10 Years of Blog Archive

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Is It Living 10 Minutes by Taxi from Downtown and Gringolandia Cuenca Ecuador? UPDATED

Note: From time to time we update articles that are needing to be renewed. This one was originally published March 2012. At the time of this article, most retirees wanted to live either downtown in El Centro or in the gringoland area of Cuenca Ecuador. Today that has all changed. Read and find out more.

We hope you enjoy the updates we are providing with the new changes that are happening in Cuenca Ecuador. 
El Centro - San Blas Park
This is part 2 of answering readers concerns..see bottom of this article for part 1 and 3.

Comment from a reader in 2012: Your family has the benefit of four men, all of whom are younger than most expat retirees, and all look to be in terrific shape. Your family wouldn't be a target for problems in most cities in the world. Many retirees do not have this advantage.

Frank and Angie Respond in 2012: You’re right; we are blessed to have our three sons with us right now.  Frank and I are not young; we’re older than most people think; and we walk and travel all over the place without our three sons, take the bus to other cities and we just traveled by buses to the central coast of Ecuador without our young men (sons) with us!

UPDATE JANUARY 2016: Frank and I have also been to Quito several times, as well as Northern Esmeraldas (Atracames) Beaches and just a few months ago we traveled the whole country of Panama without our sons. We occasionally walk off the beaten path if we are needing to write about an area or simple because we want to know more about the local life. 

The only time anything has ever happened to us was in 2012 when Frank got his wallet pick-pocketed in Cuenca Ecuador of all places, during the day time on the bus! It was our fault. You can find out why it happened here.

The reason why we stay safe and are not targeted has nothing to do with having our sons with us. We don't have negative encounters with the bad apples because we have guidelines that we follow to the T.  Here's some of the more important ones.

1. We figure that we have from 6:00am until 6:00pm to enjoy the great outdoors, eat out in restaurants, explore new territory and to simply have a blast doing whatever it is we feel like doing.  We are seldom out after dark. Haven't you noticed in downtown Cuenca that around 6:00pm you'll start seeing a different type of people out on the streets? It's all about observation. They're dressed different, they stare different and they walk different and they behave different.  Night time is when 80% of bad things happen to people.

2. We NEVER take the bus after 7:00pm; the buses have a different breed of people on them in the evening hours. 

3. When we travel we never walk around with important (original) documents, wallets, purses, expensive looking clothing or jewelry...we try and blend in as much as possible and always speak Spanish.

4. When exploring new areas (we do a lot of that) if a side road looks oddly vacant we turn around. 

5. We (now) don't walk too far off on most of the Ecuador beaches anymore after a tour operator told Frank and I not too walk where there is no people when we walked too far away from the crowds on Atacames beach.

6. We don't open our gate to strangers when we are home. We do not trust people we do not know.

7. If and when we are approached by groups of young men we don't act scared and feeble and we look them in the eyes. This happened to us in the Milna neighborhood of Salinas Ecuador. Don't act intimidated and behave as if you can beat them up. Seriously...they were staring us down and we could tell they were up to no good.  
Expats get taken advantage of for six basic reasons.

*They are older and cannot run after a thief
*They have a disability or age related physical condition that prevents them from defending themselves
*They flash their valuables, whether it is money, jewelry, wallets, cell phones, etc;
*They’re intoxicated and can’t defend or run after thief
* They are walking alone
* Too trusting -- (Lots of times people are robbed by people they know and confided in)

Most of the time, Frank and I walk all over in Cuenca Ecuador without our sons. The reason why nothing terrible has happened to us is because we take all of the precautions that are necessary to protect ourselves, whatever those might be according to our circumstances at the time. Please see our blog posts on safety in Ecuador.  Also we do not go out at night, especially if it is just the two of us.

We’re getting older, and our sons, obviously are not going to be with us forever; eventually they will have their own families; even so, we would not move downtown Cuenca because there is nothing beneficial downtown that cannot be found 10 or 15 minutes from the downtown area. In fact, there is more petty crime to expats downtown then elsewhere in Cuenca, and that is a fact! Downtown is smoggy and loud too! It's fine to visit but not live. 

