10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dispelling the Myths about Quito Ecuador

Quito is a really neat and beautiful big city. We really found Quito to be a nice, pleasant city with some very nice people. Quito caters to those who like the big city life with lots of things to do. You won't get bored in Quito, that's for sure. We have heard some negative things said about Quito... but we're ready to dispel those myths and bring forth some facts, and of course, our personal observations.

1. MYTH: Quito is Dirty

FACT:  Quito is NOT a dirty city; in fact, we found it to be quite pleasant and clean. Of course in the tourist district where all the night clubs, discotheques and bars are it can get cluttered with garbage, bottles, cigarette butts and broken glass from the night before, but they clean it the very next day and by early afternoon the debris from the night’s party-goers is all cleaned up. 

All big cities have areas where there is more garbage on the streets, Quito is no exception, but you might not want to live, or even enter into such neighborhoods anyway. Overall, Quito was just as clean (they have garbage cleaners and city garbage sweepers) as Cuenca, which was very surprising since it is a much bigger city. Notice in our videos, the streets, they are sparkling clean.

2. MYTH: The locals are not very nice and some were rude. (this was said in comparison to Cuenca’s people).

FACT: We visited Quito twice just recently and we stayed in Quito for over a month and never experienced any unpleasant locals. We felt that the people were just as helpful and friendly as they are in Cuenca. No matter where one lives in the world you’re bound to run into rude people…it goes with the territory of travel.

Sadly, we hear from the locals in Cuenca that the expats are rude to them, so it works both ways. It is far worse to be the rude expat than the rude local, at least in our book.

3. Myth: There is more smog in Quito than in Cuenca

FACT:  People like to compare Quito to Cuenca. For one thing Cuenca is barely a half a million people and Quito is 2 million people! Therefore, to compare a huge metropolitan city (four times as big) to the quaint little town of Cuenca is really not conducive to any real facts… But anyway, we found Quito to have numerous electric trolleys (fewer buses) for local transportation and because of that there is far LESS diesel fuel pollution in Quito than in Cuenca, if you were to compare. 

When Cuenca gets her light rail up and running she will also have less air pollution as well.

FYI: buses don’t even travel in the colonial district of Quito so there is minimal diesel fuel pollution. At the time of this writing we feel that there is more car and bus pollution in the colonial area of Cuenca than there is in Quito.

4. MYTH: Quito is more expensive than Cuenca

FACT:  We keep hearing this but what we experienced when visiting Quito ourselves, and what we are finding out through our research this is just another myth. Well here, let’s take a look.

Just as an example for comparison purposes, there are a lot more vacant homes, apartments and condos to go around in Quito and so it is easier to find a nice 3/2 house or apartment in the $300 to $350 dollar price range than in Cuenca. According to the cost of living index rents are about $100 to $125 cheaper per month in Quito for the same amount of apartment. Click on the city name to see the index.

Rent Per Month - Quito

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre $300
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre $200
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre $475
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre $350.00
Rent Per Month - Cuenca

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre $400
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre $300
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre $650
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre $450

Buying property

As far as purchasing property, we find there are some colonial homes with potential still under $100K in Quito (some need more restoration then others), while in Cuenca you’re looking at $350K (needs restored) up to 1M for a colonial home purchase in the colonial center.  And according to the cost of living price index, again, the price for buying a home or apartment outside of Quito city center is showing $214 per meter cheaper than in Cuenca!
So, Quito wins again.

Food prices

Food prices at the grocery stores in Quito do not cost more than in Cuenca. There are many Mercado’s in Quito where you can find great deals on fresh fruits and vegetables just like in Cuenca. Utilities do not cost more in Quito than in Cuenca.

The weather/climate is the same as in Cuenca, all year long, so you’ll spend the same amount on heating costs.  According to the cost of living index once again, food prices are better in the Quito grocery stores than in Cuenca, for most things. For example, rice, bread, milk, cheese, wine and cigarettes are cheaper in Quito than in Cuenca according to the cost of living index.

Dining out

The international priced restaurants are about the same in Quito as they are in Cuenca. Expect to be set back for a nice dinner about $8 to $15 dining out in a nice restaurant. FYI: Quito also has Almuerzo, Merienda, and Desayuno, and at the same $2 to $3 price as Cuenca. 

We ate out two times in the International restaurants and for five adults we were set back around $52 including the tip! These prices were the same as you’d expect to find in Cuenca. Not bad.

Transportation costs

We rode in a taxi several times within the same district and the driver only charged us $1. To go to the colonial district from La Mariscal district it will set you back about $4 to $5. That’s not bad considering the time it takes and the traffic. Buses and trolleys cost a whopping .25 cents.

According to the cost of living index taxis are cheaper in Quito!

Traveling 1 kilometer by taxi cab in Cuenca is $1.50, while Quito is $1 per kilometer.  Taxi start (normal tariff) is $1.50 in Cuenca which means no matter how far you need to go, even if it is just 4 blocks it will cost you $1.50. In Quito the taxi start (normal tariff) is just .45 cents. Meaning, if you just want to go 4 blocks it will set you back about .45 cents or maybe just .50 cents.

Health care

Health care is not more in Quito. Doctors do not charge more in the bigger city of Quito. A doctor’s visit in Quito will be between $10 to $40 dollars a visit. Prescriptions are much lower priced in Ecuador.


Quito boasts free concerts (National Symphony Orchestra) and other free musical admissions, just like Cuenca. In fact, Quito has many more free concerts because it is a bigger city.  Quito also has many superstar performances (not free of course) because it is a major hub for such big time concerts. 

How much you spend on entertainment is up to you but let us tell you this, there is a lot more to do and see in Quito and so your entertainment as far as cultural museums and tourist attractions means you might spend more in Quito if you do everything. 

