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.
The Metrobus, Ecovía and Trole are three bus routes running in a south - north direction through Quito. They stop at special stations with a raised platform. They drive in their own car-free lane so they are not held up in traffic jams, which makes them a fast and popular way of travelling. They are often crowded and you should be careful with your luggage as it is said to be popular with pickpockets. I have used those buses a lot, but going from the airport and Quitumbe Bus Terminal I took a taxi as I had too much luggage.
They run at least every 10 minutes from early morning to late night. The fare is $0.25 (August 2011) and it is paid either at a ticket booth or at a machine on the platform.
Update 2012: Also in June, July and August 2012 the price was $0.25 for a ride on Metrobus, Ecovía or Trole.
Once when I travelled south from San Gabriel the bus suddenly turned and started to go back after a few stops. I thought all buses where going south pass La Marin, but apparently some didn’t.
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.
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.
Before coming to Quito I had read that buses to Otavalo leaves from Terminal Carcelen, in the far north of Quito. To know how to get there I asked for direction. Someone told me to take the bus to La Y and from there take another bus to Carcelen. When I left in the morning they told me at my hotel to take the yellow Metrobus from La Marín to Ofelia and from there another bus to Carcelen.
At La Marín I bought the ticket for Ofelia, which was 25 cents (June 2011). On the way to Ofelia the bus stopped at La Y (two different stops) but I decided to continue to the end stop Ofelia. From La Marín to Ofelia it took over half an hour and when we arrived there people quickly went to line up in queues for other buses. The queue for the Carcelen bus was the longest and when the bus arrived the queue dissolved as everyone tried to get in at the same time. Anyway I got on the bus! The bus linking Ofelia with Carcelen didn’t cost anything (not when you have already paid for the Metrobus).
At Carcelen most people went directly to the ticket booths, but I had to buy something to eat first as I hadn’t had breakfast and there were several small booths selling snacks and drinks there. Then I went to buy the ticket for Otavalo, which was $2. To enter the terminal you have to pay another 20 cents. On the bus ticket not only the seat number was written, but also the bus number. As it was Saturday , and market day in Otavalo, a lot of people were going there and my bus was not the first leaving, but the third.
To Otavalo it took 2 hours and the bus stopped at the terminal, but many people left the bus already at the Panamericana and took a short cut to the market. However, it is not far to the market from the terminal either.
Coming back to the terminal in the afternoon a bus was just leaving for Quito and I went aboard and bought the ticket on the bus. To Carcelen it took 1h 50 minutes
At Carcelen I went to the line for La Y (wanted to see if this way was quicker than the one over Ofelia). On the bus I paid 25 cents and at La Y the line for the Metrobus was very long. As I had already paid 25 cents I didn’t pay again for the Metrobus to La Marín. As far as I can see it doesn’t matter if you change at La Y or at Ofelia, as both routes took a very long time.
As I was leaving early I booked a taxi from the hotel to the airport already the night before. There was very little traffic and it only took 20 minutes to go from Centro Histórico to the domestic terminal of the airport. The price of the taxi was $13.50 (June 2011), and as I had paid $6 going the opposite way I thought it was too much. The taxi driver told me it was because I had booked it in advance and he showed me a table of the prices and it was correct.
At the airport I met one person going on the same cruise as I and also someone from a travel company giving me a boarding pass. I got a window seat which I was grateful for as the weather was very clear and I wanted to see the Andean mountains as we took off. I had seen from the taxi that there were clear views of Cotopaxi.
Someone at the airport told me there was no opportunities to have breakfast once I had passed the passport control, so I went to the café just outside the domestic terminal and had coffee and toast for $4. After passing the passport control I noticed there is a café on that side as well.
There are no international flight to Galapagos Islands, but you have to fly from Quito or Guayaquil. From Quito to Galapagos it takes almost 2.5 hours, and that includes a stop in Guayaquil (when I travelled this route we changed planes in Guayaquil). From Guayaquil it takes 1.5 hours.
