Add A Global Perspective To Your Retirement!

Cost Of Living In Cuenca, Ecuador

There are many people who describe Cuenca as the cheapest place to live for retirees in the world. Actually I believe you don’t have to be retired to live a good lifestyle here in Cuenca.  

We first came here three years ago and have seen some prices rise.  We re not retired by any means and I am lucky that most of my work is through the Internet. This post is not about tours but what the cost of living is for us in a realistic way.  

RENTALS We own our apartment so we don’t need to pay rent which does make it much easier. BUT rentals here are very affordable.  You can find a very nice 2 or 3 bedroom furnished apartment from around $400 – $800 per month.  This of course depends of your preference of living.  Each person has their own likes and dislikes as to how they wish to live.  You can even find some great unfurnished rentals from $300 per month.  You need to be here though and look through the papers.  Some people don’t necessarily advertise with Realtors.   The best thing to do is like I said, be here on the ground and take a look for yourself. Renting houses here is not as easy as you think and generally most require a minimum of 6 – 12 months.  Also not everyone is pet friendly.   Make sure that you also find out everything that is included in your rental, like are the month apartment fees included.

FOOD Whenever we walk over to the Feria Libre Mercado it takes my breath away.  So many different varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables.  There is an absolute abundance of fresh produce. The Mercado is cheaper than the great Organic market we have and then the Organic market is cheaper than the SuperMaxi supermarket.  Again it is a matter of deciding where it is best for you to do your shopping and which is more convenient for you. This photograph of food on the left including eggs was around $10.  It is hard to see everything but there was quite a lot of fresh produce. The photo on the right was taken at the Feria Libre mercado. I love walking through and smelling the wonderful aroma of different spices and then checking out the fresh produce and also fish.  Saturday early morning is the best time to go and buy seafood as it is the day that they receive it fresh from the coast. What I absolutely love about living here is that we can afford to eat out if we really want to.  We dont live a lavish, extravagant lifestyle and mainly we enjoy my husband’s cooking.  But hey if I want to have lunch with friends here it is no big deal and we can all have turns in choosing an affordable restaurant.  Sometimes when out with a girlfriend we will go and find an out of the way place that we have not been to before and have the “Menu Del Dia” for around $2.25-$3.00.  This includes fresh soup, main meal with either chicken or beef, rice and sometimes a small salad, fresh juice and a desert.  Although not everyone has the desert on the menu. I have a favorite Vegetarian restaurant which is down the road from where we live.  Here you can get the most delicious lunch for $2.25.  It is clean and always busy.

FLOWERS GALORE Back in the days when I had a garden I would enjoy the different seasons when I was able to go and cut fresh flowers.  But I would need to wait for Spring or Summer.  Here in Ecuador as we live on the equator and the sun rises and sets at the same time everyday, there is no season for flowers.  Especially roses.  I love all flowers but I have certainly gone crazy here.  I indulge in buying to fresh bunches of flowers per week.  Generally roses.  The cost is usually about $5.  You can buy bunches of flowers from the Flower Market in the city from as low as $1.  Beautiful arrangements can be bought for $5.  I absolutely love it and I get quite a kick out of buying these beautiful flowers for myself or friends without cringing at the price. I absolutely enjoy that I can fill our apartment each week with whatever flowers catch my eye for the week.

TRANSPORT We do not own a car and after living here full time for two and a half years only seldom miss it.  Maybe because I know the city quite well and can easily jump in a car a go wherever I need to go.  Sometimes I have to explain the the cab drivers which is the best way to go.  Public transport here is very good.  There is a wonderful bus system and you can generally pick up a bus for 25 cents.  Taxi cabs are all over the place.  The prices start from $1.50 and can go up to $3.00.  As a “newbie” you will sometimes get caught in higher prices. Generally we walk everywhere and the weather is mostly quite delightful.  The exercise is fantastic and I always find something new and interesting to see. Even if we decide to go to the coast it is not expensive.  We can take one of the many Mini Vans for $12 per person to Guayaquil and then take one of the luxury coaches to Salinas and Montanita for $5.50 per person.  Traveling time is about 7 – 8 hours. I will post more interesting and affordable places to visit in Cuenca in future posts, but below is a break down of our monthly expenses.

