When I woke up for the third morning in a row with the room spinning around my head, I knew it was time to do something. I figured it was the altitude – Cuenca, where we’ve been staying for the last week, is at 8, 333 feet elevation – but I didn’t know how to make it stop. And believe me, it’s very disconcerting when you try to get up to go to the bathroom and the walls just won’t stay still.
So, it was clear that I needed some professional help. But how to choose a doctor in a foreign country? Where I don’t speak the language. Oh, and it’s Sunday.
Google to the rescue. After hubby researched, we decided that the local ER was the place for me. And off we went.
The trip itself was uneventful and successful. What I am going to carry on about are the prices. Cab ride each way – $1.50. Twenty minute ER visit with the on-call doctor, and the usual check-up – $32.00. Two prescriptions, filled in the hospital pharmacy – $2.32. I must be in the twilight zone!
For years now, people have asked Craig and me how we can afford to go on these great trips. (Photo at left: Ayvalik, Turkey.) My standard answer was that we don’t do anything else – don’t go out to eat, don’t go to movies and shows, don’t buy new cars. You get the idea. Plus we worked our tails off. This trip of a lifetime is another extension of our philosophy. We’re retired now, so the working part is behind us, but we still search hard for ways to make our money go as far as possible.
Which brings me to Ecuador. Ecuador is making life very easy for us these days. The US dollar is the Ecuadorian monetary unit, and the electrical current is the same as ours, so no conversions of any kind are required. I’ve really saved some brain cells with this knowledge!
Now, let me quote you some prices. For starters, gas is $1.48/gallon. Yes, really. I have no idea why, but every station we’ve passed sells Extra (regular to you and me) at that price.
Wait, let me go on. Ladies – get this. I went to a hair salon the other day, and got a cut and color, eyebrow wax, and mani-pedi for – drumroll, please – $40. And people here don’t expect tips, either!
Last week we stayed in a very nice hotel in Cuenca, in the old part of town, near all the cathedrals. $33 a night, including breakfast. Today we moved into our efficiency apartment where we’ll stay for the month of September, and we’re paying just under $500, including internet and other utilities. A house-cleaner will cost us another $5 a week.
Last night Craig and I went out to eat. We had a steak dinner (me) and a chicken stew (him.) Then we went wild and had a couple of cocktails ($5 each!) and split a dessert. The tab was 27 bucks, and there was live music too.
For grocery shopping, you have a choice of the unfortunately-named Supermaxi grocery store, or one of the many mercados, the markets. The mercados are a vegetarian’s dream, with stalls overflowing with gorgeous fresh produce on an entire floor. Of course, the lower floor would then be that same person’s worst nightmare, with slabs of raw meat and various body parts everywhere. And wow, is it cheap! (I’m sending Craig tomorrow. He’s way taller than everybody in town, so it will be a piece of cake for him to negotiate the crowded aisles.)
Ecuador also promotes itself as a medical tourism destination. We decided to check it out, and scheduled a dentist visit for Craig. A cleaning cost $30, and even though he needed an extraction, the $35 price tag made the whole thing a lot less painful.