10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, September 30, 2011

We Gave a Mini Tour of Cuenca to Visiting Canadians

Yesterday we met up with some really nice People from Canada. Val and her daughter Janelle just got in on the 29th of September and they are visiting for the whole month of October. They are checking out Cuenca to see if they might want to live here for good.

Val and Janelle have been following our blog for some time now and we emailed back and forth before she came down here. Val was nice enough to bring us a 20” flat panel monitor all the way from Canada with her—she carried it with her on the plane as a second carry on. These monitors go for about $190 here, but we paid $95 because it is from Canada where electronics are much better priced.

For her kindness in bringing us the monitor we took her and her daughter Janelle for a mini-tour of downtown Cuenca. We showed them where the parque calderon is; we took them to the tourist office where they got some maps of Cuenca; and we even took them grocery shopping with us at one of our favorite grocery stores downtown Cuenca. We showed them where the big Mercado is and told them a little bit about how to bargain and such. When you’re new in Cuenca it’s easy to get gringoed.

City center area of Cuenca can also be a difficult town to navigate when you are new here—all the streets look sort of the same. I still have problems remembering where certain stores and shops are that I’m looking for. Of course Frank has some great landmarks that make it a little bit easier to navigate when you’re downtown; in fact, because of these landmarks (Two massive Cathedrals) it’s virtually impossible to get lost unless you wander completely away from the center of town.

We’ll definitely meet up again with Val, Janelle, and now a new visitor I am told is here named Rachelle. Hi Rachelle! Rachelle also follows our blog. We hope to show them some more of Cuenca before they leave. It’s really neat to have visitors come to Cuenca and check it out—they’ll probably be amazed with Cuenca just like we were when we first got here, and we still are!

Val asked me yesterday as we were walking along the cobblestone streets in downtown, “So do you guys have any regrets about moving here?”

And my response, “Absolutely not, we’re glad we’re here!”

Hasta Luego!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Etapa Internet Update 2 and... Netflix is in Ecuador NOW!


Someone asked us a few weeks back how it was like to stream Netflix movies. Well, my answer was not that good since Netflix was not even here in Ecuador yet. In July of this year, we did try a free proxy server but I guess Netflix discovered we were using a proxy and they kept cutting us off. But no more...on September 9th Netflix made its debute with ALL Latin American countries! So far trying to stream movies has been a bit iffy. Last week we tried to stream Hulu again and it just wouldn't work. We have not tried Netflix since July and like I said, the proxy server kept cutting off from Netflix. We'll try again.

Here is an article online that talks about Netflix in Latin America. Here is a what they are saying about Netflix in Ecuador. You can read the full article here.

Quote From Article: Many experts have already raised serious concerns over Netflix Strategy in Latin America including Micheal Pachter of Webbush Securities, who says, “This just won’t work in Ecuador or Costa Rica or even Mexico as it has in the U.S, It’s going to depend on how many households have broadband access and what the quality of the content will be like”.

Ummm, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how Netflix is going to do here. 

UPDATE 2014: Yes, we have now been able to stream Netflix in Ecuador without using a proxy or (VPN). We've been doing for over a year. They have a good variety of movies that you can watch through 'Netflix Ecuador' without having to use a proxy. The selection is not as large as what you can get in the states but it is not all that bad either. You will also see in the lists a few Spanish movies with English subtitles. 


Recap: Went down to Etapa with letter in hand (written in Spanish) about Internet service being bad. The letter describes the problems we have been having and is in the post titled “Internet update” on this blog. The woman who helped us said they would call that evening at 5pm and then send someone out to check the wiring…

They never showed up on that day (Monday) but they did show up on Wednesday at around 5:30pm. The repairman checked the wiring inside the house and said there was not a problem, in fact, I forgot to mention this whole time we were having bad Internet Etapa was saying there was not a problem on their end. Anyway, to make a long story short he said it was our computers that had the problem. And Frank told him nicely, “no it is not our computers, it is something on your end, because every single night we have no Internet around 6pm.”

The repairman made a few tests online and he checked our Internet speed and it came out slower than what we are paying ($72 a month) then he said it again, “It’s your computers, I’ll come back out tomorrow (mannana). Before he left Frank explained to him again that out Internet goes out every day after 6pm and we have nada Interent, and the guy promised he’d be back the next day on Thursday to run some more tests.

Well, here’s the clincher folks…oddly enough that night the Internet did not go out after 6pm and it still has not gone out after 6pm like it was doing, and that was 7 days ago. So the repairman did something on his end or Etapa did something and obviously they knew they fixed the problem because the repair guy never called or came back out again.