Cost of Living – November 2011 in Cuenca, Ecuador If you are considering renting make sure you add in the price.  As we own our apartment this amount is not featured below.

  • Apartment monthly fee (this is for the upkeep and security of the building plus water and gas usage)   $ 65.00
  • Electricity $ 28.00
  • Telephone – land line  $2.77
  • Cell phone pay as you go      $30.00
  • Internet $56.00
  • Taxis    $20.00
  • Food   (includes roses and cleaning products and we eat home a lot)   $400.00
  • Entertainment  $100.00

Ok well I have upped a few prices life food and entertainment as they looked a little low.  It really depends on what type of lifestyle you live. You may also like to take into account Direct or Cable TV which is around $50 per month.  We have a movie download membership that we use and watch all the latest movies after we have downloaded.  The membership for lifetime as I last looked at it was around $39.  The news we can watch on the internet.  We both walk on our computers and have big screens attached to our laptops.  Then when we want to watch a movie will pull up a chair and plug in the earphones.  Works great for us.

Hot Springs, Massages, Pedicures, Manicures.

Also I have not included day trips to Banos where we sometimes enjoy the hot springs and a massage.  A place we love is Piedre de Agua as we found this one two years ago and had our wedding celebration there.  We know the owners quite well and love to hang out for a few hours.  This one is a little on the expensive side at $10 per person to sit in the hot pools.  There are others that you can go to which are $2 or $5 and there is even a free hot pool further up in the mountains.  A secret place that only a few of us know about. Massages can cost from around $15 – $30 for a full one hour body massage. A Manicure can cost $8-$10.  Also a pedicure is around the same price or sometimes you can get both for $15. A haircut can cost anything from $3-$20 depending on what you want to have done.

The other thing which is absolutely wonderful is that you can go and see regular concerts and exhibits in and around town for FREE.  Sometimes you may be asked to pay $2.50 as an entrance fee.

Coffee Lovers


You can get a great coffee, cappuccino, late, cafe con leche or whatever you desire from around $1-1.50.  One of my favorite coffee deli’s also serves the coffee with a beautiful chocolate.  If you really want to indulge you can have this enormous delicious chocolate brownie which is far to large for me to eat alone.  Love sharing it with a friend.  The cost $1.00

Well these are also just a few of my favorite past times above.  I am sure I have experienced many more things that I thought the prices were amazing.  Stay tuned to find out more in the next post.

Chao for now


Sponsored Link: Cuenca Ecuador real estate and tours are available at Ecuador At Your

44 responses to “Cost Of Living In Cuenca, Ecuador”

  1. Len Bowcott

    I’m literally counting down the days to retirement. The recent economic meltdown hit me hard, but I’m unwilling to postpone my retirement past 60, which is this year. Originally I intended to return to Europe when I retired, Austria specifically, but there’s no way I can do so now. My solution was to find somewhere else that offers a decent standard of living at an affordable price, and Ecuador wins hands down. I know Cuenca offers expats more bang for the buck. but Quito offers so much more in the way of amenities and things to do I’m finding. I’d appreciate feedback if anyone thinks I am making a mistake and should have Cuenca at the top of my relocation possibilities.

  2. jacob

    Good article.
    But I still don’t understand why everybody prefer Cuenca before other ecuadorian cities. Quito got more culture and entertaing offerts. The coastline got nicer weather.

  3. Retire in Ecuador - International Living

    Our readers love everything about Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s one of our top retirement destinations. People find the cost of living inexpensive, the people friendly and the climate superb.

  4. Rick

    Hi Dixie,

    We are currently planning a trip to Cuenca in late October to see if it’s a place we’d want to live.

    My wife has become a golf addict but there seems to be very few golf courses in Ecuador and only one in Cuenca (with no website or photos).

    Can you address the quality and availability of golf courses in the country? Are green fees expensive and are they open to the public or private requiring membership?

    Thanks a bunch

  5. Arian Ward

    Very informative – muchos gracias!

    Like many retirees (and also families with young children), healthcare is a significant concern for me. Yet this and almost all other cost of living reports available online don’t include it in their list of monthly expenses. I wish they would all include the typical cost of expat health insurance + deductibles & co-pays as well as the alternative – pay as you go for each service, with representative costs of common healthcare services. For example: doctor & dental visits & a sampling of some other typical healthcare costs like the one post here about cost of a dental filling, blood tests, colonoscopy, mammogram, or similar common diagnostics and treatments.

