7 Years of Blog Archive


Walking off the Beaten Path of Condo Alley in Salinas Ecuador

Frank and I have a hard time visiting a new area and not wondering off the beaten path. In this video we only wondered s short distance; we really wanted to see what was around each point that juts out into the bay area. Salinas is a little touristy city catering to the visiting gringo. Stay tuned for more exploring away from the beaten path in Salinas in upcoming videos. Adios Amigos!!



Spitting on the Sidewalks in Cuenca -- Just Another Little Annoyance

Warning: if you are sensitive to vulgarities you may want to skip this article

This is not something that would make us leave Ecuador it is just another annoyance that we forgot to mention in our 12 annoyances video. It is a well ingrained part of the culture.  

In Ecuador they like to spit a lot even if they aren’t playing baseball, lol. Now we’re pretty sure this is not just an Ecuador thing but a common Latin American thing because we remember the spitting going on in Mexico and Dominican Republic too. They spit in North America too but on a different plane so to speak; this is way over done and dramatic to say the least. We’ve seen some males spit in the states before but they usually make it a point to spit in the streets, not right on the sidewalk!

It’s kind of gross actually because when you’re walking around in Ecuador you have to literally keep your eyes to the sidewalk so you don’t step in a manhole, or step on dog poop, or fall off the curb, and so you notice the spit globules on the sidewalks much more; they’re everywhere. Sometimes you can actually hear them right before they are going to spit, which is a good thing so you can move clear away. Sometimes it can be very unpleasant.

One time when we were walking down the sidewalk an Ecuadorian man almost spit on me; now he didn’t see me coming up fast behind him on his right side and he spit a loogie out, and well it missed me by inches. He appeared a bit embarrassed. You never know when they are going to spit and they don’t do it away from people so be careful.

It does not matter if you are in front of a four star restaurant or a side walk cart they will spit if they feel the need to spit. So what is all the spitting about, really? Well, when you really take notice you realize that some people have colds and they are getting phlegm out of their throat, others just spit out of habit, and still others may have health issues.

Unfortunately, we don’t think the Ecuadorians realize that spitting on the public sidewalks is vulgar and leaving spit puddles (ugh) on the sidewalks is disgusting and when most of the Ecuadorian men spit in Cuenca that means a lot of spitting going on and unsanitary sidewalk conditions. We always look before setting our bags or back packs down on the ground because of the spit puddles that have not dried up yet.

What makes it worse is there are sidewalk vendors that use large woven baskets to sell their food products in and they have the baskets on the ground with the food uncovered! We never buy anything that is low to the ground or sitting in something that is on the ground; there is just too much spitting going on.

We’ve seen young boys as young as three and four spitting; and we’ve even seen a couple of times little old ladies spitting! What we have never seen is the Ecuadorean women spitting in public, thank goodness; that would subtract to the color they add to the landscape, wouldn’t it? 

Just another annoyance you might want to know about.


The Rule of 3 and 4: How We Avoid Gringo Gouging in Cuenca Ecuador

How we have kept ourselves in line and stayed out of trouble with costs when in a new country, such as Ecuador.  We actually came up with it before even getting here.  This is a rule of thumb that we have coined and it has helped a lot. 

The figures need to be adjusted for inflation.  In 2018 the median GDP household income in the u.s. is $57,000 or about $4750 per month.  In Ecuador it has gone up to $1100 per month, or a bit less than one fifth of the u.s. household number.

It has its roots in the idea that an average Ecuadorian household might have a total income of say $800, Consisting of one low wage worker at $300 and one skilled worker at $500 a month. 

What we do is multiply that by 3 or 4.  Because this is a rule of thumb, it is only one yardstick and one way of seeing whether we’re on track.  It is not a hard and fast rule. 

Anyway, the multiplication gives us a total of $2,400 to $3,200, which is roughly the average income in the North American zone, or something close to that.  That’s our guideline principle.

Now, when we’re shopping let’s say for a house, and we hear that the Ecuadorian market is active in the under $40k area, that makes sense to us, because $40k x 3 or 4 is $120k to $160k. 

