7 Years of Blog Archive


10 Good Restaurants in Cuenca for $3 or Less

The title above is the name of our new FREE eBook for our devoted readers and followers. We hope you enjoy this restaurant guide and when you come to Cuenca that it will come in handy for you when your stomach starts growling as you’re walking around in downtown Cuenca trying to figure out a good place to eat.

If you have any questions let us know. And if you want you can let us know what you thought of 10 Good Restaurants in Cuenca for $3 or less. 

UPDATE: We've Updated the restaurant guide and it now has 16 restaurants. Click here to see the new restaurant guide.


Comments about Life in Cuenca after Living Here Five Months

We’ve had a few of our readers ask us if we still like Cuenca and if we have any regrets about moving here. Nope, we have no regrets about moving to Cuenca. We did our “due diligent” research before moving here, probably just like you are doing right now...as you decide where you might want to move to. Frank even got on Skype with several expats that have already lived here for several years and asked a bunch of questions about EVERYTHING!

The other day we’re just sitting in the town square and without letting the boys know what we were doing, we just started videotaping them. Yes, they were all three put on the spot and so was Frank. We hate rehearsed videos. We asked them if they still like Cuenca after living here now for 5-months. Here’s their off the cuff responses. Enjoy the video!



5 Ways to Save Money in Cuenca

There are lots of great ways to save money and we used to take advantage of many of those money saving ideas, even when we lived in the states. One of those was to stock up on an item when it went on sale. Here the food is already so cheap there is no need to stock up. But we have found that where you shop does make a difference.

1)Negotiate -- If you learn to negotiate you’ll get the local prices. There is no reason why you should pay more for something if you live here.

2)Stay out of gringo only neighborhoods -- When renting or buying you’re going to get the best deal when you stay out of gringo areas. We live in a Ecuadorian neighborhood and our house is pretty nice for $250 a month and we have friendly Ecuadorian neighbors too.

3)Don’t own a car-- We found out today from a Ecuadorian that there are 4,500 taxi’s just in Cuenca--they are everywhere. And there are just about that many city buses. You don’t need a car here.

4)Eat in Ecuadorian Restaurants – For about $2 on average you can eat a healthful lunch. You’ll also get really great service. Ecuadorian wait staff are VERY efficient.

5)Buy fruits and veggies at the mercados—You will save a lot if you buy your produce at one of the three major mercados located in Cuenca rather than at the grocery store.

And remember: Learning just a little bit of Spanish is going to help you to save money because you’ll be able to negotiate better with the locals and you’ll feel more comfortable renting or buying in a local neighborhood, plus you’ll truly enjoy ALL that Cuenca has to offer.


We Downgraded our Internet Speed and it’s Faster Now!

Why would someone downgrade their Internet speed? Well, when you never seem to get the speed that you pay for, it makes sense to reduce the monthly cost of your Internet service. This is what’s been happening to us. So, we finally decided to take action.

We were paying $72 for 3 megs and funny thing is every time we checked to see what our Internet speed was, it was never 3 megs; it was usually somewhere around 2.1 megs or sometimes even slower. How can this be when you're paying for 3 megs of speed...Ummmm…this doesn’t sound right.

Four days ago we went to ETAPA Internet and downgraded our service to 2 Megs for $52. And guess what? There’s no difference, in fact, it seems to be even faster now that we have downgraded our speed from 3 to 2 Megs!! Go figure, you’re in Cuenca Ecuador! No worries, be happy!

BTW, I just now tested our Internet speed and it was 2.56 Megs. It’s working pretty good tonight. Anyone can test their internet speed by going to http://speedtest.net/ It’s neat because it automatically detects where you live in the world and in about 5 seconds gives you your Internet speed.

Update August 2013: ETAPA has upgraded their Internet service and when I ping the service the speed is around 6 megs or higher now...better.


How to Make Vegetarian Empanadas: Traditional Ecuadorian Food

Empanadas are a traditional food of many Latin American Countries. They can be deep fried or baked. It can be stuffed with fruit, meats, cheeses, or vegetables. We’ve tried both, baked and deep fried and we all agree the deep fried empanadas are the best. Unfortunately, deep fried foods aren’t that good for your health so we only make these once a month. They are a treat. See bottom of post for the recipe to make these vegetarian empanadas in the video. Enjoy video!


Spinach and Cheese Empanadas
(you can put anything you want in empanada wraps, so get creative
and make your own style of empanadas.)


2 big bunches of fresh spinach, steamed (or any fresh vegetable of your choice)
2 Lbs Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 red pepper or ½ tablespoon cayenne (optional)
salt and seasonings and herbs of your choice
Olive oil for sautéing
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Empanada wraps


Steam the spinach and set aside. Sauté garlic in three tablespoons olive oil until browned. Add diced onion, tomato, and diced red pepper if using, and cook for another five minutes on medium heat. Add spinach and seasonings and herbs of your choice.

For an Italian flavor add a tablespoon each of basil and oregano. For a more Mexican flavor add a teaspoon each of chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Stir and cook together on low for five minutes. Turn off heat. Grate cheese. Add a tablespoon each of spinach and cheese just like you see in the video and wrap the seams of the empanada real good so the food does not fall out while deep frying.

Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees and cook each empanada until browned on each side. Enjoy!


10 things to Consider before Moving to Cuenca Ecuador

Most people have now heard about the wonderful cost of living that is found in Cuenca Ecuador. If by chance you didn’t know about the splendor of Cuenca then let me reiterate. International Living named Cuenca Ecuador the top retirement city in the world for the third year in a row based on cost of living, weather, medical and dental, crime, etc.

