Cuenca Ecuador made #1 as a retirement destination by International Living, and the following write-up is from Live and Invest Overseas by Kathleen Peddicord. Here's their article:
"Cuenca, Ecuador...the most affordable retirement haven in the Americas...has colonial splendor, magnificent weather, and a rock-bottom cost of living. Travelers come from the world over to enjoy these 250 square blocks of history; to study in Cuenca's world-class language schools; or to experience a rare glimpse of unadulterated life in an Andean colonial city. But expat retirees want more. Besides treasuring the city's rich culture and colonial charm, they want to take advantage of a cost of living that's among the lowest in Latin America...real estate prices that are unheard-of in a city with such a rich quality of life...an unbeatable retiree benefit package...and a thriving expat community surrounded by a warm and welcoming people who make you feel like you really belong. So let me give it to you straight. I lived in Cuenca for several years and have traveled to just about every other country in Latin America. In my opinion, the country of Ecuador is the best deal out there when it comes to an overseas retirement destination...and Cuenca is the best that Ecuador has to offer. If you're retiring on a budget, Cuenca should be top of your list."
Click here to see some common item pricing in Cuenca.
According to this site
at 8500ft air pressure is 25% less than normal. (The pressure is needed to push oxygen into the blood at the lungs).
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is also a threat if you spend much time downtown. The high altitude leaves less oxygen for engines to use for complete combustion so more pollution comes out the tail pipes of cars. There is not much of a breeze here in Cuenca to carry away exhaust fumes. And the buildings are close together here which makes it harder for a breeze to carry away the fumes. It's a shame because downtown Cuenca is nice and I'd love to hang out there but because of this problem I just get in and out as quickly as possible because I don't like exposing myself to such a health hazard.
Thievery has also escalated recently due to the increased number of gringos moving here. It is almost impossible to not get robbed (often at knife or gunpoint) walking 8 or more blocks in any section of the city after 10PM. Word is out about Cuenca being promoted as the best gringo haven and now hungry thieves from Guayaquil and other cities are coming here to help relieve us of our materialistic burden of having too much. prepare to be robbed
Best way to be robbed is to be walking past 10PM but robberies also happen in the middle of the day. Once here in Cuenca I saw a woman get robbed of her nice earrings right in the open with probably 20 people around. The guy snatched them and then took off before anyone could react. Here's some tips for you guys:
Carry a spare wallet with a bunch of ones and fives in it in case it's a "rapid robbery". This don't work at night though where the thieves do a thorough search.
Don't ever have much money or credit cards in your wallet. I recommend the travelers pouch which attaches to your belt and tucks down between your leg and pants. There's also a chest pouch that looks good.
Don't keep important personal data in your wallet. That stuff should be kept at home unless you've made duplicates of the info.
Don't dress up or have expensive jewelry on. That's like turning on a neon sign over your head that says "rich Gringo here".
If you have an expensive cell phone then buy a cheap one ($35) to carry with you at night.
If you aren't overly white then go to the beach and get some color in your skin so you don't stand out as a gringo. (Some of you whities are just hopeless in this area.)
If you come out of a disco or restaurant at night and need a taxi then just stay there in front of the place until one comes along. Walking around trying to find a street with more taxis is not a good idea. I made this mistake the other day and almost got robbed.
If you are not old and are still physically active you may want to consider getting something for self defense. Options are a knife*, telescoping nunchucks, and pepper spray. Pepper spray comes in two versions; the little canisters that you spray at close range and the ones that pop out a squirt of juice that has about a 6" diameter at around 6 feet. That needs a good aim and shouldn't be used if there are two or more robbers since you only have two squirts available. Once you squirt someone then make haste to distance yourself from them. A small pistol is also an option. I knew a christian man in Costa Rica that once shot it into the air to scare away thieves. But I doubt a good little 22 pistol is easy to find here.
If you are capable (physically) of running then don't be embarrassed to hoof it to get away. Even if they can run as fast as you that gives you time to find someone to help you.
Look ahead of yourself and if you see one or more persons then take an alternative route or cross the street to be on the opposite side. If they start to cross the street toward you then you know what the score is and that gives you time to run or pull out your self defense thingie.
*If the robbers don't pull a knife right away then it's most likely they don't have one. In this case you can pull your knife to scare them away. That's what I did the other day. This option isn't really for the common retired gringo here though. I have martial arts training and don't mind getting down and dirty if I have to. I hate thievery and lies and am not about to easily hand over one cent to a thief. But that's just me. I'm not really recommending this, it's just an option to consider.