From mainland Ecuador you can fly to Baltra Island (just off the north coast of Isla Santa Cruz) or to Isla San Cristóbal. There is also an airport on Isla Isabela, but it is only operated by small planes coming from Baltra or San Cristóbal (so far at least). There are several daily flights, all arriving to Galapagos in the morning. They then return with passengers to the mainland, and the last plane is leaving around 13.00.
A return ticket in high season cost over $400 dollars for foreigners and less than $400 in low season (2011). For Ecuadorian citizens it is cheaper and for residents of Galapagos Islands it is even cheaper. My airplane ticket was included in the price of the cruise.
The three airlines flying to Galapagos are TAME, LAN and AeroGal.
When you arrive to Galapagos Islands you have to pay the National Park fee which is $100 (June 2011). There is also an INGALA transit control fee of $10 to be paid already at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. This INGALA-fee was included in the price of my cruise.
At the airport on Isla Baltra there is a restaurant/café and there are a few souvenir stands. If you want to have a Galapagos stamp in your passport you can get it at a counter at the airport.
Galapagos is an hour ahead of mainland Ecuador, so don’t forget to change the time on your watch.
Long story short: I was supposed to arrive in Quito at midnight, but I arrived in Guayaquil at 3 a.m. instead. Thank you Continental!
Well, I took a nap on a wire bench (I felt like an Excel spreadsheet), and at 6:30 sharp, the office of TAME (pronounce Tammy, stands for Transporte Aereo Militar Ecuatoriano) opened. I bought a ticket to Quito for $56, and to my delight discovered the flight would be on one of the two remaining 727s operated by TAME.
So, in the end, I got to fly 40 minutes in a 40 year old "whisperliner," one of the noisiest but most exciting early jets: A delightful flight with great views to boot.
Motorcycle and motorscooter rentals (and mountain bikes, too) are available for rent from Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental located on Juan León Mera N22-37 (between Carrión and Veintimilla).
This is absolutely the best way to get around Quito - especially with its steep hills and traffic! Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental offers easy-to-drive 100cc Yamaha Scooters that are fitted with GPS units and are programmed to give you a tour of Quito at your own pace. This is the best way to see the city, stay outside and be free to do what you want. www.FreedomBikeRental.com
QuiMetro is the local system of public transit in Quito, which is marginally better than the systems of transit in other Latin American capitals. There are three lines (green, blue and red) that have dedicated lanes for their buses or trolleys. These trolleys are quite cheap (25 cents a ride), but they are not the best maintained, and nor are they the cleanest or most comfortable form of transit. During rush hour, they can become so full that the doors have trouble closing and people topple over on one another. Nevertheless, without a car, they are undoubtedly the cheapest and easiest means of getting from the financial district to the centre of the city, and as long as you take precautions to protect your wallet, they should just be a fun ride.
A typical street view in Quito with old buses. There were a lot of shabby, old buses in the city.
Take a look at the photo and notice the monument on the top of the hill. It gives you an idea of where you are in Quito.
There are two reasons why it is easy to go around Quito. First, transport is very cheap and second Quito is long and narrow so wherever you need to go you can use the bus and then walk. There are mainly 3 bus lines.
Ecovia, which runs on the east side of the city, on Avenida Seis de Diciembre.
Trole, which runs on Av. Diez de Agosto and will take you to the Central bus Station Cumanda, when you move to another destination, and to the Old town.
Finally Metro bus, built only recently in 2004, which runs on Avenida Diez de Agosto and Av, de la Prensa and will take you to the airport and to Mitad del Mundo. Buses are fast, comfortable and cost only 25c. Sometimes they are really crowded but you don't have to worry as long as you keep your money well hidden and your hands tightly on your luggage. I always used them with no trouble. Locals were polite and helpful.
