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 Bills
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.
Paying 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 Claro
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.
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.
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’s
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 Medicine
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!
Beet Burger w/ Black Beans & Quinoa Recipe
Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias!
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Hi veggie lovers! I’m Amelia with
Amelia And JP. JP is behind the camera.
Today we are going to go pay our
utilities and our cell phone bill.
We also need to go to the pharmacy,
which is perfect because we had a viewer ask us
to do some video of the
pharmacies here in the area.
We will post these videos, all of our videos,
at 2 p.m. Eastern time every
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♫ Upbeat Music ♫
I’m standing outside Claro. Amelia is
inside paying our bill. We’ve tried to
set up automatic payments
with our credit card at Claro several times,
but for some reason it never works correctly.
So we just come down here once a month
and pay in person. It’s $17 a month
for our mobile phone bill here in Ecuador.
There is another company called
Movistar, but most of the people we
talked to recommended Claro
so that’s why we went with them.
And after we leave here after Amelia pays our bill we’re gonna head down to JEP and pay our utilities.
Now that we could also pay
online if we had a JEP account, but since
we don’t we just go pay it in person, too.
And you have to pay that with cash.
They don’t take credit cards there so we’re
gonna go do that next and then go down
and tour a couple pharmacies.
JP: Still waiting?
Amelia: Still waiting.
It actually hasn’t been that long.
I’m going into JEP now to pay our
utilities, which is the water, electric
and we pay I think $3 a month
for a landline that just came with the
house that we rent so it just is part of
rent as far as I’m concerned.
As another thing we do pay our utilities in cash here.
Umm.. I’ve heard that you can set up a
JEP account pay some of these online
but we haven’t tried that.
If somebody knows let us know.
I’m standing outside of JEP
waiting for Amilia.
You can’t use your phone or any
electronics while you’re in the banks here.
They all have security guards. The security guard will come up and yell at you and tell you to
put your phone away or leave. So I’m just
standing outside under a shade tree next
to this woman selling delicious looking
cherimoyas and cherries.
They have the most amazing dark cherries here!
Oh my God they’re like candy!
JP: All paid?
A: All paid.
JP: So they aren’t going to shut off our electricity again?
A: No. [chuckling]
We’ve had some issues figuring out
when we’re supposed to pay bills
and they changed our due date and they changed the location where we can pay them,
but luckily our landlord helped us through all of that.
We only had our electricity shut off for what, nine hours?
JP: Yeah [laughing]
That was embarrassing. [laughing]
And the funny thing is we had just paid it that morning!
But we didn’t realize we
had a short window and somehow one month
apparently didn’t get paid when they
made the bill switch. I don’t know.
Now we are heading over to the pharmacy
right down the street
to get JP’s prescriptions.
We decided to stop on the way home
and get some bread from Tosta.
We timed it perfectly, although
that was an accident and they had just
pulled some fresh out of the oven. Yay!I
[sounds of cutting bread]
JP: Yummy bread.
A: I know. I’m hungry and I could not wait for a piece.
A: We are back from running our errands and
enjoying our delicious bread from Tosta.
A: Sitting outside and
enjoying the wonderful weather.
JP: I know. It’s beautiful here today it.
A: It is. We had…a viewer asked us
to record the pharmacy’s,
which we were happy to do so
since as I mentioned we needed to go
anyway. There are many different
pharmacies out here they’re super easy
to find. Umm, there.. I think they’re pretty
similar to like a Walgreens or a Rite
Aid. What do you think JP?
JP: Yeah they’re very similar to like Walgreens,
except a lot of the stuff is behind the counter.
JP: Things that you don’t actually need a
prescription for but they still keep it
behind the counter anyway.
A: Just obviously to minimize theft.
A: Especially the little stores everything in the little
pharmacies are behind the counter so you
have to know what you want because most
of the people working there do not speak English.
JP: So the pharmacies are the ones
that we know of are Farmasol, Medicity
No, that was Fybeca.
Fybeca, Farmacias, Cruz Azul,
which is Blue Cross in English.
A: Yes and I think..
JP: Is that it?
JP: There may be more there’s a lot
of pharmacies and a lot of little ones like
the little one in our neighborhood.
JP: The Cruz Azul. It’s really tiny. They..
Almost everything is behind the counter there.
