Cuantos? It’s the biggest question of all. How much to rent an apartment, buy a car, purchase internet service, grab a taxi, drink a beer, eat dinner out, eat dinner in, etc. The answer isn’t always a slam dunk, but with just one more day until we get back on a plane, I’m starting to get a better feel for most of it.
Your biggest expense of all will most likely be an apartment, condo or house. We have not been looking to buy right off the bat, so we’ve had more conversations about rental costs. Here’s the thing to know: the prices you are seeing on the Internet are by and large the sucker price. We’ve been so confused by the $800, $1,200 and even $2,200 rental prices on the Internet that we really didn’t bother having a closer look. Then yesterday afternoon, we ran into an expat couple from Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Sitting on a beautiful reproduction of Venice Beach, California, we talked for nearly an hour while locals kept us supplied with chilled coconuts and beer. Bottom line: this 50-something couple rents “a great two-bed, two-bath apartment,” just three blocks from the beach we were sitting on for $200/month. I shit you not. Apparently, the three bedroom version will set you back $250.
Given that there are no real heating or cooling costs here, their next biggest expense is Internet, which does pack a punch. For 10 mb/second broadband they pay $110/month. That sounds expensive until you tack it on to your monthly rent and realize that all of your fixed expenses are taken care of for a little more than $300. And it’s good, reliable broadband. They use it to Skype with their young adult kids as well as teach English for hours at a time, each day.
That being said, if you just have to have oceanfront with a balcony facing the water, it’s going to set you back some. Here in Manta, they know a couple that pays $1,500. In Salinas we talked to an expat who said you can rent a penthouse condo facing the ocean for as low as $800/month. If you drop down a few floors, you’re looking at more like $3-$500.
I wish we had spent a little time physically walking through rental spaces to get a feel for the quality available, but regardless I think it’s safe to say there are deals to be had. Here are some more costs we incurred and/or heard about, in no particular order:
24 oz. Equadorian Pilsener beer (restaurant, bar or beach service) $1.50
12 oz. Pilsener $1.00
Continental breakfast (coffee, fresh squeezed juice, bread, butter and jam) $2.50
Typical fresh fish or shrimp lunch entrée $3
Typical fresh fish or shrimp dinner entrée $5
One expat’s “week’s worth of produce” $4.30
Taxi ride anywhere in town $1
1 hour taxi ride up the coast $20 (most likely negotiable, although we didn’t)
2-3 hour bus ride up the coast $3
Seat on express van from Manta to Guayaquil International (3 hours) $10
Chicken bus to anywhere it’s going, if you dare $1
Month of basic cell phone service $5-$10
Fresh warm pastries, cinnamon rolls, bread, etc. .10-.20 cents
2 star fruits from a street vendor .5 cents
Fillet mignon in a nice restaurant $12
Long Island iced tea $4
Any standard mixed drink, except whiskey $3
Whiskey drink $10
Bottle of Jim Beam $99
10 Ibuprofen (prescription required, oddly enough, but we found a guy) $2.50
Now, as far as the cost of visiting/scouting/vacationing here goes, Diana and I spent an average of $100 a day. That covers a room at anywhere from $15-40 per night, taxi or bus travel almost every day, all meals from restaurants, a few drinks in the evening, and the occasional knick-knack, late night ice cream, cabana rental, etc. In other words, there wasn’t anything we wanted and did not buy. All totaled, by the time we’re back on the plane tomorrow we will have spent $1,300 in 13 days (not counting airfare). If you chose not to travel around as much as we did, you could save much more in taxi fares and, most likely, room rates. We did not negotiate rooms because we’re on vacation and the language thing was enough to deal with. But if I knew we were coming to stay in one place for a week or so, my guess is we could have averaged $15-$18 a night for something nice.
So that’s the story on costs. For the record, whenever we asked expats what brought them down here, the answer was almost always “Cost of living.” Bottom line, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re not just dreaming. It can be done.