I spent about one month in Quito, Ecuador. Here are some travel tips on safety, places to see, things to do, and of course, food and drink. I’ve also included links to some helpful blogs written by people living in Quito.
Safety & Health
- Quito is very unsafe in the tourist areas such as El Centro Historico and especially La Mariscal. I heard of both men and women being robbed, sometimes without violence, but I also met men who had been threatened with a knife or physically attacked. Be careful! Women should never walk alone at night. Take a taxi, even if it’s only three blocks.
- There are many “rogue” taxis in Quito. Always take yellow taxis with the red card in their windshield. I have heard stories about people being robbed and worse after getting in the wrong taxi.
- There is a common scam to steal your bag. If something (usually a yellow liquid) drips on you from above or seems to have magically appeared on your clothes, and some “friendly” person tries to help you. Say, “No,” and keep walking. It’s a trick they use to steal your bag.
- When you ride the bus, always keep your belongings close. Do not have valuables that are easy to get to in your pockets. I met several people that had items stolen out of their bags on the bus.
- The water in Quito is certified, so you can drink it and don’t have to spend money on bottled water. If you are outside of Quito, buy bottled water.
- Buy fresh veggies, fruit, and eggs at the many small tiendas. You can get 3 bananas for 15 cents, 3 apples for 50 cents, and eggs for 10 cents each. You can get enough Spinach to saute all week for 50 cents. Pick up a few staples at the supermercado (e.g. milk, bread), and you’re set. If you make your own meals on the cheap for breakfast and dinner and eat a $1.75-$2.50 almuerzo at a restaurant, you can easily survive on $5 a day for your meals.
- Shop around for a hostel. Ask to see the rooms. Depending on your preferences (private or shared room), you can find a hostel that is safe and has hot water from $6-$10 a night.
- Taxis without the main center area should cost no more than $2 during the day and maybe $3 at night or when it’s raining.
- The buses within the city limits are only 25-35 cents.
Favorite Sites & Neighborhoods
- La Capilla del Hombre – Guayasamin’s work is moving and beautiful; Bellavista neighborhood is pretty and has excellent views. Unless you’re up for a very good workout, take the Bellavista bus up the massive hill to get there. It’s a much longer walk than it looks like on the map, and it is VERY steep. Yes, I walked it.
- Guapulo – The neighborhood is set on the side of a mountain with gorgeous views. It is an interesting Bohemian neighborhood. I heard it is a great place to go on a Friday or Saturday evening for dinner (I explored during the day). You’ll get your exercise on the way back up.
- Itchimbía – You get a workout walking there and some great views of the city without having to pay the price of the Teleferico or the taxis to El Panecillo (too unsafe to walk the stairs up). No, I did not go to El Panecillo or do the Teleferico, but I was perfectly satisfied with the view from here. Also, look for outdoor concerts hosted at Itchimbía.
- El Ejido Park – Good place to jog. Entertaining people-watching on the weekends and a small row of booths to buy authentic clothing, bags, CDs, and more.
- Salsa Dancing – I learned to salsa in Quito. First, I was taught by a very patient Argentinian man. Then I took some classes. I like a small salsa club called Maya 68 on Lizardo Garcia near Juan Leon Mera in La Mariscal. The bar is a total dive. Enjoy the writing and drawings covering the walls and the random toilet in the back dance area. It’s best to go close to midnight when it gets busy. I also went to Seseribo, a really nice salsa club with excellent dancers on Veintemilla near 12 de Diciembre. This place is great just to watch the dancers. I took a couple of classes at Ritmo Tropical, which is on Amazonas and Calama. Take the private lessons; they are worth the extra money ($10 an hour) for one-on-one.
- Cotopaxi Bikes – A one-day trip for $35 (+$5 entry fee) is a great way to explore this volcano, get a workout, and see some gorgeous views. I went with Gulliver Travel Agency and had a great time. The staff at Gulliver is very friendly. They provided an excellent bilingual guide. And we had a great lunch at the refugio on the volcano.
- Walking the streets in El Centro Historico – This area is very pretty with some amazing views on some of the streets (if you’re willing to walk up a 45 degree angle). There are cheap restaurants and cafes and the cheapest shopping in Quito (yes, you should barter – ask for “menos precio.”)
- Learning Spanish – I got lucky and chose a great Spanish school. The Yanapuma Spanish School is wonderful. Their instructors are very good. The facilities are nice and include wifi and computer, and they are open to students 8:30am-6:00pm every weekday. The staff are incredibly helpful, and they plan several activities in the evenings and on weekends.
Favorite Cafes, Restaurants, and Bars
- Small restaurant (don’t think there’s a name posted) on Diego de Almagra between Calama and Mariscal Foch in La Mariscal. Don’t think there’s a name posted – Excellent almuerzo for $1.75 or Menestras plates for $2.50. Their soups are delicous. The juice is always 100% pure. And the meals are very filling. I ate lunch here nearly every weekday.
- Kallari – Organic coffee and chocolate and reasonably priced; run by indigenous family; unfortunately they don’t open until at least 9am (sometimes later). Located on Wilson near Juan Leon Mera in La Mariscal.
- Magic Bean – Although this restaurant is ridiculously overpriced, the cafe con leche is excellent, and you get a free refill which helps make up for it being overpriced. They also have excellent desserts. Located on Mariscal Foch and Juan Leon Mera in La Mariscal.
- Picame – A great breakfast for $2.50 including french press coffee (shocking, I know). Friendly staff as well. Located on Amazonas a few blocks north of Veintemilla in La Mariscal. At the time of writing, they did not have their name on the front of the restaurant, but they are right next to the restaurant advertising “Typical Ecuadorian Food.”
- Huani – A great bar/ nightclub with a good variety of music, a fun atmosphere, and cheap drinks. Located on Calama near Juan Leon Mera in La Mariscal. A mix of Quitenos and tourists from around the world. They play every type of music you can imagine, and it’s a fun and inexpensive night out.
Favorite Foods & Beverages
Food I Didn’t Try But Wish I Had
|Cuy – Roasted guinea pig. Everyone said it is amazing, but it’s really really expensive in Quito. You need to try it in the smaller towns like Otavalo.|
Helpful Websites/ Blogs – I found these blogs both enjoyable to read and helpful with tips on where to go and what to do.
Places I Wish I’d Seen – Maybe next time….
- La Compañia – A church in El Centro Historico
- Mindo – About 2 hours by bus from Quito
- Baños – About 4 hours by bus from Quito
- Galapagos Islands – Many tour agencies charge around $500-$700, but I heard of people going for around $300 including flight. Contact me, and I can try to put you in touch with someone that can get you the best deal.