Quito lies between two mountain ranges and its altitude is about 10,000 feet. It may take you a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude. Because of its topography and the lack of any real air pollution control on the buses, breathing can be a problem and your eyes will be very irritated at first.
Quito is roughly divided into two parts, the Old City and the New City. Visit the Old City if you are into very old cathedrals and public buildings. Don't miss the presidential palace.
Quito is also divided between North Quito and South Quito. Most of the newer buildings and tourist areas are in the North. Most of the poorest people and the older historic buildings are in the South.
Be prepared to speak some basic Spanish in order to get along. Very few locals speak English except in the very touristy areas of North Quito and in an area called "La Mariscal" in South Quito. La Mariscal occupies several square blocks in North Quito and is the place to be if you wear a backpack. Bars, restaurants, hostels and internet cafes abound. Young people from many countries tend to congregate there.
Ecuador, especially the Sierra region that includes Quito, is culturally a very conservative society. This is reflected in manner of dress. People of all socio-economic backgrounds tend to dress up in Ecuador. For men this means long pants and a shirt with a collar. Short pants are not worn at all in Quito except by athletes playing a sport. Wearing "grungy" clothes, ripped jeans, or sandals is often interpreted by locals as "showing no respect" or being derelict. You need not be a fashion plate; just wear a button down shirt and some long pants and you will encounter better service and fewer hassles in all your interactions. If you cannot bring yourself to dress appropriately for Quito then leave Quito and head down to Ecuador's coast, where more relaxed attire is the norm.
The South American Explorers Club  is a non profit organization dedicating to helping independent travelers in Ecuador and South America. Their office, at Jorge Washington 311 y Leonidas Plaza (in the Mariscal Sucre district of Quito right off of 6 de deciembre) is a great place to stop by, meet people, and get the latest information on where to go, what to avoid, and on adventure travel. Their small membership fee includes...
Near the baggage area of the Quito airport, it is possible to buy vouchers that can be used for a taxi ride. As of June 2005, the cost to go to the tourist hotel zone was $5.
If you wish to try taking a bus instead of a taxi to the "gringo" section of Quito (it is not advisable if you have much luggage or are not familiar in Quito), which is often referred to as "gringolandia", you can exit the airport, cross the main street, and board any bus with "J.L. Mera" or "Juan L. Mera" on the sign. The cost is USD $0.25, but if you are a student under 18 or a senior citizen over 65 then it is USD $0.12 as of August 2004.
A new, large international airport is presently under construction. It will be located well outside of the city to the northeast. The airport is expected to be completed in 2009.
The Terminal Terrestre is the bus terminal in Quito. This terminal is dark and dirty. If you arrive with a lot of luggage it's best to avoid the public transportation system in Quito and take taxi to your hotel. Ecuadorian long-distance busses will generally let passengers off anywhere along their route. If you are arriving in or departing Quito you can avoid the bus terminal altogether by simply getting off near your destination or by flagging down a bus marked for your destination along one of Quito's main arteries.
There are museums with the history of the 0 latitud and history of Quito as well. There are many unique artwork and once you are there you can even weight your self and you will fing out how you weight less in the equator.
There are many shopping malls in Quito such as Quicentro, Mall el Jardin, CCI, CC. El Bosque, Megamaxi, Ventura Mall, Ciudad Comercial el Recreo, San Luis, etc. and every street corner has several small "Mom and Pop" shops or stands where only a couple of items are for sale. If your shopping list is very long, you may spend all day looking around for the stores that have the items on your list.
There are many casual wear stores like MNG, Benetton, Lacoste, Guess, Fossil, Bohno,Diesel etc. So if you need some items Quito is in fact a very good place to buy nice clothes at relatively low prices
Ecuador's indigenous peoples include many highly skilled weavers. Almost everyone who goes to Ecuador sooner or later purchases a sweater, scarf or tapestry. In Quito vendors are found along the sidewalks of more touristy neighborhoods. You should also consider travelling directly to some of the artesenal markets, such as the famous one in Otavalo.
You name it, and it's available in Quito. Restaurants range from the basic places offering chicken and rice for $1.50 to international food with very expensive prices. The bustling La Floresta traffic circle turns into an evening market after 5 pm and the most popular dish served is tripa mishqui (grilled beef or pork intestines).
Churrasco is a a great Ecuadorian version of a Brazilian dish. Tallarin is a popular noodle dish mixed with chicken or beef. Chinese restaurants are known as "Chifas" and are very abundant. Chaulafan is the local term for fried-rice, a very popular dish. Cebiche (also spelled ceviche) is a very popular dish in which clams or shrimp are marinated in a broth. Worth trying, but look for a well known restaurant with many locals to be sure you are getting fresh seafood.
There are several Ecuadorian brands of beer, but the most prevalent throughout the country is Pilsener. There are also some alcoholic drinks which can only be found in Quito like Mistelas, "Canelazos" "Vino Caliente" etc. Water in Quito is perfectly OK, as it has an ISO 901 International Quality Certification but bottled water is recommended.
