10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, June 07, 2015

A Reader Asks: We Want to Retire Early and Live Frugal --Cuenca or Quito Ecuador?

I have been following your blog for some time now.  The only problem with all of the wonderful information is that now we can't choose which city to visit first, Cuenca or Quito. We are a couple in our early 40's and are looking to retire early and this would mean being frugal, which I know you understand.  We would want to take advantage of as many free entertainment options as possible while keeping our day to day expenses as low as possible.  We want to integrate into the Ecuadorian lifestyle and rid ourselves of the American "needs".  I have ordered your DIY Landing Guide to Cuenca but I'm sure that while it is going to be wonderful I'll still just want your opinion on this.  So for an early middle aged couple without kids which city do YOU feel would suit us best to start with?  I know this is just an opinion but I wouldn't ask if I did not trust your advice/opinion. Thanks again for all of the wonderful things you do for your readers.

Frank and Angie’s Recommendation:

We think that’s great you have chosen to go the frugal route in order to retire early because you will likely enjoy seeking new ways to be frugal and at the same time go local also while in Ecuador, which brings, we think, more satisfaction in expat life. It’s much more enjoyable, at least for us to save money by blending in with the culture and going local, which is part and parcel of becoming a year round resident anywhere.
Riding the bus in Cuenca Ecuador
We cannot really recommend which city would be best for you as we do not know you personally, but we have done extensive research of both cities and we live in Ecuador so we can tell you a little bit of what both cities are like. This video will also give you a glimpse of Quito life.

Both cities can sponge up any budget you desire. You can rent for $1250 or you can rent for $350 per month in both Cuenca and Quito. People often say Quito is more expensive than Cuenca but that is only partly true.  Yes, Quito can be expensive when you rent where all the tourists and newcomers want to rent but go outside that area just a little bit and you can find rentals for $350 to $550 just like in Cuenca. As those of us know, Cuenca can be expensive too.

Both Cuenca and Quito have lots of free entertainment options such as really nice parks, bike trails, walking trails and even free symphonies.  Shopping is good in both cities, however, Quito has more variety and more shopping malls compared to Cuenca.
- Pumapungo - Archeological site and botanical gardens park in Cuenca Ecuador

Both cities have numerous restaurants to fit all budgets. You can easily find upscale dining restaurants and also the more traditional fare restaurants.

You can easily find movies that are in English with Spanish subtitles. The Ecuadorians like to watch them that way to help them learn English.
Movie Theater in N. Quito
In both cities there are numerous cozy caf├ęs you can relax in with a cappuccino or cocoa after a day of walking. Speaking of walking, Cuenca is a good walking city and so if you like to be outdoors you can easily walk to many of the stores and produce Mercados. 
North Quito Strip Mall
Most North Americans that move to the Andes Mountains lose some weight just for the fact the food is fresher / cleaner, and most people end up walking more because they don’t have cars, which is one of those North American needs we have rid ourselves of and we love being car-less. 

You’ll actually blend in great by walking as many local folks walk about.  It’s not like the U.S where people drive their cars to the store and walk 30 yards from the car into the store. People actually walk here and that’s a good thing.

Walking up Calle Chile in El Centro - Quito Ecuador
Quito can be a good walking city if you stay in one area of the city. However, if you want to get from one area to the other, you’ll need to take the metro or a taxi. Quito is four times larger than Cuenca so when we wrote the DIY Quito Landing Guide we split the city up into three areas that are popular with expats and tourists to make the city easier for folks to navigate.  The areas are, El Centro, La Mariscal, and North Quito.

And actually Quito has excellent transportation such as the city bus, the trolley, and the Ecovia Tram, and so getting around on a budget is easy to do in Quito.
Terminal Rio Coca in N. Quito
The weather in Quito is the same as Cuenca with no extremes of heat or cold or humidity; and there are no real seasonal changes. Many folks find the Andes Mountain weather ideal for enjoying many outdoor activities. 

Come visit and take a look at Quito and Cuenca and you will have a better “feel” and “personal awareness” that is unique to you and your circumstances.  We can say that many foreigners prefer Cuenca over Quito because of the small town feel that Cuenca offers while still providing the shopping, restaurants, and infrastructure. 

Quito can be a bit overwhelmingat first if you are coming from a small city in the US.  There is also the overwhelming feel that happens because you are new to traveling abroad, and don't speak the language, etc…and some people rightly feel a need to minimize that by going to Cuenca. 
N. Quito Business District
So it really depends on the individual and how fluent and quickly they can integrate in a foreign culture, as to whether they will feel at home and comfortable in a big foreign city like Quito. As for ourselves, we also didn't know the language and customs and were new to Ecuador so it was all foreign to us too, and so spending that one year in Cuenca first really helped to smooth the way we feel about Quito when we go there. We really like Quito.
Carolina Park Ares - N. Quito
The insight we have gained on this is, when you first visit Quito it really helps to check out each individual section of the city that we outline in the Quito Guide, and you will find that each area that is popular with expats is like being in a smaller more comfortable and likeable city about the same size as Cuenca while providing all of the shopping, restaurants, and infrastructure. 

There’s no need to travel from one end of the city to the other when you're still in the initial Ecuador acclimatizing stage. So, whichever city you choose for your move, enjoy your new life in Ecuador!

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


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