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9 Reasons We Chose to Move to Cuenca Ecuador

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador

Thinking about a move abroad – but aren’t sure about where? Here’s why we chose to move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

Cuenca below Calle Larga

9 Reasons We Chose to Move to Cuenca Ecuador

We have been living in Cuenca for almost a year now. Why Cuenca?

  1. We chose Cuenca because of the climate: Cuenca is springlike all year.
  2. The elevation. Being up this high means that there are not many critters to worry about, and no malaria.
  3. The health care. Cuenca is a center of education so the facilities are excellent.
  4. The cost of living. You can rent a nice 3 bedroom apartment here for around $180.00 a month or a house for $280.00 per month.  You can buy a really nice house for $50,000.00 – $80,000.00.  And your grocery bill will be about a third of what you are used to paying.
  5. The transportation system. We don’t need a car, the bus system here is excellent and cabs are cheap.
  6. The safety. The people are friendly and as long as you travel smart (don’t try to stand out or flash your money around) you shouldn’t have any problems.  The crime/safety statistics are much lower here than in many cities in the States and Canada.
  7. Location. There are no volcanoes near Cuenca and there is an airport here as well.
  8. The size, and atmosphere. Cuenca is a big enough city to have all the modern conveniences, but not too big.  It feels like a quaint European town, walking in the city on a sunny day still feels like a vacation.  There are four beautiful rivers that flow through the city, and many lovely parks to relax in.
  9. And last but not least, the language. Cuenca is known to be a very easy place to learn Spanish because they speak at a slower pace, and there are English restaurants, book stores and cafes in the city where you can make connections.

Things To Do in Cuenca

There are lots of outdoor things to do in and around Cuenca: horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking, climbing, and cycling.

Golf is also an option. Some of the courses include:

  • The Cuenca Tennis and Golf Club
  • The Los Chillos Club
  • Los Cerros Golf Club
  • The Casablanca Club
  • The Quito Tennis and Golf Club,
  • The Los Arrayanes Country Club
  • The Guayaquil Country Club

Curious about where to move? Here are 7 reasons that Ecuador is the best country for expats.

We love it here, it’s actually better than we were expecting.  I can’t really speak for the rest of Ecuador in terms of safety, but Cuenca is a wonderful place to live, and explore from.

We have been to some of the smaller towns around Cuenca and we can picture ourselves living there as well.  We have an upcoming trip planned for the Coast, so keep your eye open for that post sometime in August.

You might also enjoy:

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.

93 comments… add one
  • Dan Jul 10, 2018, 2:54 am

    Thank you for your blog on travel guide in Ecuador. If I seek admission to any public university in Ecuador, will I qualify for a residency visa? Connecting Quito to cuenca town by road or by air which is better? Kindly update me immediately I want to visit Ecuador as a result of your blog post.

  • Doc Apr 11, 2017, 10:21 pm

    I’m tagging along with Scott’s comment about updated information regarding costs of renting and apartment/house. I see the post was updated in 2017, but was the information around cost of rentals updated as well? Or are those average costs from 2010 still, when the post was originally published?

    The reason I ask is because the costs seem much lower than the prices I see for Quito apartments listed in April, 2017. Is there that much disparity, or are the average prices shown for apartments in Cuenca from the 2010 timeframe? That is, seven years ago?

    If the average apartment prices you show here for Cuenco are current, then you just made my decision regarding Cuenco or Quito much easier.

  • amanda Feb 24, 2017, 9:17 pm

    Hi, We are considering a move to Cuenca in the next few years and we have 7 children 8 and under. When we asked them if they wanted to move, their main concern was being involved in gymnastics, dance, baseball, etc like they are in the USA. Do you have any knowledge about if and what activities are available for kids?
    Thanks, your website is awesome!

  • Scott Feb 13, 2017, 11:47 am

    We always love to see updated cost of living information….basically how much for a retired couple to live comfortably. Yes, I know that is subjective…but nice to see a ballpark….see if the costs are continuously going up. We still have about 7 years until we can escape into retirement. We are also curious how much difference there is in costs between large and small cities….Quito….Cuenca….Loja…..Ibarra…Cotacachi….is there a big difference in cost of living ? Thanks so much for all you do !

  • Carl E. McNew Feb 10, 2017, 10:44 pm

    Hello, a friend of mine moved from White Salmon, WA to Cuenca about 5 years ago. Her name is Barbara Van Abel. She is an artist and still living there. If you happen to know her would you please ask her to email me? I need to forward a letter to her from a friend in her home town that wound up in my hands recently and don’t have a current address for her. Thanks. Carl

  • Martin Hadley Aug 31, 2014, 9:31 am

    Hi Brian
    I’m looking for somewhere to “drop out” with my family so to speak. I’m 55, my wife 45 and my kids are 4 and 7. I notice you don’t have a great impression of the schools there so wondering if you can point me to someone who has kids who has tried the schools over there to talk a bit about it with.

    • Bryan Haines Sep 12, 2014, 12:16 pm

      You might try an expat forum. I haven’t heard of an expat family with a positive impression of the public school system. I know that sounds harsh, but I just haven’t come across one yet. I know many families like to enroll their kids for the experience and language learning. Some of the private schools are well reported on.

      We haven’t used the school system so I don’t have an opinion. I would love to hear what you find out.

