We visited Quito and Cuenca Ecuador after Peru. Our trip planning wasn’t the best in that we had to pay the flight premium for going back north.
This happened as we'd spent longer than planned in Costa Rica with our Spanish lessons and the date for the Inca Trail had been fixed months before.
The cost of flights in South America if you cross borders is ridiculously high. The best solution is to take a bus over the border and then take an internal flight. For example when travelling from Ecuador back to Peru we took a bus from Vilcabamba to Piura and then a flight from Piura to Lima. The cost of a direct flight from Cuenca to Lima was over USD350.
We took a shuttle from Cuenca to Vilcabamba (another very liveable town) for USD15 and stayed there a few days. It was then an hour’s ride by taxi from Vilcabamba to Loja USD20, the bus from Loja to Piura was USD14 (8 hours including the border crossing) and the internal flight from Piura to Lima $60.
The saving was about USD250. It takes a little longer but we also visited a few extra places!
Cuenca was the one city we could have quite easily stopped at to live.
Good things about Cuenca Ecuador
Not in any order or importance but just a great package.
- Pavements – generally exist and are in a good condition
- Cycle tracks – also great for walking and running.
- Clean fast flowing rivers.
- Lifestyle is measured … laidback!
- Paths and many parks – all well maintained and well used.
- The old town is full of beautiful buildings
- Clean - no garbage
- Apart from in the centre of the old town there is not too much traffic.
- Weather perfect – although while we were there they had the wettest period in years the rain was very predictable and the temperatures mild to a bit chilly at night.
- Good vibe – the people are friendly
- Not too crowded
- Got everything you need
- Interesting variety of food and reasonably priced – wide range of delicious and cheap market food. An almuerzo (fixed limited menu) lunch of a soup, choice of chicken, fish or meat with rice and some vegetables or salad, a mouthful of desert and a juice is between USD2.50 and USD4.00,
- Many free and very cheap things like the orchestra, exercise in the park, outings,
- Many expats
- Reasonably cheap cost of living. Excellent benefits for over 65’s like 50% discount on all flights (any airlines anywhere). In addition there are many other benefits and discounts.
- Good public transport - taxis and buses.
- Majestic mountains surrounding the city range of colors.
- Many safe hiking trails.
- There is an interesting mix of indigenous and western culture.
- Clean fresh air
Not such good things about Cuenca Ecuador
- Weather can be a bit like London … this was not ideal for Carol!
- Bus fumes on some roads.
- Dog poo on the pavements!
- Too many expats!
- Outside town there are sections of the roads that have washed away and need to be negotiated very slowly.
It would a reasonable competence in Spanish to really get involved and enjoy all the community has to offer. There are many Spanish schools and support groups catering for that need.
So that’s it. Lots going for Cuenca Ecuador and plenty of reasons why it’s considered one of the world’s ideal “retirement” destinations.