What is the safest city in Ecuador?
Located within the rolling mountains of southern Ecuador, Cuenca has firmly placed itself along the major travel route through this country.
Here you can explore an abundance of colonial architecture, as well as the beautiful natural landscapes that can easily be reached with day trips.
Safety is one of the most important aspects of travel, and Ecuador as a whole does tend to raise questions as to whether or not it’s safe for travel.
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The Safest City in Ecuador
This guide looks at the safety situation in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, and drills down into why it’s considered as the safest city in Ecuador.
I’ll also share some of the best things to do here, as well as some top tips for staying safe. That way you can see what’s on offer here and compare it to other cities in South America that you may have considered visiting.
Cuenca: The Safest City in Ecuador
Let’s start this off by looking at why Cuenca is safe and what makes it feel like such a safe place to walk around when you get there.
After all, this city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its sheer amount of historic buildings amongst other notable feats.
Why is Cuenca so safe?
Did you know that many first time visitors who have already been traveling through Ecuador are often surprised when they reach Cuenca?
Cities such as Quito and Guayaquil are notorious for crime (in certain areas), and Cuenca feels a lot more relaxed in comparison.
Cuenca is safe as it has avoided the scale of drug-related issues that have plagued the other big cities. As a result, you can walk around the historic center and feel like you could be somewhere in Europe.
Whilst not the case for every Andean city, the big cities within the mountains tend to be safer as well due to the rural way of life.
Some of the other reasons for this can range from the locals’ more hard-working attitude (and kicking out cartels before they can even set up) to also being more inaccessible geographically.
Cuenca Historic Center
As part of the Gringo Trail in South America, the historic center is the beating heart of Cuenca. It’s where all of the main cathedrals and museums are located, and you’ll also find great nightlife options here too.
If you plan to spend more than one day here, you can find hotels in Cuenca for as little as 9$ per night that can offer you a very comfortable stay.
This area is by far the safest to base yourself in Cuenca as a tourist or a remote worker. The streets are clean and you’ll find lots of police presence around the main plaza and surrounding blocks.
As a result, Cuenca is very safe to walk around during the day, and you can easily explore the area alone too (just try not to head too far out unless you know where you’re going).
No matter where you go in Latin America I suggest you carry a travel money belt (or the equivalent) to conceal your valuables. That way, there is no need to reveal all your cash or display valuables when paying for things.
At night it’s similar, although it’s best to use taxis to get between different destinations (especially those that are further out in different districts).
Dangerous neighbourhoods in Cuenca
Whilst things don’t seem all “doom and gloom” as they would be in cities like Guayaquil, there are still some areas that you’ll want to avoid when in Cuenca. This will further reduce your chance of being a victim of crime.
The Bus Station is the most important one to mention, given you’ll arrive here and may need to use it multiple times. Be sure to use taxis to get from here to the historic center. If you’re arriving at the Airport see this transfer service as a way to get to your hotel in the most hassle-free way.
Cayambe is another area that you will definitely want to avoid, as violence is common (as well as a recent increase in assaults and murders). Other areas you’ll want to avoid include La Merced and Feria Libre.
Is Cuenca safe at Night?
Even at night, Cuenca is still pleasant to walk around. Just be sure to take the right precaution as you would anywhere else in Latin America.
The Historic Center is the best place for nightlife with many great bars and nightclubs and also is quite safe as long as you avoid wearing flashy accessories or making yourself vulnerable (such as by drinking excessively).
If you do go out drinking, then it’s best to go with a group, and also to not accept random drinks from people you don’t know.
Another important point is to avoid walking in parks alone late at night, as risks of theft or assault can be higher. For the curious, doing a night tour like this one can be a great way to get acquainted with the city’s night scene while also having the chance to ask any questions to a local guide.
It’s also wise to use registered taxis if heading outside of the historic center for the night, as other areas can be more dangerous for tourists.
Things to do in Cuenca
Now you have a better idea of what to expect when arriving in Cuenca, let’s look at a few things to do in Cuenca that may be of interest.
Explore Cuenca’s Colonial Architecture
This city is famed for its striking Spanish buildings, and can make its claim as one of the prettiest cities in the entire continent!
The best buildings to see include Cuenca Cathedral and Corte Provincial de Justicia de Azuay. If you’re staying a Selina or at one of the more upmarket hotels such as Mansion Alcazar you won’t be far from these buildings.
Head up to Mirador Turi
Whenever heading somewhere new, it’s always a great idea to get a birds-eye view of your destination.
Mirador Turi is a place in Cuenca from where you be can see rows upon rows of perfectly organized streets, as well as the mountain backdrop.
Wander around the Cajas National Park
Roughly 20 km from Cuenca we can find this stunning National Park. It’s full of rocky trails where you can see various lakes, exotic plants and even some animals too.
It’s located at a high altitude, so it’s best to take it slow when exploring this region. I recommend you take a day trip to be able to visit two altitude levels within the park and see all the beautiful scenery that the park offers.
Cuenca Travel Safety Tips
See my list of travel tips for Cuenca to ensure you have the best stay whether you’re on vacation, backpacking, or traveling with friends.
⤵️ Dan’s Travel Tips For Cuenca:
- One of the very best things to do in Cuenca to set yourself up for success as a visitor, is to base yourself within the Historic Center.
- If you’re backpacking or traveling on a budget then be sure to check out some of the best hostels in Cuenca for a place to stay while here.
- Not only is crime much lower here compared to other parts of the city, there’s also a much safer feel to the place too (streets are clean, less bustle etc).
- To increase your personal safety, you’ll want to use taxis when heading around, especially to and from the various bus stations.
- If you’ll visiting more cities before or after Cuenca, see this list of places to avoid in South America to get a better idea of where you should be taking more care on your travels to the continent.
- This is because the areas on the outskirts of the historic center have a much grittier feel to them, where violence is also more likely.
- Lastly you’ll want to take precautions to avoid getting pickpocketed when out and about. Keeping valuables at home and your wallet in your front pocket is a good start. An even better solution is to carry a Money Belt to keep possessions hidden and steal-proof.
Got Travel Insurance for Cuenca?
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The Safest City in Ecuador
This beautiful South American city is home to some truly mesmerizing streets and is full of both impressive landmarks and colorful architecture.
Cuenca also ranks as the safest city in Ecuador that you can visit, which is due to various factors (such as having avoided a rise in drug cartels that have afflicted other cities like Guayaquil and Quito).
This guide has looked at the city of Cuenca and why it’s so safe compared to the rest of Ecuador as well as other South American cities.
I have also explored the best area to stay (and where to avoid), plus included some personal safety tips to follow as well as what to do in Cuenca.
If you’re dead set on visiting Ecuador, why not take a look at my guide which looks closer at things to do in Cuenca so you can plan your trip?
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