As I said in my introduction, we came to Guayaquil by car after a last minute change of plans. And a good change it was! How much better to be driven through the countryside than fly over it! And what wonderful countryside ...
A striking feature of the road from Cuenca to Guayaquil is the dramatic change in height along a relatively short stretch of road. Cuenca lies at around 2,500 metres above sea level, while Guayaquil, being on the coast, is naturally at sea level. This is a considerable drop in just a couple of hours, and it leads to some very varied landscapes and a mini-lesson in climatic zones!
We started our journey a little late, as our driver got caught up in the festivities marking Cuenca’s anniversary weekend, and also had to park some distance from our hotel for the same reason – there was a fun run going on outside. We drove out of the city through a western suburb where we were told a lot of expat Americans have settled – so much so that locals call it “little America”! We were soon in El Cajas National Park, an incredibly scenic if rather bleak area, with a large number of lakes set in a rather stark landscape of paramo, and rocky outcrops. Cajas means boxes in Spanish, and one explanation that is given for the name of the park is that it refers to this distinctive landscape, sometimes called knob and kettle geomorphology, where the outcrops alternate with lakes. Another possible explanation for the name is linked to the Quichua word "cassa" meaning "gateway to the snowy mountains”. The highest point in the park is Cerro Arquitectos, at 4,450 metres, although the highest point on the road was just over 4,000 metres. We only stopped briefly for photos but if you have more time there are lots of hiking routes. It would make a wonderful day out from Cuenca.
When we left the park we were on the western fringes of the Andes, and below us was cloud forest. At this height we could look down onto the clouds that filled all the valleys, almost as if they were flooded. We stopped again for photos, and to use the toilet at a little snack bar. Then we plunged down into the clouds! The road twisted and turned, and the landscape around us (or what we could see of it – we were now in a thick fog) became lush with plants and trees, their branches dripping in the damp air. Every now and then the cloud would break and we would see that we were still pretty high – and hope that our driver knew the road as well as he seemed to, since there was quite a drop on one side!
After a while we emerged fully from the cloud, dropping down below it to reach the plains. The mountains we had left so recently were totally invisible as the thick blanket hid them from view. And again the landscape changed, now becoming intensely arable in nature. We drove between fields of bananas, sugar-cane and rice paddies. In the small villages stalls were piled high with fruits and dusk was falling (it was now about 6.00 pm). Local people were riding their bikes, stopping to chat to friends, buy a few provisions for the evening meal or have a beer at a roadside bar. The air was warm and had that unmistakable tropical dampness. It was such a different world to highland Cuenca, yet only three hours away!
By the time we reached the outskirts of Guayaquil it was dark. Although not the capital, this is the largest city in the country and it was a bit of a culture shock – neon lights shone above US-style shopping malls that lined the road as we approached, and the traffic was heavy. By the time we reached our hotel in the centre we had been driving for about 3.5 hours and plans to do a little sightseeing while searching for dinner were abandoned in favour of a quiet night in the hotel. The sights of Guayaquil would have to wait for another visit!
I have included a map of our route taken from Google Earth as photo five. If you get the chance to take this drive to Guayaquil I can really recommend it for scenery and interest-levels – much better than flying!
Next tip: The Grand Hotel.
We left Guayaquil by air to Baltra in the Galápagos Islands. The airport is only four miles from the city centre and as it was a Sunday traffic was light and we were there very quickly. The airport terminal is very new (the newest in the country, at least until Quito’s new airport is finally finished, in theory later in 2013). It was opened in 2006 and the old terminal turned into a convention centre.
José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport is the nearest one to the Galápagos and flights from Quito stop here to pick up passengers. We found it to be relatively quiet and well-organised for the additional complications of a Galápagos flight – buying our INGALA transit control cards (INGALA is the agency that regulates travel to the islands), and having our luggage inspected to meet quarantine regulations. Both of these operations went smoothly and we had time for a coffee in the bright and comfortable departures area (with good free wifi) before boarding our plane. Only 15 hours after arriving in Guayaquil we were leaving already.
This is my last tip in this brief visit to Guayaquil. To return to my intro page please click here.
The only reason I flew from Guayaquil to Cuenca is because I arrived to Guayaquil by plane from Galapagos Islands, and I thought it could be convenient with a transfer at the airport instead of going to the bus terminal and take a bus. Later, when I got the flight times I realised I had to wait several hours in in Guayaquil. In one way this was good ,because than I had time for a quick visit to Guayaquil. I left my luggage in a locker at Guayaquil airport and took a taxi to the Malecón and Las Peñas.
I came back to the airport in good time to check in my luggage and have a coffee and a cake at La Española. It is a short flight from Guayaquil to Cuenca, only 30 minutes. All passengers got a newspaper and a fruit drink. After landing in Cuenca my luggage arrived very quickly and outside the terminal I at once found a taxi. The airport in Cuenca is situated only 2km away from the city centre so it was a quick taxi ride to my hotel Hostal Chordeleg, and it was $2.50 (July 2011).
