How to Get Around Cuenca – Part Two

Getting around Cuenca is fairly simple using 4 wheels, 2 wheels, or 2 feet. Last week, I discussed using cars, taxis, and light rail for daily transportation. Today, I will tell you about using buses, bicycles, and walking.


The bus system in Cuenca, or Moovit, is quite extensive and up to date. There are 475 buses crisscrossing the city until about 10:00 pm. Like the Tranvia system, you buy a $1.75 card to which you add money. Purchase your card at one of 4 offices in the city, and later look for a red sign in shops where you can go in and add money to your card. There is a map showing where these stores are and a map of the routes at the tourist office opposite Parque Calderon.

Get on the bus at the front, swipe your card for a $.30 ride, and exit toward the rear. The stop names are announced on each bus. The integration of one card you can use on both the Tranvia and the buses has started to take place and will be fully developed as the year proceeds.

Each bus has signs in the front showing a route number along with the start and end points. The  Moovit system operates with an interactive app which you can download to your phone or computer.. The system can suggest routes to destinations of your choice. You can select your route, find stops, determine how long your trip should take, and even learn how far you will need to walk to your destination after departing the bus. Wi-Fi is available on the bus for you to use your app when traveling.


Bicycles in Cuenca are very common as the city fathers have been very proactive constructing bike lanes throughout much of the city. Called ciclovías, these bike lanes parallel major roads and run alongside the rivers. They often  double with pedestrian paths, so the bike rider must be careful when coming upon a walker. These bike lanes may be cement stretches or gravel paths, and more lanes are being improved or added continually. Riding a bike is one way to combat the congested streets.

Don’t have a bike? No problem. Bike rental stations are scattered throughout the historic district and popular parks. Join the BiciCuenca program for a low fee and then pay a quarter for a 30-minute ride or $10.00 for a full day. First, register at the BiciCuenca office along the Tomebamba River and deposit $8.00 for a card you can use at any of the rental stations. A secret is to pay the quarter for a 30-minute ride, check the bike in and then pay for another 30-minute ride. Otherwise, a 60-minute ride is 75¢ or $2.00 an hour thereafter.

If you download the app, you will be able to see the amount of money on your card and find the number of bikes available at the stations. After your ride, simply return the bike to any station.


The cheapest and most scenic method to traverse Cuenca is to walk. Cuenca is mostly a very easy walkable city, as much of it is flat with only a few hills, while steeper hills lie outside the city center. There are, however, stairways between 80 and 90 step leading from the Tomebamba River up to El Centro. A couple of these have ramps in addition to the stairways. Three of the rivers have walkways running alongside in park-like settings, often with children and adult exercise equipment for your use.

Cuenca’s sidewalks are not uniformly constructed as many of these are old and may have broken pavement, holes, or other obstacles with which to contend. Consequently, these sidewalks are challenging for the impaired or those needing a wheelchair. Other stretches are newer and a pleasure to walk.

In Ecuador, pedestrians do not have the right of away. At corners, it is essential to look for turning cars before stepping into the street. Legally, you may jay walk with care.

However you chose to get around in Cuenca, you will have a positive experience, see the sights, and easily get to your destination. Cuenca is one of the safest cities in South America, which allows you to have an even better exposure to the city.

Fact: Cuenca employs a team of 1000 people who keep the streets and sidewalks clean, 7 days a week
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Riding the Bus

Living carless in Panamá means that I get around with a taxi or a bus. Both the local taxis and buses are independently owned; they are the source of income for the drivers. I see as many taxis in downtown Boquete as I’ve seen in lower Manhattan. I suspect that keeps the prices down but also makes it hard for the drivers to earn a sufficient income. Consequently, the drivers try to build a ridership by passing out their business card which lists several phone numbers and a Facebook contact. I have my personal driver I call when I need a taxi (usually evenings when the buses don’t run).

There are two types of buses in Boquete. There are the large Greyhound-like buses that travel between Boquete and DaVID, Panamá’s second largest city about 35  miles south of me. These are comfortable buses to ride, though demand requires the use of some old school buses, also. These buses serve as local buses, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. They run frequently in the early morning and late afternoon, less so in the mid-day. I don’t think they stick to any schedule. I have seen as many as 3 buses arrive one immediately behind the other.

Small, white buses serve the outlying areas (and there are many of these). In addition to the driver, there is usually an attendant who opens and closes the door and collects the fare. These buses are designed to seat 12 people, but again, since the driver is  trying to earn the best living he can, he packs the bus as full as he can. He jams 2 people into 1 seat and even adds a box in the aisle for someone to sit on. Panamanians have no sense of personal space and are willing to sit cheek by jowl. Recently, an indigenous woman squeezed in next to me with two children on her lap and began breast feeding the youngest. In my opinion, the most egregious example of packing people in was when the driver asked a small boy to give up his seat, go outside and enter the bus from the back and then lie on the floor under the seats. I am still angry to have witnessed this.

Beside overcrowding, having to wait for a bus is the biggest nuisance. They are supposed to run about every hour, but I’m not sure when they are going to arrive. I have waited between 2 and 50 minutes. Despite these problems, I rather enjoy riding the bus. My bus line serves the coffee and vegetable workers; I am usually the only white person on the bus; sometimes there are white hikers going back into town. Since I live in the only white community on the bus line, they never have to ask me where I want to get off. Once I did tell an attendant where I wanted to get off and he just gave me a look that said it was obvious. On that occasion, some guy in front of me turned his head around so fast I thought he might break his neck. He starred at me for a moment and then turned back. To this day, I wonder what he thought. Did he not know or expect there would be a white guy on the bus? Did he wonder where I was going? Other people in my community either drive a car or take a taxi. I’m all for the adventure of mixing with the locals. I always look forward to riding the bus, except when it is overcrowded.

Fact: Panamá uses no lawn mowers (I’ve seen only 1); all its grasses are cut with a weed whacker.
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