The bottom line is, if we’re still comparing Quito to Cuenca, Quito is NOT more expensive than Cuenca. Although, because Quito is a super metropolis, you can spend as much as your budget permits. Quito has elegant high rise condos in the city center and then it has nice homes and apartments just outside of the city. So whatever you want to spend on cost of living, Quito will have no problem consuming it.

If you are considering moving to Ecuador, and you like the big city life, Quito may just be the place that fits your needs. We loved Quito and we'll be talking more about what it is that we loved about Quito in an up and coming post. 

There is so much more we will be exploring with you about moving and retiring to Quito Ecuador, so stay tuned to this blog and don't forget to subscribe with your email for all the latest posts.


  1. Great comparison and analysis. Thank you!

  2. I have been following your posts from Cuenca , Salinas and now Quito for months and I have enjoyed them VERY much. I have been reading about Cuenca for years. It seems that out of all posts, yours give a more accurate and realistic view of what the actual cost of living would be and what the living conditions really are. I especially like how you pointed out that the average teacher makes about $700.00 per month and that paying $900.00 per month for rent is ridiculous.

    The tips you have provided on how not to be gringo'ed to much are great. What I hope you cover one day is the cost of car ownership, ex cost of a car new and used (Honda or Toyota) and insurance.The cost of prescriptions would also be interesting and the general cost of health insurance for a 62 year old.

    Thank you VERY VERY much for what you do.

    Karl in Phoenix

  3. Thank you so much for this post!

    I had wanted to move to Quito in May of 2014, but all I heard was negative. Therefore, I was looking at Cuenca.

    Although it seems beautiful, it may not be dynamic enough for a working woman in her 30s.

    One question: Is the tap water safe yet? Or is it still better to drink bottled water?

    If bottled water is necessary, do you know what the prices are like? Could that end up being a major expense to consider?


    1. Metri, tap water is not safe to drink so yes you would need bottled water. A standard bottle will cost about 25 cents, or a big 5 gllon home bottle around 3 dollars including delivery ( a guy comes around every week or so to take the old bottle and bring a new one)

  4. When we're in Quito, we always drink the tap water. This is because we were told by the locals it was ok to drink Having said that, the water does taste a bit heavier, more mineral perhaps, and/or chlorine. Some locals drink bottled. If we were living there long term, we would likely get a filter...

    Thanks for commenting...

  5. Anonymous...Thanks for commenting. Check out the video "15 things we love about Cuenca Ecuador" as a start, we talk about cars a little bit...

    Thanks for the topic suggestions...we will explore those topics at some point.

  6. For a next blog, show examples of houses to buy and their prices. Here in the States, it's hard to imagine $180k homes renting for $350. It warps the mind to read your posts and get that impression of the comparison of price vs. rent there.

  7. In Quito the minimum fare for a taxi is $1.

  8. Hello! I'm very interested to move to Ecuador. I was originally leaning toward Cuenca, but I work online and I need a reliable wired high-speed broadband connection, and as far as have I have seen, there are only wireless option in Ceunca.

    What is the best way for me to find a place in Quito?
    I would love a nice 2 bedroom in a high rise in the city, or a nice 2-3 bedroom house in the suburbs. About how much will that set me back (furnished/unfurnished)?
    Can anyone recommend good reality web sites, or is my best bet to come to Quito, rent a hotel room, and beat the pavement?

    Thanks in advance!

  9. Yes, it would be great to get the names of reliable & honest individuals or realtors with regard to longterm rentals.

  10. We do not know, personally any real estate agents in Quito, yet...stay tuned to the blog for upcoming informational updates.

  11. Interesting article. However, air pollution in Quito is absolutely appalling, and in my experience the Historic Centre is one of the worst places (at least parts of it). It depends very much on the prevailing weather and how close one is to a major road, but it's horrible and would put me off staying more than a few months in Quito.

    Worst of all in Ecuador is that while private vehicles generally seem quite clean, it is the busses run by big companies that pollute most... and these should be easy to regulate, if the politicians were not such cowards!

  12. Cuanca is very nice, but there is shockingly little interaction between ex-pats and locals. So if you want to hang out in coffee shops with people just like you and pretend that the locals don't exist, it's perfect. If you want dynamic and cosmopolitan, perhaps look elsewhere!

  13. My wife and I stayed in Quito for two months earlier this year, April to June and really liked it. We made friends with several Ecuadorians yet we had very little interaction with North American expats. It appears that the expats keep a low profile in Quito but the ones we knew were very nice.
    As for rentals we didn't see very many in the $300 range in any area where we would want to live. The cheap rentals tend to be in the old historical area which is beautiful but can be a little scary at night. Most of our Ecuadorian friends told us to take the rumors about crime very seriously for the dangers are real. Yet I never felt threatened in any way. It all depends on where you go I guess. We saw several girls on the streets that appeared to be hookers in the Mariscal area on weekends at night but of course one can find that in any city.
    All in all in spite of the negatives I really loved Quito and look forward to our eventual return.

  14. Great post regarding the reality of general life and costs in Quito. I have been living in Quito for about a year and I am amazed at how well this city has treated me, with the exception of traffic of course.


  15. Some interesting reading here. The locals I know either drink from a filter or buy bottled water. It usually costs about $1.30 for a big six litre bottle.

    I am living in Quito at the moment. Do you think it is easier to get a job in Quito or Cuenca? Is teaching English the best bet when starting out here?


  16. Hello, I've visited Peru and Colombia soon. I was wondering as I'm an artist how much you might think it would be to buy a space for an art gallery there with living space as well. If I had 30k to spend is that too little? Just wondering. If you know of any links I could look at please let me know. Just a crazy idea I have.


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