Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Cuenca, Ecuador condo finally furnished!

I have been living in Cuenca, Ecuador for six years now, still in the same condo.

Many of my readers have been asking for more information on rentals here and more information on my condo, so here are more photos. I finally found paintings and pictures I liked and have reached my house plant limit.

When I moved here six years ago there were about 2000 gringos living here, I just read that the number on North Americans living in Cuenca is now around 7000! Unfortunately being rents here are much lower than most parts of North America many newcomers agree to pay whatever rent they are first quoted instead of bargaining! This tends to raise the rents on all of us expats living here which can be a burden on some of us living on low incomes. So newcomers, why pay $500 when you can get it for $350! It is amazing how many new condo's are going up around town and rents do seem to be creeping up! But the law has not changed stating rents should be 3% of appraised property value.

Also keep in mind that the minimum wage in Ecuador is $1.90 an hour, many Ecuadorian families have to share housing to be able to afford the rent.

Living at 8400 feet with 20% less oxygen to breath can affect people with heart trouble or respiratory problems. I myself have asthma and still after six years have to stop on my walks to catch my breath. Although I don't seem to have to stop for as long of periods as I did when I arrived here I am afraid this is not going to change while I live in Cuenca.
Another thing about living in Cuenca is that it is a city of 550,000 people with lots of cars and diesel buses, the quality of gas here purchased from the US has a lot to be desired. When the new refinery in Manta is completed gas quality should improve and when the new electric tram being built here is finished it will eliminate diesel buses from El Centro which will help with the air quality. The city will be checking diesel bus emissions and will put buses not up to standard in the mechanic shop. Buses here are subsidized by the government which I understand runs about $800 per bus per week.
70% of the population in Cuenca rely on buses for their transportation at 25c a ride or if you are over 65, just 12.5c! Cost to ride the new trams will be around 40c.

I have found although I live on the 11th floor and face the river not the main street that the inside of my condo gets covered with black soot from car emissions as well as a daily dose of dust. I probably could afford a maid to clean the place but with so much time on my hands I tell myself its good for me to do it. Basically with going to the gym three times per week, shopping a couple times per week and walking the river three times a week plus cleaning the condo once a week is pretty much all the exercise I get. Going out for dinner with friends a few times a month really is not that much work! Ha!

   My building Pinar 4 is 13 stories high and is 14 years old

We do have 24-hour security guards who have to open the gate for you, we do not have keys to the gate. We also have underground parking for one car and a storage unit. I do have a remote for the garage gate which comes in handy for parking my new car!

Building entrance


My condo entrance on the right, I do have a corner unit facing El Centro and the Rio Tomebamba. Also there is a girls school and a soccer field on the right.

Living room

Took a year but now have a TV in the living room. I use city cable here, which cost $62 a month for three receivers for three TV's. I get several English stations, one international news station in English, plus HBO and Cinemax. Direct TV is also available here which would be about $86 for the same stations. I chose city cable for the cheaper price but also because the condo is wired for it. With Direct TV they would have to run wires from the dish to every TV.

Dining area

 I really enjoy the view from my computer desk over looking the river from both sliding doors.  The sound of the river especially after its rains tends to help with a good nights sleep.

The kitchen is small but I have learned how to prepare meals in a very small area. I cut up many vegetables and fruits using a dinner plate on the small counter top area on the left.

Art work is not cheap here and after looking for over a year I finally settled for some art work imported from China! Still not so inexpensive here, but I did 
resist  hanging Ecuadorian weaving's and pictures of local Indians. I did go with a modern look to match the furniture.

Its nice to have a laundry room. I tend to wash often  because of the air quality here, also at least one shower a day is very necessary.

We have had a couple of days of rain which you can see by the high river water

Guest bathroom

Bryan's bedroom

My bedroom

Master bathroom

Great view looking toward El Centro from my room. The air here is usually pretty dry and with asthma I found myself coughing at night. so I now use a humidifier and it seems to solve that problem.

I have been very happy living here for the last six years although it would be nice to have a bigger kitchen.

My rent just went up to $300 from $280 a month but I got it on a two year lease, besides the rent there is usually a security fee which is $54 a month. The larger the condo the higher it is. Besides that there is water $16 a month, gas $3.50 and we do have gas dryers, gas hot water and stoves here, high speed internet $40, electricity $40 and then the cable $62. Total cost per month: $500

Some groceries here are higher than the US, like canned goods and imported items. Paper goods and cleaning products are high, a small bottle of Listerine is $5. Meats, fruits and vegetables are much cheaper.

The new building across the street is completed now, last time I checked a 2 bedroom on the 9th floor was selling for $170,000. I am sure it is higher now. I have been seeing rents for furnished apartments here for $900! This building has four floors of commercial space and a indoor pool on the roof.

I had an opportunity to go into a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment next door to me with a large kitchen and maid's courtiers with bath. The building is 14 years old, it was a 6th floor apartment with river view for $330 a month. So there are still some bargains to be had here even though it seems asking prices are starting around $350 to $700 and up per month now, but many more furnished places. Hopefully with all the new condo construction there will be more supply than demand and rents will stay down.

