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Travel Guide South America Ecuador Quito

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Introduction

Quito - Church of El Sagrario

Quito - Church of El Sagrario

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Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. It is high up (2,800 metres) in the Andes mountains and the altitude may take some getting used to. The city hosts many wonderful sights including an amazing colonial centre built by the Spanish during colonial times. The old town has several stunning churches that rival those of any other major Latin American or South American city.

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Neighbourhoods

The old town is full of colonial buildings and elaborate churches. Take great care, especially after dark, to avoid pickpockets.'La Mariscal' is the backpacker area, full of hotels, restaurants, bars and travel agencies. Many people here speak English. The north of the city is home to the business district, further north is the airport.

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Sights and Activities

Quito is divided into two areas: Old Town (Centro Historico - on the UNESCO World Heritage list) and the New Town, where La Mariscal, a busy, backpacker-friendly area has developed. Things not to miss:

La Virgen de Quito

La Virgen de Quito

La Virgen de Quito

© All Rights Reserved Steve-Kay

On the 200 metres high hill of El Panecillo, stand the Virgen de Quito, the statue of the Virgin Mary. Due to its location the statue can be seen from most of Quito. The statue is made out of approximately 7,000 pieces of aluminium, and was made by the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras. He was commissioned to build a 41-metre-high monument of the Madonna, and completed his work in 1976. He based his statue on a statue by Bernado de Legarda, who sculpted his "Virgen de Quito”, a 30 centimetres high sculpture in 1734. The statue was unveiled and inaugurated on the 28th of March 1976 by the Archbishop of Quito.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Colonial Quito (The Old Town) - with various plazas, churches, and lots of colonial architecture. Walking tours can be arranged, but it's usually better just to explore it on foot yourself with a decent guidebook.
  • Basilica del Voto Nacional - a twin spired, relatively modern neo-Gothic church. You can climb the towers (US$2) and see views of the city and many unusual gargoyles, featuring native Ecuduadorian fauna. Not for those afraid of heights.
  • Museo del Banco Central - smallish museum, but very well presented (descriptions in English). The first floor contains many excellent examples of pre-Inca pottery and a room full of ancient gold artefactcs (currently being refurbished). Other floors exhibit colonial religious art and contemporary art. Contains a cafe and shop. Entrance for an adult, US$2.
  • TeleferiQo - cable car which climbs up Volcano Pinchincha high above Quito to over 4,000 metres above sea level. Walks on the barren hillsides and horseriding (at weekends) are available. On clear days there are great views (it usually clouds over in the afternoon).
  • Nearby attractions include 'La Mitad del Mundo' - a complex of shops and restaurants surrounding the Equator line, a few kilometres north of Quito. Take a taxi for US$12-15, or get a modern blue bus marked 'Mitad del Mundo' from near the airport.
  • Pulalhua Crater - A geobiosphere reserve just a few kilometres further north from Mitad del Mundo is one of the biggest volcanic craters in the world, and one of the biggest inhabited ones. Take a steep walk down the crater side to vast, verdant fields within. A few restaurants and posadas are located in the crater itself. It is possible to hire bikes and horses (easier at the weekend). Very peaceful place, but beware the rain and cloud which ususally descend about 1pm every day and make the walk back up the crater wet, cold and difficult. National Park entrance is US$5.

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Events and Festivals

  • Festivities of Quito (Late November - Early December) - A growing feeling of a fiesta atmosphere begins in November in the build-up to the festivities that celebrate the Spanish founding of the city (1534). Traditional Spanish culture is embraced with traditional food, music, parties, comedy and card game competitions. Late November sees the election of the Queen of Quito. Lots of dancing to the town band and drinking of canelazo (potent alcoholic traditional cocktail) can be enjoyed. In the ten day run up to December 6th, Plaza de Toros hosts the bull fighting which is considered to be a high-class social event. The night of December 5th means partying climax. There are street parties all over Quito. Carolina Park has the open-air concerts and fireworks, Vancouver y Polonia has epic street parties and the traditional neighbourhoods are closed for dancing.
  • Quito Carnaval - Public festivities are held just before Lent. Water fights and floral/fruit parades and processions are held, plus dancing and music! Children are given gifts and traditional sweets after water fighting. It doesn't matter whether you're a tourist or local: no-one is spared in the water fights!
  • QuitoFest (Dates range) - This independent Music Festival is completely free and is Ecuador's largest independent mass event for youth. It has been going for nearly ten years now and has helped position the country as a musical epicenter of the continent. 24 national and 6 international bands take to the stage in the Itchimbia Park and attract crowds of 70,000. Address: Parque Itchimbía
  • Easter Week - Unmissable celebrations occur on Good Friday where a fantastic procession meanders through the old city. Devotees dressed in purple tunics and cone-shaped hoods chart the events of Christ's Passion. Penitents and flagellants drag crosses through the streets. Address: Old Town, Hours: Good Friday, Price: Free

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Weather

Quito is known as the 'city of eternal spring' - most of the year, it is t-shirt weather at lunch time, but when it gets dark at 6pm you'll need a fleece or jacket. Quito is at high altitude and temperatures are moderate. It is never hot. Average maximum temperatures are around 18 °C to 20 °C and drop to 10 °C or a little lower at night. Although rainfall is possible in every month, June to August is fairly dry while March and April are the wettest months.

