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Quito

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Quito [1] is the capital of Ecuador. It was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. Today, two million people live in Quito. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site [2] in 1978 (along with Krakow in Poland).

Districts

Quito lies between two mountain ranges and its altitude is 2,800 metres or about 10,000 feet. It may take you a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude.

Quito is roughly divided into three parts: the Old City at the centre, with southern and northern districts to either side. The greatest concentration of tourist facilities is in the North, including the airport. Quito's Old City is the largest in the Americas. It has undergone a huge restoration and revitalisation programme over the last decade, mainly financed by the Inter-American Development Bank. It boasts no less than 40 churches and convents, 17 squares and 16 convents and monasteries. It's been called the 'Relicuary of the Americas' for the richness of its colonial- and independence-era architecture and heritage. It's a great quarter to wander, with several excellent museums and plenty of restaurants and terrace cafes for a rest while sightseeing.

Modern, northern Quito is a fun place to explore, with plenty of museums and urban parks as well as restaurants and nightlife. The southern districts are more working class and seldom visited by tourists.

Understand

Be prepared to speak some basic Spanish in order to get along. Very few locals speak English except in the touristy areas of North Quito which includes "La Mariscal" quarter, where most tourist businesses are located. 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 a lack of respect" or being a hippy. 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 Quito Visitors' Bureau [3] has several information centres around the city. These include at the International Arrivals terminal at the airport; the Mindalae Museum in the Mariscal District; the Banco Central Museum in the Masiscal District; at the Teleferiqo cable car; and finally, in the Old Town, on the ground floor of the Palacio Municipal on one side of Plaza Grande - their main centre. This includes helpful staff, lockers for leaving bags, computers with free internet, maps, leaflets and books for sale, a store of Ecuadorian crafts, as well as a National Police office for reporting any crimes. The contacts for the main office are: (+593 2) 2570 - 786 / 2586 - 591, infotur-ch@quito-turismo.com [4]

The Ministry of Tourism [5]] or [6]] has offices in their building on Avenida Eloy Alfaro and Carlos Tobar, close to the El Jardin shopping mall which cater to tourists. The Pichincha Chamber of Tourism (CAPTUR) also has offices at the small Parque Gabriela Mistral, on Reina Victoria in the Mariscal.


The South American Explorers Club [7] 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 district of Quito right off of 6 de Diciembre) 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. You can find out more about the services they offer on their website.

CarpeDM Adventures - Quito Travel Agency or Agencies [8]] or [9]] is a Quito Travel Agency - Affilated with CAPTUR - run by a Canadian - Ecuadorian who specializes in offering inspiring journeys to Galapagos, Amazon, Andes and tailor-made experiences. What makes CarpeDM different is the philosophy behind it's name. "Seize the day" - maximize your time, immerse yourself in the country that is known for being four distinct worlds in one place. Redefining travel by offering fun and educational adventures while ensuring a safe and comfortable client experience. This Quito Travel Agency is strategically based in the heart of the Colonial part of the city, so you can immediately feel the essence of the Ecuadorian community. Five-minute walk from the Terminal Tereste. "Seize the day" - visit them online for more info:)

Quito maps

Quito's Plaza Grande at night
* The Visitors' Bureau publishes a useful A3-size map with all the city's attractions. You can pick it up at their information offices. They also publish a number of pocket guides on various themes, including Artesans of Quito, the 'Water Route' to the east, the Tulipe route in the northwest, eating in the Old Town, Mariscal nightlife.

Get in

By Plane

  • Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre(IATA: UIO) (ICAO: SEQU), [10]. Located around 8km from Quito's center and is the main, best and easiest way to get into the city. There are (almost) daily flights serving Amsterdam, Atlanta, Houston, Madrid, Miami, New York with KLM, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Iberia and American Airlines. Some of these flights continue to or originate from Guayaquil.

