7 Years of Blog Archive


Video Tour of a 190-year old Ecuadorian Colonial Casa with European Influences

This restored colonial casa in Cuenca has lovely detail from different parts of Europe. For instance the ceiling in one of the rooms in German and the tile is Spanish and a lot of the furnishings are French and Italian. The sweet lady who lives in this beautiful home gave us a wonderful tour. As you watch this video notice all the very old antiques and furnishings, simply amazing! Enjoy the video!


$3 Lunch at Govinda's in Cuenca

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Cuenca, so far. It is called Govinda's and they are located downtown Cuenca.  If you like lentils you've got to try the lentil burgers. When we lived in South Carolina I used to make lentils a couple times a month and even made homemade lentil burgers a few times, but these are better than mine.


Can you tell the difference between Italian and Ecuadorian Architecture?

Can you tell the difference between Italian and Ecuadorian Architecture? Which buildings belong to which country? I've made two columns one column is of Italy and another column is of Ecuador. Guess which column belongs to which country! Have fun. Click pictures to enlarge.


The architecture is similar, no doubt about it.  Both countries have their own detail that distinguish them from each other, or do they? Can you tell which column belongs to Ecuador and which to Italy?


Look at all the Food we Bought for $15 Bucks Bargain Shopping at the Mercado in Cuenca

Want to know some more food prices here in Cuenca? Here we are on a typical shopping day buying a few things at the Mercado, Fiera Libre. At the end of this video you will see a bunch of things we bought for just $15.50!


Shops, Restaurants, and Theatres in Mall Del Rio

Are there malls and department stores in Cuenca?

Believe it or not, Cuenca has everything that any other city with a population of half a million would have in the U.S. There are two huge malls, each on different ends of town. We took a short video of one of the malls called “Mall Del Rio”. We were pretty impressed with Mall Del Rio. It has nice restaurants, major retail clothing stores, department stores, several electronic stores, movie theater, café’s, bakeries, candy shops, KFC and Burger King, pizza shops, children’s clothing shops, you name it, it’s here. Who would’ve thought you are in a third world country?

There are three huge Mercado’s scattered throughout Cuenca that sell every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable, cheap! And there are smaller produce stands everywhere. Cuenca boasts two movie theaters; the movie house in Mall Del Rio has five different movies showing at different times throughout the day. Some have English subtitles. We’ve been told there is another movie theatre somewhere in Cuenca, just not sure where it is at this time.

Cuenca has many restaurants, from traditional Ecuadorian fare to Mexican, Columbian, Indian, and Italian. Whatever you are in the mood for, Cuenca has it; although, you will pay more for Italian and Mexican food than for Ecuadorian. The two major grocery stores are Corel and Supermaxi, both have three locations throughout Cuenca. Corel is more of a Wal-Mart type store because they have hardware, electronics, appliances, tools, clothing, linens, house-wares, and groceries. Coral is where we do most of our shopping, except for our produce, which we mostly buy from the farmers at the Mercado.

We have heard that dental and medical care is wonderful here with sparkling clean facilities but at a fraction of the cost you’ll get in the states. In fact, the news headlines are saying that Cuenca Ecuador has the some of the lowest cost medical care in the world. This is one reason so many older expats are moving here to retire. The full story is found here: Medical Tourism Hot Market in Cuenca.

Cuenca has numerous outdoor markets with handmade goods that the local artisans create. You can find beautiful wool blankets and clothing, custom furniture, wooden handicrafts, leather goods, and paintings by the local talent from Cuenca. There are plays a couple a times a month as well as symphony’s and orchestra’s playing at different locations throughout Cuenca. The play Romeo and Julietta is showing in September. I’d like to go to that play.

Yes, there is lots of shopping here in Cuenca, no matter what is on your list; there are about seven museums and other historical places to visit to learn about the history and culture of the Ecuadorian people. Cuenca has four different rivers that run through the city from the Andes Mountains.

And there are beautiful parks and cobblestone streets for leisurely walking. I can pretty much bet that you won’t get bored because there is so much to do and see here.


Another Great Restaurant with $2.75 lunch in Cuenca

We found another good restaurant in Cuenca for only $2.75. For the whole family to eat out for lunch it costs around $15 with tip! The food at Don Vitto's is really fresh and tasty. Here is our family review of this restaurant.


Cost of Living for our Family of Five in Cuenca Ecuador - UPDATED 2016

Monthly Cost of Living for our family of five in Cuenca Ecuador!

