Q?Can I drink the water in Cuenca?

Yes, the tap water is considered drinkable throughout Cuenca proper. However, I wouldn’t trust it out in the countryside or villages. If you are visiting other cities in Ecuador, just ask about the water in that city. The water in Quito is also safe to drink, but doesn’t taste as good as in Cuenca (more chlorine). Coming from California, I prefer the water in Cuenca. After drinking tap water for over a year and eating salads, ice, blended drinks, fruit, and even (rarely) street cart food, I never had any food poisoning in Cuenca (though I have had it bad in Guatemala twice and mildly in Mexico). Many expats buy produce at the indigenous markets regularly, as well as the supermarket, and just wash it in the sink. To be safer you should also use the veggie disinfecting wash, which we should have some of under the kitchen sink or you can buy it from the supermarket. The water to the fridge and ice-maker is also filtered, and we provide a Brita filter for even better drinking and coffee water.

Q?What are your rates?

Our rates for 2015 are $140 per night, $840 per week and $2800 per month. There is an extra person fee of $10 per person per night for each guest after the 4th. There is a also a fully-refundable security deposit of $250.

Q?Are their any additional fees or optional services?

There are no hidden fees. Unlike with hotels, taxes are included in our rates. Unlike many vacation rentals, there is no cleaning fee. Depending on the payment method, the biller may charge a small processing fee in exchange for accepting credit cards and providing you with protection against fraud. If you pay with PayPal, we absorb the processing fees. The fully-refundable security deposit is $250.

There are optional services available for an additional fee which include: private airport transfers ($15-20 each way), parking ($10-15 per day), additional minutes for the free local cell phone (depends on your needs but usually $5 or less), or additional mid-stay housekeeping beyond one visit per week for stays of 8 days or more ($60 per visit including 2 loads of laundry), grocery shopping ($12 per hour plus the cost of food), and fresh flowers (typically $10). Optional services can be paid for in cash on arrival or added to the invoice in advance.

Q?What are your payment terms?

A deposit of $250 is required to hold your dates, and it will become your fully-refundable security deposit. We require 50% of the rent to be paid four months before your stay. So, if your dates are within four months you will need to pay 50% of the total to reserve the apartment. The balance is due two days before your stay. We accept PayPal, wire transfer to a US bank, BitCoin, AirBnB and Flip-Key by TripAdvisor. AirBnB and Flip-Key charge processing fees, but hold all funds in escrow until the day after you arrive for your protection.

Q?What is your cancellation policy?

We understand that sometimes circumstances arrise that require a guest to cancel their reservation. Unfortunately, unlike a hotel we only have one unit to rent, won’t get any same day drop-ins and can’t afford to lose the income from a cancelled booking. So, we try to be as fair as possible in our cancellation policy.

1. You will only be liable for up to the amount you have paid. Many vacation rentals will bill the card you have on file for cancellation damages based on their policy. To make it simple, our policy is that you won’t be liable for more than you’ve paid so far. The payment terms are outlined specifically each booking and in this FAQ.

2. You will only be charged for rent actually lost. Most vacation rentals will keep what they are entitled to under their cancellation policy, regardless if they re-rent your dates to another guest. If we had to cancel a booking during one of our vacations, we’d hate to lose that money, so we don’t want to do that to our guests. If you need to cancel we will try our best to rent the dates you were holding. If we rent them you will get a full refund, and if we don’t rent them all by the end of your reserved stay then we will refund you for all of the days we were able to rent. So, the earlier you cancel the more likely it will be that we can give you a full refund.

Q?How do I get to Cuenca?

You can fly into Cuenca’s Mariscal Lamar International Airport (CUE), which is only about a 20 minute drive from our vacation rental. Your international flight will probably land in either Quito or Guayaquil. There you will have to retrieve your bags and take them through customs before proceeding to the domestic terminal where you will need to re-check them for your flight to Cuenca. Porters are readily available to assist you with this task in exchange for tips and $1 per bag is recommended. There are domestic flights from either city to Cuenca on Tame, however Tame’s website does not accept credit cards from outside of Ecuador. To get around this, you may book your domestic flights online at One Travel.

Alternatively, if you fly into Guayaquil (which is also the gateway airport for the Galapagos Islands) you can drive to Cuenca. This scenic drive takes about 3.5 hours and passes through tropical lowlands and dramatic Andean peaks on good but sometimes winding or foggy roads. The cost varies from $15-100 depending on if you want to use a shuttle or private car and how many people and bags you have. Contact us for our current recommendations on drivers.

Q?Is parking available for my rental car?