So the way we see it is, that when an Ecuadorian is buying a $40k house, it’s like us buying the equivalent of a $120k to $160k in the North American zone.

This is how we stay out of trouble.  You see we need to compare but not directly.  We really need this rule.  And we use it all the time.  It’s a very good rule to flush out skews in pricing too.  For example: If I’m looking at a $100k house, the rule says we should think of it as a $300 to $400k house.  So then, when we’re looking at this house, we can ask ourselves, is this house really worth $400k in the North American zone?  This usually opens our eyes to value or lack of it.

So then, going further with this thought, I’m now saying to myself, while looking at this house, is it worth the four hundred?  Do I really want to spend this much on a house?  You see the difference?
The rule also tells me when something is relatively cheap.  Like when I’m buying tomatoes.  According to the rule, tomatoes at .33 cents a pound translate to .99 cents to $1.32 per lb. Now, to me, that’s still quite inexpensive as tomatoes go for anywhere from $2-$4 lb depending on what city you’re shopping at in the North American zone.

Going further, when I'm looking at a $250 rental, that's a $750 to $1,000 rental, more realistic wouldn't you say?  And what about that $900 condo?  Well, you get the picture.  Unless you're from New York or California. 

So when I look at a refrigerator for $900, I’m really looking at $2700 to $3600, so it better be a pretty darn good fridge.  Could be why I haven’t bought one yet.  Wouldn’t be able to get away with that if it wasn’t for the fact we’re living in the Andes.  LOL.

Update October 2012 - We finally broke down and bought a refrigerator. We purchased a brand new HACEB after doing much shopping, negotiating, bargaining, and more shopping around town. We're thinking we got the best deal in town. So far it has been working great!

Again, the rule keeps me sharp and on my toes.  When we first came to Cuenca, we would stop at the window of the real estate office, and look at lots going for $50k.  I would briefly tell myself the rule says that’s a 150k or 200k lot.  That seemed too high to me, and out of line. This keeps me looking and searching for a way to look for the real price.  

You see, because of the rule, I don’t really have to be all that good at speaking Spanish and ferreting things out right away, not quite yet anyway.  It’s enough to keep me wondering and searching.  And what is that worth? When I keep playing with this rule, it’s amazing to me how well it makes me appear smarter than I look.

Like when I’m just landed in Cuenca and I see a lunch place for $5.50. Well that’s $16.50 to $22.  Too much!  It’s not an all you can eat continental style or Chinese buffet in Atlanta.  It’s just lunch at a coffee shop.  The rule kept me out of that place even before I found out from other expats that the food was just o.k. and the service was lousy.

You too can avoid gringo gouging using this rule of thumb and be smarter shoppers.  We can be responsible expatters.  So when I’m at a $1.50 lunch place in Cuenca, it’s a six dollar lunch, ok, a reasonable frugal lunch, not bad.

You might want to bookmark this article as we’ll be referring to this rule of thumb in future videos and posts; well, we refer to the rule often between ourselves, and now we can all be on the same page!!


Gluten Free Diet in Cuenca Ecuador

Just wondering if you know if there are other types of flour available, like rice? I am gluten free and wheat is not an option for me. I make my own everything because everything in the US is made with glutenous flour. We want to move to Cuenca but I need to have other flour available. Thanks! Great Blog!

You’re in luck! Both Coral and Supermaxi in Cuenca sell several different types of flours for the gluten free diet. We have seen barley, soy, rice, oat, maize, corn and even plantain flour, which all have no gluten in them. You will have no problem at all finding the whole gluten free flours here. 

What you will have a difficult time finding here is the prepared gluten free cookie, muffin, and cake mixes that you now see on the grocery store shelves in the U.S Ecuador has not yet understood the prevailing need for gluten free ready-made boxed flour mixes but, at least they do have varieties of gluten free flours. 

However, the good news is the standard Ecuadorian fair of white rice, a meat, plantain, hominy, and a mixed vegetable salad is virtually gluten free! Be careful with the soups though; some of the Traditional Ecuadorian soups will have pasta in them; other than that the rest of the meal is free of gluten.

