We tell you what it's REALLY like to live abroad as an expat. We do not have any agendas except for helping you live the expat life. We will always bring you the real nitty-gritty on everything about living abroad so you can make a more informed decision for your move abroad!
I was watching your videos about my city. I'm from Cuenca and now I live in New York City. I'm glad you love my city. Just one thing about you guys comment on how cheap the prices are in the Mercado in Cuenca for example. $0.50 per basil it is good but for the people who makes an Ecuadorian salary is normal because the income in my city is not like in USA. This is just a comment to make you guys think a lot of us have to emigrant here to your country trying to make a better living for our families there. Why don't you make a new video with how the rest of families survive in Cuenca Ecuador. Thanks and enjoy my city.
We did make a video and here it is.
Thank you for reminding us to keep Cuenca livable for everyone!
We used to joke around that you couldn't even buy a shed in Myrtle Beach South Carolina for $150k, and now you can't even buy a shed in Panama for $150K Well, I guess that joke in our family has come to have some truth to it in Latin America now. Panama Realtor is promoting this shed for sale as “priced to sale” property! It may be priced to sale for those who truly have a purpose for such a structure in the middle of nowhere.
Who is really going to buy this shed on a 3,643 m2 lot (less than an acre) in some spot, away from everything in Panama? It is not even all the way enclosed in. And don’t think any of the farm equipment, boat, or the goat come with this shed. All you get is the dirt floor on almost an acre of land.
After clicking the link above take a look at some of the other ridiculous prices now in Panama from this realtor newsletter. Check out the rents!! We're wondering how the average Panamanian can afford living in their own country of birth? Why are we showing you this? Well, this could and probably will happen to Cuenca.
Flash Back to 8-Years Ago in Panama
We used to be pretty excited about the housing market in Panama about 8 to 10 years ago when you could buy a fixer upper house on an acre of land for 35K, or a fixer upper condo in Panama City for just $25K. Seriously! Panama only just 8-years ago was cheaper than Cuenca is now!
Now look at Panama. What has happened with Panama is gringo inflation. Our dream of moving to Panama did not materialize because we just were not yet ready to pick up our life and move to a foreign country. Moving your whole family to another country takes careful planning and absolute due diligence, otherwise it may not work out. So be sure you do your home work. And be on the lookout for higher rents and housing prices in Cuenca and the coastal areas of Ecuador in the coming years.
We love to eat out, can you tell? We also love eating out and not having to worry about weight gain too. We love to eat out for lunch because it's fun and we don't have to cook, and well, eating out Almuerzo really is not that bad for you. It's not like eating out at, say, Macdees, or golden coral where the food is boxed, greasy and fattening.
Most Almuerzo's as you can see in the video, are home-cooked, wholesome food, except for the white rice. We're going to talk more about this white rice thingy in an upcoming blog post. We have found one restaurant in Cuenca that serves half brown rice in their Almuerzo and it is owned by Asians. It is in our Free Cuenca Restaurant guide on this blog.
"El Nuevo Paraiso Vegetariano" means "The New Vegetarian Paradise"
The New Vegetarian Paradise in Cuenca serves you a lot of food for the buck! Amazing! It was tasty too.
I just found your blog and am enjoying it very much. I do have a couple of questions though regarding family values: could you go into greater detail for me about how it would be for a divorced woman and her 13 year old daughter to visit and/or live in Cuenca? I have been extremely interested in possibly relocating to Ecuador but understand the cultural differences may cause a problem...I read in an earlier post of y'all's that women should never walk alone. That would certainly pose an issue. Any insight you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for your most helpful real-world insight into daily living and adventures in Cuenca. I started reading your blog from the beginning after reading a couple of more recent entries and I find the honesty refreshing.
I hope to hear from y'all soon (I guess that depends on your internet connection...).
Hello Elizabeth. Thank you for your kind comments. We’re glad you are enjoying Discover Cuenca blog. We appreciate your question and it is a very important question.
The people of Ecuador are VERY friendly and will welcome you here as a visitor and as an expat even though you are single woman / mom with a teenage daughter. The most important thing to remember when moving to Ecuador is to be respectful. The culture here is more conservative than liberal when it comes to family values.
