Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living 2019: Updated with Real Prices (Episode 118)

This Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living 2019 video covers our monthly living expenses, real prices for a variety of things, as well as some other common costs of living here. If you’re thinking about moving to Ecuador, check out our Ecuador Expat Info page for more videos and detailed blog posts.

For our rental house tour, visit: Cuenca Ecuador Rental House + Monthly Living Expenses 2019 (Episode 63)

NOTE: Sorry that we’re a bit gauzy in the video. I guess I broke the autofocus when I fell on my camera a couple weeks ago.

Cuenca Ecuador Rental Cost

Rent varies widely based on the age and size of the place, distance from El Centro, furnished or unfurnished, etc.

Reasonable Housing Costs

Our friend Olesya rents a room in an Ecuadorian family’s house for $110/month. You can find fully furnished apartments and houses for rent in the $350+ range depending on the size. Unfurnished apartments and houses start as low as $250/month.

Before we found our rental house, we looked at a really nice, fully furnished 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment that was $450/mo and included all utilities.

An Apartment for Rent in El Vergel

We toured an apartment for rent near our house in El Vergel as part of an upcoming Cuenca Ecuador Rentals video we have in the works. This is a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment with an office area for $500/month. The rent also includes internet, but no other utilities. The landlord said utilities will cost about $70/month for electric, gas and water.

Landlords don’t always list the floor area so we don’t know for sure how big this place is, but we think it’s around 1,200 square feet. The kitchen and view were REALLY nice, but it didn’t have a dishwasher. However, there was room in the kitchen next to the utility sink to put a mobile dishwasher, which we priced at $590 at an electronics store in El Centro (see below).

Our Rental House in El Vergel

We looked at about 10 places in Cuenca before we found our rental house. As soon as we walked through the door, we knew it was the perfect place for us to start our unconventional life in Ecuador.

Cuenca Ecuador Courtyard

The other houses and apartments we saw didn’t meet several of our most important requirements. For example, we need an oven in our kitchen, which isn’t guaranteed in Ecuador. Lots of kitchens don’t have an oven or a dishwasher.

Several of the houses we saw were also very dated with elaborate Queen Anne style furniture, which isn’t our style. Our house has very nice, newer furniture, fixtures and amenities (like a jetted tub).

Our rental house also came with a washer and dryer. You can pay someone to wash, dry and fold your laundry for roughly $3/load, but Amelia prefers to do our laundry. She won’t even let me touch it!

We looked at a couple places that wouldn’t accept Daisy. They were fine with Alicia, but at 30 pounds, Daisy is considered a large dog in Ecuador and many landlords don’t allow large dogs.

Daisy prefers to spend most of her time outside, so we also wanted a terrace or courtyard for her. Both of these features increase the rental cost.

Are We Paying Too Much for Rent?

At $800, our monthly rent is on the high end for rental properties here in Cuenca Ecuador, but we looked at some that were even more expensive ($1,200/month!). We also looked at some that were under $450/month, but we didn’t like them or they wouldn’t work for a variety of reasons.

We may decide to downsize into something smaller with a better equipped kitchen at some point, but for right now, we’re very happy in our house and in our neighborhood. The neighbors are all very nice to us gringos and our landlord is amazing. You get what you pay for here, just like everywhere else.

See a tour of our rental house in our old cost of living video, Cuenca Ecuador Rental House Tour + Monthly Expenses, and our Cuenca Rental House Courtyard Tour.

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Food

We buy most of our food at the mercado and most of our packaged items at Supermaxi. Here’s a breakdown of the costs for our last trip to each.

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Mercado Produce

When we lived back in Denver Colorado, food was one of our largest monthly expenses. Here in Cuenca Ecuador, we spend far less on food, and it’s far higher quality. The fruits and veggies may be ugly, but they taste like they’re supposed to; like when I was a kid growing up in a small Kansas farmtown. They’re sweet, juicy and flavorful. And cheap!

This organic produce haul from Mercado 27 de Febrero cost us $27.50. It’s 36.5 pounds of produce and beans for 75 cents/pound. The individual cost breakdown is below.

This mercado haul was a little more expensive than normal because we bought blueberries, which are costly here, and we bought a cherimoya and 4 pitahayas, which are out of season. The blueberries, cherimoya and pitahaya accounted for $7.50 of the total cost, so the rest was only $20.

