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Ecuador Expat Profile: Dena Haines Living in Cuenca

Posted in: Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador

This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series. {This is our profile – to give you an idea of what we had in mind – and to break the ice…}

Ecuador Expat Profile: Dena Haines, Cuenca

The Expat: Dena Haines

What is your blog url?

Twitter: @DenaHaines

Where are you currently living?

We’ve been living in Cuenca Ecuador since July 2009.

What’s Your Story?

We are a Canadian family of 3 from a small town in N.S.

We had never lived outside of Canada before, we had a house and a business, and we lived just down the street from our parents.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

Bryan and I always had the itch to move abroad, both before we met and after we were married in 1999.

When our daughter came along in 2000 we decided to wait until she was, what we felt was a good age to make a major move.

We wanted to move to have more time to spend together as a family, somewhere less expensive so we wouldn’t have to spend so much time working.

We also wanted to give our daughter the gift of a second language and the richness that comes with being exposed to a different culture.

So when she was around 7 we began seriously sorting out our options.

We had a house and business that we had to sell, and we needed to narrow down the options of which country would best suit the personality of our family.

How’s your Spanish?

The primary language here in Ecuador is Spanish, and we are learning slowly but surely.

We didn’t know any Spanish when we arrived, so it’s been a steep learning curve. After about a year and a half we can understand most of what we hear, and make ourselves understood.

Knowing the language before arriving would have made things much easier, but sometimes if you wait, you never make it because things keep coming up.

I would say that if you know you can’t move for a year or two, learn Spanish, but if you can move now – just do it.

I do think it’s important to learn to speak fluently while living here, but it takes time and it’s a bumpy road, so don’t stress to much as you work to progress.

What do you do?

Bryan and I are both writers. Bryan writes for, a New York Times company, as do I. We both blog here on and I do some travel writing.

Bryan is a photographer, and I do some graphic design.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

We are very happy with the cost of living here. Because things are less expensive we only work part time, and have more time for other things.

What do you love about Ecuador?

Wow what do I love about Cuenca? A lot! The culture is more laid back, people don’t worry as much about having the best car or clothes or house. Family is very important, and Ecuadorians are a warm people. The climate, cost of living, food . . .

One thing I don’t like is standing out. Because we look different people stare at us, this is not a big deal but I’m the type of person that likes to just blend in.

We read all kinds of weird stuff before we moved, we got the feeling that we would be targets of all kinds of scams, like being sprayed with mustard . . . but we’ve never even seen anyone being scammed, or heard any of our friends talk about being scammed.

The housing here is very nice. Lots of new homes and apartments to rent and it’s very affordable.

I really like the Kookaburra cafe, and Frutilados cafe = YUM!

The only advice I would give is to do your research and be realistic.

If you don’t enjoy really hot weather, you shouldn’t buy a place on the beach.

If you like to feel secure, make sure you move to an area that had the proper infrastructure in place to give you what you require. Oh yes, and if you have the means and desire to do it, do it now! 🙂

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Check out our guides:

Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

9 comments… add one
  • haki logan Jun 29, 2015, 10:10 am

    My name is Haki Logan and i just arrived in Cuenca yesterday with my wife and two boys (8 and 6). First off, i’d like to thank you for your guide book. It has been a tremendous help to us so far.

    Our plan is to use this week as a “preplan” for our one year sabbatical that we are planning in 2016. This is the area where we could use some of your help. Our primary goal for our sabbatical is for all of us to learn Spanish. For our boys, we plan on visiting a few elementary schools. For us, we’ll check out some Spanish schools.

    Here are some of our questions:
    – Do you have any recommendations as far as elementary schools (learning Spanish is again priority, but please note that our kids do not speak any Spanish).
    – Recommendation for Spanish Language school (for adults)
    – Dentist: my youngest needs to align his teeth (bottom and top are not aligned). This procedure is considered aesthetic, so back home, we were quoted $500+. We’re looking to see if we can get it done here a little cheaper and just get it tightened back home.

