Leaving Colorado for Cuenca, Ecuador last year, it felt like we were making a huge jump without a net. The middle-of-the-night jitters would wake me with all kinds of “What if?” questions. Being the kind, considerate husband that I am, I would wake my pretty wife Christina to share all these concerns with her. It’s a tribute to her patience that she didn’t brain me.
We’ve found the reality is that it’s easy to try out a new life in Ecuador. You can come down for a month, three months, six months–whatever works for you. Furnished apartments–with phone, Internet, utilities, cable, all included–are readily available for $200 to $400 a month. Our home here in Cuenca is a good example. We pay just $300 monthly for a small rooftop apartment with panoramic views across this stunning colonial city. In fact, it’s exactly 55 steps from our building’s front gate to the city’s colonial heart, the picturesque and lively Parque Calderon. This puts us at the hub of every festival this renowned “City of Festivals” celebrates. The pleasure of being in this vibrant city keeps us feeling energized, fit, and young.
Our place has a wonderful penthouse deck looking straight across the street at the sparkling blue-tiled domes of the huge cathedral that anchors this UNESCO World Heritage city. The deck has become our outdoor dining room–the temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year.
Mornings are the best, with fresh-ground Ecuadorian coffee from the stand up the street, complemented by the most delicious and varied fruits you can imagine from the colorful fruit mercado just two blocks away. Our outdoor breakfast table is covered with plates of sliced mangos, granadillas, tangerines, impossibly ripe pineapples, juicy cantaloupes, a host of melons, peaches, apples, oranges, and bananas; topped off with warm bread and farm-fresh eggs. We buy everything from local shops, where the owners greet us by name, saving their tastiest products and biggest smiles for that crazy gringo couple who gets so excited by something as mundane, for Ecuadorians, as fragrant ripe fruit and luscious red tomatoes.
With the picturesque flower market on the other side of the cathedral and dazzling long-stem roses selling in bunches of 25 for $4, every day is Valentine’s Day here. Christina has almost forgiven me for all those early-morning wake-up nudges…almost.
If you want to splurge, do like friends of ours who moved down to South America to spend more time with their two young kids. They rented an enormous, wonderfully appointed place with bay windows overlooking the parks and pathways of the rushing Tomebamba River. It’s a short walk across the park to the mall with the cineplex. Their home, which could be featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, rents for $700 a month. In the same building is a furnished 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom, two-floor penthouse, available for $1,050 a month. These are some of the most luxurious and well-appointed places you’ll find anywhere, renting for less than my son pays for his studio apartment back in Boulder.
Most furnished options are available by the week or month with no long-term lease expected. We saw ours first on the Internet, but it wasn’t available. We stumbled upon it again by pure chance when we strolled past a sign taped to a gate a few days after we arrived in Cuenca. A quick trip up the elevator, a little Spanish, $300 in cash…and we walked out with the keys to our new home.
Experience has taught us that it’s hard to rent a place over the Internet, but in the June issue of International Living Magazine, I give you tips and contacts to help you rent an affordable home anywhere in this country–including the beach cities and mountain hideaways.
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To read more IL articles about Ecuador, see:
Cotacachi: Ecuador’s Perfect Getaway Spot (for Less Than $55,000)
The 4 Cs of Cotacachi, Ecuador
Cheap Ecuador – Travel Well on $43.72 a Day
Vilcabamba, Ecuador–Stunning Views, Shrieking Italians, and Magic Cacti