Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is the main international airport in Ecuador, handling flights to and from cities in South America, Central America, North America, and Europe. The airport is only five minutes from Quito's center and is therefore right in the city. Because it is surrounded by a built-up urban area and mountains, there is no room for expansion. As a result, a new airport is being constructed about 11 miles (18 kilometers) east of Quito and is set to open in late 2010.
Airlines serving Mariscal Sucre International Airport: Aerocontinente, AeroGal, AeroMexico, Aeropostal, American Airlines, Austro Aero, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Grupo TACA, Iberia, Icaro Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, LACSA, LANChile, LANEcuador, LANPeru, Saereo, SBA Airlines, TAME, United Airlines, and VIP Airlines.
As far as I know, there is no rail system in Ecuador and short of driving yourself (which I don't) or hiring a private car and driver (which I could not then and still cannot afford) your transportation option is really the bus.
I travelled all over the country by this means and had some, shall we say, interesting experiences. Again, I add the caveat that this was many years ago and this tip is a very general one. I would urge the reader to check on more recent information both on this site and elsewhere.
I mention interesting experiences, let me explain. The buses then were not that comfortable, no air-con and with generally pretty uncomfortable seats. However, especially in the interior mountain region some of the journeys on really rough winding roads with no barriers or anything did afford some wonderful views and thrilling times. It is a great way to meet the local people who are amazingly friendly. Sadly, the thrills come at a price. Whilst researching this tip, I read that 13 people died less than a week ago when a bus crashed down a ravine on the road between Ambato and the town of Pillaro. Ecuador in the four years to 2012 loses 13 people a day to road accidents. any travel has some inherent risk and I shall leave the reader to decide whether they want to use the buses or not.
It was my original intention to put the trip together myself, booking our Galápagos cruise on our chosen boat, the Angelito, through their Quito-based agents, Cometa Travel, and arranging time in Quito either side of it, from where we would have done tours to various parts of Ecuador in the north. But out of curiosity I also contacted a UK company, Real Ecuador, to find out what they would charge if they were to put together a package for us – not a group tour, but to book the accommodation, internal flights etc. Their quote was of course dearer but not as much so as I had expected, and it included a couple of overnight tours from Quito, as well as a flight to and few nights in Cuenca in the south, which I really wanted to see. So we decided it was worth the extra to book with them. And I was very satisfied with everything, especially their flexibility. The original quote had included things like a guided tour of colonial Quito, which we didn’t want as we preferred to explore on our own, and a hotel in the city’s Mariscal district, whereas we wanted to stay in the old colonial area, and there were no problems changing things around to suit us. In the end I reckon the costs worked out only a fraction higher this way than if we had done exactly the same things but made the arrangements ourselves!
The only major thing I did arrange separately was our flights from London to Quito and back. We also chose to do our own sightseeing in Quito, as I said, and were able to spend two of our days there with the parents of a London friend who introduced us to some of the well known, and less visited, sights of their city. Meanwhile the arrangements made on our behalf by Real Ecuador for the other elements of our stay worked out very well and we were very happy with the decision we had made.
Next tip: 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, some local Ecuadorean customs, starting with some typical dishes and food.
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 $10 to be paid already at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. This INGALA-fee was included in the price of my cruise.
At the airport on Isla Baltra there is a restaurant/café and there are a few souvenir stands. If you want to have a Galapagos stamp in your passport you can get it at a counter at the airport.
Galapagos is an hour ahead of mainland Ecuador, so don’t forget to change the time on your watch.
For those who need transport in or around Mindo (including transfer to/from Quito), Giovanny Diaz is an absolute recommendation. He is trustworthy, makes fair prices, drives sensible, and has a great sense of humour. We were in need of a transfer from Mindo to El Angel by car as there was no good public transport connection, and he delivered us safely all the way, even over very bad roads in nasty weather.
You can contact him by E-Mail email@example.com, or cell phone: 093 468138.
Hi, from Guayaquil it is a 24 hours bus ride!! sometimes you can book a not very expensive flight to lima for 150$ but you have to book in advance in NOT in HIGH SEASON!
Since online reviews have a tendency to be skewed in one direction, I think that it is best if I objectively list the series of incidents that occurred when interacting with Carlos A. De La Torre, our travel agent working for Sangay Touring:
1) Upon receiving our payment, Carlos asked our group of 5 travelers for more money to cover flight costs which fluctuated more than 2 weeks after we wired the money.
2) Our group received the final itinerary a week before the start of our 2 week vacation. Carlos did not take the initiative to send us the itinerary, it was sent to us only after making numerous requests.
3) We did not know our flight schedule until the night before. One night, we received a message at 9pm asking us to be ready by 4:40am for our flight the next morning (which had an 8 hour layover); this limited us from seeing Guayaquil because we spent the day on planes and in the airport.
4) We noticed a mismatch in dates. When we asked Carlos to send us the flight information with the correct dates, he reassured us that it was a typo and that he would send us a revised itinerary. We received the itinerary more than 10 hours later, only to find out that it was not a typo and that the wrong dates were booked causing us to be on standby for a full flight leading us to potentially miss our planned itinerary for the next two days.
*Also note that we could not reach Carlos the entire time we had questions. He later indicated to us that his cell phone was broken. Normally I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I am not sure if I should believe his claim regarding his broken phone.
