May 06, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Hotels for the Frugal-Minded Budget

In Cuenca the hotels can be downright expensive because they are geared for the tourist. We think staying in over-priced hotels for your visit is a waste of money for two very important reasons. 1) You won’t be spending much time in your hotel room, and 2) You can have the same amenities, plus more while staying in a hostel in Cuenca!
What Is a Frugal Hotel in Cuenca Ecuador?
A frugal-minded hotel is usually called a hostel, which is spelled “hostal” here in Ecuador. A “hostel and hotel” are similar except that a hostel is geared to the budget minded traveler because they have the option of rooms that have shared bathrooms and or kitchens that cater to the back packer, students, and those with families, etc.  Of course, you certainly do not have to have a shared bathroom, however; they have different amenities for different budgets.

The above is a photo we took of a hostel in downtown Cuenca. This particular hostel and three others we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide we have either stayed at or checked out the rooms personally.  They are all pretty nice hostels
Here in Cuenca there are literally hundreds of hostels to choose from and the ones we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide have prices starting at just $8 a night with private bath and FREE WIFI! Now you can't beat that. One thing that most hostels have in common are shared kitchens. This is very handy for that early morning cup of coffee or tea; or using the refrigerator to keep cold drinks and other snack type food items cold.
So if you are thinking about visiting Cuenca and your wallet doesn’t like the $50 on up a night hotel lodging than we think your best bet is the $8 to $25 a night per person hostel.
When Frank first arrived in Cuenca he booked a hostel that was $50 a night online because we didn’t know about the lower priced hostels in Cuenca. Two days later he found another hostel in the same “El Centro” location of Cuenca for just $8 a night with the same amenities, of private bath, shared kitchen, clean rooms, wifi, etc!
The room in the higher priced hostal was not any larger than the lower priced one.
You Don’t Have to Stay at the Expensive Cuenca Ecuador Hotels
Had we known about this hostels before we arrived in Cuenca we could have saved $84! We want to help you find a good value hotel for your visit to Cuenca. That’s why we have mapped out four nice priced hostels, with photos, description and contacts in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide. We checked out these hostels ourselves or have stayed in them, so we know you’ll find them to your liking as well.
By the way, there are hostels in Cuenca that are expensive at $50 a night on up but the ones we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide all have the frugal budget in mind.

May 04, 2012

Health Risks (Mold In Cuenca) of Moving to Cuenca Ecuador

There is a health risk to moving to Cuenca.  This assessment comes from not just our personal experience but also the experience of other expat friends and other information gathered from other sources. It's a respiratory issue.  

It's not something that's talked about much, but after living here for a period of time it becomes evident. Well, one thing you notice is that the construction of the homes and apartments of friends, although, it is to a high standard in other respects, is faulty in one thing. It's not evident right away. But then, you start noticing it. 

 It's just a little bit at first. But then it spreads.  It's mold! Green mold and some black mold.  You clean it, and you clean it, but it keeps coming back. Why is this happening? After several conversations with landlords, the solution that keeps cropping up is "open the windows".

This is mold in our home in the kitchen cupboards and drawers just a few weeks after we cleaned it with bleach! And it came back that fast! Click on photos to get a better view.

As long time followers of this blog know, we're not hot enough here in Cuenca to open the windows on a regular i.e. daily basis. Well, we cleaned up all the mold and have been opening the windows almost every day.  It's easy to do when the sun is shining and it's warm out. But those consecutive days without sunshine are the hardest to do.  Even with the windows open the mold comes back, just not as fast, so having the windows open does help to keep the mold at bay a bit longer. 

After a bit of reflection it is apparent that the issue is in the construction plan.  And here is where it is faulty. There is no allowance for a natural ventilation of the homes.  If you don't open the windows, you're stuck in a vacuum.  No airflow, at least, not enough to curtail the spread of mold.  And this is the source, we believe, of the beginning of health issues.

Again, if it was just us we wouldn't write about it.  But it's our friends too.  They also notice the constant nasal irritation, and the throaty irritation that just won't go away. None of this ever happened on a chronic basis before moving to Cuenca. Actually it didn't occur at all with us as we're very careful about our health.  It's a Cuenca thing at this point, since we've lived here. 

