Baños to Cuenca Bus Tickets, Shuttles, and What to Do!

Reviewed

on: 2023-05-24

by: Alice Silva

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    06 hours 30 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    museums, archaeological sites, parks

  • Best Price

    USD $ 16

  • Maximum comfort or class

    Good

  • Departures

    1 departure daily

  • Recommended by

    2317 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

Planning your trip from Baños to Cuenca

Parque Calderon, central Cuenca, Ecuador

After relaxing in the heavenly springs of Baños and perhaps doing some hiking up to the volcano or bicycling to waterfalls, it’s time to dress it up a little and make your way south by bus or shuttle to Cuenca, Ecuador’s cultural capital. Cuenca is the country’s third-largest city and has a Spanish dialect of its own known by the way people sing through their words. You will arrive in charming cobblestone streets, eternal spring climate, flower bouquets hanging from balconies, and rivers running through town in various directions (the word ‘Cuenca’ literally means referring to the place where the rivers all meet). Fortunately, the way to get to Cuenca from Baños has become diversified, so you can choose from a standard bus if you want to stretch your dollars the most, a private shuttle if you want door-to-door service exclusively for you or your small group, or a shared shuttle if you want something in between those two. If you are already prepared and just want to reserve now, the best place to get started is by clicking the button on the top of the page!

Transportation choices from Baños to Cuenca

Even though it is an extremely popular route, the distance from Baños to Cuenca at seven hours is not trivial. So if you have fidgety youngsters or you are concerned about bathroom stops, or simply you want to make the best use of those hours in a vehicle, you will want to consider your choices of transport.

Buses

Buses are ubiquitous in Ecuador, and everyone utilizes them to navigate about the country, as long as you have the time to travel by land and some know-how. On the whole, Ecuador's buses are mostly older models with deteriorating upholstery and patchy wi-fi, but they get the job done and let you appreciate Ecuador's can-do attitude. Vehicle by vehicle, they upgrade their fleets when there’s cash enough in their account and one bus is ready to be retired. Usually, the newer buses are on the longest-distance trips, and Baños to Cuenca doesn’t fall into that category, so you will be probably be getting on board something medium-aged but well-maintained. The easiest way to book: Just click on the Reserve Now button above.

Private Shuttles

At the opposite end of the spectrum, more passengers are opting in for a private shuttle. These are cars or vans customized to the size of your group and the luggage you’re carrying. They pick you up and drop you off at locations of your choosing, and also depart at a time most convenient for your schedule. You can expect quieter and more comfortable seating than you would in a bus, and no one you need to share the trip with except the driver, yourself, and any others you are bringing along. Since these are mostly private vehicles, shuttles don’t usually have wi-fi or movies playing, but the climate controls will be far superior, and customers enjoy the opportunity to engage in conversation with the driver about points of interest along the way, and you can stop at anything you wish for a rest break and to snap photos. The easiest way to tailor a private shuttle from Baños to Cuenca for your itinerary and needs is to visit EcuadorBus.

Shared Shuttles

The middle ground between a bus and private shuttle is a shared shuttle. Like a bus, shared shuttles have fixed starting points in Baños and fixed destination points in Cuenca, so they don’t pick you up or drop you off at your hotels. Also like buses, they have scheduled departure times. However, like a private shuttle, these are usually small vans that carry a much smaller registered group of passengers, making for a more direct trip to Cuenca. To locate a shared shuttle, click on the Reserve Now button on the top of the page and make sure “Shuttle" is included in the filter of results.

How often do buses depart Baños to Cuenca?

Even though it’s popular with tourists, Cuenca is not a natural route for regular commuters. In other words, bus companies don’t have a lot of demand to connect these two dots except for the tourist market, which is not enough for frequent departures. Therefore, there’s only one departure every morning at 8:45 am for the direct bus from Baños to Cuenca. There are many more indirect buses, however, that go to Ambato or Riobamba, and from there you can transfer to other buses going to Cuenca.

How often do buses depart Baños to Cuenca?

Even though it’s popular with tourists, Cuenca is not a natural route for regular commuters. In other words, bus companies don’t have a lot of demand to connect these two dots except for the tourist market, which is not enough for frequent departures. Therefore, there’s only one departure every morning at 8:45 am for the direct bus from Baños to Cuenca. There are many more indirect buses, however, that go to Ambato or Riobamba, and from there you can transfer to other buses going to Cuenca.

How much does the bus or shuttle cost from Baños to Cuenca?

As of this writing, the bus fare from Baños to Cuenca ranges from $16-20 USD, but that is subject to inflation and seasonal changes when demand declines or rises. Bus companies are not federalized; they are all private independently run businesses and so only have to abide by some minimal federal regulations and can then change their prices daily to compete or accommodate changes in demand.

Shared shuttles, the kind that we discussed above that are like mini-buses with fewer passengers, come in at around $35, but schedules are not consistent and sometimes these shuttles cease operation for a time until demand is in their sufficient for them to offer something regular and predictable. If you are not finding a shared shuttle online, you may be in one of their hiatus periods.

