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My first visit to Quito was as a student years ago, as the first and last destination on my volunteer trip in Ecuador, and to this day, I maintain an amazing impression of the city. While, at that time, I could not explore Quito as thoroughly as I would have liked, I still saw it as a vibrant and charming city.
But Quito can also be overwhelming. Especially if it’s your first time visiting Ecuador, or even South America. You may be asking yourself how much you’re supposed to tip. Or how you’ll get from place to place.
Well, for all of you, I compiled an ultimate guide to help you on your trip to Quito, Ecuador. Enjoy!
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, a country located (not-so-surprisingly) on the equator, in South America. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish. I would definitely recommend learning some Spanish if you’re backpacking around South America. However, it is not necessary to know or learn Spanish to visit Quito.
Weather and Climate
While many people believe that Quito is hot due to its proximity to the equator, this is not the case. With an average annual temperature of 14°C (58°F), it typically ranges from 10-19°C (50-67°F). This temperate temperature is due to the city’s altitude of 2,800 m (9252 ft).
Furthermore, it additionally rains in Quito, with peak rainfall happening in March and April, ranging from 140 mm to 170 mm (5.5 inches to 6.7 inches), in those months. However, from June to August, there is little rainfall, ranging from 20 mm to 40 mm (0.8 inches to 1.6 inches), in those months.
While the city is temperate and occasionally rainy, I would recommend wearing sunscreen regardless of the weather, as Quito is still close to the equator, and is therefore subject to strong UV rays.
Once you arrive in Ecuador, you’ll most likely land at the Quito International Airport, known as the Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre. At the airport, there are many taxis available that can drive you into Quito, which takes about an hour. This will cost you around $25-$35 USD.
If you’re hoping to save some money, you can also get into town by bus. However, the buses are not in service before 4 am or after 11 pm, so you’ll have to take a taxi if you arrive really late at night, or really early in the morning. The cost of the buses range from $2 USD for the green bus, and $12 USD for the white and red bus (AERO Servicio).
Once you arrive at your accommodation in Quito, there are various forms of transportation that you can use within Quito. For instance, you can take…
Taxis are abundant in Quito. Taxi companies include Urgentaxi and City Taxi, and they are, for the most part, yellow.
However, regarding taxis, you have to be aware of potential scams. First, always ensure that the taximetro (the little black box recording the cost) is being used. If the driver refuses to do this, you should either find another taxi, or negotiate a price before departing. You should especially negotiate a price during rush hour. Further, note that it is difficult to find a taxi when it’s raining.
The minimum cost for a ride is $1 USD.
Traveling by bus is a great alternative form of transportation, as it is the cheapest and easiest. In Quito, there are two bus systems:
With local buses costing $0.25 USD per ride, they are my preferred form of transport. They operate from 6 am to 9 pm, and you can typically get off at any street corner. However, you do have to flag them down. They are blue if they are traveling within Quito, and green if they go outside of Quito (into the outlying areas).
However, you do have to remember to signal before your stop, and you’ll have to jump out of the bus while it is still moving (akin to the buses in Southeast Asia).
Trolley Bus Systems
There are three trolley bus systems in Quito: Trolebus, EcoVia, and Metrobus. The trolley buses also cost $0.25 USD per ride, making it an equally cheap option.
A good thing about these buses is that they have their own lanes on the roads, which means you do not experience many traffic issues; this can be a problem with the local buses. However, they can get crowded during rush hour.
Issues with the Bus System
As buses are the cheapest options, they can get quite crowded, especially during rush hour. Additionally, you have to be aware of pick-pocketing. To learn more about how to protect yourself from pickpockets, scroll to the end of this article.
Where to Stay
However, I have learned through trial-and-error that choosing the cheapest possible option isn’t always the best decision. For instance, while I was able to choose the cheapest possible accommodation, I then realized that I had to spend a lot of extra money or time getting to and from the center of town.
And let me tell you, walking 30 minutes into town may not seem long, until you realize it’s the middle of summer in south Cambodia, and the humidity and temperature decide to team up to suck up all of your energy and motivation.
So, your choice of accommodation will depend on your budget. But, I also recommend taking into account the hotel ratings, its distance from downtown, and the amenities it offers.
Personally, I stayed in the Hotel San Francisco de Quito, which I adored. They offered such a great variety of rooms, and was in a great location.
What to Do
There are several things you can do, see, experience, and enjoy in Quito; it is without a doubt one of the world’s best dream destinations. Things to do include:
- Wander around Quito Old Town. Start off in the Plaza Grande, then explore the surrounding cathedrals and shops.
- Admire the bizarre gargoyles of the Basilica del Voto Nacional.
- Simultaneously stand in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the Museu Solar Intinan.
- Admire the views from the Itchimbia cultural center.
- Try out the cuisine by going to a variety of different restaurants.
- Check out one of the dozens of museums in Quito, including the Museo Nacional, the San Francisco Museum, and the Museo de la Ciudad.
- Restaurants: In Ecuador, most restaurants include a 10% service charge on the final bill. So, in a basic, mid-tier restaurant, I would recommend rounding up the bill, or simply leaving a couple extra bucks for the server. At more expensive restaurants, I would recommend adding an extra tip of 5-10%, depending on the level of service.
- Taxis: Most of the time, when you use a taxi in Quito, you will be paying in cash. For tips, I would recommend rounding up to the even dollar.
While Quito is one of the best cities in South America, pick-pocketing is still a common occurrence (in Quito and in most of South America). However, there are things you can do to reduce your likelihood of being pick-pocketed. This includes:
- Be aware of your valuables at all times. This includes your cell phone, money, credit cards, passports, or any other expensive or important item.
- Keep your valuables as concealed as possible, and don’t wear anything flashy (like jewelry or watches, etc.) Overall, try to look like you have nothing worth stealing.
- Consider buying some sort of money belt or leg pouch, that will allow you to hide your valuables.
Quito is an immensely vibrant city, with many things to offer. While there are issues with pickpockets and crowds, it is still an incredible city to visit, that I would definitely not skip over.
Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.
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