G’s Top Tips For Ecuador:
- Some taxi’s will have meters in them, but for those that don’t you need to make sure that you negotiate the price before you get into the taxi – some driver’s will try and rip you off so if you can check what the price should be before you get one (e.g. in Latacunga all taxi journeys around the city are $1.25, no exceptions). We’ve also been warned by people who live in Ecuador that taxi robberies are unfortunately a problem in large cities; make sure that if you need a taxi you get your hotel to order one for you and be vigilent with your stuff.
- It’s really easy to get buses between towns and you very rarely need to book buses in advance. It used to be $1 for 1 hour of a journey, but now it’s a bit more, usually around $1.50 per 1 hour of journey. You can either buy a ticket in the bus station or just pay on the bus itself. Some bus stations have a gate that you need to pay to go through to get to the departing buses – it’s usually only $0.10/$0.20.
- When travelling on buses, especially the public buses within the towns, make sure to keep your bag on your lap and not on the ground as thieves are known to slice bags open from the seats behind and rob you without your even knowing it. This is especially prevelant on night buses – given the slightest chance thieves will try to get into your bag and take what they can. It would be a good idea to lock your bag as well as keeping it on your lap to discourage them. If something does happen and you need to make a police report (you need to for a lot of insurance claims) the Ecuadorian government have made a helpful online English tool for you to do so – the report is emailed to you for your records. You can find it here: gestiondefiscalias.gob.ec/rtourist/
- On the buses travelling between towns you are guaranteed to get multiple people getting on the bus selling food/cds/dvds/magazines whenever it stops for passengers – some will walk up and down the bus shouting their wares, while others will make a (loud) speech at the front of the bus before handing out whatever they’re selling, then going back to the front and making another (loud) speech before going back down the bus to either collect payment or get their product back. Just shake your head when they pass by and you’ll be left alone.
- As with Peru, there are plenty of places where you can get cheap lunches and dinners, and drinks tend to be inexpensive. However sugary snacks tend to be expensive, especially if they’re good quality. This is especially noticeable with chocolate – the cheap stuff doesn’t taste great at all, but anything good is overpriced. The one exception we found are Milky Ways which taste kind of like Mars Bars.
- For those of you that like coffee, it’s a bit hit and miss depending on where you are. Most of the coffee grown in Ecuador is exported, leaving only the not great stuff left. It means that most places don’t do great coffee unless they grind their own beans. Your best bet to get good coffee is to find a coffee shop catering mainly to ex-pats and tourists. It’s also much easier to get coffee for your milk – sometimes you don’t even have to ask!
- As with Peru, toiletries can be very expensive in the supermarkets and pharmacies – head to the markets to get better deals. The same goes with buying vegetables, fruits and other groceries.
- Some shops, hotels and restaurants show their prices without tax just like in North America, so check carefully whether the price shown includes tax or not.
- When booking a hotel/hostel in advance book directly with them through their website/email as booking sites nearly always add on a 12/14% tax.
- You need to pack for all types of weather, especially if you’re going to be staying in the mountainous area. Because of the altitude, the weather tends to be a bit hit a miss – most days it’s very sunny in the morning, and then gets foggy and absolutely chucks it down in the afternoon! This is especially important to know if you’re going to do any hiking!
- Word of Warning: It is far too common to see men and women spitting anywhere and everywhere, and men pissing against walls, even in daylight in the middle of a city. It’s gross but unavoidable so prepare yourself.
If it’s even possible, Ecuador is even more hyper-masculine and hyper-sexualised than Peru; we have been catcalled and yelled at by men multiple times which never happened in Peru (we just ignored them and heard nothing more). Couples are extremely affectionate in public, but I get the impression that even holding hands would be a big no-no for queer couples. I have not seen or heard of any LGBTQAI+ friendly spaces, although while in Quito I did see some alternative dress and passed some men dressed in skirts and heeled boots, although I don’t know if it was a queer thing or a joke type thing. In hostals and hotels even when we said a double the assumption is that we mean a twin double, and we’ve been asked numerous times if we’re sisters or twins (because you know, the fact that we’re both white with short hair means that we look exactly the same); the idea that we could be anything else seems a bit ridiculous. It’s almost gives the impression that there’s an attitude of knowing it exists, but not wanting to acknowledge it.
I haven’t had the chance to speak to Ecuadorian people about this so I cannot say for definite that this is the case; these are simply the impressions that I’ve had based on my experiences. If anyone knows/thinks anything different I would love to hear from you!
G’s Highlights of Ecuador:
Where To Go/What To See:
As with Peru, visit churches whenever you get the chance.
- Go rafting on the River Pastaza – excellent rapids and brilliant fun!
- Chill out in the thermal baths at Las Piscinas de la Virgen – natural hot springs at the base of a waterfall.
- Visit the waterfalls outside of town.
