Tag Archive for: Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Ecuador Pros & Cons for Expats

Cuenca Ecuador has been near the top of the “best expat cities” list for over a decade and a lot of expats live in Cuenca because of its international renown.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a modern city with old world charm, affordable living, and a variety of amenities. However, like any place, it also has its drawbacks.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of living in Cuenca Ecuador to help you decide if it’s the right expat city for you.

Is Cuenca the Best Expat City in Ecuador?

Before we share the main drawbacks, and the reasons why we ended up leaving Cuenca, let’s take a look at all the wonderful things that Cuenca has to offer.

Cuenca Is a Modern, Developed City with Old World Charm

Cuenca has all the modern amenities of a developed city like hospitals, malls and car dealerships, but it still maintains an old world charm with its beautiful, Spanish colonial architecture.

The iconic blue domes of the New Cathedral can be seen from most vantage points in the city and make for amazing pictures to share with your friends and family.

Cuenca is so beautiful and picturesque that we often just walked around the city so I could take pictures!

Ecuador Is On the Dollar

Ecuador Is On the DollarKnowing the currency saves us a lot of time and money. We don’t have to constantly do conversions in our head or wonder if we’re getting gringoed (price gouged).

Being on the US Dollar (the exact same currency) was one of the main reasons we chose Ecuador.

Dollar bills aren’t very common, though. Instead, dollar coins and 50 cent coins (cinquenta centavo) are much more common.

Cuenca Has Reliable Internet

Our house in Cuenca had fiber to the curb with Puntonet. We’ve heard Etapa is also a good provider, but we don’t have any experience with them.

We had one short outage in more than 2 years living there. Compared to weekly outages and constantly slow service from Comcast in downtown Denver for $120/month, we were extremely happy with our Internet service there.

Cuenca Has Drinkable Water

Along with the dollar, being able to drink the tap water was another main reason we wanted to move to Cuenca. We hate using plastic water bottles so it was nice to avoid that in Cuenca.

Some people still choose to have water delivery and/or install reverse osmosis filtration systems, but the replacement filters are hard to find and very expensive. It’s just nice that we didn’t have to worry about it.

Cuenca Has an Airport

Cuenca Has an AirportOne of the amenities that makes Cuenca so appealing to expats is the airport located just a short cab ride from the heart of the city.

While the airport claims to be international, nearly all flights go to Quito with an occasional flight to Guayaquil. You’ll also need to walk downstairs upon exiting the plane since there are no gangways.

The airport itself is very nice with a small food court on the second level and a tasty coffee shop on the first level by the ticketing counter.

The flight to Quito only takes 45 minutes so it’s much easier than making the 8+ hour drive to Quito, or the 3+ hour drive to the Guayaquil international airport.

You Don’t Need a Car in Cuenca

You Don't Need a Car in CuencaCuenca’s new Tranvia will take you from the airport through El Centro and out to the Don Bosco neighborhood on the southwest side of town.

The expansive bus system will take you anywhere inside or outside Cuenca. Taxi rides are very affordable and most fares cost between $2 and $3 with a $1.50 minimum.

Cars are much more expensive in Ecuador than in countries like the United States. The interest rates on car loans are very high, so luckily the wide variety of inexpensive transportation options means you don’t need a car in Cuenca.

Very Few Bugs in Cuenca Ecuador

Tarantula in CuencaCuenca is over 8,000 feet in elevation so we didn’t see a lot of bugs there. We saw flies and fruit flies, and a few mosquitoes, but nothing like the lower elevations along the coast.

While spiders aren’t bugs, we did 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.

Cuenca Has LOTS of English-Speaking Ecuadorians

Most Cuencanos who are under 30 years old speak English, and many older Ecuadorians who lived in the US or Europe when they were younger also speak English. That means it’s a really easy place to start your life abroad if you’re not yet fluent in Spanish.

With language apps widely available, speaking Spanish isn’t a requirement anywhere in Ecuador, but being able to communicate in English makes the transition to a new city and culture much smoother.

Cuenca Has LOTS of Spanish Schools & Teachers

If your goal is to learn Spanish, Cuenca is a great place to study the language. There are a variety of Spanish schools, teachers and language exchanges to help you learn and practice.

Cuenca Has a Large Expat Community

The UnconventionalsWhile many adventurous expats move to a foreign country to spend time with locals and experience a new culture, others move abroad mainly to live a more affordable, higher quality of life.

If this describes you, then you’ll appreciate having other like-minded, English-speaking people to talk to and to provide social support.

Cuenca has one of the largest expat communities in South America with thousands of immigrants from the US, Canada and Europe, making it an ideal place to start a new life abroad.

Low Crime Rate in Cuenca Ecuador

Police Officer in Cuenca EcuadorCuenca has a very low crime rate compared to other parts of Ecuador like Guayaquil.

However, following the pandemic, crime has increased throughout Ecuador so the government decided in April 2023 to legalize the civilian use of guns for self-defense.

Here are the requirements to legally buy and possess a gun in Ecuador:

  • Be 25 years old.
  • Pass a psychological test and get a certificate issued by the Ministry of Public Health.
  • Take a gun safety class and get a certificate of skill in the handling and use of the weapon issued by the Ministry of National Defense.
  • No criminal record.
  • No history of domestic violence.
  • Pass a drug test and obtain a certificate issued by the Ministry of Public Health.
  • Only firearms with a caliber of 9 millimeters or .38 caliber and smaller are allowed.
  • Assault weapons and automatic guns are illegal.