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado Haul June 2019

Cuenca Ecuador Mercado Haul Itemized Cost

Item Oz  Cost
Choclo 16  $         1.00
Peas 48  $         3.00
Beans 16  $         1.00
Blueberries 4  $         2.50
Strawberries 16  $         1.50
Apples 40  $         2.00
Peaches 12  $         1.00
Dragon Fruit 32  $         3.00
Chirimoya 16  $         2.00
Limes 16  $         1.00
Bananas 64  $         1.00
Papayas 32  $         1.00
Tomatoes 32  $         1.00
Mellocos 16  $         0.50
Carrots 48  $         1.00
Sweet Potatoes 64  $         2.00
Yellow Potatoes 32  $         1.00
Beets 24  $         1.00
Broccoli 24  $         0.50
Cauliflower 32  $         0.50
Total 584  $       27.50
Pounds 36.5  $         0.75/lb

This haul would have easily cost us over $120 in the States at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. The papayas alone probably cost more than $10 back in Denver. We never bought them because they were so expensive.

We eat a Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet, so we buy LOTS of produce at the mercado on Thursdays. Then we fill in the gaps with our local neighborhood fruit lady. We also chop up veggies and freeze them for quick oil-free stir fries on busy nights.

Cost of Coffee, Chia and Flax Seeds at the Mercado

We also bought some coffee, chia and flax seeds at the mercado. The itemized cost is below.

Cuenca Ecuador Coffee and Seeds

Item Oz  Cost 
Chia 8  $         0.50
Flax 8  $         0.50
Coffee 16  $         3.50
Total 32  $         4.50

Cuenca Ecuador Grocery Store Cost – Supermaxi El Vergel

We buy most of our produce at the mercado because it’s less expensive than Supermaxi and we want to support our local farmers. However, we buy most of our packaged and specialty items at Supermaxi, which is Ecuador’s main grocery store chain. Coral also has a grocery store, but it’s more like a Super Walmart and it’s too far to walk there from our house.

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living Supermaxi

Cuenca Ecuador Supermaxi Haul Itemized Cost

To give you an idea of how far $50 goes at Supermaxi, here’s what we bought on our last trip (pictured above):

Item Qty  Cost 
Rolls of Toilet Paper 12 rolls  $         2.06
Almond Milk 946 ml  $         3.13
Oats 850 g  $         3.14
Raisins 400 g  $         1.93
Organic Chocolate 3 bars @ 50 g  $         5.81
Brown Rice 2 kg  $         5.40
Lentils 2 kg  $         3.61
Pasta Sauce 2 jars @ 500 g  $         5.04
Garlic Salt 140 g  $         1.65
Garlic Powder 100 g  $         2.63
Mustard Powder 28 g  $         1.40
Vanilla Extract 120 ml  $         0.96
Ketchup 1200 g  $         2.85
All Purpose Cleaner 900 ml  $         1.60
Dish Soap 1 L  $         2.41
Organic Spinach 250 g  $         1.23
Organic Chard 450 g  $         1.16
Asparagus 250 g  $         1.31
Total  $       47.32

Total: $47.32 + $4.25 Tax = $51.57 – $2.06 Loyalty Discount = $49.51

This was a pretty heavy load for a trip to Supermaxi. We normally don’t buy cleaner or spices so our weekly bill is closer to $40 instead of $50. These items would have easily cost more than $100 back in Denver. It would also be cheaper if we bought non-organic foods, but we try to support the farmers who don’t use pesticides.

The cost of meat and dairy are higher here than the States because it’s not heavily subsidized by government handouts and taxpayer dollars. Animal ag competes on a level playing field here so the costs reflect that.

See More: Supermaxi El Vergel Tour

Cuenca Ecuador Restaurant Costs

We eat out quite a bit. More than we should. But the costs of eating at restaurants in Cuenca are so much lower that we can afford to eat out more often.

El Almuerzo

Most restaurants in Ecuador have a lunch special that ranges from $1.50 to $3.50. It’s called El Almuerzo (the lunch) and usually comes with 3 to 5 courses.

El Almuerzo at Namaste India was $2.50 the last time we went and included a juice, salad, rice, entree and dessert. The amount of food at El Almuerzo is smaller than a typical dinner, but it’s still very filling. Especially for the price.

