biciQ – a public bicycle system
When I returned to Quito in August 2012 they had just started with a new public bicycle system. There are 425 bicycles at 25 stations around the city, between LaY in the north and Plaza Santo Domingo in Centro Historico. The stations are open between 7 – 19 and you can use a bike for 45 minutes before you need to put it back at a station.
Registration and annual subscription cost $25.
I had a broken wrist and could unfortunately not try the bicycle system.
Quito Airport - New Taxes and Increased Taxi Fares
I live in Quito and have been following developments in the newspapers and online regarding the new Quito airport in Tababela. According to the newspaper, and coinciding with the opening of the new airport, new and/or increased airline departure taxes have gone into effect - about $16 for international departures and about $8 for domestic flights. Taxi fares, which ranged from $6 to $8 to most business/tourist destinations from the old airport, now are estimated to cost between $24 and $33 from the new airport to destinations in Quito proper. Travel times have likewise increased significantly. Because of its central location, travel times by taxi, to most tourist/business destinations from the old airport, were in the 15 - 30 minute range. However, unless traveling in the middle of the night or other off peak hours, travel times, by taxi, from the new airport, to similar destinations in Quito, will likely take from 1 - 2 hours. Public bus transportation, while much cheaper, will likely take much longer because of multiple stops and traffic. A third option, vans, while less expensive than taxis, simply transport you from the new airport to the old airport where you will need to switch to another form of transport to get to your ultimate destination. For me, these increased costs and travel times will likely influence my decision to use the Quito airport, particularly for domestic flights. For example, I paid $89 for a round trip flight to Cuenca from Quito in December, 2012 and twenty-five cents for the 30 minute ride to the old airport on public transportation. However, with the opening of the new airport, unless I am willing to travel at least two hours by public bus (with no baggage compartment), I will need to pay the increased taxi fares each way to the airport (for the 40 minute flight), plus pay the new or increased airport tax for domestic flights. In other words, it now seems as if I will have to pay almost as much for the increased taxi fares and the new airport tax as for the airline ticket itself! Thanks but no thanks.
Flying to Quito
We had originally booked our flights to Quito through Opodo, flying out via Miami with Delta and returning via the same hub with American. Miami isn’t exactly my favourite airport, and I’m no fan of American Airlines either, but this was the best value I could get on the dates we wanted to travel. But about six weeks before the trip Opodo contacted me to say that both airlines had changed their schedules and the connections in Miami would no longer work. They proposed instead that we flew both ways with Delta, and via Atlanta. The outward option looked good to us, with a reasonable connection time and arriving in Quito only five minutes later than we had planned. But the return flight looked tough – a late night departure, overnight to Atlanta, the best part of the day there and another overnight flight to Heathrow. Luckily the person I spoke to at Opodo was very helpful and offered to look for alternatives. And she came up with a great one, proposing to book us on a flight with KLM (one of my favourite airlines) to Amsterdam and a short hop to Heathrow from there. What is more, they didn’t charge us any extra for what I am sure would have been a dearer flight had we booked it from the start!
In the end we had a mixed outward journey and a very smooth return. Going out, we left Heathrow on time and arrived in Atlanta 30 minutes ahead of schedule after a reasonable flight – OK food, good in-flight entertainment, nothing to complain about! Atlanta Airport impressed us – clean, bright, not too busy, and possibly our fastest ever experience at US immigration!
We got a coffee and settled down to wait through the three hour lay-over. But three hours became four, and eventually five, as our flight to Quito was delayed by the late arrival in Atlanta of 50 connecting passengers coming from Tokyo. We therefore arrived in Quito almost two hours late, around midnight local time (5.00 AM London time!), and it took a further 1.5 hours to get through immigration and customs there (mostly spent queuing for the former – we had thought that arriving so late would mean shorter queues but another flight had got in just before ours and staff seemed unable to cope with two late flights).
