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Like in other big cities around the world you should use common sense when visiting Quito. Muggings and pick pocketing do occur. I have done quite a lot of walking around in Quito, but only during daytime. In the evening I stay at a few well lit streets where there are other people too. Even during daytime there are certain areas where you should not walk alone. One place tourists are warned to walk to is El Panecillo, as many muggings have been reported along the stairs from Centro Histórico up to the statue La Virgen de Quito.
The first day in Quito during my visit in 2012 I ended up on Plaza Santa Clara (which is a quite new square). It was very quiet and not many people around. I had a quick look around before taking up the camera to take a photo. I decided to take another photo a few metres away and when I did someone silently came running from behind and grabbed the camera out of my hand. I had heard about this happening to other people but it took a few seconds before I understood what had happened. Then I ran after the thief. He looked around and seemed surprised that I ran after him. When he came to the corner of the square he stopped. I don’t know if it was because I caught up on him or if he saw some police further on (I didn’t see anyone). Anyway I took the camera back and went back to take the photo I had intended to take.
When I ran after the thief I was just thinking of my camera, that I needed it for my holiday. Afterwards I thought that he could have run off to a narrow empty streets were his friends could have waited to rob me of my money too. Well, that didn’t happen.
Written Apr 27, 2013
I would agree with the comments of many of the other travelers that Quito is a very dangerous city. Just about everyone I know who has visited Quito, myself included, has been the victim of a crime here, several on multiple occasions. From what I gather, many Ecuadoreans feel very unsafe in Quito. Most travel in groups. Many refuse to take any form of public transport and some are reluctant to walk the streets at all, even during the daytime.
This is my third trip to Ecuador and by far the longest in duration - I have been here now for almost 5 months. My first two trips, each lasting a few weeks, ended without any sort of incident. However, in the past three weeks, I think I may have been unwittingly drugged on two occasions. A couple of my Spanish language teachers had warned me about a drug that is blown into people's faces while walking the streets or put in their food or drinks, rendering them helpless, although still conscious. The drug is called scopolamine, or "devils breath" and, from what I am able to gather on the internet, is native to Colombia.
In any event, in the first instance, a few weeks ago, I was at a dance club in the Mariscal district in Quito - before midnight. I was dancing when suddenly I could not move my legs, even though I could still move other parts of my body. I knew something was seriously wrong but I could not do anything. To the best of my knowledge the sensation lasted a minute or more. I thought I might be having a stroke. Once I regained control of my legs, I quickly exited the club and took a taxi home. There was no opportunity that I know of for anyone to have slipped anything into my drink.
The second time was a few days ago and also happened shortly before midnight and also in the Mariscal. I had been in a club and had walked out to the street and hailed a cab to my apartment. I remember the cab driver kept staring at me in the rear view mirror. I also remember paying the driver $4.00 for the 5 minute cab ride. I was able to enter my apartment. The next several hours are a blur. I woke up the following morning and saw that during the night I had written all sorts of numbers on a piece of paper. Again, I took every precaution to prevent anyone from slipping anything into my drink. However, apparently scopolamine, at least, can be administered in a variety of ways, all unbeknownst to the victim.
While these incidents have been enough for me to want to consider leaving Ecuador, or at least Quito, permanently, I have also been the victim in two pickpocketing incidences in Quito. The first time I was in a crowd and felt a hand in my back pocket and I turned quickly. The second time, I was on a public transport and a man tried to empty the pockets of my knapsack just as I was exiting the trolley. Fortunately, in both attempts, the pickpockets did not get anything of value.
I have traveled all over the country and do not feel unsafe in Cuenca, Ibarra, Riobamba or most areas of the coast (with the exception of Guayaquil). However, in Quito, I have been, and will continue to be, on high alert. I feel tense and very uncomfortable.
Written Feb 5, 2013
I'm your standard white guy--one couldn't look more American than me.
I lived in Quito for a year as a student, and I've seen everything. I traveled everywhere. I'm super vigilant, take great caution, and I made every attempt to not look like a guy you'd want to mess with.
Still, I was almost robbed a variety of times.
My friends however--wholy lord. Every week was a new story. I saw people getting mugged all the time. If you are in the Mariscal district, which is a really nice little area--outdoorsy with great places to eat---and you step outside even slightly, the zone where people heavily travel: you WILL be mugged. I'm talking 100% chance.
The guys with their trenchcoats will literally sit at the edge of the zone and wait for someone--you can look into those areas and you'll see them waiting for you. The public parks? Lord--don't ever go there near sunset. You, again, can see them hiding behind trees.