We’re thrilled we’re not getting cut off after 6pm and for now we’ll stay with Etapa since they did fix that problem. The Internet works pretty decent in the mornings. It still cuts out a couple times throughout the day, for around 5 to 10 minutes, some days this happens five, six, seven times, but we’re fine with that for now as long as it doesn’t start getting any worse, or cutting off altogether again after 6pm.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cuenca Beautiful! Old World Architecture, River Scene and Parque Calderon

We've lived in Cuenca for 3 months now and not a day goes by that we don't enjoy something about Cuenca or discover something new and neat about Cuenca. Some days we'll be walking along the cobblestone streets downtown and I'll see a colonial building that I haven't seen and I'll just have to take a picture. This is where this video comes from--a hodge podge of short videos and photos that I have taken of different areas of Cuenca. Enjoy!

Frank and Angie in the city center parque calderon

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are You Moving to Cuenca? Electronic Gadgets to Pack in Your Suitcase

When we moved here we knew that it was not just for a visit so when we packed we truly thought out the things that we should bring with us. We all brought two suitcases, plus our two carry-on's. We even brought two extra suitcases filled with kitchen gadgets and small electronics that we thought we may need once we got down here to Cuenca. This video is about a few of the items that we are really glad we brought with us.

By the way, I brought two suitcases full of clothes and every single pair of pants and slacks I brought are now too big for me because I have lost over 10 pounds and am now down to a size 8-9 from a 10-12. I'm wearing a belt but that's not even working out too good. So ladies, word of advice from me (Angie) bring pants and slacks a couples sizes smaller than what you wear now. EVERYONE who comes here for any extended amount of time loses weight!!

Oh yeah, Frank says that he wished he would have brought his Spanish verbs dictionary. So if you can get your hands on one of those you might find it will come in handy when you get down here. And if we can think of anything else we wish we would have packed in our suitcase, we'll post it on the blog. Hope the video helps you decide what to bring to Cuenca with you.

*UPDATE= no cayenne or chili powder in Cuenca.  Be advised, if you like to cook.

Take care!
Hasta Luego!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's it Like to Ride the Bus in Cuenca Ecuador?

Riding the bus in Cuenca is an experience you won't want to miss. It's really not all that bad. It only cost a quarter, plus many times there is free entertainment. By free I mean there might be a guy singing, like in this video, or there might be a guy playing a guitar or doing a comedy show. If you like what you hear you can donate (you don't have to) a dime or a quarter--its up to you. We ride the bus if were going downtown or to the Mall Del Rio. This bus ride happens to be on Avenue Las Americas. Watch for an upcoming video of bus ride downtown Cuenca. Enjoy the video!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How We Stay Healthy Eating from Street Vendors and Restaurants in Cuenca

Have you ever been to downtown NYC? There is hotdog and hamburger vendors on the streets just like here in Cuenca. Is it safe to eat from a street vendor on the street in NYC? Is it safe to eat at any restaurant in the U.S, even if it looks clean in the dining room? I know personally of two people who have gotten food poisoning eating in very clean and chic restaurants in the U.S.

My mother ate in a five star stylish steak and seafood restaurant on the Oregon coast and her and the friend she was with both got food poisoning. They were both terribly ill for a week! A friend of ours in Georgia, USA got sick from eating at a barbeque rib style restaurant. The point is looking at the cleanliness of the dining room and even the kitchen will not ensure you won’t get food poisoning.

Sometimes it’s not the restaurants fault—sometimes the food is delivered to the restaurant already contaminated, such as with lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, eggs, etc. This has happened quite often in the U.S because you hear about it on the evening news. There is a lot of contaminated food in the U.S and the chances of getting sick are greater where there is so much unclean food and horrific animal care practices.

Reality dictates that every time we eat out in a restaurant we are taking a risk that a food worker did not wash their hands, or that the vegetables came into the restaurant already with E-Coli, or that the meat sat out too long unrefrigerated and it has salmonella. But because the place looks nice and clean we think it’s ok to eat there.

People have the tendency to use the “out of sight out of mind” attitude. I tend to have this attitude too. Which only means what we don’t know can’t hurt us. Unfortunately this does not hold true. What we don’t know can and will hurt us, like a filthy kitchen, or a food handler not washing their hands, or the food already contaminated with a bacteria before it ever hits the restaurant. These things will remain a mystery to us every time we eat out.

Most of the times you can eat out and never get sick. The other day we ate at a little hamburger joint that didn’t look like it would be a restaurant we should be eating in. But there were lots of locals eating in there and seemingly enjoying their food. Rule of thumb: If the locals eat there it should be ok to eat in. The place seemed a bit rundown and the walls were a bit dingy, but the food was good. We ate in there and never had a problem.

This post is going to be about eating from street vendors. Here in Cuenca, which is a hit or miss when eating from the street vendors. We explain why below. See tips below for safer eating practices when eating from street vendors anywhere in the world. As an update,  (November 2011) just in case anyone is wondering, we've never gotten sick from eating in Cuenca, whether from restaurants or the street vendors. But we are really, really cautious. See our tips below.