A: Yeah, but they’re really helpful so we’ve
gone and gotten prescriptions there
before and they have had to order them
but they get them the same day usually.
JP: Usually the same day or the next day.
A: But if you’re in a hurry I would definitely
recommend going to a larger pharmacy
or if you actually do want to
wander up and down some aisles..
JP: And see all the stuff.
A: Yes. Go to a larger pharmacy.
A: The interesting thing, I mentioned
prescriptions. JP, you want to..?
JP: Oh yeah I’ve got my
This is Núcleo. And this is a drug that
helps with the regeneration of nerve damage
and the protective sheath that coats nerves.
And this is not available in the United States,
but it is available here and it
doesn’t even require a prescription.
I’ve been taking this for a few months and I
definitely think it’s helping with my
nerve damage from my spinal issues
and I don’t feel any side effects from
it so it I feel better I’ve got more
feeling back in my hands and legs and
feet and there’s no side effects.
A: Yeah and it’s very affordable so a lot of
the stuff here is really affordable um
the doctors will write you a
prescription so that you know what to
get from the pharmacist, but then we can
go back and just buy them normally.
JP: Yeah, we just show them the box.
A: Like the B vitamins, for example.
JP: We got these B Vitamins, too. My neurologist
here recommended I take these
every day as well
because that’s also supposed
to help with nerve damage.
A: So not everything
is available over-the-counter.
A: I think that they have changed their
policy on antibiotics
and that you do need a prescription for that.
[loud car alarm; laughing]
JP: Car alarms galore. It’s non stop here.
A: Anyway, not everything is available over-the-counter.
A: Some prescriptions..
[loud car alarm]
JP: It’s never-ending.
A: Not everything is available over-the-counter.
Certain things like antibiotics require
a prescription now.
I would assume opioids probably.
JP: Probably. You used to be able to buy
antibiotics without a prescription
You could just walk in and tell them
you want some and they give them to you,
but because of the over over prescribing of
antibiotics and all the antibody
antibiotic resistant bacteria or
whatever now they’re.. they require
prescription now, thankfully.
JP: Anything else?
A: I was hungry.
JP: Amelia’s hungry. I’m hungry, too.
JP: All right.
A: The bread is delicious.
JP: All right. So now you’re gonna go do yoga?
JP: I think I’ll do my workout and then we’re
gonna do some cooking this afternoon.
A: That’s the plan.
JP: All right. See you soon.
A: See you soon.
I decided to make Beet Burgers
because JP and I have not had them in..
..ages I think a year, year and a half maybe.
And they sounded really delicious.
The beets here are really good and it’s
pretty quick and easy to make.
Although, I had to review my notes a
couple times because, like I said,
I haven’t made him in a long time.
So let’s run through our ingredients.
OK. So I have two beets, which I have to grate.
These are raw. I have peeled them.
I have 1 cup of black beans that I have rinsed and
drained.. or drained and rinsed.
I have 2 cups of cooked quinoa.
One onion that I need to chop still.
1 teaspoon paprika.
1 teaspoon cumin.
1/2 teaspoon mustard.
1/4 teaspoon salt (kinda hard to see in there).
I have 3 tablespoons minced garlic.
And then I need to make a flax egg.
That’s first thing I’m gonna do and to
do that I’m going to grind up two
tablespoons of flax.
We use a coffee grinder to grind all of our seeds.
We actually do not use this to grind coffee, FYI.
Alright so this is super simple. Just
putting in my two tablespoons of flax
seed which is going to make us some flax meal.
[coffee grinder sound]
So I actually have a little bit more than
two tablespoons.. once it’s ground.
A: You can buy ground flax meal we just did not.
JP: It’s better if you grind it fresh.
JP: It loses its nutritional value as it sits.
A: So I am going to measure out the two tablespoons
and the rest of this we can use for our
breakfast tomorrow and I’m just gonna
give this a quick stir with my teeny
tiny little fork.
Alright and that just needs to sit and
it will kind of turn into this
jelly-like consistency, which will be our
flax egg. So we will set that aside and
then the next thing I need to do is
grate these beets. So I need a cup of
grated beets and I’m not exactly sure
how much that’s going to be, so..
JP: Those are raw, right?
A: Yes. Raw peeled. Please make sure you peel them.