Near the baggage area of the Quito airport, it is possible to buy vouchers that can be used for a taxi ride. As of 2007, 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.

Quito International Flights & Domestic Flights to Cuenca, Guayaquil and Galapagos Islands departing from Quito

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.

By Bus

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 buses 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 frequent connections to all mayor destinations in the country, including Sto Domingo (3 hours and around $2.50), Guayaquil (8 hours), Baños, Otavalo.

Get around

  • El Trole (The Trolley) and the Ecovía follow north-south-lines down through the heart of Quito. $0.25 for a ride. Take note that there is no tradition of waiting for people to disembark before people board, so this may take some getting used to. The buses are among the cleanest of South America, but still, be aware of pickpockets! Quito Trolebus map with tips about security and tourist stations
  • The easiest way to get to most Quito hotels from the airport is to buy a taxi ticket, available after the baggage area before exiting the airport. Cost to the hotels in the main tourist area is $5 (June 2007).
  • Taxis and buses are everywhere and very inexpensive. A bus trip costs in Quito $0.25, including Trole and Ecovía (August 2007). A taxi ride can be very exciting. Only use official taxis (yellow with a number painted on the door). they should have a meter (taxímetro) and use it in the daytime. At night or if they refuse to, negotiate the price before getting in, or wait for the next.
  • The railway station is at the south end of the old city, close to the El Trole route. The railway is very rundown and services are erratic. It's best to check with the Visitors' Bureau on the most recent timetable.
  • Metrobus run from Universidad Central in America Avenue, next to Prensa Ave, and then to Diego de Vasquez Ave. until Carcelen last station, this is the best bus service for visitors who wants to visit the Mitad del Mundo Monument, because at Ofelia station the public services buses who go to Mitad del Mundo monument waits to make the switching and carry visitors to Mitad del Mundo, $0.25 until Ofelia station, $0.35 to Mitad del Mundo Monument Metrobus bus service map
  • Ecovia run from Rio Coca Station at north in Quito to the la Marin Station inside the Quito historic Downtown. The ride cost $0.25, is a good way to reach the Mariscal area if you live or stay at the western neighborhoods in Quito Ecovia bus service map
  • You can rent a car in Quito, but it's not recommended for getting around the city. It's not worth the effort with taxis so cheap. Renting a car is a possibility for exploring further afield, to the Cotopaxi or Otavalo or Papallacta areas, for instance, but is only recommended for those who speak a bit of Spanish and can handle the tension of Ecuador's 'lax' driving rules.

