Here is our Cuenca Ecuador Expat Pros and Cons list after living here over a year. This is our second top 10 list of things we love about Cuenca and a few things we don’t love so much. You can view our first top 10 list in Part 1 here: Top 10 Things We LOVE About Cuenca Ecuador + Top 5 Things We Don’t Love (Episode 71)
If you’re looking for more information about moving to Cuenca or somewhere else in Ecuador, check out our Ecuador Expat Info page with several videos and detailed blog posts.
Cuenca Ecuador Expat Pros and Cons – Part 2
#10 Very Few Bugs
Cuenca is over 8,000 feet in altitude so we don’t have a lot of bugs here. We’ve only seen a couple mosquitos in the 16 months we’ve lived in Cuenca. We do have a few flies and fruit flies, but nothing like the lower altitudes.
While spiders aren’t bugs, we do have some of those, including a tarantula that crawled in under our kitchen door. I shooed him out of the kitchen with a broom and he never came back.
#9 Low Crime Rate
Cuenca, and Ecuador in general, has a very low crime rate. Guns and ammunition are difficult to find so there aren’t a lot of violent crimes. Most crime is petty theft, especially pickpockets. However, over the past few years, the city has installed cameras in popular pickpocket spots, which has cut down on crime in those area.
There is also a strong police presence on the streets and trails around Cuenca. And they’re very friendly. We feel completely comfortable asking them for directions and they often help people cross the street safely.
Ecuador’s prisons are also under occupied (only 38%), and they offer very effective rehabilitation services that have resulted in a low recidivism rate (meaning ex-convicts return to prison at much lower rates than in the US).
#8 Small Businesses
Ecuador has a form of regulated capitalism. It’s considered a social republic with a democratically elected government. That means big corporations don’t rule the country, which levels the playing field so small business can compete.
While there are some large stores here like Coral, Supermaxi, Kywi and Sukasa, they’re usually the same price as small vendors, and sometimes more expensive. For example, the small vendors at the mercados are much less expensive for fruits and veggies than Supermaxi.
It can be challenging sometimes to find the things you’re looking for, and a single item may require several trips to different areas of town, but we like supporting small businesses and don’t mind the extra walking.
#7 The Weather
Eight months out of the year, the weather in Cuenca is absolutely beautiful. It’s sunny and 70’s most of the day with an occasional brief rain shower. It seems to rain more during the night than during the day for those 8 months.
#6 Coffee & Chocolate
Coffee and chocolate are two of Ecuador’s primary exports. Due to its tropical climate near the equator, Ecuador is ideal for growing both of the beans used to make these food products. They also don’t need to be hyper processed and shipped around the world, so we get extra fresh versions of both and you can taste the difference. Yum!
As vegans, we embrace unprocessed carbs from whole foods, including bread made with whole grains. Some of the bread in the panaderías (bread shops) is made with refined flour, but we usually avoid those. Instead, we buy whole grain bread from Kelbert at ArteSana.
They also make fresh sourdough (made with white flour) that is amazing, but we usually buy their whole grain breads: Chia & Flax, Chia & Sesame, Rye, etc.
Tosta is another one of our FAVORITE panaderías in Cuenca. All of their bread has as sourdough base and most of it is whole grain. ¡Su pan es muy delicioso!
#4 Cuenca Flower Markets
You can buy beautiful and inexpensive flowers throughout Ecuador, but there’s nothing quite like Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market. It was included in National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Outdoor Flower Markets for good reason. It’s incredibly stunning.
#3 The Blue Crew
Cuenca is one of the cleanest cities we’ve ever seen, and that’s almost entirely due to the blue crew: Cuenca’s street cleaners. They work from before sunup to after sundown, 7 days per week to keep this city spotless and we couldn’t be more thankful for them.
#2 No GMO’s
GMO crops are banned from Ecuador, despite heavy pressure from the US to allow them. In fact, GMO’s are prohibited in Ecuador’s constitution!
They are allowed to import GMO products like soy sauce and textured vegetable protein (TVP), but they must be clearly labeled. We really appreciate that. We would hate to see the same thing happen here in Ecuador, that is happening in India and other developing countries that made the mistake of allowing GMO crops.
#1 Affordable, High-Quality Healthcare
This probably should have been on our first list of things we love about Cuenca because it was one of the main driving factors for our move from the US to Ecuador. We simply couldn’t afford healthcare for my spine back in the states.
My two surgeries cost almost 1 MILLION DOLLARS! And the insurance we have now with Amelia’s company back in Denver would only cover 40% of that after a $12,000 deductible!
Another spine surgery back in the states would bankrupt us, and I’m not willing to do that to myself and especially not to Amelia at our age.
Top 5 Things We DON’T Love About Cuenca – Part 2
#5 Lack of Punctuality
Time is a fluid, non-binding construct here in Ecuador and throughout Latin America. Their culture just doesn’t think of time the same way us Americans and Northern Europeans do. Most things rarely start on time or end on time. It has required us to learn patience and lower our expectations, which aren’t bad things for us rigid gringos.
#4 Lack of Organization and Communication
We’ve gone to events before, but were never able to find them. Signs are rarely used and people can rarely be found who know anything about what’s going on. Combined with the lack of punctuality, we’re commonly left wandering around lost, and often going home without finding the venue.
The city is also replacing the water lines in our neighborhood, so the water has been off quite often in our house since we moved in. Unfortunately, they don’t communicate the outage schedule so we have no idea when it will be off and are unable to make plans for it. We now keep jugs of water in the house so we have water to drink and so we can wash our hands.
The lack of organization and communication can be very exasperating.
#3 Public Urination
Yes. That’s a thing here. And a common one. We rarely go anywhere without seeing someone peeing behind a telephone pole or tree. We’ve even seen women squatting in plain sight of passersby. For us overly clean Americans, it’s a bit gross and uncomfortable to make eye contact with someone peeing in public.
#2 The Rainy Season
While Cuenca is beautiful 8 months out of the year, the other 4 months are dreary and damp. The rainy season starts in late April and goes through early July. That’s when the winter, cloudy season starts and ends around late August. Last year, we only saw the sun for a couple hours during that entire 4 months. I told Amelia we need to go someplace sunny for a few weeks during future rainy seasons.
#1 Sidewalk Hazards
The sidewalks throughout Ecuador are hazardous. There’s no better way to put it. From gaping holes to cut off post stumps to trash racks to slippery terracotta tiles on a steep decline, you’re literally taking your life into your own hands simply by walking on the sidewalk. It requires your constant, diligent attention.
Although we do occasionally see people in wheelchairs, the city is not very handicap accessible. That’s something to consider before moving here if you’re physically challenged.
We hope our Cuenca Ecuador Expat Pros and Cons list helps to prepare you for a smooth landing here. While we love most things about living in a small Latin American country, some things still drive us crazy. If you come here with realistic expectations and understand that cultural differences can be annoying, you’ll be more likely to thrive and be happy here.
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!