Most vendors in Cuenca use gloves when they grab the food or a napkin to handle the food with, and if they don’t, we simply move on to the next street vendor that is using gloves or a napkin to handle the food with. We have noticed some vendors with dirty hands not using anything to pick up the food with and that isn’t a place you should eat at.

Here is our safe eating guidelines for eating from vendors and in restaurants here in Cuenca. BTW, we have never gotten sick and we hope that we never do get sick, but like I said, you are taking a risk when you eat out anywhere in the world.

•Meat and other foods should be grilled or deep fried right there on the spot. Eating French fries and grilled meat and other foods should not pose a problem unless they were already contaminated. Cooking the food thoroughly kills most bacteria.

•Be sure food handlers (street vendors) wear gloves or use a napkin if touching any food

•Never eat cooked foods that are just sitting out in room temperature, especially meat

•Hot foods should be kept hot and cold foods chilled

•Remember: cleanliness or newness of a place does not ensure you won’t get sick

•Tip: If the locals eat there then it is probably ok to eat there too. A well known fact is, tourists joints are usually where you will get sick because you’re on vacation and they won’t ever see you again

•Tip: If there is no soap in the restrooms then that means the food handlers aren’t using soap, unless they are bringing their own, but that is also very unlikely. If there is no soap in the restrooms you really shouldn’t eat there.

•If eating at a buffet don’t touch your finger food with the same hand you used the tongs with. Some people don’t wash their hands and they are using those tongs too

•Everyone should know this one. Wash your own hands before touching any food

•And the best way to ensure never getting sick when eating out? Don't eat out--stay home and eat

If you have any suggestions, comments or feedback, we’d love to hear from you Add your recommendations for staying healthy while eating from street vendors and eating out in restaurants.
Ciao…Take care all!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How NOT to Become a Target of Crime in Cuenca: Our Do's and Dont's For Staying Safe

Crime exists everywhere in the world. It does not matter where we live we still have to be careful, watchful and vigilant. We have to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and family against theft and other crimes. We become targets of crime by flaunting what we have, sharing information about our finances, and not taking necessary precautions to protect our home and valuables—many people are just too trusting. We also become victims of crime by hanging out with the wrong crowd or in the wrong places. Bars and night clubs are frequently targeted for crimes of all kinds because people are more unaware and vulnerable.

To stay personally safe and prevent our things from being stolen we need to be aware of our surroundings, and be due diligent about a few things, especially in the city we live in. Every city has its areas that may not be that great. We have heard that here in Cuenca around the rivers at night and in some of the parks are the areas that the locals say you should be more careful, especially at night.

So far, we have not had any problems of petty crime. We have had a few minor incidences occur though. Once when we were walking down the street by Feira Libre market our oldest son was suddenly grabbed by a drunk. Brandon simply pushed him gently away from him and we continued walking. It bothered me a little but Brandon simply shrugged it off.

And another time we were sitting on a bench in the main square downtown with our backpacks beside us and three suspicious looking young guys were eyeing our packs. We noticed they were eyeing our packs and we just held onto the straps and kept them close to us, just like we always do. After the three dudes walked passed, an Ecuadorian family walked by and the wife looked right at us and said with her lips “watch your bags” and pointed at our backpacks. She must have heard the three guys talking about us and our backpacks. After awhile the three guys left the park.

(BTW, none of us ever carry anything valuable in our packs but an old, cheapy looking cell phone. The backpacks are for when we go grocery shopping, it’s much easier to carry the groceries on your back than in your arms, especially when you’re walking.)

We think it is quite safe downtown Cuenca during the day. There are small children and young women walking alone, there are families out and about and it is very safe feeling. But beware, there are drunks. The best way to not have interaction with them is to not look at them when they walk by. Often times they will beg for money so they can buy more booze. Drunkenness is apparently not illegal in public here. Just ignore them and look away when you see a drunk person. You will be able to tell because they are always staggering. There are AA meetings here. We have seen two locations so far in Ceunca. It seems that alcoholism may be a problem here.

We think that if the Cuecanos seem to feel safe walking downtown with their families then you know it is pretty safe. Still, just like anywhere you need to be aware of what’s going on around you—be alert. This way you will notice if a group of thugs are eyeing out your stuff. FYI, I’ve also read that the thieves work in groups. One will divert you while the other(s) will steal your stuff while you’re busy being distracted by the diverter.

How to Stay Safe and Keep Your Valuables from Being Stolen

Nine times out of ten we cause our valuables to get taken by making it easy for thieves to take our things. When carrying a backpack on your back you wouldn’t put your cell phone in an outside pouch for would-be thieves to simply nab from you, just like you wouldn’t keep your purse hanging from a chair in a restaurant when you go out to eat, right?

