Articles Related to Ecuador

Why Cuenca Reason #1: Eye Candy

This city is just plain beautiful. Perhaps some people are content to hang their hats anywhere and attractive surroundings don't rate much attention, but I am a beauty snob. Ecuador has stunning Pacific coast beaches, craggy majestic mountains, and exotic tropical rain forest, all conveniently squashed into a country roughly the size of Wyoming.

The city of Cuenca may be a half-million people, but it doesn't feel big when you are meandering down the cobblestone streets in El Centro. The UNESCO World Heritage city center is charming with block after block of modestly scaled Spanish-colonial architecture and lush, green parks. It's easy to find your way around as the streets are well marked, and, with sidewalks everywhere and perpetually perfect weather, it's pleasant to navigate Cuenca on foot.

Why Cuenca Reason #2: Budget Friendly Basics

Cuenca is easy on the pocketbook. We rented a small, centrally located, furnished two-bedroom apartment for a week for US$300, which was less expensive than two rooms at a nice hotel, and we enjoyed the bonus of having a living room and a kitchen. You could find something even more affordable if you rent for a longer stint. Prices at the SuperMaxi grocery store were not much less than in supermarkets back home for many items, but keep in mind that we live in South Carolina. If you live in California or New York, you may see a larger price gap.

Here are a few sample prices:

Bread: US$1.17 per loaf
Eggs: US$1.85 per dozen
Strawberries: US$1.72 per kilo
Oreos: US$2.92 for the big package
Brahma beer: US$3.41 for a 6 pack

Some of the import liquor was expensive, like Bailey's Irish Cream, which was double or more what we pay back home, but we bought premixed pina coladas for about half what a comparable bottle costs here. Although we didn't stock up at a mercado, we did peruse one of the local markets. Prices on produce were a real bargain, and all of it was local, fresh, and presumably organic.

Why Cuenca Reason #3: Excellent Dining On A Shoestring

You have many options for dining in Cuenca, some places catering to both expats and Cuencanos. The best bargains are fixed-price lunches at almuerzo cafes. We tried several. In each case, the total tab, including taxes and tip, ran from US$6–US$9 for three full plates of food and soft drinks.

We ate at two restaurants catering to expats: The Wind Horse Café on Calle Larga was US$16 for brunch for three people, and the Café Eucalyptus on Gran Colombia set us back US$51 for a luxurious dinner for three, including cocktails, entrées (no appetizers), desserts (try the Bananas Foster), and fruit smoothies. Our other restaurant splurge was Tres Estrellas on Calle Larga. It's the restaurant famous for cuy, and, while we didn't indulge in the grilled guinea pig on this visit (next time?), we did make pigs of ourselves to the tune of a US$45 tariff for three (including two pitchers of their lemonade—it was that good).

The only lousy meal we had was giving the local McDonald's a try. The prices were comparable to those in the States in exchange for too salty burgers and not salty enough limp fries. If you need an American fast-food fix, we had better luck at the food court at the Multicines movie complex at Millennium Plaza. Both Burger King and Subway tasted like home.

By the way, catching the 7 p.m. movie in English cost only US$5.50 per person.

Why Cuenca Reason #4: Appealing Culture

We loved, loved, loved the lifestyle and culture in Cuenca. What's not to like about a perfect spring climate and no bugs? Nothing like being comfortable, not too hot and not too cold, to improve one's outlook on life. But there's more to it than that.

Like you, I have read that being in Cuenca is like stepping back into the 1950s. What does that mean exactly, and is it something you will embrace...or will it drive you nuts? We saw children everywhere. There were wee ones out with their mothers or their fathers or their grandparents. We saw school-aged kids in their uniforms visiting the local confectioner to stock up on after-school snacks (try the sweets shop on Simon Bolivar adjacent to the cathedral—yum!).

The people seem friendly, happy, and helpful. There are dozens of spectacular churches sprinkled throughout the city, and if you poke a nose in the door any day of the week, you find dozens of people quietly lighting candles and praying. Cuenca is faith and family oriented, and Sundays especially are set aside for church and time spent with loved ones. The Catholic Masses are packed in the morning, as are the parks in the afternoon.

