10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brandon Is Reviewing a Ripe Pepino Dulce! Does It Taste Sweeter?

We had several people leave comments (on YT) to let us know that the Pepino Dulce we reviewed last week was not ripe. We went to the store and bought another one; this new one is softer and yellowish in color compared to the other one. So does the ripe one taste (better) sweeter? Here's Brandon's review.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tipping Wait Staff in Ecuador: Should You or Shouldn't You, and How Much?

In the US we wouldn’t think twice about NOT tipping our waiter or waitress; we just do it because it is the appropriate thing to do. Most of us know that a waiter or waitress earns half of their wages or more through the process of tipping and so receiving an appropriate tip is an absolute necessity, otherwise he or she wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.

It’s different in Ecuador. Some or most of the restaurants are family owned and operated and can support the wait staff (family) as they still live at home, and actually they are in their home; eating out in Ecuador is like going to someone’s house and eating in their dining room. In fact the kitchen they’re cooking your meal in is most likely their home kitchen too!

When you tip the wait staff you’re tipping the family. When you tip in the Ecuadorian restaurants you are probably tipping the son, daughter, niece, or close family friend. However, let’s just say it is a hired server, all the more you should be aiding in their small minimum wage they are receiving. 

There’s nothing wrong with tipping in Ecuador 10% to 20% of the bill, but not more than that.  We’ll talk about how much to tip in a bit.

There are VERY good reasons to tip wait staff in Ecuador, here’s why?

1. The wait staff provided you with good service
2. You want to return and receive good service again
3. The wait staff was congenial
4. You appreciate restaurants in Ecuador
5. You feel you want to tip

The practice of tipping between Ecuadorians has not been formally introduced into the local culture too much, however you cannot say Ecuadorians NEVER tip as some of the nicer Ecuadorian dining establishments automatically add a gratuity to the bill, between 5% and %15, which means Ecuadorians do tip!

Then what we should be saying and thinking is: Ecuadorians will not tip when they don’t have to…that’s interesting. However, on the other side of the coin we see that Ecuadorians do tip, when they have to as gratuity is added to the bill in some restaurants.

What is really happening in Ecuador is sometimes Ecuadorians tip and sometimes they don’t. How fair is it, do you think that Ecuadorians only tip in the finer dining establishments and not in the mom and pop restaurants, where clearly the tip is probably much more needed? How much sense does it make from an ethical perspective?

It seems to us that in an Ecuadorian service business, and especially a family owned and operated one, a tip of 10% would truly be appreciated from the patrons. Perhaps if the locals started tipping 10% of the bill then they would not raise their menu and almuerzo prices. Eh? Just a thought.

Tipping in Ecuador by Ecuadorians and Foreigners is Appropriate

So then we foreigners can’t say, “Oh they don’t tip in Ecuador when clearly they do in some restaurants when it is automatically added to the bill. Bottom line is, no matter where you eat, unless it is buffet style, tipping 10 to 15 percent of the bill is absolutely appropriate. To keep saying it is not part of the culture is trying to get out of tipping the wait staff and that is just not appropriate.

How Much Should You Tip?

Only tip what is fitting, which would be about 10 to 15% percent of the bill. Anything over 20% of the bill is over-tipping and out of place. For most family run restaurants fifty cents to a dollar is plenty. A couple can easily eat out in most restaurants in Ecuador from $5 to $10, both of them.

Over tipping by throwing around $5, $10 and $20 dollar bills on tips is not normal behavior and as such will not be received with appreciation by the server as they did not earn it. However, they’ll be excited about receiving a whole days wage from you, but they will not respect you more for doing it, as it is in very bad taste.

And this goes with tipping any service business in Ecuador. Tip what is fitting but don’t play the “I’m a rich American” and show off by giving a big, ridiculous tip. Believe us it will go unappreciated, or worse, it could make you a target as some have discovered, and you’ll be wasting your money and your ego. In a country where a typical day’s wage is only $20, you’d be ruining the place.

How Should You Tip?

Always hand your waiter or waitress the tip directly in their hand. Never leave a tip on the table as it can get taken by passerby's. NOTE: We’ve witnessed other waiters take a tip on a table that they did not serve, so it is best to directly hand your server the tip to make sure they actually get it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Make (Healthy) Jamaica Hibiscus Tea in Cuenca Ecuador

This tea made from the hibiscus flower buds has many medicinal properties including reducing high blood pressure. The tea is also high in minerals. It tastes so good it does not even need sweetened.You can find the hibiscus flowers sold at Coral or the Mercados, and we also saw the wheelbarrow ladies selling them; that's where you're going to get your best deal!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

DIY Ecuador Coast Travel Guide AT YOUR SERVICE!

We are pleased to be offering our readers the DIY Ecuador Coast Travel Guide, published and ready for purchase. We cover in DETAIL 18 coastal towns, holding nothing back. The REAL nitty-gritty of the Ecuador coast is now available for your perusal.  Want to know the safest beach towns? Best time of year to travel to the coast? Where to stay with photos, description, and rates? Advantages and disadvantages of the Ecuador coast? Most beautiful beaches? About buying, renting and retiring on the coast of Ecuador? 
Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu. 
It's all here and more. All the great information you have become accustomed to reading from Frank and Angie.The Ecuador Coast Up Close!!  Preview all 31 chapters and up to page 11 here!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cheap Retirement? Cuenca Ecuador Reality Check! (Ep. 3 EV Organic Coconut OIL)

Do you love and use Extra Virgin ORGANIC Coconut Oil? It's REALLY expensive in Cuenca Ecuador!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Retire Cheap? Cuenca Ecuador Reality Check (Ep 2 EV Olive Oil)

Here's a reality check for our viewers. Do you use EV Olive Oil? If you do then you will want to watch this video. Stay tuned for more popular products we all love and use in this series!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Brandon Tastes the Pepino Dulce Fruit, Native to South American Andes

Here is an interesting fruit native to the Andes mountain regions. It is packed with nutrition and is known as a super fruit!You can find them at Coral Centro or at any of the Mercados in Cuenca.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Retire Cheap Cuenca Ecuador: Do Expat Forums Work?

So far we have replaced a restaurant, a bakery and now a travel van service business in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide! Why? Because prices got out of hand and skyrocketed. When we take a business or service out of the guide we always replace it with a new (better, locally priced) one. We will continue to work hard to keep the DIY Cuenca Guide updated with timely information and locally priced businesses, goods and services.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Retire Cheap? Cuenca Ecuador Reality Check! (Ep 1 Parmesan Cheese)

We bring you this video because we think our followers want to (continue) to know the reality of what's happening in Cuenca Ecuador. This way you can make a more informed decision when it comes time to decide where you want to move or retire to. If we did not bring you our experiences and reality checks, who will?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Traveling the PanAmerica Highway 35 from Quito to Riobamba and then to Cuenca

Ecuador has great roads and beautiful countryside along Ecuador Highway 35.  From Quito we rode with an Ecuadorian who spotted us trying to get a bus at the terminal terrestre. It was a holiday and the lines were outrageously long. He first quoted us $50 but Frank got him down to $15. The drive from Quito to Riobamba was not without incident. We wrote about our petty crime experience in the Quito Guide. We spent the night in Riobamba and the next day took the national bus to Cuenca. From Quito to Cuenca it is a 9-hour drive so it is nice to break it up with a stopover midway.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

We're Having a $3 Lunch in Atacames Ecuador, Esmeraldas Province

Atacames is the last northern beach town we traveled to and researched along the Ecuador coastline. Atacames is a lot different in many ways than some of the other coastal towns in Ecuador. We explain those differences in our DIYEcuador Coast Travel Guide. Plus, we have 20 other popular Ecuador destinations listed in the Ecuador coast guide with complete details. The kind of details you would expect from Frank and Angie! 


See ATACAMES Beach Here!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How Safe is Your (Ecuador) Expat Retirement from Gringo Gouging and Inflation?

It doesn’t matter where you decide to live in South or Central America; prices will increase; they always do; gringos will be targeted and gouged.  Your retirement check will only go so far until (perhaps) you can’t make ends meet anymore, even in South America. You've heard of the expat's that had to leave Panama because it got too expensive for them, right?

So what can you do about gringo gouging and inflation? You can integrate and blend in. 

We knew the minute we landed in Cuenca Ecuador that we were getting gringoed; we made some mistakes but quickly learned from them. It is through our own experiences we are able to write this post to help newcomers to Cuenca and Quito not to be gringo gouged. 
Most people do not realize that just by certain actions we make, even if they are small gestures will make us a target of gringo gouging.
NOTE: There are many more ways we can keep ourselves from being a target of gringism but these are ones that any newcomer can do no matter how much Spanish they have under their belt.

1. Introduce Yourself (right off the bat) as NOT a Tourist 

If you are here to “live” then you are not a tourist anymore and that means a total different set of rules.  Why would anyone, seriously, pay more for rent if they don’t have to? The first thing you want to let any Ecuadorian know who has something to sell you is, "I'm not a tourist", and do not want "the tourist price"!

Ecuadorians LOVE to ask Americans what they did for a living back in the states. Why? Because they can size you up to see if you are rich and then price their assets and commodities accordingly. Or, some actually have long term agendas and will badly want to be your friend if they think you are loaded. Be careful; that’s all we’re saying.

When a landlord shows us a rental we let them know right off the bat, “We’re not tourists, we live here, and we are not rich”. The first time Frank told a landlord we were not tourists and we’re not rich Americanos, I laughed out loud because I felt uncomfortable that he is telling a total stranger our personal business, however, the landlord smiled and totally agreed, with respect at what we were saying.

And when he told us the price of his 3 bed, 2 bath small, brand new apartment by Coral Centro for $180 and views (this was 3 years ago) we sighed in relief because we had a single expat lady we were helping who happened to be on a very limited Social Security budget. This apartment was perfect for her. 

2. Do Not Speak English 

It does not matter if you are tall and blonde; the point is if you go around speaking loudly in English it makes the locals want to charge you more for everything.  Of course they already know you are not a local, but just the fact that you may be energetically displaying English speak in their country makes it seem like you do not care about their language.

They do not know how long you have been here. And if you’re speaking loud English, it is assumed you must have just landed and so you’re a (loaded) unbeknownst tourist.

One couple we were with on a Cuenca city bus kept speaking loud English even after our gentle suggestion not to, and he promptly got pick pocketed! No kidding!

They will respect you more if you at least try and speak their language. Do sign language if you have to, just don’t speak English, seriously! 

3. Write Down Spanish Phrases on Index Cards and Use Them!! 

Whatever the occasion, whether you are going out to lunch, going to the dentist, having a document translated, or shopping in the Mercado, have short Spanish phrases ready that you will need for the occasion and use them. This is also the best way to learn Spanish. You just have to get out there and apply the language to your daily life. Use sign language with the phrases to get your point across. The more phrases you apply into your daily life the faster you will learn Spanish!! 

4. Negotiate for EVERYTHING 

Don’t be apprehensive about negotiating. Ecuadorians love to haggle and they will respect you for doing it. Did you know you can negotiate with the manager at grocery and department stores too? Well, it’s true, you can! 

This is why learning your numbers is the most important part of learning the Spanish language, because once you know your numbers you can get out there and negotiate and save lots of money while living in Ecuador. 

5. Be Willing to Walk Away 

I don’t know how many times we have “smiled”, turned around and walked away from a vendor, or a mom and pop shop because we were getting gringoed. Some of the time they yell back for us and sell it to us for the price it should be. Sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t matter.
The neat thing about Cuenca is there are many different vendors selling the same stuff! We just go to a different store or vendor.

You can do this with anything from real estate to buying produce. And the more gringos that actually walk away when they know the price is inflated the more we all will be helping the whole expat community in Cuenca and Quito.

If you care about what the Ecuadorians may think about you and you want to be a part of the community then do these five simple methods of expat integration; you’ll be glad you did!

We have a lot more great expat integration information and money saving tips in the Cuenca and Quito Landing Guides.

We’re curious to know the ways you have not given into gringo gouging and inflation. Let us know your experience with this in the comments below.