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Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Dear Family and Friends,

We are receiving so many emails daily with questions from you readers about moving to Ecuador that we cannot keep up. Since many of your questions are the same, we have collected all the questions and are going to answer them all on this post.
We can only answer your questions from our personal experience. We will refrain from giving you information that we do not know first hand. Hear say information could cause you trouble down the road.

The altitude of Cuenca is about 8,000 ft. It took us a few days to adjust to the altitude. Chuck seems to adjust faster than I do but Chuck is a more active person than me.

This, of course, is a personal preference. We chose Cuenca because we do not like hot weather.

We have learned that in Cuenca we have no need for air conditioning. Actually, the houses and condos here do not have central air conditioning or heat. Small heaters are available to buy if you need one to take the chill off on cool mornings or evenings. Chuck and I have a heater but we have never used it. Our condo gets sun during the day, our next door neighbor’s condo does not get as much direct sun and his condo is much cooler than ours.
The temperature ranges from about 60 degrees to 78 degrees during the day. The temperature changes during the day depending on weather the sun is out. When the sun goes behind a cloud it can drop several degrees. At night the temperature can drop to the 50’s. Current Cuenca weather conditions are available at by clicking here.
There are two seasons: Dry and Rainy. The dry season (in general) is during June, July, August and September. The rainy season usually starts in October and lasts through May.
During the dry season the temperatures seem a bit cooler.
During the rainy season it is very rare that it rains all day. Usually it is sunny in the mornings with rain showers in the afternoon. The rain showers can be heavy or light. Heavy rain does not usually last over an hour. Chuck always carries a couple of umbrellas in his messenger bag whenever we go out.
Protecting skin from the sun is very important here. The sun is directly overhead and at this altitude it is very strong. I have already had one spot removed by a dermatologist and he said to apply sun screen twice daily. I do this religiously now.

Personally, I have to buy my clothing in the U.S. I wear plus size clothing and I have not found clothing here that fits. My friends do buy clothes here, but by and large I think it is more expensive to buy quality clothing here than in the U.S. I wear comfortable walking shoes. These are not easy to find here as many Ecuadorian women wear high heels.
Chuck does not seem to be as choosy about his clothing. He buys clothes here. He wears a size medium and does not seem to have trouble finding clothes that fit. He does, however, have trouble finding shoes that fit. He wears a size 11.5 shoe.
We both have very, very casual wardrobes. We are retired and consider jeans and sweatshirts our uniform.
I have a nylon (unlined) windbreaker that has a hood that will fold away in the collar. I brought it with me from the U.S. and find that I use it all the time. It folds into a small bundle so it is easy to store when I want to take it with me but do not need to wear it. I can use it with the hood in rain to stay dry.
Since the temperature varies during the day, dressing in layers is recommended.

Chuck and I own the condo we live in now. But before we bought our condo, we rented a furnished condo for seven months. I posted on our blog about our rental experience and you can read about it by clicking here:
We have friends who rent their apartment and plan to never buy one. When you rent an unfurnished apartment here, this means that you will have to buy kitchen stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer as these are not provided in unfurnished apts. For that matter, even when buying a house or condo, people take these items with them and you will need to buy them.
Chuck and I found appliances here that we are happy with. There is one manufacturer (Indurama) of stoves and refrigerators right here in Cuenca. We have an Indurama stove and love it. Our refrigerator is an LG and our washer and dryer were made by Whirlpool. You can pay a lot or a little for appliances. It depends on your budget and what you want.
Another question we received was if kitchens come with cabinets and bedroom with closets. Yes, kitchens come with cabinets. Bedrooms come with built in units for clothes if you buy or rent in a newer place. Some older places do not have built in units and one would need to buy a stand alone unit. I have seen these wardrobes for sale at Coral Centro and other locations.
Chuck and I believe that renting before buying was the best thing we could have done. It gave us a chance to get to know Cuenca and where we wanted to live. Unlike some places people retire to, Cuenca does not have a “gringo section.” Ex-pats live all over the city and in the country side. We really like this aspect of Cuenca.
When we bought our condo we heard about it being for sale from a friend. It was being sold by the owners (Ecuadorian) and we bought it directly from the owners. We were lucky because we are not fluent in Spanish and this would have been very difficult without our friends help.
Many of our friends have used Cuenca Real Estate for buying their home and have had a very good experience. Another good thing about Cuenca Real Estate is that they speak English. When we used them for renting our condo we were very pleased.
Regarding the price of our condo, real estate prices are slowly rising as more people are buying. Supply and demand I guess. There seems to be an influx of gringos at this time so what we paid for our condo would not be applicable to today’s market. For a good idea of prices I would again suggest that you go to the Cuenca Real Estate website to get a ball park idea of what places are selling for. I think whether you buy through an agent like Cuenca Real Estate or whether you buy from an Ecuadorian, the fact that you are a “gringo” will influence the asking price.

