Quito Vs. Cuenca

So, señora peripatetic_soul mentioned in another thread that she is deciding between Quito and Cuenca and will visit both cities and will decide which is best. That inspired this new thread, or Quito vs Cuenca.

Tells us why you would choose one over the other. Or simply boast about your city like I will.


I am a resident of Quito and will make a case for and against Quito. Initially I didn’t like Quito at all, and this was even true after taking the hop on and hop off bus that commenced at Carolina Park and took us south through the historical area and then El Panecillo and back. I didn’t like how the areas looked. I also didn’t like that it was all Spanish. It was an eye opener when I was ill with altitude sickness and the emergency room doctor needed a translator to communicate with me, hey I thought all intelligent people especially doctors should be able to speak the universal language of English.

Time passed and realized we were in a great neighborhood or sector La Carolina, it offered everything, park, malls, supermarkets and even a Mercado. So this was my comfort zone for a while. Then after that I started to venture to other areas walking sometimes 8 miles round trip or more to check out other areas. And this is when I feel in love with Quito.

The walking around, the exchanges with strangers is wonderful. My Spanish is probably the equivalent of Spanish 102 at this point but I am not reserved in any way and talk to Ecuadoreans, and love how they react and reply to me.

I’m hooked now. I love this city with a passion, love the cosmopolitan aspect about. love that it bustles but  also love that there are areas we can enjoy quietness amongst this bustle. I love the tolerance, love the many different ethnicites and love seeing immigrants from all over this world opening businesses and giving us a taste of their country’s flavor. I love that there are places of worship for many religions, even if I’m not religious. I love that I can be satisfied with an “expensive” meal or two humitas for one dollar.

I love the climate, it’s fall and spring almost every day. But most of all love Quito because it's beautiful and tolerant and a place that is becoming more and more home.


My major concern now is securing a residence that is best for seismic activity in terms of safety and psychological reasons (high floor for example if swaying is not your thing). Quito is near active seismic faults and this is something that any newcomer should be aware of. Choose a newer residence if anything.

Top Ten Reasons To Prefer a City in the Quito vs. Cuenca comparición....

10.  More oxygen in the air:  Avantage Cuenca.  Cuenca is about 1,150 feet lower in altitude, ipso facto more oxígeno.

9.  Air pollution:  Tie.  Both cities have historically had low-quality air near bus routes.  Cuenca recently started testing some low-pollution-producing buses, and may eclipse Quito in this category if the experiment succeeds.

8.  Access via air travel:  Advantage Quito.  With international flights to Miami, two Texas cities, Atlanta, Lima (Peru), Bogotá (Colombia) and other destinations, Quito is clearly the winner in this travel category.  Many travelers from the U.S. have to do two days of travel to get from up North to Cuenca.

7.  Safety:  Advantage Cuenca.  It’s a smaller city with fewer questionable neighborhoods.

6.  Trámites -- meaning the ease of getting stuff done via the bureaucracies:  Advantage Quito.  Any national agency you want is in the capital .. with special emphasis on the U.S. Embassy.  The Embassy has notary service for U.S. documents, $50 a page.

5.  Expat events:  Advantage Cuenca.  The S.A. Explorers closed their Ecuador clubhouse in Quito this year.  Cuenca has more Expat events, meetings and field trips.  Quito does get credit for some new-groups' events, including the language-exchange meetings.

4.  Mall shopping:  Advantage Quito.  Lots of malls in the bigger city, with a special nod to the great options at Centro Comercial QuiCentro.

3.  Waterways:  Advantage Cuenca, due to its rivers and parklands.

2.  International food:  Advantage Quito.  It’s a big city with a range of excellent restaurants featuring exotic cuisines -- among them, Italian, Peruvian, Indian and Thai.  Ecuadorian cities are not known for Chinese restaurants, called chifas in La República -- (CHEE-fahss).  If you know a great one, please post on this thread.

And the #1 reason to choose Quito or Cuenca....

1.  Massage:  There are half a dozen options in Quito's Marisca-sector peluquerías within a couple of blocks of Amazonas and Wilson, with the going price $20 for an hour.  Any city that offers the massage services of the wonderful Gatubelita -- at the cuartitos in the back of Dodied hair salon, Wilson between Amazonas and Juan León Mera -- gets my vote.  Advantage:  Quito.

  -- cccmedia, Quito resident

Hi, vsimple and cccmedia,
Thank you much for the informative observations. Altitude is important, as I discovered while in Oaxaca and wondering why I was short of breath (but acclimated in a few days).

An interesting insight, ccc, about chifas. My Hispanic and M.E. ESL students don't fancy "Chinese" fare--in quotation marks because, aside from Chinatown (e.g.,  in NY or San Fran), those who have lived in China know, the cuisine in the US is hardly authentic or typical of any of the provinces (Szechuan, Cantonese, Fujianese).


The elusive Chinese restaurant that serves delicious food shall be found.  I’ve travel coming up but upon my return I will make it a priority, and a good place to begin this endeavor is Amazonas around Tomás de Berlanga as there are at least five or six restaurants within short walking distance of one another. Hey one of them has to turn out good. 

Unfortunately, the lack of quality extends to other Asian cuisines as well. I haven’t found good Thai or Indian. And the places I visited sell various Asians dishes and this is a big no no for me, for example Siam Thai Sushi, or the Indian joint on Shyiris that sells Seco de Pollo in local spices, and Shawarma.

I think perhaps these places initially started selling one particular cuisine but failed to attract enough customers and as a result diversified their menus.

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