Please do not take this commentary to be directed to you personally. This post is directed to all readers and is only meant to be for informative/ learning post for all the people who are thinking of moving to Ecuador. You will be visiting a totally different culture than what is seen in North America.
We don’t think you will have any problems fitting in. Cuenca is a nice smallish city to live in. If you know some Spanish it won’t be long before you both meet some nice people here, if you don’t just stick around the expat hangouts.
We realize that more and more single women are traveling/moving to South America, particularly Ecuador because of the popularity that Cuenca is receiving lately. We have heard of single young backpackers hiking throughout the country in pairs and groups together and so there are women here alone, but they are usually with other friends and groups of people. This is the safest bet when traveling.
It is of our opinion that women should not walk around too much alone in Latin American cultures. But this is our opinion. There are several obvious reasons for this. Number one reason is for personal safety of your person and your valuables. Bad things have happened to solo travelers and retirees because they are alone. It's not so much that you are alone but that the bad guys find out that "you are living alone". It is not unheard of for older retirees to be raped; in fact a 65 year old retiree was recently raped in Chiriqui Panama. Perhaps had she been with someone else or a group of people this would not have happened.
The point is, a woman walking around alone in a Latin American country will be more vulnerable to having unwanted attention, which could lead to something worse than just some hissing, goggling, and cat calling, especially if they find out you "live alone". Another example is a young women was walking in broad daylight on the river walk in Cuenca and got stabbed multiple times for her cell phone. Crime is different here. We're not trying to scare you, but show you reality of crime in South and Central America.
Cuenca has the lowest crime in all of Ecuador but that doesn’t mean bad stuff doesn’t happen here. An example of this is about 6 months ago, a woman was walking alone, on a crowded popular gringo street called Calle Larga here in Cuenca and a thief snatched her purse from her in broad daylight! A Christian missionary friend of ours got her apartment/condo broken into in September when she was out for the day and they took her jewelry, television, and even her kitchen pots and pans. And she lives in a good area of Cuenca. So stuff happens here.
In Cuenca violent crime, such as rape, armed robbery, murder, etc are rare. But, we have heard that petty crime is going up because of the new Gringo population. They have reported that thieves coming from Guayaquil are committing a lot of the thievery here. It has also been reported that people in Guayaquil are smartening up as far as personal security, so the thieves are coming to Cuenca where the gringo population is steadily growing.
We aren’t the type of family that thinks it “won’t ever happen to us”. In fact, we know it will happen to us IF we don’t pay attention to how we behave and what we do, and so we take the necessary precautions to not stand out and be a target for thieves and unwanted attention, so it won’t happen to us. It’s all about smart travel and staying due diligent at all times. The more vulnerable looking you are, the more of a target to petty crime you will be here in Cuenca.
Personal safety precautions are much more dramatic in South America than they are in North America. You always need to be aware of your surroundings and keep a tight rein on your stuff. You should never pull out your wallet with lots of big bills in it and walk around with a purse, or wear lots of jewelry, because these kinds of things are asking for trouble here. You should never use an ATM machine that is outside of a building. If you use an ATM machine you need to watch out and make sure that no one is watching you get money out and then follow you home. In almost every instance where a gringo has gotten something stolen from them it was because they were too relaxed about their surroundings.
There are Ecuadorian women who walk around alone, usually downtown during the day, but they are not the targets for petty crime. I would NEVER allow my teenage daughter to walk around alone anywhere in Cuenca. We still advise our young adult sons to walk in pairs, especially if going out at night. Remember. You’re in their country and you stand out just by being a gringo. Then if you are dressed in shorts and a tank top you really become a target for a sexual crime.
Here is what the Travel.State.Gov website says about women traveling alone to Ecuador
Incidents of sexual assault and rape have increased, including in well-traveled tourist areas. In many instances, criminals targeted women who had become separated from their group. Criminals sometimes use alcohol or incapacitating drugs such as scopolamine (a friend of ours told us that this happened to her 21-year old son in October in Cuenca) on unsuspecting tourists in order to rob and/or sexually assault them.