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Getting There

By Plane

Try to arrive in daylight hours for fantastic views of the Andes as you land. Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is located north of Quito. Most flights are to and from Latin American cities and the United States, but Iberia serves Madrid and KLM has flights from Amsterdam and Bonaire. LanEcuador has flights to and from Quito, both internationally as well as domestic.

By Bus

Direct buses travel between Quito and Bogota. Between Quito, there are also direct services to and from Lima in Peru.

  • Terminal Quitumbe (located in the far south of Quito), services all the buses that go to any destination south of Quito: Basically all of the coastal provinces, all of the amazonian provinces, and all of the mountain region (sierra) provinces except two: Carchi and Imbabura (where Otavalo and other tourist attractions are located). This terminal can be reached by local buses (which often leave La Marin in Old Town) or by the Trolebus and Metro trolleys.
  • For Carchi and Imbabura (where Otavalo and other tourist attractions are located) two you need to go to Terminal Carcelén (located in the far north of Quito). This terminal can be reached by local buses (which you can catch at La Marin in Old Town or El Ejido in New Town) or by Ecovia, Trolebus and Metro.
  • Some bus companies have their own terminals near La Mariscal. These include TransEsmeraldas (just past la Colon), Flota Imbabura (above El Ejido), and Reina del Camino (also above El Ejido).

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxi drivers generally do use their taxi meters, though you may have to 'remind' them. Fares within the city are US$3-4, from the old town to the airport about US$6-8 and from the New Town to the airport US$4-6. Fares are a bit higher after midnight and before dawn. Drivers are usually reliable and helpful, but it's best to arrange a fare before getting into the cab.

By Public Transport

  • El Trole or The Trolley (Green stations, buses of different colors) run from station La Y in the north to El Recreo in the south. Downtown, it has the closest stations to Plaza Grande.
  • Metrobus (Blue stations marked with a Q, buses of different colors) 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, USD 0.25 until Ofelia station, USD 0.35 to Mitad del Mundo Monument.
  • Ecovia (Red buses and stations marked with an e) run from Rio Coca Station (north) to La Marin Station inside the Quito historic Downtown. Serves stations close to Casa de la Cultura and Estadio Olímpico and Quicentro mall.

By Bike

You can also get around by renting a Bike at Yellow Bike or Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental.

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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 5PM and the most popular dish served is tripa mishqui (grilled beef or pork intestines).

Churrasco is 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.

When buying from lower-priced restaurants or shops, if you only have bills larger than a $5, it's a good idea to get them changed at a bank first.

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Drink

There are several Ecuadorian brands of beer, but the most prevalent throughout the country is Pilsener.However if you are looking for a better quality beer the "Club" in the green bottle is recommended. There are also some alcoholic drinks which can only be found in Quito like Mistelas, etc.

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Sleep

Multiple options for all budgets exist in 'Mariscal' (the 'New Town'), a neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants and hundreds of other travellers. The Old Town is quieter (almost dead after 9:00pm every evening) and far more characterful, although there is a smaller range of places to stay. For budget options it is always a good idea to ask to see a room first and check if it has hot water etc, before registering and paying for your stay.

Budget

Old Town: Hotel Flores. Adress: Flores 355 y sucre. Excellent, clean rooms, helpful staff, safe and quiet premises in an old colonial building. US$15 per night for a double room, ensuite, hot water. No breakfast included. More budget options in Quito include:

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Quito or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Learn

Quito is a great place to learn Spanish. There are over a hundred Spanish schools and the locals speak slowly and clearly so you can practice what you are learning.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes can be found nearly everywhere in the major cities and in many of the smaller ones. Cost is from $1 to $2 per hour in the large cities, and the better places have high-speed access. In some cafes, restaurants, and hotels you can find free wifi access, most of them protected by passwords; in most cases, you just have to ask for the password.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international telephone code for Ecuador is 593. The general emergency number is 911, but there are special ones of police (101) and fire (102).

The centre of most towns, cities and villages have telephone 'shops', advertised in the street as 'cabinas'. Go in, ask for a free phone booth and call. There is usually a digital display giving the cost (per second) of your call, whether local, national or international. You can call the United States for about $0.10 per minute and Europe for a bit more. Avoid making a phone call through an operator; the cost for an international call can be $3 or more per minute. For calls within Ecuador, it is possible to use a telephone cabin.

Some mobile phone SIM cards of various networks have problems working in Ecuador - you can purchase a local network SIM (for an unlocked phone) for a few dollars in local mobile phone shops. The costs of calling are higher though at around $0.45 an hour.

Post

Correos del Ecuador is the national postal service of Ecuador. It's fairly reliable to send postcards and letters to other countries, though count on at least 5 days up to weeks for it to arrive. In general, postal services to North America are much faster than to other western countries. Prices start at around $1 (up to 20 grams), but rise steeply after that. You can get stamps at post offices or small shops/kiosks. Post offices generally are open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays, although there are slight variations throughout the country. If you are going to send heavier post or post which has more value, it might be better to contact private courier companies like DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx, which are generally about the same price and much faster!

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -0.229498
  • Longitude: -78.524277

Accommodation in Quito

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Quito searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Quito and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Quito Travel Helpers

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