Cost of living in Cuenca, Ecuador

Exactly How Much Does It Cost To Live In Cuenca, Ecuador, Today?

For years we’ve been suggesting that Cuenca, Ecuador, is the most affordable place you’d want to retire in Latin America. Other places can be cheaper, including other places in Ecuador, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better lifestyle for the money.

However, the truth is, Cuenca is no longer as affordable a place to live as it once was. The cost of living in this colonial city has increased over the past near-decade we’ve been recommending it (as the cost of living has increased most everywhere on the planet over the past 10 years). In the case of Cuenca, our man on the ground David Morrill reports an average inflation rate during this period of about 3% per year.

So…what does it cost to retire to Cuenca today?

A couple could live in Cuenca comfortably on about US$1,220 per month if you are renting…or about US$900 per month if you own your own home.

Following is how a monthly renter’s budget could be broken down (all prices in U.S. dollars). Keep in mind that this is what I’d call a “starter budget”…and that your budget will be different, maybe dramatically so. Your budget could include line items not listed here (for example, twice-annual trips to the United States), or you could decide to delete line items that don’t apply to your lifestyle (for example, cable TV or household help).

The rental I’m using as an example here is an actual apartment in a modern building. It’s on the fourth floor, so you have a view of Cuenca’s downtown and the mountains ringing the city in the distance.

But you could live for less, if so inclined. To cut costs further, you could rent a “local”-style apartment for about US$180 per month, with no HOA fees. This would get you about 60 square meters in an older building with no doorman or garage.

Or, of course, you could spend more on rent if you wanted and your budget allowed.

That’s if you plan to rent. If you intend to invest in a home of your own, you could budget as little as US$900 per month for other expenses. Here is my starter budget for a couple of homeowners in Cuenca:

Public transportation is great in Cuenca, both within the city and among nearby cities. You can get around easily by bus or taxi, both of which are plentiful and inexpensive, meaning that owning a car is an unnecessary expense and, in fact, a burden for most people living here. Rental cars are easily available when you’re ready to explore farther afield.

That said, if you decide to invest in a car, here’s a starter budget for that:

If I were to add a small luxury to my starter budgets, it’d be US$100 or so per month for in-country exploration. Ecuador is a beautiful and diverse country. Living here, you’d want to get out and about to see as much of it as possible, I’d think.

Remember, Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar. So, while the dollar’s decline has caused expats’ costs of living in some countries to rise, this is not the case in this country (and won’t be as long as Ecuador continues with the dollar).

Kathleen Peddicord

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