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Friday, August 31, 2012

We're Back in Salinas Beach!

We just can't stay away from the beach!! Salinas is one of the closest beaches to Cuenca. We feel comfortable and secure in Salinas. We've been here before and know our way around so we chose it for a five day mini-vacation. Though we're still going to be checking out the North Ecuador beaches in the future. 

Frank and I we're saying how in the last 14 months of living in Cuenca we've been to the beach 3 times now and that is because it is affordable! The buses are cheap and comfortable to get here, and if you stay in a hostel or hotel one row back from the beach it is much better on the frugal-minded pocket book as well! You'll notice in the videos its high season now.

                   

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Five Major Cities Being Considered for Fuel Subsidy


A few weeks ago we posted about the 40% discount on fuel that Ecuador’s president has offered major airlines. Here are the tentative five cities that will be given the fuel subsidies. If you live near these cities, and the fuel grants go through, you’re probably going to be seeing some major flight discounts to Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil and Galapagos Islands.  

Five routes being considered for fuel subsidy
August 28, 2012 --  http://unvrso.ec/0003UF3

The Production Sector Council will be responsible for prioritizing new air routes to enter the incentive scheme announced by the government earlier this month.

The idea is to grant a subsidy of 40% of a gallon of fuel for three years with the airline to open a nonexistent path that would connect directly to Ecuador.

An official of the Ministry of Production Coordinator said the tentative routes being considered for this benefit would be Los Angeles (USA), Vancouver (Canada), Frankfurt (Germany), Rome (Italy) and Sao Paulo (Brazil).

The grant will be given to the company that the new route aperture and keep the connection with at least three times a week (round trip).

The viability of this benefit will be through an executive order, although the Ministry of Production has not given details of the date on which the plan would start.

Juan Carlos Torres, vice president of the Association of National Airlines (Adena), said that at the moment do not know details of the proposal and what the mechanism is analyzed to prioritize the routes that have the fuel subsidy.

The union representative said that in aviation, one of the aspects that are considered for the opening of a new route is the claim that this may have, because if there is not hard to hold.

"The fuel can be subsidized, but if no one goes there, does not justify going to the destination," said Torres.

Earlier this year, the government removed the fuel subsidy facing airports in Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Cuenca Ecuador Vacant Lots Cost More Than House on a Lot!


Our readers are writing in leaving comments on the blog about how real estate prices in Cuenca are the same as in the states.
One lady commented, “That’s insane, they must be for the gringos”.
Yep, the market is almost untouchable for the locals who live on a small means and want to buy a home or lot and build on for their family.
Actually, at the time of this writing, you’re going to get your real estate deals in the US, not Cuenca. We have been doing some research on the real estate market in Cuenca and surrounding areas and here is what we’re seeing. This is unbelievable but true. We have about ten different Spanish real estate companies that we browse on a weekly basis, plus the Spanish newspaper, El Mercurial.
Lots (240m2 – on up) are VERY expensive. It takes 4000m2 to make up an acre and a 450m2 lot here in Cuenca goes for $75,000 to 100k, or more! It is ridiculous. Here’s what’s really strange, but this is Ecuador, some things are just strange. Vacant lots cost more than a home on a lot!
In many cases you will see this when researching the real estate market here. The prices just for a small lot, right next to other homes is out of this world!
Here are some examples of lot prices in the city of Cuenca.
900m2 - $120K
Ad reads: "VENDO TERRENO ESQUINERO DE 900M2. POR LA AUTOPISTA SAN JOAQUIN"
442m2 – $175K – oh, and this one is negotiable. Ok, will they take 10k?
Ad reads: SITIO DE 442 MTS EN EL CENTRO DE LA CIUDAD PRECIO $175.000 NEG.
171m2 - $49K – Wow, this small lot is on a huge incline too – these prices in the city of Cuenca are out of this world. And most of them are this expensive!
Ad reads: TERRENO 171 MTRS PRECIO $ 49.000
If you want a small lot in Cuenca to build on you’re better off buying a home on a lot, then tear down, or use the existing bricks from the house, and rebuild. Seriously! This is no joke!
Here are some houses on (the same size lots) for a better price! We picked out homes that are nice! No dumps here. Now, compare the prices of these nice homes on a lot to just the vacant lots above.
There isn’t just a few with a better price, almost every single casa on a lot is better priced than if it were just a vacant lot. Go figure.
***Nice 4 bedroom casa on 1000m2 (1/4 acre) $118K
***Nice 4 bed casa on 176m2 lot for $108K
Ad reads: En urbanización 4 dor Estudio 3 baños 2 garajes Construcción: 230mts cuadrados. 
***4 bed with green space (ESPACIO VERDE) it says. 2 car garage asking $95K. This house looks huge!
Ad reads: CASA FRENTE A PARQUE Y PATIO POSTERIOR GRANDE EN EL CEBOLLAR Precio  $95,000
We could go on and on here with the real estate market in Cuenca but we think you get the idea.
It appears Ecuadorians value vacant land more than a home on land.  It is unfortunate for those people who would like to get a half acre to build on.
Listed prices on land appear to be lower about 30 minutes or more outside of Cuenca and most people do not want to be out that far. Although you might find a home deal in Cuenca still, if you are patient and keep looking and have Ecuadorian connections.
Who’s buying these EXPENSIVE vacant lots?
We don’t know if gringos are the ones buying these vacant lots in the city, but we’ve seen more than one well off Ecuadorian who has been working in the US for years, sometimes 20 years or longer and now wants to retire in their home country; then they have an apartment complex built on it and they rent the units out for their retirement income.
We think this is what’s happening because we personally know of Ecuadorians that fit that scenario. Would gringos spend so much just on a lot? If they do, we have to wonder, what for? Dollars and cents wise would it not make more sense to buy a house on a lot and then work with what you got? If the house is not up to your standards labor costs are low.
We see numerous small apartment complexes of around 6 to 10 units, going up all over Cuenca on these small little lots.
These lots are highly valued by the Ecuadorians because they look at them as a good retirement investment, and in the long run they are. Building materials do not cost that much and once the complex is built they can start renting out the units.
Rentals go fast here and if it is in the right location and they furnish it, they know they can hike up the rents to the gringo expats. Funny thing is though, some Ecuadorians that have nice apartment complexes don’t gouge the gringos—these are the ones you’ll need to find if you want to move to Cuenca and live on a budget and do not want to pay US rates on rents. It’s up to you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Our First Encounter with the Police in Cuenca