Eventually we were through and out into the Quito night where Jose Luiz, who was to be our guide on our trips to Otovalo and Cotopaxi later in the week, was there to meet us, and to whisk us to our hotel through the mercifully deserted street. We finally arrived there just after 2.00 AM local time, 7.00 AM London time – 24 hours after we had got up that morning!
Our return flight with KLM went much more smoothly, and the standard of service on board was as good as I’d remembered from a previous long-haul flight with them some years ago. Travelling directly from Quito to Europe was great, as it meant a long overnight leg with a chance to catch some sleep, and a short hop back to Heathrow on a plane so small that baggage reclaim was mercifully quick, and we were home from the airport in record time!
Next tip: our hotel in Quito, theSan Francisco de Quito
Taxis in Quito
While there is certainly public transport available in Quito, in the shape of the three north-south bus routes operated by Metrobus, Ecovía and Trole, you may prefer as we did (on the one occasion that walking was not an option) to take a taxi, as these are very reasonably priced by Western European and US standards., and of course will take you “door to door”.
We were advised by one of the Surtrek drivers that if hailing a taxi in the street we should look out for one that had an orange number plate, as these are licensed by the city government. We followed this advice and certainly had no problems. We hailed a taxi on Venezuela, one block from our hotel, to take us to the station for the teleférico that ascends Volcan Pichincha (experience in London has taught me that taxi drivers are always happier and more obliging when you hail them while pointing in the direction in which you want to go!) The meter was clearly working so we relied on that and ended up paying $4.80 – a fair price for the journey. On our return we hailed a taxi at the foot of the road leading up to the cable car station, having caught the free shuttle bus down the hill. This one looked older and I wasn’t sure about the meter so I negotiated a price in advance. The driver proposed $4 which we were happy with to take us to the Plaza Santo Domingo, just round the corner from the hotel. The traffic was very heavy in the old town by this time (late afternoon and raining a little) so I was happy we’d pre-agreed the price.
Next tip: El Panecillo , from where the Virgin of Quito watches over the old city.
From Quito to Mindo by bus
Because I was travelling with a small and a big backpack, and had a broken wrist, I didn’t want to take the metrobus to Ofelia (the terminal from where the buses to Mindo are departing), but took a taxi. The taxi from Centro Histórico to Ofelia was $6.30 (July 2012).
I arrived at Ofelia at 11.30 and went over to the counter to buy a ticket for the next bus to Mindo. There was no bus until 16.00. I should have had a look in the guidebook because there it says there are morning buses and then one later in the afternoon. Somehow I had thought there was going to be buses throughout the day. At the ticket counter I met five people from Quito who had thought the same as me. So, instead we shared a taxi to a place where we waited for a bus coming from Terminal Carcelen. This bus didn’t go to Mindo, but passed LaY on the main road above Mindo. For the bus to La Y I paid $2.50.
The bus attendant told us that it wasn’t far to Mindo from La Y, but someone else told us it takes around 1.5h to walk there. Well, we started to walk but very soon a taxi stopped and we could all go with it. For the taxi we paid $3. I arrived at the hotel in Mindo at 14.00, so taking the bus to LaY had been a better option than to wait for the afternoon bus.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to Coca by plane, and back
To keep costs down I was first thinking of taking the bus between Quito and Coca. The bus ticket was $10 (2012) one way, but the bus journey takes around 9 hours, and as I don’t like travelling at night it would be two very long days on a bus. Instead I decided to take the plane and booked the plane ticket with Sani Lodge at the same time I booked the stay at their lodge. A return ticket Quito – Coca – Quito was $170. When it was time for the tour I was very happy that I had booked a plane ticket as I had broken my wrist and travelling by bus would have been more complicated.
I flew from Quito on a Monday and the plane with Aerogal didn’t leave until 10am, so I walked down to La Marin and took a taxi from there to the airport. With taximeter I paid $3.20 for the taxi. Before checking in my luggage I had breakfast at Le P’tit Café just outside the departure hall. The breakfast; toast, juice and coffee was around $5. The plane to Coca left on time and after 35 minutes we landed in Coca, 10:35. Some other people who were also going to Sani Lodge travelled with the same plane and after collecting our luggage we were met by one of the guides from Sani Lodge. In two taxis we then travelled to the dock where we were going to continue our journey by boat.