Keep in mind that not much is open on Sunday, but you can still get a tasty meal in town at Chicago Pizza on Gran Colombia, conveniently just across the plaza from the church of Santo Domingo for those who want to kill two birds with one stone.

If we had to identify something specific that we didn't care for, it would be graffiti. I assume this is the handiwork of select misdirected youth, but there's lots of it, which is a shame to see in such an otherwise lovely place. To their credit, city employees were out with brushes and pails of soapy water scrubbing away.

Why Cuenca Reason #5: Family-Friendly Visa

In keeping with the strong family orientation we witnessed in Cuenca, Ecuador's pensionado visa is one of the most generous toward families. If you are a single person or an unencumbered couple, this probably won't be of interest for you, but our family dynamic isn't quite so simple. If you, like we, are considering moving abroad with some or all of an extended family, Ecuador should be on your radar.

In many Latin American countries, the best bang for the buck, if you qualify, is a pensionado visa. Ecuador's requires that the pensioner show a monthly income from a pension or Social Security of at least US$800, and then add to that US$100 for each dependent (spouse, child, etc.). Other countries offer similar pensionado visas but usually with restrictions on who qualifies as a dependent. A husband or wife is fine, but only minor children qualify, or, if older than 18, there is an age cap (from 23 to 25, depending on the country) and the grown child must be a full-time college student. What if you have adult kids who would like to join you in your overseas adventure, but they are older than 25 and/or not in college? Either each single or couple must qualify for a different type of visa on their own (expensive, if they can qualify at all), or you need to look seriously at Ecuador or Nicaragua, which has a pensionado program similar to Ecuador's (US$600 per month for the pensioner and US$100 for each dependent, without small print as to whom you can include as your dependent).

One of the issues many face when they retire abroad is being so far away from the rest of the family. In Ecuador you may not have to make that sacrifice. If everyone wants to go, and if everyone establishes a portable career to pay their bills once in their new home country, the residency visa is comparatively simple and inexpensive in Ecuador...for the whole family.

Janet LeBlanc

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MAILBAG: Assessing Risk When Investing In Property Overseas


"Lief and Kathleen, thank you for sharing the letter from the reader who lost money on overseas real estate deals. And thank you for you candor indicating your own losses. This speaks highly of your integrity.

"Americans can certainly get excited about an overseas project and violate all their own mantras that they would use at home to make a deal. Your candor about your own losses should serve warning to all potential overseas investors that even an experienced, seasoned investor like yourself can lose money on a deal. Few things in life are sure deals; not a real estate purchase overseas or at home (I have experience myself with the at-home variety of loss). But every investment of any kind has risks because we always make a purchase based on some assumptions that may or may not pan out. My real estate mantra is: Do the due diligence, assess the risk based on that, and decide if you're willing to take that risk for the potential gains. If not, move on to the next one.

"I'm writing this because I met the two of you at the Live and Invest Overseas Conference in Nashville and came away with the impression that you are honest, hard-working people after hearing you speak and also having personal conversations with each of you. (I mentioned to you Lief at the conference that I appreciated the bit of sand in your sense of humor, and you said thanks and asked me to put in a plug for you with Kathleen. I did and got the same look I get from my wife. LOL)

"The aforementioned letter just seems to confirm your integrity.

"Please don't ever stop the truth-telling."

--Michael C., United States

 

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Cuenca, Ecuador.

You have heard so much about it. The experts recommend Cuenca, Ecuador, as a fabulous choice for living abroad. The country is mentioned time and again on all the short lists of places to ponder, with Cuenca being the customary crown jewel choice both for retirees and anybody at any age just hoping to escape to a fresh start.

It sounds so exciting, but is it right for you?

Here's your opportunity to hear about what Cuenca has to offer from somebody just like you, rather than another seasoned expert.

I still live in the United States, and, like you, I have been doing research trying to decide if I want to move abroad...and, assuming I do, to where?