    Which brings me to my question: What are typical healthcare costs in Cuenca and if necessary to travel to a larger city like Quito, what would be the costs of the special services you might need there?


  6. Rysiu Mocny

    1000 usd per mont in Ecuador is like here in Canada,,No make sence to move there,,tooo expencive place on Earth,,In Ghana i spend 300 dollars a month

  7. Terry

    HI Dixie,
    Thank you for your timely and relavent article. So many times you see people post about cost of living but its from like 5-10 yrs ago. I have heard that crime i bad in Ceunaca. How about weather. Its elevated correct so is it virtually spring all year around. Are there any towns within 5-10 miles that the housing is even less expensive? Thank you for your response.

  8. Susie

    Could I retire in Cuenca for $1500 USD?

  9. Dixie

    Hola Jim,

    Thanks for sharing your story and I am glad that you enjoyed the article. I think there are a few areas that probably can now be updated, but quite honestly nothing very much has changed. As for the dogs. Come to think of it there are not too many stray dogs in Cuenca. In saying that, there are many more stray dogs in Guayaquil and most certainly in coastal areas.

    You mention that Cuenca reminded you or Ireland. I have found that there are surrounding mountains in and around Cuenca, especially when you drive through to Guayaquil, that remind me the beautiful countryside in Switzerland.

    The people I found are generally wonderful all over the country. Like any place though, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Crime does exist but in compared to what happens in western countries on a daily basis quite small.

    Chao chao

  10. Jim Fitzpatrick

    Great article. Just spent a week in Ecuador with the highlight of the trip being Cuenca. As an Irish expat, it reminded me of Ireland at 8000 ft, only better weather and a LOT cheaper. Beautiful city, impeccably clean. Every amenity that I could wish for to live a quality life. I travelled with my wife and kids (9 and 13) and did not feel unsafe at any time. However, we took the same precautions we take in any location. I did not see any stray dogs (unlike Nicaragua where they were everywhere) and the people were very friendly when approached. This is very high on my list of favorite places and I will certainly return.

  11. Dixie

    Hi Ed,
    The best advice that I think anyone can give you is to travel to Cuenca, Ecuador and spend at least a month or more. You need to see for yourself if it is a place where you wish to retire to. The reason being is that we are all individuals and have different ideas of how we want to live. You would be very comfortable living on $4,000 per month. Please check out the website where you will find heaps of great information. I started a special tour for expats called the “Getting to Know Cuenca Tour” which is designed especially with the newbie in mind. It is a tour which takes you out of the city to the suburbs of where you may want to live. Also shows you the shopping/supermarkets, banking, hospitals and much more. The couple who have taken over my tours have lived in Cuenca for several years and are more than helpful with your needs. I hope this has helped. Chao Dixie

  12. Edward Kehrig

    Thank you for the information. I am 63 and wife 61. I am retired and my wife is a British citizen here as legalized alien. Our income is month to month with no savings. We’re tired of it and would like to move to Cuenca Ecuador. My monthly take home from 2 pensions and social security is $4,000. I can see down the road when our 4K wont keep up with inflation and the cost of living here in the USA. How can we get started in making the transition? Thank you, Ed Kehrig

  13. Dixie

    Hi Helene, How wonderful that you are coming to visit Cuenca. I am also from Dutch heritage. My Mum and sister live in Holland. Anyway of course there are some wonderful people that can take you around Cuenca. If you are looking are exploring Cuenca as a retirement destination then I would suggest you contact Ashley who now does the “Getting to Know Cuenca Tours”. I originally started these tours as I could see there was a demand to show expats what it would really be like to live in Cuenca. So the tour is organised to show you the best areas to live, shopping centres, medical facilities, banking and much more. Then if you have something that you would specifically like to see or do Ashley and Michel can certainly help you out. They have also lived in Cuenca for a few years and I was happy for them to take over the tours.