Dinner at Namaste India Cuenca

We eat dinner at Namaste India at least once per week. It’s nice to hang out with our friends Chinnu and Abin, and the food is amazing!

Our typical dinner (without wine) costs just under $20 and we usually leave $2 for a tip. We always get two vegan entrees, steamed rice and plain naan for roughly $10/person.

Namaste India Cuenca

See More: Chinnu & Abin’s India Wedding Parties (Episode 102 – Part 9)

A Pedir de Boca Cuenca

A Pedir de Boca is another one of our favorite restaurants in Cuenca. Their food is delicious and artfully presented. We usually order the Thai Veggie Bowl with More Veggies for $7.50 (each). That comes with a hummus appetizer, and two palate cleanser shots before and after you eat.

A Pedir de Boca Cuenca Ecuador

Zatua Miski Cuenca

We also visit Zatua Miski almost every week. It’s a great place to meet our subscribers because of the social atmosphere and Paola’s delicious plant-based food. Her sweet waffles cost $3.75, the berry smoothie I always get is $3.50 and a smoothie bowl is $4.50. Click to enlarge.

There are cheaper places to eat, especially restaurants geared toward Cuencanos. The restaurants we visit most often are located in El Centro and are geared more toward tourists and gringos, so they’re more expensive.

Health Insurance Costs in Ecuador

You’ll need private health insurance before you apply for your Temporary Residency Visa. Once you have your visa and cedula (government issued ID card), you can get the cheaper IESS public health insurance.

Private Health Insurance Cuenca Ecuador

Just like in the States, there are several different health insurance companies to choose from. We used an insurance broker to help us pick the best plan for us.

We selected a health insurance plan through Confiamed that costs $156/month for both of us. A private health insurance plan allows us to go to the doctors and hospitals that we choose. Quality and convenience cost more, but that’s important to us.

If you would like us to connect you with our insurance agent, please drop us a note and we’ll send an email introduction.

Ecuador IESS Public Health Insurance

IESS is Ecuador’s single-payer social security and healthcare system. Once you have your temporary or permanent residency visa and your cedula, you can sign up for this health insurance.

IESS health insurance is cheaper than private insurance (for now), but you have to go to the IESS hospital and doctors. Since it’s their version of social security, it also means you’ll get some of it back when you retire if you’re still living here. The IESS plan is currently $77/month for each of our married friends who are in their 60’s.

Other Common Living Expenses in Cuenca Ecuador

Startup Costs

After we moved into our rental house, we spent about $700 on startup costs for it. Even though it was fully furnished, it lacked a few essential things such as sheets, blankets, a nicer set of pots, a pressure cooker, coat rack, knives, heaters, etc.

Transportation Costs in Cuenca Ecuador

A bus ride costs 31 cents. The Tranvia isn’t open yet, but it’ll cost 35 cents per ride (we think).

Taxi’s have a minimum fair of $1.50. It usually costs us $2 to get to Namaste India from our house in El Vergel. It’s about a 20 minute walk and a 7 minute cab ride. We prefer to walk, unless it’s raining. Then we use Azutaxi to call a cab.

When we fly back into Cuenca from our trips abroad, we usually have Edwin pick us up so he can take us to get Daisy and Alicia from Maxi’s Pet Care. He charges us $10 to pick us up, drive to the northwest side of Cuenca to Maxi’s, then drive us home to the south part of town. It takes about an hour.

Our Driver Edwin

Clothing and Shoes

We walk roughly 2,000 miles per year so we need to replace our shoes often. Surprisingly, shoes aren’t designed to walk two-thirds of the way across the United States without wearing out.

We just bought Amelia these new boots at Emily Shoes in El Centro for $29. They’re made of synthetic materials.

Cuenca Ecuador Emily Shoes Cost

The price of clothes in stores is about the same as we paid in Denver. However, you can have clothes made for you by local tailors and we’ve been told that’s about 1/3 the cost of off-the-rack clothing. We’ll research this and update this section with more accurate details in the future.

Fitness Costs Cuenca Ecuador

It seems like there’s a gym on every corner here in Cuenca Ecuador. They’re very popular with Ecuadorians, who seem to be very active. We’ve seen both traditional indoor, as well as outdoor Crossfit-type gyms. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $40/month for a membership.

