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Train from Quito to Cuenca?

Maine
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91 posts
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Train from Quito to Cuenca?

I have come a cross a few references in this forum to taking a train from Quito south towards Cuenca, but I can't seem to find anything definitive on this in the forum or on line. Is there a train currently running from Quito to Cuenca or even just from Quito to Riobamba? I don't mean the "Devil's Nose" train but a genuine long distance train. If so how does it compare in price and time to bus? We want to take the trip through the Avenue of the Volcanoes but have read conflicting accounts of whether it is even possible to do this because of strikes, road conditions, etc. Or should we just fly? Thanks for any tips!

Beirut, Lebanon
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1. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

No, there is no train going all the way from Quito to Cuenca. Also, the train that goes from Riobamba as far as Alausi/Sibambe is slower than going by bus. Costs $7.80 roundtrip, so maybe around the same price as the bus or slightly higher. The train from Quito actually departs south of Quito and only goes as far as El Boliche, which is just before Cotopaxi. The trains are really tourist trains, not real means of transportation.

While it's true that road conditions are poor at some points, I enjoyed driving from Quito to Cuenca. I think FunnyChap, the other Ecuador expert hated it, but I did it at 7mo pregnant and still didn't find it to be too bumpy/awful, and probably 70-80% of the road is good. Strikes are under control right now, there is no way to know the status of them for your dates, but I think the free trade agreement should be signed sometime say by end of May? And that is one of the major points of protest right now, so after it's signed, things should settle.

Flying is cheap and easy, but perhaps you can wait and see when you are here how the strikes are going, if they are still on at all.

Maine
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2. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

Thank you American in Quito. We actually did fly from Quito to Cuenca when we were there 10 years ago and on the way south had good seats and good views - the pilot even tilted the plane to let us see right down into one of the craters, but I'd really like to see the volcanoes from the ground. We are going one way, since from Cuenca we go to Guayaquil for our return flight home. I thought the bus would be a good way to see the volcanoes but of course we wouldn't be able to just pull off the road to gawk or take pictures. A rental car presents the problem of a one way rental and also the uncertainty about road closures and all the "horror stories" we've heard about robbers, bad drivers, etc. We're also traveling with kids. We thought we'd go from Quito to Riobamba one day - spend the day and one night there, then go the rest of the way to Cuenca. Any thoughts on this? Do you know if rental companies frown on one way rentals? Thanks - I appreciate any advice I can get from someone who's travelled the route.

Beirut, Lebanon
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3. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

Actually, in addition to being pregnant, I was also travelling with my 2yo! (And my parents) So we took several days to head down. You don't need a whole day in Riobamba, in my opinion a few hours is enough. But I did really like the hotel we stayed at there, apraspungu, google it - it's an hacienda outside of town, we got a room that was a suite, with one bedroom with a double bed and two couches that became single beds in the living room - great for a family!

We did Quito to Riobamba in one go on our way back from Cuenca, and it took about 4 hours.

Perhaps you leave Quito in the AM, have lunch partway there - like at the base of Cotopaxi (Cafe de la Vaca in Machachi for cheap but excellent, Hacienda San Agustin de Callo for an amazing experience), then you arrive in Riobamba with 2-3 hours before dark to look around - see the main square and the museum in the convent - then the next morning leave early, and stop 2 hours outside of Cuenca at Ingapirca?

I would look online at Budget rates for the car rental to see about one-way. I have no idea where the bandit stories come from, although I have seen them in my guidebooks - I have never actually met anyone who had this problem while driving (bus travel I don't know about, but all I've heard for that is issues with pickpockets). We made the point of travelling by day b/c most accidents happen at night, when it's harder to see, some cars don't have headlights, etc. Drivers pass insanely agressively but as long as you drive defensively and not agressively, it's fine.

When is your trip? If it is significantly after the free trade agreement has been signed, I wouldn't worry about the protests. If it's this or next month, it's something to consider.

Probably a longer two cents than you were expecting, and all just my opinion, but there it is for what it's worth!

Maine
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4. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

Thanks again, and I don't mind getting a long response. I am one of those people who spends almost as much time planning as I do in actually taking the trip. My wife just nods and says "sure that sounds fine" but I like to research as much as I can ahead of time.

We're heading down in August. We have a week in the Galapagos, then a few days at an ecolodge in Baeza, then to Cuenca. My son was born there and when we were there to adopt him 10 years ago, we had limited time for sightseeing. Now that he is 13 he is old enough to understand a lot more and appreciate the beauty of the coutryside and the people. So the main purpose of the trip is to show him as much as we can of Ecuador and give him some idea of what his native country is like.

Based on your response and some other stuff I've read I'm leaning now to flying from Quito to Cuenca and just spending more time there and do more day trips - to Ingapirca, Cajas, and of course in the city itself.

I'll just add that when we were there ten years ago for six weeks, we never had any problems at all and all the people we met were absolutely wonderful - but we didn't get to see much outside of Quito and Cuenca.

Beirut, Lebanon
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5. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

I think day trips make sense, and Cajas is supposed to be amazing, better to have more time for those day trips. (I didn't manage to squeeze it into my itinerary when we went.) Sounds like a great trip, I'm sure your son will be amazed to see everything Ecuador has to offer - I know I am!

Fayetteville...
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6. Re: Train from Quito to Cuenca?

Dear gullinmain

Your right there used to be a train to Cuenca but there was a disaster, I think about 1993, along the route, a mountain fell due poor mining practices the area flooded and stayed that way for a period of time. The track was never repaired so eventually they moved the train out of the area never to return. I lived in Cuenca for 5 years. It is a city that I love very much. I think your idea to spend more time there is excelent. Especialy if that is where your son is from. Cajas is an amazing place, like no other place I have ever seen. It is very high altitude and would be considered above tree line here in Colorado. So it is cold, so make shure you go with cloths for colder weather. It is doted with lakes and waterfalls. My husband once saw two condor when he was on a fishing trip. Along the way are resturants that serve trout from the area. Inga pirca is also very interesting. If you don't take a tour, which I would recomend, it would be hard for you to find on your own, it is out in a rural area, they have guides that walk with you and tell you the history and explain what you are looking at. While in Cuenca take a drive or walk along the street Don Bosco. It is lined with local resturants that specialize in Pork and Cuy (guinee pig). So you see the pigs and Cuy out in the front either being roasted or displayed to sell. Kids usually get a kick out of seeing this. If you have a chance you could go to San Joquin. Which is just on the outskirts of Cuenca. Alot of basket weavers live there. So they have their baskets hanging out for sale and sometimes you can see them weaving new baskets. It is not touristy just the locals. Enjoy your trip!