A return flight between Quito or Guayaquil and Galapagos Islands was included in my Galapagos cruise. I flew to Galapagos from Quito, but when planning my trip I thought it was better to continue my journey, after visiting the islands, in the south and from there going north, as I was flying home from Quito a month later. The travel agent I booked my Galapagos cruse with booked the Guayaquil - Cuenca ticket for me and I paid for it at the same time I paid for the cruise. The airplane ticket was $68 (July 2011).
Coming from Galapagos and going on to Cuenca I had a few hours to spend in Guayaquil. Instead of spending all time at the airport I left my luggage in a locker and took a taxi to the north end of the Malecon. The taxi was 5 dollars (July 2011) and it took 15 minutes. When it was time to go back to the airport I went back to the same point where I had been dropped and fortunately a taxi just stopped to drop of a passenger. This time I paid 3 dollars to the airport.
My recommendation for my customers is always the same: use only taxis and ask about the real fare and if you are not agree with that fare, ask any person for some help and take another one or call your hotel from any phone cabin for some help. The most short fare is only $1.50 that means about 2km.
Try to not to use buses, but if you want to, it's because you want to. It's not recommended for your safety. Adventure travelers preffer that and there was not problem ever.
There is not train in Guayaquil but some taxis have a very special attention.
Use the different kinds of maps of the city, if you don't have one, buy some.
Taxi Kidnappings and Crime in Coastal Ecuador
June 11, 2010
The U.S. Embassy in Quito and U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil wish to remind U.S. citizens traveling to and living in coastal Ecuador of ongoing safety and security concerns related to taxi kidnappings in the cities of Guayaquil and Manta.
The U.S. Government continues to receive an alarming number of reports of U.S. citizens who are kidnapped and robbed in taxis in Guayaquil and Manta, incidents known locally as "secuestro express," or "express kidnappings." Taxi kidnappings have also been reported in Machala, Playas, and other coastal towns.
Typically, U.S. citizen travelers become victims of "secuestro express" after hailing a taxi cab on the street. Shortly after entering a taxi, the vehicle is intercepted by armed accomplices of the taxi driver, who is normally complicit with the crime. The accomplices enter the vehicle, threaten passengers with weapons (typically guns and/or knives), rob passengers of their personal belongings, and then drive to various ATMs to withdraw money using the victims' debit cards. In some instances, victims of "secuestro express" have faced physical violence and/or have been sexually assaulted.
"Express kidnappings" have occurred even in the more affluent areas of Guayaquil, and target both local citizens and international visitors. Incidents involving U.S. citizens are most frequently reported at the north end of the Malecón 2000 near Las Peñas, outside of the San Marino Mall, and in the Urdesa restaurant/bar district, but have been reported in all areas of the city.
Due to the seriousness of this crime, all personnel working for the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Guayaquil have been prohibited from riding in taxis hailed off the street, even yellow taxis. Yellow taxis, local buses, and other forms of public transportation are expressly off-limits to U.S. diplomatic personnel in Guayaquil. As an alternative, employees have been told to use their personal vehicles, or to call one of the vetted taxi services available on the U.S. Consulate General's website: http://guayaquil.usconsulate.gov
It is vital that U.S. citizens understand the risks associated with using taxis in Guayaquil, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime. U.S. citizens are urged not to hail taxis on the street, and to exercise caution when selecting a taxi in all areas of Guayaquil, regardless of location and/or time of day. We strongly encourage U.S. citizens in the Guayaquil area to use only vetted, radio-dispatched taxis, such as those listed on the U.S. Consulate General's website.
If you find yourself involved in a taxi kidnapping and/or robbery, it is best to be non-confrontational and cooperate with the perpetrator. Nothing material is as valuable as your life. Following a criminal incident, U.S. citizens are encouraged to file a "denuncia," or "police report," with the local police and to inform the American Citizens Services Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil.
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Americans living or traveling in Ecuador are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website https://travelregistration.state.gov , and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Ecuador.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. Please see the following links for local Warden Message information in Quito and Guayaquil, respectively: http://ecuador.usembassy.gov/ and http://guayaquil.usconsulate.gov/.
U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Ecuador and the latest Travel Alerts and Warnings and Worldwide Caution at the Department's web site at http://travel.state.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Ecuador may also be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States or by calling 1-202-501-4444 outside the United States.
The U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil is located at the corner of Avenida 9 de Octubre and Garcia Moreno (near the Hotel Oro Verde); telephone (011-593-4)232-3570 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 232-1152 for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-4)232-0904. See the Consulate General web site at http://guayaquil.usconsulate.gov/.
The U.S. Embassy in Quito is located at Avigiras E12-170 y Eloy Alfaro. The hours and telephone number for American Citizen Service enquiries is (011) 593-2-398-5000. Within the same city use the last seven digits. Add the city code for intercity telephone calls. Public call-in hours are Monday through Thursday 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. and Friday 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Appointments for passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs) or Notaries can be scheduled through the Embassy Web site: http://ecuador.usembassy.gov. Appointment times for passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs) and are between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Ecuadorian holidays. Appointment times for Notary services are Monday and Thursday from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Appointments times for Immigrant Visas are Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00 to 4:00 pm and should be scheduled through the Call Center at 1-800-010-145. No appointment is required for adoptions and re-entry permits. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Thursday between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Walk-ins for Federal Benefits are accepted Tuesday and Wednesday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Walk-ins for reports of death, to pick up passports or CRBAs or for emergencies are accepted Monday through Thursday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
We didn't have a chance to take any taxis or rent a car, but we were transported around the city in a tour bus and I took some photos
At rush hours, local buses are very crowded and cost around US$0.25. Minibuses (furgonetas) are also available for about US$0.20, which have their routes posted on the windscreen. All buses run along the Malecón. Buses are a good cheaper alternative to taxis (photo 2)
Taxis in Guayaquil have no meters. Always agree the price previously with the taxi driver before getting a ride. Prices are negotiable. From the airport or bus station to the center for example the average rate is between US$5 and US$6. To Urdesa, Alborada, or Policentro is around US$4.00. Taxi rutas.- Taxi rutas are cabs that run on a set route, charging US$0.50, per person. They look the same as the average taxis but with differing bonnets over the roof. I don't think I have any photos of these.
You can also rent cars. Most of the companies are at the airport, bus terminal, and/or major hotels.
I got this information from a site that I went on in preparation to my Guayaquil trip. I have family here so mostly they drive us to where we need to go but for those who need info on transportation around here, you can read this:
"Because of the population explosion the public transportation has been stretched beyond limit. If you need to go only a short distance in the center you might be quicker if you walk. The bus is a cheap alternative (US$ 0.15) outside the rush hour if you know where you are going. Otherwise take a taxi (especially if you carry luggage). Taxis have no meters so prices are very negotiable.
Airport, bus terminal à center: US$ 2-3
Urdesa, Policentro, Alborada à center: US$ 2
Airport à bus terminal and other short trips: US$ 1"
Buses from the center to
- Urdesa: No 15
- Policentro: No 13
- Albanborja: No 14
- La Garzota, Sauces: No 74
Guayaquil has invest over 300 million US dollars in developing tourist infraestructure like a brand new airport, with all the services availables and open 24 hours, the new bus station and the city buses links "Metrovia" made so easy to move around to Guayaquil area and see it alive everyday.
The bus station in Guayaquil is called "Terminal Terreste". It is near the airport, and is across the street from the new city bus terminal.
The bus station can be intimidating if you have much luggage. Porters are available just inside the parking lot adjacent to the main entrance. These men are standing around with large flat carts. If you arrive at the bus station by taxi, the porters will be on your left, across the road from where the taxi driver will drop you. The pedestrian entrance to the bus station will be on your right.
If you don't have much luggage, simply walk into the vendor area of the terminal. Walk straight ahead until you come to an overpass with steps climbing to your left. After crossing the road used by the buses, you descend into the ticket booth portion of the terminal.
If you have luggage, either use a porter or wheel your own bag(s) into the vendor area. Turn right and traverse the vendor gauntlet to the other end. Turn left, and you will come to a crosswalk with traffic police. When there is a gap in the stream of buses, cross and enter the ticket booth portion of the terminal. Most passengers use this route in order to avoid climbing the stairs of the overpass.
(A new bus station is almost complete. It will separate the buses - arrivals on the street level, departures on the roof. Dealing with luggage will be much simpler when the new station opens.)
Cars or taxis are the best way to get around, do not get on the local buses, its the best way to get robbed. Taxis are very cheap no matter were you go it wont be more than $5.00 dollars even if you go across the whole city. I do recomend to ask the guy to for a private tour of the city, most of the time they will accept for a fee of (kind of your choice) $10-$15 dollars and trust me its worth it.
The articulated bus runs on dedicated bus-only lanes. The route extends from the large bus terminal near the airport through the center and beyond to a smaller bus terminal further downstream. The fare is US$ 0.25. Each station has an attendent, or 2 or 3, who takes the fare and controlls admission to the waiting shelter. When the bus arrives, the doors of the shelter (and those of the bus) open and you step aboard. The articulated bus is much faster than the regular ones which share the road with the cars. The area at the front of the bus is reserved for people with special needs. This area is indicated by yellow seats; the other seats are blue.
When booking your hotel make sure to arrange your private taxi to pick you up. Mostly all the hotels offer this as a service and their taxi's are miles above the others, which is a great relief when you consider the most popular car for a taxi seems to be the LADA :O .. So a nice 98 toyota or so sent by the hotel is quiet a nice thing when you have just travelled half way around the world to get there !
If you plan to go from Guayaquil to Cuenca, don´t even think about going by plane or by rental car....go with the public bus - it´s cheaper and it`s phantastic to be under the ecuadorian farmers during this trip....
Yes, it takes 4 to 5 hours...
But the nature is phantastic and the people are original..:-)
Taxis in Guayaquil are OLD and DIRTY!!! If you can find one that isn't a 1980 or older Lada, you are exceptionally lucky. With airconditioning? Buy a lottery ticket, because it MUST be your lucky day.
The best way to get a good taxi in Guayaquil is to call one of the many radio taxi services - such as Taxi Amigo, whose number is easy to remember 222-2222 or 233-3333.