I left Sani Lodge on a Saturday (the others had left the day before). My return ticket to Quito was with TAME and the plane left at 12:20. The boat from Sani Lodge arrived to Coca in good time. It didn’t dock at the same place as we had left from but below some stairs. Before the taxi for the airport left I went to a bathroom which can be found around 100m away on the malecón. The waiting time at the airport was not long until it was time to go through security, and once again the plane left in time and it took 35 minutes to Quito. At the airport I agreed to pay $8 for a taxi to La Marin. Later the taxi driver wanted to drop me at Parque Alameda (he said it was close to where I was going) or he wanted to have $2 more. I told him that was not what we had agreed on and it was still too far for me to walk to my hotel with two bags and a broken wrist. I wrote down his taxi number and he continued.
From Cascada San Rafael to Quito
After breakfast, just after 8am, I went out to the road outside Hostería El Reventador and sat down to wait for a passing bus. It is the Quito – Lago Agrio road that passes the hotel so eventually a bus from Lago Agrio to Quito would pass. I waited around 35 minutes until a bus came and luckily I got a seat. Further along the road the bus stopped for more people and the bus soon got full with standing passengers too. The bus to Quito was $5 (August 2012).
Next to me there was a family standing. The man was carrying a small child and I felt I should stand up and let my seat to them. At the same time I had taken out the pins from my broken wrist only two days before and I could still not use it to hold on to things. It was a very curvy road and I hoped someone else would stand up instead, but they didn’t. When the older child throw up and looked really pale I asked him if he wanted to sit and I stood up (someone helped me with my luggage and put it on the shelf above the seats). The mother took the small kid and sat down so the sick child had to continue to stand up. There were plenty of healthy, not very old people around, and I think someone else should have left their seat too. Well it was not very far to El Chaco where many people got off the bus and I got a seat again. I got help with my bag again so that I could have it in my knee. It is not a good idea to put your luggage on the shelves above the seats in a full bus in Ecuador (or in many other countries either of course), as there are thefts.
The rest of the journey I had a window seat with good view over the beautiful landscape. After 1.5 hours we passed Baeza. Soon after the bus stopped and everyone’s luggage was searched.
Approaching Quito I thought it would probably be much better for me to get off the bus somewhere else than the end stop Terminal Quitumbe, which is in the very south of Quito. But when the bus stopped and several passengers went off I was not quick enough to ask if this was a good place for me to get off at too. The bus continued for maybe 15 minutes and then stopped at the side of the road. It turned out it had got a flat tyre.
Many passengers went off the bus to find other ways to continue. Some people took me in a black taxi further down the road where they let me off at a bus stop. From the other side of the road I could take a blue bus to La Marin ($0.25). That bus went up the road, in the opposite direction from where I had come. Eventually it passed the stop where many people from the Lago Agrio bus had gone off (so that’s where I should have gone off in the first place). From La Marin it was not far to walk to my hotel.
- Budget Travel
To Quito from Tulipe on a Sunday
It was not so easy to go from Tulipe to Quito on a Sunday. After I had visited the waterfall and petroglyphs near Pacto I went back to Tulipe to pick up my luggage. When I came back down to the main road it was around 13.00. Someone told me the next bus would not come until 15 and a taxi driver wanted to take me to La Armenia for $5. There were some other people waiting so I waited for a while to see what was going to happen. Soon a camioneta (pickup truck) was going to La Armenia and everyone could get a ride for $0.50 each (July 2012). I sat inside the camioneta between the driver and an old man. The old man had a terrible cough and he thought he had the flu. I wonder if this was the reason why I some days later got a terrible cold and cough.
In La Armenia I crossed the highway and waited for a passing bus to Quito. The first bus was full and only took standing passengers who were going to Nanegalito. The next two buses didn’t stop and the third bus was also full. I said I could stand until Nanegalito, but the bus driver said it was better to wait in La Armenia for a Quito bus. I had waited for over an hour and it had become very foggy. Finally a bus stopped. It was also full, but the bus attendant told me I could take the seat next to the driver. They understood that I had waited a very long time because buses are often full on Sundays when people are going back to Quito.
t was good to sit in the front and see how the landscape changed, from a lush, very green valley to the dry landscape near Mitad del Mundo. The bus journey to Quito was $1.50 (July 2012). In Quito the bus was going to Terminal Carcelen, but that far I didn’t want to go. I went off near a shopping centre, were many other people went off. I took a taxi to Centro Histórico, and with taximeter it was $5. The taxi took Av Occidental which I like as there are nice views from there over Quito. On clear days you can see Cotopaxi.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to Baeza
The same day I went to Baeza I had an appointment at Hospital Metropolitano in Quito. So in the morning I went there and had the pins taken out from my wrist. I was given local anesthesia and the doctor made two stitches. After buying medicine, iodine and bandage at the pharmacy I went out to stop a taxi in the street. The taxi driver wanted to have $10 to go to Terminal Quitumbe, but I only wanted to take a taxi with taxi-meter, so he accepted that. When we arrived at Quitumbe the taxi-meter showed just over $5 (August 2012).
At Terminal Quitimbe I first went to eat lunch as I was very hungry and then went to the counter to buy a ticket. Going to Baeza it is best to take the Tena-buses as they pass both Baeza Colonial and Baeza Nueva. The buses for Lago Agrio and Coca pass on the road down by the junction, two km from Baeza Nueva.
The next bus for Tena left at 13 and the ticket for Baeza was $3. At one point the bus stopped for people to have something to eat and to go to the bathroom. The landscape before and after Papallacta (which we passed) was very beautiful, and after the highest point of the road there was a great view over Volcán Antisana. The bus arrived in Baeza around 15.30 and it stopped along the main road, just outside the hotel I had planned to go to.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to El Quinche and back
I had not found any information about how long it would take to go to El Quinche, but I didn’t think it was going to take more than an hour from Rio Coca in Quito. I knew I started too late, but only planned to visit the church in El Quinche. From La Marin I took the Ecovía ($0.25) to Rio Coca, the end station in the north. Only that took about half an hour, but at Rio Coca I easily found the bus to El Quinche and it soon departed. What I had not expected was that the bus stopped everywhere along the way. We passed Cumbaya, Tumbaco and Pifo, and we arrived in El Quinche 1h 40 min after leaving Rio Coca. The ticket was $0.95 (August 2012).
While in El Quinch I asked if there were any other options than the slow bus. I was told there were also buses taking another route, arriving to Ofelia in Quito, but as it was Friday evening there might be much traffic and those buses would probably not be faster. I took a bus leaving for Ofelia. It was also $0.95, it did stop quite often but not as often as the other bus. It was already dark when we approached Quito and there was lots of traffic. From El Quinche to Ofelia it took 1h 25min.
I was very tired when I arrived in Ofelia and decided not to take the metrobus to La Marin, but a taxi, even if it wouldn’t be much quicker. The only taxi I saw didn’t want to go by taximeter and wanted to have $10 for taking me to Centro Histórico. I was too tired to look for another taxi and went inside. I should have taken the metrobus, because it would have been quicker (they have their own lane most of the way through Quito). The taxi took Av Occidental, which is often quick, but now it was much traffic and I think there had been an accident, because it was almost stop in the traffic, also entering Centro Histórico there was much traffic and we drove very slow, standing still a lot. It took 1h to go from Ofelia to Plaza Grande (where I was dropped as the street outside my hotel was closed).