Compared to the United States, the gun laws are still very strict in Ecuador.

Pepper spray was also legalized (it was illegal and impossible to buy in Ecuador) and self-defense has been decriminalized. Before this change, if you harmed a criminal while defending yourself or your family, there was a very good chance that you would be arrested and convicted alongside the perp.

Most crime in Ecuador is petty theft, especially pickpockets. However, over the past few years, Cuenca 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 walking trails around Cuenca, and they’re very friendly. We felt completely comfortable asking them for directions and they often help people cross the street safely.

Cuenca Has a Variety of Modern, Upscale Housing

Cuenca Has a Variety of Modern, Upscale HousingYour friends and family may think you’ll be living in a dirt-floor house with no indoor plumbing
when you move to Ecuador, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

While building standards aren’t quite the same as in the US and other developed countries, Cuenca has a large selection of modern, upscale housing to choose from.

Whether you want a freestanding home, a row home or a high-rise condo, you’re sure to find something that will make you feel right at home for a fraction of the cost compared to similar housing in the US.

Small Businesses in Cuenca Ecuador

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 businesses 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.

Cuenca Flower Markets in Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Flower MarketsYou 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 and we enjoyed walking down there on the weekends to buy fresh flowers.

Cuenca Has LOTS of Fun & Entertaining Things To Do

If you’re an activity-oriented person, Cuenca will NOT disappoint! There are tons of things to do in Cuenca!

You’ll find lots of museums to visit, like the Inca ruins at Pumapungo and the Museum of Modern Art in San Sebas. Cuenca has great walking tours, river walks, restaurants, social gatherings, music events, and more.

Plus, a short 20 minute cab ride will deliver you to the hot springs in Baños Azuay southwest of Cuenca for a relaxing day of soaking in the therapeutic waters and pampering in the spas.

There are LOTS of Amazing Day Trips Around Cuenca

There are LOTS of Amazing Day Trips Around CuencaCuenca is centrally located near several of Ecuador’s incredible natural and historical sites like El Cajas National Park with its herds of photogenic llamas.

You might also enjoy the waterfalls of Girón, the handmade guitar makers in San Bartolomé, the filigree jewelry in Chordeleg, the orchid farm in Gualaceo, the indigenous market in Cañar, the church built into the side of a mountain in Biblión, or the Inca & Cañari ruins in Ingapirca.

And if you’re really brave, you’ll love mountain climbing at Cojitambo in Azogues! All of these attractions and more can be enjoyed on day trips from Cuenca!

Affordable, High-Quality Medical Care & English-Speaking Doctors

Healthcare was one of the main driving factors for our move from the US to Ecuador. We simply couldn’t afford health insurance or healthcare following my spine surgeries back in the States.

Affordable, High-Quality Medical Care & English-Speaking DoctorsAnother spine surgery back in the US would bankrupt us, and I’m not willing to do that to myself, and especially not to Amelia, at our age.

Medical and dental tourism in Cuenca is rapidly growing in popularity due to the availability of high-quality care at a very affordable price.

Many medical practitioners speak fluent English and most trained in the US, Europe, Argentina or Chile so they’re well-educated and knowledgeable about the current science and procedures.

Most private hospitals and newer public hospitals also have the same modern equipment that you would see anywhere in the US.

If you have chronic health conditions or you’re just getting older, you may appreciate having Cuenca’s high-quality medical care at your fingertips.

Cuenca Has a Large Variety of Delicious Restaurants & Cuisines

Cuenca Has a Large Variety of Delicious Restaurants & CuisinesDining out at restaurants in Cuenca is not only delicious, but varied and affordable.

You can find most cuisines, such as Indian, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, American, Gourmet, Vegetarian, Vegan, and plenty of Ecuadorian.

In addition to serving food that tastes amazing, you’ll also often find yourself taking pictures of the artistic creations put down in front of you because aesthetics are just as important as flavor to many chefs in Cuenca.

You can buy an Ecuadorian lunch, called El Almuerzo, for $1.50 to $3 while most popular expat dinners will cost around $7 to $10 per person.

Coffee & Chocolate in Cuenca Ecuador

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!

Cuenca Has Great Coffee Shops

Cuenca Has Great Coffee ShopsEcuador grows some of the best coffee in the world, and now they’re FINALLY opening coffee shops to serve it.

Gourmet coffee shops are growing in popularity, especially in Cuenca. Goza Espresso Bar is Ecuador’s version of Starbucks and they have several locations in Cuenca with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Café Ñucallacta and Yaw Ecuadorian Café are also tasty coffee shops with good atmospheres and outdoor seating.

If you’re a Starbucks addict, you might be disappointed to learn that it hasn’t made its way to Ecuador, yet. However, you’re sure to enjoy the rich flavors and varied menus at Cuenca’s numerous coffee shops.

No GMO’s in Ecuador

No GMO's in EcuadorGMO (actually, Genetically Engineered) crops are banned in Ecuador, despite heavy pressure from the US to allow them. In fact, GMO’s are specifically 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 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.

