Cuenca, Ecuador | Overseas Haven Report

A favored destination for English-speaking expatriates, Cuenca is strictly a 21st-century phenomenon. Its infrastructure ranges from modern condominium communities to elegant colonial architecture, springlike weather year-round, and it is relatively easy to get to, especially from the United States…

The city is the perfect size for a lot of people—large enough to have big city amenities and cultural activities but small enough to have a comfortable, homey feel…

Cuenca’s low cost of living allows North Americans to live comfortably on Social Security and pension checks. Plus, an efficient public transportation system, the best drinking water in Latin America, and good health and dental care are some of the benefits of relocating to this city. Ample opportunities for outdoor activities abound, including biking, fishing, and hiking.

This Overseas Haven Report covers Cuenca, Ecuador, a city that offers a cost of living that’s among the lowest in Latin America, a rich quality of life, a thriving expat community, and welcoming locals.

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Most longtime Cuenca expats agree that the city has changed for the better—dramatically in most respects—since the first rush of expats arrived 10 years ago. Although the colonial charm and warmth of the locals remain unchanged, its infrastructure has undergone impressive upgrades and entertainment and dining options are burgeoning.

For two years running, Cuenca has been named the “Best Destination for Short Vacations in South America” by World Travel Awards (WTA).

Unlike many other growing Latin American cities, Cuenca’s historic district remains the city’s downtown. Government offices are located on or near the main square, Parque Calderón. Nearby, three of the city’s largest auditoriums host symphony concerts, operas, and visiting musical and theater acts. The district, also known as El Centro, still remains a major commercial center, with hundreds of mostly small businesses housed in historic buildings.

This is not a city where expats live separately from the local population. You won’t find any gringo-only gated communities or condominium complexes here. Neither will you find many restaurants, bars, and cafés that cater exclusively to foreigners. In Cuenca, you will find an intermingled group of people from all over the world who thrive from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Ecuador remains friendly to foreign residents, with no upcoming changes to visa regulations. Just as important, Ecuador remains a peaceful country where political change comes through a democratic process, not by violence and repression. Cuenca’s expat community should continue to grow and prosper along with the rest of the city.