In our first encounter with the police we received a visitor’s welcome.  They were friendly and accommodating.  They approached us, and offered assistance.  How refreshing!!!  An actual manifestation of service...as in "to serve and protect".   They seemed genuinely pleased to meet us.   And we always give a proper greeting when we see them...

                

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Young Lad Making Panella Candy in Cuenca

This is a short video of a candy making shop in downtown Cuenca Ecuador. This candy (Panella) made from cane sugar tastes pretty good.  It tastes a lot like black strap molasses.

           

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cuenca Supermaxi: Shopping for Soy Sauce?

Today Frank and I are at Supermaxi shopping for soy sauce. Supermaxi is the only grocery store in town, that we know of, where they sell Kikkoman Soy Sauce. The problem is name brand imports cost two and three times as much in Ecuador! What we're trying to do is find comparable tasting products to the brands we know and love, which can be quite a big savings, as you'll see in the video.

             

Friday, August 24, 2012

This is Our Last Day in Salinas Ecuador

We hope you enjoyed our Salinas videos! Would we visit Salinas again? You bet, for a visit. We have visited several of the beaches in Ecuador but we still need to visit the north beaches and then we'll reveal our favorite beach in Ecuador and why it is our favorite beach area. Until then, enjoy our last day in Salinas with us! 

              

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If Expectations Too High, You May Not Like (Cuenca) Ecuador