Like most downtown apartments and hotels we do not have our own parking space. However, secure parking is available in several lots within a two block radius of here. The most convenient secure lot is adjacent to our building and normally only offers parking by the hour, however we have an arrangement with them to offer our guests daily parking for $14 per day when they have room. Another nearby lot has spaces for as low as $10 per day, but your car will not be available over the weekend. Since you will rarely need a car when staying in the historic center, if you drive here you may consider leaving your car in a cheaper lot outside of downtown.

Q?What is there to do in Cuenca?

Cuenca is primarily know for being a great place to live, with friendly people, beautiful architecture, clean safe streets and a low cost of living. However, there is more than enough activity here to fill a months vacation or more. It just depends on your interests. The most popular things for tourists to do here include dining out, shopping in the local open air markets, festivals, museums, churches, tour buses, Incan ruins (including Ingapirca), day trips to local villages, golf, hiking and horseback riding in Cajas National Park, live theater (in Spanish), symphony or jazz, movies (available in English), two zoos, the day spa with hotsprings (Piedra De Aguas), massages and more. The activities here continually change, as there are numerous festivals and local events, most of which are free. It just depends on your interests and activity level. If you choose to stay in our apartment, you could have a very pleasant and luxurious vacation consisting mostly of bubbling jacuzzi baths, sipping coffee on the terrace, relaxing by the fire and watching movies on our big plasma TV. You could spend weeks and not even try all of the good restaurants within walking distance of our apartment. For a sampling of things to do, check out our custom interactive map. Also, feel free to contact us for recommendations on specific activities.

Q?Is your apartment suitable for small children?

Our home is comfortable and welcoming, however it may not be suitable for young children. Our apartment has not been child-proofed and there are factors that may make it dangerous for young children. The apartment is on the 5th floor with a deck accessible from 2 bedrooms and the living room. The railing on the deck is not very high and the spacing of the bars is not very tight. However, there are keys to lock the terrace doors from the inside if needed. The living room has a glass coffee table, as well as low glass shelves in the entertainment unit and glass doors on the DVD cabinet and fireplace. Other rooms have some art at low heights and long heavy curtains that could potentially be pulled down onto a toddler. Kitchen cabinets do not latch, and there are cleaning supplies and plastic bags at low heights. The wood floors through-out may be slippery. If this seems like the right rental for your family, we do provide a play pen for infants and small toddlers and an extra twin mattress that can go on the floor of either master bedroom. These risks may not be a factor for children that are not yet walking or for older children, but please keep these items in mind when selecting the right vacation home for your family.

Q?I’ve secured my dates with a deposit, how will I check-in?

Somewhere between a month and two weeks of your stay you can expect an email from me to arrange your check-in. It will have the latest contact details for myself and for the property manager if I am out of town. It will give you directions to the apartment and ask for your flight or arrival information to set up a meeting time. The standard check-in time is after 3pm and the standard check-out time is before 11am. Please let us know as soon as possible if you will need special arrangements.

Usually, either the owners or the manager will meet you at the apartment, which is easily accessible via a $3-$4 taxi ride. However, if you would prefer to have us pick you up at the airport that can be arranged for $15. Airport pick-up does not include return service to the airport. If requested, we will call a taxi to take you to the airport at the end of your stay or we can provide private return service for $15 when notified in advance. All private transfers accommodate a maximum of 3 people in the property manager’s car. Larger parties will require part of the group to follow in a taxi which the manager will help you secure and pay for. The owners or manager will give you a tour of the apartment and point out important information, the location of the apartment manual, and answer any questions you may have. During your stay, you may reach the owners or property manager via email (a new laptop and high-speed internet are provided), programmed numbers on the home phone, or programmed numbers in the provided local cell phone.

Q?When will my security deposit be returned?

This depends on the payment method you selected. If you paid via PayPal, wire transfer or BitCoin, the $250 fully-refundable security deposit will be refunded by us within 3 days of check-out via the method selected. If you used AirBnB or Flip-Key by Trip-Advisor, the deposit is never in the possession of the owners and stays with the billing service. If you booked though AirBnB, the hold on your credit card will be released within 48 hours of check-out if no damages are reported. For AirBnB, once the hold is released the transaction will often disappear from your statement. If you booked through Flip-Key, your payment will be refunded within 7 business days which is usually 10 calendar days. Regardless of the biller, your bank may take up to 10 business days to reflect the refund on your account. If withholding from your deposit were ever justified, you would be notified immediately of the problem and our intention to charge your deposit. However, to this date we have never kept any portion of a security deposit, even when there were damages.

Q?I don’t have much experience traveling abroad. What surprises can I expect in Ecuador?