So-called “date rape drugs” are put into drinks in order to disorient the victim and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems. To lower your risk of being a victim of sexual assault, travel in groups, be aware of alcohol or drugs, never allow a stranger to buy you a drink or leave your drink unattended.
Our friend's son is leaving Cuenca because this incident scared him to death. He told his mother that he woke up in unfamiliar surroundings and did not know what happened to him, but he knew that he’d been robbed. The mother of this young man now does not go anywhere alone in Cuenca. We’re not telling you this stuff to make your fearful to come here, but to make you more diligent if and when you come here with your daughter.
It would be best if you both knew some Spanish before you got here so you could make friends with other local women too, besides just the gringo’s. Keep yourselves aware and diligent when out and about. We also suggest that you rent a secure condo or apartment while here in Cuenca. Do not go out or ride the bus after dark. Keep your apartment locked when you are inside, even during the day. We would not advice travel to Guayaquil or Quito for two women alone. Two British women took a fake taxi cab and both were robbed and raped by the driver in October 2011 in Guayaquil. This goes on in Quito too.
During the day, here in Cuenca, if you take ALL the necessary security precautions you should be fine. Taxi's are safe to take here in Cuenca, at least for now.
Remember thieves love slackers. Slackers drink too much, they walk around alone after dark, they wear flashy jewelry and they forget to lock their apartment or close a window. They walk around town with their passports and wallets full of cash…they act lost and take things from strangers on the street…they are the targets of crime.
Remember a few weeks ago when we told you about all the festivals and carnivals going on in Cuenca? Well, this video shows more of the festivities going on. Cuenca celebrated their Independence from Spain with traditional dances, food booths, fireworks, bands, and the artisans displayed their beautiful crafts. This video is of the carnival. At the end of the video is a street juggler who juggles perhaps for a living?
There are four Supermaxi locations in Cuenca. This particular Supermaxi is on Avenue Las Americas. You can find some local brands here that you cannot get anywhere else. Supermaxi has some great prices on produce when in season as well. We shop more at Supermaxi now after learning they carry more local brands. If you shy away from the imported foods, you'll keep your grocery bill down by 50%!
Not all Americans are rich. In fact this statement should read, “Most Americans are not rich”. Sure, there are some very wealthy people who live in North America but the wealthy are not generally the ones moving to Ecuador or any Latin American country for that matter, unless they are moving here thinking they can become wealthy by taking advantage of all the media buzz surrounding Ecuador, particularly Cuenca.
Many of the people wanting to move to Ecuador are folks who have a pension or social security income that they feel won’t give them what they need to live comfortable lives where they are now. If their money would allow them to retire on the standard of living and expectations of what they are used to, they would just stay in the city or state they were planted in North America.
Have you ever wondered “why” a middle class North American would move to a country where their dollar is supposed to go further but yet still pay “the” overinflated prices on rent, buying a home, food, and other purchases? It wouldn’t make much sense, uh? But this is exactly what’s happening when North Americans come here and rent a home, go shopping for food and clothing, and eventually when they buy a home. Many of them are not wealthy people, some are, but most are not, but to the Ecuadorians they are wealthy.
The buzz around Cuenca is Ecuadorians think ALL Americans are rich that move to their country. Is there any wonder why? So then when middle class Americans move here and they go about renting a house or condo, or when they want to purchase, say a vehicle, or a souvenir, or 12 bananas they are automatically beleaguered as rich gringo’s, and that’s before they let-on that they cannot speak a lick of Spanish.
But why all the gringo inflation when not all Americans who come here are rich? It’s because even though they are not rich to North American standards they are rich to Ecuadorian standards and if your money buys more, the gringo pays more just because they can. But this is nonsense; even the Ecuadorians think so as you will find out below.
They see the gringo walking towards them from afar and they have already made it up in their mind how much to inflate the price. Why? Because he/she knows you will pay it! It’s called gringo targeting and gouging..
The point is, if you think you’re going to come here and make your dollar go further, and then you’d better be prepared to walk away or do some wheeling and dealing.
The truth is about half of all Ecuadorians speak some English, enough to understand basic words and we’re saying this to say “you can bargain with most Ecuadorians by brushing up on your own Spanish before you come here and also knowing basic words, plus sign language works great too. You can bargain with them and let them know you are on a tight budget and tell them how much you are willing to spend.
