Iris, from Pennsylvania had a few more questions...
Q: Can you tell me approximately how much it costs to make the move? Meaning, getting a visa, if you need a lawyer, etc.
I have been looking into this for myself. The flights all seem to be into Quito. To save money I recommend you do not travel immediately after your retirement because early January is still peak fare season. The first thing I would do is call a local travel agent and say you want a cheap flight to Quito, Ecuador, with as inexpensive a connection to Cuenca as possible and stress that your departure date is entirely dependent upon affordability. I'm guessing a wait of a week or two until what is called the 'shoulder season' begins will save you a lot of money. Waiting a bit longer, until off season could reduce the flight by as much as half.
To answer your question about needing a lawyer and visa fees... I mentioned this very subject to the consular staffer I spoke with about my own emigrating to Ecuador. The consular official stated that no lawyer was needed to get a visa and that the fee, at least in Canada, was just $250. I was assured too that anything needed to immigrate to Ecuador you can get through an Ecuadorian consulate or embassy, and all services are included in the visa fee.
Q: I will not be bringing furniture with me. So, I want to get a furnished apartment (rent)?
Nor am I going to pay freight to transport household items to Ecuador. I already divested of all of my belongings I'm not bringing, other than some winter clothing which I'll dump in a charity collection box the day before I leave. The cost of freight makes it impractical to ship furnishings, and with no idea what I'll need, I'd sooner source everything locally. Doing so I'll pay less then the freight I suspect.
So I too will need to rent a furnished apartment when I relocate to Cuenca. It looks to be reasonable to expect to pay no more than $500 a month for a furnished, long stay hotel apartment. Less for a regular apartment rental. What I usually do when planning to stay anywhere for a longer period of time is rent a 'tourist apartment', which in Cuenca will be around $500. I then use it as a base to work from to find what I want for permanent accommodations, and at a price I'm prepared to pay. Anything you source from outside a country, other than hotels, is going to be inflated. This is especially so if a realtor or booking agent is involved. When you're face to face with a local apartment owner or manager, ready to move in immediately, very good deals are to be had. The same for purchases. I see prices online for properties I know I can purchase for significantly less if I'm in country dealing with a local realtor, or better still the seller directly.
It is a mistake for anyone to think that they will be better off dealing with local realtors or agents of any kind to aquire something in another country. Ditto via the web. It will cost you more, for sure, and there really is no convenience advantage. Remember, you're moving to a city that has become a mecca for expat retirees from the USA, Canada and Britain, so it will not be difficult to meet people who can advise you on anything you need to know to live in Cuenca. It has always amazed me that when I live in Canada I'll never meet my next door neighbour. Yet whenever I'm abroad it seems I get to know and befriend most of the expats in a town or village in a matter of weeks.
I had to be in Warsaw for a long contract. My living out allowance was going to be the same if I blew it all on hotel expenses, or if I rented an apartment. The only difference was going to be more money in my pocket if I took the latter route. The marketing manager at the hotel was a gregarious Brit who invited me for lunch. During the meal I mentioned I was going to look for an apartment rather than spend many months in a hotel. Not only did he understand my position, but called a realtor he knew. The fellow rushed to the hotel restaurant and joined us for dessert while he listened to my needs. Together we drove to look at some apartments he had listed for rent and I found one that was perfect. We did up the paperwork and I was dropped off at the hotel to fetch my belongings. Since the flat was vacant I was able to move in immediately.
Virtually the same thing happened to me in Bucharest, Romania, My driver introduced me to a woman he also drove for. She was a Japanese national who's business was renting accommodations to low level embassy personnel around the world. She found me exactly what I needed at a price I could afford, and did so within a matter of days. Had I not of been on the ground in Bucharest I'd never have struck up a conversation with the driver, who in turn introduced me to the rental agent, who then put me into a 'cash arrangement' rental. I know it cost me far less than embassy workers needing receipts would have paid.
Q: I do have a cat that I would like to bring also. Is it possible?
Pets are not as difficult to travel with as most people believe. I know of a dog that would qualify as a frequent flyer if he was human.
However, immigrating with a pet may be a little more complicated. I recommend contacting the local Ecuadorian consulate or embassy. Explain that you will be immigrating to Cuenca as a retiree and want to bring your cat and would like information as to the process you must follow. It will probably be a list of shots you'll need to prove had been administered, probably a letter from an examining vet as to the overall health of the animal, and assurance it does not have rabies or any other dangerous disease. The specifics change country to country, but generally it all boils down to proof your pet being introduced to the local pet population will not pose a health risk, nor will it be a risk to the health of the local human population.
Some vet clinics offer a service to ready animals for travel. You may want to research local veterinarians to see if any provide this service. Especially look at vets that treat both small and large animals. Vets that work with horses tend to know all about traveling with animals because they often are tasked with readying horses for travel abroad to compete in equestrian, racing, or rodeo competitions.
Q: Do you know anything about the height sickness?
I do know a bit about elevation sickness because I did a lot of mountaineering when I was younger. The fact you are relocating to Cuenca is going to take some physical adjustment, which is known as acclimatization. Cuenca is 2500 meters or 8200 feet above sea level, whereas Middletown, Pennsylvania is just 103 feet or about 32 meters above sea level. So yes Iris, you may feel some discomfort initially. However, if you've ever visited Yellowstone Park you survived an average elevation equal to that of Cuenca.
If discomfort is felt when you first arrive in Cuenca, it's because at around 2,100 meters, or 7,000 feet above sea level, the saturation of oxyhemoglobin drops drastically. Not to worry though, your body has the ability for both short-term and long-term adaptation to altitude and will compensate for the lack of oxygen.
If someone is overweight, a higher elevation will effect them much more than someone who has a low body fat ratio. It's not life threatening unless the person is severely obese, and there are already respiratory and circulatory problems. Tasks such as walking up a steep incline may prove more taxing for anyone packing a few extra pounds, just as they are at sea level. Basically, at higher elevations extra exertion requires more rapid, deeper breathing by even the most healthy of people, all the more so for anyone overweight, but everyone acclimatizes to the elevation eventually.
I strongly recommend that anyone planning to move permanently or even visit higher elevation destinations inform their doctor. It is also a good idea to ask for a full physical examination if you haven't had one within six months before departure. Specifically mention the elevation you'll be spending time at because it may be relevant to the recommendation the doctor makes.
All that said, Cuenca is well below the 8000 meters or 26,000 feet mountaineers and skydivers refer to as the 'dead zone', the elevation at which the human body can not acclimatize to.
Iris, you asking questions and researching your retirement move is what everyone should do. I once worked with a tour wholesaler and remember when a man on a Nepal/Tibet tour dropped dead after walking 100 meters from the plane towards the airport terminal. Although only in his late forties, he was overweight, had an existing respiratory problem, as well as a heart condition that required a pacemaker. In the course of the insurance company's investigation, it was learned he had no idea what elevation he would be visiting, nor that the elevation was going to exasperate his pre-existing medial conditions. A rather dramatic example, but I find real life examples of poor judgement the best tools for driving home important points.
If you have any travel related questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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