  • Jared greenspan Aug 13, 2014, 1:25 pm

    Hey Dena, I’m assuming you play golf since you mentioned the golf courses in Cuenca. I’m looking to live/work in Ecuador and I have a lot of experience caddying. Do you know if any of those courses use caddies and would I need to be fluent in Spanish to get by as a caddie?

    • Bryan Haines Aug 22, 2014, 8:13 am

      Hey Jared – we aren’t golfers. I expect that Spanish would be important – especially for the golf terms. Maybe you can contact the courses directly and see if there is a need?

      • Jared G Aug 22, 2014, 9:15 am

        Yea I’ll probably do that, thx Bryan. One last question to follow that up: what would you say are the best industries for expats to look into for work in Ecuador? Tourism seems like the obvious one, but I was wondering if there are any others to look into

        • Bryan Haines Aug 22, 2014, 11:17 am

          Others teach at universities – mostly English. Others are into real estate development and construction.

  • Rob May 26, 2014, 12:32 am

    Hi Bryan, my wife, 5 year old son and I are coming to Cuenca, for Aug – Sept I was wondering if you knew where we should start looking for good apts. in a neighborhood that is safe but you can walk to most things you need. Any ideas that you have would be much appreciated.


    • Bryan Haines May 26, 2014, 7:13 am

      Lots of expats begin either in the city center or in San Sebastián (home to Avenida Ordoñez Lasso / Gringolandia). We lived there (Ordoñez Lasso) for a year and it is nice. There are lots of apartment options and it’s very close to Supermaxi and is on a number of bus routes. Here is the full list of parroquias in Cuenca.

  • Gary Beauchesne Feb 17, 2014, 1:12 pm

    I have spent some serious time looking at countries that offer the opportunity to slow down in my retirement years. It seems that there are hordes of American and Canadian real estate agents creating what I would call simply subdivisions behind locked gate with 24 hour security etc. etc.
    I hate subdivisions (Florida) comes mind, Canadians spend their 183 days each year, attempt to rent out the rest and happily leave behind the culture, life, new friends and and simply a better existance. My Question is simple are the Gringo warlords in Ecuador or have you dodged that issue. I did peak to someone in the Manta area and it was clear he was in the showtime business, bring”em in, hard sell and mezmorize the cattle on the 2 day adventure. I really want to know are gringo type A sellers in Ecuador or not. I”m 67 so I am lon g winded.
    That you very much.

    • barbara suderman Mar 18, 2014, 2:44 pm

      I would love to hear about single adult experiences there in Ecuador. Everything I read begins with the same words–My husband and I –My wife and I–what about us singles who are coming sola??

      • Tony Zeoli Mar 18, 2014, 3:39 pm


        While I was in Ecuador for two months (Nov 28 through Jan 28), I met a number of single people who moved to Ecuador to retire. There is a singles “scene” if you will. There are some places to hang out and hear music, but for exPats, it’s not a large singles scene. There are only around 5,000 exPats in the Cuenca area and that means they are spread out as well. There’s a jazz night downtown at an Italian restaurant. There’s also cover bands that play 70s/80s music at a few other venues. What you’ll probably learn is that through the couples that you meet, they’ll know some singles and they’ll connect you with people they think you might want to meet. However, the pool is small and you may have trouble meeting someone who you can really connect with. I would say that for singles, you have to think independently and act on your own. Be confident in yourself and your travels within Ecuador and let that attract people to you and not the other way around. I don’t know that you go to Ecuador looking to meet people. You’ll find people in Ecuador that want to meet you, because of your energy and enthusiasm for embracing the culture and the life change that you will have chosen.

      • EagleDharma Dec 5, 2014, 3:01 pm

        I think you have identified a need for a segment of people who’re thinking of moving to Ecuador, namely, what are the options for singles? I’m sure there’s gotta be others who want to know more about that. Maybe you could start a trend and write something about your own experience and what your expectation/hopes would be as a single individual who is considering moving out of the country for an extended period? I bet you’d get lots of readers in no time! I hope you explore these issues so we can all access other points of view and thus get a better understanding of what’s like to live in a new context.

        • Maria Jan 30, 2017, 9:05 am

          Wonderful blog! An Ecuadorian friend of mine suggested I check here for information. And I’m so happy to see someone asked what I’m always asking…”so what about for us single people, the cost of living, and all the other aspects for the older single woman!” I’m not concerned about night life and all that, but all the other aspects–affordability, safety. I’ve lived in four countries, so the “keep a heads up” isn’t new 🙂 A friend of mine is actually traveling in Cuenca at the moment and will be there a couple months. I’m asking her also for her impressions. Thanks! — Maria

  • Jim Jolliff Dec 14, 2013, 1:31 pm

    This is the BEST blog that I have seen! Just started a travel blog this year and plan to steal several of your ideas. We were in Cuenca this past March and are sooo jeolous of you andd your family. We are planning on a move to Ecuador within two years. We keep waffling between the coast (Salinas) and Cuenca. Each has advantages. Check out our blog ( and you can get a feel for our background. You guys are doing a great job! My wife already subscribed to your newsletter and we really look forward to receiving it!! We will be in touch.

