Taxis and buses are the prominent forms of mass transit in Quito. I saw no evidence of any major trains and there is no metro system in the city. Unlike some cities, taxis in Quito are quite cheap. You can get to almost any point in town for $3 or under. City buses are also a cheap way to get around town. These buses are not only omnipresent in the city, but they are often seen on the narrowest streets in the countryside. Particularly at the airport, people posing as cabdrivers will try to hoodswankle you. Honest to goodness taxis and buses have to be certified by local government. That certification placard is prominently displayed on both sides of and in the upper right windscreen of both taxis and buses. Don't hop aboard ground transport lacking this local government seal of approval.
We flew directly from Miami to Quito on Lan. It took about 3.5 hours for a cost of $435.
Taxi from airport to Old Town was $7 though later we got one for $6. It cost less to the New Town as it's much, much closer.
Getting around the Old Town is best on foot. Distances are short and you see more. You could get a taxi just about anywhere for $2.
To get from the Old Town to New Town during the day we used the electric buses which are actually faster than taxis as they don't have to stop at all intersections. They are very cheap (25 cents) and entirely safe. At night it's probably best to take a taxi and that should cost about $4.
The 2 trolley lines in Quito are Trole and Ecovia. They are quite frequent, modern and clean.
Trole runs mainly along Av 10 de Agosto and Ecovia runs mainly along Av 6 de Diciembre. Both taper more or less towards each other towards the historical centre.
But the Trole takes you right to the plazas that matter, like Plaza de la Independencia ('Plaza Grande' stop) and Plaza Santo Domingo ('Santo Domingo' stop). And it also takes you to Cumanda Bus Terminal ('Cumanda' stop and walk a bit) and the Train Station for the Cotopaxi train ride, you get off at ('Chimbacalle' stop and walk a bit).
For museum-hopping, you take the Ecovia trolley to the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador ('Casa de la Cultura' stop) and Museo Guayasamin ('Eloy Alfara' stop and a MAJOR HIKE UPHILL, or perhaps it is best to take a taxi to get up). The other place you might use the Ecovia is if you are going to Mercado Artesania La Mariscal ('Galo Plaza' stop).
Buses in Ecuador are as handy, frequent, and affordable as they are in Guatemala. Most buses are big touring buses, plush but shabby, with curtains and valances across the windows. Often, a DVD will be playing on two monitors - one up front and one in the back. Or music will play, but not too loud.
Before the first departure, a salesman often tries to sell cheap jewelry, with much success I noticed. During long trips, there will be very quick snack and bathroom stops.
There is always a conductor who yells the final destination while hanging out the door "Quito Quito Quito!"
Most adorably, when an Ecuadorian woman climbs on a bus, she always does so with a beaming but slightly embarrassed smile, like an out of breath debutante who's late at her own party.
Buses depart Quito at a medium-size terminal, except buses to Machachi (considered a local run) which leave from across the road.
Quito is a long and thin city, with congested streets. Mass transportation is provided by the Trole (trolley). What sets the Trole apart from buses I've been on elsewhere is that you pay the fare at the bus stops, which are elevated. The Trole cars stop at very precise spots to align with the platforms. If you are let go between stations (as happens when traffic comes to a dead stop), it's quite a jump to get off.
Cars are frequent, and the one size fits all fare is economical.
This bus company goes to many places on the coast, and have direct connections to places like Atacames. While their buses also stop at the main termial, their office is closer to Mariscal and in a safer area. You can both board the bus here (you'll get good seats AND don't have to pay the exit tax at the main bus terminal) and ask them to let you off here (since it's walking distance to Mariscal, you'll save some money).
Some of the direct buses leave early in the morning, so go check out times the day before. While you'll probably be fine buying the tickets right before you leave, you can also buy them ahead of time if you liked (then you better be on time, the bus will not wait for you!).
The office is located on the street 18 de Septiembre, one block west of Manuel Larrea. It is close to the offices of Flor del Valle and Flota Imbabura.