At this time Chuck and I are self-insured. It is possible to get medical insurance here but since we do not have it I hesitate to speak about the particulars. I do know from our talks with an insurance agent that the amount of coverage you can buy and the cost of the coverage are directly related to your age.
We have used the medical system here and are very satisfied with it. We have a doctor who speaks English. There is at least one other doctor here that speaks English and the people we know that use him are very pleased.
Our doctor visits are $30 for an office visit. When we call for an appointment it is quite common that we can come in the same day or the next day. Although we have not used it, I understand that our doctor makes house calls here. I assume others do as well.
We have had the following procedures done here: stress test, colonoscopy, blood work and found them all to be much cheaper and just as professionally done as in the U.S.
We have had dental work done and have been satisfied with the quality and the cost. Some dentists are more expensive than others. There are several English speaking dentists here.
Someone asked if we gave up Medicare when we moved here. The answer is NO. Chuck is covered by Medicare and a supplemental policy. I am not eligible yet. I have insurance through my previous employer which I maintain. We want to have that coverage because even though we plan to live here forever, we never know when something might change. Also, we will be visiting the U.S. quite often and need to have coverage while in the U.S. Heaven forbid if we would have to pay out of pocket in the U.S. It could ruin us financially.
One other thing that someone asked us about and that Chuck and I have discussed with each other and that is long term care. As far as I know there is not a long term care facility here. Chuck and I know that if we live here forever there is a strong possibility that one or both of us will need assistance or even nursing care before we die. Actually, I see having an English speaking assisted living facility a good business opportunity for someone who might be interested. I say English speaking because people who suffer from dementia tend to forget their second language and revert to their mother tongue.
At this time, we are thinking that we will need to buy a condo that has room for a live-in care giver. We will pay to have a person care for us.
A couple, who are our friends here, are remodeling a condo to make it handicap accessible. They will rent it out for now, but if the time comes that they need it, it will be ready for them.

Chuck and I did not ship household goods. We do not know anything about the time it takes or the expense. We decided to bring the things we could not buy here with us. We set aside what we thought we wanted to bring here, prioritized it and brought it in suitcases.
We have found that sheets and bedding is of low quality here. If you want better quality you will pay a dear price for it. So when we came back to Cuenca after purchasing our condo we brought sheets for our bed. We also brought a wok and a few other odds and ends. We have made several trips back to the states for various reasons and on each trip we go through the items we have left and bring what we still want. Some of the things we thought we needed here we no longer need because we could buy it here.
It is amazing how many things you might think you need to bring that you can buy here. Sometimes they may cost a little more here, but compared to the cost of shipping household goods we felt that it was cheaper to buy here.
We have bought all our furniture here. We have been very satisfied so far. We have had furniture made here. Some of it we are very satisfied with, some of it we are using, but will probably replace in the future. The cost of furniture here is much lower than in the U.S. and Cuenca is the furniture capital of Ecuador. There are many furniture manufacturers and craftsmen here.
We had a question about our dishes. We bought our dishes here. There is a factory that makes ceramics called ARTESA. They have beautiful patterns and you can visit the factory and buy the dishes by the piece. They are reasonably priced. The factory even has a seconds section where you can buy for a deep discount. Some of the seconds have defects that are hard to find and others are very obvious. When I bought my dishes, I bought some out of the seconds and some out of the showroom. Artesa is a fair trade company and they ship all over the world. If you were to buy their products outside of Ecuador you would have to pay at least four times the cost of buying them here.