Actually some people do these things and then they get their stuff taken all the time, even in the United States. Many of us simply believe it won’t happen to us. Ironically crime happens to the people who think it won’t happen to them…they do not take the necessary precautions.

Blending In Makes it Harder to be a Target

Another reason why you hear stories about gringos having their things taken is because they flaunt their gringoness. They stick out of a crowd like a sore thumb. In other words they talk different, they dress different, they eat in different places, and some of them drink too much and become vulnerable to being a victim to petty crime here in Cuenca. Some of us, no matter how hard we try are always going to look like a gringo, but we can learn to blend in better by integrating with the culture, learning Spanish, and not wearing clothes that make us stand out, and making friends with local Ecuadorians.

We have wonderful Ecuadorian neighbors who let us know if something doesn’t seem right going on in our neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago our Ecuadorian neighbors two German Sheppard’s got loose, and for some reason they thought they were taken and poisoned. Anyway, they came over to let us know what was going on and to make sure we were taking necessary precautions to stay safe since their dogs were not there to bark at would-be prowlers.

You see their dogs also protect our home. Funny thing is, several hours later the dogs came back and the neighbors came back over and let us know they made a mistake. We couldn’t thank them enough for taking the time to let us know what was going on. This tells us we have good neighbors that watch out for each other, and many times that is the best protection against thievery. BTW, we are the only gringos in this neighborhood and we feel pretty safe where we live.

Tourists and Foreign Residents are the Targets of Crime

According to Cuenca police, tourists and foreign residents are the targets of most petty crime that happens in Cuenca. Retired criminology professor and part-time Cuenca resident Martin Simmons says, “I'm hearing about more and more crime against foreigners and my friends in law enforcement say much of it is because they don't protect themselves."

For the record, says Simmons, Cuenca is safer than almost any city its size in the U.S. if you are considering serious crime and crime involving violence. “If you look at crime statistics, Ecuador has about 30% as many cases, per capita, of murder and aggravated assault. The rate is even lower in Cuenca. So you are statistically safer here from serious harm than in other places.”

Here is our Dont's for Staying Safe in Cuenca

•Don’t go out alone at night (we have made it a rule to use the buddy system)
•Don’t ride the bus after 7pm (we ALWAYS take a taxi if we are out after 7pm)
•Don’t flaunt your jewelry and valuables
•Don’t drink too much
•Don’t flash your money
•Don’t let your gringo wife walk anywhere by herself at night
(some women will get cat-called, they will be ogled at and whistled at, sometimes even if her husband is with her, just letting you know what it's like here...DON'T PAY ANY ATTENTION, KEEP WALKING)
•Don’t expose all of the things in your bags in public view
•Don’t carry your passport with you. (we all carry notarized copies of our passports and ID)
•Don’t act like a bumbling lost gringo; you make yourself vulnerable when you do
•Don’t use ATM’s on the streets, especially at night. Use the ATM’s inside the banks or shopping malls
•Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket
•Don’t carry a purse around the city with you

(NEW UPDATED 2015 Dont's)
*Don't be too trusting but rather REALLY get to know someone BEFORE you allow him or her into your home, confide personal information to, and or befriend them, and do business dealings with them.

* Don't act intimidated if you feel you are being watched by a group of people or even by an individual. If they keep eying you out, look them straight in the eye and don't act scared. This lets them know, YOU ARE ON TO THEM.
* Don't live in gringo enclaves that iisolates your house from the locals. Don't live larger than your neighbors. Live like the locals, blend in and help watch each other's backs!!

  Here is our Do’s for Staying Safe in Cuenca

•Do try and blend in with the culture as much as possible (they don’t wear short-shorts or Hawaiian shirts here. You can dress like that if you want, but you will look REALLY touristy and gringoish)
•Do watch your bags and backpacks closely; when in a restaurant or Internet café keep the strap tied around your wrist or leg. Never leave your bags unattended
•Do set the alarm in your home when you leave and make sure gate is locked
•Do keep your gate shut and locked at all times, even when you’re home. Most homes have a buzzer and when people need to speak with you they buzz you and it rings a phone in your home. This way you can actually talk to them and look out the window and see if it is someone you should open the gate to
•Do make friends with your Ecuadorian neighbors because they will report anything suspicious in your neighborhood
•Do go to Feira Libra with a buddy during the day even if other gringos tell you it is not safe (we go to Feira Libre once a week, sometimes twice a week and never ever had a problem or noticed anything shifty)
•Do try and learn Spanish
•Do take the bus once in awhile (if we do not walk we usually take the bus, maybe we’ll see you on there) It’s an experience that you will not want to miss, sometimes there is free entertainment. The bus can get crowded at times and that’s when to watch your wallet and packs.
•Do watch for an up-coming video on us taking the bus in Cuenca

