10 Years of Blog Archive

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Shocking Truths about Retirement to Cuenca Ecuador

1. Not everyone will qualify for immigrant Visa – We know of one expat family that consisted of a dad, the daughter, and her five children that had to leave Ecuador because the visa process got pushed out for one reason or another. And just recently another expat couple, after renting an apartment and filling it with furniture, wasn’t allowed back into Ecuador because they were gone for too long (more than 90-days) and lost their resident visa status. They’re now in the process of selling everything through gringo portals on the Internet. Fun uh? 

Stories like this are heard and written about on a consistent basis in Ecuador. This is why we have always said, “Do your diligent research” about your documents BEFORE uprooting your life from North America; being thorough and wise could save you thousands of dollars and mucho time.

NOTE: Most people will qualify for the visa, but a small percentage will not for one reason or another.

2. Furnished homes and most apartment rentals are priced two to three times higher than just three years ago – Value has completely disappeared. But maybe you are one of those folks that don’t care just as long as it is cheaper than what you were paying in the states.

3. Ecuadorian landlords are getting pickier, even with the gringos! Just recently a well-to-do expat family with four teenage homeschoolers was not allowed to rent their 4-bedroom 4-bath house because, as the Ecuadorian landlord put it, “they are a family of five and the house only has 4-bedrooms”.  Hellooo, are we missing something here? This is shocking! And if you own a pet? Good luck!

NOTE: As our long time and devoted readers know, our mission to Cuenca Ecuador, at this time, is to assist/consult expats so they will not get gringoed, or get taken advantage of in the rental market; we know and interact with many agents and homeowners in town and stay away from the ones who we know to be unethical and dishonest. We believe in the old adage but simple principle, "do what you say".

4. If you are a gringo you most-likely will have your rent increased every two years – They might try and raise it after one year, thinking you do not know the law. We’ve been told by two people we know personally that the landlord wants to raise their rent. It is legal to do so after two years, unless you state in the contract otherwise, but it is unethical to raise it extravagantly, which is what we have been hearing from our fellow expatriates.

NOTE: This happens all the time, so now you know…rents cannot be raised until the second year and then only a few percentages.

5. Spring-like weather? If you’re like 80% of expats that move to Cuenca you might find the weather (especially in the homes and apartments) far from “spring-like”; just a heads up for anyone who is coming from a city where it is warm, sunny and hot. If you’re coming from Texas, California, Arizona, or Florida, just to name a few, you might find the weather here too cold and damp, too cloudy and dreary.

6. Shipping anything into Ecuador is VERY costly with the new 4X4 shipping laws. You now have to pay, (if using Club Correos) $42 dollars tax plus shipping, besides the cost of the item. So if you order a $0.10 cent pen from Amazon it will cost you the cost of the item, plus the cost of shipping, plus the added $42 dollars tax charge. That ten cent pen can get real expensive really fast. This was a shocker to us!

NOTE: Think you can just have things shipped directly without going through a shipping club? You can if you want, but be warned. Think: why was a shipping club necessary to begin with?

Update February 2015: Club Correos has been shut down indefinitely. Guess you'll have to have things shipped directly now anyhow. You'll be shocked when you learn how much it is to ship to Ecuador.

7.  Ecuador citizenship/passport difficult and costly: To become a citizen of Ecuador you must speak Spanish and know and answer questions pertaining to the constitution; you’ll need to re-process all of the same paperwork you did to become a resident, plus other paperwork besides, and lawyer’s fees, apostille fees and notarization fees, and shipping fees and government fees, ad nauseum.

8. Cuenca is smoggy and noisy: Cuenca is a wonderful city with some friendly folks, but the smog and noise in the city is really too much for most older gringos to adapt to; some move out into the country, or to Loja, still others move to the quieter and more laid-back coastal life, while others just go back where they came from.

9. Cuenca has about 250 cloudy days out of the year, and I'm being generous with that figure. If you like sunny days, you’ll get some but you will find that Cuenca is quite cloudy most of the time.

10. Cuenca is NOT the cheapest retirement place to live in the world and it never was when it was being touted as such; in fact, a lot of foreigners that move here complain that it’s too expensive!

BONUS Shocker: Everything, from groceries, Mercado produce and restaurants to tour services, rents and real estate, their all going up, and up, and up…better hurry up before this cheeeep paradise is just another South American country to go to. The coastal tourist areas like Salinas and Manta are also rising in price.

NOT Everyone is Friendly: Everyone is so friendly in Ecuador. Sure, most of the Ecuadorians are pleasant, but if you live here for any amount of time you will find it is just like anywhere else in the world. If you really get to know someone and begin to do business with them or interact in any meaningful way, you might find that the saying “everyone is friendly” as a fallacy. Just saying; no where in the world is “everyone friendly” and nor is everyone honest, be on your guard.

We just thought our devoted followers would like to know the truths about moving to and living in Cuenca Ecuador. You don’t think we’d keep it a secret, do you? We would love to hear your comments and experiences.

If you are retiring or moving to Cuenca you will surely want to have the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide by your side to help you save money, find a place to hang your hat, and orient yourself when you first land. You’ll be glad you have it!

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


  1. Thought you were talking about the USA for a while and the US prices are so bad that it's a luxury to have fruit and veggies let alone at the same time it's usually either or not both. Rental prices are through the roof thank God we own our property sad thing is you can't build to fix there are so many regulations and codes it's as if you don't really own your own land. I know the need to make sure it doesn't get out of hand but if you only want to build a room addition on half an acre of land it's actually impossible with all the rules. You want friendly iffy people come on over. Yup Ecuador is one of the Earths land masses and thus comes with all the beauty and horror and there is no such thing as perfect but I do love rain and clouds so it would be perfect for me. US Immigration if you want to come legally make anything in Ecuador seem like nothing in comparison. It's a nightmare that seems to go on for ever and ever and very very expensive for let's say if you marry outside of the US. Justice, they help illegals but those wanting to come in legally are treated like criminals. Yup nothing is perfect. :)

    1. Yes, we've been hearing about food prices going through the roof in the u.s. Fruits and vegetables are so abundant here and still priced at a level where everyone can afford. Isn't that the way it should be anywhere you live?

      You would love the weather here if you like clouds. LOL. Thanks for sharing and commenting.

    2. Didn't even know you responded so not being rude just had no idea. Found this by luck. OMG yes I love the rain and I miss my country warts and all.
      I agree fruits and vegetables should be affordable but sadly in the USA they are not. The prices only go down when they start to rot and they have no choice. Sad and it's happening all over the world.

    3. and...it looks like it is starting to happen here...higher prices on fruits and veggies...at least with imported products and produce!! Yikes.


  2. I wrote a longer response but it disappeared.
    So I will try again.

    I so admire your honesty. I lived in Cuenca for ten years in the 90's. I had all kinds of difficulties with visas , properties, and many other things involving documents.. At that time I was the only Gringo I knew of that was living there full time.

    I wish anyone who was thinking of moving there would read this honest article.

    I had been thinking of moving back as I missed the weather , the beauty and a couple of other things but after reading a few articles written by expats and would-be expats I think Cuenca is too Gringofied for me now.

    Your article verified disturbing things that I had been seeing about the rising prices and the still existing difficulties with documents. My heart goes out to that family that had to return to the states.

    There would be no point in me going now as I know how much the inefficiency and corruption bothered me and I see that I can live here much cheaper!

    Unfortunately many of the expats are perhaps too ashamed to let the world know that they made a wrong decision and that there are things that bother them.

    One person called me racist. I am far from that and was married to an Ecuadorian for 20 years. The macho system and the all to available young women looking for a "rich" guy ended our marriage.

    I thank you for helping me make a wiser decision.

    1. Thank you sharing. Wow, that was a ways back.. We would be interested in hearing more about life in Cuenca in the 90's. How much was a typical 3/2 rental back then? Did they have the typical almuerzo then? And finally, what about crime, what was it like in the 90's?

