January 07, 2013

Discover Quito Ecuador with Frank and Angie!

When we were repeatedly told negative things about Quito by several different expats arriving to Cuenca, we thought, “Oh yuck, glad we’re living in Cuenca”. But when we went to visit Quito ourselves, and spent time there, living there, going out to eat, shopping, doing business, getting to know the people, walking around, we found Quito to be a delightful, cosmopolitan city with so much positive going for it.


Quito is a large city of a little over two million people. Quito has a neglected and well, let’s say, underdeveloped area, but what large city doesn’t? We’ve noticed throughout Ecuador, many people build their own homes, and some of them run out of money and cannot buy materials, so many homes are not finished, which doesn’t look very nice, especially when there are many unfinished homes in one area. In these areas you’ll find more garbage on the streets (dogs make the mess, not people so much) and it can make an area look pretty awful. We’ve all seen it in bigger cities in the US. We’ve noticed these unfinished homes and most of the garbage in only one area of Quito. Besides that, most of Quito is hermosa (beautiful)!

As you’ll see in our video above “Quito Ecuador by bus from Cuenca”, we enter in on the south end (part 1) …and work our way up to the tourist area, (part 2 and 3) which is nice and full of international caf├ęs, restaurants, culture and more. Of course there is not a big city in the world that does not have some things that are negative to talk about. Quito clearly has many more advantages and benefits than disadvantages and negatives…and the same goes for Cuenca!

Yep, we had a few factual negatives to say about Cuenca, but the advantages and benefits of living/retiring in Cuenca far outweigh the negatives. One important aspect to remember when you’re looking to move to a foreign country is don’t take anything anyone says or writes about written in stone, not from any source, person, forum, news story, journalist, magazine, company, blog, or website. YOU HAVE TO DECIDE for yourself what feels right for you, by visiting that city. And that’s how we were pleasantly amazed about Quito in contrast to what we were told by some expats.

With that said, in this video above and on the Discover Quito Ecuador Blog we offer our unbiased reporting of facts, experiences and observations about Quito just like we do about Cuenca. We don’t hold anything back…we’ll show and tell our readers the real deal, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. But if you’ve been a follower of our Discover Cuenca Ecuador Blog then you already know that.

If you are think about moving to Ecuador then here is another wonderful city to learn about.  Discover Quito Ecuador with Frank and Angie! Click here for the Discover Quito Ecuador Blog!
S-U-B-S-C-R-I-B-E and receive new articles every time we post.

January 06, 2013

Cuenca Ecuador Bridge Improvements- Before and After Shots

Cuenca is a developing country and some of the new developments and improvements going up in the city are pretty impressive. The growth in Cuenca Ecuador is remarkable with new condo units being built all over the city. We just got back from Quito, Ecuador the highways the whole way there were great. Ecuador has amazingly good traveling roads. This old wooden bridge in the video was off one of the highways in Cuenca going into a suburban neighborhood. It took about 6 months to build this bridge over the Yanancay River. I can sure bet the residents that live in this neighborhood are happy with the new bridge construction.


January 04, 2013

International Living Names Best Retirement Hot Spot for 2013

International Living Reveals World’s # 1 Retirement Spot Abroad for 2013
PRWeb – Thu, Jan 3, 2013
Ecuador tops InternationalLiving.com’s Annual Global Retirement Index for fifth straight year, first among 22 nations ranked and rated.

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) January 03, 2013
Ecuador is the single best place for North Americans to retire overseas, according to InternationalLiving.com’s newly-released Annual Global Retirement Index 2013.

In putting together the index, now in its 22nd year, InternationalLiving.com’s editors collated data from its team of experts on the ground in the most popular countries among U.S. and Canadian expat retirees.

Editors assessed factors ranging from the price of groceries and average temperature to utility costs and the friendliness of locals.

The information was then used to score each of the top countries out of 100 in categories such as “Real Estate,” “Climate,” “Special Benefits for Retirees” and “Health Care.”

Ecuador scored well over a number of categories, including “Climate,” “Real Estate” and “Special Benefits,” which examined the range of discounts and perks various governments roll out for retirees.

“Ecuador is the complete package,” said Ecuador resident and InternationalLiving.com editor Dan Prescher. “From its varied climate to the friendliness of the Ecuadorian people, it exceeds even the loftiest of expectations.”

Ecuador also scored high in the “Cost of Living” category. A visit to a doctor costs around $25, a local meal out can be as little as $2.50, a beer is $0.85 and an hour-long massage comes in at $25.

