If you don't like riding city buses, then you'll be taking taxis in Cuenca. There are lots of them (several thousand), so you'll never have to wait long before one comes along.
Of course, as with any other large city, when you really need one, like when it's pouring rain, there's never an available taxi for you.
There are a few things to know that will make taking taxis in Cuenca cheaper and more pleasant for you.
Unlike taxis in Quito, Cuenca's taxis don't have meters. All trips are on a flat-rate fare. But each driver has his own determination of what you'll pay.
If you're visiting, or new to living in Cuenca, ask how much the fare is before you leave. No fare in the city is more than $3.00, and almost all of them will be $2.50 to as little as $1.00 for a very short ride.
You may, however, end up paying more than the usual amount if you travel during rush hour. The longer the trip takes, the more the driver will charge you, especially if you don't ask first. Imagine taking the same trip with a meter turned on. Sitting in traffic, the meter continues to climb.
Always have change on you when taking taxis in Cuenca.
If you don't ask for the price before you leave, and you hand him a $5 or $10 bill, he may decide that an extra 50 cents or a dollar is in order!
Usually there's no tipping of taxi drivers in Cuenca. If he's been very helpful (carrying groceries to your door, or something similar), consider adding an extra 25 or 50 cents (depending on the amount of the fare).
Then say "Por su ayuda" (pour sue I-uda), which means "for your help." That will ensure that he doesn't think you're a stupid gringo who pays too much for everything, while also acknowledging the extra work he did for you.
Cuenca requires that all taxis be licensed. This includes having the car painted yellow, having a roof sign, and having a decal on each side of the car with the company's or cooperative's name and phone number. They also need the license plate number in very large characters on the roof of the car or van.
However, there are unofficial taxis in Cuenca, usually near hotels or areas where expats live. If you're regularly near one of these areas, you'll soon learn who's an unofficial cabbie.
Many of these men speak at least some English, and are very helpful. They know that expats expect a higher level of service than Cuencanos, and they'll provide it.
Don't be shy about asking for the driver's phone number, so that you can call him to arrange for a ride.
Finding an English-speaking cabbie is the luck of the draw. You won't know until he suddenly starts speaking to you in English (although we've been in cabs where we could tell that the driver understood English, but never spoke any to us).
If you don't speak much Spanish, a cabbie who speaks English can be very useful to you. Since he probably learned his English in North America, he'll know how to treat you right. And he may also be proactive and give you his business card or cell phone number. If he doesn't, ask him for his tarjeta (pronounced "tar-hayta") or number. Then call him whenever you need a taxi.
Cuenca's a large city, with many small streets, and many one-way streets. Know where you're going, including the shop or building name and the street address (especially the street number). That will ensure that you arrive quickly at your destination, without your driver having to spend time looking for it, or doubling back due to one-way traffic.
Taking taxis in Cuenca will always (okay, almost always) be a positive experience, if you remember to ask for the price first, don't tip, have change, and know where you're going.
And once you find a driver you like, stick with him. He'll appreciate the regular customer, and you'll appreciate the consistent and reliable service.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!