Discover a Charmed Life in Cuenca on $1,450 a Month

My wife Susan and I lived in more than 30 locations in eight different states before moving to Ecuador. A retired marketing executive who started an email company in 1981, I had always wanted to experience living in another country. Susan, retired from working in administration and finance, shared that dream.

In January 2015, we realized our dream and moved to Cuenca. We originally explored the Andes region of Ecuador because of its low cost of living and spring-like climate. What really hooked us when we first visited though were the friendly people, the relaxed pace of life, and the year around availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Although we both preferred living in rural areas, we chose Cuenca because of the amenities it could offer us while we learned to navigate our way in a new culture. There were plenty of language programs to help us learn Spanish and high-quality medical care was readily available and extremely affordable.

We also loved Cuenca itself. Four rivers flow through the city, lending their natural beauty to the urban surroundings. Despite having a population of more than 500,000 people, Cuenca feels more like a collection of smaller neighborhoods with each having its own unique flavor.

Our overall cost of living is much lower now than when we lived in the U.S. Our monthly budget of $1,450 includes health insurance for both of us and three medications for my heart condition. We eat out four to five times a week, ranging from inexpensive almuerzos (lunches) at $3 each to full dinners with wine for $20 each.

On a recent shopping trip to the local market, we bought three pounds of fresh fish filets, papaya, cantaloupe, two pineapples, a sack of limes, a bag of tomatoes, four mangos, and three avocados for the princely sum of $20. Without a car we walk most places, and both have lost weight. When we do take a taxi, the meter usually reads no more than $2.50 to go anywhere in the city and our senior status enables us to ride the bus for just 12 cents each.

For our unfurnished apartment, including propane, electricity, high-speed internet and all other fees, we pay just $450 a month. We rent a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, top-floor apartment on a quiet street adjacent to the Tomebamba River. Located just outside of the Old Town, from our windows we can watch the river running alongside a small island populated with tall eucalyptus trees. The blue domes of the New Cathedral are visible in the distance. At night, our bedroom fills with the melodic sound of the flowing water.

We’re both so busy with our hobbies and activities since moving to Cuenca that we often wonder how we ever had time to work. Susan writes a monthly column for Cuenca Expats Magazine, and her photos often grace its pages as well. I’ve pursued a lifelong goal of writing novels, recently completing my fifth book. I belong to a local writers group and helped organize the first annual Cuenca International Writers Conference.

As I sit here writing this and gaze out my window at a double rainbow that has formed over the city, I realize that Cuenca has turned out to be the pot of gold we were seeking. My advice for anyone contemplating such a move is simple…go for it.

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