March 07, 2016

3 Ways to Travel from Quito to Cuenca Ecuador: Fly, Bus, Van

Reader asks: I am wondering, is it worth it to fly to Quito and then take a bus to Cuenca? There are 3 of us so that saves us around $900. What are the logistics of getting from Quito to Cuenca? Too complicated? Thanks for your help.
Frank and Angie Respond: There are three ways you can travel from Quito to Cuenca; choosing which one best fits your needs is totally up to you and your circumstances. We will explain the three ways and by clicking on the links within this article you will find more detail as well as our personal experiences.

Fly from Quito to Cuenca

This is the most expensive but by far the quickest, easiest way to go! You can get the best deals reserving 7 to 10 days in advance. Surprisingly so, TAME does not always have the cheapest flights. We have always used AEROGAL, which is now AVIANCA. Avianca is based out of Colombia and they can have some super deals! And then there is LAN ECUADOR.  We always check all three airlines with our itinerary because you never know who is going to have the best deals on the days we want to fly. 
Quito Ecuador International Airport
Generally, you can usually get a flight for around $60 from Quito to Cuenca, sometimes less, and then there is taxes of about $25 on top of that, and this is per person.  As you can see flights within Ecuador are more expensive now with the added 25% tax surcharge. But if you can fly on the weekdays, preferably Tuesdays and Wednesdays and reserve well in advance, flights can be cheaper.  We’ve even gotten super deals of like $33 per ticket, flying with AEROGAL.   

If you are looking for the most amount of comfort and the quickest route, flying is your best option. Air time from Quito to Cuenca is about 50-minutes.

Note: Many people prefer flying into Guayaquil because it is only a 3-hour van ride or a 3.5-hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Cuenca, which is much easier on the passenger than 9 long hours!   

Bus it from Quito to Cuenca

Busing it is not recommended for everyone, especially older folks and those who cannot or should not sit for long periods of time.
The bus takes anywhere from 8.5hrs to 10 hrs and that is a long time to be sitting in one spot. Ecuador has made some improvements with their fleet of buses, adding more leg room between your seat and the one in front of you but they still have in operation some of the older buses with smaller leg room for people, like when we took a bus from Guayaquil to Cuenca in 2015.
It is the cheapest way to travel to Cuenca at around $12 per ticket but sometimes cheapest is not the best option depending on personal needs and circumstances. This is our experience in detail taking the bus from Cuenca to Quito, which would also apply to taking the bus from Quito to Cuenca, no difference.

For instance, the buses rarely stop between Quito and Cuenca for a bathroom break, so it is a hit or miss there…and when they do stop for a bathroom break, it is not necessarily up to western standards.  Sometimes the drivers do not even stop for a bathroom break. 

Here’s a VERY detailed report of our bus trip from Guayaquil to Cuenca in video!

We recommend if taking longer bus trips to only take small sips of water and to not eat much so you will not have to use the one small port-a-potty that is located on the back of the bus, which is designated for urination only.  Just letting you know ahead of time what you can expect if taking the bus.

We highly recommend that people try and book their flights into the Guayaquil airport and then take a van or bus the short distance to Cuenca. Much easier, less expensive, and the bus ride through the Andes is really pleasant on the eyes.

Busetta from Cuenca to Quito

Bussetta is about $15 per ticket sharing a van with other people. There are six to seven available seats so you will be sitting next to other people. You may be thinking, what’s wrong with sitting next to other people? Well, the second time we took a van from Guayaquil to Cuenca we sat next to an overly sized man, whose breath smelled, and who snored loudly the whole way to Cuenca!   Of course, that’s just our experience one time, other folks may have had a wonderful experience.

You can also rent the whole busetta for $200 and not share the van with anyone. When we first moved here we took a busetta (minbus) from Guayaquil to Cuenca and here is what it looks like.

Until we write again, you might like these articles about traveling within Ecuador too!
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Cheers Frank & Angie
    Don't know where the reader got $ 300 airfare ( times 3 ) from Quito to Cuenca...your figures are the accurate ones, so bus ride will save about $200 only over plane flight. I have not flown that route, but know when I travel to and from Crucita, I much prefer the flight to Manta ( 35 minutes, $60-75 ) along with $ 15 taxi to my door to the 10-hour, $12 bus trip...complete with one 25-minute combo meal/bathroom stop (even on the more expensive "ejecutivo" buses, the on-board loo is either broken or off-limits). Oh, and ALWAYS bring some tissues, napkins or tp on bus journeys ( not always available when you need it )!
    Bus journey from Quito to Cuenca can be a long haul; I like to break the journey at Riobamba (4hrs from Quito)or Alausi (5 1/2 hrs), especially on the back end of a 4+ hour flight from the U.S. This would add the cost of overnight ( $20+ pp )but add a different flovor to the reader's Ecuador experience...know I'm happy to have spent time in both of these towns ( and others ) before settling in Manabi
    The van would be an alternative while saving most of the money and a bit of the time; just be certain that it will drop you where you wish to go (i.e. bus terminal, airport, etc.) rather than at the van service office, where you will need a taxi (or a small bribe to the van driver...)!
    For info on these towns and others, reader should access a good guidebook (Lonely Planet and Rough Guide among others) and if concentrating on Cuenca the Landing Guide is an excellent and thorough source!

  2. Hi there. This posting was very helpful. Can you tell me if there are trains to take from Quito or from Cotopaxi National park to Cuenca? I've only found the tren ecuador, but wanted to know if there were other options. Thanks!

  3. Aliatoor, there are only tourism trains in Ecuador, no passenger trains any longer.

    Avianca Ecuador to/from Quito
    LATAM Ecuador to/from Quito
    TAME to/from Guayaquil, Quito

    Others have merged or left.


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