May 08, 2016

Choosing a Safe Neighborhood When Moving to Cuenca Ecuador UPDATED 2016

Update 2016- Good day! We first published this article 4 years ago and here's a couple of updates you might want to know about.

Update 2016 - Is there really safer and better neighborhoods than others in Cuenca Ecuador? Cuenca isn't really like that; there are only a few areas you may not want to live near in all of Cuenca; this would be by the terminal terrestre and near any of the Mercados.  However, walking in these neighborhoods you will see homes that are just as nice as the ones behind the tall walls anywhere else in Cuenca Ecuador.

There is really no such thing as "safer neighborhoods" in Cuenca. They are all about the same as far as personal safety go. And so called "good neighborhoods" have crime here and gringo gulches all over Ecuador have prowler and home invasion problems. So living in a gringo neighborhood will not be safer, in fact it might be less safe.  

However, having said all that, you still do not want to live by brothel, gangs and drug dealers and in seedy neighborhoods no matter where you live in the world.  

There's poorer sections of Cuenca to be sure. Our experience has been that crime is a mirror:  its a reflection of how we behave in our new surroundings.  We liken it to how nature responds.  That is, it seeks to blend into its surroundings so as to not stand out to predators. 

And this is why we think staying safe from petty theft and keeping your home safe from robbery is really about you and how you decide to behave in a developing countryIf you behave rich, you'll be more of a target than the low profile gringo.

How do you go about choosing your neighborhood when you move to a foreign country, especially when you do not know that much about the new city you are moving into?  Many people when they first move to Cuenca, and are temporarily staying in a hostel or hotel, ask the expats where the good neighborhoods are and the response is always the same, "why in the gringo neighborhoods, of course". 

Update 2016 - the only reason why gringoland might be safer is because it is high rise apartment buildings with 24/7 manned security...and that is the only reason. Anytime you have armed guards manning the premises, it's going to be safer. 


Did you know that one of the local brothels is located just a few blocks up the hill behind Las Americas Supermaxi? We know because we ask the local people about bad areas in Cuenca and a local real estate agent told us.

Here's the Interactive Crime Map from 2012 up to 2016 in Cuenca Ecuador. It will show you where the murders are happening and where the crime is mostly located in the city. Click on a pin to see the details about a crime.

Source: El Tiempo 

Actually the best areas in Cuenca are not anywhere near the gringoland condo buildings. Some of the best neighborhoods are not where gringos live; they are middle and upper class Ecuadorian neighborhoods scattered throughout the city. But most people want to steer you to areas where there are more gringos living and these happen to be the more expensive rental areas where you will be gringo gouged for your rental while living in 'what one expat called',"sterile environment", referring to the high rises on Ordonez Lasso.

Update 2016 - Still true...some things just never change. 

Remember, where all the gringos like to flock, prices will be much higher and historically more petty theft and home invasions as in Panama...and that is the reality of it.

According to the interactive crime map the murder victims mostly have Latin American names, telling us they are not targeting foreigners but are most likely drug/domestic related crimes. Still, it's good to know what's happening in the city you live in, foreigner or not.


UPDATE November 2014 - Just a few days after we posted this article in Sept. 2012, there was news reporting that they were going to remove the brothel and expunge the gangs from the area described above to a different area of Cuenca; some of the gangs have been removed but the brothel is still there.

We know of several really nice Ecuadorian neighborhoods, with beautiful homes in Cuenca that are not near gringoland. In fact, they are clear over on the other side of town, on the east side! Don't be fooled or mislead by what people say on forums and blogs because most of the time it is based on conjecture and bias. This is how people become misinformed and then later regret something they did based on that conjecture. 

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2014: the condos on Ordonez Lasso are no more gringo gulches than any other neighborhoods in Cuenca. Gringos live all over the city now, but mostly on the west end. It's good that gringos don't live exclusively in gringo gulches; its safer for them. So far, as of date we do not know of any neighborhoods (subdivisions that house just gringos, like in Mexico.  

Update 2016 - Cuenca now has a couple of apartment complexes that house more gringos than Ecuadorians now and that's because the prices are going too high for the local market.

Update 2015:  It's not the neighborhood which keeps us safe, its how we behave and what we do that keeps us safe! This is so true and we cannot reiterate enough how important it is to study how crime is in Latin America before moving here; that way you will be much more prepared on how to behave and how to react. 