We’ve experienced gringo inflation several times ourselves, but we don’t buy into it. When we walk away or bargain, essentially we are telling them we aren’t going to allow you to inflate prices with us just because we look like a gringo. We are not rude, we just don’t buy into the inflated prices like so many of the newcomers have done and are doing and for good reason; it is not in our budget to do so!
If we all gave in to the inflated prices it will be just a matter of time that Cuenca will not be cheap anymore for retirees and those of us who are frugal; then what is International Living going to brag about?
We just read on another blog that there are about a dozen or so new gringos every month moving to Cuenca and there are some Ecuadorians who are distressed over this rapid influx of gringos inflating real estate prices.
Dr. Lee Dubs recently wrote an article titled “Cuenca’s Gringo Invasion”, which talks about the increasing real estate prices being seen all over Ecuador. What happens is when real estate escalates the Ecuadorians cannot afford to buy real estate in their own country and hostility emerges between the Gringos and the Ecuadorians. Dr. Dubs expressed in his article that these hostilities have been observed already beyond the Azuay province.
The article then goes on to talk about the gringo do-gooders who come here that overpay, over- tip and over-help, which disrupts the natural economic and cultural flow of Ecuador. This also leads the Ecuadorians to think all gringos are filthy rich and really naive. This is because when you do these things you are not integrating yourself but rather standing out as, well, a do-gooder” and a big gringo target for thieves. Remember what we say: when in Rome do as the Romans, well, when in Ecuador do/live as the Ecuadorians. We do!
The truth is Ecuadorians are friendly people who really don’t mind that North Americans and Europeans move to their country and integrate themselves into the culture and call Cuenca home. But what they do mind is how gringos come here and isolate themselves in their own gringo hangouts and communities and up the real estate prices.
A quote from Dr. Lee Dub’s article says, “If the example of gringo colonies in Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica are followed in Ecuador, there is trouble brewing. In fact, conflicts between gringos and locals already are occurring in some regions of this country.”
We don’t want this to happen to beautiful Cuenca and we don’t think you do either. The question that many Cuencanos may want to know is “why” are so many North Americans coming to Cuenca for? Is it to be a part of Cuenca and call Cuenca home and to integrate into the Cuenca community? Or will they come here and isolate themselves in their own little gringo communities like in Costa Rica and Panama? We already see this happening in Cuenca.
Oh, and, let’s not forget all those gringos who have already moved here and have grabbed themselves a place in the real estate and tourist biz for their own financial gain. Believe me, they are here!
Parque Caldron is the main city center park in downtown Cuenca. It's a nice little park with lots of plants, palm trees, and a huge water fountain. This neat park is where many of the festivities go on in Cuenca. Enjoy the five minute web cam of Parque Calderon.
Kywi and True Value Hardware store are the two main hardware stores here in Cuenca. You will not have any problems finding what you need for home remodeling, repairs, or projects around the home while shopping at these two stores, but tools are a bit more expensive here. Kywi is located off of Avenida Elia Liut in the Miraflores Mall.
To see prices of some tools here in Cuenca see our video of shopping for tools at Kywi here.
We love shopping in Cuenca! Frank loves to bargain with the vendors. In this video we're shopping at Feria Libre and also downtown Cuenca. Just to let our readers know why we aren't telling you prices on food when in the grocery stores it is because you aren't even allowed to take pictures or videos in these grocery stores. Last time we were at Coral Centro the security guard told Brandon to put away the camera. In other words, there is no time to linger at the food items and talk about prices. Sorry. We'll post some popular food items from Coral Centro in an upcoming post soon. If there is a particular food item you are most interested in knowing the price on, let us know in the comments area.
We had no idea that House Hunters International had already been to Cuenca in early 2010. A reader of our blog emailed us with this information and even sent us the link to this very first showing of HHI in Cuenca. It is banned for watching in Ecuador, we think that’s REALLY odd that a video promoting Cuenca is banned for viewing in Ecuador. But with our trusty proxy server we were able to watch the video.