Ecuador is currently the top contender on my list, so last month I traveled to Cuenca with one of my daughters and her husband for an initial reconnaissance expedition. My husband and other adult children did not join us; we three were the family's boots-on-the-ground scouts. If we liked what we saw, plans would move forward. If not, it would be back to the drawing board. And the verdict?

We loved it!

So what is so great about Ecuador, Cuenca in particular?

Why Cuenca Reason #1: Eye Candy

This city is just plain beautiful. Perhaps some people are content to hang their hats anywhere and attractive surroundings don't rate much attention, but I am a beauty snob. Ecuador has stunning Pacific coast beaches, craggy majestic mountains, and exotic tropical rain forest, all conveniently squashed into a country roughly the size of Wyoming.

The city of Cuenca may be a half-million people, but it doesn't feel big when you are meandering down the cobblestone streets in El Centro. The UNESCO World Heritage city center is charming with block after block of modestly scaled Spanish-colonial architecture and lush, green parks. It's easy to find your way around as the streets are well marked, and, with sidewalks everywhere and perpetually perfect weather, it's pleasant to navigate Cuenca on foot.

Why Cuenca Reason #2: Budget Friendly Basics

Cuenca is easy on the pocketbook. We rented a small, centrally located, furnished two-bedroom apartment for a week for US$300, which was less expensive than two rooms at a nice hotel, and we enjoyed the bonus of having a living room and a kitchen. You could find something even more affordable if you rent for a longer stint. Prices at the SuperMaxi grocery store were not much less than in supermarkets back home for many items, but keep in mind that we live in South Carolina. If you live in California or New York, you may see a larger price gap.

Here are a few sample prices:

Bread: US$1.17 per loaf
Eggs: US$1.85 per dozen
Strawberries: US$1.72 per kilo
Oreos: US$2.92 for the big package
Brahma beer: US$3.41 for a 6 pack

Some of the import liquor was expensive, like Bailey's Irish Cream, which was double or more what we pay back home, but we bought premixed pina coladas for about half what a comparable bottle costs here. Although we didn't stock up at a mercado, we did peruse one of the local markets. Prices on produce were a real bargain, and all of it was local, fresh, and presumably organic.

Why Cuenca Reason #3: Excellent Dining On A Shoestring

You have many options for dining in Cuenca, some places catering to both expats and Cuencanos. The best bargains are fixed-price lunches at almuerzo cafes. We tried several. In each case, the total tab, including taxes and tip, ran from US$6–US$9 for three full plates of food and soft drinks.

We ate at two restaurants catering to expats: The Wind Horse Café on Calle Larga was US$16 for brunch for three people, and the Café Eucalyptus on Gran Colombia set us back US$51 for a luxurious dinner for three, including cocktails, entrées (no appetizers), desserts (try the Bananas Foster), and fruit smoothies. Our other restaurant splurge was Tres Estrellas on Calle Larga. It's the restaurant famous for cuy, and, while we didn't indulge in the grilled guinea pig on this visit (next time?), we did make pigs of ourselves to the tune of a US$45 tariff for three (including two pitchers of their lemonade—it was that good).

The only lousy meal we had was giving the local McDonald's a try. The prices were comparable to those in the States in exchange for too salty burgers and not salty enough limp fries. If you need an American fast-food fix, we had better luck at the food court at the Multicines movie complex at Millennium Plaza. Both Burger King and Subway tasted like home.

By the way, catching the 7 p.m. movie in English cost only US$5.50 per person.

Why Cuenca Reason #4: Appealing Culture

We loved, loved, loved the lifestyle and culture in Cuenca. What's not to like about a perfect spring climate and no bugs? Nothing like being comfortable, not too hot and not too cold, to improve one's outlook on life. But there's more to it than that.

Like you, I have read that being in Cuenca is like stepping back into the 1950s. What does that mean exactly, and is it something you will embrace...or will it drive you nuts? We saw children everywhere. There were wee ones out with their mothers or their fathers or their grandparents. We saw school-aged kids in their uniforms visiting the local confectioner to stock up on after-school snacks (try the sweets shop on Simon Bolivar adjacent to the cathedral—yum!).

