How to Find Long Term Rentals in Cuenca Ecuador

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Judging from the popularity of our article about our first furnished apartment in El Centro, a whole lot of people must be considering a move to South America.

If you’re one of them but have no idea how to find long term rentals in Cuenca, Ecuador, this article is for you.

blue domes of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Cuenca. Apartments for rent are nearby

A reader asked:

Hi Dan & Linda,

I came across your blog while researching on furnished apartments in Cuenca as I am planning to make a trip to Cuenca in coming fall and stay there for 2 or 3 months. I love travelling and whenever possible I try to live for a few months in different parts of the world.

I don’t know where you are now but I am wondering if you could guide me with a little help on how to find and rent a furnished apartment in Cuenca. I can see that you found your furnished apartment in Cuenca with a help from a local realtor. Would you be able to give me how I can reach him once I am in Cuenca? Does he speak good English? Are those furnished apartments offered for short terms such as 2 months? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Andy

Certainly Andy isn’t the first person to ask us for more information. So I guess it would be good to actually explain how we managed to do it … as a public service. 🙂

WAIT – we’re happy to help, but we are NOT real estate agents!

Overlooking Cuenca, Ecuador

We’ll share what we can, but please understand that we don’t have all the answers. The best we can do is to share what we’ve learned and tell you what we did in this article. Hopefully, this page will give you some direction as you begin your search to find a place to live in Cuenca.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

OK, enough about that. If you want to find monthly rentals in Cuenca, here are some useful tips to help you find a place.

Don’t make your trip a chore.

If you’re going to do a preliminary trip to make all your arrangements, PLEASE don’t spend all your time looking for a place to live. Have some fun, too.

Take some time to explore while you’re in town. Walk around El Centro and absorb the vibe. Stop for ice cream at Tutto Freddo on the edge of Parque Calderón. Rent a car for a day or two and drive around the neighborhoods. Hire a local to take you on a guided tour of Cuenca to see the city’s highlights.

The point is that you shouldn’t spend all your time searching for apartments. A little relaxation will give you a clearer perspective.

Another thing: If you’re going to relocate here, you should also spend a few days touring Ecuador to get a clearer idea of what the country is like. Who knows, you might find another location you like even more!

Plus, you’ll fly home with some wonderful photos and stories to share. Why not show everyone what your future home is like? If nothing else, it’ll make your friends jealous!

How much should an apartment cost?

window of an apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador

First lesson on living in Cuenca: Cuencanos aren’t stupid. They know that Norte Americanos have more disposable income that they do. Therefore, they reason, it is perfectly fair to charge more to gringos (that’s us) than to locals.

What that means to you is that if you see an apartment advertised in English, they’re charging gringo prices for the place. Guaranteed. The flip side of that is they also know that gringos are usually more selective. The apartment may be in better condition, in a better area, and/or have more amenities.

ⓘ TIP:  The more you search, the better idea you’ll have of what reasonable rental prices should be in Cuenca.

Where to stay in Cuenca during your apartment search

Church at the end of a street in Cuenca, Ecuador
Living among Cuencanos can be a great experience!

If you don’t have friends waiting for you in Cuenca, book a hotel or short-term rental until you find the perfect place to hang your hat.

When we first moved to Panama City (Panama), we spent a week in a hotel to start with. During that time, we looked for a short-term rental. More expensive? Maybe. But we considered it money well spent because renting for only 3 months helped us avoid being tied into a long-term contract in an undesirable area.

That said, that’s no guarantee. We moved to a short-term rental on Via Israel, only to discover that it came with 24/7 traffic noise, car horns in the wee hours, and very thin windows. We could hardly wait for the 3-month contract to expire.

Lesson learned. Unsure of what the many Cuenca neighborhoods were actually like, we rented a room for a few weeks. The goal was to get to know the various neighborhoods while looking for affordable long-term rentals in Cuenca.