JungleGym and Fit Alliance

We featured JungleGym and Fit Alliance in a previous video. This used to be a regular gym with traditional exercise equipment, but they sold all that equipment and turned it into an aerial gym geared mainly towards women. You can now do aerial dance with hoops or silk, pole fitness, yoga, pilates, etc. for roughly $40/month.

Cuenca Ecuador Fitness Aerial Dance

Yoga at RumiSol

Amelia does most of her yoga at home now, but she also drops in at RumiSol Yoga that’s about a 20 minute walk from our house. The monthly rates range from $30 to $50, and a drop-in class is $5.

Amelia Yoga

Belly Dance with The Tribal Fusion House

You may have seen some of Amelia’s belly dancing with The Tribal Fusion House. She mainly does this for fun, but it’s also great exercise. Julio charges $40/month, which allows you to go to two classes per week.

Tribal Fusion Hafla 2019 Cuenca Ecuador.00_25_21_01.Still001

Appliances and Electronics

One of our subscribers asked if 4K TV’s are available here in Cuenca Ecuador, and we’re happy to say they are. However, you’ll likely spend more for them here. The cost of living is very low in Ecuador, but the cost of “things” is very high. Anything with a plug will cost more.

TV Cost in Cuenca Ecuador

We stopped in two different electronics stores in El Centro to price TV’s. This 65″ 4K LG costs $1,200 when you pay with cash. I found similar TV’s for $800 on Amazon so it’s about 50% more here.

Cuenca Ecuador 65 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

This 75″ 4K LG TV at a different store costs $1,900 when you pay with cash. The picture was so clear on this I told the sales guy it made me feel cold! I found a similar TV on Amazon for $1,300 so again, it’s about 50% more here.

Cuenca Ecuador 75 Inch 4K LG TV Cost

Cuenca Ecuador Dishwasher Cost

We priced a mobile dishwasher (aka marital aid) for our house, which doesn’t have a dishwasher. Since we eat at home 3 times per day, we’re always doing dishes and there isn’t enough room at the sink for two people, so we have to take turns. Doing dishes by hand gets old, especially when we have to wash them twice a day.

This portable stainless insert dishwasher costs $590 if you pay in cash. It can also be used as a built-in dishwasher. The main difference between a built-in dishwasher and this one is that it’s fully encased.

Cuenca Ecuador Dishwasher Cost

Refrigerator at Marc’s Consignments

We did a tour of Marc’s Consignments in San Sebas a few months ago. They had a small used refrigerator for $680.

Cuenca Ecuador Refrigerator Cost

Cuenca Ecuador Cost of Living – Monthly Living Expenses

Here are our Cuenca Ecuador cost of living monthly expenses. This does not include medical expenses or travel costs. Those vary a lot so we opted to leave them out.

We’ll do a video about our medical experiences and costs in the future. If you’re curious about dental costs, we cover those in this video: The Best Dentist in Cuenca Ecuador – Dr. Grace Ordoñez (Episode 73)

Itemized Expenses

Non-Discretionary  Cost 
Rent  $          800
Utilities  $            80
Propane  $            10
Mercado  $          120
Supermaxi  $          200
Health Insurance  $          156
Internet  $            56
Claro  $            17
Transportation  $            20
Total  $       1,459
Discretionary Cost
Restaurants  $          150
Massage  $          150
Amelia’s Hair  $            10
Yoga  $            40
Belly Dancing  $            40
Housekeeper  $            40
Total  $          430
Grand Total  $       1,889

Cuenca Ecuador Inflation

We’re often asked if we’ve noticed a price increase since we moved here almost two years ago. Several other bloggers and YouTubers complain about how the cost of things have gone up in recent years, but we haven’t noticed much of a change. Most things have stayed the same, but some things are more expensive and some are less expensive.

Prices That Are Unchanged

The previous renters of our house lived here almost a year and a half and we’ve been here a little longer than that. Combined, we have lived in this house for over 3 years and the rent hasn’t changed.

Our mercado and Supermaxi food costs are the same. We have consistently spent $30/week at the mercado on produce, coffee, nuts and seeds. That’s when we don’t buy specialty or out-of-season items like cherimoyas or pitahayas. And we have consistently spent $50/week at Supermaxi.

We’re spending less now on water and electric than we did a year ago. Our utilities used to average $80/month, but for the past several months, they’ve been closer to $60/month. We’re not sure why they decreased so we’re continuing to budget $80/month for now.