On the other hand, taxis are very cheap. If you arrive at Quito's airport for the first time you'd better take a taxi to reach your hotel. It will cost you 7$. But still it is easy to get on the Metro bus passing just outside the gate, in case you know exactly where to get off and only in daylight. Taxis are no more than 5$ to run through the whole city. For usual trips a taxi will not cost you 1- 2$. If you use it to go to Panecillo, wait for you and take you back, it could be 6$. If you like negotiating you can always hit a better price.
There are plenty of other buses going to every place in Quito. Just ask locals or bus drivers. They will be eager to help you.
As for the Old Town the best way to go around is on foot.
One of the most reliable agency in Quito, Safari Tours is excellent for any kind of tour in Ecuador. They have a variety of well organised expeditions or trips to fit all tastes. It's not cheap but the company are associated with more than one boat companies or travelling experts so they can give you a range of different prices. Whatever your needs or desires are, they can find the best solution. Go climbing, jungle trekking, sightseeing or even shopping in the famous Ecuadorian markets under their care. You 'll have your peace of mind, as they are seriously taking care of every client. The staff are very efficient, knowledgeable and polite.
By the way the famous bar and restaurant “ Magic Bean” is across the street.
Foch E5-39 & Juan Leon Mera.
For me, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say for the majority of visitors to Quito, the most useful bus routes will be the north-south links between the Old Town and La Mariscal. Fortunately, it's very easy to make this connection cheaply and conveniently.
There are three main bus networks. The Trole, which uses electric trolley buses and runs along Avenida 10 de Agosto in the Old Town and along Avenida Maldonado and run most of the day (not after 11:15 pm on weekdays and 12:35 am on Fridays and Saturdays). For connections between the Old Town and La Mariscal, it makes no difference which bus you get on, they all follow this route.
The Ecovia runs between La Marin in the Old Town and along Avenida 6 de Diciembre through La Mariscal. While it's not electric, is is eco-friendly, which means the buses are low emissions vehicles and they are just as easy to use. Again, any bus will connect you to the Old Town or La Mariscal.
The Metrobus Q runs from 6am to 10pm and also runs low emissions vehicles from the Universidad Central at the southwestern edge of the new town to the airport along Avenida America and Avenida de la Prensa. I didn't actually take the "Q", but it looks like a great option.
There is a flat fare of $.25 for the buses! Not a bad deal!
Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre is the main entrypoint for international flights (along with Guayaquil in the south) and the fairly modern terminal is located about 6 km from La Mariscal ($4 by cab) and 8 or 9 km from the Old Town ($6 by cab). There is a small information desk here along with ATMs if you need to get some cash.
On the way back to the States, we were able to use the very nice VIP lounge (because of a flight problem with American Airlines), which was very nice with free food, comfortable chairs and internet access.
The approach into Quito is somewhat harrowing as you must fly between jagged mountain peaks in often unpredictable weather. My trip was delayed because of a plane that skidded out at the end of the runway shutting down the airport for a couple days and diverting me to Bogota, Colombia. My second attempt at Quito from Bogota was also delayed due to weather and we were forced to turn around after circling for an hour or so and head all the way back to Colombia. Apparently, this is not uncommon here, so be prepared for possible flight delays when coming to Quito.
The airport code is UIO.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport consists of one terminal split into a domestic and international area. It is equipped with five swing gates capable of directing arriving passengers to either immigration or to baggage claim. Because it is downtown and in a valley, they can't expand this airport to accommodate larger aircraft to increase air traffic. Six serious accidents and several incidents have taken place in recent years, including one where an Iberian Airlines jet overshot the runway the week I was there, adding a challenge to my departure schedule and seriously altering Mark's "acemj" arrival. It was still stuck in place when I left. A new airport is being built a good ways east of town, which is supposed to open by 2010. The main methods of ground transport from here are taxi and bus. City buses have stops near here, but not on airport property. Hotel shuttles and taxis have clear access to the domestic and international terminals.