Now, whenever we expect to be in town for more than a few days, we prefer to stay in an apartment. Not only is there a kitchen (money-saver!), but your host can be an incredible resource. Imagine having someone explain how to get around the city, where to shop, and which areas should be avoided after dark. Priceless!

HotelLook and Vrbo are two of the best places to find short-term Cuenca rentals. You can also try Airbnb, but their reputation seems to be slipping.

ⓘ TIP: Always check the total cost before you book, because there could be add-ons like taxes, security deposits, or a one-time cleaning fee.

How to find apartment rentals in Cuenca Ecuador

Here’s a view of our short-term apartment rental in Cuenca

1. Search online before you arrive

As most anywhere in the world these days, the best place to begin to look for an apartment is on the internet. (That’s probably how you found this article, am I right?)

Search in English first, using terms like “cheap rentals in Cuenca Ecuador,” “short-term rentals in Cuenca Ecuador,” “furnished apartments for rent in Cuenca Ecuador,” or “rooms for rent in Cuenca Ecuador.” The Ecuador part is important because it’s not the only Cuenca on the planet.

You’ll find even more apartments—and lower rents—if you do your search in Spanish. But what if you don’t speak the language? How does a low-level Spanish speaker find an apartment rentals in Cuenca?

The most convenient option is to install a browser add-on/extension that enables you to instantly translate web pages. If your browser doesn’t allow that, you can copy and paste into Google Translate.

ⓘ TIP: Your Spanish-to-English results might sound weird. Cuenca is the Spanish word for valley, so the Cuenca Ecuador meaning in English is “Ecuador basin.”

These Spanish terms will come in handy during your apartment search:

EnglishSpanish
for rent in Cuenca Ecuadorse renta en cuenca ecuador
leases in Cuenca Ecuadorarriendos en cuenca ecuador
cheap rentals in Cuenca Ecuadoralquileres baratos en Cuenca Ecuador
short term rentals in Cuenca Ecuadoralquileres a corto plazo en Cuenca Ecuador
long term rentals in Cuenca Ecuadoralquileres a largo plazo en Cuenca Ecuador
furnishedamueblada
leasesarriendos
for rentse renta

2. Boots-on-the-ground options

Cathedral and shops facing Parque Calderon in Cuenca

Once you’re in Cuenca, you should check bulletin boards around town, talk to expats and read the local paper.

  • Some people have found leads from ads on bulletin boards at local restaurants, hotels, hostels, and Cuenca University.
  • The classifieds can be a great source for finding a furnished apartment for rent in Cuenca. Check the local newspapers. You can find them all at the university library.
  • If you keep your eyes open as you walk through town, you’ll see windows with signs that say se arrienda (“for rent”). If they are furnished they will also include the word amueblado. This is how you get the best prices because you don’t have any fees from agents and websites.
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3. Word of mouth

There are also a number of weekly expat meet-ups around town. As soon as we arrived we started our apartment search by asking all the expats we met about rentals. You never know when someone may know of a good place to rent short- or long-term.

We also could have joined some of the Cuenca expat groups on Facebook. They’re super helpful, but we didn’t think of that until later.

This is how we found our very first apartment in Cuenca: by word of mouth. You can see what the apartment looks like in the above video. The building was in “Gringolandia,” a part of the city that is chock-full of new condos and popular with North American expatriates.

4. Searching around town

Living room in El Centro
Living and dining room combo in our long-term Cuenca rental – basic but comfy

Be prepared for a different life in Ecuador. They have their own laws and attitudes. It’s hard to do, but we do our best to leave the judgment to God.

As Americans, we grew up believing in equality for all people. In Ecuador, it is perfectly okay to discriminate against certain groups of people. Some Cuencanos prefer to rent only to locals (similar expectations, culture and language), some raise the price for gringos, and others don’t care who you are, they’ll rent to anyone who’s interested. Some will consider short-term stays, others won’t. You just have to ask.

5. Hire a professional for your Cuenca apartment search

Researching online, you may read that apartments can rent for as little as $300 per month. That may be true, but the fine print is that these apartments are unfurnished or partially furnished places and not in Gringolandia.