Panaderías (Bakeries) in Cuenca Ecuador

Panaderías / Bakeries in CuencaCuenca has a lot of bakeries and bread shops selling everything from simple water bread to delicious sourdough.

Tosta is one of our FAVORITE panaderías in Cuenca. All of their bread has a sourdough base and most of it is whole grain.

It’s Easy to Eat 100% Plant-Based in Cuenca

It's Easy to Be Vegan in CuencaThe mercados are like candy stores for vegans and plant-based eaters! The produce is top quality and delicious, while being extremely affordable.

Cuenca also hosts several vegan and vegetarian restaurants, with most other restaurants having a vegan or vegetarian section on the menu.

Our favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurants are Fratello Vegan, Café Libre, Zatua Miski and Funky Sauce.

Our favorite non-vegan restaurants with vegan options are Paradise Indian Restaurant, Namaste India, Origami Japanese Kitchen and Noe Sushi Bar.

As 100% plant-based eaters, we love the affordable, high quality, non-GMO, delicious fruits and veggies that we get at the mercados in Ecuador. We spend about $20/week on produce here, but back in the states, it was closer to $200/week for lower quality fruits and veggies.

Cuenca Has Several Speciality & Organic Shops

Holistic living is very popular among Ecuadorians, who appreciate the value of non-pharmaceutical options for healthcare needs.

You’ll find plenty of speciality and organic shops in Cuenca selling everything from fair trade chocolate to gluten free flour to CBD oil to cruelty free shampoo.

Cuenca Has Numerous Visa Agents

Cuenca Has Numerous Visa AgentsIf you plan to stay in Ecuador past your 90 tourist visa, you’ll likely need to enlist the help of a qualified visa agent.

While it is possible to get a visa on your own without help, the process has become much more complicated over the years and very nuanced.

The rules and regulations are not clearly defined, so you may get different answers from different government representatives and the success of your application often comes down to the relationships your visa agent has cultivated.

Since Cuenca has one of the largest expat populations in Ecuador, there are also a lot of visa agents to help you navigate the confusing process of getting a temporary resident visa.

For more information about Ecuador visas, check out our article: Ecuador Temporary Resident Visas.

Walkability of Cuenca Ecuador

We don’t have a car and we don’t plan to get one because we walk everywhere.

Cuenca is very walkable and we typically logged at least 10,000 steps per day. When we needed to go a little further, or it was raining, cabs rides were less than $3 to get most places in El Centro from where we lived in El Vergel.

Walkability is certainly one of the Top 10 Things We LOVE About Cuenca Ecuador!

Cuenca Has Excellent Pet Care

Cuenca Has Excellent Pet CareIf you’re planning to take your fur babies with you when you move abroad, Cuenca has a number of English-speaking veterinarians and pet care providers.

You’ll find pet supply stores in most neighborhoods and malls, and you can even take your dog to daycare for a playdate.

Your dog will also enjoy long walks along the linear river parks and in Parque Paraíso. And there are plenty of opportunities to adopt dogs and cats from several different animal rescues in Cuenca.

Check out our recent article, Ecuador Pet Care, Pet Sitting & Pet Food for more on this topic.

The Cost of Living in Cuenca Ecuador

We lived a comfortable, upper-middle-class, gentle-minimalist lifestyle in Cuenca for less than 1/3 of our cost of living back in Denver, CO. The savings allowed us to pay off $60K of debt in three years of living in Ecuador!

Check out our video, Cost of Living in Cuenca Ecuador + Rental House Tour, for more info on our cost of living while we lived there.

The Weather in Cuenca Ecuador

The Weather in Cuenca EcuadorEight months out of the year, the weather in Cuenca is absolutely beautiful. It’s sunny and 70’s (21°C) 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.

The other 4 months are called the wet season, so it rains a lot more from February through May.

Check this article for more: Weather In Ecuador & Best Time to Visit.

Cuenca Is Tranquilo

Living in Cuenca felt like we were on island time!

Friends and family come first in Ecuador. Most people aren’t in a big hurry. And they work to live, they don’t live to work.

It’s a breath of fresh air compared to our former frantic lifestyle back in the States.

Natural Beauty & Diversity in Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca, and the entire country of Ecuador, is home to some of the most beautiful places on this planet.

From deserts to rainforests, and from beaches to mountains, this country has it all.

It’s hard to describe or even show the level of beauty in pictures or videos. You really have to see it for yourself!

The Blue Crew, Now the Green Team

The Blue Crew in CuencaCuenca is one of the cleanest cities we’ve ever seen, and that’s almost entirely due to the blue crew: Cuenca’s street cleaners.

Last time we visited Cuenca, we noticed they are now wearing green uniforms so I guess we should call them the Green Team now.

They work from before sunup to after sundown, 7 days per week to keep the city spotless and we couldn’t be more thankful for them.

Friendly People in Cuenca Ecuador

Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, which makes this number one on our Cuenca Ecuador Pros and Cons list.

Friendly People in CuencaThe Ecuadorians are very proud of their beautiful country and they’re happy to share it with us gringos.

We also have friends from Venezuela, Chile, Germany, Austria, England, Russia, Ukraine and Italy. This is a melting pot and almost everyone seems very happy to be here and commingle.