I don’t think the peel of beets would
taste very good.
I did slice these up so they will fit
into our little tube here.
[food processor sound]
So we need a cup of grated beets.
Boy these look delicious don’t they?
JP: Wow, they’re so red!
A: I know.
A: I think we’re gonna have plenty.
We have extra quinoa because I
made a little extra intentionally so we
can have that for breakfast in the
morning and we’re gonna have a little
bit of extra beet, grated beets which is
delicious in salads, which we’ll
also have tomorrow.
I still need my food processor so I didn’t rinse it out.
I did change the blades so we’re now using
this one not the shredder one. We’re
going to put in our grated beets, one cup.
Black beans. I think I’ll go ahead and put our spices
in so that I don’t end up making a mess.
Quinoa is going in here as well. This is
gonna be a very hearty burger JP.
And very pretty. And then lastly we want to
put our flax egg in and in case you have
not made one yet you can see this is
your end result it’s kind of gelatinous.
I’m just gonna pulse this until
everything is blended. We don’t want
things to be mushy we want them
still to be a little chunky.
[food processor sound]
Yeah I think this is good.
Oh my gosh it smells really good.
I’m really excited to eat these!
I’m going to set this aside for a moment,
chop my onion, and I’m going to sauté
the onion and garlic and a little bit of
veggie broth until the onions are translucent.
All right, I’ve heated a quarter cup of veggie broth.
And to that I’m going to add
my three tablespoons of minced garlic.
That spoon’s a little too big to get in there.
I can keep trying but it’s just not gonna work.
And….. Whoops. Our onion..
So in my, on the website we say
to use a yellow onion, which I did not have.
I think any onion will do.
JP: I agree.
A: I love these red onions. I love white onions and I love yellow onions.
They’ll all be delicious, but we can only use one so purple it is.
Ok. And like I mentioned before I’m
just gonna sauté these until they are translucent.
JP: And over here, we’re making some
green beans to go with our Beet Burgers.
While the onions are cooking, onions AND
garlic are cooking, I am going to
transfer our beet mixture to a bowl
because we are going to add in the
onions and garlic along with two
tablespoons of whole wheat flour to this
mixture and then we are going to form
them into patties.
And then we’re going to bake these.
I should mention that.
We are going to bake them in a 350 degree oven.
Wow looks really good.
Alright, I think our onion and garlic is looking good.
So veggie lovers it is dinner time for the
dogs and they are right underneath our feet,
waiting to be fed. They’re gonna have to wait
a couple more minutes. Sorry babies.
Last up before we form these into
patties is to add in two tablespoons of flour.
And I am using whole wheat flour.
All right, now I just need to grab, grab our baking sheet
and then I will make our patties.
This should make six patties.
And you can see I’m just molding them.
They’re kind of fragile.
A: But boy they really look good, don’t they?
JP: They sure do.
A: I love the color. I’m glad I decided to use a red onion.
Fate intervened. Umm.
The nice thing.. these are fragile..
You don’t have to flip these though so
we’re going to bake these now
for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re nice
and done and a little crispy.
JP: Wow! Those look yummy!
A: I know! They look really good, don’t they?
JP: They smell good, too!
A: They DO smell good! Oooo! This is quite hot!
Dinner is ready!
A: This looks delish, JP.
JP: Wow, that does.
A: Uno más.
A: Do you want lettuce and tomato?
JP: Yes, please.
A: I’ll give you two slices.
JP: Thank you.
A: Well you’re very welcome.
JP: That’s so red!
A: I know.
A: Pile that right on top.
JP: Wow! Looky there! Looks so good!
A: I know it’s so pretty!
And then I’m gonna do ketchup and
mustard on mine.. and then I’m gonna eat!
JP: What kind of mustard?
A: Well I’m gonna use regular yellow mustard.
I know you like the spicy brown mustard.
Any of your favorite condiments will do.
A: Avocado would be really good with this, too.
JP: Oh, it would be good.
JP: All right, let’s eat.
A: Next time. Let’s eat!
That’s all for today veggie lovers.
I hope you enjoyed our day in the life
video and I hope you found the pharmacy
information helpful. And I also hope
that you give our beet burgers a try.
Please remember to subscribe. Ring that
bell so you get all the latest and greatest.
And we will see you next time.