10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, February 12, 2016

What Are the Negatives to Living in Cuenca Ecuador? 5 Years Later Update 2016

Here's another update folks. This article was first written and published two months after we moved to Cuenca on August 2, 2011. All new updates are in red text.
Time stamp on photo is July 28, 2011
Reader Asks: We get from your posts that you are very positive on everything about Cuenca Ecuador. Do you have any negatives to say about Cuenca? 

Frank and Angie's Response: Good question! No place on earth is ever going to be perfect or idyllic but when we compare Cuenca Ecuador to other countries we have visited we do find more positives in Cuenca. We have visited Mexico three times, Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. 
Update 2016: In 2015 we spent five weeks traveling the whole country of Panama and we must say that Cuenca Ecuador suits us as the more comfortable, better place to live out of the countries we visited above and Panama for several reasons but mostly because of what we say in this article "Differences between Ecuador and Panama". 

We like some areas of Mexico but there is way too much crime there unless you seclude yourself into a gringo enclave and that's not us or how we want to live. We prefer living within the local neighborhoods like we do here in Cuenca Ecuador. 

What are the negatives of Cuenca? First, understand that everyone is different with different needs and circumstances that to compare what one person says about a country and then think you will like it or not like it, is not a good way to decide where to move to. It does help to get an idea. but people still need to come here and live and see it all for themselves.

We did a lot of reading and studying of other countries and cultures. We did not move to Ecuador on a whim, it was a much analyzed decision, which involved mostly cleanliness and abundance of reasonably priced food, family oriented culture and cost of living. We knew what we were walking into before we boarded the plane.

We have lived in Cuenca for five weeks now, and yes, there are a few negatives, (actually some were culture shocks) but our negatives will certainly not be your negatives. Every person and or family has different things that they value and assess as important for them, and so it would be fruitless to take our negatives negatively. 

For an example, a positive aspect for many expats that move to Cuenca is the low cost of health care services and cheaper medications. But this was not even on our list of deciding factors for choosing Ecuador. We have never taken medications and do not see this as an issue for us even as we get older. In that respect the cleanliness of the food supply here in Cuenca (diet) was a big deciding factor for us moving here and is more important to us than the healthcare system.

UPDATE January 2014: We still live in Cuenca 2-1/2 years later. We still like Cuenca. 

Update 2016 - The reasonably priced clean (no GMO) fruits and vegetables is a great reason to (still) live in Cuenca, for us. We're still renting for $250 and we're still enjoying many aspects of Cuenca life, almost five years later.

We are a frugal family, always looking for a bargain. If you have watched any of our family videos you will see just how self sufficient we can be. When we lived in North America we used to buy old furniture and fix it up, we restored old things, and we did a lot of gardening. We love to create something out of what others think is garbage. Example: We tiled a whole fireplace hearth with almost all free tiles. We built a really cool kitchen island from free tiles...etc...etc.

1. No Goodwill’s or Thrift Shops in Cuenca

The number one thing that is a BIG negative for me, more than Frank or my sons is there are no thrift shops here. In Cuenca and in other cities of Ecuador everything you buy is brand new and a lot of it is imported and this makes prices higher. Frank bought some tools and he and the boys are making furniture. So far they have made a dining room table with two benches, bed frames, and a kitchen island on wheels. I will be making a video of our furniture making soon!   

Update 2016 - I don't miss thrift stores as much as I miss buying inexpensive things and restoring them and making them useful; it was one of my hobbies. You can't find things like that here. 

UPDATE: One year later...We have built every piece of furniture in our house. We have saved thousands of dollars. We have Ecuadorians asking us if we'll sell them our furniture if we ever move. See photos here. We're not going to move.

They do have a few used appliance stores here but they still ask twice as much for a used refrigerator and or stove/oven here than they do in the U.S. Do you know why this is? It is because the people here use their stuff until it can’t be fixed anymore and the supply for used things is very slim. Ecuadorians are VERY resourceful people. If something breaks they fix it, instead of giving it to thrift shops or throwing it out, they keep things in the family. I’ve always thought a few thrift shops here in Cuenca would go off really well. The difficult thing would be trying to find the used items to supply your thrift store with! 

