Living in Cuenca, Ecuador on $1,500 per Month

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Ecuador | 1 comment

My retired husband and my still-working self moved from the U.S. to Cuenca, Ecuador. Our income sources include both our Social Security payments plus my income from my online school. We watch our budget.

Pre-Pat Planning

Because Ecuador uses the US dollar, it’s attractive to people from the US. Understanding money here is easy.

In general, services cost about 1/3 of what they are in the U.S. The food bill maybe around half or more of the price of food in the US, depending on where you shop. Supermarkets cost the most, tiendas less, indigenous farmer mercados cost the least.

Items often cost more. Computers, cell phones, cars, appliances are expensive because of the cost of importation. Many expats order items from their home country and either have them shipped to Ecuador or bring them in suitcases.

Retirees would want to budget monthly for regular medical or dental care. Simple doctor appointments cost in the vicinity of $25 – $40.

Housing in Cuenca, Ecuador

Gringolandia High rises by Bonnie Willow
Gringolandia High rises by Bonnie Willow

There is a wide range of rental possibilities. In downtown, “El Centro”, one can rent a plain studio apartment for $250/month.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are glamorous houses with walled gardens and river views that rent for over $1,500/month.

Many expats rent apartments in modern, first-world-quality high rises with security guards. Those may rent for $400 – $700 depending on amenities.

Fenced row houses with courtyards are common here, renting for $400 – $900.

My husband and I began by renting a spacious 2-bedroom house on a hilltop just outside Cuenca. It had a huge organic food garden and breathtaking views. The rent was $650, including utilities.

Author's townhouse by Bonnie Willow
Author’s townhouse by Bonnie Willow

After getting to know the city, we moved to a 3-bedroom 3-bathroom brick row house with a fenced yard and patio.

They allow our big dog and cat. The rent was $400 without appliances. With appliances, it’s $450 plus utilities.

It’s a safe neighborhood with Ecuadorian and expat neighbors and walking distance to everything.

Water, electricity, and internet total around $75 – $100 per month. Internet is $35, water and electricity vary.

Average Total:  $540


Affordable public transportation is abundantly available. A taxi from our house to anywhere in the city costs $2 – $3. Bus fare for those under 65 is 30 cents; for those over 65 it’s 15 cents. The Tranvia train goes to crosstown for the same price as a bus. Gary and I walk whenever possible. We average $5/month on buses and $20/month on taxis.

Average Total:  $25

Food and Social Life

Large House & Garden by Bonnie Willow
Large House & Garden by Bonnie Willow

Cuenca has so many high-quality restaurants!

Because of social limitations during the lockdown, we treasure meetings with friends at outdoor cafes.

Our favorites are a gourmet vegan restaurant, the BEST Indian restaurant, an Ecuadorian spot with scrumptious salmon dinners, and a sports bar with fabulous fish & chips.

We meet friends with dogs at a pet-friendly cafe with great coffee, smoothies, and pies.


Groceries come from four different places for us.

  • A Mercado where indigenous farmers sell fresh produce and fish.
  • A store with bulk items and organic products
  • The supermarket where we get our favorite US-style fare at higher prices
  • A natural-foods store where they sell specialized organic and nutritional products

Our monthly grocery bill including nutritional supplements is around $375.


Our average lunch bill for two is $8 each. For dinner its $12 each. Averaging 4 lunches for two and 4 dinners for two at restaurants monthly, that comes to $160.

Our average monthly bill for beers/lemonades/ cover charge at pubs: $30.

Average Total: $565

Miscellaneous Monthly Expenses

Common miscellaneous expenses for expats include regular massages, scooter payments, classes, group tours, and alcohol. Here are our usual expenses:

  • Quality Dot & Cat Foods by Bonnie Willow
    Quality Dot & Cat Foods by Bonnie Willow

    $20 Two prepaid cell phones.

  • $10 A “number storage” plan for our US phones.
  • $15 for a Traveling Mailbox in the US.
  • $50 Spanish lessons.
  • $120 for joint private Medical Insurance.
  • $15 for the laundromat.
  • $110 for high-quality dog and cat food. An expat makes our natural pet food and treats, plus we buy premium pet chow.
  • $10 amortizing costs for various tech purchases.
  • $10 Housewares / art supplies / gifts.
  • $10/month donations to beggars.

Average Total:  $370

Budget Summary for Two in Cuenca, Ecuador

Housing + Utilities $540 USD  
Transportation $25 USD 
Food and Nightlife  $565 USD  
Miscellaneous Expenses  $370 USD 
Total $1,500 USD

How does your budget compare? Do you hope to live on less as an expat in Ecuador? 

by: Bonnie Willow

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