On leaving from Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport, every international passenger must pay $40.80 in departure tax. No doubt it is to finance the new airport they're building further out from the city. There are other ways they can raise the money without making the last impression of Quito a bad one. I am critical of the departure tax wherever it is practiced. I mention it here because Quito imposes the highest departure tax I have run across. I hope an enormous group of irate departing passengers pays their departure tax in small change, filling up wheelbarrows, and dumping it on the way to the gate as the bumfuzzled agents try to count it! The only good thing about this was I expected it was $47 based on what they told me downtown at the tourist office. It was actually a RELIEF to be paying the almost $41.
Fun Alternatives: If there was a way to avoid paying $40.80 on my way out, believe me I would have found it and told y'all how to do it.
Food and souvenirs at Mitad del Mundo & Teleferiqo
It's relatively cheap to get a ticket to Mitad del Mundo and to park there as well as tickets to the Teleferiqo. However, the shops and restaurants at both places are tacky and charge confiscatory prices when they bait you with this once in a lifetime opportunity to straddle the equator or be 4100 m. above sea level. When I was at both places, I didn't see many people making a move to eat at the restaurants or shop in the shops. Maybe we're starting to get wise to them.
Unique Suggestions: Friends, nobody is forcing you to eat and buy stuff here!
Fun Alternatives: Eat a good meal before you go and hold out to buy your souvenirs at an artisan market in town or on a Saturday in Otavalo.
Every October through to February (especially November and December) is rainy season in Quito. It is rare to see a washout, but you will see some rain on most days. The good thing is when it does rain, it normally does for round about 2 or 3 hours in late afternoon at a time and it is not widespread. That is, it could be raining up in Quito and not rain in a nearby valley. Temperatures also vary widely with the altitude.
Unique Suggestions: Go shopping or see a movie indoors until the rain passes and carry on with your outdoor activities.
It is said to always take a taxi after 7pm, even if you are only walking 3 or 4 blocks. Whilel, being from NYC, this seemed ridiculous to me, I found that it is a worthy investment. A lot of people I met had been victim to some sort of petty crime. (About 15 people I met in Spanish school and others) Generally cabs cost about $1 to $2 to go anwhere. They usually charge more at night and this is legal, as they are not required to run their meters. The trick is to just give them how much it should charge. (usually a $1.50) If you ask them how much it will cost, they will usually charge you double or triple. Don't be afraid to protest a high or unfair charge.
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The Equator at Mitad del Mundo
It's a complete tourist trap, but admit it - who doesn't want a picture of themselves with with one leg in each hemisphere?! Rumour has it that the equator line was painted about 100 metres out of place, but it's still good fun.
Unique Suggestions: There is a museum in the monument that you can climb up and get some views of the suburbs of quito, and watch everyone posing for photos.
Fun Alternatives: Run backwards and forwards flushing the public toilets either side of the equator to see if the water DOES go down a different way in each hemisphere!
Mitad del Mundo - you have to do it!
Who can resist standing in 2 hemispheres at once?
Go on Sunday - there's a huge festival with dancing and live music from all over the world.
Take a tour through the museum inside the monument - you'll get to see all of the country in a short time!
"Great Tours" only in name
Ecuador is firmly in the grip of the tourist trade or more accurately more and more Ecuadorians are trying to grasp naive tourist souls by the throat. Well, another way to put it is that these entrepreneurial fellows might have insisted on a more elaborate Christmas gift. The company called Great Tours and located in the middle of backpacker/gringo haven in the so-called New town of Quito performed “excellently”. It offered a guided tour including “Mitad del Mundo” and Otavalo for the price 120 dollars which at first sounded rather suspicious when compared to the taxi rate for the same service (80USD) but this is a “professional” service and includes air-conditioned SUV vehicle and English-speaking guide amongst other perks that were far away from the universe of regular taxi chauffeurs. Yes, you almost guessed it – the “guide” not only did not speak English but he did not speak much Spanish either since he was no guide at all. At “Mitad del Mundo” he went to fill up on gas and in Otavalo, at the famous 1000-years-old indigenous market he shopped for nothing less but a “Beatles” T-shirt!? The SUV turned out to be a non- descript sedan and there was no air-conditioning. Moreover, he appeared on the scene half an hour late and at the end seemed to have the blasphemous thoughts of being given a tip crossing his mind. Incredible!
Unique Suggestions: Make him follow the route that you want.
Fun Alternatives: Get a taxi!
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go ahead, stand on the equator!
It is worth going to the Mitah del Mundo, the monument which marks the location of the equator (at least in some people's minds-- it is evidently not in the exact spot, but close enough!) There are touristy shops and a little village on the site, but you can ignore these if you choose and just see the monument.
Unique Suggestions: you've got to take a picture standing on the line!
Well, this is not a tourist trap is just a recommendation. You can get very good prices in this small market, lots of stalls with handicrafts, and if you´re lucky you will see local people dancing andean music.
The best prices i saw in Quito. At the end of Amazonas avenue and Patria street.
Quito and maybe all of Ecuador
Is it just me or do others have the same feeling?
I have traveled a good deal. I have found some countries that encourage tourists. Some countries welcome tourist. Ecuador, and especially Quito, it seems to me, tolerate tourists. Have you ever seen a capital city that almost closes down on every Saturday? And does close on every Sunday? Can you imagine the touristy section of Quito not having a tourist information booth? The Hilton Hotel is opposite "a park" that is little more than a vacant lot with a few trees and fewer benches. And the spraypainting is every where that tourists look. My thought is that if there are no police to see those that spray paint (even the Cathedral!) then there is no police to see that someone does not rob me.
Unique Suggestions: If you have to go to this tourist trap (Mariscal) , make your visit brief and also consider going on to Miraflores, Lima, Peru -- and see what a welcoming place is that encourages tourists.
Fun Alternatives: My suggested alternative ... see above.
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