Answers to E-Mails

Starting October, 2010, we're going to be putting some edited e-mails in this section together with our answers.  Hopefully, this will help with some of the questions we get. 
Tener un Gran dia!

Topics Covered:
  • Small apartments to rent short term
  • Medical coverage
  • Crime in Ecuador
  • Electrical current in Ecuador
  • Second hand furniture in Cuenca
  • How to meet other Gringos in Cuenca
  • Bus vs Plane from Quito to Cuenca
  • Travelling with a dog or cat
  • Internet in Cuenca 
  • What to do, first visit to Cuenca 
  • Links to Real Estate Advice
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I found your blog.  It is very interesting!  I am retired, and living on my Social Security and a small amount of savings.  I own and plan on selling my home, so I will have a little bit of money.

A friend, who is also retired and I plan on coming to Cuenca shortly to look around.  I realize that it will take several weeks to find our way around the Cuenca area.  Do you know of any inexpensive, small, studio type apartments that we could rent for a short stay? Any info would be helpful.  If you don't know of any, could you suggest a real-estate agent who might help me?  Your experience with Cuenca on your blog sounds wonderful.  

Thanks in advance,

Some people we know rent 3 different apartments on a short-term basis.  You may wish to check their web site:  http://sites.google.com/site/adoberentalincuenca/home As well, Cuenca Realty handles several apartments for rent on a short term basis:  http://www.cuencarealestate.com/Listings.aspx?type=1 If you're looking for just a room for a few days try:  http://www.hostalmacondo.com/ - We stayed there for a month when we first moved to Cuenca and also on our initial holiday in February, 2008.  You also may wish to sign up for Gringo Tree at http://www.cuencahighlife.com/ (See the left hand side of the page).  They'll email you with events, apartments for rent, things for sale, etc. from time to time.  EcuadorForums http://www.ecuadorforums.com/index.php has a classified section that from time to time will list apartments.  Lastly, see http://www.ecuadorrealestatecentral.com/rentals.html You may find something there. 

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We have read your blog with interest, as well as every other piece of information on Ecuador that we could get our hands on!  After reading the various blogs it is scary to see how fast the prices have increased. I have two important questions to ask you two: 1) Have you gotten private medical coverage yet, and if so, is it less than in the US? 2) Looking back, would you have done anything different when you moved down there? I have a ton of other questions, but I won't bombard you with them. You both sound very pleased with your move. Any information you can give us will be sincerely appreciated. We will also continue to read your blog.
 

We're glad that you are enjoying the blog. Coming to Cuenca for a month is a very good idea. It gives you more time to experience the realities of living in a new city. Obviously, we love it here and it seems the longer we're here, the more we like it.

In response to your questions, like many expats, we are self-insured for health care. That is, we don't have health insurance. Health care is very inexpensive in Ecuador. A doctor visit is $25. Brian had prostate surgery with a total cost of $5,000. Insurance is difficult to get if you're over 65. Our reasoning is that Brian's surgery is about as expensive a procedure as we'll likely encounter and if we pro-rate the cost over the 2 years we've been here, it works out to about $200/month. We are both in good health and don't expect anything major to happen for the next few years so we probably won't put out serious money for the foreseeable future.

Would we have done anything different when we moved here? Not really. We had done a lot of on-line research prior to coming and we also spent 2 months in Ecuador before making the final decision so we were fairly well prepared for the experience. Our best advice is...keep it simple! We came with a total of 4 suitcases, one of which was filled with books. (These days we'd suggest you get a Kindle or some such device.)

We're not so sure that we agree that prices have increased all that much. Our expenses increased about $100/mo when the government imposed a 35% tax on imported goods almost two years ago. This has affected mostly our groceries and wine. Meals out and general entertainment is about the same. We also pay similar prices for buses and accommodation when we travel around the country. Real estate prices are up a little for condo apartments. The real estate companies try to encourage folks to "buy now before it gets too expensive", but that's largely a sales tool.

We'd be happy to discuss any of this when you get here. 

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I'm at a point now, where I would like to begin making contacts in Ecuador in order to further the process. Any help or advice from you would be greatly appreciated. I’m concerned specifically about different views that I’ve read on crime in Ecuador. Would you mind shedding some light on this issue or pointing me in the right direction?  
Thank you for your time,

As a blog reader you can surmise that we are thoroughly enjoying our experience here. Each month we get increasingly comfortable with the language, customs and differences from "back home". Those differences become the new reality and things take on a normality that is, of itself, comforting.


