Making money – Expat jobs and businesses in Cuenca


Where can expats work in Cuenca? So my friends have gotten lots of odd jobs, anything from shopkeepers, English teachers, chiropractors, to opening their own businesses. Others have started their own businesses. That made me think, what opportunities are there for either expat jobs in Cuenca or entrepeneurial ventures? My take on making money here…..

Common expat jobs:

  • English teacher (Native English speakers with TEFL certification can find work at CEDEI, Nexus, the Wall Street Institute, or other language schools in Cuenca.
  • Regular work, but online /remotely. I know people who hold down regular jobs but work exclusively through the internet. This has to be one of the more lucrative options if you can exploit the cost of living difference.
  • Peace Corps. There are a lot of volunteers in Cuenca and the surrounding areas, teaching English or doing teach-the-teacher programs. Not exactly a job, but a way to have living expenses paid for.
  • Waitress or store clerk. Speak Spanish somewhat? There are plenty of gringo-oriented restaurants, cafes or hospitality businesses that love hiring English-speaking staff. Requires a fair level of Spanish.

Entrepeneurial Ventures – Lower Startup Cost

Want to go the entrepeneurial route but not sure about risking an investment? Jobs in Cuenca pay rather low, so business owners are often more well-off than the salaried masses….providing it is a successful business of course!

  • Bake and sell goodies (pies, bagels, raw chocolate, gluten free bread, kombucha, anything not commonly available). Many of the expats sell these slightly illegally without any regulatory or registration with the health authorities. Shhhhhhh! A friend of mine literally went to the grocery store, made a bunch of sandwiches, wrapped them in plastic and hit the street corners.
  • Teach Classes. Can you shake it like it´s nobody´s business? Teach dancing – ballroom, salsa, swing, whatever. Can you cook weird raw foods? Teach raw food uncooking classes. Really amazing singer? Vocal coaching. These are all examples of things expats have done, but whatever your odd talent is, there may be a market for it. I would totally sign up for any of the following classes which do not yet exist here in Cuenca….
    • bikram (hot) yoga for those cold rainy Cuenca days
    • Turbokick or Bodypump exercise classes (the everpresent Zumba-esque bailoterapia is getting really old)
    • Ceramics / pottery
    • Afro Cuban dance
    • Flamenco dance classes
    • …….And lots m0re!
  • Tutor. Kinda smart? There are a small number of gringo families with school-aged kids. Tutoring school subjects in flawless English is another low startup cost option.
  • Bed & Breakfast at your house. Some expats rent out extra furnished rooms in their house, even intentionally renting or buying larger than they need through AirBnb, though of course the local hotel industry would love the government to crack down on these unregulated “hotels”.

Entrepeneurial Ventures – Higher Startup Cost

Ready to take on some more risk? Have some cash lying around? Congratulations, you can start a bigger business. Startup costs will be lower than in the US or Europe simply due to lower rent and lower salaries for staff, but it will still require investment.

  • Expat-run Restaurants and Cafes. Cook really well? Open a restaurant of cafe. Many successful restaurants – San Sebas, California Kitchen, Cafe Eucalyptus, La Joya Thai – are expat-run. Restaurants which currently do not exist in Cuenca but you could start? I will be first in line for any of the following!
    • Big salad bar (Souplantation or whole foods deli section
    • An Ethiopian restaurant mmm injera!
    • A Dosa (Indian crepe) restaurant
    • boba tea house
    • dim sum
    • Korean
    • gourmet food trucks (ie Korean taco truck, crepe trucks, the creme brûlée truck, not just dalchipapas or jburgerd
    • Japanese food other than sushi – izakaya, japanese curry, ramen, udon
    • High end French
    • Fusión anything (i have had Japanese-French, Indo-Chinese, etc.
    • A 24 hour cafe. 24-hour anything does not really exist here.
  • Cultural Center Friends of mine started Republica Sur, a space for concerts, movie nights, dancing classes, and everything in between.
  • Expat run Hostels OK, now we are talking about serious cash,
  • Consignment Store. A lot of people have talked about the need for expats to find used goods, although others have countered with the huge mess of regulatory restrictions on the import and sale of used goods here.


These businesses ideas may turn you into a millionaire (in which case I claim full responsibility for the genius idea – you can buy me a car as a thank you) or result in bankruptcy (in which case I claim zero responsibility). :) In any case, have fun and happy working!

The nuts below are for sale in an expat-run health food store. They caught my eye because they are imported from my hometown in California of Ojai, population 8,000. It’s a small world after all!


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One Response to "Making money – Expat jobs and businesses in Cuenca"
  1. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the ideas. Looking forward to the adventure!

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