Living downtown does not make you safer from crime; most of the crime in Cuenca is not when you are in your home, but when you leave it. The truth of the matter is because of the high presence of expats in the downtown area that is also where the thieves hang out because that is where the money and valuables are, right?

Update January 2016 - There are so many police downtown now that we think it has curbed the petty thievery a great deal. It doesn't mean you still shouldn't watch yourself, especially at night, but it does mean it is now not as prevalent as it was in 2012! Although we have read in a recent article that Cuenca is now seeing more home invasions. We have been hearing about more home invasions located in different areas of Ecuador.
Comment from a Reader in 2012: to live away from the city center would mean for them a certain amount of isolation as what is to you a 15 to 20-minute walk into town would be an hour for them, if they could make it. So, they would always have to take a taxi into and out of the center. The farther out one lives, the more expensive the taxi ride. And to stick to a budget, they might become more housebound than they would like.

Frank and Angie Respond in 2012: Not sure what you mean by isolation? Do you mean from other expats?  Once you get outside of the 2 by 2 mile colonial section of downtown, it is not countryside with only a few homes scattered here or there; there are mom and pop shops, hospitals, big grocery stores, hardware stores, grocery marts, malls, bakeries,  parks, clothing stores, huge Mercado, dental offices, doctors clinics, 24 hour emergency clinics, Italian, Mexican, Ecuadorian and Chinese restaurants, lots of pharmacies, health food stores, movie theatres, home remolding stores, furniture stores and more just about anywhere you are in Cuenca! 

There is no isolation from shopping, restaurants, malls, doctors and hospitals. On the contrary, if you live in the two mile by two mile downtown radius where most expats move to, you will have to take a taxi or a bus to go to the Supermaxi and Coral grocery stores, the major hospital, major hardware stores, biggest Mercado in Cuenca, Mall Del Rio, and some of the better furniture stores. 

The one and only thing you will not see as many of when you live outside the 2 by 2 mile colonial section is gringos, unless you live in condo alley in gringolandia, but now is that such a bad thing? 

Update JANUARY 2016Boy, a lot has changed since we wrote this article in 2012.  El Centro is where the tourists might stay and a few expats live in the Colonial section but not as many as there once was; it's just too noisy and smoggy for most people to live there on a permanent basis. And there are gringos living all over in the city now, not just in El Centro or gringolandia. One Ecuadorian commented to us saying, "All of Cuenca is gringolandia now"!  We all chuckled. 

Here is all three parts to this series where we answer readers concerns: We will update the others soon.

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



  1. Hello Frank and Angie - I am just recently discovering your blog and am finding it extremely useful as I prepare for my first trip to Ecuador, to meet my-laws. I will be travelling alone. I arrive in Quito, spend a day with an American friend and her Ecuadorian boyfriend, then will fly from Quito to Cuenca. My in-laws will pick me up in Cuenca, and we will head to the village of Villaflor (near Paute) where they live. I will spend 2 weeks there. I have some concerns:
    1. I will be staying the majority of the trip in a very rural village (Villaflor). The CDC website recommends vaccines for Hepatitis A & B, yellow fever, typhoid, malaria and rabies. What are your thoughts?
    2. Do I need to follow the "don't drink the tap water" rule? How about eating fruits and vegetables, or un-pasteurized dairy? I've gotten responses from "don't worry" to "don't eat/drink anything".
    3. I have slightly elevated blood pressure, and am taking medication. Should I take Diamox? Be overly concerned? I'm 31, female, non-smoker.
    Thanks for your insight!

  2. I am loving your blog! You share some great info. We have been thinking about a move abroad, which is exciting and scary! We live in the US. We have 3 young children, 5 and under. We want to be safe, have good schools for them and to be able to realistically live there. Do you have any insight on any of this? Are there any jobs there that would actually pay enough to live there? (I would prefer living closer to a beach)
    Thank you and I am enjoying exploring your site!

  3. I'm so happy to have found your blog, it's very enlightening in its candor. My wife and I are seriously considering a move to Ecuador, preferably Cuenca; and we by no means want to live among the "gringos" and appriciated your comments on that subject.

    However, we have a small, well-behaved dog and want to bring him with us... else break our hearts to leave him in the States. Are rental homes or apartments that accept pets harder to find in Cuenca?

    Thank you in advance for your reply,

    John G.


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