Coral grocery stores sell maize loaf bread and buns in the Panaderia (bakery) which are very good by the way. Fresh baked goods are a big deal here in Ecuador. So all in all we don’t think you’re going to have a problem staying on a gluten free diet here in Cuenca. 

Healthy Gluten free Cookies
1 cup maize flour
½ cup plantain flour
1-1/2 cups small oats
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons baking powder
1-1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2 egg
1/4 cup milk
½  cup raisins
½ cup raisins blended or ½ cup pure cane sugar

In blender add ½ cup of the raisins and fill with enough water to just cover the raisins; allow the raisins to soak in the water for about five minutes. Mean while, in mixing bowl add dry ingredients and the rest of the whole raisins together and stir well. After five minutes is up, blend the raisins and water for about two minutes, until it becomes a puree. Add the butter, eggs, and milk and blend well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Enjoy this healthy gluten free recipe.


Two Cuenca Budget Rental Recommendations

We get emails from our readers periodically letting us know about their choice of places to stay in Cuenca.  Frank and I also run into good rental resources in our day to day adventures in Cuenca.  We just sent out  two new Cuenca budget rental recommendations from a reader, that seem to have fairly reasonable rates and are in convenient locations in Cuenca.

We have not checked these rentals personally but the prices seem to be pretty fair and so we wanted to send them to our readers who have already bought the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.  We value your readership and your support of this blog.

If you want to be close to the government offices and Supermaxi the first choice seems like a pretty good value.  The first rental resource is next to the bus station and the Cuenca airport; about a five minute taxi ride to downtown Cuenca.

Remember:  these are not our recommendations.  We have never seem them or stayed there personally.  The ones we personally recommend were already in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, along with many more rental resources at your finger tips.

We will continue to send folks who have bought the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide updates and new rental resources and recommendations as they come in that we deem worthy of attention.  If you haven't alredy bought the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide then you're missing out!  What are you waiting for?  The guide also has tips and current immigration solutions for those wanting to extend their stay in Cuenca.


5 Ways to Find Budget Rental Properties in Cuenca Ecuador

Most tourists coming to Cuenca to stay for a week to three months don’t want to spend more than they have to on a rental. We already know this and is why we have already done a lot of the foot work and mental work for you. We have scoured, searched, and investigated how to find the “local priced” rentals in Cuenca.
Recently we have found more great rental resource, which we just updated the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide book with. We are emailing these new rental resources to all of those who have already bought the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide eBook. So be looking for this email soon! Thank you for your support!
Consistency is everything when looking for budget rental properties in Cuenca. There is a lot of competition in the $200 to $300 a month price range. When a new listing comes up in your price range, go look at it as soon as possible, and if you like it, rent it!
Here are the 5 best ways to find a budget rental property in Cuenca Ecuador.
1. Read the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide book
2. Find bilingual newspapers, which we list in the DIY Cuenca Guide.
Some of these are Spanish websites so you will need to know a few words in Spanish and then when you find a good priced rental (under $300) have an Ecuadorian call it for you.
3. Make friends with the locals and then let them know you are looking for a rental under whatever your budget price is.
4. Walk around the neighborhoods you like and look for “Casa for rent” signs. It will look something like this. Arriendo de casa" or Se "Arrienda".
5. Put your business card and or contact information on houses that look vacant and ask if they would consider renting it out.
We list several more resources on how to find budget rental properties in Cuenca Ecuador in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide eBook. Plus we show you what to look for in the rental property to use for a negotiation tactic to lower the price of the rental itself! There is so much great information in the Cuenca LandingGuide that you’ll be telling the locals how to find the best priced rentals. Caio for now!


Festival at Paraiso Park in Cuenca Ecuador

Here's the second part to our Paraiso Park adventure with the children on a chilly and rainy Saturday afternoon in Cuenca. It was an enjoyable day with a festival ending.


This is a huge park in Cuenca.
Paraiso Parque


This park has a small lake with paddle boats, walking trails, lots of green space for playing games, several play ground areas, and a river runs through it. A must visit park for the whole family!


