walk but you don't have to
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.
- Budget Travel
Taxi around Quito
Besides taking the taxi to and from the airport I took a taxi at a few other occasions while in Quito.
To the Teleférico:
As I had been sick the whole night I didn’t want to take buses and walk too much to get to the Teleférico, so I decided to take a taxi. It was a Sunday and it was not too much traffic on the roads. From Centro Histórico I paid $3.23 (June 2011). Going back to Centro Histórico I took a taxi to La Marín and it was $2.05. In August 2012 I paid $2.10 from Plaza Grande to El Teleferico, and $2.64 going back.
Update 2013: I took a taxi from Centro Histórico and when we arrived to El Teleferico the meter showed $7. I knew it was way too expensive and it also showed the colour for night time fares. I paid the half $3.50.
To El Panecillo:
From the end of García Moreno in Centro Histórico stairs are leading up to El Panecillo, but it is strongly advised not to climb those stairs. I have read many warnings saying that people often get mugged walking up to El Panecillo. So I decided to take a taxi, and as I didn’t know how easy it would be to get another taxi at El Panecillo I told the taxi driver to wait while I walked around for a while. I took the taxi from La Marín. From there El Panecillo looks to be quite close, but there is no strait road. On the way up we drove through a rough neighbourhood, which we didn’t drive past on the way down. When we arrived to El Panecillo the meter was on $3 and something and when I came back to the taxi it had very rapidly increased to $6 and something, even if I hadn’t been away for very long. Well, when we were back to El Marin the metre was on $8.50 (June 2011).
Update 2013: I took a taxi from La Marin to El Panecillo for $3. When it was time to go back a taxi just arrived with other people and I could take that taxi back to Centro Historico for $3.
From Mariscal to Centro Histórico:
Once I took a taxi from Mariscal to Centro Histórico because it was dark outside. I stopped a few taxis and asked if they had a taxi-metro but they all said they charged $5 (August 2011) to Centro Histórico. It was not very late, just after 19, and remembering how much I had paid between Centro Histórico and El Teleférico I thought it was too much. The first taxi driver changed his mind to $4 when I closed the door, so I should have taken that one. After asking a few taxi drivers I decided to take the next one. He wanted to have $6, but when I didn’t want to take his taxi he said $5 and I hopped in.
Uppdate July 2012: I had bought a ticket for the Ecovía bus, but as the first three arriving buses were completely packed and it was impossible for me with a broken wrist to get into the bus I took a taxi from Mariscal to La Marin insted. It was daytime and the price was $2.
Terminal Quitumbe - Centro Histórico:
Terminal Quitumbe is situated in the far south of Quito. From Quitumbe you can take the Trole bus for $0.25, but with all my luggage I didn’t want to take it as it can be very crowded, and pick-pocketing is not uncommon. Instead I took one of the taxis waiting outside the terminal. The taxi had a taxi-metro, as it should have, and when we came to my hotel in Centro Histórico it was on $7 (August 2011).
Uppdate 2012: Going from La Marin to Terminal Quitumbe in July 2012 was $5. A couple of weeks later I was going from Hospital Metropolitano to Terminal Quitumbe and then the taxi driver wanted $10, but as I didn't accept that he agreed to use the taxi meter and it ended on $5.06. Coming back to Quitumbe from a trip the taxidriver outside the terminal wanted $7 to drive to Centro Histórico. As I still had pins in my wrist and also had a cold I didn't want to go out to the road (where it is probably cheaper to take a taxi).
Update 2013: Coming back to Quito I saw a sign outside the terminal in Quitumbe with the taxi fare to different locations in Quito. To Centro Histórico it was $5.
More taxi journeys:
From the Mindo bus (near a shopping centre in North Quito) to Centro Histórico (Plaza Grande): $5 (2012)
From Centro Histórico to the terminal of the Reina del Camino-buses: $3 (2012)
From Centro Histórico to La Cima de La Libertad $5 (2013). When I visited Quito in 2012 I had not found a taxi driver who wanted to take me to La Cima de La Libertad, but the first one I asked in 2013 accepted to take me there for $5 (but he made sure I looked the doors when we went uphill through an unsafe neighbourhood). I took the bus back.
Tell the taxi driver that you want to go by taximeter, it is often cheaper.
At the Tourist Office they had told me I shouldn't pay more than $1-2 for a taxi to Convento San Diego. When looking for a taxi I asked a police man too and he stopped a taxi for me and the driver said $3. I couldn't say what they had said at the tourist office and just had to accept $3. It turned out to be very close, and when I went back to Centro Historico the taximeter ended on less than $1 (but $1 is the minimum you pay for a taxi ride in Quito).
Once when I went from Centro Historico to Hospital Metropolitano the taximeter ended on $4.30. To me that sounded to be to much. Just before we arrived the taxi driver put his hand close to the taximeter and I suspect that he changed something (probably turned it to night time fare). The next time I took a taxi the same way it was only $2.10.
- Budget Travel
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.
Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre
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.
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 and buses
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.
From Quito to Galapagos Islands
During 2014 I have flown to Galapagos Islands twice. Both times I flew with TAME and bought the ticket on Internet for $463. The first time I bought the ticket a month ahead and the second time only a few days before I was going.
I had bought tickets with the plane leaving 7.10 and went to the airport early. The taxi took less than 50 minutes and as I was at the airport before 5am, when the window where you pay the INGALA-fee opens, I first had my luggage scanned and sealed. The INGALA-fee was still $10.
On the way to Galapagos Islands the plane lands in Guayaquil. The TAME plane leaving at 7.10 is supposed to arrive in Galapagos Islands at 9.20 (remember there is an hour time difference between Galapagos and the mainland). The first time we were one hour late, but the second time the plane landed on time.
Before going to Galapagos Islands in 2013 I had seen the cheapest flights on TAME and Aerogal, but they did not accept payment over Internet with foreign bankcards (I have heard that at least TAME does now). LAN had return tickets for $400 (June/July) on their website but I didn’t know if it was a ticket I could change or not. In the end I decided to go on another cruise and when I booked it I let the travel agent book a flight for me as well. I got a ticket with TAME for $525. The ticket could be changed at the airport on Baltra, at the airport on San Cristobal and at TAMEs office in Puerto Ayora without any extra cost. There was no problem to change the ticket the day before departure.
Quito airport is now situated far outside the city and with lots of traffic it can take 2 hours to go there, but as I was taking a morning flight and left the hotel at 5am it only took 50 minutes to the airport. For the pre-booked taxi I paid $30 (June 2013). At the airport I first went to pay the $10 INGALA-fee and then the luggage was checked and sealed. Then I checked in my luggage, went through security and had breakfast. The plane departed half an hour late.
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 $10 to be paid already at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. This INGALA-fee was included in the price of my cruise.
At the airport on Isla Baltra there is a restaurant/café and there are a few souvenir stands. If you want to have a Galapagos stamp in your passport you can get it at a counter at the airport.
Galapagos is an hour ahead of mainland Ecuador, so don’t forget to change the time on your watch.
easy and cheap!
There are two reasons why it is easy to go around Quito. First, transport is very cheap and second Quito is long and narrow so wherever you need to go you can use the bus and then walk. There are mainly 3 bus lines.
Ecovia, which runs on the east side of the city, on Avenida Seis de Diciembre.
Trole, which runs on Av. Diez de Agosto and will take you to the Central bus Station Cumanda, when you move to another destination, and to the Old town.
Finally Metro bus, built only recently in 2004, which runs on Avenida Diez de Agosto and Av, de la Prensa and will take you to the airport and to Mitad del Mundo. Buses are fast, comfortable and cost only 25c. Sometimes they are really crowded but you don't have to worry as long as you keep your money well hidden and your hands tightly on your luggage. I always used them with no trouble. Locals were polite and helpful.