UPDATE January 2016: We thought that after living here for 4.5 years we'd bring you an update on our cost of living for our family of five. Is it still the same? Go ahead and take a look at our monthly expenses and at the bottom of the article we'll have another update.

Rent: $250
Water and Electric: was $30 then $70 and now it's $100
Propane (gas): $10
Food: $430
Internet and landline: $55
Cell phone: $10
Vonage: $39
Transportation (bus/taxi) $50
ATM fees: $15 to $20
Entertainment: $100
Misc: $50
Total $1,204

Now, I’ve seen this figure on other blogs for two people at $1,500 so keep in mind it all depends on your needs and wants and how you desire to live. Most of the expenses on our list are fixed costs, such as the rent, utilities, Internet, and phone. These items will stay the same; the only things that could change for us, but probably will not, are food, entertainment and transportation.

Bear in mind, we do not go out to night clubs and spend money on alcohol or tobacco, and rarely eat out in the International style restaurants, because we cook international style at home!

We brought our own clothes and electronics and have no need to buy these things at this time. The bus here only cost $0.25 one way, and the taxi costs between $2.50 and $3.00. We mostly take bus or walk everywhere. Only time we take taxi is occasionally when we are out after dark.

We pay local rent. We did not allow ourselves to be targeted at gringo/expat prices. We live in a nice quiet area with friendly neighbors. Our house is only three years old and is a 3 bed 2-1/2 bath with office and sunroom. Our savings just for rent per month: $300 to $600

Most people buy bottled water which is about $50 a month for two or three people. The tap water is perfectly fresh and clean to drink; comes out of the mountains of the Andes that surround Cuenca. If you would rather not drink the water it would be much more cost effective to buy a filter for your faucet. We’ve not had any issues with drinking the tap water here, and it tastes great!  Our savings: about $50

Update: In 2014 we started using a Berkey filter to filter out chlorine, heavy metals, and fluoride in the drinking water.

As far as food shopping goes, there's three things we do all of the time,which keeps our grocery bill lower.

1. We try to stay away from imported foods which are waaay more expensive.

2. We always buy the produce that is in season.

3. We do not buy frozen, prepared, packaged foods. Other ways we save on groceries is we do not buy alcohol, pet food or cigarettes, all of which are very expensive here.

UPDATE December 2015: Our food costs have gone up just a bit (maybe $40 to $50 more per month) and that's because we only go to the Mercado about once a month instead of once a week. But here is where it evens out. We stopped eating out as much and that was logged in with entertainment and so our entertainment expense is about $50 less now.

So, all in all when you put everything together we're still only spending around $1,000 to $1,100 per month for living expenses in Cuenca Ecuador, for five people, almost five years later. Watch the video below to see how we go local and live well on less in Cuenca Ecuador.

To read more about the nitty-gritty of Cuenca life according to our family experiences, we think you might like these articles too.  


Slideshow of Cuenca Ecuador Architecture and Scenery

We think you will agree, Colonial Cuenca is pretty neat. We would love to hear your comments, feedback, or questions. Do you have a question about Cuenca? Ask below in the comments or email us from the Heaven Ministries website and if we can answer it we'll post it on this blog.


A Popular Expat and Cuencano Hangout in Cuenca is Tutto Freddo Dessert Cafe!

One of the most popular expat hangouts in Cuenca is Tutto Freddo Dessert Cafe right in the heart of downtown Cuenca. It is located right across the street from the square in Cuenca on Benigno Malo & Bolívar in the City Centre.

See what delicious desserts we ordered in the video. Watch out, it might make you hungry for some chocolate crepes!


Expat Family Builds Own Rustic Furniture in Cuenca

Why are we building our own furniture? Well, we might be doing some traveling in Ecuador, such as checking out Salinas and Manta. We may decide to move there. We believe in packing light and until we know for sure which city we may want to live in, we are being more frugal than ever, if that’s possible? Well, for us it is possible because we know how to be quite resourceful. We bought some tools and have made our own bed frames, outside patio table, indoor dining room table with benches, and a kitchen work station or island. This video is about making the dining room table with using just a skil saw and electric drill. After we made the dining room table we also bought a jig saw, cordless drill and a sander to make more furniture.

There are no Goodwill’s or thrift stores in Cuenca. There is seldom furniture for sale in the classifieds, and when there is the price is ridiculous. So, instead of spending thousands of dollars on new furniture, here we are making our own furniture. We looked at kitchen tables to buy and for $150 you can buy a cheap looking dinette set with four chairs, and for about $750 you can buy a dining room table with six chairs. As you know, we have three big sons and a dinette set is just not suited for our family, and we weren’t about to spend that much money on a dining room table until we checked out the coastal areas of Ecuador. Frugality does not mean lack; it means "more for less”, and in this case a quality, sturdy table at 8-1/2 feet in length, which seats 6 to 8 people comfortably.


