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Expat Guide to Living in Cuenca, Ecuador

Looking for a quick yet comprehensive guide to living in Cuenca? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s our long-awaited expat guide to living in one of the best cities in Latin America.

The American Dream Outside North America

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

— Adam Truslow

It’s a common misconception among many that you can only achieve the American Dream in North American soil when in fact, you can live it beyond its territory. With the high quality of life it offers, Cuenca is a perfect candidate for all those who want to pursue the American dream for considerably less.

Cost of living
Cuenca is popular among expats and retirees for its low cost of living. Although this has slowly increased over the past years, cost of living in the city is still inexpensive compared to any North American city of the same size.

You can live large and rent a luxury rental for about $650 to $900 a month, depending on the utilities and fees included. If you’re thinking of purchasing real estate, you can get a decent home located near the historic district for $150,000 to $200,000.

If you’re the type of person who loves to eat out, Cuenca is a haven for foodies. For about $30, you can get a nice meal at a first-rate restaurant in the city. Shopping for groceries can also cost much less in Cuenca than in North America — you can fill your cart with fresh seafood, vegetables, and grass-fed beef without having to spend more than $300 a month. You can get the same foodstuff and more will cost you less if you shop at the local market.

Education is also quite cheap in Cuenca. If you’re looking to brush up your Spanish language skills, you can easily sign up for a class at one of the local schools or even universities without having to spend much. Best of all, you can feel the low cost of living through the premium healthcare you can avail in Cuenca. Top-notch medical facilities are scattered throughout the city, and medicine can cost only a fraction of North American prices.

Getting around
Cuenca’s lovely cobblestone streets and great buildings make it a highly walkable city, so don a comfortable pair of walking shoes because you’ll do plenty of that. If you’re not much of a walker but would like to get fit in the city, you can buy a bike. Expect a bumpier ride, however.

Taxis are also plenty in Cuenca and are inexpensive. They can take you to your desired destination, near or far (as long as they agree to take you there). Note, however, that taxis in Cuenca operate on a fixed-rate basis. Prepare to haggle. This article by Gringos Abroad can be of help.

If you’re planning on traveling to the outer areas of Cuenca, you can take local buses. Head to the main bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre in Avenida España, should you wish to take this option. Know more about Cuenca city buses here.

Food and water
Ecuadorian food is of course served in restaurants in Cuenca. If you’re an avid cook, the city has plenty of supermarkets and farmer’s markets where you can find fresh produce and meat affordably.

Tap water in Cuenca is potable, but if you want to be extra safe, you can take additional precautions such as adding filters or boiling water to drink. Furthermore, tap water in the city is cheap. If, however, you’re not too keen on drinking tap water, bottled water is readily available in Cuenca. For more information, check out this link:

Foreign embassies and consulates
Majority of foreign embassies and consulates are located in Quito, the Ecuadorian capital. There are several consulates in Cuenca, however, including:

  • Brazilian Honorary Consulate
    Gil Ramirez Dávalos
    1434 y Turuguaico
Edif. Motricentro, Piso 2
  • Chilean Honorary Consulate

    Calle Borrero 858 entre Simon Bolivar y Mariscal Sucre
  • El Salvadoran Honorary Consulate
    Los Nogales entre Ordoñez Lazo y 3 de Noviembre
    Edif. Buendos Aires, Dep. 3a
  • French Honorary Consulate

    Gran Colombia 661
Edif. Gran Colombia Mezanine
  • German Honorary Consulate

    c/o Transoceánica Cia. Ltda.
    Bolivar 9 – 18 y Benigno Malo
    Casilla 01.01.0026
  • Spanish Honorary Consulate
    Gran Colombia 7-87 y Luis Cordero
    Torre de Negocios El Dorado, 4th floor
  • British Honorary Consulate


Immigration and visas
To visit or live in Cuenca, you must obtain an Ecuadorian visa through a relatively fast and simple process. You can opt for the resident or immigrant visa or the non-resident visa. 

A non-resident visa is recommended if you’re staying in Ecuador for less than or for 90 days. If you wish to stay in Ecuador for longer but have no plans of immigrating, you may obtain one of the following visas, depending on your reason for visiting:

  • Student visa
  • Professional, Technical, Consultant, or Official Government Visas
  • Religious and Volunteer Visas
  • Cultural Exchange Visas

Meanwhile, a resident or immigration visa is recommended if you wish to become a permanent resident of the country. Applications for this visa are subject to scrutiny by the Immigration Board of Ecuador. 

For more information about immigration and visas to Ecuador, check out this article.

Medical services
One of Cuenca’s biggest draws is its outstanding healthcare services. The city has over 10 hospitals throughout town, and some of the best medical professionals in the country serve Cuenca. Aside from quality healthcare and medical facilities, costs of healthcare in Cuenca also rank as the lowest among Ecuador’s three major cities (the other two being Quito and Guayaquil).

For more information about health care and health insurance in Cuenca and the rest of Ecuador, check out this article by You can also check out LIVETHELIFE’s short expat guide to living in Ecuador. In fact, we have a ton of resources that will help you relocate to this beautiful country.

If you’ve any questions or clarifications, don’t hesitate to contact us today. See you in paradise!