuela. It paid off. We decided not to move there.

We learned a lot from that trip. The cost of living was too high, there was too much crime, and fresh produce was both limited and expensive. We were also able to compare that against what we were learning about Ecuador.

In the end, we felt comfortable enough with Ecuador that we didn’t make a scouting trip before we moved.


By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.– Benjamin Franklin

Here are 16 things you should do and check on during your expat scouting trip. Some of these are specifically for families (like us 🙂 ). But most apply regardless of the size of your family. 

16 Things to Check on Your Expat Scouting Trip

  1. Check housing availability, quality, and costs.
  2. Speak with a banker about how to handle your money. See what the laws allow for foreigners.
  3. Speak with an immigration lawyer to confirm what visa you qualify for and what documents you will need when you relocate.
  4. If you will be moving with your pet, confirm the laws for importation of animals. Ensure that rentals allow pets. Look into local veterinary services.
  5. Visit the local supermarket and get an idea of food prices, quality and availability.
  6. Determine what you can’t get in the country. This will help you plan what to bring and what adjustments are necessary.
  7. Speak with other expats about challenges they face and how they manage. Some things to ask about could include: climate, culture, costs, health and safety, and transportation. If they also have children, ask about schooling, recreation, and language learning.
  8. Visit local schools and get a feel for the environment and costs. Try to speak with both local and expat parents of kids enrolled there.
  9. Learn about healthcare quality and costs. Visit a hospital, doctor’s office, and a health insurance provider. Check availability/costs of prescription medications.
  10. Find things for your kids to do: sports, clubs, culture, and volunteer.
  11. Learn about the local job market – both for yourself and/or your children in future years. Determine what’s in demand and what skills are needed. Learn about pay and benefit levels.
  12. Walk a lot. Visit different areas of the city/area during different days of the week and times of day.
  13. Get to know the locals. Speak to as many as possible to get a true picture of the area and what it’s really like.
  14. Go shopping at the mall/market. Get an idea of the quality and styles of clothing and footwear. Make sure that you can get your size. Check out the prices of appliances, furniture, and electronics.
  15. Rent a furnished apartment with a kitchen. This will give you a chance to try local foods and get used to the way locals live. It will be a more realistic experience for your family than hotels and restaurants.
  16. Try to establish a realistic budget. Learn about power, water, internet, healthcare, schooling, entertainment, clothing, and food expenses.


Your Turn

What would you add? What else should a future expat do on their scouting trip? Or should they even take a scouting trip at all? Please join us in the comments below.

Chris Morfas

Wednesday 5th of June 2019

Really good list. One possible addition: Explore transportation options: In many Latin American cities, you may be able to establish a less car-oriented lifestyle than is possible in most North American locales. Try the buses, the metro, walking and bicycling, the taxis, the ride-hailing. Building a daily life centered around walking will elevate your mental and physical health while helping you live within your budget.


Tuesday 17th of April 2018

I will be heading to Ecuador in August or September. I plan to make Ecuador my permanent home. I had a short visit in Guyaquil years ago. 1. My concern is first getting from the airport to a reasonable hotel and or rental for a month or so to get some bearings. Is there a real Estate company or individuals which could help me right away in doing this? 2. My preference would be to go straight to a furnished rental for 1-3 months to determine where I'd like to live. 3. Obtaining a Visa prior to going in order to stay at least 6 months. Any tips? 4. Reliable banks to open an account. Will I be able to do this within a week or two? 5. Finding a place either on the ocean or river - on the water makes me happy.


Friday 9th of October 2015

I'd say get a haircut! If you're going to live abroad for awhile, your hair (and all your grooming needs, for that matter) will be in local hands. I've also found that an experience at the local salon/barber is a good proxy for price/quality of local services, ease in communicating and being understood, etc.

Mandy Sierra

Monday 10th of August 2015

Great article. My wife and I are going to Ecuador for a third and final time to make a decision on where to move (her family lives in San Antonio, Pichincha) and Cuenca seems like its it. My question to you is, Im looking to continue my photo booth business and finally do photography more full time with wildlife, sports, and candids as a wedding 2nd photographer ( I will look into the water dept for jobs since I have 25 years here in Miami), how have you done as a photographer there ? Was the photo booth business flooded there ? Any input would be greatly appreciated...... Thanks, Mandy

Jon P

Sunday 12th of July 2015

Nice list Bryan. Very comprehensive. I only thought of two things to add. 17) Visit many different neighborhoods in the city AND several different cities to get a well rounded view of the overall area and way of life. 18) Keep an open mind and be creative. The answer to typical expats challenges can be easier solved than some would think. For instance when I was in Ecuador for 3 month's last year I lost 50lbs and none of my clothes fit. Being 6'2" and built like a NFL fullback I could not buy clothes of any shelf in the country. The solution was simple...hire a talented tailor in Cuenca to make me clothes to fit my frame perfectly. I got about 10 items and paid on average $9 for the labor/service per item of clothing plus the cost of the fabric. The solution was much easier for me than ordering something from and hoping it eventually made it through customs.

Bryan Haines

Monday 13th of July 2015

Great suggestions - thanks Jon. We've had great success with tailors in Cuenca as well.