The video is of a local Cuencano and his wife, who after living in the states for years finally moved here and retired. We think they were smart for coming when they did. Let us know what you think of the property prices of these three homes in the video. We’re curious to know what they actually paid for the 85k house that they chose out of the three. What do you think? Here is the video link, (you'll need a proxy to view the video), it is pretty interesting. http://youtu.be/Ce5qNxBvJ_o
BTW, we know where the home is that they did end up buying—it’s not far from where we live.
Hold on to your hats! House Hunters International is coming to Cuenca! An expat family from a well-known, popular blog, that has been living in Cuenca for the last three years, just did a casting shoot for “House Hunters International” promoting Cuenca as the next undiscovered paradise.
Between House Hunters International and International Living Press it won’t be long until house prices in Cuenca start sky rocketing out of this world.
Yes, it is true there are already pricey condos all over Cuenca, but there are still good rents and real estate deals if you know what you are doing and how to go about getting them. $300 Dollar Cuenca Rentals finds great rental deals all over Cuenca!
(UPDATE August 2013) Rental prices are rising considerably. We're seeing OLD, (not updated) homes going for $500 to $1200 now. This kind of price hike has happened only in the last year or so. What is happening to Cuenca!!
Well, here's part of what's happening. Ecuadorians are seeing the swarm of gringos moving here and they are renting out their OLD homes, without remodeling/updating them at outrageous rental prices....we walk away from these kinds of deals and you should too!!!
We have posted about rental inflation happening to Cuenca... popular reality shows like this will hurry up the process. Don't ya think? We want to hear from our readers about this. Do you think that a can of worms has been opened up, and Cuenca is going to explode with gringos moving here, or do you think nothing will actually come of this House Hunters show about Cuenca?
(UPDATE 2013) Cuenca is EXPLODING WITH GRINGOS and gringo-cuencanos! It used to be that we would go downotown and maybe see one or two gringos on the streets and that was a lot. Now, we go downtown and see gringo's on every street corner, in every bus, and living all over the city of Cuenca. LOL...just saying...
Cuenca has been discovered!
You can keep prices down when you come to Cuenca and not pay gringo prices. A good rule of thumb is when in Ecuador live like the Ecuadorian's…learn to speak Spanish so you can haggle with the locals and be WILLING to WALK AWAY!
If you have not read Part 1 of this commentary please click here.
Is Ecuador the Best Place to Live?
Is Ecuador the best place to live just because the cost of living is cheap? Absolutely not!
Is Ecuador the best place to live just because the cost of living is cheap and it’s beautiful? Absolutely not!
Is Ecuador the best place to live because of cost of living, beauty and mild weather? Absolutely not!
We like International Living. We've been reading their magazine for over 20-years! And we will continue reading their magazine and watching their videos. We like that they do a big part of the footwork about a new undiscovered place, so then we can actually do our own research about a place they are boasting about to see if we will like it too.
When International travel magazines boast about the wonderful character traits of a country or certain city, such as the weather, cost of living and beauty, these wonderful things are all very subjective, based on personal preference. Yes, even the cost of living is subjective.
We've been on blogs where people were complaining about how expensive it is to buy things and to live in Cuenca!! They were complaining because for two people their expenses were $1700 a month. But whose fault is that? That figure is almost twice as much as what we (family of five) spend on our cost of living.
Our two cents about lifestyle and living expenses is this: There are certain things you can do, and ways of doing things that can drastically change your cost of living without being in need, but most people don’t want to be economical or frugal. This is because they confuse needs with wants, but most “wants” are based out of fear—fear of being in lack of something you only think you need.
Beauty of a City is only an Opinion
We think there are some beautiful cities in the states. Northern Idaho, for example is one of the most picturesque and beautiful places to live in the U.S; the Oregon coast is the most beautiful of all the U.S coast lines but I wouldn’t want to live there because it's too cold and rainy, a lot of the time. We even think South Carolina, especially the coast is beautiful. But guess what? This is our opinion, not yours.
Remember: what one person finds beautiful, another may find plain. If you are coming from a mountainous state such as Idaho, Montana, or Utah, the mountains here might not be that picturesque for you. On the other hand, if you are coming from a state that has no mountains such as Kansas, and even parts of South Carolina, you’ll find the scenery here to be really neat for the first couple of months that you are here. We think the Andes Mountains are great but we also lived in Salt Lake City Utah and the mountains there seemed greater than the Andes Mountains. But this is our opinion.