With only a couple of weeks left on our lease, we hired Frank and Angie Lewis at Gringo Good Samaritans to search for a suitable apartment and negotiate the best rate. They were extremely helpful and sympathetic, and showed us a number of good places around the city. It was also nice to find someone who spoke English who we could trust.

While we were looking with Frank and Angie, an ad for a one-year rental appeared in GringoTree that sounded perfect. A few emails later, we met a real estate agent to see an apartment in El Centro. This one rented for $200/month less that our place in Gringolandia, and it even included utilities!

Our agent did all the negotiation on our behalf, and gave us a printed English translation of the contract we were to sign. Yes, this is the apartment that we wrote about in our hit article, Our First Furnished Apartment in Cuenca’s El Centro.

Where to live in Cuenca Ecuador

Cars drive down a Cuenca street that is full of apartments
This street in El Centro is chock full of apartment rentals.

No matter where you decide to settle, it’s wise to get to know a city’s neighborhoods before you commit to a long-term rental in an area you don’t like. We learned that the hard way. When we first moved to Panama, we stayed in a hotel for a week, and it was a blessing in disguise.

  • Our hotel was a block from the nightlife, which created traffic noise outside our window until the wee hours.
  • Plus, the church bells across the street pealed out every morning before the 6, 7, and 8 am services. Sleeping late was out of the question.

Result: The experience helped us realize where we DIDN’T want to stay. When we began our apartment search, we ensured we would be nowhere within the sound of those bells and nowhere near a late-night party area.

ⓘ TIP: A little research into expat neighborhoods, markets, malls, nightlife spots and religious sites can help you narrow down your search.

For local culture and being in the middle of Cuenca

Choose El Centro, the historic center of town that is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Pros: larger apartments, steps away from Ecuadorian culture.

Cons: older buildings, not always renovated to North American standards.

For nightlife in Cuenca

The best place for Cuenca nightlife is near Calle Larga, a street in El Centro.

Pros: These are older homes, with larger apartments. The middle of El Centro is within easy walking distance. And bars and music venues are steps away.

Cons: This is a busy area after dark. Loud music is everywhere. Not for people who prefer to go to sleep early.

For living among other expats

If you want to live with other North Americans or would prefer live in a high rise, Take a look at Gringolandia (around Ordonez Lasso & Las Americas).

Pros: Newer apartments, piped gas, modern fixtures. You’ll be within walking distance of both a huge American-style grocery store and the city’s largest local market, Feria Libre. Facilities may include full-time security, a gym, a pool, and an English-speaking building administration. High-rises offer beautiful views of the Cajas mountain range.

Cons: More expensive. Far from El Centro. In our building, the cost of some utilities was shared among all tenants. It’s harder to meet other people.

We had negotiated a three-month lease with a desperate owner. It came with a “take it or leave it” option to renew for a year at the end. By the time the lease was ready to expire, we knew Gringolandia wasn’t for us.

We didn’t like being insulated from Ecuadorians anyway. After all, that’s why we’d moved there, to experience the culture! So despite other expats’ why-would-you-want-to-live there opinions and advice, we decided to move to El Centro.

We had dreamed of living among Ecuadorians and wanted to shop where they shopped. And besides, we had never lived in a UNESCO site before. For us, it was a good decision—but your mileage may vary.

Shopping at the local market in Cuenca, Ecuador

Tips for renting an apartment in Cuenca

Here are some important things to remember:

  • When viewing apartments, it is smart to have a local Ecuadorian with you (for translating and to avoid getting ripped off). You may also want a friend to accompany you (for safety concerns).
  • If you find a great apartment at a fabulous rate, you must decide quickly. Low priced rentals get snapped up quickly.
  • It is advisable to get receipts for all transactions with your landlord, in case a dispute ever arises.
  • It is always best to get a written lease agreement, just to have something on paper. Insist, if you must. Likewise, always get a receipt for your deposit (usually one month’s rent) and every rental payment.
  • Make sure the landlord includes things like cooking pots, towels, shower curtains and dishes. You shouldn’t have to spend money buying necessities for a furnished apartment, especially if you will not want to keep it when you leave. Be insistent on having everything you think you should before making a deal. It’s also fine to negotiate for everything you think you will need before making a deal.

