What’s it like to live in Cuenca Ecuador?
That question could have many answers. The response could differ greatly depending on who you ask, where they are from and what mood they are in at the time.
What’s it Like to Live in Cuenca Ecuador?
Cuenca Ecuador: An Expats Paradise?
We all carry certain perceptions and habits that could influence the outcome of experiences we have in Cuenca, good or bad. This could leave a person calling it a paradise or an unfriendly desert… depending. I think that holds true for just about anywhere.
The many things we like about Cuenca (…culture, architecture, climate, language, mix of modern and old infrastructure) could be the same things that other people don’t like.
One thing to remember when doing research about relocating is that when you read blogs, you are reading personal opinions – and opinions can differ greatly. Opinions are generally more about feelings and less about facts. It’s always best to get a big picture by reading many different sources and then checking things out for yourself.
Whether or not Cuenca is a paradise for expats depends on the expat.
Here is a basic breakdown of our feelings about 5 different aspects of life in Cuenca.
Crime In Cuenca
For example, our family comes from small town Canada and Cuenca is the first city we’ve lived in. Because of our small town habits we made a wrong decision to have a lengthy conversation on the street in front of our apartment in Cuenca, at night. We were having a relaxed conversation with our neighbor. That bad decision left us an easy target to the two thieves that robbed us.
We had been told that Cuenca is not all that safe at night (like most cities) but we had been there for a few years with no problems so we were feeling a little too comfortable. This probably would not have happened to people used to city life.
So should hearing that we were robbed make you write off Cuenca or Ecuador all together?
Would hearing that someone was robbed in a small city in the United States make you avoid that city, that state or perhaps the U.S.A altogether?
It may sound funny to compare things that way. And as a foreigner you may feel more vulnerable because perhaps you don’t know the culture or language, but when it comes to crime it often has more to do with habits and decisions than the area itself. Crime is just about everywhere.
Cuenca is not a crime-free paradise. It does have a low crime rate compared to cities of a similar size in North America. So by taking precautions, like not being in isolated places (especially at night), not wearing gold and expensive jewelry, and wearing your bag diagonally across and in front of your body you will avoid much of the crime that does exist in Cuenca and pretty much everywhere else.
Cuenca’s “Spring Like” Climate
Cuenca has a nice climate. It does get cold – cold enough to make you shiver and see you breath in the air. It also gets hot, hot enough that you can feel the top of your head burning as you walk to the corner store.
The climate in Cuenca can change a lot during the run of a day largely because of the altitude. Cuenca is high in the Andes mountains (8500 feet) so when the sun is hidden behind could cover it gets chilly, so you may see hail. It also gets hot because of it’s high altitude and on the equator, so you’ll see palm trees, but you won’t see many outdoor pools.
Locals say that in Cuenca you get all the seasons in one day. You may be rubbing your hands together to warm them up while waiting for the bus/taxi in the morning and then arrive home in the afternoon carrying your sweater and jacket over your arm. An umbrella is a very useful tool for the rain and the sun.
In Cuenca it can be cloudy and cool or sunny and warm for days on end.
Your feelings about the climate may depend on were you are from and your preferences. I really like the climate in Cuenca, I would rather be a little on the cool side than too hot.
Cost of Living in Cuenca Ecuador
Cuenca is known to be the most expensive city in Ecuador. With that being said, your expenses will probably be less than they are now if you are living in Canada or the U.S.A.
We’ve lived in a 5 bedroom 2 1/2 bath home for $280. We’ve also lived in a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath apartment in a security building with underground parking for $450 a month. Even with the $450 rent we were paying less for things like gasoline, electricity, water, groceries, health insurance, car insurance, car repair and dentist bills.
Sometimes people are shocked to find out that not everything is less expensive here. Somethings even cost more, like electronics and brand name makeup (Cover Girl, Revlon…) other things cost the same, like imported food (Orieos, Cheerios…) and clothing.
Can you live in Cuenca if you are broke? Not really, but you can live on less money than in the States or Canada especially if you don’t buy the things that cost similar to or more than they do there.
Quality Of Life in Cuenca
From what I’ve heard about city life, Cuenca is pretty good.
There is good health care, with clean modern hospitals. There is even a cancer hospital (Solca) in Cuenca. There are a lot of specialists and medical care facilities, so it has never taken us much time to get an appointment. We pay around $20-30 for an appointment with a specialist.
There are nice parks, restaurants and cultural events to enjoy. It’s easy to have a healthy diet because there are lots of fresh fruit and vegetables available at the markets year round.
Is Cuenca a paradise for people looking for a higher quality of life? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on what you are comparing it against. The air is not crystal clear everywhere in Cuenca. Because it’s a city there are fumes from cars and buses especially on the busy streets, but unless there are fires in the mountains (hardly ever happens) there is no smog. Or at least I can say that in the 4 years we’ve been exploring Cuenca we have never seen smog.
If you are planing a visit and traffic fumes really bother you it would be best to look for a hotel away from the center. It’s best not to buy an apartment unless you come and check out the area for yourself.
A Big Picture Opinion of Cuenca Ecuador
Cuenca is a nice city with people that are friendly toward foreigners. If expats are friendly and polite, if they try to blend in and are careful not to be in isolated places at night – they should be able to enjoy the city and not have many problems.
Reasons Some Expats Decide Against Cuenca
People decide not to relocate to Cuenca for lots of reasons:
- it may not be as warm as they would like
- they may decide that they would rather be in a small town
- that a different culture would suit them better
- they may not be able to find everything they were used to having back home
- they can’t handle the isolation that comes with learning a foreign language
- they may have a health concern they were not expecting…
Usually when we hear people with an awful opinion of Cuenca it has more to do with a bad experience because of a lack of respect on the foreigners part, either for the language or local customs. Sometimes it’s because they were expecting Cuenca to meet an unrealistic list of “paradise like” expectations. Or maybe they didn’t take proper crime precautions.
We were here for a number of years before being robbed. Because of that experience I can understand why a person new to a foreign country could see everything about that country through scared and suspicious eyes if they were robbed the way we were. It’s best to take precautions so a bad experience does not leave you with an unbalanced view of the area and ruin your experience.
If you already speak Spanish things will go much smoother and you will feel at home sooner. We didn’t speak Spanish when we moved just over 4 years ago and that made things harder for us, but we’re glad we moved when we did. It’s easier to deal with the shock of total immersion when you know in advance that it will make relocating rougher.
We like Cuenca and we know many others that do as well. The best thing to do is come check it out for yourself and form your own opinions.
Please share your thoughts about Cuenca by commenting on this post.