The people seem friendly, happy, and helpful. There are dozens of spectacular churches sprinkled throughout the city, and if you poke a nose in the door any day of the week, you find dozens of people quietly lighting candles and praying. Cuenca is faith and family oriented, and Sundays especially are set aside for church and time spent with loved ones. The Catholic Masses are packed in the morning, as are the parks in the afternoon.

Keep in mind that not much is open on Sunday, but you can still get a tasty meal in town at Chicago Pizza on Gran Colombia, conveniently just across the plaza from the church of Santo Domingo for those who want to kill two birds with one stone.

If we had to identify something specific that we didn't care for, it would be graffiti. I assume this is the handiwork of select misdirected youth, but there's lots of it, which is a shame to see in such an otherwise lovely place. To their credit, city employees were out with brushes and pails of soapy water scrubbing away.

Why Cuenca Reason #5: Family-Friendly Visa

In keeping with the strong family orientation we witnessed in Cuenca, Ecuador's pensionado visa is one of the most generous toward families. If you are a single person or an unencumbered couple, this probably won't be of interest for you, but our family dynamic isn't quite so simple. If you, like we, are considering moving abroad with some or all of an extended family, Ecuador should be on your radar.

In many Latin American countries, the best bang for the buck, if you qualify, is a pensionado visa. Ecuador's requires that the pensioner show a monthly income from a pension or Social Security of at least US$800, and then add to that US$100 for each dependent (spouse, child, etc.). Other countries offer similar pensionado visas but usually with restrictions on who qualifies as a dependent. A husband or wife is fine, but only minor children qualify, or, if older than 18, there is an age cap (from 23 to 25, depending on the country) and the grown child must be a full-time college student. What if you have adult kids who would like to join you in your overseas adventure, but they are older than 25 and/or not in college? Either each single or couple must qualify for a different type of visa on their own (expensive, if they can qualify at all), or you need to look seriously at Ecuador or Nicaragua, which has a pensionado program similar to Ecuador's (US$600 per month for the pensioner and US$100 for each dependent, without small print as to whom you can include as your dependent).

One of the issues many face when they retire abroad is being so far away from the rest of the family. In Ecuador you may not have to make that sacrifice. If everyone wants to go, and if everyone establishes a portable career to pay their bills once in their new home country, the residency visa is comparatively simple and inexpensive in Ecuador...for the whole family.

Janet LeBlanc
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Good luck finding this level of sophistication and infrastructure anywhere else in Ecuador outside Quito (which we also would not recommend as a place to live).

Why Not Boquete?

Boquete has long been heralded by many (starting, in fact, with us, more than 15 years ago) as one of the world's top retirement havens. However, we decided not to include this Panamanian mountain town in our 2014 Index for two reasons.

First, the cost of living in Boquete continues to rise.

Second, you have other better choices elsewhere now, which we wanted to feature instead. We limit our Index to 21 destinations. This is an arbitrary restriction that forces some hard choices. The truth is, as more places worldwide become more appealing for the would-be retiree, other places, including some well-known, like Boquete, become less so. Boquete is still a great turn-key choice for overseas retirement, but we'd say it no longer belongs on a short list of the world's top 21 choices.

One big draw of Boquete is its large and growing expat community. If the idea of retiring to a place where many others like you have already paved the way and stand ready to welcome you to their ranks, you have other more affordable choices, including Cuenca and Chiang Mai, for example, both of which offer super-cheap, high-quality lifestyles (and both of which are included in our Index this year).

Puerto Vallarta and Barcelona are two other expat-friendly options featured in our 2014 survey. The cost of living is higher in Puerto Vallarta and Barcelona than in Cuenca and Chiang Mai...and higher than in Boquete. However, the cost of living isn't unreasonable for the quality of life available for purchase. The quaint mountain town of Boquete just can't compete for lifestyle with chic, cosmopolitan Barcelona or Pacific oceanside Vallarta.

Why Not Uruguay?