Many people from North America and Europe are considering moving to Ecuador as a possible retirement destination. And for the most part all of the things that International Living says about Ecuador are true. But what about the things that you never hear about, or what about the things that you just don’t think of because you really, really want your retirement money to go further so you can live a better life and be in a beautiful country? Here are some things you may have not considered.

1.Family: If you leave family behind (daughters, sons and grandchildren) will you miss them and want to move back? If you are a close knit family in the states and you move to Ecuador, you better believe you will miss them. Yes, you can go visit them but will your budget permit that?

2.Cost of Living: Ah yes, your money will go further here but is this the only reason you want to move to Ecuador? If money is your top priority for moving to a new place so far away from your normal activities and day to day living, you may find that this new place is not for you.

3.Euphoria: Traveling and visiting other countries is a blast but once the newness wears off and the scenery, food, and atmosphere become the same old thing you wake up to every day, will you still like Ecuador for retirement? This depends on what type of person you are. If you are the type of person that makes their own happiness, without relying on others and outside circumstances to make them happy then you’ll do just fine here.

4.Altitude sickness: Some people cannot live in high altitudes because it bothers their asthma and some people have panic attacks. We know of one couple that had to leave Cuenca because the wife was becoming ill from the high altitude. Cuenca Ecuador is quite high at 8,301 ft. Most folks only experience slight dizziness and being out of breath for the first week or so, but those with asthma, or heart and lung conditions should consider the altitude before moving here. Check with your health care practitioner before making such a move.
Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness

5.Culture Shock: some people become so shocked by the culture that they can’t take it and have to leave. What is culture shock? A state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment. Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_shock/

6.Weather: Yes, yes, yes, it’s all true what people say about the weather, it is quite mild. Generally the weather is between 60ish and 70ish every single day. But what we have observed is it is more cloudy than sunny. Frank doesn’t seem to mind this as much as I do; I love sunny days. But I am learning to adapt and that is what most of us long-timers do. 

7.Crime: Word is out about Cuenca being promoted as the best gringo haven and now hungry thieves from Guayaquil and other cities are coming here to help relieve us of our materialistic burden of having too much. Stay aware of what you're doing. 

We have not experienced any problems with thievery, but look at us, we’re a family of five tall people, and we walk around usually in a group, perhaps we look like a gang of thieves to them. We don’t stay out past 8pm. Plus we walk with purpose and don’t act vulnerable—we never walk around solo. We also think that some of the locals think Frank is an Ecuadorian, which helps us because they don’t rob their own generally speaking. They target gringos.

8.Restaurant Business? A lot of expats think they will move here and start a restaurant or hostel/B&B, but think again. There are already too many restaurants and hostels in Cuenca and it’s very risky to start such a venture with so much competition already in this area.

9. Going Local: Are you willing to learn basic Spanish and have Ecuadorian friends and interact with the locals, at least on some level? If not, you will most likely feel isolated and not be very happy here.  We have found the happiest expats are the ones with a "live and let live attitude". Believe us, not everything is going to be going your way.

10.Shipping Your Stuff and Buying Stuff: Ok, so you’re absolutely sure that Cuenca is where you want to hang your hat, not just because of cost of living but because of the friendly people, beautiful country, wonderful springtime (riiiight) weather, and the family oriented lifestyle and culture.

Should you ship your stuff or buy your stuff when you get here. We can’t decide this for you…this is something that only you can decide because of your circumstances, but I can tell you this. You can buy just about everything you need here to furnish your new home or condo but it does cost a bit more than what it does in the states. Electronics cost about twice as much, so you might want to bring your laptops and other favorite electronics with you.


Tarantula Spider in our House in Cuenca Ecuador!

Yes, you read the title right; there was a big (baby) hairy tarantula spider in our house last night! Brandon got up at around 11:30pm to get a drink of water and when he switched on the kitchen light there it was on the floor in the corner of our kitchen! Eek! He had one leg up on the cupboard like he was getting ready to crawl up onto my kitchen counters!


The boys were making such a ruckus that Frank and I go rushing out to the kitchen to see what’s going on and we see this big hairy tarantula in the middle of the kitchen floor! But this is not the Ecuadorian jungle! You mean there are these kinds of spiders in Cuenca!? I could barely go near it to take some pictures. The only time we have ever seen a tarantula spider was at the Brownsville zoo in Texas.

Where did it come from we have no idea. Did she lay eggs somewhere in a corner of our kitchen cupboards, we have no idea. Will we see more of these long legged, hairy creatures in our home!? Eeeeeeeeek! I hope not! I think we live in South America after all.


Food in the U.S was making Us Fat and Unhealthy!

Losing Weight

It goes with the territory when living in Cuenca—you lose weight! Nothing wrong with that, uh? The best way you can figure out if a food is making you fat is to simply stop eating that food. The odd thing is, we’re still eating the same foods we were eating in the states but we’re all (family of five) still losing weight.

And just yesterday I was talking to a lady who has lived here one year and she has lost 18 pounds. A couple days ago we were kidding around about how here in Ecuador you can still eat meat, pastries, and fried foods and still lose weight. But it’s true!


I used to get eczema (itchy rash) on my hands all the time. I never figured out what that was from. I speculated the rash was from eating out and eating processed foods and desserts. Since living in Cuenca the rash went away the first month and it has never returned. Not only that, but my complexion and skin tone have also improved. I used to have a double chin and its gone too. we've all seen nothing but improvements to our health, and we know for a fact it is the food.

