Tag Archives: apartment

What You Get For $300 – Pondicherry, India

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Located in the Southern end of India, Pondicherry is a charming and small city.  We chose to visit here because I was curious about a place called Auroville, its related ashram, and the city’s history as a French colonial base.  I was not quite sure whether we would be staying for 3 months or 1 year so we decided to rent an apartment to get the best feel for the city.

As a single woman, travelling with 2 daughters and a young sister, I wanted to make sure our accommodations met the following standards:

  • Secure and safe
  • Clean and furnished
  • Close proximity to the beach
  • Close to transportation

We ended up in the beautiful and quaint Muslim quarter of Pondicherry, where yes, the majority of the residents are Muslim. Many are descendant from some of the original Arab traders who settled in the area. One of the perks of this neighborhood was that because of the religious requirement for cleanliness, street cleaners came through twice a day and the trash was picked up daily.

For $3oo rent we had a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, furnished apartment with a combined living /dining room, and a small kitchen.  Unfortunately, in a late night rush to organize my pictures, I accidentally deleted about 500 of them.  However, I did want to share some pictures of  our road, which I took subsequently.

The cost of living in Pondicherry, compared to Cuenca (Ecuador), is slightly higher, but the experience of living and breathing India for a moment, was definitely worth it.

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What You Get for $250 – Cuenca, Ecuador

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In one of my earliest posts, I said that it was possible to live in Cuenca and only pay $250 in rent per month.  A kind commenter, who currently lives in Cuenca, then replied that really the monthly rates are more in the range of $300-$500. So, delaying further discussion, I decided to see for myself.

After a week in Cuenca, talking to everyone from taxi drivers, to friends, to shop keepers and bank officers, I can say that the commenter was WRONG!!  You can absolutely live in a nice place in Cuenca for $250 or under and $250-$300 is considered the higher-end by the average Cuencano.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is a fact.

Sure if you want to live the high life/expat life, with the other expats, paying higher rental fees to live in condo buildings that are essentially occupied by other retired expats from North America (ex Mexico)….then go ahead and pay more. [There’s also that really fabulous, fully furnished house for $600 that I really want.]  However, if you are moving to Ecuador to make friends AND save money, well then you are in luck, because there are lots of options, you just need to have patience, a little flexibility and some time.

Okay, so why the serious difference in rental rates (perceived or real) between the commenter and I?  Language skills, living standards, other stuff ….take your pick.  All the conversations I had with people regarding living expenses were in Spanish.  While I did contact one of the expat real estate agents, it was on the last day I was in town and we really did not have a chance to speak.  For $250 and below (and it should be below), you can get a two bedroom newly renovated, apartment and the further you are from El Centro, the cheaper it gets.  I took a tour of a small, 2nd floor, 2-bedroom apartment that had just been renovated and the asking price was $250, which to me means that for a year lease you can get it for $200.  It is a 10 minute walk from downtown and in a decent/typical area.  I also spoke to the owner of a 2 bedroom, new construction apartment that had just rented it for $180.  It is walking distance to a Coral Supermarket (one of the supermarkets that we all would be happy with), a $2 taxi ride or a $0.25 bus ride to downtown and it is a block off a major road and right on the bus lines.

If you are looking for a place, there are tons of rentals, signs are posted on the homes (“se arrienda”) and foreigners are very welcome.  Just bring along some Spanish or a Spanish speaking friend, and negotiate heavily.

The big prize, however, is the home that originally got me excited about living in Ecuador.  I actually got to see the house in person, had dinner on the beautiful handmade/homemade furniture, and it is now the type of house I aspire to have…at the exact same price or less! [Side Note – Frank, Angie and their boys have created some really incredible furniture pieces, my personal favorite is the dining table and its seating.]

To supplement the pictures of the house, below are pictures of the neighborhood. The house is about a 10 minute, $2, taxi-drive from downtown area, or a $0.25 bus ride.

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Pictures of the home I visited, before it was furnished, are at following link – Frank and Angie’s Blog.

So when someone says it is not possible and you can’t, just repeat these words, “Yes you can!”

Ecuador, I’m in love… too bad you’re not a man!

Updated Thoughts on Otorongo Apartments– Cuenca

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I realize that I am probably a more flexible traveler than most and once I leave a situation I generally forget about it and move on.  That said, I have an update on the Otorongo Apartments.