Uruguay has gotten expensive, too expensive for the lifestyle on offer, and it's likely to become more expensive still.

Uruguayans are used to the devaluation of their peso. They refer to appreciation as atraso cambiario, "the exchange rate is running late." Because of this phenomenon, prices for many big-ticket items in Uruguay (including real estate, cars, and even high local salaries) are quoted in U.S. dollars.

Why Not Brazil?

High crime rates keep much of Brazil off our radar and out of our survey. That said, south from Ceara to Natal, you can enjoy super-cheap coastal buys in safety.

Further, the bureaucracy, red tape, and corruption at all levels involved with getting anything done in this country are significant downsides to life here. The country doesn't make establishing residency easy and offers no retiree benefits program.

Also, Brazilians speak Portuguese, which, for most of us, is not as easy to muddle through as Spanish, French, or Italian.

Why Not Ajijic, Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, Or Merida?

Mexico offers many well-publicized options for the foreign retiree. Why did we choose Puerto Vallarta over the rest of the choices for our 2014 Retire Overseas Index? Because if offers the best option anywhere for the retiree looking for developed Pacific coastal living on a budget.

Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and Ecuador all also offer Pacific coast options, but none is anywhere near as fully appointed as Puerto Vallarta, which offers marinas, country clubs, golf courses, shopping, and fine dining. Yet, you could retire here on a budget of as little as US$1,910 per month, which is more than an average budget for other countries with Pacific coastlines in our Index but a very reasonable amount given the lifestyle on offer.

Why Not New Zealand?

We like New Zealand as a part-time retirement spot, but we didn't include it in our survey this year because it's just not a realistic full-time option for the typical retiree. The truth is, New Zealand (like Australia) isn't overly keen on the idea of foreign retirees and doesn't make it easy for the retiree to establish residency. In fact, in most cases, it's not possible.

Why Not Costa Rica?

About three decades ago, Costa Rica decided to make a business of the foreign retiree. The Costa Ricans invested in a formal and successful advertising campaign, targeting Americans primarily. Tens of thousands of would-be retirees from the States took up the invitation and relocated to this beautiful land of hills and rainforests.

The benefits Costa Rica offered retirees who became resident were terrific, including the original pensionado program against which others were measured for decades. In addition, way back when Costa Rica made a name for itself as a top retirement choice, the cost of everything from groceries and eating out to prime coastal property was super cheap. Fast forward a couple of decades, and, thanks to investors and speculators, Costa Rica wasn't so cheap anymore, neither its cost of living nor its beachfront real estate. And, while prices had risen dramatically, the infrastructure hadn't kept pace. Retirees were happy to overlook falling bridges and unpaved roads when prices were low. Harder to rationalize putting up with failing infrastructure in the face of appreciating costs.

Worse, after working so hard to woo American and European retirees, Costa Rica seemed to change its mind. The Costa Ricans didn't eliminate their famous pensionado program; they simply eliminated most of the tax breaks it had promised, as part of a deficit-reduction austerity package. And they didn't grandfather in existing pensionados. So those who'd chosen Costa Rica for the retiree benefits it offered were surprised and disappointed to find that those benefits existed no more. Now the Costa Rican government is considering a further pensionado program adjustment. They're talking about increasing, maybe substantially, the minimum monthly income requirement to qualify. And, again, if the change is made, existing pensioandos won't be grandfathered in. To renew your status, you'd have to qualify under the new requirements.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Our 2014 Retire Overseas Index is featured, in full, in this month's issue of our Overseas Retirement Letter. If you're not yet an ORL subscriber, become one now to receive this bumper special annual edition, hot-off-the-virtual-presses.

Or you can purchase a copy of the Index on its own here.

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The utilities figure for each of our 21 budgets is straightforward; groceries and entertainment, much less so. If you shop at local markets and stick to a basic, local diet, your monthly groceries bill could be US$150. If you shop at U.S.-like grocery stores (which exist in every place on my list below) and want to eat like you ate back home (prime rib, Entenmann's, and French wine), your monthly food bill could be two, three, or four times US$150.

