Living in Cuenca, Ecuador walking the old cobblestone streets, marvelling at the historic Spanish architecture, and the grandeur of Cuenca’s colonial churches, you’ll know that you’re not in Kansas anymore. A lot of retirement destinations tout the fact that they’re just like the United States—that you can settle in to familiar surroundings—but you won’t hear that about Cuenca.
Cuenca In A Nutshell
- It’s a beautiful colonial city in a fascinating and diverse country.
- The cost of living is low, and the cost of properties is near rockbottom in Latin America.
- The health care is high quality, honest, and inexpensive.
- You can enjoy its fresh, spring-like climate 12 months of the year.
- Cuenca’s large and growing expat community is one of Latin America’s most diverse and well-blended.
Cost Of Living In Cuenca
If you’re looking for the world’s best place to retire overseas on a budget—to live better for less—then Cuenca is almost impossible to beat. The cost of living is low, and the cost of properties is near rock-bottom in Latin America. It’s low in an absolute sense and an amazing value for the quality of life that you’ll find here. A couple can live well on around US$1000 per month.
Perhaps the biggest draw to Cuenca has been the cost of living; it’s low in an absolute sense and an amazing value for the quality of life that you can enjoy here.
Eat Well For Less In Cuenca
The US$1 fixed-price lunch is still alive and well in Cuenca (although US$2.50 is more common), and the city is awash with fresh tropical fruits and vegetables on offer for pennies on the dollar. Fresh fish and shrimp arrive daily from the coast, and much of the local poultry is free-range.
A bus trip through the city is a quarter, taxis start at about US$1.50, and if you have a car, gas is only US$1.48 per gallon. You can rent a furnished apartment for US$400 per month, an unfurnished apartment from US$300 per month, or buy a small condo outright for less than US$40,000.
You won’t need to pay use heat or air conditioning in Cuenca, which can go a long way toward keeping your monthly costs low.
The city is very walkable, and has an excellent public transit system, as does all of Ecuador. You can live easily in Cuenca without a car, which saves even more on the monthly budget.
While the cost of living is quite low, it’s not as low as many would have you believe. Claims of “living like a king for US$650 a month” may have been true for Cuenca back in the late-90s, but they’re well outdated today. Those modest budgets serve in small towns like Cotacachi or Vilcabamba (where there’s not much to spend money on) but not in Cuenca, where you enjoy such a selection of city amenities.
What This Means In Real Terms
The bottom line is that you’ll live for less in Cuenca than you will in most any attractive expat destination out there, but if cost of living is your primary concern, you should understand that elsewhere in Ecuador can be cheaper.
To enjoy all that Cuenca has to offer, I’d plan on spending US$1,500 per month per couple if you’re renting and US$1,000 per month if you own your property. You can certainly live for less; but at these levels you’ll be able to make the most of the lifestyle that Cuenca has to offer.
Here is a detailed budget for a couple retiring to Cuenca. Many of the costs are fixed. Rent, HOA fees, Internet, cable, phone, gas, electricity, and household help (if you opt for it) would be the same for a single retiree as they would for a couple. However, other important items could be less. Your monthly food, transportation, and entertainment costs could all be considerably reduced, maybe even cut in half, depending what and how you eat and how often you go out on the town.
Monthly Budget For A Couple Living In Cuenca, Ecuador
Note: Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar.