The colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador, draws vacationers from all over the world…and it has a tendency to turn visitors into permanent residents. That’s what happened to me four years ago. My three-month visit turned into a six-month stay…Then a year passed and I still hadn’t left. Cuenca has become home.
Well, there are three big reasons I keep staying (and staying and staying).
First, there’s the money side of things. Cuenca is a very affordable city—especially compared to other cities I’ve lived in like Shanghai or New York.
In those cities, I was constantly scrambling to stay ahead of my bills. Not here. My husband and I live in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Including our utilities—water, electric, gas, phone, and the all-important high-speed Internet connection—it costs us $425 to $450 each month.
That leaves plenty of money for us to indulge ourselves, which is also much cheaper than in the U.S. For example, a night out at the movies is $20 for the both us, including tickets, candy, soda, and popcorn. We eat out constantly and even have a weekly maid!
We’re not alone in noticing how much further our money goes, either—the 2014 InterNations survey of expats put Ecuador in the #1 spot for best places to live. A big part of that ranking? How many expats reported feeling very satisfied with their financial situation once they’d moved to the country.
I’m also very satisfied with my health care in Cuenca. That’s a second big reason to stay—I have amazing doctors here, and a much greater feeling of control over my health. That’s important to me. My health isn’t perfect, but in the U.S. I would sometimes put off a trip to the doctor because I knew the costs would be astronomical, even with insurance. Plus, all the paperwork drove me crazy.
In Cuenca, it’s different. You can go to any clinic or hospital in town without needing a referral or worrying about being “in network” for what you want. And that choice doesn’t carry a high price tag. A visit to my regular doctor sets me back $25—and that’s not my co-pay, that’s my total bill.
Plus, unlike the hurried, harried doctors I attended in the U.S., my Ecuadorian doctor will listen to me, talk with me about my options, and really explain what’s going on.
That human connection matters so much—and it illustrates the third major reason I can’t seem to leave Cuenca: how friendly its people are. Relationships, family, and friends are highly valued in Ecuador. After living for decades in a country where work came first, it’s refreshing. And of course, very fun!
Over the years, we’ve built a warm “second family” here. Something about Cuenca makes it easy to build strong friendships, too, so even our friends who’ve moved to other places keep in touch, further expanding our world.
Occasionally I think about leaving for good…and realize that I can’t do it. There are just too many benefits to living here. Try Cuenca for yourself. You might find, like I do, that you like it too much to ever leave!
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