    Our general plan is to move to Quito or Cuenca in Feb 2016, stay with a host family for the first month or two and then rent something long term. We are planning on being here for about a year.

    Jayden- 8
    Jonah- 7

  • Michael and Betty Jones Sep 8, 2014, 1:50 pm

    Bryan and Dena,
    Thank you so much for the blog presence and all of the great Information on Ecuador. We have been subscribers now for several months and have found the information invaluable. We are both recently retired healthcare workers from Texas and we are in Ecuador for the next month and a half researching the various areas to find the region best suited to our needs as a place to retire. Betty and I are both active painters and photographers. We are currently in Quito for 2 weeks, then onto Otovalo, then Cuenca, Loja and finally Salinas. We will be in Cuenca from September22 until October 4th and would greatly appreciate meeting with you both for lunch or a drink. I suspect that you get requests like this a lot, but we would be grateful if you could find the time. Thanks so much, Michael & Betty Jones

  • David DeBriscoe Dec 16, 2012, 8:43 pm

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I used to work in Ecuador in 88-90 and have been trying to talk my wife into making a move there but she is worried about security there. It has been hard to convince her it is safer there than in Houston. Where would you say is the best part of Ecuador for newbies to go

  • laura Feb 13, 2012, 7:51 pm

    Hi Dena! Thank you sooo much for all the helpful info on this blog! You answered almost ALL of my questions, esp the cost of living and finding a place to rent! We are moving in Sept/october to Cuenca and this was so helpful. I will continue reading, and who knows, we just might bump into you there soon!! Thanks again!! This is awesome!!


  • Colin Feb 9, 2011, 6:22 pm

    Hi Dena,
    My wife is an avid knitter and was wondering if you can get Alpaca/Llama wool in Cuenca (as well as other types of wool from say WalMart in Canada). She knits to relax not to profit so my guess is she'll be looking for wool as soon as we arrive.

  • maria stewart Feb 7, 2011, 2:04 pm

    Hi Dena and Bryan!

    Well, you just might be an answered prayer. My husband and I have been contemplating a change in lifestyle.We are in our mid-forties, and have a six year old son. We have owned a private investigative business for over 20 years, and our wondering exactly what we have to show for it in the quality of time we have in our lives. We have plenty of stress, I can assure you of that. One would imagine we would be a great candidate for Cuenca, considering my mother is from Cuenca(passed away in 1995) I speak fluent Spansh, and have many relatives in Cuenca I have not visited with them in 100 years, and dont know how welcoming they would be, yet, there are some things such as what I mentioned that exist. My grandfather even has a university named after him there, or is it a street. So, I sat and read a blog on Ecuador, and said to myself, yes, if your in your golden years this could be appealing, but I have an eight year old son, how safe would this be for him. People want to bring there children and move to America, is something wrong with my thinking? Both parties seems to want to flee their countries. Then, I saw your blog that you were a young couple with an eight year old daughter. The moment I had this thought, I saw your title about a young couple moving to Cuenca, and it was verbatim what I was wondering. Do you feel this is a safe place to raise a family? I was not able to read your entire blog. Any regrets? I hope this email finds its way to you, and that we can chat further.

    Would love to chat further with you both.

    So happy this site exists,
    Maria Stewart

  • Kent & Debbie Dills Jan 13, 2011, 10:05 pm

    Dena, my wife and I (and possibly/probably our 2 sons) and definitely our 2 dogs are STRONGLY considering moving to Ecuador – for lots of different reasons.

    We just discovered your blog/site and really appreciate the info/content you and hubby are providing!

    Thanks much for being so helpful. We'll be reading everything you've got here and we'll be pressing your Coffee Button soon! 😉

    Kent and Debbie (from Fort Worth, Texas)

    • Bryan Haines Jan 18, 2011, 11:36 am

      Hi Kent and Debbie – Bryan here. Denas computer is still on the fritz. We appreciate your comments – we’re very happy you’re finding the site helpful!

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