We have written about crime in Latin America extensively to help foreigners understand why they must have tall fences, barred windows and electric wire around the perimeters of their homes. See articles at the bottom of this post for details. 

Well in any case, some gringos will never blend in no matter how hard they try. That plus advancing age in others, would be a sensible reason to need to live in a Gringoland type building with elevators and security and around other people that speak English.  The challenge with this scenario however being that when large numbers of this class all arrive in the same area it can cause a distortion in appearances and prices.

We live in a Ecuadorian neighborhood (there are a few gringos now too) and it is quiet and safe, never had any issues and we are glad we live here!  Update 2015: Recently we've had prowlers in the neighborhood and our house!  This happened because our home became more vulnerable after landlord built a shed right next to our house. The thieves simply climbed the shed, got onto our roof and lowered themselves into our back porch area where things have been taken.

Update 2016 - It's important to note that living in a house (not apartment with security) without electric fencing and whole house alarm is not a good idea in Cuenca or anywhere in Ecuador. We seriously advise foreigners to make sure their home is protected no matter what neighborhood they decide to live in.


Until we write again, check out these educational articles about what crime is like in Latin America and what you can do about it.
We're an expat family of five sharing our real life experiences of what life is like in Latin America! If you haven't already subscribed to our daily blog posts, please subscribe because we would love to have you on board! 

22 comments:

  1. Susan, West Palm Beach, FLOctober 1, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Interesting and useful information to those us planning a move to Cuenca. Wish you would be more specific about neighborhoods that Ecuadorians inhabit - that's where I want to look for my long-term apartment!

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  2. I wonder how much of the murder rate is random acts of violence and how much is gang related or comes out of domestic violence.

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  3. Good Morning,

    Thank you for all the valuable information!!

    You mention that a person should never walk alone in Cuenca. I'm single, 60 years old and would really love to seriously think about moving to Cuenca. Is the crime issue bad enough in Cuenca that I should give up on the idea?

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    1. Thank you for commenting. Please stay tuned to this blog we have several videos coming up soon of an expat woman that is retiring right here in Cuenca. She talks about the precautions she takes as a woman alone...

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    2. Don't pay any attention to blogs or writers, Anonymous. It is all well-overhyped. I've been in and/or lived in 35 countries and at least a thousand cities and I am here. It's just...another...city. I walk around often after 10.00. Keep aware and don't walk around like your lost with your hands in your pocket. As to crime in Cuenca...in "what US city do you live" again? I think there have been 5 killings to date. Chicago last night, well, you know the answer to that.

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    3. mine is new york, so thanks for the sensible advice dennis

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  4. Angie & Frank
    I am very interested in hearing about women alone in Cuenca... Hope to hear/see your video soon. Thank you

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  5. See the 'Alice' videos. As you may know, the website has several hundred articles that you can access through the 'search' bar at the right side of the website, and well, THEY'RE ALL FREE.!!!

    Be sure to use several different keywords on the same subject, such as:
    knife, robbery, woman alone, safety, etc. etc. etc.

    It takes a lot of time and effort to put out all that information for free, it's a full time job.

    As you may already know from following our writings, we share our experiences, instead of our opinions, as much as possible, so that people can make a more informed decision. I'm sure you can appreciate that.

    Again, we thank you for your patronage, and if you have any other questions, feel free to let us know.

    Frank Angie and sons

    PS there are many women alone here, watch the 'Alice' videos, and we also write more about crime and how to avoid it in the Guide.

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  6. This is good information about the bad areas. I have just moved to Cuenca and unfortunately was lead through the same misinformation and ended up with a rental just one block from Gran Columbia & Avenida las Americas. Based on the information provided, I will be searching for alternate accommodation. In the interim, could you be a little more specific about where exactly the prostitute areas, drug areas and gang areas are located so I can make sure not to enter them by accident. Thanks!

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    1. Click on the map in the article. Click the plus sign to make the map bigger. In an area called "Cayambe", to the right of Ordonez Lasso where about 6 red pins show murders is where the brothels and gangs are.