Some travelers to Ecuador have serious issues with living here and many of them remain in shock with some of the customs of Ecuador. It has become more and more apparent that the folks that leave this – what some call -- earthly paradise are the ones who had towering expectations of what and how Cuenca was going to be for them. For some reason they believed Cuenca to be a certain way, but when they got here they became disappointed.
Could it be the “earthly paradise” label?  After all, it’s just another place out of this great big world.
When all is said and done, money is not the thing that keeps people in Ecuador. What keeps expats in Ecuador for the long-term is they like it and feel ok living here, even with some of the third-world customs! They did not come here with blinders over their eyes, and high expectations, but knew before traveling here that they were entering a country VERY different from the US, Canada, or Europe.
Hidden Eden?
Every time we read about another hidden Eden promoted by the retirement press it just makes us shake our heads in disbelief and think of all the gullible gringos that are falling for it. Falling for the paradise propaganda of another unknown / cheap city where there is nothing bad or negative to report about it.
On paper they fall head over heels for this new exotic city where you can rent and live on the cheap, but once they go there and begin to live they see that the reality is everything is not cheap and everything is not how is was packaged up in a magazine article or news headline, and they become disheartened, to say the least.
You’ll Have to Work to Fine the Cheap in Cuenca, Except for Produce
It’s not that what the magazines says is not true, but they don’t write about what is negative and they don’t say how to go about achieving what is true that they are talking about. It may be cheap to live in Ecuador, but what they don’t say is you’ll have to work for finding the cheap, otherwise you’ll end up paying North American prices for rents, groceries, real estate, furniture, stuff!
For two years before moving here we read about the hyped up weather in Cuenca. All the blogs and fancy magazines said the weather was perfect in Cuenca; I actually thought the weather was going to be great when we got here. Unfortunately I saw the weather for what it really is/was and got sorely disappointed.
We don’t like to complain… but how is keeping quiet helping anyone? This was the idea behind the 12 annoyances video about this earthly paradise of Cuenca. We think there are many earthly paradises right in your own back yard in the US! We even wrote about some of them. Here's one article on Hutchinson, Kansas; a great, little city for retirement, we think.  
Some Annoyances You Learn to Adjust or Adapt
I admit that my expectations of perfect weather were too high.  However, I have adjusted because this is what you do. First, you learn to adapt to that which disappoints you, which can take months, but slowly it becomes a reality and you learn to bear with it rather than complain about it. You can do it with just about any disappointment you may have.
I have said before many times on this blog: Cuenca does not have perfect spring-like weather, unless you’re coming from Alaska, Canada, or the North Pole! And that’s my two cents.
Can You Live on $1,500 a month in Cuenca?
Some new expats expect it to be cheaper living here than what they are spending now. But soon the reality sets in; Cuenca is only cheaper when you don’t bring your habits and North American standards with you. Rents can be as high as in the US depending on where you’re coming from. If you grocery shop at the most expensive grocery store in Cuenca it is not much cheaper than North America, and can be even higher. We know of one couple who are barely scraping by on $1,500 a month! 
I think people read that it is possible to rent a fully furnished 2 bed, 2 bath apartment overlooking one of the four rivers for $400 and think they can come here and find these “furnished” rental deals are all over Cuenca! NOT so. It takes effort and knowledge, and that's what we provide our readers, and as our readers tell us, they're happy with the added value of the information.
In one of our videos one of our sons said it so well when I asked him how he liked Cuenca after living here 6-months. He said, “The only thing that is cheap here is food, everything else is more expensive than in the US”.  He was disappointed because electronics are three times the price they are in North America. He has adjusted. 
Ok. so the food (produce) is cheap, but when all is said and done, furniture, tools, clothes, electronics, appliances, and the food items we so much love, such as Jiff peanut butter, Pringles Potato Chips, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and extra virgin olive oil, ranch dressing, etc, etc, cost twice as much or more than in the US! Who’s kidding who? 
Food Culture Shock in Cuenca!
Bottom line: If you continue to want North American brands your grocery bill will be higher in Cuenca than in New York or Texas! Most people coming here do not know this, but it is part of the Cuenca experience: Food culture shock!
At $3.29 a can for Pringles, $4 for a small jar of Jiff PB, and $1.15 for one small Hershey’s or Snickers candy bar you may want to stop eating your favorite snack food items. There are options, you can buy the local peanut butter (it’s different), the local potato chips (but watch out, don’t eat too many, they can make you sick BC they cook them in very rancid oil), and stop using Ranch Dressing on your salads. Yes, there are options and you can adapt if you want.
For some people switching favorite brands of food is a hardship and they will leave Cuenca, seriously. Their expectations were too high! They expected that since everyone keeps hyping up how cheap the food is here that ALL the food would be cheap. Any food item imported from North America add on two to three times to the cost.
There are many more things we could talk about where expats come here with too high of expectations or are not told the negatives about a place and just cannot take living in a different / strange country. 
This is what happens when you're not told about the other side of the advertisement
Take the manana attitude for instance; they are told that everything takes more time here and they will have to wait to get business transactions done, and they are ok with that, but what they aren’t told is something will not get done the way they are used to doing it, or maybe not at all. There is a lot of bureaucracy here and it is absolutely not what you are used to as far as timeliness and efficiency. 
Here is some of what you may endure if your expectations are too high, or you were not told about the other side of the advertisement about Cuenca. There is always another side and this is the side that is usually white washed by travel magazines and news articles. Just a friendly reminder.
Some new expats are scammed when they buy property because they do not take the time to do more research; some gringos are robbed because they are told it is safe to walk alone at night; some gringos still have their stuff stuck in customs because they numbered a few items in their container incorrectly; some expats had their pets detained in Miami for months because of the red-tape; some expats spend just as much on rent here and are barely eking out a living because they want and need to be in a security building; We could go on here, but you get the idea. 
Ecuador May Not Make Your Life Better
If you expect that Cuenca Ecuador is going to somehow make your life better than what you have now then your expectations are too high. Cuenca Ecuador is not better than most cities of the same size in the US; Cuenca is different, not better.  
Anyone can retire in the US by being more self sufficient in health, diet, and housing. Our point is if the reason you are moving to Cuenca Ecuador is because it is cheap than you will not like it here. 
Do not misunderstand the purpose of this article: We’re not telling you NOT to come to Cuenca we’re just telling you what to expect! Be prepared in your heart and mind, and you’ll do fine and love it here. But if you expect too much from Cuenca or if you can’t see through the whitewash, you will be disappointed. That’s who leaves Ecuador!
As one of our readers told us she was happy to know about the “real” Cuenca from reading the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide and this blog before moving here. People do not want to be surprised...when expectations are too high, surprises will be right around the corner.
Both your blog and DIY guide give a good picture of what life is like in Cuenca without all the hype and Gringo gouging. Thanks again for sharing your experiences with your readers so that we may benefit from them and gain knowledge before making the move. Sincerely, Sarah from CA".
To read about the “real” Cuenca with no whitewash, and to find out how to find a bargain on food and rents, and to make your life less stressful and easy when you move to Cuenca, see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide
With this guide book in your hands, you will come to Cuenca already knowing what to expect.