If you are following some of the expat forum sites you could become a little unsettled by reports of crime. Of course there is crime here but statistics indicate that in all major crime categories incidents per 100,000 population are only 1/3 of those of the USA national average. We certainly don't feel any more threatened than we did in Vancouver, BC our hometown. There seems to be more petty theft such as pickpocketing cameras and cellphones. We lost a camera that way and know folks who have had cellphones and laptops stolen. However prudent precautions have prevented any further incidents.


We know a couple who had a rather nasty home invasion. They freely admit that they inadvertently made themselves a target. They have not given up on Ecuador though and are moving forward with their lives.


Again, statistically speaking, you have less reason to fear for your safety than almost anywhere in the US. 


This subject comes up in conversation with friends and I honestly can't think of anyone who would disagree with what I've said.


I would strongly encourage you to visit the country for a couple of months if possible before you make your decision. If your travels bring you to Cuenca, please get in touch and we would be more than happy to introduce you around.

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What is the electrical current in your apartment, 110 or 220?  In the US, the washers are 110 and the dryers and ranges are 220.  Would these appliances work there?




The power here is 110. It seems everyone here uses gas stoves and the clothes dryers are also gas. We have Indurama stove and fridge and Whirlpool washer and dryer. Indurama is a South American brand but the quality is fine. We paid roughly $2000 for all 4 appliances.


We don't think it makes much sense to ship heavy appliances as the costs are very high.

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I have really enjoyed reading your blog, thank you so much for sharing your experiences!!!! We are arriving to an unfurnished house in Ecuador and we're hoping we could find used furniture or thrift stores in Ecuador, and to our amazement there are no thrift store types of places that we can find! Do you know where they are in Cuenca?
Keep up the great work that you do, it is really encouraging to those of us who have been considering Ecuador a place to live. We hope to meet you! Please let us know if you would like to meet sometime! Once we're down there and settled in, we want to start meeting people! Any suggestions on where to go besides gringo night at the Eucalyptus and Zoe's?


We'd be delighted to get together with you when you get here and settled in. Thanks for the nice words about the blog. It's always a pleasure to get positive feedback.

We aren't aware of used furniture stores or thrift shops but that doesn't mean there aren't any. We bought all of our stuff new and furnished 2 bedrooms and the living room for a total of about $8,000. This included fridge, stove, washer and dryer. The appliances cost about $2,000 of that. Pots, pans, cutlery and linens etc are also factored in. We also spent roughly another $2,000 on various "treasures" like artwork and picture framing. We bought mid to high end furnishings so you could save probably $2,000 by getting something a little lower (but still nice) on the scale.  EcuadorForum has a classified section that from time to time will list second-hand furniture. 

 
Apart from the gringo nights (Zoe's & Eucalyptus), you can meet folks at the Kookaburra Cafe and California Kitchen. Another good spot is the Carolina Bookstore. You'll find that expats who have been here longer tend not to attend the gringo nights. It's just that we have already developed friends so don't really need the networking. We're told that there are about 700 expats in Cuenca so you won't have any trouble making friends.

Hope this helps.

Cheers
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We have been planning on a trip to Cuenca.  What is the bus trip like from Quito to Cuenca? What is your opinion; would it be better to fly or take the bus?

Hope you have a great day!

The bus trip from Quito to Cuenca is quite long and tiring although it is a great way to see the country up close. Hint...When you buy your ticket ask for seats 3 and 4. This puts you at the front of the bus on the passenger side. You get a better view and more legroom. We seem to recall that it's about 8 or 9 hours. The plane only takes 35 minutes and the cost is only around $130 return the last we heard. You can take Aerogal, Tame or Air Cuenca. We'd recommend reservations which you can do on line or have your travel agent arrange it.  Another option that people with a lot of luggage take, is to rent a van & driver between Quito & Cuenca. 

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Found your blog through a posting on EcuadorForum and have thoroughly enjoyed reading through many of your postings there.  
We are planning to leave Mexico and come to Ecuador.  We will be travelling with our year and a half old female Chihuahua and have been particularly interested in reading about how Fredi is accepted there. 
 
Ecuador sounds very much like Mexico in so many ways.  We are really excited about our trip and hope to talk with you more as we finalize our plans.
 
Thanks for your blog and any additional "dog friendly" tips you can share with us.


It's always really nice to hear from the people who read the blog and if you follow it from time to time, you know we always enjoy getting together with people when they're in Ecuador.  Be sure to contact us just before you come and we'll give you our telephone number.