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  7. People worry so much about leaving the US, not realizing we have one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. I am from Boston, and the violent crime rates have really come down over the years, but out of curiosity, I checked the 2012 crime rates for homicides, and over all violent crime. I wanted to compare to the 22 homicides in Cuenca in 2012. That year Boston had 57 homicides, with a population of just under 650,000 residents (I was surprised it had come down so much), though there were a total of 5,266 violent crimes that year in Boston. Cuenca's population was around 330,000 in 2012, so that might be about the same murder rate, but I bet Boston had more violent crime.

    And guess what? For cities considered to be comparable, based on population, economics, education, demographics, etc. for comparison to gage how well a city is doing to lessen or deter crime, Boston is often compared to Baltimore. Baltimore had 218 homicides in 2012, and 8,824 violent crimes, with a population slightly smaller than Boston's at just over 625,000 that year. Boston is considered one of the safest metropolitan areas in the US. And with those stats, Baltimore was only ranked 6th for violent crime (per 1000 population) of all US cities in 2012. I agree knowing the facts, to include crime statistics and 'dos & don'ts' specific to a country, city or neighborhood is important to stay safe, but if you have a pre-existing notion all countries are more dangerous than being here in the US, and the numbers sound high, that doesn't help you or tell you anything unless you can put it in perspective, such as knowing how that compares to local cities where you feel safe now. Frankly, most Americans, especially in large cities have a false sense of security -- for those living in Baltimore, and afraid of crime in South America, when in reality, their chances of being murdered in Baltimore in 2012 was about 6 times higher than in Cuenca (taking population/murders per 1000 people living there).

    Sorry! This is something that has always bothered me, and I saw an opportunity to make a point. Even as a woman walking alone in a remote area at night, I would take my chances in Cuenca, over Baltimore any day!

    Sent from my iPad

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  8. Is there a way to view this interactive crime map in English?

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    1. I don't think so. When I was studying the map in 2012 it showed all the crimes were against locals or S. American people (they all had Spanish sounding names) and the weapons used were either a knife or other blunt object, only about 2 of the murders was using a gun. The most murders in one area were off of Las Americas about 2 blocks from Supermaxi up that hill; that's where there is a lot of drugs and prostitution problems going on in Cuenca.

      Unfortunately, they have not updated the map to reflect the year 2014. I have looked high and low for it.

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  9. the interactive maps are published annually. here's the link: http://www.eltiempo.com.ec/noticias-especiales/441

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    1. Hello! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I looked for them and couldn't find any...really appreciate you sending us the crime maps for that last four years.
      http://www.eltiempo.com.ec/noticias-especiales/441

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  10. What area is good for a single retiree female?

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    1. Hi Frances. It doesn't matter what area you live in Cuenca...crime is in gringo subdivisions like Challuabamba; if your home is an easy target like we describe on the blog, you will get robbed. If you live in a house, you will want to have electric fencing and house alarm for when you leave the home. Apartment living is also a good option and you can find those anywhere in Cuenca.

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  11. Any one have a contact for getting my Residency Visa?

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  12. Hey guys, Speaking of the Alice videos where did they go? Thx

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  13. Cancel the previous question, I found the article and videos.

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  14. Most "other cultures" other than western culture inherently understand that a woman doesn't/shouldn't travel alone. Only in western culture does it seem to be a controversial subject. When the two women from Argentina were found slain in Ecuador, the Ecuadorian authorities were quoted asking: "why would women travel alone to Ecuador". Right.
    We are not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do, rather we tell you what our diligence and good sense says. Anyone coming to these articles of ours, especially men, trying to make a point that there's more crime in the u.s. is really missing the point. A woman shouldn't walk alone in the u.s. either. That's our conservative opinion, but its much more than that. Its our way of life. We don't take risks with our safety. Some women will always take risks with their safety until one day its too late. That's really a personal choice isn't it? But at least we told you. We've done our job.
    Read this article and then pay attention to the comments, they are most revealing...
    It's not about Ecuador in particular but it highlights the different attitudes people have about risk and personal safety.
    In Cuenca,a man/woman could be relatively safe in the busy touristy areas during the day. But having a cavalier attitude that says I can do anything and it doesn't matter can one day come back to bite you. You will be off your guard and you will venture a little further and maybe nothing will happen but maybe it will.

    https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/happened-assaulted-while-hiking-alone-160000189.html

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