- Budget Travel
From Puerto Lopez to Quito
Before coming to the cost I had planned to take the bus from Puerto Lopez to Quito. The bus company Reina del Camino has got a morning bus which takes 10 – 11 hours and in July 2012 a ticket was $11. The bus makes a stop for half an hour near El Carmen, for people to eat and go to the restroom. In Puerto Lopez the bus leaves from the market and in Quito it arrives at Reina del Caminos terminal, which is situated near the northwestern corner of Parque El Ejido, on 18 Septiembre and Larrea. In high season it can be necessary to purchase the ticket a few days in advance.
I decided not to take the bus. I had broken my wrist and had had an operation and it was still hurting quite a lot, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to be stuck on a bus for so many hours. Instead I looked for a travel agent in Puerto Lopez where I could buy a plane ticket for the flight from Manta to Quito (it was not possible to pay for the ticket on Internet with a foreign bank card), but I was told there is no place to buy plane tickets in Puerto Lopez. So, what should I do? I told Maria at Hotel Pacifico about my problem and she told me she had a contact at Aerogal in Manta who she could email, and luckily she could make a reservation for me. I choose not to take the first or last plane, but one that arrived to Quito in the afternoon.
The day of departure I took a taxi to the airport in Manta. The fixed price for a taxi ride between Puerto Lopez and Manta was $40 (July 2012) and it took 1h 45min. I had been told to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of departure to pick up my ticket and pay for it at Aerogals counter. It was not open and I had to wait for some time. As soon as someone arrived I went over to pay for the ticket, which was $73.34, then I went to the cafeteria to eat something and have coffee, before it was time to check in the luggage (or maybe I checked in the luggage first).
The flight time between Manta and Quito was 45minutes. From the airport took a taxi to Centro Histórico. The taxi driver didn’t want to use the taximeter but said the official price from the airport to Centro Historico was $12 (later I have paid less than that, and once with taximeter $3.20 to the airport). Unfortunately he couldn’t take me all the way to my hotel as they had closed the nearest streets for reparations.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to Bahía and Canoa
There is a night bus from Quito to Canoa and it is said to take only 6 hours. Well, I don’t like to travel by night buses as I can’t sleep on buses and I also want to see the landscape. Reina del Camino has got a day bus to Bahía, which is close to Canoa, and there is also a night bus to Bahía. Unfortunately the day bus doesn’t leave until midday, which means it arrives in Bahía at 20.00, as the journey takes 8 hours.
I bought the ticket at Reina del Camino’s terminal in Quito the day before departure. It is situated near the northwestern corner of Parque El Ejido, on 18 Septiembre and Larrea. You will need an id when you buy the ticket and luckily the copy of my passport was enough. The bus ticket to Bahía was $10 (June 2012).
No big bags are allowed inside the bus, but must be put in the compartment below. The luggage of people going to Bahía was put in one compartment and the luggage of people going elsewhere in another compartment. You will get a tag and when you arrive at the destination it is checked to match the one on your bag before you get it. The bus doesn’t stop to pick up passengers along the road, but only makes a few stops to let people off. About halfway, just after El Carmen, the bus stopped for half an hour at a cantina. I bought fish, rice and spaghetti and the meal was $2.50. It was quite cold in the bus.
The bus arrived in time in Bahía, at 20.00. At Amalur in Canoa they had said there was no bus from Bahía to Canoa this late so I had arranged with them to pick me up in Bahía for $10. Two German guys arriving with the same bus where also going to Canoa so we shared the price of the transport to Canoa. While we were waiting for our luggage a bus was ready to leave and from it a man shouted Canoa, Canoa. Apparently there was a bus, but maybe it is not every day they leave that late, or maybe they have recently decided to wait for the bus arriving from Quito. Well, it was convenient to take the bags to a car and the drive to Canoa took another 35-45minutes.
There is now a bridge between Bahía and San Vicente, which makes the journey from Bahía to Canoa faster than it used to be.
- Budget Travel
To Quito from Latacunga
Leaving Hostal Tiana I took a taxi to the road where the Quito buses stop. The taxi was $1 (August 2011) and it dropped me near a bus standing still. This was not at the same point, where I had been dropped more than a week before when arriving to Latacunga with a Quito bus, but it was probably near.
