Cuenca and Around

Cuenca

Author: Johan Klok | Last update: November 17, 2021

See & Do

Museums

Cuenca with Children

Events, Holidays & Celebrations

Christmas lights

From early December to early January, the city is lit up with Christmas lights. Places not to be missed are the Tomebamba River and the Plaza Otorongo.

Christmas parade (December 24)

The Christmas parade is a kilometre-long parade of wagons with children.

Climate & Environment

Weather

See Weather Underground for actual weather conditions in Cuenca.

Air pollution

With the arrival of new city buses, the air pollution in Cuenca has decreased considerably.

See The World Air Quality Project for real-time information about the air quality in Cuenca.

History & Society

History

History of Cuenca: an overview

Entertainment & Nightlife

Movie theaters

Cuenca has several Multicines movie theaters. You can use the mobile app to see when movies are shown in English.

Shops & Markets

Sourvenirs and artworks

Accommodations

Expats

Meeting expats

There are various expat hangouts in Cuenca. See Where to meet expats in Cuenca for a list of places.

Utilities

Electricity

Electricity is provided by Centro Sur. Failures and interruptions are rare.

Water

Cuenca is one of the few cities in Ecuador where it is safe to drink water straight from the faucet. The mountains of the El Cajas National Park are Cuenca’s primary water source. It’s said to be the best water in South America. ETAPA is the water provider.

Internet

Puntonet

Money

Withdrawing money from abroad

To withdraw money from abroad, it's best to use the ATMs of the banks below. These ATMs are reliable, and they won't overcharge you:

Exchanging money

Exchanging euros to dollars or dollars to euros is possible at the city center branches of Banco del Austro and Banco Guayaquil. You will be asked to show your passport. Exchanging money is also possible at Delgaldo Travel, but this company usually offers more expensive exchange rates than Banco del Austro and Banco Guayaquil.

Security & Safety

Crime

In general, Cuenca is a safe city.

Cuenca has a low homicide rate: 3.1 homicides per 100,000 habitants in 2018. Most homicides take place in the relational atmosphere or between criminals.

Expats and tourists have a higher risk of being victims of opportunistic petty theft and pickpocketing, although the risk is much lower than in Guayaquil and Quito.

To prevent being a victim of robberies, we recommend to avoid the following places as soon as it starts to get dark:

  • the parks along the rivers
  • the area north of the bus terminal
  • the area between the bus terminal and the city center (especially the so-called Chola Cuencana area)
  • Mercado 9 de Octubre and surroundings

After 9 PM, we also recommend avoiding the eastern part of the city center and streets in the rest of the city center that are poorly lit or have little traffic.

Floods

Four rivers cross Cuenca. These rivers can cause floods in certain areas. See Cuenca needs to update its flood risk map for more information.

Health & Medical

For the availability of healthcare, Cuenca is best comparable to provincial cities in developed countries. Most treatments are available in Cuenca. Guayaquil and Quito are alternatives if treatment is not available.

Hospitals

Hospital Universitario del Río, Hospital Monte Sinai, and Hospital Santa Inés are the three most prominent private hospitals in Cuenca. These are modern hospitals, and many of their doctors have studied and worked abroad.

Hospital Regional Vicente Corral Moscoso is Cuenca’s public hospital. Most treatments in this hospital are free, but the hospital is very basic. There are long waiting lines, and it often happens that doctors do not keep their appointments.

Hospital José Carrasco Artega (IESS) is the local hospital of Ecuador’s social security system (IESS). In this hospital, you will only be admitted as a patient if you are a member of IESS. Appointments can be made online on the IESS website.

Cuenca also has several specialized hospitals. The most famous of these is SOLCA Cancer Institute Cuenca, a hospital specialized in the treatment of cancers.

Pharmacies

There are many pharmacies in Cuenca that sell the most regular medicines. The pharmacies of the Hospital Universitario del Río and Hospital Monte Sinai have the most extensive stock of medicines but are about 10 to 15% more expensive than other pharmacies. The cheapest pharmacies are the Farmasol pharmacies, which are owned by the municipality of Cuenca. Most pharmacies close their doors at 8 or 9 PM. If you need to buy medication at night, you can go to Farmacia Bravo and the pharmacy in the Hospital Santa Inés. These pharmacies are open 24 hours per day.

Laboratories

How to travel to Cuenca

Road closures

Sometimes roads to Cuenca are closed because of traffic accidents, landslides, or floods. See the Twitter page ECU 911 Austro to see whether a road is open or not.

Airport and bus terminal

Cuenca has its own airport with flights from Quito. Buses arrive at the bus terminal.

From Guayaquil

See How to travel from Guayaquil to Cuenca for all options.

From Loja and Vilcabamba

EcuavanTur and Elite Tours offer van services from Loja to Cuenca.

Buses to Cuenca depart from the Reina del Cisne bus termina in Loja. The companies that offer bus services to Cuenca are Cooperativa de Transportes Loja ($7.50 (2021)), Ejecutivo San Luis, and Viajeros Internacional.

If you depart from Vilcabamba, you first have to take a taxi to Loja.

From Manta

Flota Imbabura operates a daily nightbus between Manta and Cuenca.

From Montañita and Olón

CLP operates direct buses between Montañita and Cuenca ($16).

From Salinas, Ballenita, Santa Elena

CLP operates direct buses between the Santa Elena Bus Terminal in Santa Elena and the Cuenca Bus Terminal in Cuenca ($14).

How to get around Cuenca

Taxis

Taxis in Cuenca use taximeters. The meter should start at $ 0.55. For every kilometer during the day, $ 0.29 will be added. In the evenings and at night, $ 0.39 will be added for every kilometer. The minimal prices are $ 1,39 during the day and $ 1.67 in the evenings and at night.

Like in the rest of Ecuador, you can wave your hand to stop a taxi, but it's also possible to order a taxi with an app on your mobile phone. To request a taxi, you can use two apps on your mobile phone: AzuTaxi and CuencaTaxi. The best app to use is AzuTaxi. The app CuencaTaxi is less user-friendly. Uber isn't available in Cuenca.

Driving a vehicle

See this article for speed cameras: Speed cameras in Cuenca.

Job Opportunities & Volunteer Work

Volunteer work

There are many ways to do volunteer work in Cuenca. Some well-known organizations involving expats are:

Sports & Leisure

Golf

The Cuenca Tenis & Golf Club has a private golf course.This is the only golf course in this part of the country.

Swimming

The Piscina Olímpica is a municipal swimming pool that is part of the Coliseo Jefferson Perez Quezada sports complex. The swimming pool of the Universidad de Cuenca also has a swimming pool that publicly accessible. Sports center Hermanos Enderica Salgado and the Cuenca Tenis & Golf Club also have swimming pools.

Parks

Reading

The Abraham Lincoln Center has a small library where you can lend English books.

Tennis

Sports complex Coliseo Jefferson Perez Quezada has public tennis courts that can be rented. The Cuenca Tenis & Golf Club has tennis courts as well.

Government

Alternatives & Comparisons

Most expats live happily in Cuenca, but it's too cold for some, or they suffer from altitude sickness. In both cases, there are some nearby villages and towns to enjoy a warmer and sunnier climate. Most of them are located at a lower altitude.

Challuabamba is a village about 9 km east of Cuenca that is sunnier and slightly warmer than Cuenca. It's also a more affluent area than most parts of Cuenca.

Paute is a small town about 35 km east of Cuenca. It's well known for its flower cultivation.

The small town of Gualaceo is about 30 km east of Cuenca. Its nickname is Jardín del Azuay (garden of Azuay), because of the many fruits that are cultivated here.

About 60 km south of Cuenca is the Yunguilla Valley. This area has a substantially lower elevation and is always a few degrees warmer than Cuenca. It's also sunnier. Some people from Cuenca have second homes here to spend the weekends.