Cuenca Ecuador Hotels for the Frugal-Minded Budget

In Cuenca the hotels can be downright expensive because they are geared for the tourist. We think staying in over-priced hotels for your visit is a waste of money for two very important reasons. 1) You won’t be spending much time in your hotel room, and 2) You can have the same amenities, plus more while staying in a hostel in Cuenca!
What Is a Frugal Hotel in Cuenca Ecuador?
A frugal-minded hotel is usually called a hostel, which is spelled “hostal” here in Ecuador. A “hostel and hotel” are similar except that a hostel is geared to the budget minded traveler because they have the option of rooms that have shared bathrooms and or kitchens that cater to the back packer, students, and those with families, etc.  Of course, you certainly do not have to have a shared bathroom, however; they have different amenities for different budgets.

The above is a photo we took of a hostel in downtown Cuenca. This particular hostel and three others we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide we have either stayed at or checked out the rooms personally.  They are all pretty nice hostels
Here in Cuenca there are literally hundreds of hostels to choose from and the ones we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide have prices starting at just $8 a night with private bath and FREE WIFI! Now you can't beat that. One thing that most hostels have in common are shared kitchens. This is very handy for that early morning cup of coffee or tea; or using the refrigerator to keep cold drinks and other snack type food items cold.
So if you are thinking about visiting Cuenca and your wallet doesn’t like the $50 on up a night hotel lodging than we think your best bet is the $8 to $25 a night per person hostel.
When Frank first arrived in Cuenca he booked a hostel that was $50 a night online because we didn’t know about the lower priced hostels in Cuenca. Two days later he found another hostel in the same “El Centro” location of Cuenca for just $8 a night with the same amenities, of private bath, shared kitchen, clean rooms, wifi, etc!
The room in the higher priced hostal was not any larger than the lower priced one.
You Don’t Have to Stay at the Expensive Cuenca Ecuador Hotels
Had we known about this hostels before we arrived in Cuenca we could have saved $84! We want to help you find a good value hotel for your visit to Cuenca. That’s why we have mapped out four nice priced hostels, with photos, description and contacts in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide. We checked out these hostels ourselves or have stayed in them, so we know you’ll find them to your liking as well.
By the way, there are hostels in Cuenca that are expensive at $50 a night on up but the ones we list in the DIY Cuenca Landing guide all have the frugal budget in mind.


Health Risks (Mold In Cuenca) of Moving to Cuenca Ecuador

There is a health risk to moving to Cuenca.  This assessment comes from not just our personal experience but also the experience of other expat friends and other information gathered from other sources. It's a respiratory issue.  

It's not something that's talked about much, but after living here for a period of time it becomes evident. Well, one thing you notice is that the construction of the homes and apartments of friends, although, it is to a high standard in other respects, is faulty in one thing. It's not evident right away. But then, you start noticing it. 

 It's just a little bit at first. But then it spreads.  It's mold! Green mold and some black mold.  You clean it, and you clean it, but it keeps coming back. Why is this happening? After several conversations with landlords, the solution that keeps cropping up is "open the windows".

This is mold in our home in the kitchen cupboards and drawers just a few weeks after we cleaned it with bleach! And it came back that fast! Click on photos to get a better view.

As long time followers of this blog know, we're not hot enough here in Cuenca to open the windows on a regular i.e. daily basis. Well, we cleaned up all the mold and have been opening the windows almost every day.  It's easy to do when the sun is shining and it's warm out. But those consecutive days without sunshine are the hardest to do.  Even with the windows open the mold comes back, just not as fast, so having the windows open does help to keep the mold at bay a bit longer. 

After a bit of reflection it is apparent that the issue is in the construction plan.  And here is where it is faulty. There is no allowance for a natural ventilation of the homes.  If you don't open the windows, you're stuck in a vacuum.  No airflow, at least, not enough to curtail the spread of mold.  And this is the source, we believe, of the beginning of health issues.

Again, if it was just us we wouldn't write about it.  But it's our friends too.  They also notice the constant nasal irritation, and the throaty irritation that just won't go away. None of this ever happened on a chronic basis before moving to Cuenca. Actually it didn't occur at all with us as we're very careful about our health.  It's a Cuenca thing at this point, since we've lived here. 