ⓘ TIP: Speaking of “furnished,” the sheets in Ecuador are of absolutely horrible quality! No matter what the label says, they will pill within a few weeks. If you can manage it, bring a set of sheets from home. Same tip if you like fluffy towels.

Did this help?

As we said earlier, we don’t have all the answers, but we do share what we’ve learned. After all, that’s what As We Saw It is here for: to empower you to be a savvy traveler. Or expat. Whatever your goal, we’re here for you.

We hope you like Cuenca as much as we did, if not more. Please contact us if you found this article helpful or if you have any additional tips for finding rentals in Cuenca.

Plan your trip to Cuenca

ECUADOR TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Travel Guide: This book covers Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.
Flights: Cuenca airport (CUE) is small. Flights arrive from Guayaquil (GYE) and Quito (UIO). Check availability
Accommodation: Browse hotels on Agoda ● Vrbo ● TripAdvisor
Airport transfer: Prebook transportation to your hotel
Travel Visas: Do you need one? Check here
Travel Insurance: World Nomads is available while you’re traveling!
Getting around: In town, take a taxi or the bus (25¢ per ride). Elsewhere, you can take a bus or rent a car.
Tickets & tours: Find dozens of fun ideas on GetYourGuide and Viator
Organized trips: G Adventures has insanely affordable small-group tours + guaranteed departures.
International SIM card: Drimsim allows for roaming-free travel in 229 countries
  • The official tourism website for Cuenca, Ecuador can be found here.
  • Lodging: This website offers accommodation options ranging from resorts to hostels to apartments. They compile the best deals from all over the web, including Booking, Expedia, Agoda, and more.
  • Transportation: This website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
  • Take a look around Ecuador, to get a better sense of the country. Get Your Guide offers affordable, custom tours to and around Cuenca. Click here to see them all.
  • For more sightseeing, see our Ecuador photo gallery.
  • Google Maps offers an aerial view of the area around Cuenca, Ecuador. Zoom, scroll around and explore!

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to around 60 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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17 thoughts on “How to Find Long Term Rentals in Cuenca Ecuador”

  1. Hi Linda, thank you for all the amazing info. You mentioned that you no longer live in Cuenca…did you leave Ecuador? I’m thinking of exploring Cuenca as a part time retirement option and wondered if, for any reason, you became disenchanted and left. I hope this isn’t too personal, but I want to hear the realistic and the probable, and most importantly the negative aspects before I even consider how beautiful and inexpensive it is. Thanks,
    Dawne

    • Hi Dawne, Good on you to research the negative aspects before deciding to move somewhere! We think Cuenca is a wonderful retirement destination. In our case, we really don’t have any complaints except that you can only fly to Quito and Guayaquil from the city’s “international” airport.

      We left Ecuador because our (90-day tourist) visa expired and returned to the U.S. for family. Rather than return to Ecuador, which is a place we know, we are now trying something completely new. We just moved to Asia to explore what the continent has to offer. Stories to come ….
      Linda

  2. My Spanish is not fluent but is well beyond basic, Spanish phrase usage. I stayed for about a week in Guaranda where a local told me that I would be Spanish fluent in about 3 months with continuing work in and study of the language.

    Do you know if folks in Cuenca would be willing to help a gringo continue learning Spanish?

    Are there Spanish as a second language classes where gringos can go for additional fluency?

    Do any of the local television stations have Spanish as a second language programming?