The other building going up across the street is going up fast I understand it would will be two 12 story buildings and is government financed and will be available to working people paying into social security for a starting price of $45,000 with $5000 down and payments for 15 years. Expat property purchases are down here by 50% because of raising costs.

Hopefully my next blog will be on another road trip! Until then anyone that might be interested in retiring in Cuenca might find some useful information in my book on kindle: Why Ecuador for me!

                 Until next time everyone enjoy life as much as possible!


  1. Replies
    1. Victoria,

      Gracias, and thanks for the article on the ugly Americans. I have encountered a few since I have been here. Even ones who don't associate with locals! Come on, the best part of living here is friendship with the local Ecuadorians. It is rare to fine such friendly trustworthy people in the US now a days.

  2. Hi Gary,
    The condo looks great. Seems like yesterday that you were looking for your first place. I don't know about that two building construction across the street blocking the landscape for all those residences though.t Kinda disturbing. Bu great post and balanced information on your life there. You've done a really good job on your home!

    1. Gracias, You will be here soon enough with more knowledge than I had.

  3. Replies
    1. Gracias, But you are counting the days until you will be living here!

    2. Gary... it is more like counting the months. This is the best time of the year where we live and we are in a great location. The weather here is about the same as it is in Cuenca so the days and nights are beautiful.

      I have retooled my home building operation so I should be able to build a home in about 5 months instead of it taking a year. For these last couple of homes I am using bigger companies instead of local help. These homes are going up twice as fast.

      So, I can't move until these two homes are done. My best case scenario is we move in October.

      We are so ready.

      By the way, your apartment really does look great. Great views, love the huge amount of tile they use on the walls. It makes it look so elegant and clean.

      See you soon. If we get delayed a few months past October we might just visit again, just for fun... We will see.


    3. You guys do live in a beautiful area, reminds me of Pine Mt. Club, where I spent a year before I moved here. I loved the snow and all the pine trees and mountains. I has to be hard for you to slow down and leave something you like so much. But I guess you realize there are many exciting places to see and other things to do in our one lifetime.
      I am looking forward to meeting you guys!

  4. Great information and although I agree with you that your kitchen is a bit small, the rest of your place looks comfortable and home-y. Sounds like you are doing great and I love the way you decorated it...simple, but elegant. AND! what a wonderful view you have of the river. You did GOOD.

    1. I am looking forward to seeing your new place! And you are really an inspiration to all us older folks with all the exciting trips you take. And fortunate to have such a great husband.

  5. Gary, very nice. Your apartment looks great. A long way from Vegas baby. Miss not seeing you from time to time. Keep the blogs coming.


    1. Hey, jump on a plane sometime, its just a 2000 mile flight and if you like 1500's architect and beautiful green mountains you will enjoy a visit to Cuenca. My sister will be here in Sept., guess we might do a road trip.

  6. From the way you started off with this post, I was beginning to question why you live there. But after seeing the pictures, I can definitely understand the charm. While the kitchen is a bit small, I think the nice view beside it makes up for it a bit. Overall, the place looks great! Thanks for sharing, Gary!
    -Lakisha@Joanne Davidow

    1. Thanks for the nice comment. Yes the kitchen is small but it helps keep me out of it, which is a good thing!

  7. I hope I can also find a place that's as glamorous as your condo. I have to sell my house and move to a smaller one since I was reassigned. If ever I can't find any unit that's as pretty as this, I can use these photos as an inspiration for my interior design. Hehe! Do you still live here? I wish you still are. :)

  8. I am still living in Cuenca! Just received my Ecuador drivers license today! What a process that was.

  9. Gary,

    I will be 62 in September with a guaranteed income of $1600 a month. REALISTICALLY, is this enough for a move (and residency) to Cuenca?

    How difficult will it be to locate a one bedroom apt or condo at a reasonable price?

    Please advise when you have time.

    By the way, a masterful job on your condo!

    Atlanta, GA.

    1. I live on $800 a month and have friends that do as well. Depends on how you want to live and if you go out a lot. Furnished apts. I see from $350 to $1000 a month. You should be able to find what you want here.

    2. Thanks, Gary. I am in the process of selling my house. When it sells, I will split the proceeds with my former wife and head your way. If you do not object, I will write to you again regarding the legalities of the move as I proceed.


    3. By the way, my wife is South Korean. Do you know if any Koreans are residing there?

      We continue to seriously plan this endeavor.

      Thanks for your time.


  10. Gary,thank you for all your posts. I am glad I found you. Going there in few weeks. Hoping to meet you if you are still there. Wondering though -how did you find that condo of yours. I love it. I worked with 2 agencies and they can't get anything that nice and the prices are starting at $500. Well I do need it furnished-only staying 2 months. I end up just renting furnished studio with some local vet Juan. It's 3 blocks from El Centro and came with good rewievs. I hope I will like it.

    1. Let me know when you are in Cuenca and we can have coffee! I just looked at a small 3 bed/2bath on the 10th floor of the Palamero building, nice place it was $400 a month + $60 security, unfurnished but it was small and overlooked the hills and a neighborhood with lots of dog barking and roosters, plus car alarms going off. Made me like my place even more although it is not as new a building. Next door there was a 3/3 + maids counters 5th floor overlooking Rio for $330+$70 security. Most everything I see anymore is $500+!