    Jim & Connie

  • Tami Dec 1, 2013, 11:14 pm

    Hello, My husband, poodle, and myself are interested in learning more about Ecuador. I recently read that Cuenca has a lot of pollution. I do not see that reflected in your blog or posts. The pictures look beautiful and not that of a polluted city. We are looking for a lush green area not too noisy. We want to be close to the city but have peace and quiet at home. Would you recommend Cuenca (spelling?)
    Thank you,

    • Tony Zeoli Mar 1, 2014, 9:24 am


      My wife and I lived in Cuenca for two months (December 2013 to January 2014). We found overall the city itself to be quite clean. There is smog, mainly because they do not have the same requirements we have in the United States on emissions. However, they do realize it’s a problem and are trying to replace their fleet of older busses for lower emissions busses. And, they are working on building a light rail line, which help by reducing the number of busses that go down Gran Colombia, a major street heading into the city.

      First, I believe they used lead gas in Ecuador and not unleaded, which is the first problem. Second, because the city is high altitude and the downtown streets narrow, much of the automobile/bus pollution does not dissipate like it does at lower altitudes.

      You will find the exhaust pollution a bit overwhelming when you first get there, but you do get used to it. It’s not horrific, but it can overwhelm you from time to time, depending on where you live. Some streets are simply worse than others, because there are a lot of busses traversing the city.

      For example, where we were staying on Gran Colombia and Universidad Nationale, there was a sushi restaurant we liked to eat at, but because of the way it’s positioned on the hill, a lot of exhaust from cars and busses coming down the hill seemed to permeate the place. It was hard to enjoy a meal, because the interior smelled like exhaust. But, just above that sushi place was another cafe (Cafe Moreno) where it wasn’t as much of a problem at all. We think the overhang from the floor above traps exhaust and the restaurant doesn’t have the best ventilation, so there was nothing you could do about the problem other than not go to that specific restaurant.

      Remember, Cuenca is a city. It’s not like a suburb with a small downtown. With that, you either live in mixed residential areas where there might be a few modern apartment buildings next to houses. Most (if not all) houses are inside security walls, so outside the walls there aren’t the green spaces that we are used to. You don’t have a lawn in front of every house or a backyard that you keep trimmed by mowing. People like to keep small gardens and some homes might have a tree or two inside the walls, but generally speaking, it is much, much different then living in a Vermont, New Hampsire, North Carolina or other state where you see a lot of green spaces.

      But, there are some very, very nice areas of Cuenca, especially along the different rivers. They are generally quiet areas. However, you have to know that during Christmas, Ecuatorianos go a little celebration crazy with fireworks. And, they don’t just light firecrackers. You will hear throughout the city the constant boom of quarter sticks, I think we call them M-80s. It does get a little annoying if you’re not used to it, but it’s all in fun. Sometimes, that fun is at 6:30 am. They don’t discriminate on the time they light fireworks. They just do at all times of the day and night generally leading up to Christmas and a week or so after.

      So, just know that when you’re walking down most streets, every single house is behind a wall with an iron fence or barbed wire. These walls are of course designed to fit the property, so some doors and gates are very ornate or they are simple. Do they need this much security? I think the culture in developing countries is to protect your property, because poverty breeds petty crime. Anything can disappear off your front stoop. But, if you’ve lived in New York City or other urban areas, you know that most windows at the street level have iron bars to keep petty criminals from breaking in. It’s the same concept, but if you’re not used to it, it can seem a little strange.

      We did love our time in Ecuador, but are not at retirement age, so we needed to come back to the states. However, for us Cuenca would be a fantastic second home.

      There are ex-Pats who absolutely love it, because they can deal with differences of a foreign country, which is not exactly like the U.S. and, of course, it shouldn’t be, because you’re not moving there to move to a place that is like the U.S. You are moving because of its charm, cost and climate. There are people I hear who come for six months and they think they are going to get an experience like they had in the U.S. and then they go right back home, because they don’t feel its right for them. Then, there are people like all the friends we met who really do love what Ecuador and Cuenca represent and want to stay there forever.

      You should really visit for a month. You can get an apartment in a building or rent a house for between $350 and $800 for the month, depending on where you are in the city and spend some time there. Once you get the lay of the land, you will know if it’s for you or not.

      But, in terms of pollution, it’s not that bad at all. You get used to it and there a days when I didn’t even notice it.

  • Barb and Bob Beaulieu Nov 13, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Hi Bryan, do you provide services for expats and if so what are they? We are flying to Ecuador on Jan 20, 2014 to investigate the process of moving. We are also Canadian, from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    • Bryan Haines Nov 13, 2013, 8:05 pm

      We actually only offer this blog – and it’s free. We don’t sell any services.

  • Dustin Nov 7, 2013, 8:33 pm

    I would love to connect with you and address some specific questions about Equador, if you are willing to take a moment.

    Please reply if willing, looking forward to hearing from you!


    • Bryan Haines Nov 8, 2013, 9:00 am

      Feel free to ask your questions on the related post – we’ll try to answer them, as will our readers.

  • Michelle Oct 20, 2013, 10:34 pm

    We are visiting Cuenca in late December this year with our 12yr old daughter, to assist our brothers in volunteer work for 2 weeks. Our doctor is suggesting Typhoid and Yellow fever Vaccinations. Did you and your family take these precautions? also upon researching these i read about parasites and amoebas in Ecuador, how do you go about protecting your family from these?.. I am trying not to be overly concerned, but would appreciated your experience.

    Many Thanks in advanced

    • Bryan Haines Nov 26, 2013, 7:51 am

      Hi Michelle – here are the vaccines that we took. The parasites and amoebas are easily treated – it isn’t really anything to worry about. Just be careful about what you eat/drink.