As a result, InternationalLiving.com’s researchers were able to find American expats living comfortably in Ecuador on less than $900 per month (if you include rent, a full monthly budget of $1,400 would be reasonable).

“Ecuador is inexpensive for everyone, but especially so for retirees,” added Prescher. He continued, “Seniors resident in Ecuador qualify for half-price entertainment and local transport, discounted airfares, and refunds of sales tax.”

Panama, with its excellent pensionado incentive program for retirees, came in second place in the 2013 Retirement Index, while Malaysia rounded out the top three.

Full details of the InternationalLiving.com Retirement Index 2013 can be seen here: “The World’s Top Retirement Havens in 2013”.
Carol Barron
International Living

January 03, 2013

How Our Family of Five Eats for $400 a Month in Cuenca Ecuador!

If you’re new to this blog and have not seen our monthly budget yet then by all means, click here and check it out. As you’ll see, our budget for groceries is around $400 a month, which is much less than what we were spending when we were living in North America…and we’re eating healthier, cleaner food!

How Can Five Adults Eat for $400 a Month?

Simple, after living here as long as we have you figure out the places to shop for less money. If you have lived in Cuenca for awhile you will have noticed that some grocery markets are more expensive than others, and quite a bit more expensive at that. Also the Mercado can be more expensive on many produce items compared to grocery stores such as Coral.

Many expats complain to us about the high prices at a certain grocery store here in Cuenca. They remark that the prices reflect US prices. And its true. Imported food items will even cost more than in the US. Don't be afraid to try out the locally manufactured brands, most of which are just as good but much more cost effective.

We know which fruits and veggies cost less at the grocery store than at the Mercado and we buy those things at the grocery store. On the same token we know which food items we can buy for less at the Mercado and we buy those items there. Note: meat and cheese are much cheaper at the Mercado but we have never bought our meat or cheese there, simply because it sits out in the open.(see update below)

We also do some shopping at Ecuadorian super markets (non chain markets) where we get better price deals on coffee, nuts, butter, dried fruits, variety of flours, and legumes. If you have not yet read the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, you missing out because there's lots of information about finding deals on food in there. And it’s no big deal to shop in different stores throughout Cuenca; it’s just a $0.25 cent bus ride, or a nice walk after all.

We do not deprive ourselves of good tasting foods. We eat well! In fact, we consider a lot of our home prepared meals gourmet and International. For an example, we make homemade gnocchi (Italian dumplings) with pesto or marinara sauce. Homemade pizza (even the crust) from scratch. Another nutritious meal is black bean and brown rice enchiladas, and they are so filling and substantial—rice and beans together are a complete protein. And for those lighter dinners we prepare soups such as, spinach and mushroom egg drop soup, thanks to our friend Karina, who shared her recipe with me. We eat tasty, healthy, complete meals but, do not rack up a huge grocery bill over it.

We also eat healthy sweet treat snacks, such as “oatmeal, peanut butter no bake cookies” or “cocoa, honey popcorn”, or “banana, raisin bread” made with natural sugars rather than processed. We use raw honey in our sweet concoctions that are not baked to make some incredible healthy sweets. To keep raw honey healthy is to simply never cook it. Once you bake honey into cookies or cakes the healthy goodness is partially destroyed.

Shopping at Coral Centro

Our monthly Coral Centro bill totals to something like $280 to $300. We eat meat only once or twice a week, which helps to keep the grocery bill down. Eating a little bit of meat we find ourselves healthier than eating meat every day. We also rarely eat red meat, perhaps once a month, at most. We have done our research and know what foods can be substituted for the protein and iron that you receive from meat.

Shopping at Feria Libre Mercado

UPDATE 2015: We have stopped shopping so often at the outdoor mercados. We still go about once a month for certain produce items. We buy the bulk of all our groceries at Coral, buying seasonal fruits and vegetables whenever possible. 

Coral shopping = $280 to $330
Feria Libre shopping = we seldom shop here anymore...
Total = $280 to $330

  7Ways We Keep Food Costs Down

1) Prepare all meals from scratch
2) We don’t buy alcohol or cigarettes
3) We don’t buy pet food, yet. (It's expensive here)
4) We rarely buy imported items
5) We buy the whole wheat berries and make our own flour for breads, pizza, cakes, etc.
6) We never buy canned goods or prepared frozen dinners or other boxed foods
7) We try and buy what's in season

We do not have a single canned good, processed box item, or frozen meal, in our home. This is not something new to us; we have always cooked from scratch. You wouldn’t believe the amount of money a family can save by cooking meals from scratch!