We use a company called TVCable for both television and internet. (This cable company also provides telephone service which we do not use.). We understand that TVCable is not available in many buildings in the historic center. Luckily, our building was pre-wired for cable.
We get 71 TV channels for $21.50. Of these, only about five are in English, although many of the programs on the Spanish channels are in English with Spanish subtitles. We are not TV people, and watch perhaps an hour or two per month, Chuck is ready to cancel the TV, but I like to keep it available, especially when we have house guests.
Internet through TVCable is available at several speeds and monthly costs: 100K-$19.90; 550K-$39.50; 700K-$49.40; 1.1M-$69.90; 2.5M-$99.90; 3.1M-$114.90. We are internet intensive people, and currently subscribe to the 2.5M service. (Internet and TV service is our largest fixed expense.)
An alternate cable provider is DIRECTTV Ecuador. They provide many English channels and a ton of sports channels including pay per view events such as the world cup.
DSL internet service is also available through the phone company ETAPA. We do not know anyone in Cuenca who uses this service. They claim that they have new technology to increase the speed.
One of the local cell phone companies, PORTA, offers internet via a USB Key . This appears to work well, and you can carry your laptop throughout Ecuador and maintain your internet connection. The USB devise is limited to one computer. You have to buy the device and sign up for one of the plans.

Crime is everywhere in the world. According to Cuenca High Life, we live in one of the safest larger cities in Ecuador. Yes, we do have crime. Mostly pick pockets. I have had three cell phones lifted off me since December. It is my responsibility to protect my belongings and in each case my cell phone was in an outside pocket that was easy to get at. Our housekeeper recently had her cell phone stolen while she was on a crowded bus.
Chuck and I live in a condo building that has a security guard 24 hours a day. We feel very safe in this situation.
I think using good common sense is the best protection from crime anywhere. We always use a taxi at night. If I carry a purse, I use a shoulder bag that I wear across my body to make it harder to snatch. Mostly, I wear a vest that has inside pockets where I keep my money and not even carry a purse. I don’t wear good jewelry unless I am going out for something special and taking a taxi. I have a friend that has had two thin gold chain necklaces torn from her neck. I never wear fine jewelry when riding the city bus….for two reasons (1) I feel that if I ride the bus I should not be looking like I have a lot more material things than other passengers. I want to be just one of them. (2) Wearing fine jewelry while riding the bus is a good way to have it stolen.
It is our opinion that Cuenca is a safe city as long as we take precautions to not make ourselves vulnerable.

Chuck and I do not own a car. Since we live in the city, we find that we are much better off by walking and taking the bus or a taxi. Parking in town, I think, would be a problem. We have not missed having a car as most buses run very frequent (5 minutes apart) and only cost 25 cents. There are many taxis and the cost is very reasonable.
The only time we miss not having a vehicle is when we travel to other areas of Ecuador. We either fly or take the bus. Because Chuck and I like to stop along the way and visit little towns we have been contemplating buying a 4-wheel drive vehicle. If we do, we will only use it for out of town trips.
There is mandatory car insurance here. It is called SOAT. We have not looked into that yet so cannot provide information there.
As far as Ecuadorian driver licenses go, we still have a lot of investigating to do. We do not know for sure if a valid U.S. license will work here or if we have to get an Ecuadorian one. Some of our friends use their U.S. license. We will be looking into this before we buy a vehicle.
Cars tend to be more expensive here. I understand that new cars have a set price. There is no dickering as in the states. You pay the price advertised. I am not sure if this is a government set price or how it is set but it is the same across Ecuador. Used cars prices seem quite a bit more expensive than in the U.S. since they hold their value here. We have decided that for us, if we buy, we will buy new. When buying a used car it is important to know the history. Where did that car come from? If it was from the coastal region we would need to worry about rust. It is possible to import a new car from the U.S., but there are strict rules about make, model and engine size. When the imported car arrives the duties imposed bring the cost up to what you would pay to buy within Ecuador. We do not know anyone who has imported a car.

Many people have asked us about which place is better. We cannot speak to that question. We have been to Vilcambama only once. For us, we find it too small of a town and too remote. But this is just our opinion. Many people are retiring there so obviously there is a reason they choose it over Cuenca.

It is our opinion that the best resource for specific information is the well organized Ecuador Forums chat group. If you have a specific question or need, all you need to do is submit your question and hopefully you will get a first hand answer. You must be aware that a lot of people pass on “hear say” information that may or may not be accurate. Another resource site we like is Move to Ecuador.
Good luck with your research and we hope this posting is helpful to you and others.
Nancy and Chuck

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful! Thanks so much. We are moving to Cuenca in the very near future.


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