See

  • Museo del Banco Central. Located across from the Casa de la Cultura and adjacent to the Parque El Ejido, you'll find perhaps Ecuador's most renowned museum with different Salas, or rooms, devoted to pre-Colombian, Colonial and gold works of art, among other topics. Some of the famous pieces include whistle bottles shaped like animals, elaborate gold headdresses and re-created miniature scenes of life along the Amazon. The museum is well-organized, and it takes about 3-4 hours to see everything. Guides who speak several different languages including English, French and Spanish are available for a small fee.
  • Museo de le Ciudad. The Museo de la Ciudad is in the Old Town, on Garcia Moreno, directly opposite the Carmen Alto monastery. A lovely museum with two floors encircling two quiet courtyards, the Museo de la Ciudad provides more of a social history of Ecuador than other museums in Quito. Re-enacted scenes from daily life of Ecuador's citizens through the years include a hearth scene from a 16th-century home, a battle scene against the Spanish, and illustrations of the building of Iglesia San Francisco.
  • Teleferiqo. This is the world's second-highest cable car. It's located on the eastern flanks of the Pichincha Volcano which overlooks the whole city. It hoists visitors up to an amazing 4,000 meters (12,000 feet). On clear days, one can spot half-a-dozen volcanoes and spy the entire city below. You can also hike up from here to the Guagua Pichincha Volcano, which is active. See Teleferiqo website for details [11]
  • Botanical Gardens. The Jardin Botanico is located on the northwest side of the Parque La Carolina. It's a wonderful escape from the city, with all of Ecuador's ecosystems represented with a wide variety of flora. You can take a guided tour or just wander. The highlight for many people are the two glassed-in orchidariums.
  • Museo Mindalae. An extremely original project in the north part of the Mariscal District, this museum provides an 'ethno-historical' view of Ecuador's amazingly rich cultural diversity. You can find out about the country's different peoples, from the coast to the Andes to the Amazon, and their crafts in a specially-built and designed structure. The museum has a restaurant for lunch, a cafe and a fair-trade shop.
  • Itchimbia cultural complex and park. This hill lies to the east of the Old Town. It provides stunning views of central and northern Quito, as well as the distant peak of Cayambe to the northeast. The hillside was was made into a park and an impressive cultural centre established here in 2005. The centre holds temporary exhibitions. At the weekends, there are workshops and fun for children. A restaurant, Pim's, opened at the complex in June 2007. The complex closes at 6 pm. Once it closes, you can head to the nearby Cafe Mosaico to watch the sunset until about 7 pm. It's a great spot to watch the fading of the light on the mountainside with the floodlights of the Old Town's churches.
  • Museo Guayasamin. This musueum houses the collection of Ecuador's most renowned contemporary artists, Oswaldo Guayasamin. It has a fine collection of pre-Colombian, colonial and independence art, as well as housing many of the artist's works. You can also visit the nearby Chapel of Man (Capilla del Hombre) which was built posthumously to house some of Guayasamin's vast canvasses on the condition of Latin American Man.
  • Calle de la Ronda. This street in the Old Town was restored by Municipality and FONSAL in 2007. It was transformed with the help and cooperation of the local residents. It's a romantic cobbled street just off the Plaza Santo Domingo (or it can be reached via Garcia Moreno by the City Museum). There are shops, patios, art galleries and modest cafe restaurants now, all run by residents. Cultural events are common at the weekends.
  • La Vírgen del Panecillo. Adjacent to the Old City, El Panecillo is a large hill on top of which is La Virgin del Panecillo, a large statue of the 'winged' Virgin Mary. She can be seen from most points in the city. Local legend has it that she is the only virgin in Quito. Never walk up the hill, always take a taxi or a bus as the walk uo can be dangerous.
  • Mitad del Mundo. Just outside of Quito is where the measurements were first made that proved that the shape of the Earth is in fact an oblate spheroid. Commemorating this is a large monument that straddles the equator called Mitad del Mundo or middle of the world. Note, however, that the true equator is not at the Mitad del Mundo monument. Through the magic of GPS technology, we now know that it is only a few hundred feet away -- right where the Indians said it was before the French came along and built the monument in the wrong place. The entrance for the park is $1.50 and for most of the attractions you have to pay extra. The Intiñan Solar Museum is right next to the Mitad del Mundo monument on the other side of the North fence. For two dollars you can have a tour of this little museum. They demonstrate the Coriolis effect and several other interesting things. The place looks like a total dump and is at the end of a dirt road, but is much more interesting and informative than the Mitad del Mundo. When you go to the middle of the world, it is best to go with a tour, or hire a taxi driver by the hour. The hourly rate should be in the $12 or less range. Busses leave from the Occidental or Av. America for $0.40.
  • La Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus. In the Old City, this church is regarded by many as the most beautiful in the Americas. Partially destroyed by fire, it was restored with assistance from the Getty Foundation and other benefactors. Stunning.

Do

  • Learn Spanish

Special Spanish language programs avalaible with Academia Surpacifico in Quito [12]. Medical Spanish, Spanish and Volunteer, group lessons, Travelling classroom are some of the programs offered by this Spanish school in Quito.