      Like you, we were very concerned before we arrived. Just do you best to avoid bad water sources and fresh vegetables (if they are unwashed/soaked) and you’ll be fine. We still soak fruit/vegetables in GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) which is available here.

    • Tony Zeoli Jan 19, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Brian, just wanted to add a comment to this thread.

      We are in Ecuador for two months. I did not get any shots before coming here, because it was not required. However, I hear that if you want to go to the Amazon jungle, then you should definitely get your shots before going there.

      I’m here now one month and three weeks. We generally buy bananas and mangos, which are things you generally peel, so we’re not necessarily eating the skin of the fruit. We did go to the beach in Ayampe and we had seafood at Carmita’s in Puerto Lopez and at Wipeout in Las Tunas. We also stayed a hotel in Ayampe. While at the beach, we tried out absolute best to brush our teeth with bottled water and the hotel let us know they washed the fruit twice before servicing with previously boiled water. However, upon our return, my wife started feeling sick from something and we had to go to Clinica Latina for treatment. The doctor thought it was bacteria and gave my wife prescriptions, which she began to take. However, she has issues with chemicals in medicines, so we saw Dr. Bernal, a Homeopathic doctor, who keeps an office near the Work Center building, I think in Plaza Medica (or something like that). Dr. Bernal treated my wife with a natural supplement that is a liquid she is drinking for a few days, as well as a probiotic and she has since started to feel much better.

      That’s my personal story about encountering bacteria and parasites. We try to always wash our vegetables and lettuce with bottled water, never tap water, but after being here two months, I have begun to brush my teeth with tap water, being very careful not to swallow.

  • Ann Scott May 16, 2013, 7:30 am

    Love your blog and wow you sure take on a lot of questions w grace & style! Today on ABC news site they posted a big article about retirees in Cuenca. It sure sounds fabulous but I worry about the big rush of us on the local people. How is that going? It’s one thing to live wonderfully & cheaply it’s another to dramatically alter an existing population. Of course that being said I’m ready to pack and move too! Suppose there’s room for a non-golfing Artist?

    • Bryan Haines May 16, 2013, 9:40 am

      Hi Ann, it’s true that there are lots of people interested in moving to Cuenca. That being said, most don’t come and many don’t stay. Some friends just returned to the States a few days ago because living in Cuenca wasn’t for them.

      We’ve heard lots of numbers, but expats might make up 1% of the population (5000 of a population of 500,000).

  • John Rendek Mar 21, 2013, 11:03 pm

    Hi Bryan-

    Bravo! Your responses to everyone’s questions prompted me to write you. My wife is from Ecuador and we do have family there. So transition not too hard. I would like to open a “Sports Bar” in Cuenca. How may other places there cater to locals and expats alike for a “Sports Bar” theme. I would still need to work Im 38. However much like everyone who wants a change just getting tired of the rat race.




  • Nancy Nov 10, 2012, 12:10 pm

    When you talk about “no critters to worry about” are those bugs? When we vacation in St John the ‘bugs’ eat me alive. Some are called ‘no see ums’ Can you tell me what yours are…thanks in advance

    • Bryan Haines Nov 12, 2012, 7:01 am

      Yes, bugs – like mosquitos, no-see-ums and larger beetles, etc. There are also no poisonous snakes.

  • Verna Bullock Oct 11, 2012, 1:05 am

    I am retired & live in Canada. i have decided it is time for me to have an adventure…… hoping it is Cuenca. I have just started looking into any info out there so u have been very helpful. I will continue to follow u & hopefully be in touch when I get plans more finalized. Thanks for the good work & all the helpful info. Take Care.

  • Mike Jul 13, 2012, 3:14 am

    We are planning our relocation in January. We are reading quite a few negative responses about gettin pets to our final destination in Cuenca. It seems all flights from Houston arrive at midnight when the desk is closed, and only will bring pets along if plane is 75% full or less. So your pet may stay at airport in Houston for a long time while you are stuck in Quito waiting. Have you heard of anyone going to Guayaquil from Houston and renting a van to bring the pets to Cuenca? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Geoff Jones Jul 8, 2012, 5:14 pm

    Hey! I stumbled upon this website while checking out the climate in Cuenca. I am going to Cuenca on Saturday to teach theatre at an S.O.S village in Cuenca for two weeks with my college professor and other people from my community. I was curious, how hot does it get and is it incredibly humid there? I don’t exactly know what to pack and you seem like an incredibly helpful person!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 9, 2012, 12:05 pm

      Hi Geoff – it does get hot, but only during the days. Often the evenings are cool – most people wear jackets, sometimes a scarf. In the day – when it is sunny – a t-shirt is all that is needed. It is not humid here – at least not in our opinion.

      • Geoff Jones Jul 9, 2012, 7:27 pm

        Thanks for replying so promptly! I am actually so excited to go to Ecuador after visiting your website! It was exactly what I needed to get me pumped for this trip!

  • Sandy Lindquist Jun 25, 2012, 6:07 pm

    Do you know anything about the tennis in Cuenca? My husband and I are coming to Ecuador for 3 months, July 16th thru Oct. 16th. We are staying in Cuenca the month of September and I’m trying to decide whether or not to bring our tennis rackets. I’m not sure if we can rent rackets there or not. Also, is there a day or place where all the expats meet in Cuenca so we can join in as well? Love your blog.