Cuenca Ecuador Kywi Hardware Store Tool Prices

Once we got here and noticed the prices on some of the tools we really wished that we would have at least packed a few of our smaller tools, such as our Dewalt cordless drill, which goes for $400 here. When coming into Ecuador they allow you to bring tools, electronics, and household items. They have several huge hardware stores here with most of the major brands they sell in the U.S.


Is Cuenca Ecuador the Best City in the World to Live?

In 2009 Cuenca Ecuador was named the best retirement haven in the world and in 2010 it was named the best city to live in the world, according to International Living. So how does International Living come up with their consensus on the best places to retire and live? Well, they send their own people into the cities that have not yet been discovered and they research the area based on the cost of living, weather, culture, crime, healthcare system, etc.

We think it's true what they say about Cuenca. It is a beautiful city full of history, wonderful people, good food, and the cost for rentals and real estate is great if you don't allow yourself to be targeted as a Gringo with lots of money to spend. You can buy so much more with your dollar here in Ecuador. But understand too, some things are just as expensive or more expensive than in North America. Autos for instance are very expensive here, as are electronics, and anything that is imported.

The truth is a lot of people come here and visit for a month and leave never to return because they can't find Skippy peanut butter or their brand of beef hotdogs on the store shelves, or because they don't like living in a home that is behind security bars, or because it just isn't up to their standards. It is best to come here and live for at least a year or two and then decide if it is a place you would like to live and retire.

Is Cuenca Really the Best Place to Retire?

No one, including a big name travel magazine such as International Living can make such a bold statement as to decide for someone else the best place to live and retire. It depends on you and what you feel you need to be happy and free. We concur that Cuenca is a great place to bring your family and live, but you may not agree.

We chose Cuenca for our purpose and motivation. Your motivation may not be the same as ours. The people that come to Cuenca to live and stay are people who become a part of this country rather than remain indifferent to it. If you allow the laid back lifestyle or the different ways that people do things here to discourage you then you will remain indifferent to living here and never truly feel comfortable being here.

Lots of North Americans and Europeans are thinking about moving here, or are already in Cuenca and becoming acquainted with living here. Some gringos will fall in love with the beauty of Cuenca and others will leave and never return, it all depends on what your motivation is and what you feel your needs are to be happy and free. The ones that stay will most likely agree with International Living Magazine, Cuenca is the best city to live in the world. By the way, International Living is now touting Nicaragua as a bargain place to live.


Traditional Ecuadorian Food: We're Eating a Humita in a Panaderia (bakery)

Some of the Ecuadorian food is interesting. A Humita is something that one must acquire a taste for. We believe it is made with corn or hominy. I have never been a fan of hominy. We think it has some white melting cheese, such as queso fresco in it and slight bit of sugar. And finally it is wrapped in a corn husk.

According to Wikeapedia here is the ingredients in an Ecuadorian humita.
in Ecuador humitas are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs and spices that vary on the region, and on each family's tradition. The dough is wrapped in a corn husk, but are steamed rather than baked or boiled. Ecuadorian humitas may also contain cheese. This dish is so traditional in Ecuador that they have developed special pots just for cooking humitas. Ecuadorian humitas can be salty or sweet.


Ecuadorian Pizza?

Ecuadorian pizza is different than pizza most of us are used to. Why? Well, for one thing they do not put tomato sauce on their pizza. Since we live in Ecuador now, I had to try it out. So here are the pizzas. I did make a white sauce with a little garlic, flour, milk, herbs, and Parmesan cheese. Here's what I put on these three pizzas: White sauce, diced green bell pepper, diced red chili peppers, diced red onion, olives, fresh tomato and Ecuadorian cheese called Queso fresco, which is literally translated "fresh cheese". Queso fresco is much like mozzarella cheese with its milky flavor and soft texture. It's pretty good on pizza.

Here's the pizza right out of the oven.

We love pizza around here and I usually make it from scratch at least once or twice a month. In this video I am making pizza from scratch. Frank is really picky about eating Italian food in restaurants. There are a couple of Italian restaurants here in Cuenca, but we have not eaten at them yet. We did try the pizza though and that was when we found out they didn't use tomato sauce. So, was my pizza good? Yes, it was absolutely fantastic! Would I do anything different next time? Yes, I will make at least one of the pizzas with tomato sauce. Feeding three big sons is a challenge sometimes, but it can be rewarding. tomorrow we're going to have lentil burgers, which is another Ecuadorian fare. Well, at least the lentils are. Ciao!


