Destination guide: Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is an old city in Ecuador with a colonial air, located 450 kilometers south of Quito and split into two by the Tomebamba River. To the north is the historical center, with its maze of streets and endless colonial churches, while in the south, its residential areas, malls and wide avenues stand out. 

Cuenca is known as the "Athens of Ecuador" and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it the third most important city in Ecuador.

  • Cuenca - Practical Information

    Currency

    US Dollar

    Language

    Spanish

    Timezone

    UTC/GMT -5

    Weights & Measures

    Metric

    Visas

    Most travelers entering Ecuador as tourists, including citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the EU, Canada and the USA, do not require visas. Upon entry, they will be issued a T-3 embarkation card valid for 90 days. Sixty-day stamps are rarely given, but double-check if you’re going to be in the country for a while. Residents of most Central American and some Asian countries require visas.

    All travelers entering as diplomats, students, laborers, religious workers, businesspeople, volunteers and cultural-exchange visitors require nonimmigrant visas. Various immigrant visas are also available.

    Obtaining a visa is time-consuming, so commence the process as far ahead of your visit as possible. Visas enable holders to apply for a censo (temporary-residence card) and pay resident prices in national parks, as well as on trains and planes. Visas must be obtained from an Ecuadorian embassy and cannot be arranged within Ecuador.

    All (nontourist) visa holders must register at the Dirección General de Extranjería ([tel] 02-223-1022/3; cnr 10 de Agosto & General Murgeón, Edificio Autorepuestos, 4th fl; [hrs] 8am-1pm Mon-Fri) in Quito within 30 days of arrival in Ecuador. If visa holders wish to leave the country and return, they need a salida (exit) form from the Jefatura Provincial de Migración, which can be used for multiple exits and re-entries. Visa holders who apply for residency need to get an exit permit from the immigration authorities in Quito before they leave the country.

    Customs

    Each traveler is able to import 1L of spirits, 300 cigarettes and an ‘reasonable’ amount of perfume – all items are duty-free. There is no problem bringing in the usual personal belongings, but if you plan on bringing in something that might not be considered a ‘usual personal belonging, ’ you should check with an Ecuadorian consulate.

    Pre-Columbian artifacts and endangered-animal products (including mounted butterflies and beetles) are not allowed to be taken out of Ecuador or imported into most other countries.

    Business Hour

    • Banks open at 8am and close between 2pm and 4pm Monday to Friday (though money-changing services usually stop around 2pm).
    • Andinatel, Pacifictel and Etapa telephone call centers are almost invariably open 8am to 10pm daily. Post offices are generally open 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 1pm Saturday in major cities. In smaller towns they’ll close for lunch.
    • In Quito and Guayaquil, most stores and businesses of interest to tourists stay open from 9am to 7pm Monday through Friday, usually with an hour off for lunch (around 1pm). Government offices and businesses such as Amex are open from about 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, also with an hour off for lunch around 1pm.
    • In smaller towns, especially in the hotter lowlands, lunch breaks of two hours are not uncommon. On Saturday, many stores and some businesses are open from 9am to noon. Stores in major shopping malls are open between 8am and 10pm daily.
    • Restaurant are generally open noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm. Bars usually open around 5pm and close between midnight and 2am.

    Electricity overview

    American-style plug with two parallel flat blades above a circular grounding pin

    Electricity overview (european)

    Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades

    Electricity overview ( Two parallel)