I took several hundred taxis over my time: (probably 500?) I never had a problem. Not to say you won't. I made sure I talked to each one, that I was friendly and conversational. If you get a ghetto taxi--it's your butt on the line.
Here's the thing: if you look REMOTELY vulnerable., you will be prey. If you are female, if you are old, and if you are alone. Stay very very alert to people following you.
One of my secrets--and I was followed a dozen times by shady people, is to walk really fast. Seriously---you're not going to get mugged by someone who can't keep up with you. It's true!
The daytime is safe almost everywhere. The night time is not, anywhere.
I traveled all over Ecuador--the most dangerous part by far, was Quito. All the thugs from the south come up to the north to rob people.
The good news---is that you will rarely be injured, stabbed, or shot. That was almost unheard of--in fact, I never once heard about someone getting stabbed. Several people got beat up, others threatened with guns (very few)---but TONS were stuck up at knife-point and told to provide their money. And then they run away.
The good news--they're not crack heads. They're just poor. They want your stuff, and then you're on your way.
The dean of the college I went to said "this year, 75% of you will be held up". Nice arrival message right? hah---well, it was true.
If you're a guy, and you're not a wussy guy--and if you don't know what I mean by that, then you're prolly a wussy guy, --then you won't have issues provided you stay alert.
Anyway! Ecuador is amazing and beautiful--don't let Quito cloud your judgement about the entire place :)
Written Jan 28, 2013
Before we came to Quito I had read plenty of warnings about crime levels in the city, the need to be vigilant and guard your belongings, and so on. On our first day here I was super-careful – looking round each time I stopped to take a photo and eyeing passers-by with suspicion. After a while, though, I started to relax. We had not (and never did) encounter any problems, had never felt threatened or unsafe. I came to realise that these days Quito is probably no less safe, nor safer, than many other large cities. The city authorities have made huge efforts to reduce crime on the streets, especially in the colonial area, where you will see tourist police on almost every corner. Of course, you must be sensible. I continued to keep half an eye open for possible trouble, just as I would at home in London. I made sure to close my bag properly, not to carry all my money out with me, and not to wear ostentatious jewellery (not that I have a lot of this!) We didn’t go to any area that we had been warned to avoid (for instance, it isn’t recommended for tourists to walk through the area on the slope of El Panecillo ), and we avoided totally deserted streets on the whole. And as I said, we had no problems at all.
Maybe we were just lucky, maybe we are more streetwise than some other travellers who have run into difficulties here (as we do live in a large city) or maybe Quito isn’t as unsafe as it is sometimes said to be. Whatever the reason, please don’t let such warnings deter you from visiting this lovely city!
Next tip: a look at the unpredictable weather in Quito
Written Jan 12, 2013
Taxis can be dangerous in Ecuador. Guayaquil has the worst reputation. My dentist was kidnapped there. I don't know how much they got, but he closed his practice there and moved to Cuenca. I know of a tourist who landed in Cuenca, was immediately robbed in a taxi there. When he flew to Quito, he was robbed in his first taxi there, too. Danger levels go: Guayaquil/Quito/Cuenca.
An Arab working in Quito, dressed in suit and tie, was believed likely to have been picked up by a taxi when his body was found by the side of the road. Dead. Strangled with his tie.
Anyone staying at a hostel will not avoid stories of fellow travelers being robbed. I've heard stories of everything being stolen from petty cash to ipods, cameras and computers–and hiking boots. (The last, likely from a fellow traveler.) It no longer surprises me to hear stories of multiple street thefts of travelers who spend any length of time here. You can hear as many stories from locals being robbed. Thieves are non-discriminatory.
For comic relief, I tell my story of being on an inter-provincial bus, being distracted for a moment, one of my bags lifted off the seat, rifled through and returned. I noticed the bag had been opened. When I saw my cell phone missing, I stood up and turned to the seat behind me. Without time to say anything, the man behind me reached up, handing my phone back to me. I sat back down. No case. Damn! I looked under the seat, seeing it under his. Stood up again and pointed under his seat. He reached under and handed it back. I sat down again. No doubt they will be more careful next time.
If safety is a strong priority for visiting Ecuador for you, about the only way to avoid much of this is to stay at hotels where you have arranged taxis for transportation any place you go, to and from, and go only on "gringo" supported tours in private transportation. This advice applies particularly during the evening hours in the metropolitan areas. Especially, La Mariscal, where it is not uncommon to see photos posted on light poles of people missing. Surprisingly, all of these photos have been of locals.
