Cuenca vs Manta: Which is the better place to live?

Johan Klok | Last update: 2022-11-04T01:02:41.621

Environment - Cuenca vs Manta

Cuenca wins here. Noise can be a problem in both cities, but other than in Manta, you won’t suffer from stench and bugs in Cuenca.


Both Cuenca and Manta are Ecuadorian cities, so noise is kind of unavoidable in both cities. However, there are some differences. In Cuenca, roosters, dogs and religious festivities may wake you up, while Manta is more known for people who like to have loud parties. In Manta, you will also experience that people enjoy riding around with their cars and motors. They won’t do that in a quiet way (honking and loud music).

The municipality of Cuenca has a noise ordenance, but that doesn’t mean that the ordenance is enforced.


Cuenca has no noteworthy odor nuisance. Meanwhile, the fish processing industry causes a great stench in some areas in Manta. Most expats live in the area west to the city center and therefore don’t experience this stench.


There are hardly any bugs in Cuenca due to the altitude of the city. Bugs can be a problem in Manta, but only a few expats complain about them. Mosquitoes in Manta can carry the deadly dengue virus.

Ease of traveling to other parts of Ecuador - Cuenca vs Manta

Manta wins here. Both cities offer connections to the rest of the country, but traveling from Cuenca usually takes longer due to the winding roads in the Andes and landslides can cause unexpected delays.

Cuenca is in the middle between the coast and the Amazon. Both regions can be reached within 2 to 3 hours by car or bus. Cuenca's airport is small but modern. From here you can fly to Quito (several flights per day) and Guayaquil (one flight per day). Bus companies offer numerous connections to other cities in Ecuador, but Cuenca’s bus terminal is small and outdated. Landslides can cause severe delays and can be dangerous.

Manta is centrally located in the coastal region, which ensures that you can travel relatively fast to other places on the coast. There are several direct flights per day from the modern Manta Airport to Quito. From Manta’s large and modern bus terminal, you can take buses to almost all parts of Ecuador.

Public transportation - Cuenca vs Manta

Cuenca wins here. Cuenca’s modern tramway and metered taxis make Cuenca a winner here.

Cuenca and Manta both have an extensive network of city buses. Buses in both cities are cheap but that comes at a price: although the buses are not old, they are certainly not modern. In both cities, passengers need to climb on the buses. In Cuenca, you need to pay with a prepaid bus card. In Manta, you need to pay the exact amount of money with cash.

Taxis have similar official prices in both cities, but while the taxis in Cuenca use taximeters, the taxis in Manta don’t. It means that you will need to negotiate the fare before you take a cab in Manta.

Cuenca has a tramline that connects popular neighborhoods like Misicata, Gringolandia and Zona Rosa with the historic city center, the bus terminal, and the airport. On the tramline ride modern trams from France. Trips with the trams are convenient and the trams are well accessible for people in wheelchairs. Pets and bicycles are welcome in the trams.

Healthcare - Cuenca vs Manta

Cuenca wins here. Although IESS offers more capacity and more healthcare options in Manta and nearby Portoviejo than in Cuenca, the private hospitals in Cuenca offer a greater variety of specialized healthcare services.

Public hospitals

The public state hospitals in Ecuador are in a state of financial emergency. This is not different in Cuenca and Manta. Both cities have a public state hospital, and both hospitals are known for their services. Especially Manta’s public hospital is far too small to sufficiently serve the large part of Manta's population that depends on public healthcare.

Cuenca also has a municipal hospital. It's small but modern and offers several specialized services. Expats are also welcome in this hospital.


IESS, Ecuador’s social security system, has two hospitals in Cuenca. One hospital that provides general and specialistic care to its members and a hospital aimed at pregnant women and women with young children. Both hospitals do not function well at this moment. It’s difficult to make appointments and not all medications are available.

Manta has a modern IESS hospital that was built after the 2016 earthquake. IESS also has a large, specialized hospital in nearby Portoviejo (20 minutes by car).

Both IESS hospitals in the Manta region suffer from the same problems as the IESS hospitals in Cuenca, but their capacity is relatively large compared to the capacity that is available in Cuenca.

Private hospitals

Cuenca has several modern, medium-sized private hospitals that have a good reputation. These hospitals benefit from an over 100 years tradition of academic education in the field of medicine in Cuenca.

Manta doesn’t have an tradition of academic education in the field of medicine and private hospitals are relatively new in Manta. They are modern but small and therefore offer a less extensive range of specialized medical services than the private hospitals in Cuenca.

Effects of political instability - Cuenca vs Manta

Manta wins here. Protestors tend to block the access roads to Cuenca.

Politically, Ecuador is an unstable country. In October 2019 and June 2022, the country suffered from nationwide strikes that lasted for several weeks. Ecuador has a history of such strikes, so it's reasonable to expect new strikes in the near future.

During these strikes, Cuenca was isolated from the rest of the country because demonstrators blocked the roads to Cuenca. Most food items were still available during the strikes, but many people ran out of LP gas because the gas trucks could not reach Cuenca.

Manta was much better accessible during the strikes. Megamaxi ran out of stock pretty fast, but LP gas and medical gas stayed widely available.