Cuenca Ecuador Pharmacy Tour and Paying Bills

If you’ve never been to Cuenca or a South American country, you may be curious about basic things like paying bills and shopping at pharmacies. In this video, we’ll show you the unusual (by American standards) way of paying bills and perhaps reassure you about the quality of pharmacies with a Cuenca Ecuador Pharmacy Tour.

Thinking about moving to Ecuador? Our Ecuador Expat Info page has lots more videos and detailed blog posts.

Paying Utility BillsJEP

The process for paying our utility bills here in Cuenca has been a constant learning process. We used to pay for our water, electric and landline at the Farmasol pharmacy near our house, but they stopped accepting utility payments for some reason. Now we go to JEP Cooperativa, which is a co-op bank here in Ecuador.

Banco PichinchaPaying for Electric, Water and Phone at JEP

JEP only accepts cash and they don’t accept our American ATM bank cards, so we have to go to a regular non-coop bank first to get cash. We prefer Banco Pichincha because they don’t charge ATM fees.

Our utility bills run about $60/month: $40 for electric, $15 for water and $3 for our landline phone that came with the house. For reference, we have a single family 2-story home that’s about 1,500 square feet. Some landlords include the cost of utilities in the rent, but ours doesn’t so we have to pay them ourselves.

Our Internet with Puntonet

We use Puntonet for our Internet access, which costs us $35/month for high-speed, fiber to the curb. It’s FAR better here than our crappy Comcast service back in Denver. We pay Puntonet with auto-pay using a credit card (no international transaction fees).

Our Mobile Phone with ClaroClaro

We use Claro for our Ecuadorian mobile phone. It only costs us $17/month! We bought a cheap Samsung phone for $170 when we setup the account, but it was awful. We still have iPhones with Verizon back in the states (we both still work, Amelia for a company in Denver and I have web design clients) so after we upgraded our iPhones, we swapped the SIM card from the Samsung to our old iPhone and it works much better.

We’ve tried setting up auto-pay at Claro using our credit card multiple times, but it never works so we go every month in person to pay. When you go in the front door, you have to get a number and wait your turn.

Claro Number

They ask for your Claro phone number at the front desk, but it doesn’t get recorded on the ticket so you have to repeat it to the clerk who takes your payment. It usually takes less than 15 minutes to pay.

How Our Electricity Got Shut Off

In the video, Amelia mentioned that our electricity got cut off one month. That was due to the confusing nature of bill paying here in Ecuador. There is no online access to bills, so we don’t know what the amounts due until we go to JEP. Furthermore, the bills are only available after a certain day of the month, which has been changed several times in the year we’ve been living here.

The bill available dates are currently between the 1st and 5th of the month (it varies). However, they used to be available between the 19th and the 24th, then the 24th and the 29th. If you go before that date, the bills aren’t available so you can’t pay them.

That’s where the confusion arose with our electricity getting shut off. We went to Farmasol to pay our bills (before they stopped accepting payments) and the electric bill wasn’t available yet because they changed the available date. We figured we would save a trip and just pay for it next month after several friends told us paying a month late wouldn’t matter. The next month, we paid our bills after all of them were available, but they cashier didn’t charge us for the previous month’s electricity.

The next month, Farmasol stopped accepting payments and our payment dates changed AGAIN when JEP took over. The missing month still hadn’t been paid so on our first trip to JEP, they charged us for the missing month and the current month, but when we got home, our electricity had been shut off already for non-payment of the bill three months before.

Thankfully, our landlord happened to drop by and we told him what happened. He took our JEP payment receipt to the electric company showing that we had just paid the late bill and our electricity was turned back on a few hours later.

Paying Rent

We didn’t cover how we pay rent in the video, but it’s worth a mention. This is a cash society. We haven’t seen personal checks, online bill pay is still in its infancy here, and most individuals and small businesses don’t accept credit cards.

So in order to pay the rent, we go to the bank, withdraw cash from the ATM and deposit it directly into our landlord’s bank account. He gave us his account information and we use it to fill out a deposit slip.