La Mariscal offers tons of places for dancing or just drinks.
Varadero - Reina Victoria 1751 and La Pinta; Small, local and super sweaty, this bar-restaurant packs in the crowds for high-energy live Cuban music. Small cover to get in and drinks are moderately expensive.
La Bunga - A favorite of locals and tourist, if you like ska, new punk and all kinds of alternative rock music this is the place for you, this is the best place in the city for you to hear the fusion between Ecuadorian and Latin rhythms like salsa, meringue vallenatos, cumbias, etc. and reggae, trip hop, trance, skapunk etc. Located in the Mariscal District.
Check out the Guapulo area of Quito, its a winding steep area with several great bars and cafés with a real bohemian feel to it without being overrun by gringos (yet).
There are dozens of hostels and hotels in town to accommodate all the visitors. Most people stay in the new town, which closer to the nightlife.
One of the best hotels in Quito is the Swis Hotel. They have five star service with a variety of restaurants in the hotel. You don't need to worry about your personal belongings in this hotel. When you are there you will feel pampered. There are some expensive rooms, but for the most part there are deals to be had and you can get a room around $80 and that includes a buffet breakfast. The area around the Swis Hotel has a variety of restaurants that are amazing, they are pricy for Quito but it cost the same as going to any restaurant in the US.
Between the Old and New Town
Closer to the airport and bus station, Old Town is a good base for sightseers.
Avoid travelling up El Panecillo on foot; use a taxi even during the day. The Old City, Mariscal Sucre, and all parks among other areas can be unsafe at night so taxis are advised for even short distances. Keep your belongings as close and as secure as possible. Beware of credit card fraud, which is an increasingly serious problem in Quito as tourists are being targeted in the Mariscal area.
The old city is a great place to visit or even to stay in but is something of a magnet for petty crime against foreigners, particularly pickpocketing and purse-snatchings during daylight hours. The plaza and doors of the San Francisco church are a particularly notorious area for this. Pickpocketing is done by highly skilled groups of 3 or 4 people. You are best off not bringing a wallet at all -- just some bills split between various pockets. Despite the crime against foreigners during the daytime, the area is OK to visit at night and heavily patrolled.
The main bus station is an area known to target travellers (foreigners or locals alike). You need to watch your bags closely, before departure, during departure, even once on the bus. It is best not to put your luggage in the overhead shelving, as you can be easily distracted and have all your key possessions stolen before realising it. Unfortunately you need to watch your bags on top of, or under the bus, at every stop until you arrive at your destination.
Assualts of Hikers and Trekkers
Do not assume you're safe when hiking or climbing in Ecuador. Unfortunately, there have been a number of rapes and robberies of individuals and couples who have gone on treks, including well known hikes such as the Pichincha volcano. If you plan to hike your best bet is to go in a LARGE group. Individual travelers might organize a group themselves through their hostel or the South American Explorers Club, or go on a trek organized through a reputable travel agency or trekking company. Ask around before to determine a company's reputation.
Blend in and avoid con artists
Wearing "gringo" clothes (i.e. fishing vests, travelers pants, bright colored t-shirts, dirty sandals) will make you a target. A pair of nice black pants and a non-descript white/off-white t-shirt will make you look a business person who knows its way around and not just another tourist posing as a Haight-Ashbury hippie.
Independent travelers in Ecuador are likely to be approached at some point or another by con artists or persons with "sob stories". Ignore such persons and be wary of anyone asking for money under any pretext, including children begging. If you're feeling charitable, Ecuador has lots of legitimate charities you can support.
Avoid associating at all with the drug trade in Ecuador. Ecuador has strict laws against possesion, transportation and use of illegal drugs and foreigners caught transporting drugs at the airports have been sentenced to long prison terms. Unfortunately, any foreigner with a "alternative" or "hippie" appearance (such as men with long hair) may be assumed by some Ecuadorians to be looking for drugs. If you are approached about drugs in any context it safe to assume the person approaching you is up to no good.
One exception is use of ethnogens by indigenous people. Interest in ayahuasca is prompting increasing numbers of Americans and Europeans to travel to south america in order to partake in traditional ceremonies, and Ecuador is one such place. It is advisable to plan such a trip with a reliable guide before you travel there.
Local Laws and the Ecuadorian National Police
All Ecuadorian citizens and visitors are required to carry ID at all times. If your stay in Ecuador is for a few months or longer, sooner or later you will encounter a roadside police check and be requested to show ID. You can show your passport; however, carrying your passport around all the time is not advised due to the risk of loss of theft. A better option is to have a copy of your passport certified by your embassy and carry that. Students and long term residents will be issued an Ecuadorian "censo" card that can also be carried in place of a passport for ID purposes.
If you are the victim of a crime it is suggested you report it to the Ecuadorian National Police (by law, you must report within 72 hours of the incident), as well as to your home country embassy and to the South American Explorers Club.