Quito  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  in 1978 (along with Krakow in Poland).
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.
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  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, [email protected] 
The Ministry of Tourism ] or ] 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.
CarpeDM Adventures - Quito Travel Agency or Agencies ] or ] 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:)
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.
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 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.
Special Spanish language programs avalaible with Academia Surpacifico in Quito . Medical Spanish, Spanish and Volunteer, group lessons, Travelling classroom are some of the programs offered by this Spanish school in Quito.
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.
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 . 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:
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.
Recommended restaurants include:
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.
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.
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 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.
Between the Old and New Town
Closer to the 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. 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.
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.
A good place to start is the Quito Visitors' Bureau . 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, [email protected]