It’s only natural to be a little apprehensive about traveling to a new destination. And if you are traveling to Quito for the first time, on the one hand, you are overflowing with excitement, but on the other, you worry about how much cash you should carry, the language barriers, the cultural differences, getting around and getting lost!
But more than anything, we are certain that you’re eager to immerse yourself in traditional Ecuadorian Sierra culture, experience the vibrant nightlife scene and indulge in sophisticated cuisine in the picturesque plaza. Or maybe you’re mostly thrilled to finally see the magnificent old churches filled with art, eager to eat from the street food stalls and explore the city on foot.
Whatever your first stops and budget are when you arrive in Quito, we want to ensure that you have the best possible experience by being prepared. Whether you are traveling on your own or taking a Quito city tour, here are some quick and useful Quito Travel Tips:
Getting to the city from the hotel
Taxi: There is an official taxi desk next to the main information point at the airport where you can state your destination, and you will get a slip of paper to hand to the driver. Prices are fixed depending on the distance but expect to pay between $25 – 35 USD.
Bus: If you want to save money and immerse yourself into Ecuadorian culture straight from the airport, then take the local green bus to Rio Coca Terminal for only $2. There’s a bus that departs every 15 minutes, and the ride will take about an hour. Once you reach Rio Coca, you can take another public bus for $0.25 to either La Mariscal or the Old Town.
We only recommend taking the public buses from Rio Coca if you are familiar with the area, speak the local language, and if it’s not after dark. Otherwise, take a taxi from Rio Coca, and you’ll still have saved some money reaching the city than you would have had you taken a taxi at the airport.
If you haven’t made prior arrangements, you can find dorm rooms that start at $8 USD a night. Private single rooms with a shared bathroom are about $25 USD a night.
Budget hotel prices
There are cheap local guesthouses that are priced at around $25-35 USD per night. But for that, you get a private room with a bathroom.
Average cost of food
Food in Quito is not only tasty but also cheap. Meals typically cost between $3-5 USD for local food. And there are plenty of food stalls on the street for about $1-2 USD. International/Continental meals will cost around $10 USD. If you are buying groceries from the local market, expect to spend roughly $15-20 USD per week.
If you’re really on a budget, ask for the “almuerzo” deal which starts with a hearty soup followed by a filling plate of rice, beans, fried plantains, salad and a choice of fish or meat! Absolutely delicious and only $2 per person!
And don’t forget to try the local beer! Ecuador produces many of its own beer brands which are of course cheaper than imported beer. Artisanal beer is the big thing in Quito, be sure to try some of those.
Taking the taxi
Taxis cost around $2-4 USD for a 15-minute ride.
Don’t get into a taxi unless the driver is using his taxi meter. Only take the yellow taxis with orange license plates which should have ‘transporte seguro’ stickers on the outside. If you notice that the inside of your taxi is not fitted with two security cameras and a small red panic button, the chances are that you are in a “fake taxi.”
If you bring a smart phone with your, it might be a good idea to install the Easy Taxi App. This app works similarly to Cabify, it works with GPS to find your location and it delivers the name, company and plate of the driver. It’s pretty easy to use and works 24/7
Taking the bus
Buses are the easiest and cheapest way to travel at just $0.25 USD per one way ticket.
Watch your bags at all times on the bus. Keep your small backpacks on your lap and politely decline if someone insists that you put your back elsewhere. No need to be paranoid, just be sensible yet cautious.
Know that there are two bus terminals in Quito: Terminal Carcelen and Terminal Quitumbe
Chilly weather and altitude adaptation
Quito is 2,800 meters above sea level so be prepared that it can get pretty chilly particularly at night. Don’t forget to pack warm clothes!
And if you are coming into Quito by bus from lower altitudes, you may worry about why you suddenly feel unwell. Don’t worry, that’s just your body adapting to the higher altitude, and the headaches and nausea will go away.
Remember, to be alert – just as you would if you were traveling anywhere new. Be sensible. Travel smart. And most importantly, have fun!