The friendly man in this picture stopped us on the street to talk to us. He was so proud of his country and told us, “Mi país es su país.” That means my country is your country. We LOVE the people here! They are so nice!

Now let’s move on to the things we don’t like so much…

Major Drawbacks of Living In Cuenca Ecuador

While Cuenca is quite possibly the best expat city in Ecuador, if not the world, it does have a few major drawbacks that may impact your decision to move there.

Altitude Sickness in Cuenca Ecuador

Altitude Sickness in CuencaCuenca sits at 8,400 feet (2.560 meters), which is well over a mile and a half above sea level. That means the air is very thin and the sun is very hot.

After an initial adjustment period of a few days to a week, most people have no long-term effects from the elevation, but others aren’t as fortunate.

Common symptoms of altitude sickness (more aptly named elevation sickness) are dizziness, shortness of breath, skin flushing, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, headaches, forgetfulness, difficulty walking, drowsiness, and/or sleeplessness.

If you have spent time in high-elevation cities without these symptoms, you will likely be just fine in Cuenca.

However, if you’ve never spent time at a high elevation before, you won’t know if it affects you until you get there. If your body doesn’t adjust after a week, you may want to search for a lower-elevation city.

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 as we 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.

Sidewalk Hazards in Cuenca Ecuador

Sidewalk Hazards in CuencaThe 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 occasionally saw people in wheelchairs, the city is not very handicap accessible. That’s something to consider before moving there if you’re physically challenged.

Cool, Cloudy Weather in Cuenca Ecuador

While Cuenca is beautiful 8 months out of the year, the other 4 months are dreary and damp.

Cool, Cloudy Weather in Cuenca EcuadorCuenca sits just to the west of the Amazon jungle so all the moisture that evaporates on the eastern side of Ecuador is condensed into clouds when it hits the high Andes mountain range. Combine that with the high elevation in Cuenca and it’s a recipe for lots of cool, cloudy days.

During the cold/dry season from June through November, you’ll rarely see the sun for more than a few minutes at a time, and often not for days or weeks at a time. During the warmer/wet season from December through May, you’ll ironically get more sun between the rains, but it’s still very cloudy most of the time.

Cuenca is called the land of eternal spring, which elicits images of sunny days and green grass and blooming flowers, but it’s also cool and cloudy during spring, which is a more accurate interpretation of the term.

During the cold months, temperatures can dip below 40°F (4.5°C) at night and rarely go above 70°F (21°C) during the day. Central heating is very rare in Ecuador, so you might need space heaters and warm blankets to stay warm.

During the warm months, daytime temperatures are typically near 80°F (26.5°C) and rarely reach 90°F (32°C). If you’re a fair weather fan, the constant Seattle-like cool, cloudy weather in Cuenca may not be your cup of…coffee.

Too Easy to Speak English (If You Want to Learn Spanish)

While the large number of English-speaking Ecuadorians in Cuenca makes the transition to a new country and culture easier, it can also make it difficult to learn Spanish.

It’s simply too easy to speak English in Cuenca, so you may not feel enough pressure to learn the native language, and many expats don’t.

If your goal is to become fluent in Spanish, you might prefer one of the other popular expat destinations in Ecuador where English is not as common.

Check out our article, Best Cities to Live in Ecuador for Expats to see where other expats choose to live.

The Drivers in Cuenca Ecuador

The Drivers in EcuadorMost of the time, Ecuadorians are the happiest, most tranquilo people you’ll ever meet. But put them behind the wheel of a car and they turn into Freddy Krueger.

You literally take your life into your own hands every time you cross a street. Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here, not even at crosswalks or with green walk signs.

You have to be a very defensive walker!

The Noise in Cuenca Ecuador

As I was writing this sentence, the neighbors car alarm went off just outside our gate. The woman was sitting in the car while the alarm is going off… She finally disarmed it after at least 30 seconds of horn honking and sirens.

The Ecuadorians and Latin Americans in general don’t seem to have the same issues with noise as we do. We’ve actually seen them standing in front of their car having a conversation while the alarm was blasting!

House alarms are also a constant. Loud buses, gas trucks, church bells, fireworks, parties, roosters, barking dogs…you name it, can be heard at all hours of the day and night.

We’ve gotten used to most of it, but the car alarms still grate on our nerves. Everyone has one, but no one pays any attention to them.

Blue Puffer Buses in Cuenca Ecuador

These have mostly been phased out and replaced with low-emission diesel red-and-white buses so they aren’t a big issue anymore.

However, they still exist and the worst part is getting stuck on a narrow street when one of them drives by. It’s impossible to breathe!

Homeless and Underfed Dogs in Ecuador

Homeless and Underfed Dogs in EcuadorWe take this for granted in the US because we have so few stray dogs or unleashed dogs on the streets, but here it’s a totally different environment.

People (mainly macho men) refuse to get their dogs neutered so they procreate like crazy and it’s nearly impossible to keep their population controlled.

Ecuadorians also have a cultural preference for small dogs under 10 pounds, especially under 5 pounds like our little Alicia. That means they love their puppies, but once the puppy grows up, it’s common to kick them out to the street or dump them somewhere else.

The dog rescues like Los Amigos de Manolo are full of big dogs that no one wants; the little ones get adopted almost immediately.

Most of the dogs in Cuenca look healthy, but just outside Cuenca in the surrounding areas, as well as in Quito and on the coast, the dogs look very malnourished. We were told that there’s a common ailment here that causes the dogs to be very skinny. It requires expensive antibiotics to cure, which most people can’t afford.

Lack of Organization and Communication

In Ecuador, 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 for the events we’re looking for.

Cuenca replaced the water lines in our neighborhood so the water was off quite often in our house. Unfortunately, they didn’t communicate the outage schedule so we had no idea when it was going to be off and were unable to make plans for it.

The lack of organization and communication can be very exasperating!

The Drive Through Cajas to Get to Guayaquil

The Drive Through Cajas to Get to GuayaquilIf you fly into Guayaquil on your way to Cuenca, or if you visit the coast from Cuenca, you’ll need to drive through El Cajas National Park.

On your first trip, you’ll be awestruck by the natural beauty. You might even appreciate some new angles and scenery on your second trip. But by the third time driving on the winding mountain two-lane highway and down through the cloud forest with zero visibility heading toward Guayaquil and the coastal region, you’ll be firmly over the 3+ hour commute.

You can fly from Cuenca to Guayaquil, but the flights usually go through Quito so it will take much longer than driving. Plus, flying costs 10 times more than a buseta with Operazuatur, and 20 times more than an interprovincial bus.

There simply is no easy way to get from Cuenca to Guayaquil or the southern Ecuadorian coast without driving through the nausea-inducing Cajas.

This isn’t a deal breaker for most expats, but it is an inconvenience that does get tiresome.

Public Urination in Ecuador

Yes. That’s a thing in Cuenca. And a common one. We rarely went anywhere without seeing someone peeing behind a telephone pole or tree.

We even saw women squatting in plain sight of passersby!

For us overly hygienic Americans, it’s a bit gross and uncomfortable to make eye contact with someone who is peeing in public!

Is Cuenca Ecuador the BEST Expat City?

All things considered, if you don’t have issues with the elevation or the cool, cloudy weather, Cuenca is still the best expat city in Ecuador, especially for new expats.

Cuenca’s modern conveniences, housing, healthcare and services make it an extremely easy place to land and get your feet wet if you’ve never lived abroad before.

After living in Cuenca for over 2 years, we decided to move to the coast, primarily because of my worsening altitude sickness and Amelia’s lack of appreciation for the dreary weather. If Cuenca was 4,000 feet (1.200 meters) lower in elevation and a bit warmer and sunnier, we may have never left.

We have no regrets about living there and we still feel like it is the best expat city in Ecuador, and maybe all of South America.

Watch Our Video About Why Expats LOVE Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Cost of Food in Cuenca Ecuador

This video shows a typical travel day for us. We usually eat breakfast and dinner at our Airbnb, and we eat lunch out at a restaurant. You can find traditional Ecuadorian lunch called “almuerzos” for $1.50 to $4.

When we’re at home, we only eat out once or twice per week (sometimes not at all) so our average food bill runs about $7 to $9 per day per person.

If you eat meat, that will increase your food bill because it’s not subsidized by the government so it’s more expensive here than in countries like the US.

We buy most of our produce at the mercado, which saves us a lot of money. Groceries at Supermaxi and other major grocery stores are more expensive so we try to only buy packaged items there.

We stayed in this Airbnbd during our stay: AirBnB by Parque de la Madre

Watch Our Video About Cost of Food in Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

Download the FREE Live Abroad Checklist

Enter your email address to receive helpful and timely information about living abroad, slow travel, having more freedom, and living life on YOUR terms!

You'll also get immediate access to our FREE Live Abroad Checklist, which will help you get focused and ensure you don't miss anything important as you embark on this amazing life transformation!

 

3 Famous Villages Near Cuenca Ecuador (San Bartolomé, Chordeleg, Gualaceo)

This video shows one of the most popular day trips from Cuenca Ecuador. We visited San Bartolomé, Chordeleg and Gualaceo. Each town has a unique trade that makes them famous throughout Ecuador and South America.

San Bartolomé – Taller Uyaguari Guitar Maker

Chordeleg – Joyeria Puerta del Sol Filigree Jewelry

Gualaceo – Gino Zanetti Shoe Store

Watch Our Video About The 3 Famous Villages

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

Download the FREE Live Abroad Checklist

Enter your email address to receive helpful and timely information about living abroad, slow travel, having more freedom, and living life on YOUR terms!

You'll also get immediate access to our FREE Live Abroad Checklist, which will help you get focused and ensure you don't miss anything important as you embark on this amazing life transformation!

 

Shocking Experience w/ Eye Exam & Glasses in Cuenca Ecuador at SOi Opticas

Our first eye exam and glasses purchase in Cuenca Ecuador was efficient, affordable and enjoyable. (This was NOT a sponsored video; we paid out of pocket and they didn’t know who we were.)

We went to SOi Opticas off Solano near the stadium to make an appointment and they took me right then. The doctor spoke English and had all the modern equipment. In fact, it was even more modern than the equipment I’ve seen in the States. The exam cost $25.

Since my eyes had gotten so much worse, I needed new lenses for my old frames. My eyes have 4 different prescriptions, 2 for distance and 2 for reading, so I got progressive lenses with the anti-reflective coating. The cost was $149 and they were ready in 2 days.

My new glasses cost $123 for the frames + $126 for the lenses without the anti-reflective coating and were ready in 1 business day.

Please tell them you saw our video on YouTube so maybe we’ll get a discount next time. We highly recommend them and will certainly be going there from now on.

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!

Watch Our Video About Getting an Eye Exam in Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Weather In Ecuador & Best Time to Visit

Many of our YouTube Channel viewers are curious about the weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit Ecuador, and what to pack for a visit to Ecuador, so we’ll shed some light on those topics in this article.

Since Ecuador is located on the equator in a tropical region, most people expect it to be hot, wet and humid like the Congo or Indonesia. However, the weather in Ecuador is much more complicated and nuanced than that.

The weather in the Amazon Rainforest that occupies the entire eastern side of Ecuador is much different than the weather in the high Andes mountain range that runs north and south through the center of the country, which is also much different than weather in the Pacific coastal region occupying the western third of Ecuador.

Weather in Ecuador Topographical MapAnd, of course, the Galapagos Islands located about 600 miles (965 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland has its own weather patterns, although similar to the Pacific coastal region.

The weather in Ecuador, the best time to visit and what to pack for your trip depends largely on what part of Ecuador you want to travel to or live in, but before we discuss that, you’ll want to understand how Ecuadorians define the seasons, which may not be what you expect.

Winter vs. Summer in Ecuador

If you’ve been watching our videos for a while, you’ve heard us refer to “the dark days of winter” and “the hot days of summer.” If you’re from the US or Canada, you have a pretty solid understanding of these two seasons: It’s cold in the winter and it’s hot in the summer.

But what if you grow up someplace where the daylight hours are always the same, and the high temperatures between winter and summer vary by less than 10 degrees F (5 C)?

We’ve received numerous comments from Ecuadorians who tell us that we have the seasons backwards. According to our native viewers, winter is from December to May and summer is from June through November. That’s the same as it is in the US and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

However, most of Ecuador is in the southern hemisphere, which defines its winter and summer as the opposite of the northern hemisphere.

For example, winter in Chile and Argentina is from June 21st to September 21st; that’s when it’s cold and it snows. Summer is from December 21st to March 21st; that’s when it’s hot and sunny.

The picture below of Amelia dripping with sweat in her bikini top was taken on February 16, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “winter.”

Winter in Ecuador

Winter in Ecuador

Summer in Ecuador

Summer in Ecuador

The picture of Amelia wearing a jacket during lunch at South Indian Restaurant one block off the beach was taken on August 10, 2020 during what Ecuadorians call “summer.”

The scientific definition of “summer” states that it’s the warmest time of year, while “winter” is defined as the coldest time of year. The hot and cold season may vary by location, but the definition of winter and summer remains the same, at least according to science.

But in Ecuador, winter is defined as the rainy season, even though it’s hot and sunny most of the time, while summer is defined as the dry season, even though it’s cooler and cloudy most of the time.

These definitions of winter and summer may not make sense to us North Americans, but that’s how Ecuadorians define them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do so we will now be referring to the sunny, hot, wet “winter” season as the hot season and the cloudy, cooler, dry “summer” season as the cold season to hopefully minimize confusion with our North American and European viewers who might be planning a trip here.

Weather In Ecuador

Despite the numerous microclimates in Ecuador, for the most part, it’s hot or at least warmer from December through May, and cooler and cloudier from June through November.

It rains more from December through May, but it’s also much sunnier with most of the rain occuring at night or in spurts rather than daily. Ecuador does not have a monsoon season like other tropical regions.

Weather In Cuenca Ecuador (and the Mountains)

Cuenca Ecuador Weather

Moisture evaporates in the Amazon Rainforest and is condensed by the high Andes mountains, which explains why most of the mountain cities such as Cuenca and Quito are often cloudy.

Also, due to the high elevation with Cuenca sitting at 8,400 feet (2.560 meters) and Quito sitting at 9,350 feet (2.850 meters), it’s often much cooler than you might expect from an equatorial region.

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Cuenca, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (64-72°F / 18-22°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (48-52°F / 9-11°C).

These are just averages. It occasionally drops below 40°F (4°C) during the cold season in Cuenca, and above 85°F (29°C) during the hot season.

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (1-5 inches / 20-123 mm). The months with the most rain are March and April, but again, it’s sunnier during those months, too.

Humidity is not very noticeable in Cuenca due to the high elevation, but the UV index is very high so remember your sunscreen, hat and/or umbrella even if you’re just taking a short walk around town.

The lower mountain cities like Vilcabamba are much warmer and drier than Cuenca and Quito, and there are several mountain micro-climates that are very desert-like. However, you can expect similar weather conditions throughout most of the high mountain region of Ecuador.

Weather In Guayaquil Ecuador (and the Coast)

Guayaquil Ecuador Weather

The coastal region of Ecuador also has numerous micro-climates. Driving from Guayaquil west toward the coast and north to Manta, you’ll pass through deserts, jungles and rainforests multiple times. However, the general weather throughout the coastal region is similar to Guayaquil.

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in Guayaquil, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (84-90°F / 29-32°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-75°F / 20-24°C).

Again, these are just averages. It occasionally drops below 60°F (15°C) during the cold season in Guayaquil, and above 95°F (35°C) during the hot season.