I went onboard the bus and paid the ticket, which was $1.50. After 10 minutes, at 10 o’clock, it left. In Quito the bus stopped at the big Terminal Quitumbe, which is situated 5km south of Centro Histórico where I was going. From Terminal Quitumbe you can take the Trole bus, but as those can be very full and I was travelling with my backpacks I chose to take a taxi. The taxi to Hotel Viena Internacional in Centro Histórico was $7. The whole journey from the bus stop in Latacunga to the hotel took two hours.
Update August 2012: Also this year the price for a taxi ride within Latacunga was $1. The bus to Quito, Terminal Quitumbe, was $1.50 and took 1.5h. The taxi drivers waiting outside Terminal Quitumbe didn’t want to use the taximeter but charged $7 to Centro Historico. I knew it would be cheaper to go out on the street to take a taxi from there, but still very tired after having temperature and a bad cold I accepted the price of $7.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to La Mitad del Mundo, and back
La Mitad del Mundo is situated in San Antonio, 22km north of Quito, and to go there I had to take the Metrobus from La Marín to the end station Ofelia. I had used the Metrobus, but also Ecovía, several times during my visits in Quito but somehow I went to the wrong platform. The bus took a familiar route and I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was not until I saw Centro Comercial Quicentro that I realised I was on the Ecovía and not the Metrobus. Well, it was not far to the end station Río Coca and from there it was a strait walk about 1.5km to La Y, one of the stops on the Motorbus -line. A ride on Metrobus or Ecovía is $0.25.
From Ofelia there are frequent buses to La Mitad del Mundo. That bus ride took just over half an hour and the ticket, which I bought on the bus, was $0.15 (August 2011).
Going back to Quito I waited for a bus at the roundabout, by the entrance to the Mitad del Mundo-monument. This time I paid $040 on the bus, but this price also included the transfer to the Metrobus.
- Budget Travel
From Quito to Nanegal and Santa Lucia, and back
From La Marin in Quito I took the Metrobus ($0.25) to Ofelia. Ofelia is the end station of the Metrobus in north Quito and to go there took 35-40 minutes. At Ofelia I bought a ticket for the bus to Nanegal and it was $1.60 (August 2011). I had to wait a while for the bus, and then the bus journey took 2 hours. In Nanegal a car was waiting for me to take me to the starting point of the trail to Santa Lucia Eco Lodge. About half an hour later I was dropped there and paid the driver $10 which was the price I had been given when I arranged for my stay at Santa Lucia.
The starting point of the trail is at 1300 metres and Santa Lucia Eco Lodge is at 1920 metres, so it is a quite steep trail uphill. Some people arrange for guides to meet them with mules but as I had left some of my luggage in Quito, and I was well acclimatised to high altitude and as it is an easy trail to follow, that was not necessary for me. So than it was only I on the path, surrounded by the green lush forest and the sounds of cicadas, birds and falling leaves and twigs. It was a very nice walk and it took just over an hour to walk up to the lodge.
The day I was going back to Quito I left Santa Lucia Eco Lodge after breakfast and going down the trail took just over half an hour. The car was already waiting as it had just arrived with two new visitors. The bus from Nanegal was leaving at 9.30, but the driver said I could go with him to Nanegalito as he needed to go there and more buses left for Quito from there, but first he had a few things to do and I could wait for him in Santa Lucia’s office-building, then we went to pick somebody up who was also going to Nanegalito. Just before 10 we arrived to Nanegalito and then I waited almost half an hour for a bus. The bus left Nanegalito at 10.30 and it turned out that this bus was not going to Ofelia, but to Terminal Carcelen. So when we entered Quito I went off at a roundabout, by a shopping centre, from where I could take a local bus to Ofelia. It was not far to Ofelia and from Ofelia to La Marin the Metrobus took 45 minutes.
- Hiking and Walking