2. Chillier than Expected
This just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, or at least agree with someone else’s opinion. All the blogs I read of people who already live here said the weather was perfect, spring like weather. I must say that their spring like weather is more like winter to me.

Well, if you are coming from the south in the northern country (where we came from) spring is really nice, like in the 80’s during the day and upper 50’s at night. The temps here have been like 60’s during the day and upper 30’s at night. To me that is not spring like temperatures but more like fall and winter.

Update 2016 - Not as cold anymore, we're used to the weather. We have a gas heater. 

UPDATE Jan 2014: We visit the beaches of Ecuador all the time. We're writing a new book on traveling the whole Ecuador coast frugally. Look for it soon!

Update 2016 - The DIY Ecuador Coast Guide is published and we have decided to not move to the coast but stay in Cuenca Ecuador where the abundance of produce is much better. We will continue to visit the beaches of Ecuador though, whenever we can. 

Culture Shocks: Some of our negatives we said in this video back in 2011 were actually culture shocks for me such as men peeing in public and the high prices on everything but the produce. Most of the public peeing is seen near and in the Mercados and I just quit going.  We send the boys to do the Mercado shopping now, which is not very often anymore. 

Nothing shocks us anymore in Cuenca; it is what it is. We updated our 12 annoyances video in 2015.Here it is below.
2 New Negatives of Living in Cuenca

1. Postal Service: But we still have the negative of NOT receiving our packages and some mail. Postal service not that great here. Your stuff gets taken...not just in Ecuador either...there's lots of petty thievery in the Latin American postal system.

2. Diesel Fumes from buses keeps us from walking on the busier streets and we end up having to take a bus or taxi. We'd rather walk, but the fumes spewing out of the buses is so unhealthy. River walks are still nice though. The light rail will eradicate a lot of the bus travel and fumes on Las Americas. 

And that is just about it for now. There are a few other things that are a slightly negative, such as the higher price of power tools and electronics, but we’ll talk about that in another article or video. Here's the video of our 12 annoyances.

As you can see, our negatives will not be your negatives; our positives about Cuenca will not be your positives, and your positives and negatives about Cuenca will not be ours. You just need to come here and see it for yourself like we did and like many expats have done. We will continue to give you our experiences and informative articles and videos of what we think about life in Cuenca. 

We hope you enjoyed this update. We think that any Latin American country is going to share in the same negative complaints that people have such as noise, traffic, smog, bad postal system, expensive tools and electronics, petty theft, etc, etc. It really just goes with the territory.

Until the next update!

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We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Is there a town with good infrastructure & internet :D that's a happy medium between Cuenca and the coast? I live in Seattle and am tired of the chilly temperatures and the lack of sunshine from Oct-Apr, yet I don't need to leave near the ocean and I definitely don't like hot, humid weather and bugs. I grew up in Sumter and visit there often, so I have a good idea of what SC is like.

  2. My plans on relocating to Cuenca are in their infancy, to be sure, but I share the same concerns as Diane. We live in Florida and I'm afraid we'll find the weather is too cold for us. I'm hoping to learn more about Loja, and I believe there are some towns north of Quito located at lower elevations. What I'd like to know is do you become acclimated to Cuenca?

  3. Hi. Thanks for commenting.
    I think if you like a place enough you acclimate.
    When we first moved to the South we thought it was hot, but we acclimated. That was a couple of decades ago. As I got older I de-acclimated...96-100 degrees just doesn't agree with me any more.

    Been told Gualaceo is maybe 5degrees warmer, but that might not be what you had in mind.

  4. Funny, I live in CA, USA and have seen men peeing on the wall of a corner store and they have shown videos of people in the US Post office stealing mail. The world is a mess sad to say. Love your videos. Puttytat007

    1. Hi Puttytat, glad you're back, haven't heard from you in awhile.

  5. Hi all. My bride and I hope to retire for half the year in Latin America, November-May. Cuenca is on our list. We loved Buenas Aires but now the govt concerns us. Uruguay is still a possibility but we haven't spent time there. We loved the lake district in Chile, but Pucon gets too busy in their summer season. This year we will be coming to Ecuador in late November/early December, with intention of checking out Cuenca before visiting the Galapagos Islands. Any tips on where to look in Cuenca for potential purchase of an apartment? We are getting close to finalizing our retirement plans. hank you, Nick and Wendy


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