GringosAbroad Ecuador

7 Things to Know About Cuenca Ecuador

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Ecuador Facts, Ecuador Travel, Living in Ecuador

Tons of articles have been written about the colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador. About how it’s so cheap, and how it’s such a great retirement place, etc.

Here is what you need to know about this great city.

7 Things to Know About Cuenca Ecuador

  1. Full Name and founding: Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca. Founded in 1557, by the Viceroy of Peru, Mr. Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza.
  2. Location: Southern Ecuador, Azuay Province. Ecuador is located on the north-west part of South America. Borders Columbia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
  3. From Guayaquil: South-east 155 miles (250 km). 3 1/2 – 5 hours by bus, just 30 minutes by plane.
  4. From Quito: South 274 miles (442 km). 9 hours by bus, less than 1 hour by plane.
  5. Elevation: 8400 ft (2560 meters)
  6. Population: 417,632 – (331,028 urban and 86,604 rural)
  7. Climate: known as “the land of eternal spring” Cuenca and surrounding areas experience very little climate change throughout the year. Expect warm to hot days (67°F – 82°F / 19°C – 28°C) and cool evenings (as low as 51°F / 10°C).

Getting to Cuenca Ecuador

  1. By Plane: There are two international airports – Quito (Airport code: UIO) and Guayaquil (Airport code: GYE). Both airports have daily flights to Cuenca. Expect airfares of roughly $45 – $55 from Guayaquil (on the coast) and $55 – $68 from Quito (in the Sierra). Choose from TAME Airlines, LAN or Aerogal. All flights to the Galapagos Islands go through Guayaquil Airport.
  2. By Bus: Cuenca is well connected to the rest of Ecuador by a network of buses. Buses leave from Quito every hour, 24 hours a day – the trip takes roughly 9 hours and costs between $9 and $12. Buses run roughly $1 to $1.50 per hour of travel time. From Guayaquil, buses are leaving every 30 min for Cuenca. The trip ranges from 3 1/2 – 5 hours, depending on if it goes through Cajas National Park or through Cañar – cost is roughly $7-9 each way.

Take a free tour of Cuenca in this 12 video post.

Your Turn

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

23 comments… add one
  • Christine Apr 11, 2018, 4:54 pm

    I lived and was in business in Mexico for 25 years, originally from Canada. Thinking bout f putting a little business in Ecuador and basically doing a serious working retirement, having to escape the cold. Am I in for any startling surprises? Or can I consider that the cultural atmosphere will be very similar?

    Thanks in advance, Chris

  • Ralph Noyes Dec 30, 2016, 12:44 pm

    Visited Cuenca two years ago. Also Loja, Banos, Cotapaxi, Quito. First trip survey.
    Place to retire. Maybe. Maybe be an air-conditioned gypsy.

    I’m fluent in Spanish and French. Grew up in Europe and Africa. Dual national/passport American/British. American, practically speaking.

    I’m an attorney, almost 66. Dogs may keep me here a few more years, but looking to live, travel overseas. Ecuador is high on my list.

    Wanna check out Vilcabamba and Zaruma and surrounding area.

    Met academics (Loja) and retired govt officials (Quito)who said there is productive work for educated Americans in Ecuador.

    Didn’t say we’d get PAID, in fact I’m sure we would NOT be paid well, but I’m sure we get to party with their academics and high-level people generally.

    At worst, translating academic articles into English, or perhaps teaching.

    VERY open, chido Americans coming down to visit, stay.

    Ecuador WANTS smart Americans. And the cost of living is very low.

    To me — well, let me just say, thank God I speak Spanish pretty fluently.


  • Chris Crockett Dec 6, 2015, 3:58 pm

    Hi Bryan, I am from Canada and have recently retired. I am coming down to Ecuador to roam around for 3 weeks in January 2016, as I love the vast diversity of terrain and weather Ecuador provides. I will be starting in Quito but would definitely like to see Cuenca, eventually ending up in a Beach town with a few amenities. Any suggestions on a nice little town with some good places to eat, drink and stay? Also…What would you say are absolute must see’s in Ecuador? I love the History ,the Architecture, and the Culture!

  • Eric Apr 6, 2015, 10:39 am

    What is the approximate driving time to the city from the Cuenca Airport?

    • Bryan Haines Apr 7, 2015, 6:22 am

      It depends on where you are coming from. The airport is in the city.

  • Reza Sep 12, 2014, 3:34 pm

    Dear Bryan
    Hi,thank you for all good information I like to move to Cuenca with my wife is there any concern for high altitude in Cuenca or you suggest other place nearby.
    Thanking you in advance.

