Taking the bus in Cuenca should be as simple as hopping on, paying your fare, and getting off when it's time. Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that.
Every city transit bus has two ways to pay:
As mentioned, fares are 25 cents (less if you're over 65). The machine accepts nickels, dimes and quarters (or the Ecuadorian equivalents—cinco centavos, diez centavos and veinticinco centavos).
That's simple enough, right? But what if you don't have 25 cents? Here are all the scenarios we've encountered when taking the bus in Cuenca:
When we traveled together on the same bus, we've had these experiences:
Confused? We're not surprised.
Due to all of these inconsistencies, we gave up dealing with coins and bought bus passes.
The Urbania pass is definitely the way to go if you get around Cuenca a lot. You buy it (there's a small fee) and load it with as much money as you want on it—$3.00, $5.50, $10.00, or more.
Each ride deducts 25 cents until you've run out of money on the card, at which time you recharge it. You can do that at many of the little convenience stores that pepper the city, if they have a Recarga Urbania or similar sign outside or in the window.
You can use it for two people; however, you have to wait at least 30 seconds before you can use the card a second time.
So you never have to worry about having change for the bus. And believe us, this can be an issue!
Taking the bus in Cuenca will get you just about anywhere you need to go—the terminal terrestre, the the Cuenca airport, Mall del Rio for shopping, Milenium Plaza (yes, that's the correct spelling) to see a movie in English, El Centro for Gringo Night, or even Baños, the small town with hot springs.
Some buses run from one side of the city to the other, while others do a circuit. So they're a great way to see parts of Cuenca that you might not ever see.
Unfortunately, if you're taking a bus into El Centro, the return bus is never on the same street, since all the streets are one way. So it might take you a while to find the return bus you need.
Here's a link to two images of the guide to Cuenca bus routes (guía de buses). Since it only goes as high as Route 29, you won't find Route 50 on it, one of the ones that travels along Ordóñez Lasso, in the west end of Cuenca.
The paper version of the map seems hard to come by in Cuenca, so open up both pages in your browser, and then print them out. It's better than no map.
Getting off can be tricky on Cuenca buses. You have to indicate to the driver that you want off, but the only way to do that is by pressing a button at the back of the bus, near the exit. That's not much of a problem when the bus is empty. When it's full, you'll need to give yourself an extra couple of minutes to get down the packed aisle.
The above may make it sound like taking the bus in Cuenca is a nightmare. We find it a money-saving alternative to taking taxis in Cuenca. You will too if you use the information above and plan to make your trips uneventful.
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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!!