    • Bryan Haines Jun 25, 2012, 8:50 pm

      Hi Sandy,

      There are tennis courts at El Coliseo Jefferson Pérez on Avenida 12 de Abril. There is also a Cuenca Golf and Tennis Club. Honestly, I don’t know much about either.

      There are expat events, but we don’t really attend them.

      All the best on our plans – and thanks so much for your feedback!


  • Harishwar Apr 18, 2012, 5:24 am

    Hi Bryan,

    How are business opportunities for expats in Cuenca? Can expats open new businesses, Appreciate your inputs


    • Bryan Haines Apr 18, 2012, 6:15 am

      Absolutely – expats can run a business, provided that they have legal status to do it. There are many opportunities, just like everywhere else. The red tape is different here, so you’ll want a good lawyer or a good level of Spanish (preferably both) to naviagate the government regulations. The rules aren’t unreasonable, just different.

  • Tes Stone Apr 16, 2012, 2:59 pm

    Greetings all. My husband and I have been researching expatriating for a year or so. We visited Belize twice, but decided against it. I’m very enthusiastic about Ecuador, but the hubby is concerned about it’s politics. I, frankly don’t care, as long as the people are nice and the quality of life is good. Does anybody have a take on the politics of the country, particularly for American expats? Any suggestions on how to sell this wonderful country to my husband?

  • Gord Mann Mar 13, 2012, 8:52 am

    Hi Bryan.

    Me and the wife are both in the Canadian Military working at the Embassy in Chile. Over the last couple of years we been looking around and watching house hunters international and I think we’ve almost decided to retire in Ecuador as we could live quite well on our two pensions. My two questions are how expensive is the golf, I understand that the courses are few and far between and may not be up to north american standards but I just like hitting the ball around and enjoying the walk. Needless to say I where ever I retire I will need a course. Any info will be apprecaited. Regards Gord & Christine

    • Bryan Haines Mar 13, 2012, 9:52 am

      Hi Gord – there is a course here in Cuenca, but I really don’t know anything about it. Sorry I can’t help.

    • Vincent A. Salgado May 8, 2013, 1:50 pm


      Don’t know if your question still stands but here is a link to the Ecuadorean Golf Federation website for Cuenca:

  • Kyle Mar 13, 2012, 12:49 am

    Cuenca sounds like a little piece of paradise! I take it that the spring-like and somewhat rainy climate means that it doesn’t rain for days or weeks at a time like here in Vancouver?

    • Bryan Haines Mar 13, 2012, 9:56 am

      Hey Kyle, if you want to escape the rain, you might want to look somewhere else. While we love the climate here, it does rain frequently (although not as much as some of the online forums would suggest). It seldom rains all day – but frequently rains a little every day. Often after a sunny morning it will rain in the afternoon. You might enjoy Cuenca’s “Spring-Like” Climate – What it Really Means.

  • Frank Mar 7, 2012, 11:25 am

    Hi Bryan!
    My wife and I are cseriously considering to move to Ecuador, We reside in the US.The great bennefit we have is that we both can speak spanish fluently and we both have “street smart experience” she is from Romania and I’m from Puerto Rico. The question is that we want to buy and we have two young Girls 5 and 3 and are concern about education. It seems everyone is Homeschooling is that the norm? how is the college? Also can you recoment an attorney that can handle the purchase of a place. We are curretly applying for a Visa and getting everything ready, never been ther but ready to move fom here and enjoy life, Main concern is safety for the girls. any info will help, thanks.

    • Bryan Haines Mar 7, 2012, 11:30 am

      Hey Frank,

      Lots of good questions. We have expat friends who homeschool, others who send their kids to private schools. I haven’t dealt with College or University yet… We use lawyers in Cuenca. They do visas and property purchase. We are happy with their service.

      Safety is a relative thing – often more of a feeling than a fact. We feel safe, but there is crime as well. With your street-smarts you should be fine.

      All the best on your plans.

      • Frank Mar 7, 2012, 1:44 pm

        Thank’s for the fast reply, I will keep everyone posted as I start the Journey.

  • laura Jan 24, 2012, 2:27 pm

    I noticed that you said you dont own a car there in Cuenca. So when you travel I guess you will be taking the buses, when you go to the coast. We did this on our visit to Ecuador and didnt enjoy those long bus rides. The buses kept stopping and allowing others in. Many people were standing, some sitting in the walk way of the bus. Some people were transporting fish and other foods that were carried under the bus for hours! We decided there and then that if we moved to Ecuador we would certainly get a car to make the traveling to the Coast easier. Have you traveled the buses before? Maybe it was just a bad experinece we had. Id like to hear what you have to say about that. Thank you. Your site is VERY informative.

  • sarah Jan 9, 2012, 2:48 pm

    Hi There.

    My Husband and I and our son are planning a move from N.B. Canada to Ecuador. We will be travelling with our pets(4 dogs and 2 cats).
    1- Is there a limit on how many pets we can travel with? Will the local Taxis or Van service allow pets on board? Any other info pertaining to traveling with Pets is hugely appreciated as well.
    2- We are considering buying Scooters in Ecuador for “local” use. Is this a practical choice? What are the licencing requirements for Scooters in Ecuador?

    Thank You so much for your time.
    Sarah and Roger

    • Bryan Haines Jan 26, 2012, 12:11 pm

      Hello Sarah,

      I don’t know the limit of pets. You might check this post to get started: Can I Bring my Pets to Ecuador?. If you pets are properly contained, I don’t think you’ll have a problem. We’ve taken taxis with our dog (in a carrier) and never had a problem.

