Alta’s Info on living in Cuenca–that you may find useful before you take the plunge.
We researched everything (we thought) within an “nth” degree before we came. Still there was so much we did not know when we got here. Maybe these hints can help you handle the packing and getting settled.
Don’t bring your printer. One, you probably cannot find the correct ink you will need. Additionally, copy/printer paper is not 8.5 x 11 here but measures an approximate 8.25 x 11.5. I think this is the “A2” setting on your pc. The result is your 3 hole punch is off and the folders you are used to don’t match up. Two, you probably need the room in the suitcases for shoes and clothes that fit big and tall gringos. The good news is you can buy 1 sheet of copy paper or a ream. Granted, if you buy a whole ream, the clerk will look at you with wonderment as to what in the world you are going to do with all that paper. The same is true of rubber bands and envelopes, one at a time or as many as you want. Ecuadorians don’t seem to possess the “over-consumer” gene that we in the US have.
Yes, the handcrafted wood floors here are gorgeous….however, extremely slick. Bring woolly socks or shoes for the house which have the rubber grippers on the bottom. Not only are the floors slippery (especially after our wonderful cleaning person sweeps and buffs them up, see the picture of our living room, below) but they are very cold in the early mornings and on those rainy days.
Not monumental but good to know; you can recharge your cell phone at Fybecca — and on Mondays they give you 50% more talk time for your money. It’s not necessary to go out to Mall Del Rio to the Claro storefront to buy talk time. Also, Fybecca (as well as most pharmacies here) will give you a 10% discount card on all purchases, ask the clerk and fill out a small form, they’ll give the discount right away and mail you the card. Small things, I know, but they all add up.
If you join the Coopera (Co-op) for just $15.00 a year, their selection of organic fruits and vegetables is amazing for much less than @ Supermaxi. In addition, with your membership, the Coopera people will take care of paying your electric, water and phone bill each month, as long as you keep a bit extra in your account to cover the charge. They will just deduct it from your account as the bills are due. When you are back in the store shopping, just pick up your receipts. To me, this is one of the best benefits ever! You see, in Cuenca, when it’s time to pay the bills, you have to go to EACH utility, individually, to pay the bill. For further consideration, the Coopera is currently paying 8% on six month CD’s, 8.5% for 12 months, no minimum amount needed to deposit! (Ann’s note: for tax purposes, be sure to keep the sum total of ALL your bank accounts offshore under $10k. If your accounts total more than $10,000 at any time during the year, you must declare that account along with details to the US Treasury on your tax return, and you may have to pay taxes on the income, depending on your income. Technically, the US Treasury wants you to declare all accounts, but the law only requires notice of those with $10k and above.)
Cuenca has a 12% IVA tax on practically everything – but here’s the good news: when you are a resident complete with cedula and are 65 or over (known here as “Tercera Edad”, you get all IVA taxes refunded. Go to the SRI office, bring your original cedula and your most recent Ecuador bank statement. Once the forms have been filled out and submitted, save all your Facturas (receipts that have your name and cedula number on them) from your purchases. Once a month, go back to the SRI office and turn them in. The SRI people will directly deposit the taxes you were charged into your bank account up to $140.00 per month. Pretty cool, especially if both husband and wife are 65.
Instead of wire transferring money from the US to your local bank and paying the exorbitant fees, write yourself a check on your US bank account and deposit it into your Ecuadorian bank account – you pay no fees! Ours takes 21 business days to reach our account here but once we got it rolling, we do this once every month so money is always coming in. This is the only thing I can think of so far that US checks are good for so, don’t forget to bring what you will need until you can pick up more when you are back in the US.
We’ve only been here 6 months but the adventure has been a blast. Here’s a picture of one of our neighbors’ yards. We love walking around our neighborhood and trying to recognize all the variety of flora. We hope that your journey is as fun as ours has been so far.