Cuenca, Ecuador – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Updated in 2022.

Cuenca, Ecuador.

The third largest city in Ecuador.

2500 meters above sea-level (8,200 ft) so altitude sickness can occur. A popular tourist destination, but not as overrun as Cusco, Peru or Boquete, Panama. Although the city may be too small to meet many women on a long timeline, Cuenca is still a beautiful city and is definitely worth a stop!

POPULATION: 500,000

 

IS CUENCA SAFE?

‘Tis pretty safe here in Cuenca. Much safer than Quito or Guayaquil. I’d keep an eye out for thieves though.

Where there’s tourists, there’s ladrones.


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RENT AN APARTMENT IN CUENCA

$500 will allow you comfort. When the gringos rushed in and bought property in Cuenca a few years ago, apartment and house prices were driven quite high.

 

THINGS TO DO IN CUENCA

Walk through the Centro Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit a museum! Cuenca is definitely a good city for museums. Some of the most popular are the Museo Pumapungo (and attached Pumapungo Archaeological Park) and Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes.

Check out the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, a landmark 3-domed cathedral in the historic center. You can even climb the towers to the top!

Rent a bike and cruise along the Rio Tomebamba riverfront.

Climb up the Mirador de Turi, a lookout point with spectacular views over the city. 

 

WHERE TO STAY IN CUENCA

In Cuenca your best best is to stay in the Centro Historico, ideally near the riverfront. Sometimes in Latin America, the centro historico/downtown is a dangerous or ugly place. This is not the case in Cuenca. Cuenca is a safe city and the centro is absolutely stunning. The best area to stay in Cuenca, Ecuador is somewhere south of Parque Calderon and north of the river.

Map of Where to Stay in Cuenca
Map of Where to Stay in Cuenca

 

BEST CAFES AND COWORKING IN CUENCA

Ecuador is a coffee producing country so the coffee is always spectacular. The city of Cuenca has a good cafe culture and there are multiple cafes where you can get wifi and work on your laptop.

My Latin Life recommends:

Selina Cuenca: The Selina has a dedicated coworking space and some of the best wifi in the city.

Rabbit Garden Coffee Shop: Amazing cafe for digital nomads with good local coffee.

Café de Ñucallacta: Highly popular local cafe.

Melatte Cafe & Chocolate: Hipster cafe that allows pets.

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN CUENCA

5/10 

I’ll give it a pass. Cuenca has a modest selection of bars and discos, but they are pretty tame. This is an expat city and not a wild traveler city. The good thing is that it’s considerably safer to hit the town here than it is in other Ecuadorian cities, so you can let your guard down a bit.

My Latin Life recommends:

Selina Cuenca: Selina is always a good time in any city, and Selina Cuenca is no exception. There’s a rooftop terrace that’s popular among locals and travelers.

Bumba Fruits and Beer: Locals hot spot, good looking crowd and good prices on drinks! Right by the river with live DJ. Must check out!

Zoociedad Bar: Right beside Bumba on the river, so if you head over there one should be open and popping.

2 Dos: (Note – is this bar still open in 2022? Let us know)

 

 COST OF LIVING IN CUENCA

The following data is from Expatistan, a crowdsourced database of prices and cost of living around the world. In our experience, the data tends to underestimate cost of living, so take the following as the minimum you might need to live here.

*Figures are listed in USD

You’ll need a minimum of $920 USD/month to live in Cuenca, Ecuador

cost-of-living-cuenca-ecuador

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cuenca is probably my favorite city in Ecuador. Unfortunately, for me, that isn’t saying much. It’s a good size city in the sense that it’s not so big to be overwhelming, but not so small that you can’t stay anonymous. It’s also a reasonably attractive city, with impressive architecture and surrounding natural beauty. Cuenca would be a good place to chill out and live for awhile, but if your looking for vibrant nightlife, you should give it a skip. The city is quite livable, and I can see how it has become such a popular expat destination. 


OVERALL RATING: 6.25/10


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