Private shuttles are the least hassle and operate year-round, even on holidays, because they are chartered entirely for your itinerary. The price for a private shuttle from Baños to Cuenca for a single passenger or two passengers with minimal luggage is $189 for the whole vehicle and driver. Prices go up from there based on additional passengers and additional luggage space required. To calculate a private shuttle rate for your particular parameters, use our shuttle calculator.

What to see in Cuenca

Sombrero factory, Cuenca.

There’s more to see in Cuenca than just ex-pats and retirees, although the city has become a haven for them due to its easy and affordable living and favorable climate. We thought we would list some off-beat activities here that you don’t normally see in guides, but that would help you gain a fond appreciation for this beautiful city.

#1 - Get the bird’s eye view from the Turi lookout

At the southern end of the city climbs a steep hill over an area known as Turi. The “mirador”, or lookout, is at the top of this hill next to a charming town square with a church and several restaurants and bars all next to each other. The lookout offers sweeping views of the city and the mountain ranges surrounding it, and for an even greater thrill, just a few steps away is El Columpio, a cable car that glides up the hillside some more to so you can look down not only on Cuenca, but Turi too! After all adventure, stick around in the Turi area because it also boasts its own natural hot springs that. Many travelers actually prefer the hot springs in Cuenca over the more famous ones up north because they find them better maintained and less crowded.

#2 - Stroll along the rivers

Not one or two, but four rivers cross through Cuenca, making the babbling of brooks audible everywhere you wander. Each river also comes with its own trail, but the two that are the most accessible are the Rio Tomebamba which runs through the downtown section alongside Calle Larga and therefore has lots of businesses and small parks on either side of it. But our personal favorite is Rio Yanuncay located in the southwestern section of the city. There you’ll find Parque Lineal, which as its name suggests, lines the entire river length going through city, so you can stroll the whole afternoon walking the riverside uninterrupted by streets, cables, or civilization. At the end of it, you come to Cuenca’s botanical garden right where the river joins Cuenca’s third river, Rio Tarqui. Oh yes, the fourth river is on the northeastern edge of the city, Rio Milchichig, which meanders through a more industrialized side of the city, but is interspersed with playgrounds and parks to enjoy.

#3 - Museum of Aboriginal Cultures

An unusual but excellently curated museum on Calle Larga is Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes. Here you’ll find exhibited a rich collection that preserves the cultures of Ecuador’s past or vanishing civilizations, including the Valdivia, Puruhá, Guangala, Machalilla, Inca, and many others. Experience pottery, household utensils, and art dating all the way back to 13,000 B.C., as well as a fine gift shop.

#4 - Museum of Sombreros

A distinctive trademark of Ecuadorians, especially in Cuenca, is the handwoven sombrero made from the palm-like toquilla plant. The hats became known as “Panama hats” only because Ecuador shipped them to Panama, and Panamanians took charge of distributing them from there all over the world. Most of these are made on the coast in Montecristi, but the finishing and large-scale manufacturing and sales are routed through Cuenca. A fascinating museum and experiential workshop is Museo Del Sombrero De Paja Toquilla, also located on Calle Larga. In one place, you can explore the history of the sombrero, then see it being hand-crafted in the factory, and then finish off in a wonderful on-site coffee shop featuring Ecuadorian arabica coffee. What’s more, everything created here is for sale, so don’t pass up on taking a sombrero home.

#5 - Unique experience of Ecuador wildlife

On the eastern side of Cuenca you’ll find a one-of-a-kind natural setting in which you can stroll trails like going through a forest, and then suddenly meet up with a jaguar or a bear! Not to worry, all the animals are kept safely behind barriers, but you’ll find it different than a zoo. This is Amaru, a bio-park and foundation dedicated to rescuing Ecuador’s at-risk wildlife and providing them their own habitat while at the same time allowing humans to observe them in their habitat. Many tourists won’t ever be able to see the spectacled bear up in the high Andes where it is a rare sight, but here at Amaru you can transport yourself there and appreciate this wonderful mammal, as well as many other Ecuadorian mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

Conclusion

Get started on your plans to visit Cuenca after a relaxing time in Baños, and you’ll find your adventure continuing to reward you with great experiences. Just click the Reserve Now button at the top of the page to find a bus or shared shuttle departure convenient with your plans, or visit ecuadorbus.com/shuttles if you want to arrange a private form of transport.

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are there other options than the bus to get from Baños to other parts of Ecuador?
Yes, while most travelers choose the bus, private transport can also be arranged from Baños to any other destination in Ecuador at ecuadorbus.com/shuttles. On the heavily trafficked routes to Quito, Riobamba, Ambato, and Cuenca, there are also shared vans and cars you can reserve a spot on, but these have limited availability.
How do I get to Baños from the airport?
Buses don’t have routes to Baños from the airport. You can however easily arrange private transport to pick you up from the airport and drive you directly to Baños on whatever time schedule you want, or if you are wanting to take the bus, you can have a vehicle take you from the airport to the bus terminal and have a ticket waiting for you when you arrive.
Do I bypass anything important when taking the bus direct from Baños to Cuenca?
You might consider taking shorter bus trips on the way to Cuenca, as there are a few important destinations in between. Namely, Ambato, Riobamba, and Alausi, in that order.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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