    Hopefully this will be of some help to you. You can also find more information at Saludos Dixie

  14. Hélène

    Hi Dixie, please let me know visiting Cuenca for a few days, is there someone who can take you around and see the place, so can decide if you like to live there or not. Any problem for visa? We are Dutch! I appreciate your answer. Thanks and regards

  15. Exotic Retirement Destinations for the Frugal American: Living Abroad for Under $1500 | Blog

    […] city of Cuenca, Ecuador is a great place to live for those with limited budgets. Rental properties and apartments can be found for as low as $250 per month.  There is a variety […]

  16. Rich D

    I lived in Ecuador for 15 years and never got mugged. Return to the States and got mugged. So it depends mostly on how you’re watching and being aware of your surroundings.

  17. Becky Gore

    Thanks Dixie for a great post! My husband and I are looking into retiring in Ecuador, more likely Cuenca. Still considering the coast but not as much info published on coastal living or maybe I’m not looking in the right places?! Planning a trip Feb. 2013 to check things out and confirm it will be our new place to start our adventure as a retiree! We won’t be able to retire until 2015 and afraid cost will continue to rise. My wish would be to buy before housing costs go up dramatically but not sure if we can afford that. Renting would be fine with us just so prices don’t increase too bad. Anywasy all info is greatly appreciated

  18. Franny Lochow

    Thanks for this great site! We will be coming to Cuenca in February to check it out.

  19. gary

    I am really confused by some people posting how safe it is in Ecuador and others saying almost everyone is mugged or robbed at some point? Anyone else confused?

  20. Retiring and Living Abroad in Mexico and Central America | The Cheapest Places to Retire

    […] Read more at […]

  21. Steve L

    just got back from almost 3 weeks in Cuenca Ecuador, did not have any problem with crime or for that matter see any criminal activity other than police harassing some younger people for drinking on the streets. there is a stray dog problem in the city which is a problem. As for the city being polluted someone has been misinformed. healthcare is excellent, went to Dentist, where I was surprised to find just as modern equipment as in the states I was in and out in 30 minutes, and the Dentist was very good he filled two teeth at $40. each would have been $200 in states.

  22. Suzan

    I’d like to reply to the questions about crime. As we all know, crime is on the increase everywhere (except perhaps in Cuba where crime is not tolerated at all). So I don’t put much stock in statistics. Also, keep in mind that thanks to computers, it is easy to keep and tally data and statistics these days. So is crime increasing or are we just better at reporting and recording?

    I’d suggest that you really need to visit Cuenca (or anywhere else in the world) before you make a decision about living there. My husband and I have been living outside the US full time for the last decade in Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua — and, except for our unattended car being broken into once in Guadalajara, we have never been the victims of crime OF ANY KIND. We take public transportation, we go out at night and live very normal lives.

    I’ve been to Cuenca several times in the past 10 years and have never been worried about my safety. But you need to got there and see how it feels to you. It’s a good-sized city — of course it will have crime, just like any city in the U.S. does. I currently live in Cotacachi, Ecuador — a very small and very safe town. I can walk anywhere here and night and my neighbors — families with children, young people…are out and about — not a threatening environment. When you are thinking about where to live, use the same common sense you would anywhere in the world.

    Enjoy the experience!

  23. Sonny Jose

    How much does to cost to buy a 2-3BR/2TB house and lot versus a 2BR/2TB condo apt. in Cuenca? Can a foreigner own property in Ecuador like in Panama, free of restrictions? How far is Cuena from the nearest major international airport in Ecuador?

    Please advise.

  24. Carina

    Dear Dixie, first let me congratulate you on the interesting articles that is helping us so much. My husband and I are planning a trip to Ecuador to see if we like it. As part of the process we have been looking into all the legal matters and one of them was how to enter our personal effects into the country only to find out about a new law that will come to light (as per the rumor)in 2 months time stating that no expat is allowed to enter the personal effects from now on. I would be very thankfull if you could confirm this. Thanks a lot. Keep up the GREAT work. Carina

  25. Indy Jones

    Cuenca expat relocation specialist, I used this service in Cuenca and it really expedited all my needs. If your new to Cuenca either staying short term or long term it really behoves you to use this professional bilingual service that guides you in every step of the way. They even help you get settled down in town with your utilities, medical and dental care, rental or RE. investing representing you is their best interest.

  26. Robert

    I think the lack of a reply is deafening. There are too many web sites with articles about the escalating crime rates in Ecuador for there not to be factual statistics vaildating this problem. I have dropped Ecuador as one of the locations I will be considering as a retirement home.

  27. Mike

    A number of posts with concerns and comments stating Cuenca may not be such a great place to live in reality.

    I would like to see Dixie reply to all this and hear why the negative claims are unwarranted or in fact they do exist.

  28. Beata

    Also, what no one mentions is the fact that Cuenca is the most polluted city in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian govenment itself declared it so and the article was published in the largest Ecuadorian newspaper, “El Comerico.” The other thing to keep in mind is the crime rate and the fact that after 7 or 8 p.m. no one is on the streets (except for a few areas in the center of town). Being an animal lover, another thing that I couldn´t stand about Cuenca, and other parts of Ecuador for that matter, was the homeless dog population. It´s just heartbreaking!

    I would much rather pay a lot more to live in a country where I can breathe relatively fresh air, not be concerned about crime, especially being a “gringa,” and be able to walk around at night ALONE without worrying about crime. I know lots of people that live in Cuenca, all Ecuadorians, and lots who have lived there. All are and were very concerned with the crime rate and every single one of them has been robbed or had their home broken into.

    Sometimes a bargain isn´t such a bargain.

  29. Stephen

    I was wondering if you can purchase homes and land in that area?

    I want to start a business when I move and would like to have a house. Is this possible?

  30. Jinty Reid

    I am concerned about crime and health. the USA Government site indicates taxi kidnappings, violent crime are on the increase and a very real concern especially in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. The medical services from the same site state that medical care is poor quality except in the major cities or private hospitals.

  31. Marilyn

    Great article Dixie. I’ve been reading on Ecuador for some time, still haven’t been able to pick a town – just want to be in the mts. for sure. May I ask 3 questions please? Are there country houses for rent outside of Cuenca – at lower rates? Do the mountains around Cuenca turn brown in the dry season, or is it green there all year? What would you say would be the opportunity level for a jazz singer there? Thanks much!

  32. Scott

    I also (refer William 12/16 comment)am interested in knowing about the level of crime in Cuenca as well as the coastal areas. There are many sites on the internet (including government sites) that indicate the crime rate is high and rising, including “express taxi holdups”, muggings, and violent crime, also that most of the judicial and legal system is corrupt. Yet those who seem to say that Ecuador is a great place to live seem reluctant to mention this topic. One person who has spent a good amount of time in Ecuador says that about 1/3 of the people he personally knows who have visited Ecuador have been a victim of thief, or mugged.

    So, just how safe is Ecuador?

  33. Johnny Ramirez

    Hi Dixie, I am 67 and was born in Guayaquil,Ecuador. My wife is from Nicaragua. My plan is to retire in Cuenca in 2015. We already bough an apartment in Cuenca for our retirement. Everytime I read articles like the one you wrote, just make me daydream with my future retirement days in Cuenca. Thank you for posting this Post Card of Cuenca and its cost of living. I hope we can meet in person when we retire and have a cup of coffee. Best regards from Miami.

  34. William

    Dixie great article on Cuenca my wife and I have been looking at Ecuador and following some of the expat boards on the country and have heard a lot about the crime in Ecuador. Your article was very positive but really no negative. What has been your experience with crime and the downside in Cuenca and also when you are traveling around.

  35. Merrall Gillam

    Hello Dixie,

    Everything I ever read about Cuenca always seems to centre on cost, eating, and climate. Nobody every says anything about swimming – the reason why it is so appealing to retire near the sea, and a negative factor about retiring in a non-sea location. I wonder if there is anywhere to swim in Cuenca. I know that there are four rivers flowing through (joining?), but it seems to me that the water might be cold – seeing that Cuenca is up high. So where can one swim?

  36. Gail

    Just the coffee photos have convinced me!

  37. Gail Moore

    Love this article. We are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Cuenca, sight unseen. I know we must be crazy, but we don’t have a lot of travel money, just Social Security. Cuenca is looking better every day. Dixie, you are really doing your job. What are the high and low temperatures in Cuenca throughout the year? You’re a gold mine, Dixie.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.