Review: Expats in Cuenca Ecuador: The Magic & The Madness


There are 5 gazillion books on Ecuador, and particularly Cuenca (OK, so maybe it’s more like 5), so I think the most important is whose perspective you are getting. I once saw author Susan Schneck dressed head to toe in almost fluorescent lime green, at a charity event, celebrating after winning a door prize of a wardrobe/fashion consultant. I say that any woman, particularly over the age of 18, who dares dabble in lime green should go on with her bad self and not listen to anyone else. Another time I ran into her at the local vegan restaurant coaching a couple on how to eat better for their diabetes. Susan is Cuenca’s fiercely outrageous, author-wellness coach-raw food chef/hippie, and if you don’t find that awesome, look elsewhere because this is a very personal guide/perspective on Cuenca.


  • This book is very, very specific. You will find names, email addresses, phone numbers and directions. On the flip side, in 2 years, this might be less applicable, but that just means Susan will need to write the 2015 sequel.
  • Chapter on dating in Cuenca. “Celibate in the City” rather than “Sex in the City”. Most things, ohhh so true! I can definitely relate as another single woman in Cuenca.
  • Nice cultural “translation” and writing style. I.e. “Where is the Walmart of Cuenca?” Obviously we don’t have one, but Susan offers the closest equivalent.
  • Willingness to write about weird hippie stuff that’s beyond Frommer’s….”Shamanic Journeys!” I write about Indian sweat lodge ceremonies and San Pedro ceremonies, of course, because it’s a part of the culture here. Although I did find the paragraph not to do justice to all the rich history and culture around these. Also lacks a phone number in case you want to do a shamanic journey!


  • A LOT of biographies. A motorcycle rider, a spiritual center founder, cafe owners, a pie baker is pretty diverse as far as life experiences, but overwhelmingly 99% older and from the US. Where they’re from, what they’re doing in Cuenca, random crappy things that have happened to them (robbed, legal property stuff, etc) Perhaps because I’ve met a fair amount of these people in person, or because of all the robberies, but I just didn’t find this section too interesting.


  • It has some “getting settled” information, but doesn’t go into the depth needed for it to be a guide – the depth of the information is patchy. For example, I think I understand the tax information better (RUC and facturas), and it has detailed information on where to find infrared saunas, but I still have no idea how to get medical/dental insurance in Cuenca or who provides it. Perhaps, I should be changing to a holistic raw diet rather than going to see the doctor (plenty of information on the former). Hence, you’d have to buy another actual guidebook if you want all the facts and then what’s the point of reading this one if not for entertainment value?


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