More energy

We hate to say it, but since we have stopped eating food in the U.S we feel better and have more energy. We've been told that all of the hormones in the meat in the U.S cause weight gain and other disorders. And all of the pesticides and stuff they spray on the food causes skin rashes, asthma, and other immune deficiency issues.

We believe it! We see positive improvements to our health since being here only 4-1/2 months. We also walk a lot all over Cuenca and we're sure that too has contributed to losing some weight. But…I was jogging on the tread mill before we came to Cuenca and I was not losing weight then.…go figure.

We’re not the only ones who lose weight or notice positive health changes. Watch the video and hear what others are saying about the food quality in Ecuador. Enjoy!


Refrigerator and Stove Prices in Cuenca

Yesterday as we walked around downtown Cuenca I took some snapshots of some refrigerators, stoves and furniture. There are numerous appliance stores downtown with competitive prices.  The prices of the refrigerators (for the quality of the fridge) are a little better priced than we've seen here in Cuenca. (See furniture photos here)




$1720 (GE)

White fridge is $824

If you buy a refrigerator any cheaper than these, its going to be quite small. They do have refrigerators here for $400 to $500 but you will be taller than the refrigerator....LOL...no kidding!



Most stove and ovens are gas but you can buy electric; they just aren't as popular. We've priced the washer and dryers at Coral and you'll spend on average $700 for just a washer or dryer and I'm being generous with the pricing, most quality washer and dryers will set you back about $1,000 per piece, on up. Dryers seem to be more expensive here


$3 Mexican Almuerzo (Lunch) in Cuenca

We really liked this Mexican almuerzo restaurant. The atmosphere was inviting and comfortable. The chicken burrito was very good. They have two different kinds of sauces one is picante (tomato sauce) and the other verde (green sauce). The service was excellent. Where else can you eat a burrito on white linen table cloths for $3? Only in Cuenca Ecuador. We recommend this restaurant.



Furniture Stores in Cuenca Ecuador

Hi folks, I just discovered you 2 wks ago and really appreciate your honesty about life in Cuenca. Can you tell me if they have furniture stores in Cuenca, as we know them here in the states? Keep the truth about life there coming! Thanks, Barbara

Hi Barbara, we’re glad you’re enjoying the videos about Cuenca. We appreciate your viewership and comments.

Yes, there is furniture stores in Cuenca, in fact there are numerous stores that sell furniture here. There are your upper-end furniture stores, medium-end and lower-end furniture stores. We’ve gone into both the medium-end and the lower-end furniture stores, sat on the furniture and asked prices. We have walked past the higher-end furniture stores and I took several good peeks inside at the furniture.

Some of our readers may wonder why we are building our own furniture and the answer is because we can! It is much more sensible (for us) and easy on the pocket book to be resourceful and do what you can to save money, especially when you are new to a place and not sure if you are going to stay in that city or country or if unforeseen circumstances arise. We’ve noticed that some people come here and spend thousands of dollars furnishing their home or condo and then for some unforeseen circumstance they move back to the states. Whether they have to move or want to move, doesn’t matter, they now have a bunch of furniture to sell.

As many of our readers already know we are a frugal-minded family but that does not mean we are cheap. Back in the states we bought a brand new high-end, camel back Schnadig sofa for $100. We got this comfy and nice looking sofa for such a good price because we bought it on an online auction in a city near us. I have not seen this type of traditional looking or quality built furniture here in Cuenca, yet. Now this does not mean they don’t sell traditional furniture here, it’s just that I have not seen any.

High-end Furniture Stores

When I peek inside these stores, what do I see? I see a lot of very contemporary looking furniture. Very sleek, one color (usually black or white) block type furniture…almost bachelor type looking furniture. A lot of it is leather, which is nice, but you don’t want leather here in Cuenca if you have no heat in your home, it will be too cold to sit on. I prefer the more traditional (warmer and comfy) style furniture (like Schnadig) and so far have not seen much of that type of furniture here. In Mall Del Rio there is a nice upper-end furniture store (sorry did not look at prices) that sold more modern (not so contemporary) looking furniture, which was quite nice looking.

Medium-end Furniture stores

In the medium-end stores we actually went in, sat down on the furniture, chatted with the saleswoman, and asked several prices. For a nice looking contemporary leather square sectional, with an attached blocky type table, that would seat about seven people comfortably, they were asking $790. For an overstuffed, modern (not contemporary) flowery couch, love seat and chair they were asking around $1,200. So they do have different styles, but not a lot of the more traditional styles. One thing we have noticed about the furniture here is it seems to be lower to the floor and harder cushions.  

Low-end furniture Stores

Have you ever noticed the furniture dealer on the side of the road selling like a couch, two chairs, and a love seat for like $500? It is really light weight and cheap looking? Well this is what you get at the lower-end furniture stores. These places do not have a very big selection of furniture and the furniture looks cheaply made, the fabric seems like it will wear out after about 6-months,  and in our opinion it is over-priced. You’re better off buying from the medium-end and spending a few more bucks.

For an example, for a couch, a couple of chairs and a love seat they ask from $500 on up. The furniture is very light, very hard when you sit on it, and very close to the floor. I’m tall though, at 5’10” tall I feel like a giant sitting on the furniture here in Cuenca. And it seems the furniture is low to the floor even when you pay a little more.

Custom built Furniture Stores

I’ve read that some expats that come here to live have their furniture custom built. They just go in and tell them what they want and the wood builders build it. I was reading on one blog where they had their living room furniture, a desk, a dinner table and a queen bed built for like $1400.