Taxi rates haven’t changed. Neither has any of Amelia’s fitness memberships. Nor the cost of doctor’s visits, our cleaning lady, internet access or our mobile phone.

Price Decreases

In 2018, Ecuador eliminated their massive import tariff of 100% that was applied to cars and electronics. As you can imagine, the price of those items fell dramatically.

Ecuador also repealed the “goodwill law” that taxed real estate development almost out of existence. That meant developers weren’t building things because they couldn’t sell them for enough to cover the cost of the tax. The lack of supply drove up the cost of existing properties as the demand grew from both gringos and more affluent Ecuadorians.

Since the law has been repealed, developers are once again building at a faster rate, which is increasing the supply of housing. We expect to see a decrease in housing costs, or at least price stability, as more properties become available.

Price Increases

Our private health insurance increased from $117/month when we arrived in Cuenca to $156/month now. The old company that provided our insurance went out of business (without notifying us). Our new plan is through a more reputable insurance company and provides better coverage.

The cost of the IESS public health insurance also increased, although we can’t get a straight answer about how much.

A propane tank increased from $2.50 to $3.00 about 2 months ago. We go through a tank used for our hot water heater about once every two weeks. The tank connected to our stove/oven lasts about 6 months.

The cost of a bus ride increased from 25 cents to 31 cents in 2018 to cover the cost of replacing the blue puffer buses with low-emission diesel buses.

We’ve also been told the cost of gasoline has increased, but we aren’t sure by how much and if the increase is here to stay or part of OPEC’s monopolized price control.

Cuenca Ecuador Quality of Life

We live a very comfortable middle class, low-stress life here in Cuenca Ecuador. As you can see, it’s very easy for a couple to live on less than $2,000 per month. A single person could easily live here on less than $1,200 per month. It really depends on the type of home you want and the discretionary expenses that are important to you.

See More: Cuenca Pharmacy Tour + Paying Bills

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

8 replies
  1. John Tall
    John Tall says:

    I eat keto and am guessing by your shopping haul that you two are not. lol
    My question is what it costs for the foods that you did not buy: meats, eggs, butter, milk, cream, cheese and fish? Is there a site that details those prices? Or might you walk through Maxi and let us look?
    Thanks for what you do. And, from a soon to be new expat, “I hope to maybe see you two on the streets.”

    • JP
      JP says:

      Hola John. Sorry, but we are adamantly against all forms of animal cruelty, and killing an animal unnecessarily for food is at the top of our list. That’s why we don’t show or promote products derived from animals on our channel.

      The keto diet is extremely unhealthy and potentially dangerous unless you have a very specific medical condition and are under the supervision of a qualified doctor. I would encourage you to look at the independent research on the keto diet rather than the corporate junk science put out by the animal ag, high fat food and fad diet industries:

      Best of luck.

  2. Jay
    Jay says:

    Thanks for the detailed and helpful cost of living info! You mention having fiber internet to the curb. What is the bandwidth that you’re getting for $56/month? Is high quality internet typical throughout Ecuador, or limited to the main metropolitan cities like Cuenca?

  3. ed
    ed says:

    Hey guys! I just stumbled onto a video you did on YouTube and really enjoyed it. I have been living in Brazil for many years and it seems the cost of living there is comparable to where I live. I am single and spend less than $1000,00 a month. Since the real devaluation a few months ago, that has dropped to $800,00. I have a small one bedroom apartment in a secure building that I had to furnish myself. It only came with countertops! The owners did pay me back for some of the things I have installed and I think if I negotiate for another lease term, they will include some more discounts for me. I do have a few questions for you. What is the process for immigration? Would it be unpractical for an older person to move there alone? I am accustomed to the expat life, so I already understand the challenges? How about the altitude? I am from Denver too, but have lived at sea level for many years…maybe I would need a full time diet of cacao leaves! Ha! Hope to hear from you! Abracos, Ed

    • JP
      JP says:

      Hola Ed! We have a video about the visa process:

      We are friends with lots of older expats over 70 so that shouldn’t stop you. We left Cuenca in February and moved to the coast because I couldn’t handle the altitude. Cuenca is 3000 feet higher than Denver and I wasn’t adjusting. It was getting worse. We all feel better here at sea level in Olón.

      Keep us posted!


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