Travel Tips for Quito

There is a lot on the travel forums about Quito.. Not much of it is good.  I tend to take a slight offense at this as I have lived here for a few years and love the diversity and different areas of the city.  Old Town, Guapalo, and many other areas of the city are definitely a reflection of Quito as a whole.  This is something I didn´t really get when I first arrived as I needed to travel around the country to see the different people and places to understand the city and the people who move here for work and to live.  Ask any taxi driver where their from or your waiter or waitress at a restaurant and you will be amazed at the places that people have moved from.. The coast, the orient, the mountains, everyone has a story to tell about why they came to Quito.

In the same regard, once you´ve landed here, every traveller you meet has a story to tell about the negative aspects of the city.  In the hostel where I used to work, volunteers would try to warn people just arriving about the unsafe areas and practices of thieves and muggers to the extent that some guests wouldn´t leave the premises!

This is the kind of thing that I am against.  Quito is a beautiful city despite the pollution, the crowds, and the crime.  It´s a great place to explore and has hidden neighborhoods off the guidebook circuit that welcome those who wish to find them.  But, in recent months working in the new town, I have noticed that as more tourists are coming and going, things are changing and need to be addressed.

The New Town, or the Mariscal, is home to bars, restaurants, and tour agencies.. It has clubs, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and Italian restaurants that I go to often.  There´s an Irish Bar for those who want to watch football on the weekends while having an English breakfast.  The expats who live and work here are a good bunch of people and we try to help and look out for those who are passing through.  That being said, We need those coming here to use a few common sense rules while they are enjoying their time here.

In regards to the New Town, this means use caution.. This means you!  All the time behind the bar I repeatedly ask people to take taxis, travel in groups, and be mindful of their surroundings.  There are sketchy people on the streets at night and they know where the gringo hangouts are.  Even if leaving a bar to find a taxi, ask someone to go with you.  There are guards that can help and usually any bar staff knows a taxi driver who they can trust.  Use these resources and save yourself a lot of hassle.

Secondly, when going out for a night out or even exploring in the day, don´t take all your gear, your computers, you cash, and your passport with you.  The none to good people who are out to take those things can spot people fresh into Quito.  I don´t want to overstate it but I have met a lot of sad people who have had their stuff taken from inside their bags without them knowing it.  If taking a camera, have it in a bag and after taking a picture put it back and secure it under an arm.

A common trick here is to stop people in the street and splash mustard or something more vile on your clothes.  The person who stops you distracts you and when you turn around, your bag has gone and so has the person helping you.  Don´t fall for it.  It´s a habit of those of us who live here is to keep moving no matter what the person approaching you is saying.  In the new town, stay in well-lit areas and if you see someone who doesn´t look right, cross the street, turn the corner, or duck into a shop.

As far as transportation goes.. Use marked Taxis and if you’re not sure, get out and find another one.  At night, they don´t use meters but usually if your within ten minutes, it should be around three dollars.. Be polite but firm.  On troles and buses, make a habit to have your bag, purse or backpack in front of you so you will know if someone is trying to slash or take it.  Have money in different pockets and anything valuable in a pocket that you can put your hand in.  Buses get crowded and it’s not always easy but with a little practice and awareness it becomes a habit.

Lastly, this is South America and there are elements that aren´t found routinely in Europe and America.  These include drugs, people with really bad intentions, and shady practices like giving you the wrong change.  Be careful and don´t trust anything but your instincts.  That includes your fellow hostel guests, people you just met at a bar, and the guy on the street who wants to show you a good place to stay.  If your instincts say something is off, it probably is..   Being careful here will likely get you into the situation that you are looking for and going along with a crowd of people who know just as little as you won´t reveal anything interesting.

Were all for people having a good time, losing their inhibitions, and finding adventure.  But usually finding adventure after shedding the layers of work, stress, etc, is best left for travel around the vastly changing terrain that is Ecuador.  Be the one who comes back with pictures of animals, indigenous people, and stunning sunsets and stories of people met in out of the way places and not the person whose camera got taken the second day of their trip or who got mugged after a great night out…

End of rant, back to writing about the good stuff!

One Response to “Travel Tips for Quito”
  1. Lee O'B says:

    Johny!! Stellar article, and you have all the right to rant once in a while! Guys like you should be appreciated by all who go to Quito

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