Category Archives: Life in Cuenca

Building a New Cuenca

Visitors to Cuenca lately can’t miss all the construction going on around the city. In 2012, Cuenca is spending more than $20 million on infrastructure and road improvements. What’s being done, in a nutshell:

–Nuevas Veredas: This is a project to put down new, smooth, walkable sidewalks along Mariscal Lamar in Centro. It started in May and will continue through the end of the year.

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Cuenca: Still The Right Choice

As Cuenca celebrates its 3rd year of being International Living’s #1 retirement destination, many prospective residents are asking if Cuenca is still the right choice. Now that it’s such a known destination, wouldn’t it be better to go somewhere else? We don’t think so. Cuenca is popular for a reason, and a life in Cuenca is still the right choice. Here’s why:

1. Cost of Living remains low

Cuenca is a low-cost living environment, especially compared to cities of similar size in other countries. For less than $2,000 per month, you can live in comfort here. You can afford a quality apartment in a good neighborhood, eat out regularly, take part in local entertainment offerings, and see top-notch medical professionals. It’s true that Cuenca isn’t as cheap as it was five years ago, nor is it Ecuador’s cheapest city. However, even accounting for recent price increases on the basic necessities, Cuenca is still very affordable.

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Tres de Noviembre – Independence of Cuenca

This week you will find Cuenca in the midst of a full week of celebrations.  Many streets and shopping plazas are closed to car traffic and music is being performed around the city from morning to night.  Vendors from all over Ecuador are here in Cuenca to sell crafts and artwork.  Most local business are closed so employees can celebrate with their families.

These “Fiestas de Cuenca” are one of the city’s largest annual festivals.  The main reason for the party is “Tres de Noviembre” or November 3rd, a celebration of the independence of Cuenca from the Spanish.  On November 3rd, 1820, Cuencanos achieved their freedom and so, like each major city in Ecuador, Cuenca celebrates its own independence day in addition to the national independence celebration honoring May 24th, 1822.

As you take it all in, we invite you to enjoy this week of festivities and remember the importance of independence, liberty, and freedom.  Cuencanos celebrate it today, but you can live it everyday in your new life in Ecuador.

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Receipts, Taxes and Cuenca’s Clausurado Culture

Ecuadorian business closed by the SRI

The CLAUSURADO sign has confused many new expats in Cuenca.  Put in place by the SRI – Ecuador’s equivalent of the IRS – it marks a business that has forgotten one of Ecuador’s many business accounting laws.

The issue is often receipts.  In Cuenca there are two types of receipts.   Generic receipts are called “consumidor final” or “nota de venta” receipts.  Formal tax receipts, known as “facturas,” are the other type, and these require you to report your name, address, phone number, and passport / ID number.  If you are a business entity expensing a purchase in Ecuador, you need to have a factura matched to your RUC (pronounced rook) which is a part of your company’s incorporation paperwork.  For most everything and everyone else, a nota de venta is fine.  As an expat, your receipt is essentially just a proof of purchase, and consumidor final is what you will get for almost everything you buy.

Coldwell Banker of Cuenca Clausurado for tax code violations

Coldwell Banker of Cuenca Clausurado for tax code violations

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Cuenca Life Is Sweet – Single-Origin, Organic Chocolate Sweet

Living in Cuenca brings many lifestyle benefits.  There’s the lower cost of living, the more relaxed atmosphere, and of course, the chocolate.

Chocolate has long been a major force in the Ecuadorian economy.  The industry as a whole is referred to as “cacao” which is the Spanish word for cocoa, the raw material that gets made into chocolate.  At one point in its history, cacao exports accounted for near 80% of Ecuador’s economy, and even today Ecuador is a major cacao producer for the world.

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4 Ways A Cuenca Life Saves Your Money

One of the most frequent questions people ask us on their way to Cuenca is “What do I need to spend to live well in Cuenca?”  Today we’re going to look at the question from another angle – what DON’T you need to spend to live well in Cuenca.  Here are four key ways a Cuenca life saves you money:

#1 – Goodbye, Vehicle Expenses!

Most people in Cuenca don’t have a car.  They use taxis or take the bus.  A bus ride is 25 cents – 12 cents if you are a resident certified senior.  Taxis are $1.50 for short rides, and $2 – $3 for longer or rainy day rides.  If you spend more than $100 a month in local transport expenses, you’re really getting around!

Compare that to what you might spend at home.  There’s the cost of filling up the tank, parking fees, and maintenance expenses.  Annual insurance, registration, and vehicles taxes are another pretty penny.  When you move to Cuenca, you can leave those expenses behind for good.

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Rental Demand Continues in Cuenca

Wow. . . This last month has been a bit of a shock to us. We have been busier than expected and even as the show birds head north, rental demand remains hot. We have had record numbers of requests from both new and repeat clients needing our real estate services. While we are not able to take on every client that contacts us (more on that below), we are still helping many people into some of the city’s highest-quality homes.

Our focus on quality helps us shorten the apartment hunt for the clients we are able to help. Finding quality rentals is still possible but even more than in the past, good properties move quickly. It’s the duds that linger, and many people we have spoken to recently know this first hand. Caught in the part time realtor trap, they’ve been shown dozens of sub-par properties. We spoke to a couple the other day who had visited 22(!) unacceptable properties, partially because some realtors will gladly show you properties day in and day out for $10 per hour with no concern about ever finding you the right place. It’s fine if you want a budget real estate tour but awful if you are serious about finding a rental.

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Life In Cash Based Cuenca

One of the more unique daily challenges that our clients face when coming to live in Cuenca is adjusting to life in a cash based society. Most of North America and Europe is a plastic payment society. If you want something, you swipe your card. If you’re old fashioned, you write a check.

In Cuenca, you pay cash.

To be fair, there are a number of restaurants and businesses that take credit cards. Unfortunately, many of them charge an extra fee for this service – it could be anywhere from 3% to 8% of the total bill. This is in addition to any foreign transaction fees that your credit company may be charging you. The net result can be an extra $15 to $25 in fees for every $100 you put on your credit card in Cuenca.

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Settling Into A New Language In Cuenca

One of the first things that many of our clients are interested in finding out more about is learning Spanish in Cuenca.  While there are certainly a number of people in Cuenca who speak some English, Spanish is definitely the dominant language.  At the very least, you need to be able to give directions to taxi drivers, put in your order correctly at a local restaurant, and navigate the local shops and markets.  Learning a few key phrases can also make a huge difference in being able to communicate with your landlord, your neighbors, and your future Cuencano friends.

There are several different approaches to learning Spanish in Cuenca.  You can hope to pick it up as you go through life in the city, do home study with tapes and books, hire a private teacher, or enroll in formal classes.  We’ve tried all four methods, with varying degrees of success.

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The Truth About Ecuador’s Two Tsunamis

Cuenca is abuzz today with news of two tsunamis.  One is the freshly incoming set of waves from the earthquake in Japan this morning, and the other has been a simmering wave of incoming expats fanned into a tsunami by the local grapevine.  While both are serious, neither is going to be as big as their hype.

On the true Japanese tsunami warning front, the earthquake in Japan will be affecting Ecuador.  President Correa has issued evacuation notices for the Galapagos Islands, and coastal resident are being urged to seek higher ground in anticipation of heavy waves hitting Ecuador beginning sometime between 5 and 8 pm this evening.  The President’s statement to the nation included a note that nothing may actually happen, but for the next 60 days a state of emergency awareness will be maintained as a preventative measure.

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