I have mixed reviews around Sangay Touring because the 2 other agents we communicated with have been accomodating to our needs. I understand that people make mistakes, however, the series of events leading up to our flight mixup was unacceptable. It is truly unfortunate that it only takes one individual representing the company to leave our group with a bad memory around Sangay Touring. Although the other agents have been professional, I cannot forgive Carlos and the agency for taking away an entire day out of our limited vacation. This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity; and had Carlos been honest about his mistake, our group may have been more receptive to his explanation. I'm sure the agency has good agents, but it leads me to question the agency's hiring process and work behind the scenes. Is it worth taking the risk with the agency and potentially ruining a once in a lifetime visit? I would not recommend Sangay Touring to any of my friends and family members.
On a different note, I do highly recommend the "Angelito" if you are going to the Galapagos Islands. And I also highly recommend our tour guide Maya
Francisco de Orellana Airport (OCC) is a domestic airport serving the small city of Coca. It is the gateway to towns and other destinations on the east slope of the Andes Mountains and in the Amazon Basin. Due to the growing importance of ecotourism in the Amazon Basin area, the airport is becoming increasingly busier.
Airlines serving Francisco de Orellana Airport: AeroGal, TAME, and VIP Airlines.
Hi Gavin, I wanted to tell you that on my first week, I had a horrible experience when I took Transesmeralds (which is supposed to be one of the best bus companies in Ecuador) . Going to Atacames my 300 euro camera was stolen, I the worst thing is that I have no idea how, they are really experts on that. However, when I went to Montañita (changing lots of buses and waiting long our in the middle of nowhere), I met some germans guys who where travelling with a pass which allowed them to get in the bus and get off the bus whenever they wanted, like the Eurorail system in Europe. They where pretty happy with it, they told me they payed more expensive, but that it was really worth it because noone of them had lost anything, they didn’t have to take cabs since they let them next to their hostels, and that they got the meet people all over the world. The company’s name is hop on hop off Ecuador or something like that, im sure you can find it in google. Well, that’s the only company I know about, but I can not personally recommend you since I never took this bus. Good luck with that.
Taxis try to charge more for tourists, and sometimes even locals. During the day, all taxis should use taximetro to calculate the fare. At night, you should ask for taximetro or settle on the price of the trip before getting in to the taxi.
Also, only take yellow taxis with a red number on the side unless you have called the company and they have described a different car that will be picking you up.
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.
The 2 trolley lines in Quito are Trole and Ecovia. They are quite frequent, modern and clean.
Trole runs mainly along Av 10 de Agosto and Ecovia runs mainly along Av 6 de Diciembre. Both taper more or less towards each other towards the historical centre.
But the Trole takes you right to the plazas that matter, like Plaza de la Independencia ('Plaza Grande' stop) and Plaza Santo Domingo ('Santo Domingo' stop). And it also takes you to Cumanda Bus Terminal ('Cumanda' stop and walk a bit) and the Train Station for the Cotopaxi train ride, you get off at ('Chimbacalle' stop and walk a bit).
For museum-hopping, you take the Ecovia trolley to the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador ('Casa de la Cultura' stop) and Museo Guayasamin ('Eloy Alfara' stop and a MAJOR HIKE UPHILL, or perhaps it is best to take a taxi to get up). The other place you might use the Ecovia is if you are going to Mercado Artesania La Mariscal ('Galo Plaza' stop).
Ecuador is a relatively small country, the size of the UK or the state of Nevada so distances are not great compared to some of its South American neighbors. Add to that a great road system and it makes for pretty easy traveling. Buses are not as cheap per mile/kilometer as say Bolivia but with distances being much shorter it’s still a bargain getting around by bus. It’s also easy to get a ticket right on the bus and the ticket collectors don’t seem to tack on extra money. We took local buses from Quito to Machachi and then onto Latacunga with a stop near El Chaupi. We then did the Quilotoa Loop via the bus and to Baños. We had our first glitch from there to the Chimborazo turnoff when we had to wait on the side of the road for some time before getting picked up by a bus that wanted a short ride passenger. As luck would have it we got a ride with someone transporting a new car to Cuenca the next day!
If you don’t have time to do everything via land, flights are again not overly expensive due to their short duration. If you figured out how much they were per mile/kilometer they probably are but when you want to save a day, shelling out $50 seems worth it say from Cuenca back up to Quito. It’s also more or less the only way to get to the Galapagos Island and you’ll pay dearly for the privilege at around $400 R/T. That's almost as much as we paid to fly to Quito from Miami ($425 R/T in 3.5 hours).
Ferries are a great option once on the Islands. For details check out my individual pages.
While traveling around Ecuador we wanted to hire a car but after asking around and using the South American Explorers club we ended up hiring a car and English speaking driver with ola-adventures
This turned out really well and allowed us to see loads of stuff in the 10days we were in Ecuador....I would recommend doing this to get off off the beaten track
Traveled thur Quito on a Eco Tourism trip. The Marriott was unforgetable. Beautiful hotel in every...more
When we arrived at the Hotel Victoria after our early morning flight from Quito it was only 9.00 am,...more
Av. de las Amazonas, Banos, 2000, Ecuador
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