“Kathleen, I have reviewed many of your mailings and have been planning to move to Ecuador. plan to rent for now, rather than buy.
“But today I read that the estimated cost of living for Cuenca is now US$1,400 per month; no longer US$800 or US$900 per month, as had been reported in the past.
“If this is true, and prices have gone up, I may have to consider somewhere else. Can you tell me if these numbers are true for Cuenca?”
–Joyce S., United States
Latin America Editor Lee Harrison responds:
I like to recommend $1,100 to $1,200 per month for a single person in Cuenca, and $1,400 or so for a couple. This is based on renting a home; if you own your home, you’d need less.
However, it is indeed possible to live on much less, as most Ecuadorians do.
The reason I like to reference a bigger budget is because I think that the lifestyle most Americans are going to want to live in this city is going to cost a little more. Otherwise, you’d be scrimping and missing out on the many opportunities for entertainment and culture that Cuenca offers. On a budget of US$1,400 to US$1,500 per month for a couple, I think most middle-class Americans would feel like they were leading a very rich and full life here. If you had money left over from that, great.
I know someone who lives in Cuenca on a budget of US$500 per month. He’s Deke Castleman, an expat and author who has been in Cuenca since 2010.
Deke lives in a furnished five-bedroom apartment that rents for US$500 per month, with two roommates (so his share is US$166 per month). He spends US$160 per month on food, between the supermarket and the fresh produce market. He eats out for lunch about six times per month (US$12), and has four dinners out per month (US$50). Deke needs US$40 for buses and cabs and another US$40 for miscellaneous expenses (books, dentist, etc.).
This comes out to about US$450 per month, giving him a cushion of around US$50 in his US$500 budget.
Of course, not everyone would be comfortable with Deke’s budget and lifestyle. However, for those who are, he’s a good example of how far one can go on US$500 per month. (Deke’s budget is detailed in his book, Expats in Ecuador: Life in Cuenca.)
Before committing totally to living in Cuenca on US$900 per month or less, though, I’d pay a visit to prove to yourself that you’d enjoy the life that budget would buy you.
Also note that Cuenca is probably the most expensive city in Ecuador. If you lived in a small town (such as Cotacachi), the cost of living is notably less. And in a rural setting (such as Vilcabamba), costs would be even lower.
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