Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prices in Cuenca: 2012 Vice Squad Edition

In 2010, I posted up about the prices for cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs in Cuenca. It's turned out to be one of my more popular posts, but with the passage of time my education has expanded and my pricing has gone outdated. So, new for 2012, here's the Vice Squad edition of Cuenca prices, moving from mild vices to more serious, um, adventure items:
  • Coffee: The price of coffee in Cuenca has gone up slightly over the last two years, driven in part by poor local harvests. We had some damp years and one of the major suppliers moved into a new niche. There's also been an increase in artisanal and organic coffee in Cuenca, which naturally costs more. Expect a cup of joe to set you back at least 60 cents, with prices moving up past $2 in some of your nicer cafes.

  • Pack of cigarettes: $1.85 plus whatever your local tienda adds as a mark up. $2 is common for a full pack of Lider, the dominant local brand. Also note that since 2010, Cuenca has passed a law against indoor smoking in restaurants and public places.

  • Cocktails/Booze: Oddly, cocktails seem to be coming down a bit, depending where you are drinking them. Well drinks and glasses of wine start at $2 and move up from there. Do expect to pay $5+ for top shelf or cocktails at more upscale/gringo oriented establishments. Discount happy hours and bargain glasses are available, but you drink what you pay for!

  • Beer: Beer is still in two sizes as reported before, with Club starting to edge Pilsner as the dominant local beer after some fun price wars in the supermarkets. At the store, you'll pay around 60 cents for a small beer, which will be $1 in cheap bars and $1.50 - $3 or more in upscale/gringo bars. For "grandes" your local tienda will hook you up for about $1, while the average going rate in the bars is $2 (more or less, depending where you are drinking). If you don't like the local stuff, Heineken is making some distribution inroads at bars, while SuperMaxi now has Budweiser.

  • Condoms: $2.80 (ish) for three. These are sold at pharmacies and most supermarkets, though not always in sections one might think of as logical. Duo, Lifestyles and Trojans are the big brands. as the major foreign players. The day after pill equivalent is a local tea designed to start menstruation, and Ecuador leads South America in illegal abortions due to the strict official stance against it. Be careful out there!

  • Sex stores: In 2010 I didn't know where these were. Now I do - hunt down "Sexy Locuras" on the street next to SuperMaxi El Vergel - it's the pink thing next to the soccer shop. Apparently a chain.

  • Bribing the police: $10 and up, depending on the offense. I'm throwing this in there just in case you get up to something in the next section. Ask nicely, "Como podemos solucionar este?" (How can we solve this?) Traffic offenses will be the easiest to get out of (speeding, license issues) and remember, not everyone will take your money.

  • Hookers: $6 and up. Pay more than $6 for your hooker. Ecuador's STD stats are frightening - that's all I'm saying. May be found near the Terminal Terrestre (main bus station) or in the brothel area (ask your taxi driver). Those near the bus station are frequently transvestites, and crime in that area remains high, especially late at night.

  • Marijuana: Minor possession of marijuana is legal in Ecuador (one of two countries in South America with the loophole). You may score a hit of low grade stuff for $5 or $10, with pricing moving up sharply from there. I continue to be surprised at the number of retiree users in Ecuador. To buy, put it out there that you are interested and local expats will help you network in (but do realize not everyone here knows or is interested in helping you find pot, especially on a first meeting).

  • Hallucinogenics: San Pedro cactus will set you back 25 cents to a dollar a chunk at almost every local market. Preparation instructions are on the Internet. Jungle trips for Iowaska adventures start at around $40 and go way up past $200 depending on the shaman and tour package you're doing with it.

  • OTC medications: Codeine blend pills are readily available, and can be purchased individually or in packs from your local pharmacy, generally without a prescription. More intense stuff you'll need a prescription to get and Vicodin level stuff is very hard to source.

  • Cocaine: $10 and up. I've heard mixed reviews of the effects at Cuenca's altitude - evidently it is not as good as lower elevations. I have no idea on the science on that, nor do I have any first hand experience. In terms of buying, no, I don't know anyone, and nor have I seen/heard much in the way of news on other drugs.
And that's the 2012 update. Anyone want to (anonymously) report how this compares to their own area back home?


  1. Jen you just made yourself sound like a hooker renting cop bribing law breaking druggie. Just saying.

  2. I teach sales managers? They're an amazing (shocking) source of information.

  3. Also, I've been helping BD deal with some of his rental clients, and you'd be amazed at home many people want a whole set of dealer connections along with their lease here in Cuenca. These people truly intend to get away from it all - and reality - as they retire.

    1. I wish most of the "retirees" would just go back. Sick, lame and lazy and the fat, dumb and happy. Most walk around like zombies without sunscreen carrying an Everest expedition pack on their back (some in the front (whatever that means)) and have absolutely no manners. They're loud and obnoxious in restaurants; I'd rather eat dinner with the Taliban than US ExFats.

  4. Altitude has no effect on coke as you suggest as it has no effect on any other pharmaceutical such as Excedrin, Naprosyn, etc. It's a chemical reaction in the body. If altitude had an effect on coke, then no passenger in the air would ever get the full effect of even the penicillin or heart medication they took that morning (Pressurised to 8000').

    1. Too bloody right, Anonymous! I wish people would get off this elevation kick. One is fully acclimated to 10,000' in 10-12 days. And half the people in Denver would be dead. Elevation has nothing to do with anything.