The bus station
The bus station is definitively not the nicest spot of Quito. The city center is quite safe for a big city, but this area may be dangerous, especially at night. Just pay attention to your belongings and everything should be fine.
Pollution is just unbearable in Quito. It's mostly coming from the buses (old ones), and also from cars (olds ones too). Only one bus company is non-polluting : it's not enough, and I don'tu understand that the municipality doesn't give much more attention to this matter, as it's so proud to declare that the city belongs to the Patrimony of Humanity (UNESCO), whereas the pollution has permanent damaging effets on the concerned buildings.
La pollution est tout simplement insupportable a Quito. Elle vient principalement des bus (vieux et sans pots catylitiques) et aussi de pas mal de voitures (meme probleme). Une seule ligne de bus est notoirement non-polluante. C'est trop peu et je ne comprends pas que la municipalite, si fiere de sa cite, patrimoine de l'humanite, ne saisisse pas le probleme a bras de corps, eu egards aux repercussions nefastes de la pollution sur les edifices classes patrimoines culturels et historiques.
Be very careful with your belongings and yourself
The street corner shown in this photo doesn't look particularly dangerous, right? My friend Vera didn't think so either. We were on the other side of the street at about 11 AM, and she decided to change the film in her camera. I was walking a few steps ahead of her, heard a noise, and looked behind me to see, to my horror, that she was getting mugged by a twenty-something guy who was holding a gun. The two of them were each grabbing her camera strap and pulling on it. I was frozen to the pavement by the sight of the gun, while she kept yanking the camera away from the thief. Finally, he gave up, pushed her to the ground, and ran away. In the end, there was no harm done, but we were completely freaked out by the incident. The people across the street had seen the whole thing and asked if Vera was all right--she was, thank God. They told us that we had to be really careful, and after that, we were. Meanwhile, I was berating Vera for not just giving the guy the camera (thinking of that gun!), but she said that the gun was a toy. I took her word for that, but I think I'd have given up the camera anyway.
In decades of traveling in nearly 50 countries, this was the first time either Vera or I had ever been the victim of a crime any more serious than getting ripped off by a taxi driver. We were both amazed by it. Later in the day, we saw quite a number of tourist police (their uniforms are marked with the words) around the Plaza de San Francisco. Apparently, Quito is very well known for this kind of mugging and theft. I am usually a pretty wary traveler, and thus not much of a target for crime, but this city appears to be a special case. Be careful!
Our guide warned us for the many pickpockets in Quito. Especially for their fine methods of robbing.
One of the methods is that one of them messes some ice cream, or mayonnaise on you, and after some excuses he will help you on wiping it off, and meanwhile you are robbed.
Another method is cutting your backpack open with a razor blade, so always carry your backpack on the front.
Never accept chocolates or other candy from strangers on the street, these sweets could be doped, and like this you could be an easy victim for them.
When possible rent a safe in your hotel, and leave everything with value in it, like flight ticket, passport (take a copy with you), money (just take a small amount on your walk. Like this when you are robbed you can only loose a small amount).
When you are forced to give your money, do not struggle, your life is worth more then this small money. Remember mostly, these robbers have nothing to loose.
- Historical Travel
Careful around the bus station or other places
Keep your eyes open for scamers. Several fellow travelers have told me about this particular scam where they were robbed by a desgised petty thieve. Usually the scam artists work in groups: one will dump ketchup or something on you and prettend to help you out while the otherone grabs your stuff. Note, this didn't happen to me, but i've heard about it happening to other travellers.
You don't have to worry about...
You don't have to worry about physical harm there, but beware of thieves. We had our Video Camera taken from the pew of the Church we went to for the 9:00 AM Mass. There are teams of thieves in the market place. We watched as a boy ran into a man, and as the boy's mother jostled against the man while ostensibly chasing him around the man, the father lifted a wallet.
Keep wallets in your front pocket. Don't carry purses. Keep money, credit cards and passports in a zipper bag under your belt with just a few needed bills loose in a front pocket. I carried an old empty wallet in my back pocket, filled with cut papers, the size of paper money, but it didn't get lifted.
Hold 35MM cameras by the lens with the body against your thumb and wrap your camera strap around your arm. Stare into the eyes of anyone who looks at you. They don't want to be recognized and will almost always look for less aware victims if you look prepared and can describe them.
Watch for open holes in the sidewalks and in the gutters where you would usually find gratings of holes under the curb. I stepped back to frame a photo of the statue of the Virgin of Quito on a mountain and stepped into an uncovered water drain, injuring myself and slightly damaging my still camera. You'll find these openings on sidewalks as well.
Livestock on the highway
As if unthinking motorists and bad roads weren't bad enough, you also have people shepherding livestock alongside or across narrow back roads within a few minutes' drive of downtown Quito.