Warming Up In Cuenca! Yahoooooooooooooo

My oldest son Brandon

reminded me today that it is warmed up nicely here in Cuenca. I guess that the Argentina cold front I had previously posted about has passed. In a previous blog post I had said that I was cold and that the spring-like temperatures felt more like winter to me. The last four or five days have been absolutely perfect. The overnight lows have been in the mid 40's and highs in the low to mid 70's. For it being winter here, that is pretty nice weather. I still need a sweater in the mornings, but by afternoon, the sun is usually out which warms things up nicely.


What’s it Like to Live in Cuenca Ecuador?

When we first moved here, about six weeks ago, family and friends were asking us what is it like to live in Cuenca Ecuador? Some of them asked us if there were sheep in the roads. They wanted to know if the roads were gravel roads or paved and they wanted to know if you can drink the water out of the tap.

My very first impression of downtown colonial Cuenca was a feeling of being taken back in time or of being in a southern Italian town. The narrow cobblestone streets line a four-mile by six-mile area which is known as the historic district. There are a lot of very old colonial buildings and museums of Ecuadorian history in this part of town. Huge Cathedrals of vast proportion adorn the city of Cuenca, even if one is not Catholic, it is awe inspiring to see these cathedrals, built of marble, with their tall arched ceilings, and painted murals; it is a sight to see.

Want a Glass of Fresh Goats Milk?

Now had there been sheep in the road, but there weren’t, it would not have surprised me in the least. One day when we were at the Mercado of Feira Libre right off of the road of Las Americas there was a indigenous woman standing on the side of the road to the entrance to the Mercado, offering us fresh goats milk. This goats milk is non pasteurized and non FDA approved coming right out of the goat right there and now! It was so cool! The neat thing is you get to see the goat you are drinking from. Is she healthy looking? Is she clean where cleanliness matter most? Yes on both accounts. This milk is cleaner and healthier than the pasteurized garbage they call milk in the grocery stores.

No Sheep, Only Bulls in the Roads

Now we have seen plenty of cows in the roads and many farmers just tie up their cows and bulls wherever the grass looks green, it may be your own back yard. It’s kind of scary walking right past a bull on the side of the road, but they are quite docile and usually don’t pose too much of a threat. But no, there are not sheep all over the roadways, at least not in the cities; there are only cows and bulls that we have seen so far.

Yes, the Roads Are All Paved

The roads are all paved and very nice and well taken care of. Here in Cuenca there are always road workers improving on parts of the roadways that have gotten worn. The roads are wide and two or three lanes almost everywhere in Cuenca, except for downtown where it is narrow, cobblestone streets. The sidewalks could use some work as many of them are not level and have big gaps and holes in the cement and weird protruding things sticking up from them. If you plan on walking a lot, like we do, wear a pair of comfortable shoes, and do keep an eye on where you are walking, lest you stumble and fall.

The Water Tastes Great!

We’ve lived here going on 6-weeks now and have never bought bottled water. We’ve been drinking the tap water and none of us our sick or dead yet. You really cannot believe everything you read. Some blogs say you can’t drink the water and some say you can. We took our chances and just drink it and we're still drinking it with no problems. The first time I tried the tap water I noticed fresh, almost spring water like taste, unlike in the U.S in the south the water tastes very chemically and metallic. The drinking water in Cuenca comes from the many glacial lakes that are made from the mountains of the Cajas National Park. Yes, you can drink the water in Cuenca but not in the coastal cities.

Cuenca is an emerging, developing city that has good clean water, and better plumbing than elsewhere in Ecuador. It has all of the conveniences you will find in the States or in Europe. Some of the people may still do things in the traditional way or old fashioned way but this is what makes it so incredibly neat to live here. Where else can you drink a glass of fresh milk right from the goat?


Free Cuenca Entertainment in the Downtown Square

Last Monday night Frank, Brandon and I happened to be downtown Cuenca eating dessert at a great restaurant called Tutto Freddo's when all of a sudden they started playing Latin music in the square. People were dancing, watching the fireworks, and enjoying the music with family and friends. I still don't know what the celebration was, but from what I hear, they have these kinds of fireworks and music festivals all the time here in Cuenca. Enjoy the video.

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