      About scooters, thats a tough one. I would never drive a scooter or motorcycle in Ecuador. The driving style simply doesn’t reflect what we are used to in Canada/US at all. I would suggest that it is very dangerous, especially if you aren’t used to the driving style – but thats just my opinion. If you live in a smaller town, you would probably be okay. The concept of “right of way” is seldom (if ever) observed. I don’t know the rules specifically. In my driving course we learned that smaller bikes are rated differently than larger ones. Sorry I can’t help more with this one.

  • Wagner Oct 17, 2011, 6:55 am

    What areas do you recommend for renting in Cuenca with safety in mind?
    What are the better expat areas?

    Thanks for the assist

    • Bryan Haines Oct 20, 2011, 6:33 am

      Hi Wagner – “better expat areas” don’t exist – but some areas are safer than others. Many expats prefer to live in a security building, often with other expats. There is a gringo compound on Ordoñez Lazo – just of Avenida de las Americas and Supermaxi. There are hundreds of units there. The only problem with there is that you’ll be paying a higher price. You’ll probably want to avoid the area around the bus terminal / airport as it has a bad reputation at night, and the areas around Calle Larga are also known for being a little rowdy at night. Otherwise, most areas are very good. Common sense should come into play – you can get a good feel for an area by whats around it. You’ll want good lighting, public entrances off a main road. Also easy directions for a taxi – if your spanish isn’t very good and the directions are hard, you may curse the location of some places.

  • Renee — ramblecrunch Sep 24, 2011, 9:38 am

    Good Lord, those housing prices are out of this world. Seems like one could live in Cuenca quite comfortably for an incredibly small amount of money.

    My husband and I have talked about moving south of the border (well, borders) to immerse our daughter in Spanish, but now you’ve really got me thinking…

  • Stacey Jul 31, 2011, 9:31 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    My family (myself, my husband, and 2 boys – 4.5 years and 21 months) is seriously contemplating moving to Ecuador. We have lived in both Asia and Europe and are currently back in the States. We have decided that our boys are growing too fast and we are too stressed, due to the demands of my husband’s employment, to enjoy their youth. We are lucky enough to have a bit tucked away for a rainy day and are thinking of retreating to Ecuador to reclaim what really matters to us.

    Ideally we hope to use the time in Ecuador to devise a plan on how to support ourselves monetarily with an endeavor that we enjoy and that complements our family life.

    If all goes well we are planning a fact finding visit to Ecuador at the end of October or early November of this year. We feel torn regarding what city we would want to live in. We love the idea of the beach (thinking of Salinas). But we have concerns.
    -Is the cost of living in Salinas higher than Cuenca due to tourism?
    -Are activities for our children available? (extracurricular classes, ie. karate, dance or gymnastics?)
    -Is the medical care in Salinas comparable to Cuenca?
    -Is the cultural experience in Salinas diluted due to tourism?
    -Is Malaria a big concern at lower altitudes?

    I understand you live in Cuenca and have only visited Salinas. Any answers you have would be appreciated (the same for your readers :P).

    In regards to Cuenca. We want to slow down our pace. Is Cuenca chaotic or does it have a laid back atmosphere? Is the city center polluted? We lived in Seoul for 3 years and now are in a U.S. city with smog alerts. We would like to let our kids breathe clean air for a change.

    Many thanks.
    -Stacey & Family

    • Jeff Schinsky Dec 19, 2013, 9:09 am

      Stacey: Regarding your last question, you’ll experience much less pollution (mostly from the diesel bus fumes) if you avoid living in the old center of town. The narrow streets and heavy traffic just seem to trap all that exhaust and make it more of a challenge to get fresh air. If you move just outside of the “old city,” I found the air much easier to breathe there.

  • cindy May 4, 2011, 12:03 pm

    How do I find an apartment in Cuenca that is not expensive. My incentive is cheaper dentistry. I need a lot of work!

    • joe gregory Oct 14, 2011, 7:01 pm

      i am also looking to have a lot of dentist work done, and am lookin g for

      a competent, english spkg. dentist.

      thanks, more than i can express.

      very truly,

      joe g.

  • Jericho Mar 20, 2011, 11:47 pm

    We are a group of 5 adults and 4 children and we want to travel by private van from Quito to Vilcabamba, stopping for a few days in Cuenca along the way and maybe 1 or 2 other locations to break up the journey and explore some other areas of Ecuador. Can you offer any suggestions of companies who have private van service, and any places other than Cuenca that you would recommend we stop along the way. Time is not really an issue, but we are on a budget (otherwise we would fly) but with the kids and all our baggage taking the public bus is not really an option.

    • Bryan Haines Mar 21, 2011, 10:04 am

      Hi Jericho,You might want to check out There are other services here, but most don't have a website. Some van services won't drive the Quito to Cuenca run. Its long and expensive. We really like Gualaceo and Chordeleg – they are less than an hour from Cuenca. Also, the Yunguilla Valley is beautiful and is about 30 min past the turn off to Loja. Hope this helps.Bryan

  • Jeffrey Stern Jan 19, 2011, 11:51 am

    Love your blog…you've probably seen mine as well, since it is I do beg to differ with bus safety. While city buses do not traverse the hazardous roads found on many inter-city trips and thus are not prone to as many serious accidents, they are still notoriously unsafe. Lack of driver qualifications and safety enforcement of the most rudimentary type, petty thievery (pickpocketing), and ignorance or general defiance of traffic regulations (i.e. running yellow/red lights, etc.) is general the norm not the exception in Quito, and I have found the same in most other parts of the country. I'm sure many readers have seen or heard about two tragic bus accidents on inner city buses in December, resulting in a large number of deaths.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 19, 2011, 7:03 pm

      Hi Jeffrey, thanks for your input. Honestly, we've only used the Cuenca city bus system. I've heard of concerns in Guayaquil, but we've never been on that system. We have never had any problems here in Cuenca – and we take the buses on a daily basis. We had a young Ecuadorian friend, of 16 years old, who got picked on and had his glasses broken by some bullies – but this is typical of anywhere in the world. And this is the worst we've ever heard of here in in Cuenca.

