The last city in Ecuador was Cuenca for us; abundance of restaurants are in the foodie-capital. For me, I tasted more flavorful meals than I have in the rest of the country, which doesn’t seem to value the usage of spices. I’m a pretty bland cooker myself (health reasons), but I wouldn’t have complained about some extra salt. Extra sodium please! A lot of my previous meals have been plain white rice, beans, and a choice of overcooked meat. Guayaquil had amazing food too, but in comparison to that city, Cuenca still charges the low prices.
Besides munching food, we also checked out the free cultural museum across the street from our hostel (I highly recommend the Alternative hostel). They also displayed historical Incan ruins that were probably used for military purposes. A school had a fieldtrip that day and we barely managed to avoid being flooded and drowned by munchkins. Yay, for strategic placement…. If the ruins are not what fancies you, then the attached garden is lovely to mosey around, even have exhibits of a few birds. From there we headed to the historical center to check out some impressive cathedrals.
Cost breakdown of Cuenca in USD:
• Housing: $22 (2 hostel nights which included breakfast)
• Transportation: $8
• Food: $11.5
• Miscellaneous: $3 (laundry)
Average Daily Cost: $22.25
In general Ecuador is fun to explore while being budget friendly (ignoring Galapagos). I stayed here for 17 days (May 17 to June 3, 2016). My favorite experience was snorkeling in Galapagos, since I’ve never done this activity in such clear water, but if you are on a tighter budget, there are other locations with beautiful snorkeling spots. My least pleasurable experience was with the Kiwi hostel. There was just so much wrong with the hostel and the staff gave bad solutions to the problems or none at all. If the room smells so musky we can’t breathe, please don’t suggest allergy pills. One other positive part about Ecuador, which one might not notice until they are there, is that most of the locations we went to had any, or almost any, mosquitos! Much nicer to explore without constantly ducking and swatting away bugs. Prefer not to look like a crazy person from the distance.
A habit I had to break is about toilet paper. Ecuador is not the only country that does this, but here you shouldn’t throw the toilet paper into the toilet because the paper will clog the drainage system. Instead there is a trash can next to the toilet for the disposal. Not that this is a hard task, but that’s not what I’m used to doing. The first couple times I would forget in the moment, but refused to go fish it back out… for obvious reasons.
Another interesting thing about Ecuador is that the buildings have an interesting finish. Many houses are constructed with brick. From there they put on this plaster to make the outside look nice and smooth, but often only the street side of the building gets this plaster and not the entire dwelling. Hence from the main street the housing appears finished, but then the alleyways tell a different story.
Random facts I’ve encountered:
• Only saw 6 cats in the entire Ecuador
• Most hostels have sucky Wi-Fi connection
• There are varieties of delicious fresh juices
• Most city vendors work together to set prices
• They often charge higher prices for foreigners so haggling is acceptable
• White rice and beans are staples