However, we have read that respiratory ailments are also an issue at some southern coastal points of Ecuador where apparently it rains all the time.

We're guessing that under very wet conditions and no proper ventilation, the  mold issue is too strong to conquer and that's how it causes chronic irritation. This is potentially a very big health risk, especially for older folks and very young children.  If you're healthy and strong it's just a chronic small "cold symptom" type of irritation.  But for the above mentioned groups it could spread to other parts of the body such as your lungs and become pneumonia. This can potentially become fatal.

Understand we are not trying to discourage anyone moving to or visiting Cuenca. Don't you want to know about the new city you will be living in, even if it is negative? I know that I would want to know everything, not just the good stuff. It's an important issue that people need to be aware of when considering moving to Cuenca or other parts of Ecuador. See it for yourself, when you come even just to visit, take a look at the construction.  See any vents in the ceilings, or any attic areas with vents in the walls?  Nope and nope. 

We understand every one's situation is different, and we think that simple solutions would be very effective, such as:

1. having a wood stove
2. having a fireplace
3. having lots of gas heat
4. having an industrial sized de-humidifier
5. open the windows even though you're cold

This would have the effect of drying out conditions so as to prevent mold coming back again, it's our experience, not an opinion or a guess. Thought you might want to know. We welcome your feedback and questions.


What’s it Like to Live in the Clouds of the Andes Mountains

The weather in Cuenca has been really nice this past week. So you may be thinking what is really nice weather?  Really nice weather is when you wake up in the morning and the sun is shining and the high for the day is in the lower 70’s; and by mid afternoon there is clouds but it doesn’t rain; and if it does rain it’s just a quick passing rain cloud.  B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

Oh yeah, and really nice weather is when the sun smiles down on us and stays shining for several hours so you can open the windows and patio doors and let the warm, fresh air into your home.

According to the time stamp on the photo above it was taken in the middle of winter in Cuenca and it was probably a nice temperature of lower 70's. Ecuador is the closest country to the sun and when the sun comes out it warms everything up real fast. This is what most people talk about when they say Cuenca has "perfect spring-like weather".  Some days in Cuenca are perfect and spring-like.

We do not mind the cloudy days and we also love the rain, but what we don’t love is when it rains every single day and sometimes all day long! Oddly when we first arrived in Cuenca, the end of June 2011, it was also really nice weather, which was wintertime here.  

The picture below was taken in the beginning of summer and this is what many days in Cuenca may look like in the summer.  It's not too cold, but it is mostly cloudy and it could start raining at any minute.

The only difference between summer and winter when living in the clouds of the Andes Mountains is the nights of summer are a little bit warmer than winter and it rains much more in the summer than in the winter. Yes, summer time in Cuenca is rainy season and living here through the summer we can surely confirm that it has been rainy and damp indeed. 

But now that we are going into fall weather it has been absolutely wonderful weather every single day for a week, except for today it has rained most of the day, but that’s ok because we experienced such a nice week with just a little rain that it deserves to rain all day!   

Living in the clouds of the Andes Mountains has been very interesting indeed. Most mornings you can see the majestic mountains but by mid afternoon the clouds have overtaken the sky and usually there is no more mountain scenery, or you might only see one or two mountains where the clouds have not yet overtaken the sky. In the photo below you are supposed to see the mountains in the distance but they have disappeared!

Cuenca, being surrounded by the Andes Mountains is actually shielded from really bad storms, even so, we have experienced a couple of good down pours and hail storms, both of which were pretty fun to watch when you’re not out in them. 

Once again, the weather in Cuenca this past week has been amazingly perfect. And you could even see the Andes Mountains pretty much the whole day! We think this is telling us that rainy season is coming to an end here in Cuenca and now we are going to experience some great fall and winter weather just like we did last winter of 2011. 


The most important thing to remember about the weather in Cuenca is "be prepared". We do not leave home without our umbrella and a light rain jacket because you never know what to expect living amongst the clouds.

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