      The heads up on the Quito bus system is appreciated.

      And I am familiar with your site – we used to be called but then broadened the scope last September with

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Aaron Dec 31, 2010, 2:41 pm

    I have such fond memories of Cuenca from when I was really young! The cobblestone streets, the historic-looking buildings. And the flight over from Quito…

    I have distinct memories of flying in a Military plane (on TAME). It was definitely one of the craziest landings we ever had in Cuenca as we sort of bounced down the runway. I hope things have since improved…

  • Tom Dec 26, 2010, 2:50 am

    Bryan and Dena would one of you email me, I have a question for you about apartments in Cuenca that I hope you can help me with.

    Thanks Tom

  • Ash Oct 25, 2010, 9:23 am

    I've been looking for a new place to explore for 6 months or so……..this is looking very appealing!

  • Christine Earl Sep 15, 2010, 3:03 pm

    What is the weather really like in Cuenca? I have been told it rains for 6 months, that it gets down in the 40 degree range and that it really isn't spring like weather. Right now I'm back to the coast looking at Salinas, but can't find any really site for reasonable rental units, but then I couldn't find any for Cuenca either. Any suggestions?

  • Natalie McIntire Sep 9, 2010, 9:01 pm

    Thanks for all the great information. We are in Cuenca right now as we travel around Ecuador looking for a place to land for our family sabbatical for 9 months. We are staying with a family near the center of the city, but are interested in neighborhoods you might recommend that are a bit farther from the noise, and the exhaust from all the vehicles. I understand you homeschool, but I also wondered if you know of any private schools that you could recommend. It is our hope that with an immersion in a Spanish speaking school our son will learn the language more quickly.

    Thanks for any suggestions you might have.

    • Bryan M. Haines Sep 9, 2010, 10:34 pm

      Hi Natalie,

      We live in the Baños area – and there are a number of other gringo families in this sector too. You can take bus #11, 12 or 5 to via Baños. There are some nice developments out here and its much quieter than in the center. It's just off Avenida de las Americas, just past Coral Centro. Monay is another nice area, which is on the opposite side of the city to us. From what I've seen, once you cross Avenida de las Americas the homes and properties have more space and less noise. We did live in Narancay for six months and loved it. It was very quiet and the views were amazing. Hope this helps.

      Regarding private schools, I really don't know. The majority of our friends home-school as well. There is an American family here and they enrolled their kids in a private school when they first arrived three years ago. After a couple of months, they took them out – primarily because the quality of education was very low. If the focus is on learning Spanish only, it should be fine.

      I'll try to find out about the schools and we'll blog about it.

      Enjoy the rest of your time here.

      All best!

  • Rosemary Aug 24, 2010, 7:57 am

    Hi! Just curious about the medical care where you live. Is it up to par with what you can get in the U.S. We've been contemplating a move out of the U.S. and I think the worry about medical care is all that is holding us back since I have a couple of chronic medical conditions. Can you tell me a little about it. Thanks.


    • Bryan M. Haines Sep 6, 2010, 4:09 pm

      Hello Rosemary,

      Thanks for you comment, and I'm sorry for my slow response. As you can see we have been in the midst of a full scale overhaul of our site. is now replacing Destination-Ecuador. Everything is the same but there is significantly more content on the way. This format allows us to cover topics other than just Ecuador.

      Your question regarding medicare is a good one. We are Canadians, and the pride of many Canadians is their (our) health-care system. Well, we've been here for over a year now and from our experience it is significantly better here than at home.

      Dena fell and sprained her ankle, and the specialist made a house call that night to apply a cast at our house. We pay $8 for a family doctor visit, and $20 for a visit to a specialist. The visits have lasted up to an hour and sometimes longer. We get blood work back the next day and appointments with specialists the same or next day. Specialist appointments in Canada can take weeks or sometimes months, and when the appointment finally comes around they'll often give 10-15min for the meeting.

      And we feel that the the quality of care has been significantly better as well. We have friends – a married couple – who are doctors. He is a trauma specialist and she is a family doctor. We will be posting a profile for her – she speaks excellent English having taken much of her schooling in the US. She is going to be available to travel with patients to specialist appointments, to function as an expert translator.

      Hope this helps – let me know if you have other questions. I promise a much faster response. BTW – I work for too. I'm the Guide to Online Business section.

      All best!

    • Kim Wentzell Mar 12, 2011, 5:36 pm

      My dad just had his hip replaced in Cuenca. What a fantastic experience! The hospitals are clean, staff super friendly and the doctors still like to talk to patients. My dad's surg
      en came to his apartment to remove dad's stitches to save him a cab ride. Would that EVER happen in Canada?? I think not. Overall Cheap and wonderful!