- Visit the Barrio Museo del Sombrero and learn about how Panama hats are made
- Take a walk around the Pumapungo archaeological site and gardens – be sure to visit the aviary!
- Visit Ingapirca, and archaeological site where you can see examples of architecture from both the Incas and the Canaris.
- Visit the Museum of Modern Art.
- Wander the streets in search of beautiful colonial buildings and street art.
- Go snorkling at La Loberia beach.
- Visit the Interpretation Centre and tortoise breeding centre.
- Visit the sea lions on Punta Carola Beach.
- Visit the tortoise sanctuary.
- Lounge around the port at night and watch the baby sharks, pelicans and fish that gather around the lights.
- Go swimming at Las Grietas.
- Visit El Chato ranch to explore the lava tunnel and see some giant tortoises.
- Go see Los Gemeles in the highlands for stunning views.
- Cycle through the wetlands and out to the Wall of Tears.
- Visit the interpretation centre to see baby tortoises and flamingos.
- Go on the Tintoreras half day tour.
- Walk along the Malecon 2000.
- Visit the iguanas in Parque de Seminario.
- Sit back and relax in Parque del Centenario.
- Admire the art in the Museo de Antropologico y Arte Contemporaneo.
- Watch out for street art and statues around the city.
- Wander through Barrio Las Penas and up Cerro Santa Ana to the lighthouse.
- Enjoy all the amazing views as you hike the loop.
- Walk the route from Sigchos à Isinlivi à Chugchilan à Quilotoa to end your hike at the crater.
- Stay at the hostal Llullu Llama in Isinlivi to enjoy a cosy fire and a real duvet when you go to bed!
- Visit the Butterfly Garden at the Mariposa de Mindo
- Take the chocolate tour at El Quetzal
- Go ziplining at the ten or twelve line courses available.
- Wander around the old town and admire the beautiful buildings
- Watch out for beautiful street art
- Wave to the President on Monday mornings.
- Spend a day at the Mitad del Mundo to stand in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Don’t forget to visit the second museum just down the road where GPS 0 degrees latitude is.
- Take a day trip to hike up Cotopaxi
- Climb the towers of the Basilica for excellent views of the city.
- Take a day trip to Otavalo and visit the handcraft market – excellent place for souvenirs!
- Take a trip up Volcan Pinchincha on the TeleferiQo and hike the trails up the volcano.
Eating and Drinking:
- Casa Hood: really nice place to hang out, plus tasty food – the deserts are excellent!
- Honey and Coffee: super cute café that makes coffee in a variety of ways and does really nice food for breakfast and lunch.
- Fabianos: this is an Italian place that does amazing pizzas and calzones – easily the best pizza I’ve had so far in South America!
- Lino’s Donuts: this is a small doughnut shop right by the cathedral and main square. The doughtnuts are adorable and really tasty.
- Molienda Café: this is a Columbian café that does delicious food at low prices – the arepas are extremely good but really big so make sure you have an appetite.
- Nucallacta: this chilled out café is a popular place with tourists and expats and it’s easy to see why; the food is delicious and the coffee is some of the best in Ecuador.
- Café Sebas: another café popular with tourists and expats. Their sandwiches are delicious, the portions massive and their homemade bread is to die for.
- Cris’ Burgers: this is a small burger place that has a great selection of burgers and hotdogs, all of which are delicious.
- Mockingbird: opposite Cris’ Burgers, this restaurant does really great almuerzos for a cheap price – if you see encebollada (CHECK NAME) soup GET IT.
- Galapagos Grill: we ended up coming here twice for breakfast it was so tasty – delicious fruit salad with a pot of honey, pot of granola and tiny jug of natural yoghurt on the side. The coffee and juices are delicious and the sandwiches looked really good.
- Charles Bedford Street: in the evening all the restaurants put tables and chairs out on the street for customers. It’s like you’re part of a large street party. The main food available is seafood but there’s others available too.
- El Faro: this is a grill place that does a lot of seafood and it does it WELL; the grilled tuna was absolutely delicious!
- La Parrilla del Nato: really nice chicken place, does really tasty fried chicken.
- There’s not really much choice in the towns of the Quilotoa Loop; one great thing thought is that for all the hostels, the price of the room includes dinner and breakfast the next morning, so you don’t have to worry about that. I will say that the food in the Llullu Llama was fantastic.
- El Quetzal: I would go here ONLY for the chocolate brownie and the homemade ginger beer as both are excellent! I cannot recommend eating anything else there as the food we got was not very tasty and also gave me the worst food poisoning of my life.
- La Oficina: very cute tiny pub that does good craft beer and has a small selection of delicious food – the buffalo wings and arepas are a MUST.
- There are a bunch of tiny cafes in the main square by the Cathedral – they all do good empanadas and other snack food.
Ecuador Blog Posts:
The Quilotoa Loop: A Visual Guide: