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El Puente Roto (Broken Bridge) in Cuenca, Ecuador

Moving to Cuenca, Ecuador

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 06, 2023

Summary: Expats move to Cuenca, Ecuador for its temperate climate, low cost of living, and vibrant culture. The city is known for its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and picturesque mountain views. Cuenca also offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to rafting and kayaking. Additionally, the city is home to a large expat community, making it easy for newcomers to make friends and find support.

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What do I need to know before moving to Cuenca?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Cuenca, they said:

"Cuenca is a beautiful and unique city with many attractions and amenities to offer. It is important to be aware of the cultural norms and the climate before moving to Cuenca. The Ecuadorian people are very welcoming and friendly; however, language can be a barrier and it is best to learn some Spanish beforehand. The climate in Cuenca is temperate year-round, with temperatures typically ranging from 60-75°F. Since the city is located at 8,500 feet above sea level, the air is clean and dry. Expats should also research the cost of living in Cuenca, as it tends to be lower than what expats might be used to in the states. Finally, expats should plan ahead and make sure they have all their paperwork and visas in order before making the move," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador, Ecuador.

"Cuenca is a great place for expats to live and work. Before moving, it is important to understand the local culture and how it differs from where you are moving from. It is also beneficial to learn some Spanish in order to better communicate with the locals. Cuenca is also home to a wide variety of outdoor activities, so it can be beneficial to bring outdoor gear and warm clothing if you plan to take advantage of them. In terms of budgeting, it is important to note that Cuenca is generally more affordable than many other cities. Lastly, it is recommended to arrange for a place to stay during your first few days in the city, as this can help make the transition easier," said another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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How do I find a place to live in Cuenca?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"One way to find a place to live in Cuenca is to look through online listings. Some popular sites include local classifieds, such as Encuentra24, and global rental sites like idealista and craigslist. Additionally, you can find locals willing to rent out apartments on Facebook Marketplace and Instagram. If you prefer a more traditional approach, you can ask friends or family if they know of any vacancies, or if they know someone else who is. Lastly, you can search in person by canvassing certain neighborhoods or checking out "se renta" (for rent) signs posted around the city," added another expat who made the move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"Because my Spanish was limited when I arrived I found someone who had helped people in her church find an apartment. We looked at many. Some were terrible and some were ok and by the seventh day, I found the perfect place. She was most helpful and she kept telling me to speak Spanish which was not really easy but I did it anyway," explained one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Cuenca?

"A typical expat home or apartment in Cuenca, is typically modern and comfortable. Most expat homes and apartments feature amenities such as high-speed internet, flat-screen TVs, and air conditioning. The interiors are usually spacious, with plenty of natural light due to the abundance of large windows and balconies that overlook the surrounding city. Most of the properties feature modern kitchens, with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Many are equipped with plenty of storage closets and bathroom amenities, such as a tub, shower, and washer/dryer," said another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"I would not say it is not typical. Most expats decide to live in an apartment or penthouse in a primarily English speaking neighborhood with more upscale restaurants. Others will live closer to downtown as it is less expensive. I chose to live in a Spanish speaking neighborhood by one of the rivers and across from the park. The birds sing every morning," added another expat who made the move to Cuenca.

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What is the average cost of housing in Cuenca?

If you are thinking about moving to Cuenca, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Cuenca varies depending on the size, location, and condition of the property. Generally speaking, monthly rents for one-bedroom apartments within city limits average around $200 - $450, while monthly rents for two or three-bedroom apartments within city limits average around $300 - $800. Long-term rentals for a house with three or more bedrooms in Cuenca usually start at around $450 - $800 per month," commented one expat who made the move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"The average cost of housing in Cuenca is relatively affordable compared to other expat cities in Latin America. Prices for apartments and homes in the city can range from around $400 to up to $1500 per month, depending on location and amenities," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador, Ecuador.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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Should I buy or rent a home in Cuenca?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Cuenca, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"Deciding to buy or rent a home in Cuenca ultimately comes down to individual circumstances and preference. If you are planning to stay in the area for an extended period of time, it may make more sense to purchase a property, as the process of purchasing property can be a more attractive long-term financial solution. However, if you are intending to stay for a short duration, you may prefer the flexibility of renting a property. Ultimately, whether to buy or rent a home in Cuenca, Ecuador is a personal decision," commented one expat who made the move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"When deciding whether to buy or rent a home in Cuenca, you should consider your financial and lifestyle needs. If you need stability, purchasing a house may be the preferable option, as it allows you to build equity and ensures you won't have to worry about rent increases or leases suddenly ending. Conversely, if you don't want to commit to a long-term mortgage and need more flexibility, renting a home may be the better choice. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your individual needs, so be sure to do your research and think carefully before making your decision," remarked another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador, Ecuador.

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What should I pack when moving to Cuenca?

We asked people living in Cuenca to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Since Cuenca experiences a subtropical highland climate, it is important to bring items for both hot and cold temperatures. Bring plenty of lightweight layers and items made of natural fabrics like cotton and wool since synthetic fabrics can be uncomfortable in the warm weather. Also, don't forget to pack rain gear and a pair of waterproof boots since it rains frequently in Cuenca. Additionally, be sure to bring a charger and adapter for all your electronic items since the voltage in Ecuador is different from other countries. Finally, don't forget to bring any necessary items related to your lifestyle, as well as a few favorite items from home to make your transition easier," remarked another expat who made the move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

"The very first thing I thought about that I was missing was a good all natural soap for my skin. Until I found out the pharmacies have good soap at a reasonable price I was shopping in grocery stores. Also, I needed a good water bottle that was NOT plastic. Much of what is in Ecuador is plastic and it is not the good kind. On my last trip to the US I brought an aluminum bottle with me. Glass is heavy to carry around. Lastly, I would have brought more warm sweaters. It does not get usually very cold here but the past winter has been really chilly and my plants are my weather forecasters. They let me know right away....Too Cold," explained one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Cuenca?

We asked people in Cuenca if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"It is important to respect local customs and traditions when visiting Cuenca. One should avoid dressing in clothing that is considered immodest, such as showing too much skin or wearing revealing clothes in public. It is also important to be mindful of local gender roles and greet people in ways that are appropriate to their gender. Another cultural faux pas to avoid is speaking too loudly or discussing sensitive topics in public. Furthermore, it is important to show respect for the elderly and to be mindful of local religious holidays and customs," explained one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador, Ecuador.

"It is important to show respect for cultural practices in Cuenca. One should not display any intimate behaviour in public, as this is still frowned upon in many parts of the country. It is important to recognize the exceptional beauty of local art and architecture and be careful not to litter or graffiti in public places. Although Ecuador has quite a relaxed attitude to time, it is polite to arrive on time for social events and business meetings. Additionally, when speaking to locals, it is wise to avoid giving unsolicited advice, speaking overly loudly, or displaying too much familiarity," said another expat in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

El Puente Roto (Broken Bridge) in Cuenca, Ecuador

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