You might find our blog entries when we first came to the country and on our original holiday here of particular interest.  They are listed under:  Getting Settled in Cuenca 2008 & Ecuador Holiday Winter 2008 under the List section on the right hand side of the blog.

Sorry, we don't have much information on travelling with a dog out of country.  We've travelled on the bus system in Ecuador with Fredi and she just sits on our lap and enjoys the trip with us.  We routinely take her on cross country and city buses, into restaurants, hotels & basically everywhere we go.  The only exceptions are large malls & for some reason some banks & also chain grocery stores like SuperMaxi.  As you have read, Fredi is a terrific good will ambassador and we're sure that your dog will be too.

We do have 2 sets of friends who brought their cats from Canada & the U.S.  They got paperwork stating the animals had all the appropriate shots translated into Spanish and then were never asked for the paperwork.  As both the cats were under (I believe) 20 pounds, they were able to bring them into the cabin with them in an appropriate carry case.  You should check with the airlines and also with the Ecuadorian consulate nearest you.    

Your plan for checking these countries out appears sound and is probably the prudent way of going about it.  We spent 2 months in Ecuador prior to actually moving here.

Our point of view is obviously biased towards Ecuador and we particularly love Cuenca.  We have a number of acquaintances who have tried Mexico, Panama, Columbia & Peru first but have ended up in Cuenca for a variety of reasons. 

Anyway, we look forward to meeting you!  If you have any specific questions, we're retired, so are always happy to try and answer them. 

Cheers

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Read your comment about Internet going down.  Is this a problem with all providers?  Who are you using?  We will be moving down next month and will need to get it set up and want the fastest most reliable that is possible for Ecuador.  My husband is an Internet junkie!  Don't suppose they offer refunds for down time! HaHa!
Thanks,
It seems that all providers have the occasional outage. For us, it isn't so frequent as to be a major problem. Our internet needs are purely recreational so an outage is an annoyance rather than a disaster. We do have a friend who has an internet based business and he manages OK. We aren't aware of any provider that has speed as high as you'd be used to in the States. We are with ETAPA with 516 (kilobytes?) and our cost is only $35/mo for unlimited usage. They have other packages with at least double that bandwidth. If there aren't a whole bunch of users on line at the same time we can watch U-tube with uninterrupted streaming.

You could go to a Gringo Night at Zoe's and ask around. Nearly everyone has internet.

Hope this helps.



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My husband and I have been enjoying reading your blog.  We are visiting Cuenca soon to see if we are suited to live in your beautiful city.  We have a million questions about making the move, but short term I was wondering if you had any special advice on packing for the first visit and what we definitely need to have on our agenda.  What should we do while on our visit if we are planning to return?  From there the questions become what are the major things we need to know about the move, what needs to get done before one moves to Cuenca?  Any special hints would be appreciated.  

We can well understand that there is endless information you need to help with your transition to Cuenca. You are certainly doing the right thing by visiting for a few weeks before you make that final decision. Here's a forum address which will give you much of what you're looking for. This forum is categorized so it is quite simple to surf through it. Be sure to look deeper into history in the category you're exploring (e.g. Health and Safety).

http://www.ecuadorforums.com/index.php

About packing for the visit....keep it as light as you can. There are dozens of laundries and they are very cheap so you can get laundry done every 2 or 3 days if you wish. Your hotel or hostal can probably take care of it for you. Everyone here is very casual so no pressure to bring more formal clothes. Typically, it's a light shirt in the daytime and a light sweater or jacket at night. A hat for the UV is important. You can buy sweaters (alpaca) in the indigenous market for about $15. They make good gifts to take back home.

If you like it here and decide to return, we'd recommend that you hire a lawyer. There is a woman here and also another in Quito who just about everyone seems to use. They can provide you with a checklist of documentation you'll need to get before you return. The immigration laws seem to change daily but a lawyer can guide you through it. Our understanding is that you must be in the country to apply for residency.

The only big hint is that we suggest you do not ship a container to Ecuador. Everyone we know who has done it has had problems although eventually their stuff (or most of it) does get here. We came with 4 suitcases, one filled just with books.


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Please see the following links for sage Real Estate advice:


http://bobnrox.squarespace.com/journal/2010/2/25/a-few-suggestions-for-frustrated-new-arrivals-cuenca-especia.html


http://richandnancy.blogspot.com/2010/02/buying-real-estate-friendly-advice.html


http://richandnancy.blogspot.com/2010/08/real-estate-and-estate-planning.html


http://bobnrox.squarespace.com/journal/2010/10/25/be-careful-out-there-folks.html


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