Likewise, entertainment. Our Index budgets include amounts for eating out once a week and going to the movies a couple of times a month, say, or perhaps taking one in-country trip per month to explore your new home. You could, if you wanted and your budget allowed, eat out four nights a week and take international vacations twice a year.

On top of the overall cost of living wherever you decide to retire you'll have the cost of housing. I recommend renting first, to give yourself a chance to get to know your new home and determine if it is, in fact, the right place for you. For each of the 21 top retirement havens on our Index list, therefore, we indicate an average cost for renting a one-bedroom, one-bath residence in a neighborhood that would be appealing and appropriate for a retiree.

After you've been in residence for a while, you may decide you like the place well enough to commit long term with an investment in a home of your own. Buying a piece of real estate in another country can also offer the potential for return, from capital appreciation over time and from cash flow if you decide to rent the place out when you're not using it yourself.

Therefore, for each of the 21 destinations on our Retire Overseas Index list, we also figured an average cost per square meter for the purchase of property. This is the best way to consider this. In fact, breaking down a location's property market to an average cost per square meter for a particular kind of property is the only reliable way to compare that location's property market with the property market anywhere else, the only apples-to-apples strategy.

In Nashville this week for our annual Retire Overseas Conference, we'll be sharing the results of this year's Retire Overseas Index, including the monthly budgets, the rental costs, and the average per-square-meter cost to purchase real estate for all 21 destinations featured...and a few others, to boot.

Here's a sneak preview for some of the destinations being featured...

In the Americas:

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Monthly budget: US$2,055
Rent per month: US$1,000
Purchase per square meter to purchase: US$2,000

City Beaches, Panama

Monthly budget: US$2,440
Rent per month: US$1,200
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,900

Cuenca, Ecuador

Monthly budget: US$1,010
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100

Granada, Nicaragua

Monthly budget: US$1,040
Rent per month: US$500
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,500

Medellin, Colombia

Monthly budget: US$1,530
Rent per month: US$650
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,050

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Monthly budget: US$1,910
Rent per month: US$850
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,490

In Europe:

Algarve, Portugal

Monthly budget: US$1,500
Rent per month: US$615
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,960

Barcelona, Spain

Monthly budget: US$1,725
Rent per month: US$1,085
Price per square meter to purchase: US$5,500

Pau, France
Monthly budget: US$1,930
Rent per month: US$1,285
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,300

In Asia:

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monthly budget: US$920
Rent per month: US$400
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100 (note that foreign ownership of real estate is restricted in Thailand)

Dumaguete, Philippines

Monthly budget: US$910
Rent per month: US$350
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,200

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Monthly budget: US$660
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: Foreigners can't own property

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What brings us to Nashville this week? Our annual Retire Overseas Conference!

For years, friends have encouraged me to visit Music City. Finally, I was able to engineer a good reason.

We arrived yesterday, and I can tell you that my friends' reports did not embellish or overstate. This is a fun town. Live music everywhere.

It's not too late to make plans to join us here for what is going to be the biggest retire-overseas event of the year, this Friday through Sunday at the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel.

In addition to the three-day Retire Overseas Conference Aug. 29–31, we're also hosting a first-ever Retire Overseas Expo the day before (Thursday, Aug. 28), from noon until 7 p.m. This half-day special event is open to the public, an ideal way to dip a toe in the retire-overseas waters, and, best of all, absolutely free for Live and Invest Overseas readers. Regular admission is US$25. However, simply confirm at the door on the day that you're a Live and Invest Overseas reader, and you'll be granted full access at no cost.

One way or another, therefore, I say: Get thee to Nashville. Dozens of correspondents and expats from around the world will be convening here today through Thursday so they can be on stage with us throughout the weekend to help showcase the world's top retirement havens for the nearly 300 registered attendees.

Come on down and join the fun.

Details of the Retire Overseas Expo taking place Thursday, Aug. 28, are here.

Details of the Retire Overseas Conference taking place Friday, Aug. 29, through Sunday, Aug. 31, are here.

See you soon.