Cooking from Scratch is Healthier and More Cost Effective

Canned goods, frozen dinners, and boxed foods are not only unhealthy but they are waaaay over-priced. We learned a long time ago to save money and be healthy by not buying prepared foods that are touted as being healthy. Anything that is packaged up in a cute wrapper and touted as being healthy is a gimmick and we just don’t buy into it. 

There are two beautiful aspects about cooking from scratch. 1) No preservatives, sugars, dyes, chemicals, etc, and 2) its waaaaay less expensive. 

Our food bill would in no way be $400 a month or less if it were not for the fact that we eat freshly prepared meals all made from scratch including the pasta, which is made from half whole wheat flour which we grind ourselves!

So this pretty much sums up how we (five adults) can keep monthly food bill down to $400 a month. Of course this does not include eating out in restaurants. We eat out for lunch a couple of times a week and usually cook in for dinner. But if a family of five adults can eat well on $400 or less per month then so can a couple. Remember, it starts with fresh whole foods that you prepare yourself. This is one way to live frugal and healthy in Cuenca Ecuador.

January 01, 2013

Pets and Furnished Rentals in Cuenca Ecuador

Our pets are our wonderful friends that give us much love and companionship. For many of us older folks our pets have taken the place of our children who have married and left home. More than half of the foreigners that come to Ecuador bring their beloved pets with them.

We have encountered a few foreigners who are looking for a rental that have both dogs and cats with them. One expat couple we know brought three cats and a dog to Cuenca from the states. Another couple brought a huge dog with them. All three families with pets have something in common—they are looking for a furnished or semi-furnished rental.

Most apartments and condos do not allow pets, even when the place is without furniture. Although, there are exceptions but you will pay for it. Your best bet for housing when you have pets is a house with a yard rather than an apartment or condo because sometimes they will have a small green area, and or, a terrazzo for your pet, and of course because of this the landlord is more catering to those expats with pets.

Don’t you think it is only fair to your pet to have a yard, even if it is small? No dog likes to be cooped up without a yard to roam around in. Cats are different however, they are completely happy being cooped up in an apartment.

Pets and Furniture

We know that your pet would not scratch the furniture wood, or pee in the same corner on the hardwood floor, or get fur all over the furniture, but try and tell the landlord that. Most landlords do not allow pets in their furnished rentals and if they do, you will pay up to four times more.

Finding a two or three bedroom furnished at the local rental price rarely come up and the landlord will most-likely not allow pets…of course you can always ask, but you won’t pay local rent. We know this because we personally have asked about pets in many of the furnished rentals.

We’re not saying don’t bring your pets, but we are saying that it might be a lot more difficult to find a furnished rental that will take indoor pets. It certainly is not impossible, but just more difficult. But money always talks, it’s up to you if you want to over-spend on a furnished rental.

Here are a couple of things to consider if you are coming to Cuenca with your pet(s).

1) Don’t have an expectation of furnished at the local rental rates. Expect to pay $200 to $400 more for furnished. If you have pets expect to pay a hefty deposit to the landlord, just in case something gets ruined. You know your pet is clean and not destructive, but try and tell the landlord that after she just spent $1,800 on a new living room set.

2) Trying to find a furnished rental that will actually take your pet(s) will usually take some time; it could take days, or weeks until you find a furnished house or apartment that will accept pets. So, you can’t be in a hurry.

3) If you have pets, we recommend getting an unfurnished at the local rental rate and buy your own furniture. We recommend this for longer term stays just because in the long run it is much cheaper and there are more of the unfurnished rentals to go around and you will find a rental home much quicker and at a much nicer rental price!

4) So if you know ahead of time that you will be bringing your pet(s) we suggest you make room in your budget for buying your own furniture ($5k to 7K) for when you get here.

And here’s another thing to think about with furnished rentals. Many of the furnished rentals may have furniture that is not your style and you will end up not enjoying your new rental. We know personally that many of the homes and apartments that are furnished in the local price range have the bare minimum of furniture and it is 70’s and 80’s style furniture.

There is a lot of demand for even vacant houses with yards, and the local market is responding by raising rental rates. Our recommendation is: don't put yourself under time pressure to have to sign on any rental. This way, you can take your time and negotiate a more appropriate local rental rate rather than a foreigner rate.

The worst offender in that regard, as you might well have already guessed is: tah dah, craigslist. But if you're a reader of our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, you already knew this.

For more, practical, how to, money and time saving advice and an inside look on how to live well on a budget in Ecuador see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide today and if you want some assistance with finding a locally priced vacant long term rental see http://300dollarcuencarentals.blogspot.com/

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