      • Bryan Haines Mar 15, 2011, 5:21 pm

        Thanks Kim! We've heard many stories just like that. Our experience with medicare in Cuenca has been outstanding.

  • Diane Aug 7, 2010, 4:35 am

    oopseeee! typo…my daughter is 13. She would be a little upset with me if I did not aknowlege her teenageness correctly.


  • Diane Aug 7, 2010, 4:30 am

    Thanks for the info Bryan.

    I am a US citizen and my husband is UK. We have been in the mind set to have him move to the US. Due to a number of unexpected events, we are rethinking that plan. I have been looking into a move to Ecuador for the last year and have no reservations about setting up home there at some point. My husband is not so convinced.

    Like you, we are a working family of three. My daughter is 11, my husband and I are mid 40's with a need for some amount of continued income. I love the idea of finding a few acres of land on this blue and green marble where we can simply exsist, in a sympathetic way, with the land. I like the idea of working twards a goal/dream of an eco-friendly B & B that could generate enough income to cover property taxes, and those items that can't be home-made or bartered for. It seems to me, that Ecuador could be just the place to realize that dream.

    My husband is an engineer/michanical designer, and has heavy reservations about being able to find work there in his field with a minimal knowlege of the language. Working expat families is not a topic I have been able to find much about. I would love to learn more about intergration into Ecuador as a non-retired, working class family. Do you know of others with children who have made the move there, and are working in the community? I think there would be a great interest in more information about "working families" in Ecuador.

    I admire you and your family for having the gusto to do what you have done, and thank you, and the others onlin, for sharing the experience with us.


    • Bryan M. Haines Sep 6, 2010, 3:43 pm

      Hi Diane,
      Sorry for the slow response. As you can see we have been in the midst of a full scale overhaul of our site. is now replacing Destination-Ecuador. Everything is the same but there is significantly more content on the way. This format allows us to cover topics other than just Ecuador.

      In answer to your questions, yes we have many friends here with children. There are families here from Canada, the US, Australia, the UK and New Zealand. Probably more but these are friends we have made just here in Cuenca. The majority of foreigners come in one of the following three categories:

      Retirement Visa: Its getting more common for families with young children to retire here. When you can expect to spend between $800-1200 for basic expenses, it's quite feasible for many families.
      Remote work: No special visa is needed to work remotely.
      Family Sabbatical: Some families come for a set time of 1 or 2 years (don't work) and just return home when their money/time runs out.

      For more information, you should check with a lawyer. I recommend Idrovo & Velastegui Abogados here in Cuenca. A friend of ours works there. She is American and can help you out.

    • @thecocoapod Mar 16, 2011, 1:16 pm

      Hi Diane:

      My family and I live in Quito and own a chocolate business here. You can read more about it at or feel free to contact me directly.

      Kind regards,


  • Diane Aug 6, 2010, 11:54 am

    Happy to know that you are liking it a year later!
    Is that $80 or $8? And if it is $8, do you know if that is per person?

    • Bryan Haines Aug 6, 2010, 8:58 pm

      Diane – there are van services that charge per person, but we prefer to hire the whole van. It gives us the space and schedule that we want, and he will stop for photos and snacks and breaks as we require. The cost for the whole van (its a 12 or 15 passenger) is $80.

  • jerry Aug 1, 2010, 12:58 pm


    i am interested in arranging a driver from guayaquil to cuenca sept. 8 late or sept.9. for 3 adults. we arrive at 9:15 p. m. on the 8th

    i enjoy your site, and am appreciative of any info you can provide.



    • Bryan Haines Aug 4, 2010, 8:50 am

      Hi Jerry – there are a number of options. The driver we use is based in Cuenca, but will travel to GYE for pickups. We just used him on Monday. How is your Spanish? His name is Joselo Pesantez. Cell number: 08 029 8322 and home number is 07 238 5313. How to Call Ecuador From Abroad

      The rate for a direct drive is $80, plus tip (common is around $10). If you have a few other errands, it might be a little more. If you can't get ahold of him, let me know and i'll see if he has an email address.

  • Mike and Pat Grimm Jul 8, 2010, 9:57 pm

    Hi Bryan and Dena,

    This email is to introduce ourselves. We are Mike and Pat Grimm from Arizona. We are moving to Cuenca in August. (Our flight from Los Angeles is on August 3rd.) Please see our blog at

    We have really enjoyed reading your blog and have found it to be very educational. It's good to know that all of the preparation, the hard work, and the emotions are pretty normal when you're experiencing a major lifestyle change. We're looking forward to meeting you in due time. We're also looking forward to getting healthier, to walking a lot and to eating fresh food, and to living more economically than in the U.S.

    Until we meet,

    Mike and Pat Grimm

    • Bryan Haines Jul 9, 2010, 7:01 am

      Hi Mike and Pat – Congratulations on your decision to move to Cuenca!

      Glad you're finding the site useful. Watch for significantly more content over the next few months.

      We would love to sit down for coffee after you arrive. We are soon going to be running an Expat Profile series. It would be great to interview you just after you arrive, and maybe after your first year. Something for you to ponder . . .

      Do you have transport arranged for your trip from Guayaquil to Cuenca? There are a few drivers we know with nice, new vans. Its a beautiful drive. We are actually making the drive from GYE to CUE the day before you.

      All the best with your plans – and don't worry – everything will go smoothly.

      Bryan and Dena

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