Paying the bills and the rent is a great way to get our 10,000 steps in for the day!

Cuenca Ecuador Pharmacy Tour – Farmacias/Pharmacy’sCuenca Ecuador Pharmacy Tour - Pharmacy's/Farmacias

Pharmacies are abundant here in Cuenca and throughout Ecuador. For some reason, Ecuador hasn’t gone through the corporate consolidation process like the states has so there are lots of consumer options here. Within walking distance from our house, we have a Cruz Azul, Pharmacy’s, Fybeca and Medicity. And we’ve seen others.

For our Cuenca Ecuador Pharmacy Tour, we went to a Pharmacy’s, but most of the larger pharmacies are pretty similar. They’re a lot like a Walgreens or CVS back in the states and they have a lot of the same major brands.

Most of the beauty products are a LOT more expensive here. My physical therapist has us bring back Cetaphil for her because it only costs $11 in the states compared to $41 here.

Most of the packaged medicines and vitamins are kept behind the counter so you’ll need to ask for them. In the smaller pharmacies like the Cruz Azul in our neighborhood (below), nearly everything is kept behind the counter.

If you would like us to look for something in particular, just let us know.

Núcleo Nerve MedicineNúcleo

Núcleo is a drug that’s available in most countries, but not the United States. This drug helps regenerate damaged nerves and the protective sheath around nerves. It also helps with neuropathy from nerve damage or diabetes. And from my experience, it actually works without side effects and only costs me $45/month.

Due to my spinal issues, I have nerve damage in my hands, legs and feet. The neuropathy in my feet was really bad before I started taking Núcleo several months ago. I’ve also regained some of the lost feeling in my hands and legs. It’s difficult to say for sure if this is solely due to the Núcleo or if part of the improvement came from my stellar physical therapy here in Cuenca or the natural healing process.

Regardless, it’s unacceptable that this isn’t available in the states when it’s available in most other countries. It could help millions of people suffering with nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. I was prescribed Gabapentin following my surgeries, but the side effects, especially depression, became unbearable so I had to stop taking it. Núcleo would have really helped me.

Tosta Sourdough Bread

On our way home from paying our bills, we stopped by Tosta for some delicious sourdough bread. We timed it perfectly because it was straight from the oven and still warm! Yum!

Tosta InsideTosta Bread

Watch Our Video About Our Pharmacy Tour in Cuenca, Ecuador

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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

4 replies
  1. Cornelia
    Cornelia says:

    Yummy. Beet burgers from scratch.

    I watch you to for knowledge and entertainment. You are joyous people.

    Appliances? 110 not 220 or other way aRound. I looked closely at your food processor cuisines this kitchen gadget. Did u bring it from Denver or buy it there? Did u bring appliances from states and are they ok there or did u buy all appliances in Ecuador? What do I softest? I did say electronics appliances are expensive there .

    I know I would be happier if I too had a spouse to move to Ecuador with…you two are so happy. But I’m coming to Ecuador regardless…

    Reply
    • JP
      JP says:

      Hola Cornelia!

      The plug outlets are the same as the US, not Europe. We brought many of our gadgets from Denver, but bought a few here. They’re a little more expensive, but the small appliances are pretty similar in price.

      Glad you’re enjoying our videos!
      JP

      Reply
  2. Joe Urso
    Joe Urso says:

    Interesting..
    Though, your anti meat eater attitude waxes a tad elitist, your website is interesting.
    Have you considered Spain, or Italy?? Very Cheap, and much safer living in my view..
    I know many who moved to Cabo, and love it as well..

    Reply
    • JP
      JP says:

      We’re not anti-meat eater. We’re anti-animal cruelty and anti-environmental destruction. Meating eating happens to be the leading cause of both of those things. I encourage you to watch Dominion (https://www.dominionmovement.com/watch) and Cowspiracy (http://www.cowspiracy.com/) to get a better understanding of why we care so much about this.

      We have not considered moving from Cuenca. We feel very safe here and love the people and city. We also still work and our jobs are based in Denver so being in a similar time zone makes that easier.

      Reply

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