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (0-13 inches / 1-332 mm). The months with the most rain are February and March.

It’s also sunnier throughout the year in Guayaquil and much of the coastal region than it is in the mountains with a few micro-climate exceptions.

For instance, due to the low mountain range east of Olón that runs about 20 miles (32 kilometers) along the coast, the towns from Manglaralto north past Ayampe experience more clouds and cooler temperatures from June through November than other areas in the coastal region. Both Manta and Salinas are much sunnier and warmer, similar to Guayaquil.

Humidity varies a lot depending on the weather and the season. During the hot season when it rains more, the humidity is much higher while it tends to be lower during the dry season.

During one of our visits to Guayaquil, it was very dry one day, cloudy and humid the next day, then dry again on the third day. Since much of the coastal region is desert-like, you won’t notice as much humidity as you might expect for a country located in the tropics.

I grew up in eastern Kansas south of Kansas City, spent a lot of time in north-central Texas, and lived in northern Virginia. The humidity in the coastal region of Ecuador is nothing like it is in the eastern and central United States when the air is so thick you can barely breathe.

Weather In Puyo Ecuador (and the Amazon)

The Ecuadorians refer to the Amazon region as El Oriente, which got its name from the original Ecuadorian government in 1861.

The province of El Oriente originally contained the two cantons (counties) of Napo and Canelos, but it was dissolved in 1920 by the local canton governments. However, Ecuadorians still refer to the region as El Oriente.

According to ClimatesToTravel.com, Puyo, Ecuador and the other cities/towns in the Amazon have similar weather throughout the year without many seasonal variations. Puyo sits at 3,300 feet (1.000 meters) above sea level, so it’s a bit cooler than the lower elevation areas in the eastern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

High temperatures in Puyo range from 77-81°F (25-27°C) with low temperatures ranging from 61-63°F (16-17°C). As you might imagine, it rains a lot in the Amazon Rainforest with average monthly rainfall ranging from 12-15 inches (295-390 mm). January and February have the least rainfall on average, with less than 12 inches (300 mm).

With all that rainfall in a tropical rainforest, it’s very hot, wet and humid in El Oriente.

Weather in The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Weather

In the chart above from the World Meteorological Organization showing average weather stats in the Galapagos Islands, the red line indicates the average high temperatures (79-86°F / 26-30°C) while the blue line indicates the average low temperatures (68-73°F / 20-23°C).

The turquoise bars represent average monthly rainfall (.3-4 inches / 8-107 mm). The months with the most rain are January through April, but those are also the warmest months and the best time to visit if you hope to spend time in the water.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Ecuador?

The best time to visit Ecuador in terms of weather is during the sunny season from December through May. This is especially true if you’re planning a beach vacation.

The water temperatures are mostly constant along Ecuador’s coast, ranging from 73°F (23°C) in January up to 79°F (26°C) in May. However, the cooler air temperatures combined with the ocean breeze mean it’s too chilly for most people to swim without a wetsuit during the cold season. You also won’t see enough sun from June through November to get any sort of suntan to show off when you go back home.

If your dream is to walk on miles of empty beach or go whale watching, and you couldn’t care less about swimming or suntanning, visit during the cold season from late June through early October when the Humpback Whales are passing by and the beaches are mostly empty.

Puerto Lopez Whale Watching

If you like crowds and festivities, the best times to visit Ecuador are during the first week of November during Cuenca Days, the week between Christmas and New Years, and Carnival in mid to late February. If you prefer fewer people and cheaper lodging, you might want to avoid those times.

The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is also from December through May when the temperatures are warmer so you don’t get too cold on those amazing boating, snorkeling and diving adventures.

If you’re planning a trip to the Amazon, the time of year doesn’t matter very much since the weather is mostly the same year round.

What to Pack for Your Visit to Ecuador

The type of clothes, accessories and supplies you should pack for your visit to Ecuador depends on the area(s) you plan to visit.

What to Pack for the Mountain Region – Cuenca, Quito, etc.

San Francisco Plaza New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

When you’re packing for your trip to the mountain cities in Ecuador, bring clothes that you can layer. The temperature can vary widely throughout the day in the mountain cities, from 40°F (4°C) when you wake up to 85°F (30°C) by mid-afternoon when the sun is out.

It can also vary widely within the span of an hour, going from sunny and warm to cool and rainy so you always want an umbrella, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water and a small backpack to carry everything. Bring comfortable shoes because Ecuadorian mountain cities are very walkable.

We don’t recommend hiking shoes or boots for the cities because the sidewalks are hard and uneven so the cleats can cause you to trip on things. However, if you plan to visit El Cajas National Park or go hiking in other natural settings, you’ll want a good pair of hikers and maybe walking sticks.

What to Pack for the Ecuador Pacific Coast, Galapagos and Amazon Regions

Guayaquil Ecuador Cerro Santa Ana

In general, you’ll want to pack shorts, sandals, short sleeve shirts, a hat/do-rag, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant and your bathing suits when you visit the warmer regions of Ecuador.

You also may want hiking shoes and pants, as well as a backpack with a camelback for water if you’re planning any jungle hikes.

If you’re planning to visit the coast or the Galapagos during the cooler months from June through November, you may want to bring a mask, snorkeling gear, a lightweight wetsuit for swimming or surfing, a light jacket or windbreaker, and some light pants.

Conclusion

To recap, Ecuadorians call winter “summer” and summer “winter,” but we’re guests in their country so we should use the terms they’ve been taught since childhood.

However, if your goal is to lay on the beach and get a suntan or enjoy water sports, you’ll want to come during “winter,” which is from December through May. If you want to visit when there are fewer tourists and it’s more tranquilo, or you want to go humpback whale watching, the best time to visit is from June through November. The height of whale season is from July through the end of September.

What to pack for your trip to Ecuador depends largely on when you visit and where you visit, but as a general rule, pack layers and bring good shoes because you’ll be walking a lot. But don’t worry too much if you forget something because you can always buy it in Ecuador and help out the local economy.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Watch Our Video About Cuenca Weather and When to Visit

Laugh along w/ us as we celebrate New Years Eve in Cuenca Ecuador

We had such an AMAZING New Year’s Eve with our friends here in Cuenca Ecuador! The India crew was reunited with Paul, Patrick, Abin, Chinnu, Amelia and JP. Chinnu’s nephew Francis also made a brief appearance in the video. We celebrated the 2020 New Year by burning monigotes and partying with all our neighbors in Parque El Vergel.

Last year, the monigotes were sold by the stadium near Supermaxi El Vergel, but this year they were sold on Avenida 1 de Mayo near Tres Puentes. Chinnu’s small monigote cost $3 + $2 for the mask. Our large monigote cost $5 + $2 for the mask. The large fancy monigotes made to look like popular figures cost only $15.

The store where Amelia and Chinnu bought their tiaras is called Duquesa Bisutería Fina. It’s located east of Solano on Avenida 27 de Febrero. They have all sorts of cool costume jewelry. Amelia’s tiara cost $12.80 and Chinuu’s was $14.

Watch Our Video About New Year’s Eve in Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Ecuador Holiday Traditions: Pase del Nino Viajero Christmas Eve Parade Cuenca Ecuador

Feliz Navidad!!! We ventured down to El Centro in Cuenca Ecuador yesterday to watch the annual Christmas Eve Pase del Niño Viajero Parade (Passing of the Traveling Child). We had so much fun watching the dancing and seeing the colors!

In this video, we’ll talk about some of the traditions that you see in the parade, like the cars and horses covered in candy and sweets, and the dancing around the maypole or Baile de Cintas.

And a big thank you to Marcia Torres Guerra, one of our amazing patrons on Patreon who sent us an amazing gift via her sister Maria Lorena from MLT Art! If you would like an awesome gift or heirloom quality art for your home, you can get almost any image carved into wood and hand-painted. ¡Es increíble!

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!

Watch Our Video About Ecuador’s Holiday Traditions

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Dental Tourism in Cuenca Ecuador + the Surprisingly Low Cost of a Crown

After quite an ordeal with a chipped tooth, I’m sporting a brand new crown and the cost will surprise you! That’s why we wanted to share this video about dental tourism in Ecuador. We know people who visit Cuenca and other foreign cities for dental work, and they more than cover the cost of the trip with the savings on procedures.

For all our dental costs, visit our original “Best Dentist In Cuenca” blog post.

You can find Dr. Grace’s contact info on her website: DrGraceOrdonez.com.

Watch Our Video About Dental Tourism in Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Beautiful Spanish Guitar Music from Darío Torres in Cuenca Ecuador + MonoLab Tour

If you enjoy relaxing, beautiful classical Spanish guitar music, you’ll love this video. We were invited to a recording session at MonoLab here in Cuenca Ecuador to film Darío Torres, an amazing local classical Spanish guitarist with international acclaim.

We also had a chance to talk to Patrich Donicht about MonoLab, his new recording studio.

UPDATE: Sadly, Darío passed away suddenly after we filmed this video. Ecuador and the world lost a truly remarkable person.

Darío Torres y La Casa de Guitarra

Darío Torres is a popular classical Spanish guitarist here in Cuenca Ecuador. He has played all over South America and even in Europe. Much of the music he plays is very popular in rural areas of Ecuador, but it has never been recorded before.

That’s the motivation behind Darío’s exciting fundraising project. His goal is to preserve some of the never-before-recorded music from some of Ecuador’s famous classical Spanish guitarists so it doesn’t get lost in time.

Many of the older Ecuadorian musicians cannot read or write music. In an effort to safeguard their art, Darío is writing down their music and recording it for future generations to enjoy.

Patrick Donicht and MonoLab in Cuenca Ecuador

Patrick Donicht MonoLab

Patrick Donicht has been in the recording business for over 40 years. Most of his career was back in the States, but now he’s sharing his expertise in sound with the local musicians of Cuenca, Ecuador at his new recording studio: MonoLab.

The last time we visited MonoLab, it was still under construction. This time, it was finished and ready for recording.

Watch Our Video About the Spanish Guitar Music from Darío Torres in Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Cuenca Ecuador Walking Spanish Lessons

The best way to learn a foreign language is in the real world, and that’s exactly how Walking Spanish Lessons teaches Spanish. Christina, our Spanish tutor, teaches us by walking around Cuenca, sharing stories about Cuenca’s culture and history, and helping us interact with other Spanish speakers.

Watch Our Walking Spanish Lesson in Cuenca, Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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