From the hotel in Quito I walked down to La Marin to take a taxi from there to Terminal Quitumbe. The first taxi driver I asked wanted to have $6 (July 2013) and I accepted that as I had paid $5.55 last time I went to Quitumbe with taximeter.
It took about half an hour to go to Quitumbe. When I arrived at the bus terminal I first went to the food court to eat lunch (Seco de pollo for $2.50) and then went to buy a ticket for the bus to Riobamba. I got a ticket by a window at one of the front seats and there it was good room for my luggage. The ticket was $4 and the journey took almost 4 hours.
In Riobamba I took a taxi to Hotel Montecarlo and as all taxis within the city it was $1.
From the hotel in Riobamba to the bus terminal I took a taxi, and as all taxi journeys within town it was $1 (July 2013). When I arrived to the terminal I didnt go to the counters but went straight to the buses to see if there was a bus leaving right away. I knew I had to change bus in Ambato and luckily there was a bus leaving within a few minutes for Quito. I made sure it was passing Mayorista in Ambato, where I knew buses for Puyo would pass and it was. I paid on the bus and it was $1.25 to Ambato and it took 1 hour.
Near Mayorista in Ambato I waited about 15 minutes at a bus stop for a passing bus that was going to Puyo. When the bus was passing Baños I was glad I had not decided to go there as the rain poured down. However the view along the road is beautiful as the road goes along the green valley of Rio Pastaza. The bus from Ambato to Puyo took 1.5 hours and it was $1.90 (July 2013).
In Puyo I looked for a taxi but not many arrived at the terminal. I crossed the road and immediately a taxi stopped. It was $1 to the hotel in down town.
If you take the train to Nariz del Diablo, you can hop off at Alausi on the way back after experiencing the famous switchbacks and catch a bus from there to Cuenca.
In fact, there may be a guy selling bus tickets while you are on the roof of the train. I don't know about bus frequency to Cuenca, but suggest that you purchase the ticket from him and not wait til you get to Alausi as there appear to be many tourists on this route.
However, do note that although you got tickets, there may not be enough seats! This was my experience: I got onto the bus and observed the seat numbers and found that there were some numbers MISSING!! So, naturally, the ones with the missing numbers grabbed any seat available. And the last guy(s) who climbed onboard... well... too bad. Anyway, this could just be my bus and may not happen on other buses.
Well, my advice is once you get to Alausi, if possible, get onto the bus right away to claim your seat first with a book or towel or something, before you go find some lunch. Anyway, the timing was quite tight then. We arrived at Alausi at 2pm and the bus was leaving at 2:30pm.
I was told, in Pelileo (near Patate), to wait for a bus to Riobamba. But all the buses from Baños that stopped in Pelileo were going to Ambato. So I hopped on a bus to Ambato, and asked to be let off at the Paso Lateral, some kind of transfer point where you can get a bus to anywhere without having to go through Ambato.
The ride from the Paso Lateral to Riobamba took about one and a half hour and cost one dollar. The landscapes were spectacular, especially toward the end: shortly before reaching Riobamba, we drove through a very arid, rocky and foggy area. Truly spooky, almost in a Scottish way.
Some tips some might find helpful about the Nariz del Diablo train:
-Make sure to purchase your tickets at least one day before at the Riobamba train station. The ticket office is open until 7:00PM weekdays.
-If you can, grab an extra pillow or cushion from your hotel for the train ride. It will either soften the roof "seats" along with the $1 cushion, or if it's thick enough, might save you the buck.
-This isn't a ride to be fashionably late. It leaves promptly at 7am - get there at 6am! This will assure you a good seat on the roof.
-To nurture the basics: bring water or snacks; bring and apply sunscreen, and wear a hat. The sun is bright and strong and there's nowhere to find a shady spot.
-Buy bags of candy or lollipops in town before you leave- these are for the kids that greet the train in their villages and towns. It'll be a lot cheaper than from the hawkers on the train, and you can give the children a bigger variety than lollipops and pencils.
-The best place to sit going TO Nariz del Diablo (Sibambe, Alausí...) is toward the back, a good distance from the diesel smoke belching from the engine- and on the RIGHT side, if you want a lot of stunning views of Chimborazo.
-If the train can derail, it will! It's almost part of the experience and fun. Usually within a half hour or so, it's back on track.