  • Explore the Old Town. With its gorgeous colonial architecture, relaxing plazas and a stunning number of churches. If you happen to be there during Christmas or Easter, you'll be amazed at the number of events, masses, and processions that bring out the crowds. You'll find craft shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels across its grid of streets.
  • Watch the old men play Ecuador's version of bocce at Parque El Ejido. You can also see some serious games of Ecua-volley, the local version of volleyball, on a Saturday or Sunday.
  • The Middle of the World 45 mins from the capital Quito, you can go to see the Monument to the middle of the World. It's a big monument with many events and things to do. For example, national indigineous music groups play different songs of their culture.

There are museums with the history of the 0 latitud and history of Quito as well. There are many unique artworks and once you are there you can even weight your self and you will find out how you weigh less on the equator.

  • Ride the Ciclopaseo takes place every other Sunday (the first and the middle of the month). 30 kilometres (20 miles) of roads running north-south through the city are completely closed to traffic. People cycle, run and blade the route. Up to 30,000 people take part. Several bike shops rent bikes for visitors to be able to take part.

Buy

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 artisen markets, such as the famous one in Otavalo. If you haven't got time for Otavalo, you can find virtually the same gear at the market on Jorge Washington and Juan Leon Mera in the Mariscal district. The Mariscal is replete with dozens of souvenir, craft and T-shirt stores which make shopping for a gift very easy.

There are lots of artisans working on unique crafts in the capital. These include guitar-makers, candle makers, tanners and leather-workers, silversmiths, ceramicists and woodcarvers. You can find them at their workshops, published in a guide by the Visitors' Bureau.

There are also several fair-trade shops in Quito which promise to pay the craftspeople fairly for their products. The ones at the Tianguez (Plaza San Francisco), El Quinde (Plaza Grande), and Museo Mindalae are all very good.

Probably the best crafts in the country are found at the branches of Olga Fisch [13]. These are located inside the Patio Andaluz hotel (Garcia Moreno y Mejia, Old Town) and up from the Mariscal on Avenida Colon. You will find exceptional crafts here, including unique hand-woven rugs and silverware. At the Colon branch they also have a small but impressive museum.

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.

Other interesting places to shop in Quito include:

  • Casa Indo Andina - Beautiful Alpaca clothing. Address: Roca and Juan León Mera. Ring the doorbell.
  • La Bodega Exportadora - Wonderful, rambling old mansion filled with antiques, crafts, and woolens. Address: Juan León Mera 614 and Carrión.
  • Galeria Latina - Alpaca and other fine crafts. Exquisite merchandise, and pricey. Address: Juan León Mera 823 and Veintimilla (next to Libri Mundi). Tel. 2221098.
  • Hilana - Wool blankets. Address: 6 de Diciembre 1921 and Baquerizo Moreno.
  • Productos Andinos - Address: Urbina 111 and Cordero. Tel. 2224565.
  • Marcel Creations - Panama hats and crafts from Cuenca. Address: Roca 766, between Amazonas and 9 de Octubre.
  • Fundación Sinchi Sacha - Ceramics from the Oriente. Address: Reina Victoria 1780 and La Niña.
  • The Ethnic Collection - Address: Amazonas 1029 and Pinto. Tel. 2522887.
  • El Aborígen - Address: Washington 536 and Juan León Mera
  • Ecuafolklore - Address: Robles 609 between Amazonas and Juan León Mera.
  • Amor y Café - Ethnic clothing. Address: Foch 721 and Juan León Mera.
  • Su Kartera - Local shoes, belts, briefcases, etc. Address: Sucre 351 and García Moreno. Tel. 2512160. Another branch on Veintimilla 1185, between 9 de Octubre and Amazonas.
  • Los Colores de la Tierra - Handicrafts & wood items. Address: Juan León Mera 838 and Wilson.
  • Chimborazo - Leather goods. Address: Amazonas and Naciones Unidas (next to El Caracol shopping mall).

