Tag Archives: cost

The $2 Lunch – Almuerzo

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On our first day in Cuenca, the famous Cuencano lunches for under $2 seemed like an elusive prize.  We walked around, looked at restaurant menus and generally found prices to be higher than those advertised as bargains on other blogs and forums, especially for seafood and chicken.

Then, we eventually realized our mistake…we were looking in the wrong places.  Almuerzo, as lunch is called, ranges in price from $1.25 in stalls in the local markets (mercados) t0 about $3.00 (per person) in some of the nicer hotels downtown.

Lunch typically includes an appetizer (popcorn not nachos), soup,  fruit juice, the main meal, and a very light dessert.  While Ecuadorian fare does not compare to the richness of Mexican or Indian food,  it is good, simple and perfect for most American palates. No spicy, hot chilis here!

And yes, once you know where not to look, almuerzo menus can be found everywhere.

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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!

Local Living – Cuenca, Ecuador

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How is it that some people can not live in Cuenca for under $1,000, while others live comfortably for $500-$600?   The answer is, it is the difference between living locally or living in “expat mode”.

Now before you read further, let me state for the record that I offer no judgement as to whether one has more value than the other.  Some people find sleeping under the stars, in a tent, blissful, while others can not do without hot running water and air-conditioning.  My point is simply that to live like you are living at home will cost you more than to live how the local people live.

What is “Expat Mode”

Expat mode means living a life in a foreign country that is exactly like the one you lived or would have wanted to live, in your country of origin…but probably could not afford to.  It also means replicating, as close as possible, all the comforts of home (US, Canada, Europe, etc.). Expat mode extends to social living, in that the events you attend and the places you frequent will most probably be places where the people and language are familiar; that is with other expats.

When you read other Cuenca blogs you will get a listing of the places that hold “gringo” nights, ladies nights (for the gringas) and other North American (owned and patronized) businesses.  So, if you are the type of traveller that finds cruises to be wonderful and engaging travel experiences…then Cuenca has a lot to offer you and in many ways, you will quickly feel at home.

What is Local Living

Local living is just that, living like a local.  It means putting aside some (or many, depending where you are) of the comforts of home and determining to live like a local.  Now in Cuenca,this does not mean cold showers and unsanitary conditions.  It does mean, shopping predominantly at local markets for most of your needs.  It means living in a typical neighborhood, with typical neighbors and almost never paying more that $300 in rent (for a house). [Side note: average rents are between $200-$250 for a sizable place- and this was confirmed many times]

Living locally also means walking a lot or taking buses (for a quarter). This path also means taking the supreme step of learning to speak the language (in this case Spanish), because without some communication ability, living locally can become not only frustrating, but just as expensive as the “expat mode”, without the flashy benefits.

Just in case you are wondering what local grocery shopping means, compare shopping at your North American supermarket with the pictures below.  Not everything is cheaper here, but the things that are…really are.  Warning…on your first go round, take a local friend, who speaks Spanish and knows the prices, with you.  This way, you’ll know what the “real” prices are and you won’t get caught up in foreigner inflation; otherwise known as the “gringo tax”.

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Cuenca Day 5 – In the land of Spanish

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Interested in starting your own business and pursing dreams of entrepreneurship?  Cuenca may be the place for you.  Unlike the United States, there seems an economic renaissance in Cuenca.  Business seems steady, there are help wanted signs in windows and people seem to be living well. Today’s adventure in the Spanish was all about being the master of your own destiny.

Today was one of those days when we choose to be girly and get our nails done for $1.50 per person. My travel partner was excited since this is an activity we never engage in at home.

Here in Cuenca there are all sorts of businesses, from the extremely affordable to the “almost the same price as home”. That said, after are girly interlude, we were presented with the following proposition (in Spanish) –  “Why not start a new hostel?”

Start a New Hostel/Restaurant/Cafe/Shop!

  • There is a very strong tourist industry here and it keeps getting better as the reviews on Cuenca pile in;
  • North American (ex Mexico) travellers, in particular, tend to feel very comfortable and gravitate toward “American” owned businesses;
  • English speakers like to deal with English-speaking venues;
  • There is a large permanent community of expats that patronize attractive, well-run businesses;
  • Cuenca has visitors year round and profitable pricing for  you may still be affordable pricing for your visitors, relative to their home country.

Are you interested?  Well, these are the points that I was given, not by a real estate agent but by the owner of the property who happens to be one of the first Cuencanos I met here.  Now, to be fair, I have no plans on investing in real estate at this moment; nor do I have plans to become a real estate agent…just for the record.  But, I was curious.  I love seeing traditional architecture and the use of space and like, and he did make some good points.  Also, as the owner of the property, I think he was giddy about showing it to an “Americana/Gringa”.  (Yes folks, just proves the point that it doesn’t matter what color you are, if you are North American (ex Mexican) you’re a gringo…not pejorative, just a fact.)

So if you have ever considered running your own bed and breakfast, hostel, cafe, bar, etc., etc. – here are some pictures of what you can pick up for an asking price of $275,000 (which after negotiations and write downs, could be a bit less).

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Muy interesante! A little Spanish knowledge will get you very very far.