|Exhibit A (world’s ugliest bathroom)|
I used to unfortunately pay $1250/month for a nice 1-bedroom apartment in the US. Now that I’ve moved to Cuenca, I wanted to find a cheap rental and lifestyle that would let me work doing what I love, which is dancing. Essentially, I was looking for something small (room with kitchenette, studio or 1 bedroom) under $200, which is definite minority since only 12% of gringotree renters pay under $299 according to gringotree’s cost of living survey. I like walking so I really only looked in El Centro, though I’ve heard you get much more bang for your buck in other neighborhoods.
Finding rentals is very different in Cuenca. In the US, practically every rental is online on craigslist, whereas here you either just walk around neighborhoods you like looking for “Se Arrienda” (“for rent”) signs, the newspaper, gringotree, or through connections. My personal conclusion (at least based on where I’m living now) is that going through friends/connections worked best. Gringotree tended to have more expensive, though better maintained, apartments. This a sample of the best apartments I found through each method (although I doubt they’re still available, this should give you an idea of what a sub-$200 apartment looks like in Cuenca)
Method #1: Walking Around
If you walk around a neighborhood you like, you are bound to see “Se Arrienda” signs with phone numbers. “Se arrienda cuartos” is rooms for rent, “Se arrienda departamentos” is apartments for rent, “Se arrienda local” are commercial spaces for rent. Call the number (or better yet have an Ecuadorean friend) call to inquire about the price and find a time to see the place. This is the best apartment (of 3) I found with this method, and was fairly typical:
Exhibit A: Traditional 2-bedroom with tiny rooms
- $180/month, unfurnished
- 1 year minimum lease, not including utilities
- 2 bedrooms
- Nice closets in one of the bedroom
- Convenient location in El Centro, Hermano Miguel area
- Horribly ugly bathroom (See photo above)
- Creaky wooden floors
- Tiny rooms
- No outdoor windows, just facing inner courtyard
- I could actually hear the neighbors above, a family with (loud) kids
Method #2: Post on Gringotree.com
Exhibit B: Beautiful, expensive apartment in boring location
- $350 for completely furnished modern studio, 1 year lease.
- This was by far the prettiest and most modern spacious apartment I saw, granite countertops and all.
- Completely, completely furnished down to the wine glasses in the kitchen and fresh pillows on the bed, still wrapped in plastic
- Everything was new and shiny and in very nice modern style
- Quiet location on the 3rd floor.
- She told me it was in “El Centro” but it was a good 20 minutes walking further up north and east, and there was nothing interesting nearby, and a view of an ugly construction zone.
- The price (obviously)
Method #3: Looking through the classified ads
Exhibit C: Non-descript unfurnished apartment on Gran Colombia
- $150/month, 1 year minimum lease, completely unfurnished, not including WiFi or electricity.
- Central location, on 3rd floor so very quiet, on Simon Bolivar in El Centro.
- Completely unfurnished, no stove or refridgerator or bed
- Windows all faced into a central courtyard, so there was no natural sunlight
- The bathroom was split into two, so that the shower adjoined from the bedroom and the toilet adjoined from the kitchen.
- There was a very roughly constructed hole in the wall in the bathroom which the manager called a “window” but it looked like someone just took a hammer and knocked out some of the plaster.
Method #3: Asking your friends
Like a lot of things in Cuenca, connections are everything! Neither of these places were advertised, either through paper signs out front, nor in the Classieds or Gringotree.
Exhibit D: Great location and horrible apartment
|The closet is above the bed|
Another friend told me there was a small apartment for rent on Calle Larga for cheap, and I jumped at that since I love the river. Here’s what I actually found.
- $100/month rent, fully furnished including a stove and fridge, and fireplace.
- It was in the Casa de Antiguedades which does overlook the Tomebamba, and is right in the middle of Calle Larga.
- Since it was in the back of Calle Larga, it was really quiet.
- Sunny shared terrace (though the neighbors all hung their laundry there, spoiling the view).
- This apartment’s view was too low down so that it just overlooked ugly patios of other buildings.
- The world’s ugliest furniture, a non-functional box which did not open for storage took up 1/5 of the floor space.
- The floor was uneven, tilted wood.
- The ceiling was way too low – I could touch it with my hands easily.
- The bathroom was shared with one other person, and looked gross, dirty, and small, with wires sticking out of the wall for no apparent reason. The water was cold.
- It was TINY!
|The door to the shared bathroom|
- The walls were made out of plywood about 1 cm thick or less.
Exhibit E: Semi-Furnished Fixer-upper Room in Plaza San Sebastian
Luckily I found an unadvertised semi-furnished room through a friend who was living in the same building.
- $100/month, We have no lease agreement, no security deposit, and I pay month-to-month.
- Great location a stone’s throw away from Plaza San Sebastian
- The room was furnished with a bed, mattress (no bedding), and a closet, and had a private bathroom with hot water, and the floors were clean and modern.
- The room is actually really large, making it a good candidate for my room ->studio apartment conversion.
|The site of my future kitchen|
- The walls were painted a horrific tan color and had scribbled graffiti all over them (an artist lived there)
- There was the world’s ugliest most stained couch in the corner.
- Street noise being on the 2nd floor right above Mariscal Sucre
- The bathroom runs out of gas frequently meaning occasional cold showers
- Water leaks occasionally out of the wall and the landlady has said the repairmen are coming….for a month!
- What I did:
- Luckily the landlady painted the walls, at my request, removed the couch entirely, and I bought a cute comforter, a mini-fridge, an electric skillet, and a water heater (I invested about $300)
- I now walk downstairs to wash my dishes and the skillet, but other than that it’s a mini-kitchen and I will soon buy a table and chairs to have a place to sit.