When we told local friends we were looking for a furnished apartment in Cuenca’s charming historic district, their response was, “Why would you want to move there? It’s so noisy and dirty.” “Not to us,” we responded, “It’s perfect.” We’d quickly tired of the cold sterility of our Gringolandia neighborhood, where the only contact we ever had with our neighbors came on a 15-second elevator ride.
As expats, experiencing local culture is one of the best reasons to live overseas. We wanted an Ecuadorian apartment, in an Ecuadorian neighborhood.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, Cuenca is 500 years old, a blend of colonial Spanish architecture and Indigenous cultures. Its buildings and streets are old, really old. Actually, the cobbled streets are a big part of what gives the city its charm. We wanted to walk out of our apartment and be in the middle of all of that.
ⓘ READ MORE: Why Is Cuenca Ecuador a UNESCO Site?
Finding an apartment in Cuenca
I began with a web search for “rent a furnished apartment in cuenca ecuador.” GringoTree rentals and Cuenca expat websites had some good possibilities. It might have been a fluke, but we immediately found an ad that sounded ideal.
Our realtor explained that it would cost $450/month, including electricity, water and cable TV/internet. “The only thing is, there’s no washing machine or dryer so you’ll have to bring your laundry downstairs. The landlady will wash it for you.” Are you serious? Oh, yeah, we could certainly deal with that.
There are a few key differences between living on the outskirts vs. a downtown Cuenca apartment.
- El Centro apartments are in older buildings and are generally larger than those in newer areas.
- Newer apartments don’t require a propane tank for the water heater and stove.
Speaking of which, our first tank of gas lasted almost 3 weeks, and the man who refilled it even carried it upstairs and connected it. What service! At $2.50 per tank, it can hardly be considered a hardship. Come to think of it, this is just part of the charm of being in another country.
Our furnished apartment in Cuenca’s El Centro
It’s a small place, just two bedrooms, two baths, a living/dining area and a kitchen that’s so tiny, the fridge is in the living room! But no matter; with enough room for the two of us, it even has a second bedroom for any guests who will (hopefully) visit.
Bonus: We’re saving at least $330 a month by living here instead of Gringolandia.
The master bedroom
Thanks to a wall full of windows, the master bedroom has lots of light. The bed’s mattress is pretty comfortable, though I can’t say the same for the pillows or the sheets.
That’s one of the bad things about living in Ecuador: Quality sheets are ridiculously expensive, and the cheaper ones are uncomfortable because they get those little pills (balls) all over them. So if you plan to move to Ecuador, buy high quality sheets beforehand.
Same thing with the towels. That is, if you like them thick and fluffy.
We brought our own bedspread, sheets and pillows from our previous apartment. I prefer my own bedding and besides, this decor is really not to my taste.
Ecuadorian bedrooms have no closets. Instead, one wall is lined with cabinets and lots of drawers. Unless one of you is a fashionista, I think that’s more than enough storage room for any couple.
The only thing our master bedroom lacks is a place to hang dresses and coats. We work around that by storing them in the other bedroom.
Did you notice the cable running across the floor? It supplies the cable signal for the TVs in the two apartments on this floor. That silver thing is the signal splitter.
There’s a lot of goofy wiring going on in these buildings. An American electrician would have a coronary.
The second bedroom (aka “the guest room”)
Since no one is staying in Bedroom 2 at the moment, we store our empty suitcases in the upper cabinets. The ones at eye level hold our hanging coats and my dresses.
What is it like living in El Centro?
Oh, my goodness! The spirit in this apartment is so different from our previous apartment in Gringolandia! Unlike the guards in that lobby who barely acknowledged our passage, our Ecuadorian landlady always greets me with a smile and a kiss when I see her. “Holá, como va?” (I’m not saying that I would have liked to be kissed by all those guards. But you know what I mean.)
My heart melts every time I see Mathias, Veronica’s little, adorable-but-shy 2-year-old, hide behind her and wave at me. I don’t remember seeing any kids at the other place in Gringolandia. Ever.
And even though we’re newcomers and foreigners, Veronica and her husband have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. They’ve invited us to use their home’s huge outdoor fireplace at any time, either as a way to warm up (it’s cold season now!) or to grill steaks on. She smiles when I bring her our laundry. And she’s extremely helpful as we try to learn Spanish.
Other things we like:
- A fruit truck trundles by twice a week, loudly advertising “sweet oranges, 25/$2!” from its loudspeaker.
- Once or twice a week, folks hoping for a lucky break listen for the woman who carries a roll of lottery tickets in her hands.
- On Wednesday mornings, a pickup truck arrives, ready to refill our containers with milk fresh from the farm (60 cents per liter).
- And every three weeks we begin to listen for the insistent honk that tells us the propane truck is on its way. We will wave to him from our window and hope he will see us and stop.
- Anywhere we go in the city, our early morning walks are accompanied by the fragrant aroma of freshly baked bread. Freshly roasted coffee replaces the fragrance in the afternoon. We never tire of it!
This is why we left the sterility of Gringolandia and chose El Centro for our next apartment in Cuenca. This is life as an expat in Ecuador, and we are happy to be a part of it.
Places to stay during your trip
- How to Find and Rent an Apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador
- Why Is Cuenca, Ecuador a UNESCO Site?
- Parque Calderon: the Heart of Cuenca Ecuador
- Feria Libre: Live Like a Local in Cuenca, Ecuador
- The Cost of Food in Cuenca, Ecuador – Here’s What We Paid
For books about Cuenca, CLICK HERE