For such a well-trodden backpacker trail, it was surprising to find that there was only outdated information available for getting from Baños to Cuenca. Here’s the options I found to get from Baños to Cuenca by bus in 2020.
How long does it take to get from Baños to Cuenca by bus?
I have bad news: while it’s only 350 kilometres between Baños and Cuenca, the only route winds slowly through the Andes; so the bus is going excruciatingly slow. Expect it to take at least six hours, up to eight or nine depending on traffic.
Option #1: Direct Bus | Baños to Cuenca (easiest option)
Yes – there IS a direct bus from Baños to Cuenca. From my research it’s pretty new and has only been running for a year or two. But, the holy grail does exist. You can hop on, snooze away, catch up on your latest Netflix series (let’s not pretend that just because we’re backpackers we don’t lose ourselves in Grey’s Anatomy every now and then) and wake up in Cuenca with no worries.
The downside to the direct bus?
- It only has three departures a day – early morning, late afternoon, and late evening.
- It goes slower than other buses because it tries to pick up many people along the road (according to our hostel owner).
Regardless, it’s an easy and hassle-free option if the departure times suit you.
Baños to Cuenca Direct Bus Departure Times:
8:45 // 16:00 // 22:00
Baños to Cuenca Direct Bus Cost:
TOTAL: $10 USD
Option #2: via Riobamba | Baños to Cuenca
This option used to be quite good. Buses from Baños to Riobamba leave every half hour, and we were told that they went from Riobamba to Cuenca every fifteen minutes. This information is now out of date – and we found out the hard way.
You can still take this route, but there is now only one bus company that goes from Riobamba terminal, departing roughly every two hours, but with gaps of up to four hours.
However, buses from Quito heading to Cuenca still go through the town – just not through the terminal. If you arrive at Riobamba terminal and you have a while to wait until the bus to Cuenca leaves, hop in a taxi to Media Luna (la bus para Cuenca). The buses from Quito run through here every fifteen minutes or so, and there will be bus employees to help you on the right one (they’re all REALLY friendly!). The taxi should cost less than $2 USD and take around ten minutes.
Baños to Cuenca via Riobamba trip time:
2 hours to Riobamba, 5 hours to Cuenca, plus bus changes and the taxi ride.
Baños to Cuenca via Riobamba cost:
Baños to Riobamba: $2 USD
Riobamba to Cuenca (from terminal or Media Luna): $8 USD
Riobamba to Media Luna (taxi): $2 USD
TOTAL: $10 – 12 USD
Option #3: via Ambato | Baños to Cuenca
Ambato is one of the closer big cities to Baños, which makes it an easy option for major transport links. Hop on a bus from Baños Terminal to Ambato – these run very frequently, every fifteen minutes or so, and only take about an hour to reach the Terminal Terrestrial in Ambato.
In Terminal Terrestrial in Ambato, you can buy your onward ticket to Cuenca. Buses aren’t overwhelmingly frequent, but leave roughly every hour or two.
Baños to Cuenca via Ambato trip time:
Baños to Ambato: 1 hour
Ambato to Cuenca: 6-8 hours
Baños to Cuenca via Ambato cost:
Baños to Ambato: $2 USD
Ambato to Cuenca: $12-13 USD
TOTAL: $14-15 USD
Where do buses from Baños to Cuenca arrive?
Most buses will have one stop on the edge of the city, and then continue to Terminale Terrestre Cuenca, a reasonably well-equipped bus station close to the city centre.
If you’re staying in the main tourist district of Cuenca it should only be a short and cheap taxi ride to your destination – sadly, Cuenca is still missing out on the wonders of Uber. Expect to pay around $2 USD for a five-minute taxi ride to the center.
Have you made the trip from Baños to Cuenca? Got any updates or questions? Leave them in the comments below!