Flota de Imbabura is one of the better bus companies in Ecuador (the best buses) and while they mainly go to the Imbabura province, they also have serveral other destinations. While their buses also go down to the main busstation, you can also board the bus or go to check schedules at their office (locadted within walking distance from Mariscal).
Their office is located on the street Manuel Larrea (btw Portoviejo and 18 de Septiembre). It's about two blocks west of the park El Ejido, and close to the offices of Flor del Valle and Transportes Occidentales.
I was totally amazed... taxis in Quito are so cheap. I remember going almost all around the city and just paying USD$3.50!!, drivers know most of the places and are ready to talk to you about any question.
While coming out from the luggese collection you would see the agents are weaving their hands and smiling at you through their ticket windows. Ignore those women and just walk out of the departure lounge to get a taxi from the outside. These are radio taxi and cheaper you get a treceipt on payment and show that to the next taxi to leave. From inside ticket agents you will be given a large family-size a/c transport spending of course few USD more.
Trolley bises operate in Quito. Go the picture from the taxi on the way to my hostel from the airport. I did use public transport in Quito which happens to be very cheap. To get to old town which is set on the hills, bus is a a good way. Though walking is great to see around but high altitude makes you tired soon.
Around Quito, one can take the trolley's back and forth between Old Town and New Quito. However, to get out of Quito, or even just side excursions I would recommend bus travel...which can get a little crazy at times.
Since the airport is in the middle of the city, it is not very far nor very expensive to go from the airport to Mariscal (the area with all the hostels). Essentially, you have two options: taxi or bus.
The cab ride from the airport to Mariscal will set you back NO MORE than $4.
You can also take the bus from the airport (10-15min, and only costs $0.25). Just go across the street, and look for one of the blue busses with a sign that says "Amazonas." Get off a couple of minutes after the bus passes the big circle with the big Marriot Hotel at one corner, and you will find yourself in Mariscal.
FLOR DEL VALLE is the company that drives from Quito to CAYAMBE and MINDO
Two important facts about FLOR DEL VALLE:
1) They go the "back way" to Cayambe and do not pass by Tabacundo (to go to Tabacundo, catch a buss from Quito headed towards Otavalo - these buses usually also stop about 6km west of Cayambe).
2) They DO NOT leave from the main terminal in Quito.
IN QUITO, FLOR DEL VALLE is situated on the street Manuel Larrea btw Santiago and Asucion (about two blocks west of the park El Ejido). This is actually a plus if you stay in Mariscal (as this busstation is closer and in a safer area than the main terminal).
IN CAYAMBE, FLOR DEL VALLE is located on the street Montalvo. From the church on the main square, go east and take a right on Montalvo. The bus stop is close by on the left hand side.
IN MINDO, FLOR DEL VALLE goes down the main street, just shout when you want to get off (there's only one main street)
TIME AND MONEY:
The trip to CAYAMBE takes about btw 1.5-2hrs. The buses leave every 10min btw 8am-7pm. The cost in 2005 was $1.25.
The trip to MINDO takes about 2hrs. and 15min. On Sunday mornings, the bus departs at 7:15am. The cost in 2005 was $2.50.
The Terminal Terrestre de Cumandá is located in the southern part of the old town, a few blocks from the Plaza de Santo Domingo. From here you can catch a bus to anywhere in Ecuador. There are several companies serving main destinations, and most of the time it takes only few minutes before you are seated in the bus. It´s more a matter of taking the next bus that choosing a company. The Cumandá terminal can be reached from the north (Cumandá trole station) or from the south in a taxi. There are Andinatel offices, cheap restaurants and small stores.Take care of your belongins because robberies had been reported, although I didn't see or heard a problem. There is a $0.20 departure tax.
The Ecovia goes from the north down to colonial Quito (and back). As it only stops at designated stops, it is a lot less confusing than some of the other buses in Quito. Essentially, the Ecovia goes down "la Avenida de 6 de deciembre." Just look for the little booths. The cost is $0.25. If you have change, just drop it in the slots, if not, ask for change at the booth.