On December 7, 2010, International Living (IL) magazine published a brief piece on how wonderfully cheap it is to live here in Cuenca. And while it's certainly cheaper than living in North America, Cuenca isn't as cheap as some people want you to believe.
We've had several requests for information on the monthly costs of living in Cuenca, so we decided to publish a page outlining the expenses we incur.
Before we start, we want to let you know that we don't live extravagantly. But we don't live as paupers either. We go out for dinner a few times a month, try to take a bus into downtown (and usually a taxi back if it's after 8 p.m.), and don't spend much on entertainment (we love going to the free symphonies that Cuenca offers!).
With that said, here are the details of our list of prices for the cost of living in Cuenca.
IL stated that housing (rental of a luxury two-bedroom apartment) costs $500 a month. Well, it's just about impossible to find a furnished luxury 2BR apartment for $500 -- $650 and higher, yes. Or you can rent an unfurnished 2BR for $300 and up, but then you'll need about $10,000 in furnishings.
IL stated that utilities (including phone, Internet, and cable television) cost just $150 a month. That's absolutely incorrect. They forgot the alicuota (the monthly condo fee that just about every owner makes the tenants pay), plus the gas, electricity and water.
If you pay $850 a month for a 2BR apartment, these utilities may all be included, but definitely not for $500. So, for a $650 apartment, you'll likely pay $150 for the utilities plus another $60 (at least) for the alicuota = $210/mo.
IL's price for a maid, twice a week for a month, is $60. For a full day of work, the cost will be $15, or $30/week = $120 per month. And IL doesn't mention things like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies. Those will run you at least $10 a month.
So, for housing, the International Living price is $710. Reality is about $990 a month, or $280 a month more.
It's also possible to spend quite a bit less, if you're willing to live in something that's not a luxury apartment.
IL said that groceries will run you $275 a month. That may be right, depending on how much you eat, and what you eat. We usually spend about $300, but two can probably eat for $275 if you don't eat much meat.
IL suggested that two people can dine out eight times a month at top restaurants for $200 per month. Sorry, it's just not possible. We've eaten at most of the top restaurants in Cuenca, and never paid less than $30 for dinner for two. Usually it was considerably more. It's not hard to get it that high when 22% is tacked onto the menu price.
So, 8 times out at $30 per outing at top restaurants will run you about $250 per month.
A night at the movies is cheap, with two tickets and some popcorn running you less than $15 (even less if you have a Multicines tarjeta). And DVDs are even cheaper, at $1 to $1.50 for each one (pirated, of course, since it's just about impossible to buy legally made ones in Ecuador).
So one night at the movies per month and 10 DVDs a month will run you at least $25. (IL didn't mention nights out, except to lump them in with dining.)
IL's total for food, dining out and entertainment is $475. Our experience here in Cuenca says the cost will be $550 per month.
IL stated that maintenance and fuel for one car will cost you $140 per month. That's possible.
If you spend $40 a month on maintenance, that leaves $100 for gas, at $2.05 a gallon (for premium, since regular gas doesn't work well at Cuenca's high altitude). That will give you at least 975 miles of driving per month.
So we'll cut back to $100 per month total, for 585 miles of driving. That's a more realistic amount of driving, unless you drive to Vilcabamba, the coast, or Quito once a month.
And don't forget your car insurance, which is mandatory, plus any supplemental insurance, which most people recommend.
IL's estimate for clothing was $70 per month. We don't know anyone who spends anywhere close to $70 a month on clothing. So let's say $50 per month (even that's probably overestimating, unless you're a clothes horse).
IL estimated that health care for four visits to a doctor per year for each of two people will run you $30 a visit, or $240. The per month cost would be $20.
We don't know anyone who visits a doctor four times a year here. So let's say $180/12 = $15 per month.
According to International Living, the cost of living in a luxury condo in Cuenca for two people is $1,415 per month. Our on-the-ground, reality-based estimate? $1,705 per month.
That's an extra $290 per month, or $3,480 more per year. That's still a deal when you compare it to the cost of living in North America. But it's not as good a deal as IL wants you to believe.
And remember, those are minimums. If you like to buy a bottle of wine with dinner each time you dine out, add another $100 per month. If you enjoy steak once a week, add another $20 or so to your monthly food bill.
And if you decide to purchase insurance (either health insurance or house/condo and contents insurance), your monthly costs will increase again.
International Living is in the business of telling you how wonderful it is to travel and live in other countries. Our purpose with CaptivatingCuenca.com is to tell you what it's really like here, including accurate, up-to-date estimates of the cost of living in Cuenca.
If you come here expecting to pay monthly expenses of at least $1,700 for two people (for an equivalent lifestyle to the one you're enjoying now), you won't be disappointed once you set up your home and experience the true cost of living in this city.
Click the Like button to share this page with your friends...
Click the Like button to share Captivating Cuenca with your friends...
I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!