They also have some rustic furniture makers at the market in downtown Cuenca. They make small tables mostly and some benches and bookshelves.

The downotwon area of Cuenca also has several furniture stores. From the outside it looks like they do not have much, but peak inside and walk around and you'll find the store goes back really far into other rooms and they carry a lot of different kinds of furniture. 

Don't forget to negotiate! Never take the price the sales person quotes out. To get the best prices, ask price and then walk out. Go back again on another day and ask price again. Keep doing this until the price seems ok for the piece of furniture you are buying. If the price never seems to come low enough, go to a different furniture store. 


Tilapia from Salinas Playas in Ecuador

We’ve wanted to buy some fish ever since we got here (4-1/2 months ago ) and we just couldn’t muster up the courage to buy it from the market Feria Libre because every time you walk anywhere near the fish section of the market the fishy smell is pretty strong, you know, like rotting fish. We’re sure none of the fish is actually rotting, but they clean it right there in huge sinks and there are scraps of fish in the garbage tubs…so it can get quite fishy smelling.

So anyway we now actually try to stay away from that particular section when we go to the market. Although when we first moved here we did price the fish and it is very inexpensive at the Mercado, compared to what fish costs in the states. This video shows us at the fish area of the Mercado and also some of the fish prices.

Last week we were walking in the Mercado Feria Libre and we passed a different section of the market that had fish. And there was no bad fishy smell, and the fish looked great so we bought some, went home and cooked it, and it was good. Here’s the video of our tilapia fish meal.


We’ve eaten fresh water tilapia before in the states but never tried salt water tilapia, in fact we never heard of salt water tilapia until the fish vendor told us it was caught from Salinas beach right here in Ecuador. I think we prefer the fresh water tilapia better but this was still good and the price was unbelievable! We bought 11 fish tilapia filets for $7! It was like $2 a pound for fresh tilapia filets!

In the grocery store Super Maxi here in Cuenca the frozen tilapia cost more than at Wal-mart in the states! What’s up with that?


Some Expats Angry with our 12 Annoyances Video about Cuenca

I’ve had to start moderating the comments on our 12 annoyances video about Cuenca because of the cuss-filled, hateful and terribly ignorant comments posted on our “family” You tube channel. It’s amazing how some adults can act worse than children when they become angry and bitter about something they don’t really understand—because if they understood something they would react in a different manner.

Instead of behaving rational and explaining why they don’t agree with one or all of our annoyances, they simple call your family names—they use foul language and try to turn/transform something beneficial and helpful for others into something negative. This happens when people cannot look past themselves and their own problems. Close-mindedness affects people emotionally, mentally, and physically. You see this all the time when people let off their anger and unhappiness on blogs and forums all over the Internet.

The odd thing is the three hateful comments were from expat individuals that live here already. Had they left a comment explaining why they think our annoyance is not their annoyance I would have left their comment under the video, but instead they are behaving really awful—these comments were downright hateful and filled with foul language that no one will learn from or help them in their journey to Cuenca. FYI, there have been no nasty comments from people who are thinking of moving here. These people WANT to know everything about Cuenca before they move here! And for good reason!! Out of the 14 comments we have gotten, only 3 have been too ignorant and foul-mouthed not to post.

The hateful comments were left by expats in the realestate biz or they have something else they are promoting and selling here in Cuenca. One of the comments had more foul words in it than regular English words. When I clicked on their youtube channel name the channel is about trying to sell their house here in Cuenca. The price he is trying to sell his house for is absolutely outrageous by the way. I have to wonder, why this person is selling his house in Cuenca for.

We Don’t Care if Anyone Disagrees

The purpose of the 12 annoyances about Cuenca Video was to give people a better idea of where they might be thinking of moving to; it was not to rile anyone up, or to deny that Cuenca is a neat place to retire. In fact, the 12 annoyances are just that, annoyances, not deal breakers. We don’t care if anyone disagrees with us, but to disagree in a rational and intelligent manner. The anger in the tones of the people who left ignorant and cuss-filled comments tells us that these people are unhappy with themselves and with life in general, and no place is going to make them happy.

The 12 annoyances video is not going to stop anyone from moving to Cuenca and buying property if that is what anyone so desires to do. The video’s purpose is to bring people down out of the clouds and see Cuenca for what it is, with all of its flaws. Do you want to come here with rosy colored glasses on and then see the flaws and be surprised, or worse, shocked? Or do you want to come here and be prepared for the flaws and live and let live as the saying goes?

Cuenca Cannot Make People Happy

When you think about it, I think the mean commenter’s got jolted out of their cloud-in-the-sky trance. How many other blogs have you read about the annoyances or negatives of Cuenca? Not very many, uh? But you do see a lot of blogs promoting the real estate markets here. The fact of the matter is we’d still tell people about our annoyances even if we had a house to sell in Cuenca because it’s reality! If the color blue is established as blue I’m going to say it’s blue. For an example, I tell people who are thinking of coming to Cuenca that the men pee in public here, and I’m called a whiner? Uh? How can that be?

Why make someone become so enthralled with a place only for them to come and find out the negatives on their own after living there for a year? Unless you actually get on some of the forums and read some of the negatives that people say about Cuenca, you’ll be put in a false delusion about the real Cuenca, I’m serious.

Let me just say this; all the good things people say about Cuenca we agree with! We’re not denying all of these positive and wonderful things about Cuenca, Ecuador. But no one has said what the flaws are, until we arrived on the scene, and so here we are putting reality in its place...it seems some people who moved here, who have a vested interest in Cuenca simply can’t take the heat.