These do’s and dont's are certainly not exhaustive. We will probably add to the list as circumstances permit. The bottom line is although you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times; it certainly does not mean you can’t enjoy your stay, visit, or life in Cuenca. Don’t let some of the petty crime publicity or latest gringo murder, make you fearful to take the bus, or to walk outside of your gated community, or make friends with the local people because then you’re not really enjoying all that Cuenca has to offer. Remember the buddy system, be cautious and enjoy your time here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cuenca Downtown Web Cam Looking out the Window of Tutto Freddo's

While we were enjoying a dessert and having a cappuccino in our favorite dessert cafe Tutto Freddo's we thought it would be neat to put the camera in the window and take a video of a very busy corner of Cuenca. Actually in the downtown area every corner is kind of busy. In this video it is about 6:30 in the evening and people are still out and about shopping and enjoying life with their family. Watching a web cam of a place, seeing the people, cars, etc can give you a "feel" of the place as if you are there. Well, this is across the street from the main square in el centro Cuenca Ecuador. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Living Frugal, Healthy, Happy, and Free in Cuenca

Are you all vegetarians?   

Someone commented on one of our restaurant videos; they asked if we were vegetarians. We get asked that a lot. The answer to that question is no, we are not vegetarians. But we do try to limit our intake of meat to only twice a week because we have found it to be healthier than eating meat every day.

I know that our videos usually show us eating at a vegetarian restaurant or preparing vegetarian pizza, pasta, or pesto in our kitchen at home and it just so happens that was a day without meat. We do eat chicken, some fish, and even hamburgers (usually made with ground turkey) occasionally. We also eat eggs and some dairy.

We bought some ground beef at Coral and it was virtually fat free and about the same price as in the U.S. When cooking the meat into hamburger patties it literally stuck to the frying pan because there was no fat! The meat was actually too dry because of the lack of fat, if that is possible. The ground beef at Super Maxi is not as dry and better tasting, in our opinion. 

The videos of us eating out in restaurants is at almuerzos (lunch) time here. Typically almuerzos comes with a bowl of soup, a raw veggie salad, rice, lentils or beans, a meat (usually chicken or beef), and a freshly squeezed juice or a small dessert for $2, give or take $0.50. It is a great deal for the price.

We probably eat lunch out twice a week because we are almost always out and about at lunch time; the food is quite wholesome and good priced, so we take advantage of the many traditional Ecuadorian restaurants in Cuenca. We would prefer brown rice but we eat a lot of that at home.

For your information we have never gotten sick from drinking the tap water or eating out in Cuenca, ever!

We usually eat home for dinner and we cook, or well, I cook.  When Frank and I first met, I was still a kid. I was 19 and did not know how to (sorry mom :-)) boil an egg, seriously! Oddly enough, Frank and his mother taught me how to make a few things, but most of my cooking abilities came from trial and error. It took me about 3-years to master bread-making. I finally figured that one out. Now, I (usually) enjoy cooking and prepare International cuisine for my family; mostly, Italian, Mexican and Asian dishes.. I'm learning to prepare some of the Ecuadorian dishes too. Last week I made tomatillo salsa to put on brown rice. It was pretty good.

On another note, Frank and I did try one of the Italian/Greek Restaurants here and we liked it a lot. I had the Spaghetti Carbanara for $4.95 and he had stuffed cheese filled raviolis with an incredible blue cheese sauce for $4.95. We left satisfied, probably not as healthy and a pound heavier, but we both said we’d go back. The restaurant is located in Mall Del Rio called Creta.

We are living frugal, healthy, happy, and free here in Cuenca! And we want to show you how you can too.

The DIY Cuenca Landing Guide book we wrote to help newcomers to Cuenca  details how we have lived frugal, healthy, happy, and free since living in Cuenca for the last 9-months; we share our favorite restaurants, places to go, sites to see, in this guide book, plus much more to help your life here in Cuenca easier and less stressful.

 If you are on a budget and if you do not want to be targeted as a rich gringo then this guide book will show you exactly what we are doing now, living frugal, healthy, happy, and free in Cuenca!

Health-wise we really like the abundance of fresh food in Cuenca. It is one of the reasons wee like Ecuador so much, and especially Cuenca for it’s wonderful veggie markets…we can hardly contain our enthusiasm about the quality of the food here…well…need I really say more? If you haven’t seen the video here it is….


                           And the chicken is the best tasting chicken we have ever had, no kidding…

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What is Medical Care Like in Cuenca Ecuador?