Written Dec 15, 2012
It's been about a year since any updates on the thefts issue in Quito and on buses. You should be aware of how dangerous Quito is, particularly La Mariscal. And this extends to Ecuador in general. Things have not changed. I live in La Mariscal. I've been robbed. Friends have been robbed. One Ecuadorian friend and her gringo friend were kidnapped and robbed from a taxi. I've seen several postings on telephone poles of people kidnapped and missing. When people here tell their stories of theft, most people will respond saying how lucky you've been if you weren't injured or killed. "It could have been much worse. You were lucky," commonly concludes the discussion.
If you want an idea of how ridiculous locals see the situation, one of my friends lives in a small community not far from Quito. He claimed he had never been robbed, but he follows that telling the story of coming home, his house being broken into, and shot at by the thieves. But no, he wasn't robbed.
The odds of getting assistance from security police is laughable. (I was robbed with two security guards not more than 40 feet away. They did nothing.) You will see police standing in groups of 4 or 5. Not doing anything more than standing and watching. One recent Sunday, in Plaza Foch, the center of La Mariscal, I counted fifteen, 5 on 3 corners of the intersection. Are they too afraid to leave each other's side?
The crime here is so bad, the government has a policy where they will not prosecute thefts of less than $600. Well, who walks around with $600? What message does that send to street thieves? In one of my recent experiences, a small bag was gone through on an inter-province bus, no money in it. When I checked my bag and my phone was missing, I just stood up and turned to the seat behind me. The man was already reaching up to give me my phone back.
One final note, while tourist are easily targeted, I have lived in Ecuador for 2.5 years. The stories I've referred to are of gringos who have lived here for up to 25 years. The Ecuadorian friend, kidnapped, was in her 50s. She will no longer ride taxis unless she personally knows the driver.
Written Dec 11, 2012
Having traveled extensively through Central and South America, here is my summation of Quito:
In many Latin American cities, including busy capitals, it is POSSIBLE that you CAN get robbed. In Quito, it is PROBABLE that you WILL be robbed, within your first three days.
I am by no means a naive or inexperienced traveler and I understand there is danger all over the world, but Quito is the capital of robbery scams and teams working together. It will happen THAT fast no matter how careful you are and I guarantee if you ask 6 people who have been to Quito, 5 of them would have first hand accounts of theft. Not rumors or hearsay, but first hand experience.
This post is not mean to incite fear, but to call for action. As a tourist, your most powerful tool is to decide where you spend your money. In my opinion, there is nothing worth seeing enough in Quito to risk the 99 percent chance of being robbed. The only way to voice your need for security is to stop spending money in places that don't take safety seriously.
I have been in many big cities all over the world and have never felt as constantly paranoid about being robbed, and I have been robbed in Quito despite all the warnings and despite taking every precaution. The thieves here are good. A minor bump, a small distraction and it's all gone. You live like a caged bird as it is unsafe to take your laptop, phone, camera outside----not even to walk from your hotel to a coffee shop.
Go spend your money elsewhere and maybe the drain of tourism dollars will eventually hurt enough for people to do something about the theft problem here.
Written Sep 17, 2011
Crime and robberies have increased so much on this city that it's impossible to even walk peacefully without constantly keeping an eye on every single thing around you, especially in the Mariscal area. This is one of Quito's most dangerous districts.
Try to avoid this area, if you ever visit Quito!
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: 305 555 6547
What really made my day was a tragedy with a comical tint to it. While staying at the favourite cafe at the” foothills” of the monstrous convent, suddenly a crowd gathered at an ambulance and police vehicle right in the middle of the square. Than Franciscan friars pulled mobile phones and started talking in grave terms to somebody. More and more indigenous people surrounded the police and even the shawl sellers took a break from selling their product to the weary customers of the cafe. Eventually, the truth leaked through the crowd to reveal that a man had died of heart condition during mass in the convent. Then everything came into place – the police and doctors were helpless in preventing the poor soul from leaving its earthly dwelling and they rushed to the local clergymen and their representative to the Holy See for help. So, the friar picked up the phone and phoned GOD straight, probably asking what he has done to deserve such a punishment. After all, it is more than discouraging to be praying to a deity that not only does not listen but even allows people to die in its presence. Disgusting! What is going to be the topic of the next sermon?
Updated Mar 2, 2011
Quito is at approx 2,800 meters, so if you are susceptible to altitude sickness, be sure to allow some extra time to adapt and take it very slowly at first. I was knocked out by it for two full days when we flew in from Lima (out of breathe just walking across the room), while my husband was fine and was able to go sightseeing. It doesn't help matters that it is a very hilly city and many hostels have stairs galore - we were on the 5th floor of course in our hostel and I nearly died from not being able to breathe.
Written Oct 8, 2010
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