So is Cuenca paradise? Cuenca is a paradise when you make it a paradise—it’s up to you to make your happiness no matter where you live. The worse negative I have ever heard anyone say about Cuenca on their blogs is about the manana attitude. Well, that is something that most people already know. Tell us what we don’t know…that’s why we did the 12 annoyances video, to tell people what they didn’t already know about Cuenca!

No place on earth is going to perfect (unless you make it perfect within yourself, and no place on earth can make someone happy, not even Cuenca Ecuador! Happiness is not found in a place or from a person or from having things, but comes from what we believe and how we live our lives according to those beliefs. No place on earth can make a person content and at peace within themselves. Happiness comes from the relationship we have with our Creator.

All I can say is it seems that our 12 annoyances video, part 1 and part 2 took these expat commenter’s out of their dreamy reality. It sounds like they call home to their family in the states bragging about “how wonderful Cuenca is” but they never have anything negative to say because they don’t want anyone to think they moved to a country where the men pee right in front of the ladies, or where the weather is actually more cloudy than sunny, or where anything imported costs twice as much compared to North America! Oh no, we can’t let anyone know that our perfect little place in our perfect country is actually not that perfect after all.

Any Place (city) in the World Has Annoyances

Do you remember the cartoon where the cats are always after the mice? One of the mice tells the other groups of mice that in America the streets are paved with cheese. This one little tiny big-mouthed mouse goes running around bragging to the other mice about how neat America is and it makes all of the mice want to move to America. But it backfires on them. What happens is all of the mice expat to America and they get pounced on by all the cats on the street. They can’t take it and leave and go back to where they came from. Oops reality, the streets weren’t paved with cheese after all.

The example above does happen here in Cuenca; with people who just move here without checking it out first—they have to sell their property in a hurry and they leave. For some reason or another they didn’t like Cuenca or for some unforeseen circumstance they had to leave, as an example I describe below about the altitude here in Cuenca.

Some of our annoyances might be a big annoyance for some people, depending on their circumstances. I know for a fact that a lot of rainy, damp and chilly weather aggravates bursitis and arthritis—well then if you have these conditions you wouldn’t want to move to Cuenca. I do know for a fact that one couple had to move from Cuenca because the high elevation here in the Andes made the wife sick—she had difficult time breathing. Other expats had to leave because they missed their family (children) back home in the states.

The bottom line is the streets are NOT paved with cheese here in Cuenca. In fact unless you are in the downtown district, many of the streets may have trash in them because of all the stray dogs that pull apart the garbage bags and scatter it all over the sidewalks…some areas reek of dirty garbage and the men tend to all pee in the same corner of the wall or on the same wall and when you walk by it reeks of urine. The public restrooms can get really smelly because they throw their tissue in the garbage can, not the toilet…and there are drunken men passed out in their wet urine pants on the sidewalks (more on the weekends) with vomit hanging out of their mouths. We just want YOU to know these things in advance, before you come.

Why on earth would we want to omit all of the things we have observed in Cuenca in the last five months? Would that be fair to you, our readers and viewers to only tell you the streets are paved with cheese? We don’t believe so…we want to bring Cuenca to you in the best way we know how to, by telling you our day to day observations and not omitting anything and that includes our annoyances and flaws.

Putting our annoyances aside, Cuenca is a nice country, with some nice people, with some wonderfully freshly grown food, with a good cost of living index (once you have already set up your home), and with inexpensive medical and dental, and some beautiful countryside. We still LOVE Cuenca because these are only annoyances…and that is all we are doing is telling you that not everything is perfect here in Cuenca, Ecuador. we're going to tell you the whole story, not just part of it.


Bargaining Is Expected in Ecuador UPDATED

We revived this article with a few added updates. Remember as you read this article it's all about PRINCIPLE.

Many of the vendors know us now and when they see us coming are ready to be bargained with. Frank is a good bargainer, probably because he grew up in Italy and he often went shopping with his mother and listened intently while she haggled with the street vendors. Frank does the same thing here in Cuenca. He touches and inspects things really well before he buys and many times if the vendor won’t budge in price we move on to another vendor that will give us the price we know the item should be.

Bargaining is Part of the Ecuadorian (Latin American) Culture

Here in Ecuador they expect you to bargain and haggle with them and if you don’t, well you’re going to pay more! I read on a blog a few days ago where the blogger was saying how the produce vendors don’t make very much money and so you shouldn’t try and lower the price and bargain with them.

This is untrue, on both accounts. You bargain because you know what the price is already or what the price is that the locals pay. In other words, you wouldn't try and make them lower the price that they give to the locals. Some vendors raise their prices the moment they see gringos heading their way. Why should you, just because you are a foreigner, pay more than the local? the vendors make money selling to the locals, believe me.

For an example: If you know that the price of a bag of tomatoes is $1 already then you don’t bargain and try to get it for less, unless the tomatoes are really ripe and need to be used right away. The going price is $1 for most bagged produce, so if the vendor tells you the bag of tomatoes cost $2, then you bargain with them. Or you can over pay and buy the over ripe bag of tomatoes for $2 dollars.

A part of Ecuadorian culture “is to bargain” and “to negotiate prices”. Most gringos pay the first price the vendors give. There are only a few gringos who will actually bargain about the price because most of them don’t like to bargain, for two reasons; actually three reasons, see number three in our update below. One, they aren’t very good at it, and two, they can’t speak enough Spanish to bargain with the vendor to begin with.

