I just got back two days ago from an 11 day whirlwind of a trip through Mexico City, Quito (Ecuador), Guayaquil (Ecuador), and Havana (Cuba). After my 12 hour layover in Mexico City, I spent one night in the capital city of Quito, Ecuador. It was my first time in Ecuador and I had been dying to go there for ages. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My Recent Trip to Quito Ecuador:
1. You can get from Quito International Airport (UIO) to the city center for $2.00 – If you’ve been an avid reader of Points Summary, you know how I loathe to take taxi cabs from the airport. First of all, they’re a rip-off and most of the time, the drivers are scam artists. The best way to avoid the taxi cab mafia is to take public transportation whether it is by metro, bus, light rail, tram, or train.
The best way to get from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) to Downtown Quito (Centro) is to take the $2.00 USD green bus. It goes from Quito Airport to the Rio Coco bus station where you can easily transfer onto the Metrobus to the historic old town or cab it from there to your hotel. It’s a 30-45 minute journey (depending on traffic) and takes just as long as a taxi cab.
2. There’s quite a bit of confusion with Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport – When talking about Mariscal Sucre International Airport, people refer to the ‘Old Mariscal Airport” and the ‘New Mariscal Airport’. This is confusing because the ‘old’ airport used to be located in the city-center and is now currently a park (Bicentenario Park). The ‘old’ airport was convenient because you would land right in the city center of Quito. The ‘new’ airport is quite a long ways away from downtown Quito and can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes since they recently built in a new bridge. Before, it could take up to 1 to 1 1/2 hours and more with traffic!
3. The weather in Quito is unpredictable – Quito has a sub-tropical climate and the weather is quite unpredictable. I was constantly checking the weather weeks prior to my arrival and it had the same ‘Thunderstorm with rain’ icon every day. I’ve seen this before and quite often it’s wrong because it could be thunder storming in one region of Ecuador and not in Quito itself. I was correct and it was sunny until the evening time. I saw the dark gloomy clouds roll in the late afternoon and I knew it was time to bounce to my hotel. It eventually rained and it poured hard with thunderstorms. Thankfully, Quito is hilly and has a great drainage system because it dried up pretty quick. When it rains in Quito, it pours!
4. A visit to El Panecillo is a must – One of the most underrated tourist attractions in Quito is a visit to El Panecillo which is a 200 meter high hill with breathtaking sweeping views of Centro Quito. Most people don’t make the trek to Panecillo because it’s located in poor neighborhood known for petty thefts and robberies. The best way to get up here is by taxi which is plentiful in Quito because it’s quite a steep and dangerous hike up.
5. Salchipapas are absolutely delicious – Even though I frequent Latin America a lot, I have never heard of Salchipapas until Quito. Salchipapas means sausage and fries and who knew they could be a delicious combination. The salichipapas in Ecuador are also topped with a side salad and often given condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise.
6. There aren’t many places to buy souvenirs – There are two main souviner shops in Quito and they’re located at El Panecillo and at the Mercado Artesanal in the La Mariscal district. You’re out of luck everywhere else and you don’t want to be paying super high prices at Quito’s New Mariscal Sucre International Airport.
7. The Basilica del Voto Nacional is a must do – This gothic church in Quito’s Historico Centro is amazing with a tower entrance fee of only $2 USD. For $2 you get to climb all the way to the top of the clock tower for breathtaking views of Quito. The climb can be tricky with narrow steps and metal windy staircases which are not up to U.S. standards. In fact, this would be barred from the US and I’m glad there aren’t any rules like that in Quito.
8. You can get a multi-course meal in Quito for only $2.50 USD – Most lunch places in Quito have a menu del dia where the set price of a multi course meal is only $2.50 more or less. You always get an appetizer, main course, dessert, and a beverage included which is an absolute bargain. Appetizers are usually soup followed by the main course with protein. The dessert could be a graham cracker with some jam, but it’s still dessert nonetheless.
9. Bring lots of US Dollars in small denominations – The official currency of Ecuador is actually the U.S. dollar which makes it easy for the American tourists because changing money is a hassle with ATM fees and commission deductions. Bring lots of $1 and $5 bills because most businesses are hesitant to break a $20 bill. They treat a $20 bill like a $100 bill where it’s examined thoroughly for rips, tears, and security features. Counterfeit money is a big problem in Ecuador and I highly recommend bringing a roll of $10 quarters as well.
10. Taxi cabs in Quito are equipped with cameras and a panic button – Because security is such huge issues in Quito with express kidnappings and robberies, taxis are equipped with a security camera and a red panic button. If you find yourself in a cab without a security camera, you’re probably in an unauthorized taxi. Always negotiate a cab fare before stepping foot in Quito, but they’re mostly cheap within the city. The average cost for a 10-15 minute ride within Quito city is only a few dollars at most.