Someone asked what the medical care is like in Cuenca. We can’t personally answer this question because we have not been to a doctor or dentist, yet, but we have heard that the medical care here is very good. I came upon a great article about the medical system, which I am passing along to our readers. It lists some of the costs of medical procedures here in Cuenca. There is a huge hospital here in Cuenca called Mount Sinai and apparently they have an English speaking staff. We went inside one day to use the restroom and the first floor was like a mini mall, it was modern and sparkling clean and had a nice pharmacy. There are pharmacies every couple of blocks here, so you will not have a problem filling your prescriptions.

Hospital Monte Sinai
Miguel Cordero 6-111 y Av. Solano
Tel: 593 7 2885595

One interesting thing about Cuenca is there are a lot of health food stores that sell all kinds of herbs, health concoctions, vitamins, and cleanses such as the Psyllium husk colon cleanse. I like psyllium husks myself and I do the psyllium husk cleanse every couple of years. I also take a maintenance dose of a tablespoon of psyllium each morning with black strap molasses because it helps keep me regular.

I looked for psyllium here in one of the natural health stores and found whole psyllium husks but there are also two other ingredients in it--papaya and mangoes---so I thought that was interesting and I bought a canister of it.

Here is the article I found on Cuenca Ecuador Retirement. Enjoy!

Medical Tourism - Hot Market in Cuenca Ecuador

Although the low cost of health care in Cuenca has long been a draw for foreigners relocating to the city, it is beginning to catch the interest of international medical tourism companies.

Alex McClellan, a former U.S. hospital administrator, says he expects to see increasing numbers of foreigners take advantage of Ecuador´s low medical costs. And, he adds, Cuenca is poised to capture much of the market. McClellan, who has worked in the medical tourism industry in Mexico, Inida, China and Malaysia, says he is forming a Quito-based company and plans to center much of his service in Cuenca. “We have brought our first clients to the city and have been very impressed with the results.”

According to Ecuador´s Investment Corporation (INVECE), costs for major medical procedures generally run just 7% to 10% of those in the U.S. and many European countries. McClellan adds that medical care in Ecuador is substantially cheaper than that in better-known medical tourism destinations, mostly in Asia and Central America, often by as much as 50%
INVECE director Xavier Patiño has compiled a cost comparison list of medical procedures in the U.S. and Ecuador, including:

A heart bypass: $130,000 in the U.S. vs. $10,000 in Cuenca. A heart valve replacement: $160,000 vs. $15,000. Repair of a cerebral aneurysm: $200,000 vs. $10,000. Insertion of a heart pacemaker: $150,000 vs. $10,000. Hip or knee replacement: $43,000 to $51,000 vs. $8,000 in Cuenca.

Patiño says that it is not just foreigners coming to Ecuador for medical care. “We see many Ecuadorians who live in the U.S. come home for services.”

Xavier Crespo, a Cuenca native working as a financial advisor in Miami brings his family home twice a year for medical check-up and dental work. “The savings more than pay for the trip and we get to spend time with our family.” He adds: “From personal experience I can say the care is actually better here than in the U.S. The doctors are able to spend much more time with patients and don´t have to rely on all the tests that doctors are required to perform there.”

Dentistry is another area where patients see a large price differential. Cuenca dentist Nelly Sacoto says she has seen a rapid increase in the number of foreigners coming to her practice for care. She points out that she can install a porcelain crown for $200 while the procedure costs $2,000 in the U.S.. “Because many dentists in Cuenca have training in the Europe and the U.S., foreign patients have a higher degree of confidence in the local dentistry.”

Another Cuenca dentist, Marcelo Guillén, says he is seeing many foreign elderly patients. “There seem to be more and more retirees moving to the city and many of them are pleased with the dentistry here, especially in the area of aesthetic reconstruction. For them, it is very economical in Cuenca.”

McClellan, who says he has established relationships with two Cuenca hospitals and more than a dozen medical specialists, cautions that there is much more to good medical care than cheap prices. “It is important to work with an organization that has a solid track record in medical tourism. For potential patients, it is definitely a buyer-beware situation.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Real Estate Prices Up in Cuenca: How to Still Get a Bargain when Buying a House

We’ve read that property prices have shot up 20% since Cuenca was first named the best retirement haven in the world in 2009. We’ve been watching the market real close since then and property prices have definitely increased. A lot of the increase is not by expats but by returning Ecuadorians.  Another fact is, real estate prices in Ecuador have always been high, especially land in the city...and this told to us from an Ecuadorian.

Remember, you cannot go by the listed Internet prices. In other words, the price you see on the Internet is much higher than what the price of a property should really go for.

I do a lot of online research and I have noticed that a few of the real estate companies for Ecuador are not even based in Ecuador—they are based in the U.S. Now, what this tells us is a big price mark up. We’re not telling you how to do things but we are letting you know there are other ways of buying properties without going through a real estate company.