UPDATE 2015 Number Three: They've been made to feel sorry for the vendors by other gringos who tell them they don't make very much money. We would believe this to be true if only everyone were quoted the same price! For example if the locals are quoted $3 for a bag of tomatoes then that is what the gringo resident should pay too. 

Do you think a foreign resident should pay more than a local?

You should not pay more for something just because you are a foreigner. You should pay the same price as the Ecuadorian standing next to you. But if you want to pay more for something just because the vendor knows he or she can get away with it, then go ahead a pay the first price they tell you.

It’s silly to say you shouldn’t bargain with the vendors because they don’t make very much money…you bargain because they are targeting you and asking a higher price than what it should sell for!

The truth is, bargaining prices with sellers is not making them poor defeated peasants because most people will pay the first price that they give rather than try and bargain. Ecuadorian vendors will hike the price up with their own people when they seem like they are wealthy. Ecuadorians are good at bargaining and negotiating and would rather give you a fair price then have you walk away.

Be Willing to Walk Away

Sometimes you have to walk away. Last week I saw an Ecuadorian bargaining with the vendor lady over the plantains, he didn’t get the price he wanted and so he walked away. Walking away works! For an example, one day we watched and listened carefully as the strawberry vendor downtown told the local Cuencana that the strawberries were $1 a pound, but when Frank asked her she said $1.50 a pound. Frank tried to bargain with her to what she sold them to the local for but she put on her whiny tone (it is how they act when you try and bargain) and wouldn’t budge and so we walked away. A few blocks down the street we bought the strawberries for $1 pound.

Real-estate is Negotiable

Almost every real estate classified ad in the Spanish newspaper says the price is negotiable. The Ecuadorian owner wants you to buy their property and so they are willing to negotiate with you on the price. Now we know this is done in the U.S too but it is a little different because they usually negotiate with numerous people and will take the “best offer” or they have a bottom price they will not go below and if you quote lower than their bottom price they stick to their guns and won’t sell. Here in Ecuador, it may take weeks, and months of negotiations but in the end both parties are happy and end up being winners.

You shouldn’t be afraid to bargain in Ecuador—it’s expected! The first words any foreigner should learn when moving to Ecuador are the numbers so they can bargain with the vendors. Don’t expect to be able to bargain at the grocery stores and government offices because the prices are fixed, although Frank got a family discount at the notary office downtown because we had a lot of documents that needed notarized. Frank asked if we could have a 'family' discount and the Notary gave us one. It certainly never hurts to ask—all they can say is, “no”, right?

You can also bargain at the mom and pop shops, such as the furniture stores, markets, bakeries, street vendors, craft stores, clothing stores, and virtually any Ecuadorian owned shop here in Cuenca. If you come to Ecuador you should learn to bargain because it can be a lot of fun!

UPDATE June 2015: The truth is, Cuencano's and most Latin cultures are known to actually snicker and talk amongst themselves when gringo's pay the asking price. So, now you know. :-)  The best way to know what to pay for an item is to listen carefully to what is quoted the locals. Many times they won't quote a figure to the locals when gringos are in earshot (happened to us today at the coast) so you have to act non nonchalant and act like you're not really interested/listening. 

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!


$26 Shopping Spree at the Mercado in Cuenca

We’ve lived in Cuenca going on five months now and we still get really excited about the fresh produce and the amazing cost. It is absolutely wonderful. The food tastes so good and fresh. The tomatoes here taste like the ones I used to pick from our garden back in the states—sweet and fruity tasting.

Freshest Fruits and Veggies

I had never tasted fresh peas before coming to Ecuador. The only peas I could ever find were the frozen pre-cooked peas in the frozen department of the grocery store. If you like peas then you don’t know what you’re missing. Seriously the fresh peas, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli, and all of the produce is so tasty here. You wouldn’t believe all the fresh broccoli you can buy for a $1 here, its unbelievable! Here, just watch the video and see for yourself.


Making Clothes vs. Buying Clothes in Cuenca Ecuador

A reader asks...
I am hoping someone already there in Cuenca has some info about fabric stores, fabric availability, fabric content, patterns, accessories, sewing machines, prices, brands. I know I can have clothes made dirt cheap. I just want to be able to do it myself a lot of the time. I have weighed my sewing machine. Too much for checked and it would get too bounced around. So--anyone with any info? Whatever you have to share will be most appreciated. Nancy H

We love being frugal and industrious and we want to help Nancy come to Cuenca and be frugal and industrious too, and do what she loves, which is sewing, designing, and creating her own clothes. If you know how to sew than it is probably much better on the budget to make your own clothes. So here is what we found out about fabrics and sewing machines. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Fabric Stores in Cuenca

Nancy, we have good news for you. Yes, fabric stores are numerous here. We have discovered the biggest fabric store I have ever seen located in downtown Cuenca. I’ve been in some pretty big fabric stores in the U.S but this store (2 floors) is amazing! Not only that but it was packed with women who sew!

We took some photos that we hope will be helpful. Prices at this huge fabric store start at $2.50 to around $3.50 a meter for very light, thin fabric, to more of a durable and elegant looking fabric from $5 on up to about $12 a meter. Average price was around $5 per meter of fabric. They had every kind of texture/linen/design fabric. And there are some beautiful designs too. You’ll be amazed when you see this fabric shop.

Fabric Palace
Domestic and imported Fabric/Linens
El Palacio De Las Telas
Tejidos Nationales y Extranjeros
Address: Gran Columbia and Residente Borrello
across the street from “Hotel Cuenca”.

Sewing Machines in Cuenca

We found four different sewing machines for sale at Coral (Wal-Mart type store) and they seemed like pretty decent prices. Here are the photos and prices. The bigger “Singer” (far left) is $398 and the smaller “Singer” is $318. The other sewing machine is around $400 and some odd dollars (sorry can’t remember exactly) They also had a non-electric sewing machine for $131. Here are the photos. The zippers in the photos are like $0.05 each!

Manual Sewing Machine (non-electric)$131


$2 Lunch at Cositas in Cuenca

We discovered another $2 lunch in downtown Cuenca that we want to tell you about. The restaurant is called Cositas. You can pick from the menu whether you want chicken, beef, pork, or fish. We chose chicken because it is so good here. So the plate comes with meat of your choice, rice, lentils, and plantain. Not a bad price for just $2. It was pretty good but Frank missed his veggies and fresh fruit juice the other almuerzos serve at this price.

We are almost finished with our FREE eBook of the 10 best restaurants to eat in Cuenca for under $3, so be looking out for it coming soon on this blog.


Scary Bugs in Cuenca

Unbelievably there are really not that many bugs here in Cuenca. It could be the mild weather in the Andes; after all we’re just coming out of winter here and heading into spring. In the South in the Northern country now there were some scary bugs!

Perhaps when we move into summer weather there will be scarier and more annoying bugs then. I’ve yet to see a mosquito, although I know they are here, but just very rare, even after it rains. We did have some of those earwig bugs come into the house but we sprayed and got rid of those ugly bugs. Yes, there are some spiders and yes they can get pretty big, but we have not seen any poison ones, like the brown recluse or black widow.

And that’s about it for scary bugs in Cuenca. Oh yeah, there is the annoying fruit flies!!


43 Things We Have Observed about Cuenca Ecuador People - Update 2018

 Ecuador Culture and Traditions

Update 2018: We keep our observations of Cuenca and it's people updated as you will see with annotations of new changes or additions. 

We go out and do things almost every day and during our outings we observe and notice things about Cuenca and its great people. We thought we’d post our observations on the blog for you to get a better idea of what it’s like here. 

Below the video is the rest of this article with more detail about Ecuador people and the Ecuador culture.

52 Things about Ecuador's People and Culture


 43 Things about Cuenca Ecuador People and Culture

•The Indigenous women carry their babies in a wool blanket made into a hammock on their back (it is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen) Some of them carry them on the front too.

•Ecuadorian women do not smoke. (seriously, I have not seen a woman in Cuenca smoke yet).
UPDATE August 2012: Lived here a year now and I've seen maybe three women smoking.

•Ecuadorian men rarely smoke - Update August 2012...some men do smoke.

*It's rare to see beards on Ecuadorian men. Once in awhile you will see one with a goatee, however its still very rare. Someone said they have a difficult time growing facial hair. 


•No baggy jeans on the men or women (they like their jeans to fit kind of tight, especially the women)

 Ecuadorian Women

 UPDATE: 2018- Yes, the women wear tight jeans in Ecuador but this does not mean she is loose or looking for attention. It is the cultural dress for women to wear tight jeans and sometimes when going out to pair that with a pair of high heels. It is the style for Ecuador and is engraved within the culture...it is nothing more, so please do yourself a favor and do not read into it.

The other piece of clothing you will find the women wear often here is the leotards or tights.  Normally we're used to seeing these worn by ballet dancers under their tutu's or you might find women wearing those to gymnastic class. Here they wear them out on the street as every day clothing. We had one gringo ask us if they forgot to put a dress on over it, and at first it seems like they are not fully dressed, but here again it does not mean anything other than, they are very cheap ($6 to $9). It is what's available to them at this time in Ecuador and is only what some Ecuadorians can afford to buy. Clothing is expensive here.

•Women here are very feminine –they like to dress up and be girly but rarely will you see them wearing a dress

•99% of the women have long hair, which is usually tied back in a pony tail

•99% of the men have short hair, which many like to style with gel

•Rarely do men or women wear shorts

•Women rarely wear clothes that show their cleavage (husbands and boyfriends would not go for that here. It is a much more conservative culture)

•All bus drivers are male
***June 2012 update***  There is a woman bus driver in Cuenca! And she drove the bus pretty good; she was not as jerky with the stick shift as some of the men bus drivers are. LOL.

Cuenca Ecuador Taxis

•All Taxi drivers are male
***Update*** When we were in Salinas we got in a taxi with a female driver. But still have not seen a female taxi driver in Cuenca.Update 2017 - we finally drove in a taxi with a Cuencana and she was really pretty too. 

Ecuador Family

•There are more young married and pregnant women here than anywhere else we have ever been. (they marry young here and start families, which is important to them)

Manana Attitude

•The People, men and women alike are very laid back and not in a rush (it’s the manana attitude). If this type lifestyle frustrates you then it is advisable to not move to any Latin American culture

•Coastal people and the Andes people do not get along we are told. (We experienced this firsthand one day where the two were bickering and arguing)

•If you ask for directions and even if they don’t know where it is they will give you directions. (It’s best to get a 2nd and even 3rd opinion on a address)

•Ecuadorians don’t want to tell you “no” they can’t do something for you, or “no’ they don’t know where something is

Formal Greetings in Ecuador

•They always say the formal greeting of “Buenos Dias”, “Buenos Tardes” or Buenos Noches depending on the time of day. They rarely greet you with hola.

Update 2013 - We have noticed if you walk into an establishment and forget to say Buenos Dias or whatever time of day it is they will think you are rude and you may not get a very good welcome in return. Just saying. 

•Family’s are very close here and walk hand in hand or arm in arm down the street together

•It seems that about 80% of the population has a family run mom and pop type business; they work out of the first floor, and the living quarters are on the 2nd and 3rd floors, some sell the produce they farm, while the rest work in banking, service, and government jobs.

•Women when they dress up prefer to wear slacks or jeans with high heels or boots rather than a dress

•Some women do not use purses (I’ve seen back packs and satchels mostly, if they carry any kind of a bag

•Ecuadorians love shoes

•Ecuadorians are friendly and helpful

•Public intoxication is not illegal here so there are drunk people lying in the streets on the sidewalks, and in the parks (don’t look a drunk in the eye or he will beg you for money and follow you all over the place)

(Update May 2013) Since the advent of over 100 new police units in force the public drunkenness has settled down somewhat.

•Some men pee in public (There are several public restrooms throughout Cuenca because we use them ourselves) UPDATE August 2012: We've seen several indigenous women peeing right out in public. Their skirt Shields them when they squat.

Ecuadorian People

•Working Ecuadorian people are mostly honest, which is most Ecuadorians. (We’ve witnessed this twice ourselves) Once Frank accidentally gave an indigenous produce seller too much money and she gave us back, and once I dropped a dollar piece on the bus (I didn’t realize it fell out of my pocket when I grabbed the a piece of paper and it rolled three seats back and they gave it back to me.
Update 2013: always be careful whom you can trust; not all Ecuadorians keep their word or are trustworthy or ethical.

•We have never yet experienced any petty theft of our personal items (we’re very careful and diligent though and we always use the buddy system. You’re less apt to be mugged or taken advantage of when there are two of you. We recommend women to not walk anywhere alone.

UPDATE 2012:  In July 2012 a Cuenca expat woman was stabbed on a popular walking trail at 10:am while she was walking or jogging along the path. She went to the hospital and had to have more than 10 stitches.

Update March 2013: Frank got pick-pocketed on the bus from a man who dressed and looked just like everyone else--he was obviously a professional. See our article about how Frank finally got pick-pocketed.

•Violent crime is rare in Cuenca

•They say petty crime is on the rise and is a problem (see our post about
how not to be a target of crime in Cuenca)

UPDATE Jan 2014: Now the talk of the town is that petty crime is down in Cuenca...however, we really have no way to confirm this. 

Banking in Ecuador

•Ecuador Banks and big service businesses like ETAPA Internet all have manned guards with sawed off shot guns standing watch. Take off your hat and lift up your sunglasses or you will not be allowed in the bank.  Update2018: sawed off shotguns are beginning to be a thing of the past.

•When you go grocery shopping you must take off your back pack and satchels and give them to a person who holds them for you. (they give you a number and when you are done shopping, give them your number and you can have your bag back) Some establishments allow you to put your own pack in a locker and you have the key. 

Cuenca Ecuador Arts and Food

•Cuenca is quite artsy (there are lots of artisans here such as painters, potters, craftsmen, craftswomen, musical, dance, blanket making, sewing, basketry, etc.

* A traditional Ecuadorian food is called Cuy or better known as Guinea pig.

Update 2018: Other well known Ecuador food is Ceviche, a raw shrimp and onion dish; the national dish is Encebollado soup, which is made with tuna fish, onions, yuca and cilantro and it's usually delicious!

*Eggs are not refrigerated and do not need to be refrigerated.

*Some of the milk does not spoil, even when it is not refrigerated for several days!

*They love chicken here and the chicken is the best tasting chicken we have ever had, no kidding! The eggs also are very good

Is there Fast Food in Cuenca Ecuador?

*Burger King and KFC is the two fast foods here.
Update November 2013- There are now two new McDonald's, one is located in the El Vegel area across from the Madre Parque and the other one is in Mall Del Rio. 

*Ecuadorians will respect you more if you bargain with them

*Wearing holey jeans is not trendy here in Cuenca; it is rarely seen
Update: March 2013...we've been here almost 2 years now and there are more holey jeans now, but it still a minority of people. There are also more and more baggy pants on the younger males.

Update: JAN 2014: holey and baggy jeans are beginning to be more trendy here. We're seeing this awful clothing selling in retail shops. To us, it looks like they just went dumpster diving for clothing.

*Ecuadorians do not wear bright, flashy, stripes, flowery, or colorful clothing. They stick to the darker solid, neutral colors of browns, greys, blacks, and blues, with the exception of the Indigenous population who, if they are in traditional costume do wear colorful skirts and blouses.
 Update Jan 2014: The clothing styles are changing...

*They love sports, especially soccer (futboll)

*Lots of young people go to the many Internet cafe's and use the computer (it costs 60 cents and hour)They love Facebook and YouTube.

•Ecuadorians are not very open-minded to home schooling as other Latin American countries are, such as Chile. It is not illegal to home school in Ecuador but there are more hoops to go through with the Ministry of Education...tests...paperwork....and more paperwork from your home country.

Many Ecuadorians feel that you need to have a university degree to live comfortably and be financially stable in life. Some feel that if you are not college educated you are not very intelligent or perhaps will have a hard time "getting a good job".

That's what it is all about here, "getting a job", which is what a university degree teaches.  Forget about being a self-made learner, gaining new ideas, and being industrious in whatever a person decides to pursue. In Ecuador you need to go to the University so you  can "get a job" and be somebody!  Chile is exactly the opposite when it comes to home education. Hopefully, Ecuador will break out of the 1950's on this one.

At the time of this writing Ecuadorians have a free or almost free education system for its citizens, which is probably why they have not opened their mind to alternative methods of schooling, learning, and growth.

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