Often our guests are visiting Cuenca as a potential retirement destination after learning about all of the benefits of living here. There are so many great things about life in Cuenca, but it’s also important to be aware of some of the challenges you can expect to encounter. If you haven’t travelled much outside of the US, some of these things may surprise you.

1. You shouldn’t flush used toilet paper. This is not unique to our apartment or our building, but is the common practice south of US, as well as other parts of the developing world. Some landlords may allow it as it doesn’t always create an immediate problem at the building level, however the city waste pipes and processing facilities are ill-equipped to handle toilet paper so it should not be flushed anywhere in Ecuador or most of South and Central America. Here is website you can reference in your travels to find out where to put the paper in the country you are visiting: http://www.wheredoiputthepaper.com. We include signs by all the paper to remind guests of this, and you may put used paper in the provided bins which have bags and lids. The maids will empty the bins each week when then clean, but you can also drop off trash in the back right corner of the parking lot at any time.

2. Outside of the apartment, the toilet situation can vary. Not all toilets in Ecuador or South America have seats or toilet paper. Most of the nice places in Cuenca will have them, but don’t expect them outside of the city or at gas stations and small places. Many expats carry toilet paper when they will be out around places that may not have it. Some restrooms have the paper outside of the stalls, so look for it before you enter. Other restrooms cost money to use, and the paper is provided when you pay.

3. Drains are usually small and don’t always have p-traps or venting. Shower drain pipes in the US are at least 2 inches, but many in Ecuador are only 1-1.5 inches. So if you have the same shower pressure as you are used to, your water will drain away slower leaving your feet in some water. In some locations, this may even overflow. Also, lack of proper p-traps and venting means sewer gases can back up creating terrible smells. To prevent gas backflow, we have p-traps and self-sealing bladders in all showers. We have also sealed the overflow on the jacuzzi tub and keep the drain closed. This prevents smells, but due to our excellent water pressure you may have some standing water during your shower, but it will not overflow. You can expect little to none in the corner shower of the jacuzzi master and maybe an inch in the colonial master and half and inch in the hall shower.

4. Water is usually heated on demand using propane gas. Not all apartments or hotels in Ecuador have hot water showers, but most that you will encounter in your travels will. Many will not have hot water in kitchens. Some still use an electric showerhead to heat the water, which may or may not require a breaker in the bathroom to be turned on to use it. If you encounter this arrangement- do not touch the showerhead or any exposed pipes or wires when on or you may be shocked. Literally. The most common way to heat the water is using an on-demand (tankless) water heater that uses propane tanks. This is the arrangement for our penthouse in the historic district where new building is restricted by the UNESCO World Heritage guidelines. In new buildings, they may have piped gas or a shared hot water tank. We provide a new oversized waterheater and put fresh gas tanks for each guest and provide back-up gas tanks. So, you can get a good hot shower or full jacuzzi. We have settings marked on the waterheater and it will be explained at check-in, but it’s important to understand how this varies from what you are used to at home. The pro is that you can have as much hot water as you have gas to make it with, which will be a ton as we provide new tanks. The con is that the water temps can fluctuate more. The slower the water goes through the heating elements, the hotter it can get. So, to fill the jacuzzi with extra hot water, we recommend a setting that reduces the pressure filling it slower but with hotter water. For showers, we recommend a setting with more pressure that will still give you a hot shower. The waterheater also needs to sense the demand or it may shut-off, so with the marked settings in place we recommending turning on the hot water to 100% and adding cold to reach the desired temperature.

5. Mattresses are very firm. We provide the finest king mattresses which have 4″ thick memory foam pillowtops and provide a mix of support and softness. These are in both master suites and are comfortable to me as a side-sleeper and my husband as a back-sleeper. This luxury mattress was not made in twin, but the two twins are also a high-grade pillowtop but are slightly more firm. However, in hotel and guest houses throughout Latin America, you can expect the beds to be very firm by US standards.

6. Stores close for siesta and on Sundays. Siesta is alive and well in Ecuador, where between roughly 12:30 and 3:00 in the afternoon you’ll find most shops closed. Restaurants and grocery stores stay open during siesta, but most other things are closed. Most shops and many restaurants are also closed on Sundays. Also, you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays.

7. Locals tend to be habitually late. We’ve all heard that it’s fashionable to arrive late to a party, but in Ecuador and most of Latin America it’s also common to arrive late to everything else. As a tourist, this may not have much effect on you, but if you choose to expatriate it will. Technicians, construction workers, translators, lawyers, and shopkeepers coming back from siesta will often be 30 mins or even an hour late. Sometimes, a person won’t show up the day you expect them and then show up the next day without making a new appointment.

Of course, this is only a small sampling of challenges to expect when traveling or living abroad. It helps to bring your patience and flexibility to ensure the best experience during your trip.