Eat

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 country benefits from all worlds, with a variety of dishes inspired by both coastal and Andean produce. Seafood and fish is fresh and delicious, while meats, particularly pork, are excellent. These combine with typical ingredients such as potatoes, plantains and all sorts of tropical and Andean fruits.

A good area to head to for eating out is the Plaza El Quinde (or Foch) which is in the Mariscal district at Foch y Reina Victoria. There are dozens of restaurants and eateries all around this area. La Floresta, up the hill from the Mariscal around 12 de Octubre, also has many fine restaurants. The 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 currently two guides in Spanish to eating out in Quito and Ecuador, which will give you some idea of the range on offer.

  • Tavola is the most established [14]
  • Restaurantes.com.ec [15]

Recommended restaurants include:

  • Tibidabo - International cuisine. Moderate. Attentive service in a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. General Salazar 934 y 12 de Octubre. Tel. 593-2 223-7334. Hours: M - F 12:30 - 4 and 6:30 - 11; Sat 6:30 - 11; Sunday closed. Reservations recommended.
  • Restaurante Las Redes - Seafood. Moderate. Popular with the locals; well known for ceviche. Amazonas 845. Tel. 252 5697.
  • Ille de France - French. Expensive and excellent. Formal attire. Reina Victoria 1747. Tel. 255 3292. Hours: Daily 7 - 11.
  • El Nispero - Fine Ecuadorian cuisine in an elegant atmosphere. Moderate. Business casual. Valladoli N24-438 y Cordero. Tel. 222 6398. Hours: Tues - Sat 12 - 4 and 7 - 11; Sun - Mon 12 - 4. Reservations recommended.
  • "Cebiches de la Rumiñahui" - Ceviches are it's specialty. Reasonable prices for excellent cebiche. popular among natives. Real Audiencia N59-121 La Mariscal. You can also find it in the food courts of Quicentro, San Marino Shopping Mall and Mall del Sur.

Drink

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 9001 International Quality Certification but bottled water is recommended.

Dance Clubs

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.

El Aguijon - 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.

"Seseribo" - Famous for being the first Salsoteca in Quito. Ave. Veintimilla & 12 de Octubre Bdg. El Girón (basement). They play tropical beats here and on wednesdays they have live salsa. The club also functions as a cultural space for live Caribbean Music, art expositions and book presentations.

Blooms - The coolest! Located in the Mariscal district. Walking distance from Reina Victoria.

Bungalow 6

No Bar

Guapulo

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).

Sleep

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 Swissotel. 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 Swissotel, La Floresta, 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.

New Town

Budget

  • El Cafecito, Cordero 1124, La Mariscal, Tel: 02 223 4862. Clean rooms, a popular cafe/restaurant and a tranquil shaded courtyard all housed in a beautifully decorated building in the Mariscal. The hostel has 6 rooms and prices start at $6USD for a dorm bed.
  • La Casona de Mario, Andalucia 213 y Galicia, La Floresta. Tel: 2 254 4036 La Casona de Mario has eleven nicely decorated and comfortable rooms sleeping between one and three people. All rooms have shared bathrooms and there is a set price of $8.00 per person per night.
  • La Casa de Elize, Isabel La Católica N24-679. Hostel with a family atmosphere. It's a few blocks from the Mariscal area. Dormbed $6 and breakfast $1,50.
  • El Centro Del Mundo, +593.222.9050. Has affordable rooms, a trilingual owner Pierre, and is a great spot for backpackers. There's also a television room and free rum and coke nights three times a week. Food is also available whenever you're hungry cooked by the friendly staff. Showers aren't very hot though.
  • Hostal Casa Kanela, Juan Rodriguez E8-46 y Almagro, [16]. City Heritage house in the heart of La Mariscal District. Cosy authentic cafe. Nice and safe place to stay. From 12 USD night. +593.2.2546162 casakanela@mamey.org.