    Are there Peace Corps Spanish language classes where expats could join and learn the language along with Peace Corps volunteers?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Hi John, thanks for your question. Our experience was that the locals were really appreciative of our efforts to speak Spanish and were happy to help us when we stumbled over a word and asked for help. Our learning was on the street; we didn’t try to take any classes in person or on TV due to our work schedules. They are available in Cuenca, but I am not aware of any that are related to the Peace Corps.

      I’d love to be able to answer you accurately but we were there a few years ago and things change. You’d probably get the best, most current information by running a web search for “spanish language classes cuenca ecuador” or by asking for suggestions on one of the cuenca expat forums.

  3. Hello! My husband and I are thinking of retiring in Cuenca, but we have never been there. We are drawn by its beauty and its low cost of living. Does anyone know what the costs would be of getting residency there as well as finding an inexpensive apartment? The problem is we know no one there and would be very pleased to make some friends and business acquaintances in the expat community. We know about the Pensionado visa (which my husband qualifies for) but I am not yet retirement age so I might want to work for a while yet. I’m not certain which visa I would qualify for and what the costs might be.

    • Unfortunately Kim, we don’t have the answer about costs because we never applied for the Pensionado visa. But as for finding new friends in the expat community, our best tip is to use various search engines and use the term “expat cuenca.” We search for “expat [country]” whenever we relocate (about to move to our fourth country) and always find a bunch of useful resources, some of which come from links on the various websites.

      I hope this helps.

    • It’s hard, Mana. My best suggestion is to use a service like Airbnb, rent for a week or two and ask around. That’s what we did. You are fortunate to be able to stay in Ecuador for 6 months. We Americans are limited to 90 days per year.

  4. Wow, you give really great advice here! All of your pictures are absolutely stunning and are enough to entice anyone into at least briefly consider moving to Ecuador. What a beautiful place! It can be really tough to find the right living space, especially if you’re moving to a new place. This is a great resource that could help guide anyone who needs it! Nicely done! Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, that’s why we advise people to rent for a while to get to know a new city before making a long-term commitment. Glad you enjoyed our article.

  5. Although a real estate agent costs money, they definitely save you time. They do all of the searching and negotiating. I am really bad at negotiating, so I would hire a real estate agent. I am so happy you found a place in Gringo Tree. That sounds like a wonderful place to live.

    • I agree with you, Charlotte, real estate agents save you a lot of time. They can also save you a lot of money with their negotiating skills, as you also pointed out.

      What a lot of people don’t realize is that they can also save you a lot of heartache and headache by being aware of scams and possible issues you may face when purchasing in a foreign country. I would never enter into a business contract in a foreign country without proper representation, whether or not I knew the language. Thanks for your comment.

  6. It makes sense that you should act quickly if you find an apartment rental that you like that’s at a decent price. My brother could definitely benefit from that piece of advice! He’s currently searching for a good apartment, but usually takes his time making any kind of decision. You can’t expect the deals you find to be available for long, since other people are likely to have noticed the same deals!

    • I can’t blame your brother for wanting to be sure he’s getting the right place but yes, the best deals go quickly. I know for sure that’s true in Cuenca.

  7. Hi ,, were a retired couple from Canada , wanting to spend some time in your country,, visited last year for a week, but need more time now, really enjoyed the cultural, and city life.
    Were looking for a 2 bedroom or if necessary 1 bedroom will do from Jan.2 -Feb1 2015
    furished with dishes, pots and pans, towels, tv, satellite, and wi-fi. Washing machine, and dryer.

    we would like to be in El Centro, ,, or near the river,, in a safe area of town with restaurants neer by.,,
    looking forward to hearing from you.
    thank you Ed and Carol Kozera

    • Hi, Ed, I think El Centro is a great choice but if it were me I’d avoid the river area (Calle Larga runs along the river). That’s where all the nightlife (read: noise) is, and it can go all night on weekends. We don’t live in Ecuador any more so I can’t help with word of mouth. The best options for someone who wants to stay for a month are the short-term furnished apartments I mentioned in the article: FlipKey, Home Away and Airbnb. You can view available places on a map, see photos of each one, and contact potential hosts with your questions.

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