If you really want to go through a real estate company make sure they are actually based in the city where you are buying the house from and that no agent living in the U.S will be getting anything from the sale. Ecuador does have FSBO's as well. 

It’s paradoxical but it is not the Ecuadorians targeting gringos that you have to worry about too much—it’s the gringos targeting gringos!  I hope you didn’t miss that. You have to be willing to walk away. There are a lot of folks in the Ecuador real estate market right now because it’s going to be hot and everyone and their grandma wants to get in on the action. It’s sad and unfortunately, it’s true.

UPDATE: 2015 - we don't think the Ecuador real estate market is that hot right now. Most people moving to Cuenca, rent rather than buy, at least right away. They have heard some of the scary property buying fiasco's and are staying wary of jumping in with both feet and that's good. 

As most of you know we are frugal and we like to do most things ourselves without having a middleman involved and it is mostly because of this kind of thing going on…it’s how we gringos get targeted for overpriced properties. Remember, you are most likely to overpay if you’re new to Ecuador, and Cuenca. Ms. Diligence asks: Have you lived here for at least a year before making a decision about buying in Cuenca or Ecuador in general?

About listed property prices: You can try and get a better price when you come to visit but it will still be overpriced because the listed price is way overpriced to begin with. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s fun to look at houses online from the comfort of your own home, and it’s nice to have a big list of houses to look at, but it will be much better to come here and then get the addresses to the houses and then go look at them. When you see a home you like, leave a note on the door in Spanish for the owner to contact you directly.

English Speaking Real-estate vs. Spanish Speaking Real-estate

When I look in the Ecuadorian classifieds in the newspaper for homes for sale, more than half say, “Price is negotiable”. Not only that, but home prices are more reasonable. Not all of them, but a lot of them are. This is because their main target is their own people—Ecuadorians targeting Ecuadorians. The best way to find a house bargain here is to not be in a hurry, meet locals, and go out and look at homes every single day. If you do this, you will know the market--then and only then should you think about an offer. You may have to hire a translator if you don’t speak Spanish.

So in a nutshell, talk to some of the friendly locals, get the house addresses and go look at them, leave a note for the owner on the door and find a bargain priced property yourself? It may take months and months of looking and doing research and walking around, but hey, it will be well worth your effort in the end. Once you have actually negotiated a price with the owner then if you need to use the real-estate company the house is listed with there will be no targeting and no agendas.

Most of the real-estate online Internet companies for Ecuador like to give you a good spiel about “how not to get targeted as a foreigner when buying property in Ecuador”. It all sounds good and nice but their prices reflect differently than what they say on their website. They are in fact already targeting you as a foreigner!

A Gringo the other day was bragging all over the blogs and forums about how cheap their beach home is they just bought for $110,000. But get this, International Living brags that you can buy both a beach home and a mountain home here in Ecuador for $125,000. Not if you already paid $110,000 for your beach front home!!

See, those gringos bragging about buying a house on the beach for $110,000 did not buy a bargain. They bought an overinflated 3 bedroom house on the beach, and only think they got a bargain because they compared it to beach front homes in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where you cannot buy a tiny lot on the beach for $110,000, let alone a three bedroom home!

A friend who lives in Mexico told us you can get a brand new 200 square meter house built for 70k. And Mexico is more expensive than Ecuador, so how is it that we see houses advertised for twice as much in Cuenca Ecuador on the internet?

The truth is the advertised property prices are not that great here. You got to be diligent and do your own research. Even the more wealthy Ecuadorians who are coming back from the U.S where they have lived and worked most of their adult life are getting targeted with gringo prices! They have not lived here so they don’t know that a beach house for $110,000 should actually only be about $60,000 to $75,000 brand new! They don’t know that. All they know is what they keep hearing and reading in the paper. They keep reading and hearing about this: Cuenca Ecuador best retirement haven in 2011 for the third consecutive year in a row…

Monday, September 12, 2011

How We Saved Thousands Building Our own Furniture in Cuenca!

I think I've posted about the furniture expense of when you first move here. It can be very expensive to furnish a home or apartment when you come to Cuenca. We found a work around that expense-we built our own! Being frugal as we are, we have literally saved thousands of dollars by building our own dining table, bed frames, kitchen island, computer desk and now in this video, these two couches. Enjoy the video! More furniture building coming soon!

Stay tuned for our "How to" videos on how to (step by step) make your own furniture and save money like we did.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cuenca Best Retirment City in the World? -- More Little Annoyances about Cuenca (Part 2)

Part two of this video ends with little annoyances that you just have to laugh about...and we do! As we have talked about previously, no place in the world is going to be perfect. The idea for doing this video about our annoyances with Cuenca is to let people know that there are a few annoyances here, just like there are BIG annoyances living anywhere in the world. We still love Cuenca! But don't come here with rose-colored glasses on...we hope this video helps you to take them off and see the "real Cuenca". Enjoy the video.

Coming soon! 15 Great Things about Cuenca Ecuador!!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Is Cuenca the Best City in the World? 12 Annoying Things About Cuenca (Part 1)

There has been a lot of hype about Cuenca being the best place to live in the world. Well, that's an opinion. As promised, here is our video on 12 annoying things about Cuenca Ecuador, according to our perspective, in fact, you may not agree with everything said in this video. We still like Cuenca and we always will, but this video lets people know the REAL Cuenca according to our views. Even though each of us in our family has a few annoyances it surely doesn't mean we wouldn't want to live here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

They Really LOVE Chicken in Cuenca Ecuador!

Out of all the fast food restaurants they could have brought here from North America, they chose KFC. Cuecanos love Kentucky Fried Chicken, baked chicken, boiled chicken and chicken grilled on the grill. Walking down the street on Avenue Las Americas there are two mom and pop restaurants, not one mile from each other, and they both cook grilled chicken on the big outdoor grill for lunch and dinner for about $3, which comes with rice, of course.

You can buy a whole chicken, hormone free for about $5 to $7. And it is the best tasting chicken we've ever eaten!!

Outdoor vendors are always cooking chicken on skewers with vegetables for $1 on the side of the street. If you haven't already figured it out, chicken is the meat of choice here in Cuenca.

They love chicken here more than beef or pork. but they also love to do the pig hanging on a skewer on the weekends. I don't have a picture of that yet.

They also get into hot dogs and sausages here with papas frittas (french fries).

And they love Cuye!! Never tried it yet! Ugh, don't think I will. Click on the picture and see if you can guess what Cuye is from the picture on the menu of this restaurant.

Did you guess? That's right it's Guinea pig. A traditional Ecuadorian food here is Guinea pig (cuye)!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Cuenca Ecuador Ranked Best Retirement Haven in the World for 2011, Again!

Three days ago, International Living published the winner of the best place to retire in the world. For the third consecutive year in a row, Cuenca has been named the best place to retire in the world by International Living. You can read the full story here.

Even though IL has named Cuenca the best place to retire in the world, it is not perfect. In fact, many people come here and don’t like it and they leave. Would you like to retire in Ecuador? Well, you’d have to come here and see for yourself if Ecuador is the place for you. No one can decide the ideal place for you and your family to live.

I will say this, some things you may not like about Ecuador. Be on the lookout for our next video coming up about our “likes” and “dislikes” about living in Cuenca Ecuador.

A little sneak peak about this video will talk about the weather. Now most people call the weather in Cuenca perfect, but it is not perfect for everyone. Some people truly enjoy being a bit chilly all day long, but I for one, do not like being chilly. We will talk about Internet and connectivity, shopping for furniture and appliances, and other important issues that you will want to know if you are thinking about moving/retiring here in Cuenca.

Today we bought 3 big pineapples for $1

We bought 12 tangerines for $1

And we bought a big bunch of red bananas for $1

One of our definite likes is the clean food at a great price. Health is very important to us and since living here in Cuenca and eating fresh food we have noticed improvement to our health from losing weight to having better skin tone and complexion. Stay tuned for this video on our "likes" and "dislikes" about Cuenca. Until then Hasta Lavista

Sunday, September 04, 2011

$2.20 Ecuadorian Lunch at 'Hostal Caribe Inn' Cuenca

Hostal Caribe Inn serves up a lot of traditional Ecuadorian food for just $2.20. The only negative about eating at the 'Hostal Caribe Inn' is they sometimes have the TV turned up too loud.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Frugal Cooking: Northern Italian Creamy Pesto

Fresh basil is so cheap here that Frank thinks we should eat pesto once a week! Where else can you feed a family of five for under a $3? This price includes the cheese, milk, garlic, and pasta. If you like pesto you will love creamy pesto the way the Northern Italians make it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Condo's in Cuenca ALL LOOK the SAME!

The condos in these pictures are not just for gringos; they are for anyone who wants to pay around $400 for a furnished one bedroom and $750 for furnished three bedroom, give or take a hundred. I mean not everyone is frugal. These condos all happen to be off of the main street of Avenue Las Americas and Avenue 12 De Abril by one of the Supermaxi stores.

We walked up to Supermaxi yesterday to buy our usual Parmesan cheese and olive oil and I shot these pictures on the way up there.

Cuenca is a neat city! We love Cuenca!

As you can see by the photos, not all of Cuenca looks old like Italy; that's just downtown in the city center. Cuenca also has its newer sections.

But notice how all of the condos look the same.

I'm not sure if this building is a condo or office building, but it is probably both.

Before I end this post I want to share with you the gasoline prices here in Cuenca. If you can't read the price, click on the picture.