We say, “Come here and check it out for your self”!
There is a lot of hoopla right now about Ecuador just like there was about Costa Rica in the 80’s and 90’s and then Panama in the last 10 years and now it is Ecuador’s turn? Costa Rica is probably just as nice as Ecuador, and so is Uruguay, Argentina, and Panama, but right now most people are VERY interested in Ecuador.
What makes Ecuador so special? Ecuador is special right now because it’s still cheap, subjectively speaking anyways. Food can be cheap, if you know how and where to shop; and rents can be cheap too if you know how and where to shop. We’ve told you some of our money saving secrets, but our new eBook called “DIY Cuenca Landing guide” is a life saver for those people who want to be more resourceful and frugal and are on a budget. We’re leaving nothing out of this eBook!
Even International Retire Abroad Magazine Writers Have Annoyances
When we ask most people why they moved here it is always the same answer: Cost of living. But then they complain about stuff. It’s true we have our annoyances too, just like everyone else, because Ecuador is not perfect. Even International travel writers complain. They complained about the town of Ibarra in one of their videos saying it is crowded, noisy, and smelly. Guess they aren’t trying to sell real-estate in that town?
Bottom line, don’t come here because it’s cheap and pretty; don’t come here for the mild weather because you may be disappointed; don’t come here with the intention of wanting to make it big in the real estate market because there is far too much of that here already; don’t come here to flaunt your retirement money around the Ecuadorians (you’ll only be making yourself a target); do not come here if some of the ways of the Latin American culture is offensive to you; don’t come here because IL ranked Cuenca the best city to live in 2011! These are all the WRONG reasons for moving to Ecuador or any South American country.
***Do come here because you’re tolerant of change; do come here if you need a lower cost of living standard; do come here because you like the Latin American culture and want to integrate into the community; do come here because you are already happy with your life, but just want a change of pace; do come here if you want to slow down your lifestyle and start enjoying the life around you; do come here if you want to become a part of the Ecuadorian experience and allow the live and let live attitude and laid back lifestyle become a part of your personality; and do come here if you did your due-diligent research first.***
And you know what, if you come here based on those reasons, you will end up loving it here and anywhere in South America.
We’ve written on this subject before, but we have to say it again because we think it is important. Are you prepared for a move to South America? This blog post is not going to be talking just about moving to Cuenca but South America / Latin America in general. Why? Because all Latin America culture is going to be pretty much the same cultural mind-set, such as how they do things, how they live and how they prevent crime.
Manana Land is Latin America
Any Latin American culture is going to be manana land. Frank said even Italy is manana land. This means that things are not going to get done on your time frame or schedule. Being here for five months now, we’re getting used to this “way of life” and really try and go with the flow of things—we put it behind us rather than complain about it. It can be a little frustrating when you’re waiting for paper work to get processed but it’s not about your paperwork but about when they get around to processing it.
You can’t get angry about it because it’s not in your control to control—you’re in their country now and that means getting used to the way they do things. If this kind of laid back lifestyle bothers you then no Latin America country is going to be compatible with your personality. If you don’t want to put up with manana land, probably the best countries to live are North America, UK, or Asia. But there goes your great cost of living.
When waiting to get your Internet connected, you may wait up to two to four weeks. They may say that they’ll be out on a certain day, but never show up, or never call to say they can’t make it. HINT: Although if you know someone here who can go down to the Internet Company with you it may get them to get on the ball and connect your Internet sooner. UPDATE about Internet Service: January 2015 - the service is much, much better now; they even come out within a few days vs. not at all.
If you’re waiting to have anything delivered like furniture or appliances, you may not get it delivered on your time schedule. If you’re having furniture custom built, here again, you may wait for weeks or months for them to finish your furniture. These things are all just a part of the Latin American way of life. No worries though, manana does come, even if it’s later than sooner.
Locals Don’t want to Tell You No
This has happened to us on several occasions. When we have asked for directions to something we are looking for, even if they don’t know where it is, they will act like they know where it is and give you directions somewhere, but not to where you are going. This can be exhausting if you’re walking on foot, which both times we were walking downtown and led to not the place we were actually looking for. But at least it is good for your health. Be prepared to be taken on a wild goose chase at least once while living here.
Taxi cab drivers usually know where most hotels, hostels, major stores restaurants, and government offices are, but some don’t. Just the other day an expat friend of ours told us that when she was taking a taxi, the driver all of a sudden stopped the cab and told her to get out of the cab. She thought it was really strange and later she was told that when the taxi driver does not know where a certain place or address is, he’ll just tell you to get out of the cab, rather than admit he doesn’t know where the address is.
Crime Prevention in Latin America
The other day while we were out shopping, we briefly met up with some retired gringos visiting Cuenca. We talked with him and his wife for a brief period of time and they seemed like nice people, until we asked him how they liked Cuenca. He adamantly shot back with “I hate it!”
We were mildly shocked at such a response. Usually when you ask someone how they like it here they might have a few complaints or they absolutely love it here. But in this case it was an adamant, “I hate it”!
We asked him why he hates it here and he said “the security”. At first we all just looked at him with blank stares, not really understanding what he meant. And then he blurted it all out. He said he hated the tall walls around the homes and the tall locked gates, and the security guards all over town with sawed off machine guns, and broken glass for some of the roofs, and always having to be on guard to protect your things, and lada, lada, lada. At the end of his rant about how he hates the feeling of having to always be fearful living here, we noticed he was pretty agitated.
We cordially said our goodbye’s and went back to our shopping. After listening to this man’s frustrations we realized that he and his wife did NOT do their homework. It was a good thing they were just here on a 3-month visit (typical tourist visa) because he clearly was not a happy camper.
This type of visitor or mover to Ecuador, who does not do their homework is probably quite typical. What the problem is they simply read a few articles from a popular magazine about international travel abroad about how “wonderful” Cuenca, or Quito, or Salinas is and they jump on the band wagon and come here with blinders on. Basically this retired couple was going through the process of culture shock because they didn’t know what to expect when coming here—they weren’t prepared!
Anyone who does their due diligent research will know that any Latin American culture is going to be like this as far as crime prevention goes, whether it's Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, or Costa Rica. They all have bars, gates, tall walls surrounding your home, broken glass roofs, and security guards with scary looking loaded weapons.
Funny thing is there is more violent crime in many smaller cities in the states than there is violent crime in Cuenca! You have to be aware and security conscious anywhere you live, just about. Here you do have to worry about petty theft; there you have to worry about petty theft and violent crime. Not to say that violent crime does not happen here, because it does, it just means there is less of it.
Crime prevention techniques seem and look dramatic here because it is dramatic, but it is what works for Latin America. For an example, the house on the street that does not have a tall gate, tall walls, and a whole house alarm system will get broken into while you are away and your valuables will get taken. This is because that house is a target—it’s the most vulnerable house on the block!
No, you won’t see guards with sawed off shotguns in North America, and no, there are no bars on the windows or tall walls surrounding homes, or cut-glassed roofs in North America but this does not mean that an armed robber will not break into your home while you are sleeping and rob you blind, or if you’re a woman alone, rape and beat you. This kind of violent crime happens in the states everywhere. Both rape and armed robbery is almost nonexistent in Cuenca.
The point is, if you don’t like dramatic security prevention, or if it makes you “feel” more fearful, then perhaps Latin America is not for you. You may be better off finding a nice small secluded town in Kansas somewhere where you won’t have to worry about personal security, maybe a sleepy little town like Hutchinson, Kansas.
Do Your Research
It’s funny how people watch a few retire abroad videos and read a few articles from the retirement press that hype up Ecuador and then think that Cuenca or some other city in Ecuador is “thee place” to live. It may very well be “thee place” to live for certain types of people, but are you that type of people? Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t.
Only you can figure out if you and your family are that type of people, and you do that by being diligent in how you decide on the best place to live is. The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out the best place to live is: understand that the best place to live will never be the best place to live if you are not a happy and content person to begin with. On the opposite end of that spectrum: if you are content person within yourself then you can pretty much bet that you’ll be happy living just about anywhere.
Coral Centro is a huge department store just like Walmart--Coral has it all and there are three locations in Cuenca. It is a huge department store with hardware, tools, kitchen ware, furniture, clothes, sporting goods, office supplies, groceries, bakery, electronics, and much more! Coral Centro is your Walmart of Ecuador.
On the outskirts of Cuenca, about a 15 minute bus ride from Coral Centro on Las Americas, is a quaint little town called Banos. There are actually two towns in Ecuador called Banos, the other Banos is near Quito.
A couple of weeks ago we rode the bus to these mineral springs to check it out for ourselves. Banos is right below a mountain where natural warm mineral water flows into the valley. The people of this quiet little town took advantage of this natural resource and created three different mineral spring parks where one can go and bathe in the mineral pools.
Two of these mineral springs are geared for families with small children and there were quite a few small children playing in these pools. There is no chemicals in these pools, you know like chlorine, and well, all the little kiddies in the warm pool just didn't make for going into these mineral pools very tempting, if you know what we mean.
Family mineral springs $6 to $8 for whole day
(forgot name of these mineral springs but Banos is small and all three mineral springs are close to each other)
Piedra De Agua Mineral Springs & Spa
Admission of $10 to spend the whole day in these mineral pools
There were no children in these pools, in fact we didn't see any children here at all. These mineral pools may be no children allowed for the simple reason we mention above. Remember, there is no chlorine in these pools--they are all natural
They say that natural mineral spring water is very good for your health and bathing in these natural pools are good for joint pain, arthritis, and other physical ailments.
Mineral springs are made up of rock formations in the mountains and have minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, manganese, sulfur, iodine, and bromine. The exact minerals and trace elements of the water varies from spring to spring, and many spas post the exact minerals in the water. Different waters are considered beneficial for different ailments.
Ironically, before we moved to Cuenca we were reading blogs about how the food was bland, not spicy enough, or not enough of a variety. The fact is, we think the food tastes better / fresher here than in the States, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos islands and even Mexico. The butter, milk, and eggs don’t even need to be refrigerated here because they are so fresh.
One of our deciding factors for moving to South America was for the abundance of fresh food! Produce, meat, dairy, it’s all fresher and cleaner here, and you know what that means don't you? Better tasting and more flavorful food!
In fact we all agree, the chicken here in Cuenca is the best we’ve ever eaten before and we’re all really picky chicken eaters. Back in the states the dark meat always tasted really strong and roast chicken had a strong flavor to it also that we didn’t like, but here, it tastes like chicken should taste like—it’s truly amazing!
On another note, do you remember when we told you we were losing weight? Well, what we lost was body fat. Any body fat we had on us before we came here is virtually gone!
We know we’ve told you this before but the food here does not make you fat because it does not have hormones in it. Hormones (estrogen) injected into the chickens and cows in the states cause them to get big and fat and that way there is more meat on the animal, more money for the farmer. But when you eat that chicken or beef, you’re getting some of those hormones too…unless you can afford to buy organic of course, which in South Carolina, we checked, and one organic chicken cost like $18 to $20, which was not in our budget.
The point is...hormones make ya fat!
Please do not mistake this blog post to mean anything other than our excitement about the healthy food and the natural flavor of the food here in Ecuador. We are just so happy and thrilled that we can afford to buy hormone free chicken and have an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies now…back in the states you couldn’t even look at an organic apple—it was like $0.75 for one apple!! We don’t know how some families are getting by with the prices of produce in the states.
Besides that, it is so hard to contain ourselves...its unbelievable, you can eat here and not gain weight!
We would hope that our readers who are thinking about moving to Ecuador or another South American country (where the food is fresher) will be able to make their goals and aspirations come alive for them and make the adventurous move, just like we did and our doing. No one deserves to be forced to eat polluted food, which most people are forced to eat, since organic meat and produce truly cost an arm, leg and nose in North America!
We just hope that Ecuador doesn’t start to get all gung ho about fattening up their livestock and poultry with hormones and antibiotics because if they did, it just wouldn’t be that great of a place for us anymore. We have read that Ecuador is against injecting their animals with drugs, but for how long? We’re hoping it’s a long ways away.