  11. Would love to have coffee. I am in Cuenca from October 29th. till January 11th, and then going to Salinas for a month. Can't wait.A bit scared too but I am European-living in US so I am adaptable :-) Staying in B&B Casa de Cuenca for the first 2 weeks and I thought I will have time to check that place where I am to stay for 2 months first. I was lucky that I did not have to pay in advance. I guess I'll write to you once I am there and have phone etc. Thanks Gary I was very happy once I found your posts-there is so much information there. Judita Jessica Kosorinec
    Thank you again.

  12. Gary, let me just say that you have a very beautiful condo. I think it looks nice, and unless you’re a kitchen and cooking enthusiast, would suit a typical person on the go. I love your interior decors. The rent is quite fair, in comparison to paying a 500-dollar rent excluding all the dues and bills. You’ve got a bargain there, and I guess the weekly cleaning isn’t exactly a drawback as you’re looking for more exercise yourself. :)

    Julio Oyola

  13. Gracias Julio, I am still happy with my condo, I have looked at a couple of others but it is hard to give up my river view for barking dogs, roosters, car alarms and the sound of traffic. There are a couple of new buildings renting now but the rent is over the top. I have noticed many places for rent lately that are furnished so they can ask more rent for them. Those of us that live here just hope new expats will bargain for their rent so landlords don't raise it on all of us. Let me know if you are in Cuenca and we can meet for coffee!

  14. Gary I read with interest and perhaps the first time of the air pollution. As an asthmatic are you saying it is still a good place to live? I get allergies and live in Japan. Foe us that means hay fever and the seasons seem to get longer and with more pollens and grasses. This years suffering for almost 2 months. Does the region also have this issue... we are planning a trip and one reason for a good look is to find some clean air. Wonder if I would be swapping pollen for another irritant and hopefully not both! Not to mention the costs of living just keep rising here. Great apartment... would make an average Japanese quite jealous... and we ALL have small Kitchens! Cheers, Paul

    1. Paul I have had asthma for 48 years and for most of that time just the use of a Ventolin inhaler was good enough, but over the past few years I have been using a neutralizer twice a day plus advair twice a day and my inhaler as needed! When I first arrived here I weighted 40 pounds more and did not realize how out of shape I was, had to stop every block to get a breath! And being at 8400 feet we have 20% less oxygen. Also in our cool season July-Sept I had a sinus infection which took time to get over. I do walk and go to the gym but I still have to stop for breathers as much as one I first came here but not for as long. My Dr. here said my breathing probably won't improve but it is important for us asthma suffers to exercise our lungs and bodies. Sometimes I have congested days and just take it easy. I might breath better on the ocean, just have not spent enough time there yet to tell. Cuenca is improving but car fumes and diesel buses do pollute the air and in El Centro it is bad, I live outside the centro on the river so it is not to bad here. They are installing a tram now which will be completed in two years so no more buses and less car traffic will go to El Centro. I don't seem to be effected by pollen here, not like in Branson with all the yellow stuff, we not have that here. I read an atricle the other day about Cuenca before propane, seems people were cooking with coal and wood all over town and the air here was no to good, much better now! All I can say is you might want to visit and see if Cuenca might be good for you or there are some nice beach towns to consider! Of course the air is much cleaner outside the cities here. If you come let me know and we can have coffee!

  15. Gary,
    Great blog, photos and commentary. Also very nice condo and well decorated. I have helped Gail move to Portland in the last few weeks as she is retired and going to live with Bill. I am trying to get Wanda to come with me to visit you and Cuenca. I am a little worried about her health, don't mention it to her.
    I hope to have a few months to come down relax and travel around a little in the near future. I also need to find a good dentist.
    Larry Sisk

  16. Hi Gary, I am interested in retiring abroad. Did you consider other places. Does your book tell all about living in Ecuador? Is it up to date. I would love to read it. Roylene

    1. Roylene,
      I did consider moving back to Puerto Vallarta, or Costa Rica but Ecuador was more affordable for me and Cuenca provides modern living with drinkable tap water. Good medical services here also.
      The only thing that has changed here since I wrote my book is there is a immigration office in Cuenca now so you can save some money and do your cedula yourself of hire a solicitor!

  17. Hi Gary:
    Great article on your apartment. My wife, moderately brain-injured stepson, and I are coming to Cuenca to live in about two months. We are looking for a 3 bedroom apartment like yours with 2 offices (if possible), and wonder where you are located? Please let us know where to look.
    Thanks much.

    1. I live on Ordenez Lazo up the street from Hotel Oro Verde! I have a friend who has a travel agency and also can assist in finding housing and visa's. E-mail him at: He helped a friend of mine find a great condo across the street from mine. Also check out they carry ad's for housing! And thanks for the comments!

  18. Hi,
    My husband and I have been thinking about retiring here and your blog is very helpful. We really appreciate all the info!

    Mandy & Juan

  19. Gracias are you visiting Cuenca now?