      Yes, there's a lot of gringo's here but we think a lot of them are only visiting on a discovery visit. Cuenca is beautiful and has a lot to offer with many advantages, but there are the negatives and disadvantages as we wrote about in this article. We just want people to know; everyone deserves to know about Cuenca... We hope we're doing a good job! Thanks for commenting.

  3. I owned several properties there in the 90's. My husband and I fixed up and sold properties at that time.

    Our first house had 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, attached garage, fully enclosed yard with a media agua at the back. It cost us 35 thousand dollars in 1983.

    At that time the sucre was plummeting and was at about 69 to the US dollar. We were not ready to move yet so we rented it out for 100 US dollars month for seven years till we moved there permanently. We always bought or built houses so I have never rented a home there.

    When we finally arrived in 1990, we added a third floor with a terrace and another bedroom and sold it ten years later for over 80,000 US.

    So you can only imagine my shock at the prices now!!!

    The typical almuerzo at that time consisted of a large amount of rice, perhaps a fried egg, and a few small pieces of meat as I recall.

    Then of course it was popular to drive out to San Joaquin on Sundays for the wonderful meals of barbequed strips of pork, fava beans and fresh cheese, mote, salsa. Or perhaps to Cajas for the fresh caught trout served by several restaurants at the entrance to the park.

    I REALLY missed a good steak though. There was one Argentine restaurant for awhile that had delicious steak but it did not last long. I see that there are lots of Gringo run restaurants now catering to Gringo tastes.

    You know it is so long ago that memories are starting to fade. Some of them look better that way, others I regret not remembering in detail. I wrote a few stories about my experiences there if you are interested I can send them to you privately.

  4. You asked about crime. It was not too bad in Cuenca, but I was always careful.

    But I have to say that in ten years I was never robbed.

    A visiting Canadian friend and I were crossing the large plaza at the 9 de Octubre market right downtown when a thief grabbed her gold cross right off her neck, scratching her in the process. We pursued him but in a flash he lost himself in the hundreds of stalls.

    I have traveled a lot so I know not to wear a lot of jewelry, wave cash around and I kept my waist pack under my sweater etc. Many times I got asked how many months pregnant I was even though I was in my 50's. Kind of flattering actually!

    There was always worry about drug dealers moving in from Colombia when the US was cracking down on them but I personally did not see much evidence of drugs although I know they existed. I just didn't run with that crowd.

    Guayaquil was a different story and we were warned not to stop at traffic lights at night as thieves would rush out and try to rob you, steal your car etc.

    The following accounts were told to us by personal Ecuadorian friends who lived there and who had been assaulted several times (hit over the head and knocked out) while trying to make end of day deposits from their business to the bank.

    Others talked of gangs that were in cahoots with taxi drivers leaving the air port in Guayaquil. The driver would take you to an isolated spot where you would be assaulted, beaten and robbed and left to find your own way back.

    One person told us that thieves would throw a live rat into the car and when the frightened driver jumped out screaming, they would jump in and steal the car.

    Another Cuenca friend visiting Guayaquil had her purse with money and passport stolen from her lap as she sat in the car at a traffic light. One person attracted her attention by banging on the back of the car. When she turned to see what was going on a second person grabbed her purse.

    I personally always wrapped my purse strap around the gear shift and still do it to this day even in Canada if my car windows are down.

    Arriving at the airports in Guayaquil or Quito used to be pretty harrowing what with all the taxis and pirate cabs trying to grab
    your bags.

    1. Hi. They say Guayaquil is still unsafe like that and they say people should have their doors locked at traffic lights. There is less crime here but there are still snatch and grabs going on in Cuenca.

      Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I think our readers will find it all very interesting as well. If it is not too much trouble you can send your stories to our contact email at the top of the blog. Thanks!

    2. Always a good idea to keep your car doors locked and windows open and I do it here too. I am not paranoid...I prefer to think of myself as street smart!
      Will send you links to a couple of stories. Hope you enjoy them and yes you can share them if you wish.


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.