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"As we made our plan for where to go," Lee remembers, "the reality of what we were doing began to settle in. I was only 49 years old, for crying out loud. What if we ran out of money? I began to worry about being back in the States at age 75 looking for work."

Lee spent a lot of time running the numbers and, finally, he and Julie found the courage to make the leap.

"We satisfied ourselves," Lee explains, "that, in Cuenca, Ecuador, the city we'd focused on, my pension would allow us to live very comfortably."

Lee and Julie were pioneers. Two of the original Cuenca retirees, in 2001 they received Visa 1 and Visa 2 from the New York consulate when they applied for legal Ecuadorean residency.

"We lived in Cuenca for nine months before meeting another English-speaking couple," Lee says. "We didn't mind. We were having so much fun taking advantage of all we discovered that Cuenca had to offer. This is a very cultural city, with free symphony events, museums, and annual art shows.

"The best news, though, during those early months," Lee continues, "was the realization I had that the cost of living was even lower than I'd estimated. Cuenca enjoys great mountain weather year-round. This means no heat and no air conditioning. I had underestimated the effect of the climate on our overall budget."

The cost of living in Cuenca has increased steadily in the dozen years since Lee and Julie first took up residence. Still, this remains one of the most affordable options in the Americas. You can rent an apartment for as little as US$300 per month. More typical is US$500 monthly. Figure a total budget of US$1,200.

And you may, indeed, decide to invest in a place of your own. The cost of real estate in this city is one of the greatest bargains in all of Latin America, cheaper than in Montevideo, Uruguay; Medellin, Colombia; Fortaleza, Brazil; Panama City; or most any other Central or South American destination you might consider. You could buy a small city condo for less than US$50,000.

Gas, too, is cheap, and Ecuador is a great place for exploring by car. Lee says that he invested in a car soon after making the move, because he and Julie so enjoyed motoring around the country. He advises figuring an additional US$150 per month if you own a car.

One thing to remember about Ecuador is that this country uses the U.S. dollar. For an American retiree, this means it's easier to understand what things really cost; it's easier to keep track of what you're really spending, month to month; and, very important, you don't have any currency-exchange risk. You may still have local inflation to contend with, but you won't have to worry about that being compounded when the exchange rate goes against you.

Given his extended personal experience living and investing in this country, we're delighted that Lee has agreed to act as host for our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Quito next month.

The Early Bird Discount for this event remains in effect today and tomorrow only. You have until midnight Friday to save up to US$250 when you register.

Details on the program we've put together with Lee's help are here.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Cuenca, Ecuador, home to a big and fast-growing expat community, qualifies as one of the world's top retirement havens and perhaps the best place in the Americas to live well and comfortably on even a very small budget.

In this colonial city recently, I filmed a brief video to give you an idea what Cuenca has to offer. Take a look.

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Since moving to Cuenca in 2011, Daniel and Sally Ellis have worked part-time, via the Internet, for their old law firm back in New Jersey, advising their former partners in product liability cases. In addition, Sally has continued her sideline art career and has had several exhibitions of her work in local galleries. Daniel says he finally has time to catch up on his reading.

Jan and Tom Jeffers divide their time between Cuenca and Fort Lauderdale. Jan says it's important to spend time with the grandchildren, but she also enjoys the expat lifestyle.

"It's great that Florida is only four hours away," Jan says, "but we also enjoy our friends in Cuenca and all the cultural activities here."

Ralph Winston, who provides computer and Internet services to Cuenca expats, says he is finally able to pursue a lifelong interest in creative writing. Ralph has joined an expat writing group and says he's halfway through his first book.

"Who would have thought that, at 60, I would be writing my first novel?"

David Morrill

Editor's Note: Meet David Morrill and many other of our Ecuador expat friends at this year's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Quito Sept. 17–19.

The Early Bird Discount for this event expires this Friday at midnight. That is, you have two more days to save up to US$250 when you register.

Do that here now. Or reach our conference team with your questions, toll-free from the United States, at 1-888-627-8834...or, internationally, at +1-443-599-1221.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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