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.
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.
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!
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?
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
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!
ⓘ 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
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:
|for rent in Cuenca Ecuador||se renta en cuenca ecuador|
|leases in Cuenca Ecuador||arriendos en cuenca ecuador|
|cheap rentals in Cuenca Ecuador||alquileres baratos en Cuenca Ecuador|
|short term rentals in Cuenca Ecuador||alquileres a corto plazo en Cuenca Ecuador|
|long term rentals in Cuenca Ecuador||alquileres a largo plazo en Cuenca Ecuador|
|for rent||se renta|
2. Boots-on-the-ground options
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.
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
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
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.
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!
- Why Is Cuenca, Ecuador a UNESCO Site?
- Parque Calderon: the Heart of Cuenca Ecuador
- Feria Libre: Live Like a Local in Cuenca, Ecuador
- The Cost of Food in Cuenca, Ecuador – Here’s What We Paid
- This article discusses the 5 most popular gringo neighborhoods in Cuenca.
- Frank and Angie have written the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide. We bought it and thought it was really helpful.
- Relocating to Ecuador – Eyes Wide OPEN: Quick Reading, Bulleted Do’s and Don’ts That the Author Wishes Had Been Available to Clarify Things before His Own Move to Cuenca
- Expats in Cuenca, Ecuador: The Magic & the Madness
- Travel Like a Local – Map of Cuenca: The Most Essential Cuenca (Ecuador) Travel Map for Every Adventure