  • If you like to smoke, you will find it to be an outdoor smoker’s paradise complete with orchid garden and water elements.
  •  If you like being around 65+ year-old people who like to spend a disproportionate amount of time describing their ailments to you, as they puff on a cigarette,
  • If you like the chance of 2nd hand smoke wafting into your room because other resident that smokes  like a chimney lives next door (all rooms are non-smoking so people stand outside),
  • If you like these things or can get past these things…then Otorongo Apartments will suit you just fine.

We spent most of our time away from the hotel, so while I did note the above issues (as a non-smoker and asthmatic), I stayed around only long enough to get the information that I wanted/needed, then I would retreat to our room or leave the property (which ever was applicable).  I found the staff to very helpful…but that is because I could speak Spanish with them.  Only Javier, the manager/owner, speaks English fluently.

I still recommend the Otorongo Apartments  if staying in a hostel is not your thing and staying at a $55+ per night hotel is over budget. Just know that, in fairness, American (yes Canadians I am including you too) smokers want a place to feel comfortable and at home too, and the Otorongo Apartment Hotel is that place.

Cuenca Day 5 – In the Land of English

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Today, in the land of English, it was all about building camaraderie, community and family.  We spent the late afternoon and evening with our friends, Frank and Angie, and their sons.  We had the best lasagna ever (veg and meat), we had the best conversation, and we felt right at home.

Also, as a side note, there are many who will tell you that you can not find a livable, place to live for $250 and that it is so difficult.  This is soooo wrong.

Fact Check

  • The average price of a an unfurnished three bedroom house and apartment will range from $250-$300.  That is what a Cuencano will pay.  Now you can always pay more and people will gladly take your money on a monthly basis…but if you are wise and frugal and want to live locally,this price range gets done all the time.
  • Having seen what a $250 house looks like in the flesh, I can tell you that it was beautiful.  Hardwood floors, french doors, granite counter tops, small indoor courtyard, larger outdoor patio and garden in the back, front courtyard and private, secure gated entry with security intercom.
  • If you are paying up to $600 in rent, it better be for a beautiful, fully furnished, multi-story, 4 bedroom house in the city with gated entry, private yards and loads of extras; that is, luxury level (more detail in upcoming post).
  • If you can speak a little Spanish and make friends with locals, walk around and have an open mind, you will find what you are looking for to fit almost any budget…except free (probably).
  • If you want to live in a condo with other Americans or in an expat heavy neighborhood, then you will pay more.  If you want to eat and hang out in expat frequented places, you will pay more.
  • Everything is available to you …. so the choices you make are your own.

Now back to building community.  I do not advocate foreign resident communities that operate within themselves and for the most part, exclude locals, except where necessary.  I do advocate for nurturing friendships across language barriers and cultural differences so that each enriches the life of the other.  I also realize, however, that there is something to be said for the familiarity of home in a foreign country, for not having to struggle to communicate every time you speak, for having friends that “get” what this experience is like.

So my caution is – moderation is the best path.  Be willing to open yourself up not only to the new and local culture, but also, to the people who are also part of your own national culture.  I started out this post saying that we felt at home with our friends and we would have missed that had I been absolutely opposed to contact with any Americans (yes Canadians too) living here.

Even when you leave home behind, you still carry the warmest piece of it with you – and sometimes you find that warmth in new friends who are kindred spirits.

Hotel Apartamentos Otorongo – Cuenca, Ecuador

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Hotel Apartamentos Otorongo is a great place to stay

  • for families,
  • travelers who like living locally vs in a hotel
  • people considering a longer term stay in Cuenca
  • Wiser (that is older) travelers

We are staying in a 1 bedroom for a week at a cost of $290.  Now for those of you gasping in delight at the low rate….remember this is Ecuador. This is more than the majority of Cuencanos pay for monthly rent! (Rents and living will be discussed in a separate post).  It is also more expensive than some of the great hostels in town which are $7-$10 a night (per person).

That said, this is the perfect location and accommodation for us.  I really prefer to cook my own food when I travel so I wanted a kitchen, the landscaping makes me feel like I actually live here, and the other residents are interesting.  We are within walking distance of everything, we are on a bus line and taxis are always nearby.

The staff is friendly and helpful.  Javier Montezuma, the site manager, is a fluent English speaker and he and his staff are available to answer questions and make suggestions.  To make a reservation, you will need to call or email and pay by Western Union or Paypal.