On the other hand, taxis are very cheap. If you arrive at Quito's airport for the first time you'd better take a taxi to reach your hotel. It will cost you 7$. 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.
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
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.
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
Buses to Cayambe and Mindo
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.
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Bus service from Quito
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.
- Road Trip
Taxi to and from the old airport, Quito
Update August 2014: I took a taxi from Centro Historico (corner of Flores and Chile) to the old airport. It took less than half an hour and it was $3.
Update 2013: When I arrived in Ecuador in June 2013 I took the airport bus from the new airport to the old airport. Outside the old airport a line of taxis where waiting. They did not use taximeter, but a tariff. To Centro Histórico it was $10 and it took 45 minutes (there was lots of traffic).
When I was leaving Quito in August 2013 I took a taxi from the hotel in Centro Histórico to the old airport and it was $3.37 and it took around half an hour to go there.
2011: I arrived to Quito in the morning and was tired after a very long journey. Luckily I got my luggage quickly and was soon through customs. To your right when you leave customs there are three taxi booths and as there were no other customers there yet, I went directly to one of them to ask for a taxi. I paid $ 12 (June 2011) for a taxi to Centro Histórico. A taxi driver came to the counter immediately and took me to the taxi, which turned out to be a big minibus. To Hotel Viena Internacional in Centro Histórico it took 45 minutes.
When I was flying to Galapagos Islands I asked for a taxi at the hotel the evening before, as I was leaving very early. When I came down the taxi was waiting for me and we went away. This time it took only 20 minutes to the airport (the domestic departure hall) and the cost for a prebooked taxi was $13.50 (June 2011).
When I was flying home I was also leaving very early in the morning and once again I booked the taxi in advance. I didn’t ask for the price this time, just thought it was the same as last time. It took about 20 minutes to the airport and when we came to the International departure hall the taxi driver told me it was $14.50 (August 2011) and showed me the taxi metre.
Both times when I went to the airport the taxi took Avenida Occidental, above the city.
Update 2012: Arriving in Quito in June 2012 the American Airlines flight was 2.5 hours late and it was 1.30am when we landed. I had booked a pickup from my hotel (and had got a confirmation), but there was no one at the airport to meet me. Finally I asked someone standing near the taxi booths (which were closed at this hour). He seemed to know several of the people with signs waiting for people they were picking up. The man said he could take me to Centro Historico. Not until we were on the way to the car did I ask for the price and he said it was $15 because he worked for some tourism transportation firm. Well, as I wanted to come to the hotel as soon as possible I accepted it. He had a large new car and drove very fast through an almost empty Quito. It didn’t take long to reach the hotel and the man waited until they had unlocked the door and let me in.
Arriving from Manta in July I took a taxi from the domestic terminal. The taxi driver didn’t want to use the taximeter but said the official price from the airport to Centro Historico was $12.
A few days later I was flying to Coca. This time I took a taxi from the corner of Montufar and Mejia (Centro Histórico) and with taximeter it was $3.20 (July 2012) to the airport. It took around half an hour.
Coming back from Coca a week later the taxi driver waiting outside the terminal wanted $8 to take me to Centro Historico (we agreed that he would take me to La Marin as Flores was closed at the moment). When we were at Parque La Alameda he wanted to drop me there as it was much traffic, or he wanted two dollars more. This was not what we had agreed on. It was still quite far to La Marin, at least when considering that I had two backpacks and a broken wrist. I wrote down his registration number and he continued to La Marin.
Leaving Quito to go home I left too early in the morning to go out and look for a taxi in the street. I was sharing taxi with another woman who had stayed at the hotel. The taxi driver said it was $12 to the airport, but when we arrived he told us the taximeter showed $14. The other woman, who was Ecuadorian, protested but I saw that she paid $7 when she left at the domestic departure hall so I did the same when I was dropped at the international flights.
- Budget Travel
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.
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