    • Michael Sep 15, 2014, 12:25 pm

      My wife and I visited Cuenca, this past spring and my wife had a headache for a couple of days, until she got used to the altitude, but then she grew up at near sea level in Vladivostok, Russia and we live at only 2000 + feet now. I had a headache for a short time, but then I grew up in the mountains of Idaho. –If you suffer from altitude, you can take eclamine or chew coco leaves like the natives (not the form of the plant that gives us cocaine)>

  • CJ Jul 11, 2014, 9:30 pm

    Hi Bryan, thanks for your great blog. Do you know if small dogs are allowed on the public buses in Ecuador? I know in some countries you can buy a ticket for them. Thank you!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 17, 2014, 4:54 pm

      I’m not sure if they are officially allowed, but we’ve seen almost every type of animal on the city buses – including a dead pig. If you have the pig contained in a bag, it shouldn’t be a problem. If one driver is bothered, you should be able to catch the next bus without any worries.

      If they are allowed you won’t need a ticket for them.

  • Paula McDonald Jun 17, 2014, 11:46 am

    My daughter is coming to the Cuenca area for mission work and her and a friend wanted to stay a few days and sight see. Is it safe and where would you recommend to go, anywere around there or coast. and how far is travel. noticed bus is the way to go. thanks

    • Bryan Haines Jun 17, 2014, 7:15 pm

      This is a pretty open ended question…

      Yes, it’s generally safe. They will need to take usual precautions and be smart about when and where they are. There are lots of great areas near Cuenca. The coast is nice, but at least 5 hours by bus.

      I can’t make a recommendation because I don’t know what they like to do. You can suggest that they look through our Cuenca Ecuador blog category. This might get some ideas flowing.

  • Jake Dickey Dec 11, 2013, 12:49 pm

    My girlfriend and I are more than interested in moving to Cuenca. We actually sought out the episode with you and your family on House Hunters International to try to get a better idea of the cost of living. We are about a year or so away from making this dream a reality, however we are both only 25 years old and my main concern is finding a job there. I am a sales executive for an insurance company currently and am wondering what kind of jobs are in Cuenca and how much of it is business and/or sales?

    • Bryan Haines Dec 14, 2013, 3:55 pm

      Cuenca has a strong economy and there are lots of opportunities. We’ve been offered many jobs and partnerships.

      Make sure that you speak Spanish and arrive with an open mind. Business is done differently than we were used to. And it works very well.

  • grant gresser Aug 3, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I hope you received the lasvegas calendar I sent you two weeks ago. I will be in cuenca oct. nov.

  • Michael(aka Miguel) Moats Mar 9, 2013, 4:19 pm

    How far in kilometers and hours is Cuenca from the Pacific Ocean?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 12, 2013, 1:32 pm

      Roughly 3 hours and 120km – either to Machala or Guayaquil. Good beaches are further – but you can see the ocean in around 3 hours.

  • Michael(aka Miguel) Moats Mar 9, 2013, 4:16 pm

    I would like to know the distance by road from Cuenca to the Pacific Ocean in kilomrters and hours.

  • Toni Jan 12, 2013, 11:18 am

    Hello Bryan,
    I am looking to retire outside the US in 2 years and Cuenca looks appealing to me. I am aware of the stray dog crisis in Quito and wonder Cuenca has a similar problem with homeless dogs. I have dedicated my adult life to rescuing homeless dogs and placing them in loving homes, including dogs from Ecuador, Mexico and Puerto Rico. I want to be able to enjoy my retirement without the pain I feel whenever I see a stray dog who has been abused or is suffering from starvation, poor nutrition or illness. How is the situation in Cuenca?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 14, 2013, 7:03 am

      There are lots of dogs in Cuenca. From what we’ve seen, the majority of “street dogs” are actually pets that get let out during the day and roam. Outside of the city there are dogs that are undernourished, even though they are pets. It is quite common. In the city itself, you won’t see many sick or malnourished dogs.

  • Doc St John Jun 18, 2012, 4:41 pm

    Hola Brian&Dena, Wow, your site is so informative it beats all others hands down. So many questions appeared as we get closer to moving to Cuenca. Your help in finding Grace and her husband at Cuenca Law Office has been invaluable to us.

    Muchas Gracias, Doc&Rene St John.

    • Bryan Haines Jun 18, 2012, 7:33 pm

      So glad to hear you are enjoying the site. We have found Nelson and Grace to be excellent.

      All the best on your move.


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