Mid-Range

  • Hotel Sierra Nevada
    Hotel Sierra Nevada, Joaquin Pinto 150-E4 y Cordero, la Mariscal, +593.2.2553658 (, fax: +593.2.2554936), [17]. checkin: 24h; checkout: 2:00 PM.

    The hotel (founded in 1997) is located in a charming old townhouse right off the famous Avenida Amazonas. It has 19 elegant, comfortable and clean room and offers free breakfast. They offer airport pick-ups as well as tours throughout the country (renowned agency 'Sierra Nevada Expeditions' is in the neighboring building. Adjacent are an Italian-owned pizzaria, a German-owned cafe, as well as many close-by Ecuadorian joints. The city center (el Centro) can be reached by bus (3 minutes, 25¢) or by foot (15 minutes). http://www.hotelsierranevada.com/

    Single $30.50; double $45.00; triple $58.00; quadruple $65.00.


  • Hostal la Rabida, La Rabida 227 y Santa Maria, Tel. (5932) 222-1720. Beautiful, quiet, and comfortable small hotel in central Quito. Rates range from $46-$70 a day. There is also a very good restaurant on the premises. Nora and her friendly staff take excellent care of their guests.

Between the Old and New Town

Budget

  • L'Auberge Inn, Av. Colombia 1138 y Yaguachi, (593) 2 2 552 912 (, fax: (593) 2 2 569 886), [18]. Nice place to make your base for your time in Quito. Clean but basic rooms, internet in-house and a big cheap breakfast - the "Full Vitamina" is a fantastic way to start your day. There is also a pizza restaurant directly below.

Old Town

Closer to the bus station, Old Town is a good base for sightseers.

  • One great hostel is The Secret Garden, Calle Antepara E4-60 y Los Rios, San Blas, (593)2956 704 or (593)3160 949, [19]. Offers a roof terrace with a great view and herbs grown by the volunteer staff. Moreover there is a jaw dropping and wonderful view of the older section of Quito. There are fires nightly and the staff cooks three course meals every night. The hostel also offers breakfast for $2.

Photo: Secret Garden

  • A number of small, boutique hotels have opened recently in the Old Town. These include the five-star Hotel Plaza Grande [20], Villa Colonna [21], El Relicario del Carmen [22] and the longest-established: Patio Andaluz [23].

Stay safe

Dangerous Neighborhoods

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. However, much of the central squares of the Old Town are patrolled by police and well-lit, so it's fine for a stroll in a group. 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 town is a great place to visit or even to stay in but can attract 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.There are several sorts of scam which you may encounter on buesses. One common one involves a thief impersonating bus staff ( this can be easy because those of many companies don't have uniforms)and finding some excuse to ask you to put your bag in the overhead compartment where you can't see it- they can then steal any valuables within straight off but often they will often have an accomplice who will provide a distraction such as pretending to sell sweets before spilling them all over you, giving their friend the chance to get your stuff. This can't be emphasised enough: don't let your belongings out of sight. If somthing suspicious is happening like this on a bus, just refuse to cooperate and hold your belongings close to you. Robberies of this kind are common, particularly on buses leaving Quito. It's worth considering paying 3 or 4 dollars more for a trip on a more high end bus as these often have additional security measures which can prevent robberies of tourists and locals alike.

Assaults 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.

Illicit Drugs

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.

Contact

A good place to start is the Quito Visitors' Bureau [24]. It has several information centres around the city. These include at the International Arrivals terminal at the airport; the Mindalae Museum in the Mariscal District; the Banco Central Museum in the Masiscal District; at the Teleferiqo cable car; and finally, in the Old Town, on the ground floor of the Palacio Municipal on one side of Plaza Grande - their main centre.

This includes helpful English-speaking staff, lockers for leaving bags, computers with free internet, maps, leaflets and books for sale, a store of Ecuadorian crafts, as well as a National Police office for reporting any crimes. The contacts for the main office are: (+593 2) 2570 - 786 / 2586 - 591, infotur-ch@quito-turismo.com [25]

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