However, we have read that respiratory ailments are also an issue at some southern coastal points of Ecuador where apparently it rains all the time.

We're guessing that under very wet conditions and no proper ventilation, the  mold issue is too strong to conquer and that's how it causes chronic irritation. This is potentially a very big health risk, especially for older folks and very young children.  If you're healthy and strong it's just a chronic small "cold symptom" type of irritation.  But for the above mentioned groups it could spread to other parts of the body such as your lungs and become pneumonia. This can potentially become fatal.

Understand we are not trying to discourage anyone moving to or visiting Cuenca. Don't you want to know about the new city you will be living in, even if it is negative? I know that I would want to know everything, not just the good stuff. It's an important issue that people need to be aware of when considering moving to Cuenca or other parts of Ecuador. See it for yourself, when you come even just to visit, take a look at the construction.  See any vents in the ceilings, or any attic areas with vents in the walls?  Nope and nope. 

We understand every one's situation is different, and we think that simple solutions would be very effective, such as:

1. having a wood stove
2. having a fireplace
3. having lots of gas heat
4. having an industrial sized de-humidifier
5. open the windows even though you're cold

This would have the effect of drying out conditions so as to prevent mold coming back again, it's our experience, not an opinion or a guess. Thought you might want to know. We welcome your feedback and questions.

May 01, 2012

What’s it Like to Live in the Clouds of the Andes Mountains

The weather in Cuenca has been really nice this past week. So you may be thinking what is really nice weather?  Really nice weather is when you wake up in the morning and the sun is shining and the high for the day is in the lower 70’s; and by mid afternoon there is clouds but it doesn’t rain; and if it does rain it’s just a quick passing rain cloud.  B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

Oh yeah, and really nice weather is when the sun smiles down on us and stays shining for several hours so you can open the windows and patio doors and let the warm, fresh air into your home.

According to the time stamp on the photo above it was taken in the middle of winter in Cuenca and it was probably a nice temperature of lower 70's. Ecuador is the closest country to the sun and when the sun comes out it warms everything up real fast. This is what most people talk about when they say Cuenca has "perfect spring-like weather".  Some days in Cuenca are perfect and spring-like.

We do not mind the cloudy days and we also love the rain, but what we don’t love is when it rains every single day and sometimes all day long! Oddly when we first arrived in Cuenca, the end of June 2011, it was also really nice weather, which was wintertime here.  

The picture below was taken in the beginning of summer and this is what many days in Cuenca may look like in the summer.  It's not too cold, but it is mostly cloudy and it could start raining at any minute.

The only difference between summer and winter when living in the clouds of the Andes Mountains is the nights of summer are a little bit warmer than winter and it rains much more in the summer than in the winter. Yes, summer time in Cuenca is rainy season and living here through the summer we can surely confirm that it has been rainy and damp indeed. 

But now that we are going into fall weather it has been absolutely wonderful weather every single day for a week, except for today it has rained most of the day, but that’s ok because we experienced such a nice week with just a little rain that it deserves to rain all day!   

Living in the clouds of the Andes Mountains has been very interesting indeed. Most mornings you can see the majestic mountains but by mid afternoon the clouds have overtaken the sky and usually there is no more mountain scenery, or you might only see one or two mountains where the clouds have not yet overtaken the sky. In the photo below you are supposed to see the mountains in the distance but they have disappeared!

Cuenca, being surrounded by the Andes Mountains is actually shielded from really bad storms, even so, we have experienced a couple of good down pours and hail storms, both of which were pretty fun to watch when you’re not out in them. 

Once again, the weather in Cuenca this past week has been amazingly perfect. And you could even see the Andes Mountains pretty much the whole day! We think this is telling us that rainy season is coming to an end here in Cuenca and now we are going to experience some great fall and winter weather just like we did last winter of 2011. 


The most important thing to remember about the weather in Cuenca is "be prepared". We do not leave home without our umbrella and a light rain jacket because you never know what to expect living amongst the clouds.

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